If Movies Can Only Be Judged 10 Years Later, What Is the Best Movie of 2004?

If Movies Can Only Be Judged 10 Years Later, What Is the Best Movie of 2004?

Apr 30, 2014

"I think films shouldn't even be judged until 10 years have passed."

Francis Ford Coppola said that in a new interview in Empire magazine (h/t The Playlist), and while it means we don't get to really call Twixt a piece of crap until 2021, it is a good way to look at cinema. I don't know if it's necessarily good for us film critics, as the readers don't want to wait a decade to hear if The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is any good, but for real consideration of films that's a good amount of time. The director, whose The Godfather Part II was panned by the New York Times upon release, notes that many movies received negatively at first go on to be regarded as classics.

It makes sense why so many of my colleagues appear to love Jonathan Glazer's Birth today, yet when it opened it was crushed by critics. Even now it's only got a 39% on Rotten Tomatoes. I don't know about everyone else, but it's been in my top three of 2004 since 2004. I wonder if anyone who disliked it then has changed their mind and come around to see its brilliance. Similarly, there's a lot of love for Mean Girls today, its 10th anniversary. I know it was liked then, too, but now I bet there are some who wouldn't be afraid to put it on their top 10 of that year. It has aged surprisingly well. 

Or maybe it just took time for the right (as in proper and correct, in my opinion) people to see it. Time is good for not only sitting on something but also for finally getting to something. Think of all the movies you didn't get a chance to see before the end of last year, whether you had to deliver a best of anyway or not. Did it take you a while to see foreign masterpieces Downfall, Head-On and Turtles Can Fly? Or do we even count those since they didn't get an official release in the U.S. until 2005? In retrospect, we tend to just count the year on the IMDb listing, right?

I don't think my picks for the best of 2004 have changed at all in the past decade. They're still Birth, Shaun of the Dead and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The Incredibles and Dig! might round out the top 10 if I exclude complicated foreign qualifiers. Of course, only one of those has technically seen 10 years since I saw it, as the others came out later in the year. Maybe I should be thinking about the best of 2003 instead or the best of just the first third of 2004. Whatever, I think you all get the point. 

Here are some movies, good or bad, that I think even I might need to give more thought to as they turn a decade old this year: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, I Heart Huckabees, Closer, The Village, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Kill Bill Vol. 2, Hellboy, Closer, Sideways and Spider-Man 2.


What is the best movie of 2004?

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