Best Films, 1980-1989

1989

01 Do the Right Thing, dir. Spike Lee

02 The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, dir. Peter Greenaway

03 Crimes and Misdemeanors, dir. Woody Allen

04 Drugstore Cowboy, dir. Gus Van Sant

05 The Little Mermaid, dir. Ron Clements & John Musker

Honorable Mention: Batman, Born on the Fourth of July, Dead Poets Society, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Field of Dreams, Heathers, Henry V, How to Get Ahead in Advertising, Jesus of Montreal, The Killer, Last Exit to Brooklyn, Lonesome Dove, My Left Foot, Mystery Train, Roger & Me, Say Anything, Sex Lies & Videotape, Violent Cop, When Harry Met Sally

1988

01 Dead Ringers, dir. David Cronenberg

02 A Short Film About Killing, dir, Krzysztof Kieslowski

03 The Last Temptation of Christ, dir. Martin Scorsese

04 The Unbearable Lightness of Being, dir. Philip Kaufman

05 Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, dir. Robert Zemeckis

Honorable Mention: Akira, Beetlejuice, Big, Bull Durham, Chocolat, Cinema Paradiso, Dangerous Liaisons, Die Hard, Eight Men Out, A Fish Called Wanda, Grave of the Fireflies, High Hopes, Landscape in the Mist, Midnight Run, Mississippi Burning, Pelle the Conqueror, Rain Man, Salaam Bombay!, Time of the Gypsies, The Vanishing, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

1987

01 House of Games, dir. David Mamet

02 Au Revoir, Les Enfants, dir. Louis Malle

03 The Last Emperor, dir. Bernardo Bertolucci

04 Wings of Desire, dir. Wim Wenders

05 Broadcast News, dir. James L. Brooks

Honorable Mention: Babette’s Feast, Dark Eyes, The Dead, Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam, Evil Dead II, Full Metal Jacket, Good Morning Vietnam, High Tide, Hope and Glory, Housekeeping, Lethal Weapon, Matewan, Moonstruck, Near Dark, No Way Out, The Princess Bride, Radio Days, Raising Arizona, Red Sorghum, RoboCop, Roxanne, Swimming to Cambodia, Withnail and I, Yeelen

1986

01 Blue Velvet, dir. David Lynch

02 Hannah and Her Sisters, dir. Woody Allen

03 Sid and Nancy, dir. Alex Cox

04 The Horse Thief, dir. Tian Zhuangzhuang

05 The Fly, dir. David Cronenberg

Honorable Mention: Aliens, The Beekeeper, Betty Blue, The Decline of the American Empire, Down by Law, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ginger and Fred, Jean de Florette, Manhunter, The Mission, Mona Lisa, Peggy Sue Got Married, Platoon, River’s Edge, Round Midnight, Salvador, She’s Gotta Have It, Something Wild, Stand by Me

1985

01 Ran, dir. Akira Kurosawa

02 Brazil, dir. Terry Gilliam

03 The Purple Rose of Cairo, dir. Woody Allen

04 Come and See, dir. Elem Klimov

05 Lost In America, dir. Albert Brooks

Honorable Mention: 28 Up, After Hours, Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club, Colonel Redl, Day of the Dead, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, My Life as a Dog, The Official Story, Out of Africa, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Re-Animator, A Room With a View, Runaway Train, Shoah, Tampopo, Trouble In Mind, Vagabond, While Father Was Away on Business, Witness, A Zed and Two Noughts

1984

01 Paris, Texas, dir. Wim Wenders

02 Once Upon a Time in America, dir. Sergio Leone

03 This Is Spinal Tap, dir. Rob Reiner

04 Amadeus, dir. Milos Forman

05 The Terminator, dir. James Cameron

Honorable Mention: All of Me, Blood Simple, Broadway Danny Rose, Choose Me, The Company of Wolves, The Element of Crime, The Killing Fields, Love Streams, The Natural, A Passage to India, Places in the Heart, Repo Man, Sixteen Candles, Stop Making Sense, Stranger Than Paradise, A Sunday in the Country, Under the Volcano, A Year of the Quiet Sun, Yellow Earth

