Best of the decade: Film

2003's Finding Nemo.
2003's Finding Nemo. ((AP Photo/Pixar Animation Studios, File))
By Ann Hornaday
Sunday, December 27, 2009

I'm arguing with myself already. "What, 'Y Tu Mamá También' and no 'Children of Men'? 'The Lives of Others' and no 'Diving Bell and the Butterfly' ?

"And really, Ann? Finding Freaking Nemo?!"

Actually, on that last one, I stand firm. I fly the little clown-fish flag proudly, on the grounds that one of the organizing principles of Top 10 lists is not only tolerating but wanting to watch something over and over and over again. "Finding Nemo" fits that description, which I discovered firsthand five years ago, when we brought our then 3-year-old daughter home. It wasn't long before "Finding Nemo" was on heavy rotation in the DVD player. And I never tired of the movie, from its gorgeous visuals and fabulous voice work by Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres, to its message of loving by letting go.

But "Finding Nemo" also deserves the decade's No. 1 slot because it so aptly symbolizes how important animated family features have become in the movie business -- along with toy and book franchises, they're the last of the reliables in prying people off their couches -- and the leaps they've taken aesthetically. This was a decade, after all, that included such masterworks as "Spirited Away," "Howl's Moving Castle," "WALL E" and, this year alone, "Up," "Ponyo," "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "The Princess and the Frog." All are movies I could happily watch over and over again.

But the one I reach for first will always be the little clown fish.

The best

1. "Finding Nemo" (2003)

2. "You Can Count on Me" (2000)

3. "The Lives of Others" (2006)

4. "The Hurt Locker" (2009)

5. "Y Tu Mamá También" (2001)

6. "Pan's Labyrinth" (2006)

7. "The Edge of Heaven" (2007)

8. "A Mighty Wind" (2003)

9. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004)

10. "There Will Be Blood" (2007)

The worst

"Star Wars: Clone Wars" (2008)

If "Finding Nemo" represents the best of the animation decade, this misfire represents the very worst, punctuating a decline in the "Star Wars" franchise that began in 1999 with "The Phantom Menace" and continued its downward spiral through "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith." Sad.

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