Chris Stuckmann filled such a creative void for me at a very low point in my life. I still have zero idea how I found him on YouTube, but I’m glad I did. His reviews are often on par with how I feel, and his ability to dissect a film in such an insightful way and from a place of pure cinematic love is refreshing. Honest reviews without cynicism seemed like a hard thing to come by. I found his book at the start of lockdown last year and crushed it in two days. Then I started my quarantine journey by watching as many of the films recommended. The Film Buff’s Bucket List: The 50 Movies of the 2000s to See Before You Die is the book to pick up if you need to school yourself on the best films from 2000-2015. Here are my favorites from him, plus two of my own.
A few films feel like serotonin, and Ocean’s Eleven is one of them. “There can be gold in remaking a movie that had a great idea but failed to realize its full potential.” This movie exists in the perfect space of every single actor being peak, making it a pitch-perfect cast. These intertwined A-listers’ advantage was how well they already knew each other, so the already playful and witty dialogue was amplified. Plus, it’s one of the most stylized and beautiful heist films in all of cinema.
“Soderbergh directs with brazen flair, and the film is sharply edited and gorgeously shot.”
I will always come back to this movie to pick me up because charming thieves with quippy words doing naughty things will never get old.
I am not a fan of either of the actors, and I love this movie. Collateral is a haunting film and proves whether you like these guys or not; they’re pretty good at that acting thing. Cruise as a badass hitman and Foxx as a Los Angels cabbie have their worlds collide for one wild night. “During a panel at SDCC, I was asked if I had a film I liked to show new friends, and without hesitation, I responded with Collateral.” This is so much more than an action film, and in true Michael Mann fashion, it brings the grit and glory of LA to the surface. The very best this film has to offer is the kinetic energy and chemistry between the two leads.
“The best action occurs when these two very different men find themselves verbally dueling within a claustrophobic cab.”
It’s dirty; it’s suspenseful, a midnight ride you weren’t expecting for two unlikely guys who will be forever bonded.
How this is overlooked is beyond me, this is such a wildly entertaining film. 3 years before Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. was just as charismatic as a failed actor/thief. He’s partnered with Val Kilmer playing a private investigator, one of his best roles ever. The pair are trying to solve a murder and are the perfectly blended combo of brilliant and inept. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one part mystery, one part noir, one part suspense, and all tied together in a fanciful little package only Shane Black (writer/director) could concoct.
“It’s also that rare film that feels completely in the moment, almost as if each scene wasn’t planned and somehow magically played out.”
I was in the middle of my film program in college, and I remember going to see this as I had written many a paper on Scorsese. The Departed was everything I wanted it to be and more. A dark tale of cops and mobsters as only Marty could do. I have seen this a million times, and I’m still rocked by the end. It’s intense at every turn with every part of the story unfolding, plus it’s hilarious and easily quotable. Very quotable if you have family from Boston.
“From Scorsese’s lightning-fast filmmaking to the painfully biting dialogue, and my word the performances.”
This is another film built around an A-plus cast; everyone shows up and plays the roles perfectly.
“It’s essential Scorsese, and quite possibly my personal favorite of all his films.”
Being a student of film, Tarantino is my man. I saw Inglorious Basterds nine times in the theater. Everyone talks about the farmhouse scene because it catapulted Christoph Waltz into our lives. This movie follows separate storylines of multiple characters trying to survive Nazi-occupied France. And even splint into classic Quentin chapters; for me, it still flies by even at a two-hour and thirty-three-minute runtime. Another highly quotable film on the list:
“Tarantino was surprisingly adept at setting up jokes that wouldn’t receive a payoff for quite some time.”
A WWII film with blood, comedy, action, and suspense? Sign me up.
“Inglorious Basterds is still my most beloved of his works.”
I was utterly blown away when I saw this film about a nameless getaway driver. Let me state here I was also not a huge fan of Ryan Gosling when I went to see Drive. As a bonus, I still very much in love and listen to this soundtrack.
“Drive didn’t just surprise me; it utterly floored me.”
Another entry that’s a smidge LA noir Gosling quiet tough guy has his life upended by a girl and a gig. The tension throughout this movie is palpable, and the drama is unstoppable, just like the blood that erupts all over in a few scenes.
“Nearly every time I pop in the Blu-ray, something new materializes that had gone unnoticed before.”
This is a film that divided viewers, and I’m here for the discourse.
If you know me, you had to see this one coming. It’s the perfect and best Marvel film. It’s not even my favorite which is shocking, but it’s tops in the MCU.
“It’s as if they were helming a 1970s spy thriller rather than a big-budget superhero extravaganza.”
Captain America: The Winter Soldier made the Marvel Universe seem real and tangible for the first time, steeped in political commentary. Beyond some of the best fight sequences in the entirety of Marvel’s catalog (i.e., the elevator scene and highway scene), the script is excellent and gives Chris Evan some real meat to chew on. Every Avenger plays the role to perfection, even the new addition of Falcon. Stuckmann points out something I had never thought of before; this is the first time we see real danger for our heroes, and they know it too.
“Never once do we feel these people are invincible, capable of surviving anything. That’s a heck of a trick for a superhero film.”
Now I could have other Ghibli films on the list, but I’d rather include a lesser-known but no less entertaining one. The beauty and wonder of its movies are all over When Marnie Was There. This is the story of a girl who keeps to herself and finds her first real friend when she wonders just beyond the pond one day. There is something truly amazing about animation done by hand (not that Pixar can’t be brilliant); pencil and paint-made cells just hit different. Be prepared for an adorable story about female friendship and seeing how we complement and need our closest pals.
And if subtitles should deter you from a movie, you’re missing out on a whole world of storytelling.
“Please don’t make that mistake. Don’t let this beautiful film escape your grasp simply because it wasn’t created in America.”
I couldn’t let a 2000s list go by without mentioning a Wes Anderson film. This is my favorite of all his movies. It’s got Anderson’s signature stylized look, blurring the lines between retro and modern. The casting is absolutely 100, hands down one of Gene Hackman’s best roles. The Royal Tenenbaums brings a family of talented misfits together for the possible final days of their father, who’s contracted a mysterious cancer. Another entry with an excellent soundtrack, each song selection raises the feeling being conjured in their respective scenes. I’ll never get over Elliot Smith’s Needle in the Hay because of how it was used in this movie.
Have you ever wanted to combine The Terminator and Halloween? The Guest is just that. Here we have the killer inside the house. I’m a huge fan of director Adam Wingard, so it was wonderful to see this after You’re Next. Watching Dan Stevens step into a horror/suspense/thriller role post-Downton Abbey was amazing as well. He plays a war vet that dupes a family into letting him into their lives, claiming to be a friend of their deceased son. They fall in love with his handsome face and overall swagger, but something is off, especially when bodies start turning up around town. Give this one time to unfold—it’s bonkers, and its direction unpredictable. Similar to The Drive, the soundtrack is exceptional too. I still rock it on the reg.