1983

01 The Right Stuff, dir. Philip Kaufman

02 The King of Comedy, dir. Martin Scorsese

03 Videodrome, dir. David Cronenberg

04 El Norte, dir. Gregory Nava

05 Terms of Endearment, dir. James L. Brooks

Honorable Mention: L’Argent, The Ballad of Narayama, A Christmas Story, Danton, The Dead Zone, The Dresser, Eureka, Local Hero, The Man With Two Brains, Nostalghia, Pauline at the Beach, Risky Business, Sans Soleil, Tender Mercies, Zelig

1982

01 Blade Runner, dir. Ridley Scott

02 E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, dir. Steven Spielberg

03 Fanny and Alexander, dir. Ingmar Bergman

04 Diner, dir. Barry Levinson

05 Fitzcarraldo, dir. Werner Herzog

Honorable Mention: Burden of Dreams, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Draughtsman’s Contract, Eating Raoul, Finye, Gandhi, Missing, Moonlighting, The Night of the Shooting Stars, Personal Best, Sophie’s Choice, The State of Things, Tootsie, The Verdict, The Year of Living Dangerously, Yol

1981

01 The Road Warrior, dir. George Miller

02 Raiders of the Lost Ark, dir. Steven Spielberg

03 My Dinner With Andre, dir. Louis Malle

04 Mephisto, dir. Istvan Szabo

05 Diva, dir. Jean-Jacques Beineix

Honorable Mention: The Aviator’s Wife, Blood Wedding, Blow Out, Body Heat, Coup de Torchon, Das Boot, Diva, Excalibur, Gallipoli, Lola, Pixote, Prince of the City, Reds, Scanners, Southern Comfort, Stripes, Thief, Time Bandits, Vernon Florida

1980

01 Raging Bull, dir. Martin Scorsese

02 Kagemusha, dir. Akira Kurosawa

03 Atlantic City, dir. Louis Malle

04 The Empire Strikes Back, dir. Irvin Kershner

05 The Last Metro, dir. Francois Truffaut

Honorable Mention: Airplane!, Berlin Alexanderplatz, The Big Red One, Breaker Morant, Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Elephant Man, Gloria, The Long Good Friday, Loulou, Melvin and Howard, Mon Oncle d’Amerique, Ordinary People, The Shining, The Stunt Man

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Best Films, 1990-1999

1999

01 Three Kings, dir. David O. Russell

02 Being John Malkovich, dir. Spike Jonze

03 The Matrix, dir. Wachowski Brothers

04 Boys Don’t Cry, dir. Kimberly Peirce

05 Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, dir. Jim Jarmusch

Honorable Mentions: All About My Mother, Beau Travail, Buena Vista Social Club, The Color of Paradise, Eyes Wide Shut, Election, Fight Club, The Insider, The Limey, Magnolia, Office Space, Ratcatcher, The Straight Story, Sweet and Lowdown, Toy Story 2, The War Zone, The Wind Will Carry Us

1998

01 The Thin Red Line, dir. Terrence Malick

02 Rushmore, dir. Wes Anderson

03 Out of Sight, dir. Steven Soderbergh

04 A Simple Plan, dir. Sam Raimi

05 Happiness, dir. Todd Solondz

Honorable Mentions: Afterlife, Buffalo ’66, The Celebration,  Dark City, Eternity and a Day, The General, He Got Game, The Last Days of Disco, Primary Colors, Rounders, Run Lola Run, Saving Private Ryan, Shakespeare in Love, Smoke Signals, The Truman Show,

1997

01 The Sweet Hereafter, dir. Atom Egoyan

02 Boogie Nights, dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

03 L.A. Confidential, dir. Curtis Hanson

04 Taste of Cherry, dir. Abbas Kiarostami

05 The Ice Storm, dir. Ang Lee

Honorable Mentions: The Apostle, The Butcher Boy, Chasing Amy, Children of Heaven, Deconstructing Harry, Donnie Brasco, Eve’s Bayou, The Full Monty, Funny Games, Grosse Point Blank, Hana-bi, In the Company of Men, Jackie Brown, Nil by Mouth, Ulee’s Gold, Wag the Dog

1996

01 Breaking the Waves, dir. Lars Von Trier

02 Fargo, dir. Joel and Ethan Coen

03 Lone Star, dir. John Sayles

04 Secrets & Lies, dir. Mike Leigh

05 Trainspotting, dir. Danny Boyle

Honorable Mentions: Big Night, Crash, Flirting with Disaster, Hard Eight, Kingpin, Paradise Lost, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Prisoners of the Mountain, Swingers, Underground, Walking and Talking

