Best Movies Part 3: ’98-’07

Ah, my 20’s. The era of my faith where my relationship with Jesus was better defined by what I didn’t do than what I did. Specifically, don’t watch rated R movies or listen to secular music although I must have bought and re-bought Nirvana’s “Nevermind” a half dozen times.

So here we go. Part 3.

1998: The Big Lebowski

Most of the rated R movies on this list are movies I came to in my 30’s so there’s no telling what might have been had I been open to R movies when I was in my 20’s. I honestly don’t think nostalgia would have played a factor in liking the Big Lebowski more or less. It’s simply a classic and proved that Fargo was no fluke for the Coen Brothers.

Honorable mentions: Saving Private Ryan and Can’t Hardly Wait.

1999: The Matrix

This was truly one of the more difficult years to pick and to be honest, given the day I might pick the other one over the Matrix but as it is now, this is my choice and no, it’s not because pastors everywhere are STILL regularly referencing the Matrix despite it being nearly 20 years old.

I picked the Matrix based on this criteria: if the two movies were on right now which one would I watch?

Give me Neo, Trinity, Morpheus and the gang (narrowly) over Tyler Durden’s crew.

Even watching the following clip makes me want to go back and see how far down the rabbit hole goes.


Honorable mention: Fight Club

2000: Gladiator

In a second close year I went with another pastor’s dream movie as it is filled with easy comparisons but the truth is Gladiator is just a great movie. Few performances gave me chills like the first time Joaquin Phoenix shouted “AM I NOT MERCIFUL?!?” in his sister’s face.

Gladiator is stuffed full of action and tension and Christalogical analogies ripe for the taking. It’s one of the ultimate guy movies and should be required viewing for all boys as a rite of passage into manhood.

Honorable mentions: X-Men and O Brother, Where Art Thou?

2001: Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Rings

I had long been a fan of the masterwork of J.R.R. Tolkien before the movie came out and it did not disappoint. The black riders were every bit as imposing as I’d hoped, the battles as epic, and the Hobbits (despite not being fat as Tolkien wrote them) were as whimsical and seemingly oblivious to the larger world as I’d hoped.

Fellowship is a master’s class in storytelling and fantasy that I return to year after year. In fact, I often go back and forth between Middle Earth and that galaxy far, far away as to which is my favorite.

Watch the opening and see if you don’t get the sense of size and scope of the first film in the greatest fantasy trilogy of all time!

Honorable mentions: Donnie Darko, Moulin Rouge and Amelie.

2002: Gangs of New York

Daniel Day-Lewis is a legend.

Leo is incredible too, but Day-Lewis is next level.

2003: Kill Bill Vol. 1

Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Volumes 1&2 are an homage to the good and bad of the classic samurai movies. From massive sword swinging action to the occasional tongue-in-cheek sensei stereotypes this movie about one woman’s quest for revenge is straight forward and fun. The Bride and each of the villains are unique characters even if they seem one note but that’s ok because it also feels like a wink and a nod to the genre it was born from.

Honorable mention: Big Fish

2004: The Incredibles

Disney Pixar’s finest film is this story about a superhero family but its not typical as superheroes have been shunned and they all struggle to fit in with “normal” life. It truly captures what the feeling is to exist when you’re not doing the thing you were created to do.

Honorable mentions: Shaun of the Dead (it pains me not to have it as the winner), Napoleon Dynamite and Spider-Man 2.

2005: Batman Begins

The first in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman films features Christian Bale as the title character and what truly sets him apart is his ability to play both Bruce Wayne and Batman well. Yes, the Batvoice is a little odd but it makes sense when you consider that every other Batmen should have been instantly recognized by their voices by those who know them!

But I digress…

As far as origin stories go, this is easily the best but it’s not the best film in the trilogy.

2006: The Departed

Setting the record (temporarily) for the most “f” bombs in a single movie was the Departed – one of Martin Scorsese’s finest movies starring Leo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson with top notch performances by Mark Wahlberg, Vera Farmiga and Alec Baldwin.

The Departed gets nearly everything right. The cast, the script, the cinematography. All of it just draws you into the world.

Sadly, there’s not a single clip I can share here but I will say that my favorite line from the film is so good that even President Obama once quoted it (includes original with NSFW language).

Honorable mentions: the Devil Wears Prada and the Prestige

2007: Superbad

The film that launched Michael Cera (though Arrested Development fans already knew and loved him), Jonah Hill and perhaps one of today’s finest actors: Emma Stone.

It’s the rated R version of every coming of age teen movie I’d watched in the 90’s and it’s still gets me laughing whenever its on.

Honorable mentions: There Will be Blood and Gone Baby Gone

The last installment will be coming soon! Thanks for reading. Now it’s time to go watch some of these movies.


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