A Decade In Films – Why ‘Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind’ Was The Best Film Of 2004

Strap yourselves in, because 2004 is gonna be a large one. While other years in the noughties (dammit!) have left me struggling to pick a defintive classic to throw open to discussion, MMIV was littered with more memorable movies than you could shake a stick at.


So instead of wasting time with an opening paragraph in which the best idiom I could come up with for ‘more than’ was to ‘shake a stick at’ let’s press on with what was the best film year of my adult life. And that’s even with ‘Boo Zino And The Snurks’ included.


We witnessed the re-birth of the undead that continues to this here very day with ‘Zombieland’. ‘Shaun of the Dead’, ‘Dawn of the Dead’ and ‘The Passion Of The Christ’ (well he’s kind of a Zombie) all pumped new life into the shuffling corpses. While the ‘Dawn’ remake may have gone with the ’28 Days Later’ speedy-dead, Shaun stuck to the roots of Romero and delivered possibly the best British film of The Decade. Re-live the brilliance below.


Cinema’s obsession with all things Eastern went into over-drive with ‘Hero’, ‘House Of Flying Daggers’, ‘Kill Bill Vol.2’ and ‘Zaotichi’. Even against these great films, two stood out as exceptional. The first, ‘Oldboy’, was a nightmarish revenge thriller, twisting and turning with devastating effect. Let’s just hope the mooted Hollywood remake stays firmly under ‘mooted’. The second bona-fide classic, ‘Infernal Affairs’, was re-made, and to half-decent effect, as ‘The Departed’ but the original is still the best. Tense, atmospheric and as well-performed by Tony Leung and Andy Lau as any of Hollywood’s finest.

Documentaries managed to be both entertaining, educational and vomit-inducing. ‘Super Size Me’ made a Big Mac and fries look like a turd sandwich even to a die-hard, fast-food lover like me (I once ate a bucket of KFC to myself). ‘Capturing The Friedmans’ and ‘Fog Of War were perfectly balanced, as all documentaries should be, while ‘Farenheit 9/11’ was anything but. No-one’s really complaining about the latter if the target is George W. Bush.

Even kids were given decent product in this glorious year. ‘School Of Rock’ gave them a lesson in what music really means, ‘The Incredibles’ was arguably the best super-hero film of the year and ‘Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events’ was a much needed antidote to the ‘look how adult Harry Potter is’ infestation by actually involving death, darkness and a batshit crazy Jim Carrey.


Is that all? Not by a longshot. Even the twee lovey-dovey wusses, such as myself, were catered for. In any other year ‘Garden State’, ‘Before Sunset’ and ‘Lost in Translation’ would have wiped the floor with the competition for my number one spot. Instead the former will have to make do with a trailer, albeit a trailer that I watched over a million times before release. I do love that Natalie.

My Film Of The Year
“How happy is the blameless Vestal’s lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot:
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each prayer accepted, and each wish resign’d”


It takes a lot more than just that quote by Alexander Pope to make this the film of the year, especially in such stiff competition (can it be joint with ‘Garden State’?!). Thankfully ‘Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind’ has much, much more.

A toned down Jim Carrey has never been better than as the timid, shy Joel Barish. Kate Winslet is unbelievably good as the unpredictable, whirlwind Clementine. The rest, from Elijah Wood and Tom Wilkinson though to Kirsten Dunst and Mark Ruffalo, are the supporting cast that dreams are made of. The script is easily Kaufman’s best (finally getting to grips with how to end a film) and Gondry’s eccentric genius makes him the perfect choice for directing a film set mostly within the mind.

The structure is ideal for dissecting both the good and bad of relationships, and how rare is that in a Hollywood film? Instead of showing blissfully happy characters destined to be together forever, it shows you that being in a couple takes effort, but ultimately it’s worth it.

Arguments about flirting, tender moments under the covers, uncomfortable silences at restaurants, that first meeting (played twice). It’s a photographic picture book of the highs and lows that anyone can relate too.

However, ‘Eternal Sunshine’ does come with a warning: Never watch it if you’ve just parted company with a loved one, it’s guaranteed to make you want them back. But if you’re going through a bad patch this film can help you through it. If you’re single and waiting it can give you the strength to hope. It’s a film about the perfect person for someone, but knowing that that perfect person for someone won’t be perfect. Unlike the greatest film of the greatest film year in living memory.

A Decade In Films – 2003
A Decade In Films – 2002
A Decade In Films – 2001
A Decade In Films – 2000

Do you concur? Is there anything left out? Can you remember a year this good? Answers below.