1995

01 Toy Story, dir. John Lasseter

02 Dead Man, dir. Jim Jarmusch

03 Seven, dir. David Fincher

04 Before Sunrise, dir. Richard Linklater

05 Babe, dir. Chris Noonan

Honorable Mentions: Apollo 13, Bottle Rocket, Braveheart, Casino, Crumb, Dead Man Walking, Devil in a Blue Dress, Get Shorty, La Haine, Heat, Leaving Las Vegas, Richard III, Rob Roy, To Die For, Ulysses’ Gaze, The Usual Suspects

1994

01 Pulp Fiction, dir. Quentin Tarantino

02 Red, dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski

03 Hoop Dreams, dir. Steve James

04 Ed Wood, dir. Tim Burton

05 Chungking Express, dir. Wong Kar-Wai

Honorable Mentions: Ashes of Time, Bullets Over Broadway, Clerks, Ed Wood, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Heavenly Creatures, The Hudsucker Proxy, Natural Born Killers, Nobody’s Fool, Once Were Warriors, Quiz Show, Satantango, Shallow Grave, The Shawshank Redemption, Speed, White

1993

01 The Piano, dir. Jane Campion

02 Groundhog Day, dir. Harold Ramis

03 Dazed and Confused, dir. Richard Linklater

04 Schindler’s List, dir. Steven Spielberg

05 Blue, dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski

Honorable Mentions: The Age of Innocence, The Blue Kite, Farewell My Concubine, Fearless, The Fugitive, In the Name of the Father, Jurassic Park, King of the Hill, Menace II Society, Naked, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Searching for Bobby Fisher, Short Cuts, True Romance, The War Room

1992

01 Malcolm X, dir. Spike Lee

02 Reservoir Dogs, dir. Quentin Tarantino

03 Unforgiven, dir. Clint Eastwood

04 Aladdin, dir. Ron Clements and John Musker

05 One False Move, dir. Carl Franklin

Honorable Mentions: Bad Lieutenant, Braindead, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Crying Game, Glengarry Glen Ross, Hardboiled, Howard’s End, Husbands and Wives, The Last of the Mohicans,  The Player, A River Runs Through It, Wayne’s World

1991

01 Raise the Red Lantern, dir. Zhang Yimou

02 JFK, dir. Oliver Stone

03 La Belle Noiseuse, dir. Jacques Rivette

04 Boyz N the Hood, dir. John Singleton

05 The Silence of the Lambs, dir. Jonathan Demme

Honorable Mentions: Barton Fink, Beauty and the Beast, A Brighter Summer Day, The Commitments, Defending Your Life, Delicatessen, The Double Life of Veronique, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmaker’s Apocalypse, Jungle Fever, Lovers On the Bridge, My Own Private Idaho, Naked Lunch, Slacker, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Zentropa

1990

01 GoodFellas, dir. Martin Scorsese

02 Miller’s Crossing, dir. Joel and Ethan Coen

03 Close-Up, dir. Abbas Kiarostami

04 Edward Scissorhands, dir. Tim Burton

05 The Witches, dir. Nicolas Roeg

Honorable Mentions: After Dark My Sweet, Days of Being Wild, Dick Tracy, Europa Europa, The Freshman, The Grifters, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Metropolitan, My Mother’s Castle, The Nasty Girl, Reversal of Fortune, The Sheltering Sky, Total Recall, Wild at Heart

Best Films, 2000-2010

2010

01 The Social Network, dir. David Fincher

02 A Prophet, dir. Jacques Audiard

03 Blue Valentine, dir. Derek Cianfrance

04 True Grit, dir. Joel and Ethan Coen

05 Winter’s Bone, dir. Debra Granik

Honorable Mentions; Animal Kingdom, Carlos, Dogtooth, The Fighter, Fish Tank, Four Lions, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, Please Give, Restrepo, Toy Story 3

2009

01 The Hurt Locker, dir. Kathryn Bigelow

02 The White Ribbon, dir. Michael Haneke

03 Fantastic Mr. Fox, dir. Wes Anderson

04 The Class, dir. Laurent Cantet

05 Up, dir. Pete Docter

Honorable Mentions; Adventureland, Bronson, Coraline, The Damned United, Hell Boy 2, In Bruges, The Informant!, Man On Wire, The Road, A Serious Man, Up in the Air, White Material

