Director – Anthony Abrams, Adam Larson Broder
A perfectly worked story by hyperbole, which is impossibly difficult. A new standard in the possibilities of filmcraft that is equally hilarious nonsense and multi-layered, modern fairy tale. Pieced together with precision, it should not be overlooked.
27. Punch-Drunk Love
Director – Paul Thomas Anderson
A bizarre character study that manages to make you uncomfortable, intrigued, and rather moved by a character you are surprised to have any interest in. A level of storytelling rarely seen in modern cinema, and that might not be such a bad thing actually, it’s something like the movie equivalent of spinning an odd yarn at the bar. Sandler is unlikely to ever be better, but his performance here is equally unlikely to be praised too highly.
Director – Jonathan Demme
An excellent performance, and one of the best expositions of relationships ever. A curious avenue toward engagement, the conversations drive the involvement, but in a way that is almost inviting by being off-putting. Family is odd, and so are you.
25. Rare Birds
Director – Sturla Gunnarsson
New heights of quirkiness power this odd personal tale. Featuring the sorely underappreciated Molly Parker, this is a solid story displaying life through an unusual vehicle, with characters likable most, perhaps, as a direct result of the difficulty in finding their likability.
Director – Brad Bird co-director – Jan Pinkava
Pixar’s second best film, and another that is at least partially among the homage features in this list. Adding to the brilliance is how well this film combines its ability to be appreciated by both young and old. While many animated films have made solid efforts along those lines, this one takes it up a notch on the adult side and remains a favorite among younger audiences.
The zany antics mix with a fairly complex story, and each character’s struggle with various motivations blends into an incredible story.
Director – Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson
The beginning of an era, the first winner of the Animated Feature Film Oscar, and a worthy selection to kick things off. Surprisingly fun for everyone, the combination of cute, satire, and slapstick stylings is a treat that will last for many years.
Director – Steven Soderbergh
As tough a sell as the original, Clooney is in top form in this sci-fi masterpiece that brings the purest potential of the genre to the screen. Space battles and alien adventures are great, but the point of the exercise is to say things about real life that are hard to say within the limits of reality as we know it. It’s almost a cheat to applaud the story of a remake, but Soderbergh tweaks things just a bit, and does so well, and his own style on the effort works wonderfully.
21. Spirited Away
Director – Hayao Miyazaki
A fairy tale that does and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at any given point, this is a treasure from the master that should simply be required reading for anyone who claims to like film to any degree. Richly layered and beautiful, this is what telling a story is all about.
Director – Noah Baumbach
Two young boys deal with the divorce of their parents, and one of them is Jesse Eisenberg who is solidifying his unique persona after the nearly as good Roger Dodger. His parents are Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney, who are both at the top of their game, and they’ve got game. Based on Baumbach’s true story, this is a sharp and clever spin on just how crazy normal is, and vice versa.
Director – Marc Forster
Will Ferrell discovers his life is being written by someone and his author is about to kill him off. He’s got to find her, and find out what’s going on. A beautiful spin on wool-gathering run wild, this is a crazy adventure that obviously reminds of the even more brilliant Lovely by Surprise, which is only not on this list (and near the top) because of concerns over how you decide what year it actually came out. Theoretically 2007, but according to other theories it might be 2009, which renders it ineligible.
Director – Adrienne Shelly
Magic pies and crazy husbands may not add up to a hill of beans, but for anyone who can take an indie with a lot of heart and let themselves loose, this is a real gem. All those plans and ideas we have while we figure ourselves through our daily routine in our less than fabulous jobs. It’s hard to put together a really strong argument for this being one of the best of the decade actually, but it’s the movie version of that song that just won’t get out of your head… and you don’t mind.
Director – Andrew Stanton
I actually put this lower on the full list of Pixar movies than a lot of people, but the Pixar you like least is still better than almost everything else.
Director – Kenneth Lonergan
This is the one film on this part of the list that might count as being something more than in alphabetical order. It is only by the nearest of margins that it was not in the top 15. Ruffalo and Linney are superb, and the direction and story are (to be honest) probably better than you deserve.