I think it was the 00's when I started making year-end of "Best-Of" lists. Since then, I have gone back and made them for earlier years, but it wasn't until this decade when I started cataloguing these sorts of things.
The movie that brought Audrey Tautou to the world's attention. I actually tried to resist its' charms for a long time, but its pretty enchanting, the script has great comic timing, and the art direction is pretty wondrous. Its pretty rare when such earnest hope and optimism is actually so delightful instead of being grating. Its actually pretty hard balance to pull off, in my opinion.
One of the greatest gutpunch movies ever. One of those movies thats great to watch with other people who haven't seen it to see their reactions. Although definitely not for all tastes. It starts out like a breezy, lame, romantic comedy and turns on a dime into a nightmare. The bag moved!
3) Donnie Darko
Still Richard Kelly's best movie. An complicated,(some might say overly complicated or "doesn't make sense"-which, yeah, I can understand) era-specific, mind screw with great characters, great music, and great visuals.
4) Ghost World
This is a weird comparison, but I can sort of see this as a companion piece to "An Education"- a very specific, outcast type of girl with eccentric, eclectic tastes tries to navigate the waters of adulthood and growing up. But what does being an adult mean? Is it always selling out and moving on or can you stay doing the same thing forever. And whatever happened to Thora Birch? Steve Buscemi is so good as a lonely jazz-record aficionado.
5) The Man Who Wasn't There
Until recently, I thought that people might have slept on this movie. But when other people started making their lists I saw that I was wrong. Shot in beautiful black and white, this is as much the Coen's own dissection not only of film noir itself, but also the era that begat film noir. Also, probably Billy Bob Thornton's last really good performance, and before he became a huge jackass.
6) Mulholland Drive
Its hard to wrap your head around the fact that this began life as a pilot for a television series. To be perfectly honest, I am still not 100 percent sure what is going in with David Lynch's puzzle narrative. But that is, oddly, part of its appeal. Naomi Watts is a hollywood newcomer that gets plunged into a mystery that never really gets solved, but part of the fun/interest is following her and Lynch down the rabbit hole. It eventually splits into two narratives, one real, one imagined, all an amazing Lynchian fever dream.
7) Ocean's Eleven
To be perfectly honest, I probably enjoy Steven Soderbergh's more mainstream fare than his experimental stuff. And it probably doesn't get more mainstream than this. Sure it is a triumph of flash and style over any real substance, but it has an infectious air of fun thats hard to deny. He lost all this goodwill with two subpar sequels, but the he and the inventive cast he put together (Carl Reiner!?) are firing on all cylinders here.
8) The Royal Tenenbaums
My favorite movie of the year. Wes Anderson's second best movie. Its a triumph not only of Wes Anderson's production design, every visual is perfectly in place and realized down to the most minute detail. Those visuals serve the melancholy mood and the story not the other way around. Gene Hackman, in his last great performance, a schemer entering the last years of his life, is the glue that holds it all together.
9) Sexy Beast
I had never seen that poster before, its awesome. I remember seeing this and thinking how great Ben Kingsley is. I kept thinking that this malevolent, vile force of nature is being played by the same man that played "Gandhi". Talk about a change. This is an imaginative take on the old tale of the aging gangster who just wants to get out of the game. With Kingsley's lunatic Don Logan takes the front seat to the fantasy elements and the dazzling visuals (also the UNKLE score) but Ray Winstone as the man Logan has come to get for "one more job", and Ian McShane as their chilling crime boss are also standouts.
10) Wet Hot American Summer
I know some people who hate this movie. And I can say its definitely not for everyone. I think its one of the best things that The State alumni have done. Its an ultra-specific parody/love letter to not only a certain time and place in American cinemas as well as to the kids catching them on TV and/or HBO. Also, the cast here is absolutely stacked, Chris Meloni is revelatory, but there is a young, Pau Rudd, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper. I dunno, it hits me right in the right place-the ol' funny bone.