2008

01 WALL-E, dir. Andrew Stanton

02 Milk, dir. Gus Van Sant

03 Hunger, dir. Steve McQueen

04 The Dark Knight, dir. Christopher Nolan

05 Let the Right One In, dir. Tomas Alfredson

Honorable Mentions; Changeling, Che, Doubt, The Flight of the Red Balloon, Frost/Nixon, Gomorrah, Pineapple Express, Son of Rambow, Summer Hours, The Visitor, The Wrestler

2007

01 Zodiac, dir. David Fincher

02 No Country for Old Men, dir. Joel and Ethan Coen

03 There Will be Blood, dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

04 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, dir. Cristian Mungiu

05 The Diving Bell & the Butterfly, dir. Julian Schnabel

Honorable Mentions; 3:10 to Yuma, The Darjeeling Limited, Eastern Promises, Into the Wild, Juno, Once, Rescue Dawn, Superbad

2006

01 Children of Men, dir. Alfonso Cuaron

02 Pan’s Labyrinth, dir. Guillermo del Toro

03 The Departed, dir. Martin Scorsese

04 Half Nelson, dir. Ryan Fleck

05 The Wind That Shakes the Barley, dir. Ken Loach

Honorable Mentions; Away From Her, Borat!, Friends with Money, Inside Man, The Last King of Scotland, Little Children, Little Miss Sunshine, Offside, The Prestige, The Queen, United 93, Volver

2005

01 A History of Violence, dir. David Cronenberg

02 Good Night and Good Luck, dir. George Clooney

03 The New World, dir. Terrence Malick

04 Brokeback Mountain, dir. Ang Lee

05 Cache, dir. Michael Haneke

Honorable Mentions; The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Batman Begins, Capote, Cinderella Man, The Constant Gardener, Grizzly Man, The Ice Harvest, L’Enfant, Munich, The Squid and the Whale, Wallace & Gromit

2004

01 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, dir. Michel Gondry

02 Sideways, dir. Alexander Payne

03 The Incredibles, dir. Brad Bird

04 I Heart Huckabees, dir. David O. Russell

05 Shaun of the Dead, dir. Edgar Wright

Honorable Mentions; The Aviator, The Bourne Supremacy, Collateral, Hotel Rwanda, Life Aquatic with Steve Zisou, Million Dollar Baby, Moolaade, The Motorcycle Diaries, Oldboy, Spider Man 2, Vera Drake

2003

01 Dogville, dir. Lars Von Trier

02 The Best of Youth, dir. Marco Giordana

03 Master and Commander, dir. Peter Weir

04 American Splendor, dir. Robert Pulcini & Shari Berman

05 The Fog of War, dir. Errol Morris

Honorable Mentions; The Barbarian Invasions, Elephant, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, School of Rock, The Triplets of Belleville, X2: X-Men United

2002

01 Talk to Her, dir. Pedro Almodovar

02 The 25th Hour, dir. Spike Lee

03 City of God, dir. Fernando Meirelles

04 Adaptation, dir. Spike Jonze

05 Minority Report, dir. Steven Spielberg

Honorable Mentions; 24 Hour Party People, 28 Days Later, All or Nothing, Ararat, Bloody Sunday, Catch Me If You Can, Far From Heaven, Hero, The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers, The Man Without a Past, The Pianist, Punch Drunk Love, The Son, Spider, Spider-Man, Whale Rider

2001

01 Mulholland Drive, dir. David Lynch

02 The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, dir. Peter Jackson

03 Y Tu Mama Tambien, dir. Alfonso Cuaron

04 Amelie, dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet

05 The Royal Tenenbaums, dir. Wes Anderson

Honorable Mentions; A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Donnie Darko, Ghost World, Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, Kandahar, Last Orders, Late Marriage, Monsoon Wedding, The Piano Teacher, The Son’s Room, Spirited Away

