As an art form, narrative film has almost infinite range. It can explore all facets of the human condition, from the desperate and pathetic to the triumphant and admirable. Though I would never make the case that "serious" movies are more worthwhile than silly ones by nature, I cannot argue that some of the most extraordinary motion pictures travel to the darkest places. The first decade of the new millennium in particular generated many highly regarded pitch-black movies. If you're in the mood to look into some shadowy corners, why not watch the 24 darkest movies of the '00s?
This is also the era that cast Amy Adams as a live-action Disney princess in Enchanted and sent a group of dudes on a wild Vegas goose chase for a couple of Hangover movies. It wasn't all doom and gloom in the '00s. Still, the decade wasn't composed entirely of cartoon songbirds and Zach Galifianakis comic riffs either. The '00s took the superhero genre to a grim place. It delved into the psyches of real-life serial killers. It told the horrific truth about addiction. It even made a villain out of the ever-noble Denzel Washington. The darkest movies of the '00s are also some of decade's best.
1. The Dark Knight
Heath Ledger's inspired and nihilistic take on the Joker elevated the sequel to Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins to masterpiece heights.
2. Inglourious Basterds
Quentin Tarantino invades Nazi Germany with his signature eye for near-comic violence and big performances.
A man with no short-term memory inks the experiences he can't recall onto his skin. But ignorance might be bliss in this case.
4. The Departed
Martin Scorsese directs an adaptation of the Chinese crime thriller Infernal Affairs. Organized crime and dirty cops butt heads in modern-day Boston.
5. Gangs Of New York
Another Scorsese joint, Gangs Of New York is a bloody epic about a cultural conflict that seems unfortunately relevant right now.
6. Requiem For A Dream
Drug abuse takes its toll on an ensemble cast in a variety of morbidly creative ways. Don't watch this one alone.
Skip the 2013 American remake and watch the 2003 South Korean original. A man is freed after being held prisoner for 15 years for an unknown offense. The twist ending is one of the nastiest surprises you'll ever get at the movies.
Don't start Watchmen expecting the rollicking good time of a Marvel movie. Director Zack Snyder has made a career out of producing somber and existential comic book adaptations.
9. Into The Wild
Based on the true story of a young man who ventured to Alaska to leave materialistic existence behind, Into The Wild will make you take stock of what's truly important.
10. Mulholland Drive
David Lynch is the master of fostering discomfort. You may not understand what exactly transpires in the Los Angeles-set noir Mulholland Drive, but you will have a lot of feelings about it.
A childhood mistake ripples through multiple lives in this adaptation of the melancholic Ian McEwan love story.
12. Eastern Promises
Sex trafficking is a real international crisis, which makes this film about the epidemic even more difficult to watch.
13. American Psycho
A Wall Street sociopath gets his kicks from slicing up friends, business rivals, and prostitutes — or is it all taking place in his head?
The torture-porn puzzle that launched six sequels.
15. Training Day
Audiences used to seeing Denzel Washington as the gentleman hero were stunned by his captivating and sinister performance as a self-serving corrupt cop in this crime drama.
Charlize Theron disappears into the role of Aileen Wuornos, a brutalized sex worker turned serial killer who was executed in Florida in 2002.
17. Pan's Labyrinth
Guillermo del Toro is the visionary behind this fairy tale indictment of Fascism, in which the human monsters are much scarier than the ones in your nightmares.
18. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street
Yes, musicals can be dark. They can be hella dark, as in the story of Sweeney Todd, a murderous barber who strikes a deal with his neighbor to hide his victims in her meat pies.
19. Children Of Men
In an alternate future, no babies have been born for nearly 20 years. Alfonso Cuarón imagines a bleak dystopia that makes The Hunger Games look like Sesame Street.
The serial killer known as the "Zodiac" has never been captured. So there's no satisfying ending to David Fincher's recap of the initial hunt for the California killer who took pleasure out of taunting the cops.
21. Donnie Darko
Suburban teen angst has never been more haunting and significant.
22. Mystic River
Laura Linney is a chilling Lady Macbeth in a film about three childhood friends and the traumatic incident that binds them.
23. No Country For Old Men
Javier Bardem won an Oscar for his portrayal of a sadistic hit man in the Coen Brother's acclaimed and unsettling Western.
24. There Will Be Blood
Greed makes a monster out of Daniel Plainview, a role that earned Daniel Day-Lewis every major acting award, including the Oscar, the Golden Globe, and the SAG.
See? Some of the finest work in film happens in the dark.