First, a caveat. I could easily fill this list with 100 movies. I'm also not calling this a "best" list for many reasons. I don't necessarily think every movie on this list is a greater or better-made movie than those that didn't make the list. They are just the ones that spoke to me and that I remember fondly. Some I've seen many times, some only once. If I rewatched them all, I'm sure my rankings would change. On to the first part of the list..... And yes, for my purposes, I'm calling 2000-2009 a decade.
50. Crash (2005). After beating Brokeback Mountain for the Oscar, this movie was pretty widely scorned in many corners of the film community. While not without its flaws, I think it is a deeply humanistic, well-acted, engaging, and well-crafted movie about modern race relations.
49. Wendy and Lucy (2008). So real you are there. Understated, contemplative, mysterious, and oh so heartbreaking. This story about a drifter (Michelle Williams) searching for her lost dog has a lot to say about alienation and modern America.
48. The Constant Gardener (2005). Great performances by Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz (who took home the Supporting Actress Oscar) in this movie about a diplomat discovering evil deeds by a drug company in Africa. Director Fernando Meirelles (look for him higher up on the list) knows how to craft a great political thriller that engages you with the emotional lives of its characters.
47. In the Bedroom (2001). A portrait of a crime and its affect on the marriage and lives of the parents involved. Director Todd Field's debut was stunning. He portrays the emotional loss of his characters so beautifully. Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek give two of the best performances of the decade as the central couple.
46. Little Miss Sunshine (2006). Indie quirk done right. The whole cast is terrific (I vote Steve Carrell and Toni Colette as best in show), and the story is just so much fun to watch. I think it loses a little of its novelty on repeat viewings, but the first time I saw it was some of the most fun I had at the theater this decade.
45. Goodbye Solo (2009). Indie director Ramin Bahrani's movie of a Senegalese cab driver and his friendship with a man at the end of his life. Bahrani's movies have a similar naturalistic vibe to those of Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy) that I love.
44. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). Later in the decade, when the quirk of The Life Acquatic and The Darjeeling Limited became tiresome, I kind of soured on Wes Anderson. But this movie was so well put together. It's like a charming storybook of a dysfunctional family. It's designed beautifully and this time he gets some authentic emotion into the strange characters.
43. Ratatouille (2007). One of Pixar's triumphs of the decade. Remy, a rat who can cook, leads this charming tale set in France. The scenes of restaurant critic Anton Ego's flashback and subsequent review of Remy's cooking are some of my favorite scenes of the decade.
42. Pan's Labyrinth (2006). Truly frightening and truly original. Mexican director Guillermo del Toro helms a movie where Alice in Wonderland meets real-world political violence. The result is fascinating.
41. Little Children (2006). Director Todd Field has made 2 movies (this and In the Bedroom), and they both make my list. For everyone who thinks American Beauty is a great movie, try this one. It has similar themes of suburban alienation, but it doesn't condescend to its characters in the same way. Kate Winslet and Jackie Earle Haley, both nominated for Oscars, are superb.