2000

01 In the Mood for Love, dir. Wong Kar-Wai

02 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, dir. Ang Lee

03 Dancer in the Dark, dir. Lars Von Trier

04 Memento, dir. Christopher Nolan

05 Almost Famous, dir. Cameron Crowe

Honorable Mentions; American Psycho, Before Night Falls, The Circle, The Gleaners and I, High Fidelity, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Requiem for a Dream, Sexy Beast, Werckmeister Harmonies, Wonder Boys, Yi Yi, You Can Count On Me

Best Films of 2011

The Tree of Life, dir. Terrence Malick

Malick’s fifth film is his most ambitious, personal, and, yes, pretentious effort to date.  It’s also the best and most original American film since David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Who but Malick could match the personal coming-of-age drama of a boy in small town 1950s Texas with the beginning, and possibly end, of time itself? While sequences involving the birth of the cosmos and dinosaurs discovering grace may seem ponderous, The Tree of Life haunts the imagination and touches a primal emotion rarely experienced in cinema. It’s one of the boldest visions in the history of cinema.

A Separation, dir. Asghar Farhadi

A domestic drama executed with such simple precision, A Separation catches you off guard when the moral weight of the world suddenly comes down upon you. The Iranian film, however, defies explanation as the dramatic and moral complexities that unfold have no easy solutions. A powerful film with performances that never once feel ‘performed’, especially Sarina Farhadi as the daughter forced to make the film’s most difficult choices.

Moneyball, dir. Bennett Miller

A terrific year for Brad Pitt, as his performances in The Tree of Life and Bennett Miller’s Moneyball are possibly the best of his career. Pitt’s endless charisma, boyish yet masculine good looks, and unpredictable energy are perfectly utilized in the character of Billy Beane, elevating a film essentially about baseball sabermetrics into a rousing and emotionally satisfying Rocky-like film. With Moneyball and 2005’s Capote, Miller may be one of Hollywood’s best new directors.

Drive, dir. Nicolas Wending Refn

It sounds superficial to call Refn’s Drive the coolest film of the year, but it’s an exercise in style that makes you forget there’s not much underneath all the neon wrapping. Whether its the Miami Vice style credits, the pulsating Tangerine Dream-like score, or the lean opening car chase reminiscent of Walter Hill’s The Driver (another paragon of cool), the film feels like a lost relic of the 1980s – perhaps if Michael Mann and Abel Ferrara had collaborated on a project. Carey Mulligan’s luminous performance gives the film its velvet heart, Ryan Gosling does as little as possible to surprisingly good effect, and Albert Brooks is the nastiest screen villain of the year, unless you consider Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins a 2011 release. Drive is a cinematic fever dream which won’t leave you much to think about, but will certainly send you out of the theater with a buzz.

Meek’s Cutoff, dir. Kelly Reichardt

An enigmatic and frustratingly naturalistic film, Reichardt’s fourth feature engages despite employing aesthetics that would normally disengage, including scenes playing out in complete darkness and dialogue which is often inaudible. Yet Meek’s Cutoff lingers in the mind long after it’s over, and in Bruce Greenwood and Michelle Williams has two of the year’s best and beguiling (Greenwood) performances. The scene in which the pioneers must slowly roll their rickety wagons down a canyon-side or, inevitably, die is one of the most riveting of the year.

 

15 other films I liked, in no particular order:

Win Win, dir. Tom McCarthy

Certified Copy, dir. Abbas Kiarostami

War Horse, dir. Steven Spielberg

Cedar Rapids, dir. Miguel Arteta

The Way Back, dir. Peter Weir

Hanna, dir. Joe Wright

Super 8, dir. J.J. Abrams

Your Highness, dir. David Gordon Green

Jane Eyre, dir. Cary Fukunaga

Midnight in Paris, dir. Woody Allen

Beginners, dir. Mike Mills

Weekend, dir. Andrew Haigh

50/50, dir. Jonathan Levine

The Descendants, dir. Alexander Payne – though I hate the voice over

A Dangerous Method, dir. David Cronenberg

 

10 films I still haven’t seen which may enter the conversation, in no particular order:

Source Code, dir. Duncan Jones

Attack the Block, dir. Joe Cornish

Warrior, dir. Gavin O’Connor

Margaret, dir. Kenneth Lonnergan

Take Shelter, dir. Jeff Nichols

Margin Call, dir. J.C. Chandor

Melancholia, dir. Lars von Trier

Shame, dir. Steve McQueen

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, dir. Tomas Alfredson

The Interrupters, dir. Steve James