Best Movies of the Decade: Fans, Critics and Aggregators Weigh In

By  · Published on December 30th, 2009

As you may have noticed, the blogosphere is all a-twitter with Best of the Decade lists. To our credit, we here at FSR have published two lists. The first was our 30 Best Films of the Decade, composed by the editorial staff here at FSR – a website that has existed for almost half of this decade. The second was the 3,186 Best Films of the Decade, composed by our own Dr. Cole Abaius. His (mostly failed) attempt at lampooning the concept of list-making, exposing it for the farce that it is.

Now that you’ve read our lists (you have read them, right?), it is time for me to direct you to some of the lists that have caught my eye over the past week or so, including various critics whose opinions I respect (and others whose opinions make me laugh). As well, the major movie review aggregators have also weighed in with picks from critics and fans. First, the critics.

Critics and Bloggers:

Roger Ebert

There is no more recognizable name in the world of film criticism than Ebert. And ever since he’s gone blogger and attacked Twitter with a vengeance, Mr. Ebert seems to be sharper than ever (with the exception of a few confusing reviews this year). And as someone who owns an anthology of Ebert reviews in book form, I can’t help but start here – with multiple lists from the man in Chicago:

Drew McWeeny and

If Harry Knowles is the godfather of the movie blogosphere, Drew McWeeny is the Robert Duvall character – the lawyer who knew all of the family secrets. He’s also a damn good writer who delivered a very balanced top ten list this year. It is a very personal list, and one that hits on the big marks. As well, the HitFix staff put together a rather fun Worst Oscar Winners of the Decade list. Yes, I’m still mad about The Golden Compass. And so are they.

The AV Club

My Twitter followers (@rejects) will note that I’ve been almost obsessed with The AV Club for a while now. So they’re an easy choice, as their writing speaks to me on a level that I can’t exactly explain. Their best of the decade list is a bit high-brow, speaking to a decidedly indie crowd, but it has some very unique selections. As well, they too deliver a great list of best bad movies of the decade.


The fine folks over at Cinematical worked their way through just about every genre and subgenre, delivering lists detailing the Best Family Films (Live-Action) to the Best Documentaries of the decade. I would urge you to check out the following, if you haven’t already:

Shock Till You Drop

Our friends and network brethren over at Shock Till You Drop know horror. And while our Robert Fure gave you his 15 best horror flicks of the decade, they delivered a list of 25. Personally, it is very hard to argue with their list – especially their top 5.

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

I’ve been reading the blurby reviews of EW’s Gleiberman for years. And while his taste rarely matches mine, I’ve enjoyed his writing and his unique perspective all the while. With his best of the decade list, he’s taken some fascinating choices. Bonus points are earned for the inclusion of Moulin Rouge and Casino Royale, two great films that have not shown up on many other lists.

We Are Movie Geeks

One of my favorite up-and-coming movie blogs, We Are Movie Geeks, delivered a thorough list of the top 100 films of the decade. It’s a pretty well-rounded list for the geek set, which also receives an A for effort. Putting together a top 100 must have been quite the task:

Critic Aggregators

From individual critics and bloggers, we move on to the services that bring their opinions together…

Rotten Tomatoes

The movie review aggregator extraordinaire put together its list of the top movies, as rated by the critics of the TomatoMeter – made up of critics online, on television, in print and on the radio. Here are the top 20 films of the decade, with a minimum of 100 reviews.

  1. 100% Man On Wire – 141 reviews
  2. 98% Up – 250 reviews
  3. 98% The Wrestler – 205 reviews
  4. 98% Finding Nemo – 191 reviews
  5. 98% The Hurt Locker – 171 reviews
  6. 98% Let the Right One In – 146 reviews
  7. 98% Spellbound – 134 reviews
  8. 98% Chicken Run – 134 reviews
  9. 98% Murderball – 133 reviews
  10. 98% The Fog of War – 133 reviews
  11. 98% Anvil! The Story of Anvil – 122 reviews
  12. 98% The Band’s Visit – 110 reviews
  13. 97% The Incredibles – 224 reviews
  14. 97% Sideways – 207 reviews
  15. 97% The Queen – 177 reviews
  16. 97% Spirited Away – 154 reviews
  17. 97% Once – 148 reviews
  18. 97% Capturing the Friedmans – 143 reviews
  19. 97% Maria Full of Grace – 131 reviews
  20. 97% Winged Migration – 125 reviews


