You know who made some great films in the first decade of the 2000s? Mr. David Lynch, the incomparable auteur of impenetrable head-trip movies whose last two films, Mulholland Drive (2001) and Inland Empire (2006), stand as two of the most accomplished efforts released between the years 2000 through 2009. And how about Richard Linklater? The independent maverick delighted art-house and family film audiences alike with poignant, triumphant character pieces like Waking Life (2001), School of Rock (2003), and Before Sunset (2004). Let's not forget about Spike Lee, either—the Brooklynite's 25th Hour is a top-ten best aughts release, while Inside Man (2006) was one of the most respectable $100-million-plus box office earners.

Because of filmmakers like Lynch, Linklater, and Lee, movie lovers were treated to some truly phenomenal films from 2000 through 2009. The aughts were such a fine time for filmmaking both indie and major that—get this—none of aforementioned guys made the cut here for the 10 best American directors of the 2000s. (Note: We limited this to narrative filmmaking, and excluded documentaries.)

As the Internet and VOD platforms provided more and more reasons for people to stay out movie theaters, along with Hollywood's studio executives giving precedence to making every superhero flick and CGI-laden spectacle presented to them, cinema's most exciting creators delivered art against all kinds of seemingly insurmountable odds. 

The 10 directors discussed here all persevered. Their output elevated the medium, gathered prestigious awards, launched careers, set trends, and, in some cases, turned large profits. Most importantly, though, they all proved that great movies will find a way.

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