The Top Ten Years of the Decade

1. 2005 — This year demonstrated its commitment to the decade’s center. It was clear by March that it was no longer 2004. Audiences became aware that they were now living in a decade that was no longer the 1990s, and there was something special and poignant about that. Critics have been discussing this overlooked year for the past four, and with good reason. Few recent years seemed as driven by pure, organic intuition.

2. 2007 — Set amidst a backdrop somewhere between 2006 and 2008, this was a year that didn’t quite live up to 2005. Initially, 2007 was overlooked by the critics, until J. Hoberman’s 4,000 word essay on 2007 set the matter straight. Other tastemakers followed Hoberman’s lead and the year became strongly appreciated.

3. 2006 — Armond White’s infamous takedown caused many of the year’s boosters to reconsider it, largely because they were skeptical of White’s tendency to hate what people liked. Its reputation was momentarily diminished, until 2006 experienced renewed interest upon its DVD release.

4. 2009 — The decade’s last year was a gritty, low-budget offering that came saddled with a different director. But it was helped by a special pullout section that appeared in The New York Times. Voted Best Year to Lose Your Job by Time Out New York, 2009 proved to be nowhere nearly as bad as it should have been. It is presently being distributed in IMAX.

5. 2000 — Ten years later, nobody really remembers this neglected year, although there was something about dot coms. This was the year Before Everything Changed. Criterion is scheduled to issue a special DVD set.

6. 2008 — Produced by Bono, 2008 proved to be an underperforming point in the decade. Widely derided upon its release, 2008 has earned a quiet cult following and is still talked about by record store clerks. What is especially surprising is that there are pro-2008 record store clerks who still have jobs and that there are a few record stores that still exist.

7. 2003 — This poignant year touched the hearts of audiences while garnering the wrath of critics. It was, in many ways, a populist year, marked by a sense that there were still six years left to go. But this dreamy tapestry of misery, regret, and joy stands as a flawed reinvention of 2002 that isn’t without its moments.

8. 2002 — Despite being a palindrome, this year was largely overpraised by the population. There was a sense that this year could prove to be an underperformer like 1991. Pitchfork continues to shit on this year, but we think it’s worth a second look.

9. 2004 — The more often you revisit it, the better this year looks. 2004, the directorial debut of 2003, attempted to take years to a new artistic level. But it was sullied by the November story arc in the third act.

10. 2001 — There was no space odyssey and certainly no flying car. It was one of the decade’s most troublesome years, marred by planes colliding into buildings. But 2001 proved to be an unusual milestone, a year that helped you find some context within a difficult decade. Cautiously recommended.


  1. 2001-2010 is a decade, isn’t it? Not 2000-2009. You don’t count from 0 to 9, you count from 1 to 10.

  2. Ed: Excellent parody and satire, rolled up into a juicy roll. Nice.

    Fred: “decade” = ‘dec’ (10, as in decimal) + ‘ade’ (from Latin adem, meaning years), thus “decade” means “ten years,” and 2001 through 2010 do not ten years make (2010 – 2001 = 9).

  3. Thank You for being out there with me. Is it the “Dumb-Down Generation” that starts counting with zero? This same nonsense annoyed me in Y2K!

  4. So, as a member of the dumb down generation, did the last century start at 1900 or at 1901? Did this new millenium start at 2000 or at 2001? Sure, 1960 was generationally still part of the ’50’s, but I think we can all agree that the Roaring Twenties really did start with 1920, right? And they certainly ended in 1929. The only thing I am sure of is that Y2K could only have been 2000. Ed, a brilliant ranking of the years although personally I’d have flipped 2000 and 2009, that could just be picking nits.

  5. KMH is right! And as another member of the “dumb down generation” you have to start at zero… when you’re born, you’re not 1… your first birthday is the capstone of the first year you’re alive – not the beginning of your first year. 0 – 1 counts as a year. 1990 was not part of the 80’s just like 1930 was not part of the 20’s. 2000 – 2001 was the first year of the new century which make Dec. 31, 2009 the end of year 10. 0-9 = 10 years = 1 decade

  6. God help us. Okay, you are born. At the end of the first year, you are one. At the end of the second year, you are two…and so on. At the END of the tenth year, you are ten. Ten completed years = a decade. 100 completed years = a century. 1000 completed years = a millenium.

  7. What KMH and MEH have written would only make sense if there had been a Year Zero, but there wasn’t. We live in 2010 AD, there was no 0 AD. There was 1 BC and then 1 AD, so you have to calculate from 1.

  8. […] Roger EbertĀ and John S were not the only ones to give their lists of Best Movies of the Decade, but Slate has figured out how to turn all these lists into one definitive answer. Meanwhile, other people weren’t so boxed in. David Wain, for example, decided to list his Middle 10 movies of the decade. Jim Emerson, Ebert’s colleague at the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote about his worst film of the decade, which happened to win an Oscar for Best Picture; we advise looking through some of the comments for an interesting debate. Ricky Gervais (who you may remember made a couple of NPI lists) gave his lists of movies, TV, music, and comedy. Others decided to just rank the years. […]

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