A bit more elitist than RottenTomatoes, Metacritic includes very few online publications. Instead, they aggregated a “top selection” of critics, most of whom write for major newspapers and magazines. Their top 20 is an interesting group (scores out of 100):

  1. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – 98
  2. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2008) – 97
  3. Ratatouille (2007) – 96
  4. Spirited Away (2002) – 94
  5. The Hurt Locker (2009) – 94
  6. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) – 94
  7. Sideways (2004) – 94
  8. Wall-E (2008) – 93
  9. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) – 93
  10. 35 Shots of Rum (2009) – 93
  11. Yi Yi (A One and a Two) (2000) – 92
  12. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) – 92
  13. The Class (2008) – 92
  14. There Will Be Blood (2007) – 92
  15. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) – 92
  16. Werckmeister Harmonies (2001) – 92
  17. Moolaadé (2004) – 91
  18. The Fast Runner (2002) – 91
  19. The Triplets of Belleville (2003) – 91
  20. The Queen (2006) – 91

The Fans

The final element of this best of the decade picture is you, the users of the web. You frequent sites like IMDb, Flixter and Flickchart rating and ranking every single film that you see. The question is: how do your choices line up with the critics?

IMDb Users

The Internet Movie Database (one of a handful of movie websites that has been around for the entire decade) released their list of the highest rated movies by users, each rated on a scale of 1–10. It is no surprise that many of these are populist movies. Though, I find it comforting to see that not all of the biggest box office winners made it into the top 25:

  1. The Dark Knight (2008) 8.8 rating – 410,450 votes
  2. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King(2003) 8.8 rating – 329,852 votes
  3. City of God (2002) 8.7 rating – 148,073 votes
  4. The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) 8.7 rating – 355,929 votes
  5. Avatar (2009) 8.6 rating – 69,101 votes
  6. Memento (2000) 8.6 rating – 245,089 votes
  7. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) 8.6 rating – 298,750 votes
  8. WALL·E (2008) 8.5 rating – 155,314 votes
  9. Amélie (2001) 8. rating – 163,472 votes
  10. The Departed (2006) 8.4 rating – 234,372 votes
  11. The Pianist (2002) 8.4 rating – 118,831 votes
  12. Spirited Away (2001) 8.4 rating – 89,403 votes
  13. The Lives of Others (2006) 8.4 rating – 64,311 votes
  14. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) 8.4 rating – 198,424 votes
  15. Requiem for a Dream (2000) 8.4 rating – 166,343 votes
  16. Inglourious Basterds (2009) 8.4 rating – 111,441 votes
  17. Up (2009) 8.4 rating – 68,206 votes
  18. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) 8.4 rating – 135,834 votes
  19. The Prestige (2006) 8.3 rating – 178,413 votes
  20. Slumdog Millionaire (2008) 8.3 rating – 149,605 votes
  21. Downfall (2004) 8.3 rating – 73,214 votes
  22. Gran Torino (2008) 8.3 rating – 101,124 votes
  23. Sin City (2005) 8.3 rating – 233,043 votes
  24. District 9 (2009) 8.3 rating – 101,868 votes
  25. Batman Begins (2005) 8.3 rating – 246,001 votes


Finally, we have the list from 2009’s upstart addiction Flickchart, a site that forces users (quite mercilessly) to choose between sets of movies to determine which is best. This brutal system – used by over 40,000 movie fans – has yielded its own 20 best of the decade list:

  1. The Dark Knight
  2. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  3. Batman Begins
  4. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
  5. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  6. Kill Bill, Volume One
  7. The Departed
  8. No Country for Old Men
  9. Memento
  10. Wall-E
  11. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  12. Shaun of the Dead
  13. Iron Man
  14. Gladiator
  15. The Incredibles
  16. The Bourne Identity
  17. Casino Royale
  18. Finding Nemo
  19. Sin City
  20. Children of Men


So what can we derive from all of these lists? What conclusions are to be had from the decade that was? For one, Christopher Nolan seemed to play well with both critics and fans, with both The Dark Knight and Memento showing up near the top of many of these lists. Pixar also dominated the decade, which is no more evident than it is in the Flickchart list, where three of its six releases of the decade appear in the top 20. As well, you’d be hard pressed to find any one of these lists without a single Pixar film on it. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy appears to be the franchise of the decade, showing up on just about every aggregate list. And finally, no matter how you slice it – there were some superb foreign language films in this decade. Every critical list is full of them (even our 30 best, which included 9 foreign language films).

Who do you think is right, the critics or the fans? What is the best film of the decade?

Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)