I’ll start (like you did, Vic) by clarifying what kind of list this is. It is certainly not a list of the best films. Nor do my criteria match up with Vic’s. These are simply my favourites. It was quite a surprise to me to realise which films I felt needed to be included and which great films simply didn’t feel right. A big factor for me were questions like: Which movies would I love to see again anytime someone wanted to join me? Or which movies would I most enjoy recommending to others? In other words a lot of it had to with personal staying power. A few near the bottom of the list don’t quite have that enjoyability factor, but they had an intellectual impact on me that made me feel a need to include them. I realise some of these choices may be painful to lovers of fine film, but to them I would say, “Go ahead and watch films like Ghost World and A Squid and a Whale if you want to (two films I’ve seen on several lists that I considered among the worst films I ever began watching), but that’s not my idea of a good time.
25. Memento – not a pleasant film but incredibly intriguing.
24. The Shipping News – I don’t understand why this isn’t more popular. A good story about Newfoundland with interesting atmosphere and a great score.
23. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days – also not a pleasant film, but a very unique and well-made glimpse into Eastern European life. I especially appreciated the study of the tired helper.
22. Wall-E – I felt I had to include one of the many great animated pictures made this decade.
21. Paris Je t’aime – A varied mix of film shorts on the theme of love in Paris. Several of them were impacting and memorable. The whole made a great experience.
20. Crash – I understand those who don’t like this and it moved lower in my list than I would have thought, but I think people aren’t being entirely fair to the type of movie that is artificially crafted to create a specific kind of experience. No it’s not realism, but it was very thought-provoking and moving.
19. O Brother Where Art Thou? – I haven’t seen this for too long and almost forgot to include it. Great music and fascinating twist on the Odyssey. Time to see it again.
18. Chocolat – Ditto on the too long since I’ve seen it, but great memories of this film.
17. Bourne trilogy – In spite of the annoying shaky cam, this was plain fun spy excitement from first to last.
16. The Constant Gardener – A great example of how the best kind of spy thriller transitions seamlessly to corporate thriller. Michael Clayton, of course, is another example that just didn’t make my list.
15. Danny Deckchair – A quirky comedy we stumbled across that I’ve enjoyed watching several times and keep recommending to others for an evening of feel-good entertainment with a nice light encouragement to live better.
14. Welcome to the Sticks – A couple annoying silly bits, but otherwise the same goes for this as the last one. Not quite sure why I placed it higher.
13. The Seduction of Dr. Lewis – A Quebecois film with a unique setting that tells a warm tale.
12. Henry Poole Is Here – One more quirky comedy – this one with a sad tone and thought-provoking story.
11. Joyeux Noel – Moving and true(ish) story and the end packs a nice punch.
10. Bella Martha – Original German version of No Reservations. Good food, therapy, drama and quirky comedy – what could be better?
9. The Visitor – A professor named Walter who is a good guy and learns to play the djembe – this would have been enough to make my list. But it’s also a great movie with a great title.
8. Once – Such a unique experience. Just saw it again for about the 4th time and I expected to like it less, but I didn’t. The best kind of low budget realism.
7. The Interpreter – The critics didn’t like it, but it combines an interesting thriller (with one unfortunate implausible bit) with a thought-provoking study of forgiveness and a great score.
7. Stranger than Fiction – (Excuse 2nd number 7 – last minute insert) Another example that silly comedic actors can play some of the best serious roles. As someone relatively enamoured with narrative psychology, I loved the play with the idea of story. Creative and well-acted all around.
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – A creative and unique comedy drama. Of the picks I saw near the top of a lot of people, this was the one I most agreed with.
5. The Lives of Others – Drama/thriller about East Germany – it’s good in so many ways it’s hard to know where to start.
4. Lars and the Real Girl – At first I thought I was one of the only ones to have discovered this gem of a movie. It’s a much needed story about how a family and community provide a humanizing context to deal with mental illness. And it’s fun at the same time. Suddenly I seem to see it referred to in a lot of odd places for the same reasons. Good to see it get the recognition it deserves.
3. Amelie – A work of art. Wonderful story about an unforgettable character, brilliantly filmed. Vic, I can only assume that you forgot this one.
2. Phone Booth – I use this a lot for classes and every time I watch it I appreciate it more. That’s certainly a sign of a film with lasting merit. A creative idea as a simple literal thriller, but also filled with deep meanings. Works amazingly as a parable about law/conscience/grace/confession. As you watch the movie and the final confession you feel purged and amazingly reminded that a self-centred jerk might actually have a real human being inside (so there’s hope for us all).
1. Lord of the Rings – Truly amazing that they pulled off the whole trilogy with the kind of grandeur and power one might have hoped for. I actually don’t like it as much as some of my other top ten films but it seems to have too much majesty about it to be placed lower.