I could write a small book about my selection of the 70 best films of the first 21st Century decade (i.e., 2000 to 2009), especially if I explain my reasons for listing each one. But this is just an article so let’s forego the whys and wherefores and get down to brass tacks, understanding, of course, that this is just a 10.5.09 moving-train assessment and 2009 obviously hasn’t played out yet.

(l. to r.) Elias Koteas, Anthony Edwards, Mark Ruffalo and John Carroll Lynch during a pivotal second-act scene in Zodiac.

And the brassiest tack of all is David Fincher’s Zodiac — my choice for the best film of the last ten years. (I’m speaking, of course, of the DVD/Blu-ray director’s cut.) Because it plays its game of obsession so exactingly and meticulously and with such staggering confidence, and with nothing but superb performances top to bottom. And because the film takes all this and amplifies it into a kind of infinite hall-of-mirrors equation by being as obsessive as Jake Gyllenhaal‘s Robert Grayson character, if not more so.

But that’s it — I don’t have all day to do this and I can’t and won’t provide summaries of my reasons for choosing all 68 films. Some other time.

I decided I had to include 37 films in my final best-of-the-best list. Here they are in order of preference: (1) Zodiac, (2) Memento, (3) Traffic, (4) Amores perros, (5) United 93, (6) Children of Men, (7) Adaptation, (8) City of God, (9) The Pianist, (10) The Lives of Others, (11) Sexy Beast, (12) No Country for Old Men, (12) There Will Be Blood, (13) Michael Clayton, (14) Almost Famous ( the “Untitled” DVD director’s cut), (15) 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, (16) Dancer in the Dark, (17) Girlfight, (18) The Departed, (19) Babel, (20) Ghost World, (21) In the Bedroom, (22) Talk to Her, (23) Bloody Sunday, (24) The Quiet American, (25) Whale Rider, (26) Road to Perdition, (27) Open Range, (28) Touching the Void, (29) Maria Full of Grace, (30) Up In The Air, (31) The Hurt Locker, (32) Million Dollar Baby, (33) The Motorcycle Diaries, (34) An Education, (35) Man on Wire, (36) Revolutionary Road, and (37) Che.

The two strongest years of the last decade were 2000 and 2004, with 15 films of a great or near-great stature coming from the former and 14 from the latter. The weakest year of the decade, I feel, was 2008 with only three making the cut. Here’s the rundown, but understand that the films listed for each year are just tossed in and not listed in order of preference:

2000 (15 films): Sexy Beast, You Can Count On Me, Wonder Boys, Before Night Falls, Almost Famous (“Untitled” DVD director’s cut), Erin Brockovich, Amores perros, Dancer in the Dark, Girlfight, Gone in 60 Seconds (guilty pleasure), High Fidelity, In the Mood for Love, Memento, The Tao of Steve (2nd guilty pleasure), Traffic.

2001 (5 films): A Beautiful Mind, Ghost World, In the Bedroom, The Royal Tenenbaums, Y tu mama tambien.

2002 (11 films): 24 Hour Party People, Talk to Her , Bloody Sunday, 8 Mile, Adaptation, Bowling for Columbine, Changing Lanes, City of God, The Pianist , The Quiet American, Whale Rider, Road to Perdition.

2003 ( 8 films): Los Angeles Plays Itself, Bad Santa, The Fog of War, Master and Commander, Shattered Glass, 21 Grams, Open Range, Touching the Void.

2004 (15 films): Sideways, Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession, The Incredibles, Fahrenheit 9/11, Bad Education, After Sunset, Man on Fire, Collateral, Downfall, Man on Fire, Mar adentro (The Sea Inside), Maria Full of Grace Million Dollar Baby, The Motorcycle Diaries, Napoleon Dynamite.

2005 (7 films): Grizzly Man, The Aristocrats, No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, Brokeback Mountain, Capote, A History of Violence, Match Point.

2006 (5 films): United 93, The Departed, Babel, Children of Men, Notes on a Scandal.

2007 ( 8 films): Zodiac, Michael Clayton, I’m Not There, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, The Lives of Others ], 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Orphanage.

2008 (4 films): Man on Wire, Revolutionary Road, Che, WALL*E

2009 (3 films so far merit best-of-decade status): Up In The Air, An Education, The Hurt Locker.