11. Brokeback Mountain
I avoided this one for years because it just seemed like such a gimmick movie. Also, it had that dude from A Knight's Tale and that Donnie Darko kid who "supposedly" give amazing performances. Finally I broke down, after all the hype and lame jokes were over, and rented it. My wife was just going to watch the beginning to see how crappy it was, her being a huge fan of the Annie Proulx story, and I was going to try my best to give it a fair shake. Next thing we knew 2 hours had passed and both of us were astonished. Ang Lee has told one of the greatest love stories using something that hasn't been seen in a long time; good, old-fashioned storytelling. Beautiful cinematography, amazing performances (I was truly shocked), a fascinating and touching script and masterful direction make this one of the films that breaks my heart that I couldn't fit it into my top ten of the decade. A great character drama and a definite masterpiece.
12. In Bruges
The story of a gangster fighting for his very soul with the help of a Jesus figure from the New Testament (Brendan Gleeson) against the vengeful Old Testament God (Ray Finnes). A truly brilliant film whose religious symbolism is fascinating and powerful (Colin Farrell's sinner entering hell over the River Styx, Pennies from Heaven, the son of God's sacrifice, Mary and her unborn baby with no father at the Inn, Farrell not being satisfied by booze or drugs, the list goes on and on) but can keep the folks who aren't interested in such things entertained with a great story of friendship, guilt, honour and revenge. Purgatory has never been so entertaining.
I was lucky enough to see Following, Chris Nolan's first film, at the Toronto Film Festival when it came out to much acclaim. And then Nolan just seemed to disappear. Where could he be?
It turned out he was preparing to kick the world's ass with this masterful film of a man out to avenge his wife's death, told in reverse. An amazing piece of work that I can't imagine anyone disliking.
14. Survive Style 5+
You had to have known another wacky Japanese film would show up on my list somewhere. Survive Style 5+ unfortunately may never see the light of day in North America due to music copyright problems, but I would recommend to seek this one out however you can find it. Truly a delight for the eyes, never have I seen such amazing art direction. Plus, the interwoven stories are imaginative and well told. Also, it took a song I hated, Cake's version of I Will Survive, and used it so perfectly that I love it now. Don't you love it when movies do that? A delight.
15. Drag Me to Hell
The most fun I've had in the theater in a long, long time. Raimi shows that you can go back to what made you famous and still bring something new to the table. Not so easy to do when you think about fans' disappointments with Lucas, Romero and many other directors who've tried to recapture their pasts. There are setpieces in this that are easily the best work he's ever done. And on such a miniscule budget. There's a reason I think he's the greatest director of all time (wait until he's dead for 20 to 50 years. See how much of today's cinema he will have been said to influence. Mark my words).
16. Kung Fu Hustle
Mr. Awesome returns with this fantastic tale of a cad, who wants to be a cad.... who'd do anything to be a cad.... but is actually a good person (well maybe Mr. Awesome makes him out to be an amazing person, but I love the idea of a good man trying to be bad). Never in a million years would an American film take the dramatic twists and turns this film takes, and once again Mr. Awesome makes incredible use of CGI that even the most whiny of fanboys couldn't bitch about.
17. The Descent
I rented this on a PAL DVD well before it got it's North American debut (making me awesome). All I knew was that it was done by the guy who did Dog Soldiers. My good lady wife and I sat down to watch it and were immediately intrigued by the characters and the story. We were on the edge of our seats as they went down into the caves. Was someone going to snap? We're they going to be trapped? You could cut the tension with a knife. Then something happened that blew my fucking mind. If you're one of the 3 people out there who haven't seen it I would never spoil it, but see it fast before someone else does.
Ignore the naysayers, this is an instant classic. I like that they took out a lot with the psychiatrist (maybe when I was a kid I would believe that Rorschach's story was enough to drive him insane. Not today though, there are stories on Law and Order that are far more distressing) and the ending of the movie is just plain superior. I love the graphic novel, but what Snyder does with the film is nothing short of incredible. Brilliant.
19. Inglourious Basterds
I don't like war movies. I can count the war movies I love on one hand. Catch 22. Full Metal Jacket. Paths of Glory. I'm sure there's a couple more there. My main problem is that I just don't find war that entertaining or interesting. I guess I'll never be that guy who's library consists of WWII Books. But Tarantino made what could possibly be my favourite war film of all time, because it focuses on characters and plot rather than battles and action scenes. Wars are incredibly interesting backdrops for story driven films to take place in. Think of the civil war scene in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Once the characters are within the army base, Leone uses it to show the audience the true natures of each character. Angel Eyes revels in it and The Man with No Name and Tuto are horrified by it. Tarantino also uses the war to help mold his characters, from the woman seeking justice to an opportunist played by Christopher Waltz, who easily should become a star from his role. For all those doubting Tartantino's future as a leading filmmaker, this film should easily alleviate any doubts.
20. The Host
I love monster movies. And I love intelligent films about families. Therefore I love The Host. Simple mathematics. See it and love it too.