The 10 Best Films Of 2002With 2015 upon us, we figured it was a good time to look back on the movies the millennium has brought us. And so we’ve dug into the archives and are re-running our Best of the 2000s pieces, from way back in 2009 when the Playlist was a little Blogspot site held together with tape and string. Each list runs down the top 10 films of each year (it’s possible that, half-a-decade on, we’d put them in a different order and even change some of the movies, but we wanted to preserve the original pieces untouched as far as possible). Check out 2000 and 2001 if you missed them, and today we continue with 2002. The original piece follows below, and thanks to staffers past and present who contributed.

In 2002, the name of the game was bigger is better. Cinemagoers got a year full of sequels including “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” “Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones,” “Men In Black II,” “Blade II,” and “Austin Powers in Goldmember.” But it wasn’t just franchise films audiences flocked to. A little film called “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was the sleeper indie that turned into a blockbuster smash. At the Oscars, it was an uncommon year with auteurs taking control of the show over populist crowd-pleasers. Roman Polanski‘s “The Pianist,” Stephen Daldry‘s “The Hours,” Spike Jonze‘s “Adaptation” and Hayao Miyazaki‘s “Spirited Away” took home the major statues, although “Chicago” danced away with Best Picture. But, if Hollywood was having a rare year featuring a burst of creativity, our top ten of 2002 shows they paled in comparison to their competition from overseas, as our list for this year is appropriately foreign-film-heavy.

null10. “24 Hour Party People”
Michael Winterbottom‘s brilliant meta-textual look at the phoenix-like trajectory of Factory Records and the surrounding ’70s post-punk music scene in Manchester, England is deliciously mischievous. A clever re-contextualization of history via its 4th-wall-breaking tour guide, the picture is piloted by the wonderfully pretentious wanker Tony Wilson (magnificently played by Steve Coogan in a role he’s never topped). For music heads, it’s an amazing frolic through the history of British post-punk (cheeky depictions of Joy Division, New Order, The Happy Mondays, and The Durutti Column are realized by some great unknown actors) but it also marvelously stands on its own. There are staggeringly good (and wickedly humorous) performances here: Paddy Considine is fabulous as Joy Division’s perennially irate manager Rob Gretton and Andy Serkis as the bloated madman record producer Martin Hannett – a sort of futuristic version of Phil Spector – is utter hysterical genius). Not only is this spry film loose and witty to the bone, it’s a transformative po-mo work that takes a deliriously fun and gonzo approach to narrative.

null9. “Time Out”
The natural corrective to comedic fantasies like “Office Space,” Laurent Cantet’s corporate nightmare, based on true events but somehow less sensationalized, tells the story of Vincent, an office drone with a listless demeanor and no ambition, who also hides a secret — he’s unemployed. Instead of telling his family the funds are dried up, Vincent ambles about in suit and tie from empty office to empty office, consistently mistaken for someone with a job. When he starts to become concerned with his family’s well-being, Vincent begins working random odd-jobs between spells of inactivity and weary daydreams. Pitched at a low heat, Cantet’s drama shows us exactly how easy it is to divorce ourselves from everyday life. The man, sans cubicle, becomes an island, and in doing so presents us with a ghost story of sorts, set between transparent revolving doors, empty desks and blank calendars.

null8. “What Time Is It There?”
In what is probably Tsai Ming-Liang‘s best evocation of loneliness and longing, the Taiwanese master finds romanticism in the quirky compulsion of a young watch salesman enamored with a random shopper. The vendor, Hsiao-kang (consummate Tsai leading man Lee Kang-sheng), meets a woman at his kiosk, speaks with her briefly, and soon after learns of her departure to Paris. Dismayed by his missed opportunity, Hsiao-kang commences the odd behavior of setting each clock he sees to French time, immersing himself in French culture and repeatedly watching Francois Truffaut‘s “The 400 Blows.” Meanwhile, in France, Hsiao-kang’s paramour encounters Truffaut’s chief muse Jean-Pierre Leaud in an strange and unexplained moment of universal connectivity. Later in his career, Tsai would revisit and celebrate these abstract themes in twin musicals “The Wayward Cloud” and “Face,” but the sparse, haunting ‘What Time’ remains one of his most engaging and accessible films to date.

