20. Before Sunset (2004)
Director: Richard Linklater
Writers: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
One of the most intelligent, natural, and character-driven romantic films of the last decade (or the last two, for that matter), with endearing performances by Hawke and Delpy. The ending sequence is precious, perhaps one of the best in cinema.
19. Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
Director: Brad Silberling
Writer: Robert Gordon, based on the books by Daniel Handler
Cast: Jim Carrey, Liam Aiken, Emily Browning, Kara Hoffman, Shelby Hoffman, Jude Law, Timothy Spall, Catherine O'Hara, Billy Connolly, Meryl Streep
Not having liked the books on which it was based, I wasn't expecting this film to be so much fun and, beyond that, a truly well crafted film on the technical aspects. Great art direction, cinematography, costume, makeup, score. And of course, great acting, including an amusing turn by Streep. Some parts are really touching.
18. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Director: Sam Raimi
Writer: Alvin Sargent, based on the comic books by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina, James Franco
Easily the best of the trilogy, with spectacular visual effects and a great, well rounded villain in Molina's Dr. Octopus. Still one of the best superhero movies of all time.
17. The Dark Knight (2008)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan, based on characters by Bob Kane
Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman
THE best superhero movie of all time. Amazing film made even better by the phenomenal performance of the great Heath Ledger. The biggest travesty committed by the Academy in recent years was not having nominated this film and its director.
16. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Director: Michel Gondry
Writer: Charlie Kaufman
Cast: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson
Gondry at his best, and Winslet at her most endearing (many fans' favorite performance of hers). This is easily one of the most creative and finely made films of the last decade.
15. Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Director: Joe Wright
Writer: Deborah Moggach, based on the novel by Jane Austen
Cast: Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, Donald Sutherland, Brenda Blethyn, Rosamund Pike
This is a faithful adaptation of one of the all time wittiest, most romantic novels. The film and its actors are effortless, especially Knightley and Sutherland.
14. Dogville (2003)
Director: Lars von Trier
Writer: Lars von Trier
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Lauren Bacall, Paul Bettany
Spare, austere, horrifying, liberating. Brilliant film by the brilliant oft misunderstood von Trier. A film that uses no sets except lines on the ground to denote where the houses are, it looks bare but the emotion is never so. A great ending sequence that has one thinking if s/he is a little too emotionally invested in the plight of Grace, Kidman's character. This is her best performance, in my opinion.
13. Summer Wars (2009)
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Writer: Satoko Okudera
Cast (voices of): Sumiko Fuji, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Ayumu Saito, Nanami Sakuraba
From the visionary director of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time has come another amazing feat of Japanese animation. Thoroughly engaging and spectacular.
12. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Writer: Satoko Okudera, based on the novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui
Cast (voices of): Riisa Naka, Takuya Ishida, Mitsutaka Itakura, Ayami Kakiuchi
Summer Wars may be the more innovative film of Hosoda's, but The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is the more emotionally resonant. Nice take on the sci-fi trope of time travel, with romance thrown in to make one of the best anime films of all time.
11. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Simon Beaufoy, based on the novel by Vikas Swarup
Cast: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto
An exuberant, emotionally stirring film that I found myself watching over and over without getting tired of it.
Numbers 30-21 here.
Numbers 10-1 soon.