The one thing I notice about this list, which is different from the director list is that the director's branch often thinks outside the box, and allows for people like David Lynch, and Fernando Mireilles and many more to be nominated for their quality work. In more recent years with more nominees this category has done a better job of not missing more films. This of course is a cop out for the Academy, but at least they are getting to honor the Amour's and Beasts of the Southern Wild.
1-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
How could I pick any other film, honestly. I tried not to let my bias show, but this is a perfect film (in my opinion) and one of the truly original films of the decade, which captures the modern day relationship in all its painful glory. Jim Careey stretches himself to new levels, and Winslet proves her talent even further! Gondry and Kaufman are a one two punch of a team, and I love the work the have done combining brilliant direction (Gondry) and the best screenplay of the decade (Kaufman). The film has inpeccable editing, and the score is one of the most memorable. Only Winslet and the Original Screenplay were nominated, the screenplay won. What would it have replaced? If I had to pick one film this year, Ray, the most over rated bio-pic, with a great performance from Jaime Foxx.
2-Mullholland Dr. (2001)
David Lynch is one of my favorite directors; he is incredibly original, and all of his films tell some of the most twisted stories about human nature. Mullholland Dr. is the perfect example of the darkness within, and a scathing indictment on the Hollywood system. I have watched this film several times trying to figure out what Lynch was trying to say, what he meant by this action, or this character action. I do not want spoil the film, but you should see this if you have not. Lynch's last minutes twist makes you look at this story and his characters from a whole different view point, brilliant! What would it have replaced?: The actual Best Picture winner A Beautiful Mind, this is just a heavy handed mess, the performances are solid, but this film is by no means original, and changes the story of their real selves far too much. The film just does not stand up to time.
3-City of God "Ciadade de Deus" (2003)
There is not much I can say about City of God, other than masterpiece. Fernando Meirelles direction along with the Cinematography make this one of the best films of the decade. The film received four Academy Award nominations including Director, Cinematography, Editing, and Adapted Screenplay. God is an intense journey through the lives of gangs within Rio de Janeiro, and the journey is not only beautifully told, but filled with action. This film is what makes film not only breathtaking, but great. What would it have replaced?: Tough call, Seabiscuit or Master and Commander (they both should not have been nominated). Master is one of the most boring films I have ever seen, and Seabiscuit is not bad, but is forgettable.
4-Pan's Labyrinth "El laberinto del fauno" (2006)
One of the best foreign language films of the decade. I remember going to see this in the theatres, and being blown away by this film. Labyrinth received 6 Academy Award nominations, winning three awards in Art Direction, Cinematography and Make-Up, but the Academy did not honor the brilliance of Director Guillermo del Torro, nor the film itself in this category. Labyrinth was one of those films, you can't forget because of the impact of the connection between every element of the story. Beautifully crafted film, and while not underrated deserved to be in this category. What would it have replaced?: Letters from Iwo Jima, the Academy had a hard on for Clint Eastwood during the early 2000s and while this was Clint's best of the decade, and a well made film, it's very forgettable.
The best animated film of the decade, and one of the most original. Wall-E did not need big star voices, just a simple love story about a robot trying to clean up the garbage on planet Earth, and Eve. Andrew Stanton is one of Pixar's biggest assets and he delivered with this film on all levels. Before the ten nominees, only one animated film made the Best Picture list (Beauty and the Beast) but this film should have made the cut. This was a case of genre bias through and through. What would it have replaced: Frost/Nixon, it's just a boring film with a great performance by Frank Langella.
6-United 93 (2006)
Probably one of the hardest films to watch because of the subject matter. This was one of two films centered around 9/11 that year, the other was Olive Stone's World Trade Center which is terrible and incredibly manipulative, in the same vein as Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. United 93 is brilliant, and captures the depth and emotions of the passengers, while proving to never once become a heavy handed mess. Director Paul Greengrass was the right man for Director's chair because he this film into something everyone wrote off. United 93 was also the best reviewed film of 2006 (little known fact). What would it have replaced? Babel, the most over rated film of the year Alejandro Gonzalex Inarritu needs to start changing up his films, they all feel the same!
7-Requiem for a Dream (2000)
There which centered around drugs in 2000, Traffic. winner of 4 Academy Awards including Director-Steven Soderbergh, Supporting Actor-Benicio Del Torro, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Editing), and Requiem for a Dream which only had one nomination for Best Actress-Ellen Burstyn. Requiem is a much darker view more about use than anything else. Requiem is a fantastic film all around with a great ensemble, script, editing, score, and at the time of its release was too edgy for the Academy (probably still would be). Since the year of it's release Requiem has found a major fan base, and become a huge hit, and more widely talked about than Traffic. Requiem is an excellent film and should have made it in this category. What would it have replaced?: How dare Chocolat and Erin Brockovich make the cut, while I like Brockovich the film is great because of Roberts performance. Chocolat only got a nomination because of the Weinstein machine, unfortunately.
8-Almost Famous (2000)
Cameron Crowe's most personal film, namely because it's loosely based on his own experiences as a journalist for Rolling Stone during the 70s. Films like Famous are rarely honore, which is unfortunate, this film has heart with edge. This is a great script mixed with wonderful character development. This film blends charm with realism. This a genuinely smart film about William's growth, the ego of the music industry, and the change of the era marking a different version of Rock n' Roll. What would it have replaced?: I echo the sentiments above, "How dare Chocolat and Erin Brockovich make the cut, while I like Brockovich the film is great because of Roberts performance. Chocolat only got a nomination because of the Weinstein machine, unfortunately."
9-The Dark Knight (2008)
The reason for more than 5 nominees! Enough said, right? Many award show gurus know The Dark Knight snub is the reason there are more than five nominees, a not so secret secret. This is still the best comic book film of all time, but the comic book title tends to hinder the broader audiences view of this film. This is a well made film, with great performances, and some of the best action packed moments. Heath Ledger's Joker made you go Jack who? If a film can make you forget Nicholson and reinvent a genre, then it's one of the best! It was hard to pick between this and Memento (I picked just one Nolan film).What would it have replaced? The Reader! Have you ever watched Extras with Ricky Gervais? Ricky told Kate to do a Holocaust film, and she would win her Oscar; he was right. This is another Weinstein manipulated nomination, makes me sad.
The most under rated David Fincher film, and one of his best. People often forget that this is a Fincher film, and about this film all together. Zodiac's ominous tone, mixed with an All the President's Men like feel within the newsroom proved to be one of the most interesting and underrated films of the decade. Zodiac has a great script, direction, score, editing, and is one of the first films which brought Robert Downey Jr. back to the forefront. This tense film is one which should have received a nomination. What would it have replaced? Tough call, great year, but Atonement is a flawed film, and does not capture the beauty of the book as well as it should. I like Juno, and it belongs here, Michael Clayton is solid but not sure it belongs here over this film.