  • MishuPishu

    I have to disagree with the notion that Adaptation fell apart at the end. How it turned into a suspense film was completely natural considering Kaufman\’s struggle with the process of making the story interesting. He was adapting to his circumstances in the best way possible.

  • Spencer

    Punch drunk love should definitely be on this list.

  • JC

    Poor taste to not like Adaptation because of its 3rd act.

  • Naes

    My favourites – 1. City of God
    2. Rabbit Proof Fence
    3. Punch-Drunk Love
    4. Adaptation
    5. Bowling For Columbine
    6. Secretary
    7. The Tracker
    8. 28 Days Later
    9. Rules of Attraction
    10. The Pianist

  • oscars snubs

    the oscars owe Dennis Quaid nominations 1-wyatt earp 2-savior 3-far from heaven 4-at any price

  • Joe Brislin

    Another good list, though I actually really enjoy the last act of Adaptation; it ties in well thematically and has an unexpected emotional impact.

    Sidenote: Is there any way we could add a note after each film about whether it\’s available on Netflix streaming?

  • Rob

    The Hours

  • Jim

    Catch me if you can!

  • Spencer

    come on now. Punch drunk love should be in there somehow…tsk tsk

  • Jimbo

    So happy to see Talk To Her in pole position here. My favourite film of this century so far, though if Before Sunset tops your poll in two days time, that\’s its closest contender for me. Both sublime.

  • Darryl

    I love these lists. I have to agree with the number 1 and 2 choices. Absolutely amazing films that I need to explore once again.

  • Nathan Duke

    Ooh, I forgot about "Spider." And I was going to include "City of God" as well, but I think it wasn\’t released in the U.S. until the following year.

  • Wes

    There should be some standard about the year of a movie. I think it should be release data in country of origin. Netflix usually has that year, and that is what I go by.

  • Wes

    ugh to Solaris. Tarkovsky is genius. Soderbergh is terrible and terribly overrated.

    1. Talk to Her (Pedro Almodovar)
    2. City of God (Fernando Meirelles)
    3. Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes)
    4. Adaptation (Spike Jonze)
    5. Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson)
    6. Pianist (Roman Polanski)
    7. Distant (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
    8. Hero (Zhang Yimou)
    9. About Schmidt (Alexander Payne)
    10. Spider (David Cronenberg)

  • Movie Buff

    Irreversible by Gaspar Noé is one of the most innovative and powerful movie of not only the year 2002 but of the whole decade. A true masterpiece, and nobody have top it since.

  • cirkusfolk

    Well here\’s your first list that has no overlap with mine: Punch Drunk Love, Adaptation, About a Boy, Road to Perdition, Insomnia, Catch Me If You Can, The Bourne Identity, One Hour Photo, Panic Room, Blade II

  • Jonathan

    Uh, yeah, the suggestion that "Adaptation" "falls apart at the end" kind of reveals more about the reviewer than the movie. If it feels disjointed, there\’s a purpose to that.

  • yer

    Soderbergh\’s Solaris is so underrated. Much better than Tarkovsky\’s sterile version.

  • Charles

    I guess you guys didn\’t understand the third act of Adaptation. It\’s okay, just blame it on Edward Davis.

  • mr.t

    y tu mama tambien should be ranked highter, 25th hour somewhat lower. both films are great, though. spike lee has been on a downward spiral since. cuaron on an upward trajectory.

  • Mike French

    Adaptation "fell apart at the end" because it was supposed to. It became a Donald Kaufman film.

  • Nathan Duke

    Some good choices here. My favorites were: Gangs of New York, Far From Heaven, Adaptation, Talk to Her, The Pianist, Y Tu Mama Tambien, About Schmidt, Punch Drunk Love, Minority Report, What Time Is It There? and Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. Also, have a soft spot for "Road to Perdition," which I liked better than most others did.