10. Paris, je'taime: Twenty short films make up this wildly entertaining movie. Each filmmaker given a different part of the city to tell a six-minute love story. None better than the finale segment, Alexander Payne’s extraordinary piece about a middle-aged woman finding herself in the city of love. You’ll be floored by the emotional arch of the character, discovering wondrous realizations that you never thought possible in six minutes. A tour-de-force.
9. Zodiac: David Fincher’s fantastic, in-depth analysis about the San Francisco Bay Zodiac killer felt like a real investigation. Jake Gyllenhaal leads one of the best casts of the year as cartoonist turned author Robert Graysmith whose obsessions over the case nearly got him killed. Fincher is a master of dark cinema, thrilling us with Se7en, and Fight Club, but his direction has never been better in this morbid examination into the minds of people tracking a killer.
8. Into the Wild: Passion evokes itself in every frame in Sean Penn’s stunning film. A true story about Chris McCandless, a young man who gave up everything, only to reap the harsh drudges of the wild. Emile Hirsch gives a stunning, career-making performance. Great supporting turns by Catherine Keener and Hal Holbrook, but it’s Penn’s show, who fuses his own remarkable style in a highly memorable film.
7. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead: Veteran filmmaker Sidney Lumet’s devious return to form. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke have never been better as brothers living with the guilt of a crime gone very, very wrong. Kelly Masterson’s screenplay offers a fresh narrative in storytelling.
6. Atonement: The war-torn, romanance gets a much needed tune-up. Keira Knightley and James McAvoy light up the screen with their commanding chemistry. A poignant story with marvelous technical achievements to boot.
5. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: Brad Pitt’s passion project is one of the most subtly astonishing film of the year. Casey Affleck steals the show as a man haunted by his obsessions, long after the killing occurs. Cinematographer Roger Deakins beautifully uses vast landscapes to tell a story of isolated men.
4. Michael Clayton: From its breathtaking, mile a minute opening monologue, to its inspirational closing credits, this is a true classic. A smart, witty and immensely enjoyable throwback to 70s era cinema.
3. No Country for Old Men: A great return for the Coen brothers, who have been stuck in a quirky-comedy rut. Jarvier Bardem, hair and all, will go down as one of the all time great villains in cinema history. A terrific, literal adaptation from one of our best living authors, Cormac MaCarthy.
2. Rescue Dawn: A remarkable true story, harrowing in every frame. A triumphant film fueled by career-best performances by Christian Bale and Steve Zahn. One of Werner Herzog’s very best films. Criminally overlooked by virtually every major award competition, proves that the best films don’t always go on to win awards.
1. There Will Be Blood: Bold, brilliant, haunting, powerful. This is a film so unmatched by anything else this year that it stands on its own. Anchored by a classic Daniel Day-Lewis performance, this is the most shockingly original piece of filmmaking this year. Filled with the perfect blend of music and revolutionary camera work, There Will Be Blood is Paul Thomas Anderson's modern-day masterpiece.
And Ten More, for good measure (alphabetically):
Away From Her
The Darjeeling Limited
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Gone Baby Gone
Grindhouse (namely Death Proof)
In the Valley of Elah