1.Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004): This is a film about how precious our memories are and how we should savor them while we can because our minds erase them gradually over time on their own anyway.
2. Zodiac (2007): David Fincher’s films have often been criticized for their lack of characterization and emotional detachment but this is not the case with Zodiac. The actors go a long way in providing an emotional connection to their characters. This is a film that shows people talking and doing research – hardly, dynamic, cinematic material but Fincher makes it fascinating with strong performances from his talented cast and a solid screenplay to anchor the film.
3. Mulholland Drive (2001): David Lynch's atmospheric ode to memory and the cutthroat nature of Hollywood all held together by a neo-noir tale of mystery with a blisteringly fierce performance by Naomi Watts. This film runs the gamut of emotions, from humorous gags to heartwrenching emotion to moments of absolute horror.
4. In the Mood for Love (2000): Wong Kar-Wai's atmospheric love letter to Hong Kong in the 1960s features an aching romance from afar between two lonely souls trapped by the attitudes and customs of the times in which they live in. Every frame of this film is gorgeous to look at and the two leads have undeniable chemistry.
5. There Will Be Blood (2007): This film is really a story about how the United States was built – with hard work, sweat, and, yes, blood. Paul Thomas Anderson has crafted a cinematic masterpiece that pits the beginnings of corporate greed against religious extremism with a deliciously over-the-top performance by Daniel Day-Lewis at its center.
6. Che (2008): Steven Soderbergh made a $60 million epic that eschewed mainstream accessibility in favor of telling the rise and fall of controversial revolutionary Che Guevara. Resisting the urge to sentimentalize the man, instead Soderbergh presents an absorbing look at how Che's guerrilla warfare worked in Cuba and failed in Bolivia. Benicio del Toro, in a role he was born to play, delivers an incredible performance in this film.
7. Children of Men (2006): Ultimately, this film is about hope, idealism and how one person can make a difference. Like any truly important science fiction film, it comments as much on our present as it does on our future. Alfonso Cuaron has created a brilliant hybrid: a protest-SF-action-road movie that suggests that very little separates the methods of the government and the terrorists.
8. Michael Clayton (2007): In the fine tradition of 1970s thrillers with a conscience, this film features George Clooney's most nuanced performance to date as corporate fixer torn between his allegiance to a friend and colleague who has seemingly gone crazy and the high-powered client that said co-worker has inexplicable screwed over. Clayton's transformation over the course of the film is masterfully handled by Clooney, resulting in a truly satisfying conclusion.
9. Birth (2004): A beautifully shot, deliberately paced mystery that has enough ambiguity so that by the end you're thinking about what you just say for days afterwards without feeling cheated. Nicole Kidman delivers a career-defining performance as a woman still recovering from the sudden death of her husband and about to remarry when he reappears in her life (or does he) in the body of a small boy. The best Stanley Kubrick film that the master never made.
10. Almost Famous (2000): Cameron Crowe's magnum opus and ode to classic rock in the 1970s. Deeply heartfelt and autobiographical, the film charts Crowe's cinematic surrogate as he goes on the road with a mid-level band and learns some valuable life lessons along the way. The film has an incredible soundtrack and a great cast of actors who bring their various characters vividly to life.
Almost made the cut...
Almost made the cut...
Traffic, Sideways, The Departed, Brick, Cloverfield, Dogtown and Z Boys, Half-Nelson, Casino Royale, A Scanner Darkly, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Mysterious Skin, The Good Shepherd, Brokeback Mountain, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Punch-Drunk Love, Amelie, Donnie Darko, High Fidelity, The Incredibles, Sin City, Flags of Our Fathers, The Bourne Ultimatum, Narc, Shattered Glass, The Wrestler, The Dark Knight, Ali, A Decade Under the Influence, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring