44. Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright)
It’s rare that a film tries to fit into so many genres at once and succeeds at them all. Shaun of the Dead is, above all, a comedy, and it’s frequently hilarious, but it also works better as a romcom than 99% of actual romcoms that Hollywood has released in the last decade, and draws towards its bloody, take-no-prisoners climax, it’s pretty effective as a zombie movie too. The cast is game for all the nasty, hilarious surprises Wright throws at them, and the film truly works because their chemistry is so strong, that the finale actually tugs at the heartstrings a bit.
43. Lake of Fire (Tony Kaye)
This 3-hour documentary on America’s culture war over abortion is a seriously challenging watch, not because of its duration, but because of the frank and graphic way the subject matter is presented. It attempts to be unbiased, letting the main players involved speak for themselves, and never is it more powerful than in its most objective segment: the camera actually follows a young woman getting the procedure, and her reaction to the aftermath. Her pain speaks more eloquently for both sides than the angry white males attempting to legislate her decision could ever hope to.
42. Once (John Carney)
A powerfully simple look at the small moments that define us. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are beautifully natural, letting their music express their most painful and elated states, as they fall in love and then realize the impossibility of it. I can’t emphasize enough how good the music is, and it really makes the film. I also feel like revisiting this film will be difficult and cathartic, because it hits close to home – falling in love in Ireland, with someone you can never be with. Been there.
41. Adventureland (Greg Mottola)
Speaking of hitting close to home, this is definitely going to be my life when I graduate college with my lovely, useless English degree. I even live close to the amusement park where they filmed this, and I know people just like these characters. It’s no longer the 80s, but I listen to Lou Reed and The Cure as much as they do anyway. It’s so refreshing to see a film that treats young people as real human beings with an interest in forming genuine, meaningful relationships, and trying to figure out their place in the world. The rich, colorful photography and great music create a perfect snapshot of a time and place, as well as the state of mind of its charming protagonist. Not to mention, Kristen Stewart is absolutely fetching.
40. The Proposition (John Hillcoat)
Finding beauty and poetry in the brutal, barren Australian outback is no small feat, but Hillcoat uses arresting sunsets and Nick Cave & Warren Ellis’ haunting score to paint a mystical splendor over his blood-soaked western. With intense performances from its weather-beaten cast (a dreamy, moon-faced Emily Watson excepted), this narrative of brotherly allegiance and violence as a means to control, civilize, and punish, moves forward as if in a nightmarish haze. It’s a unique piece of cinema, with a strange tone, and it doesn’t deal in any genre tropes. For that, it is perhaps a grower, requiring patience and multiple viewings, but it is well worth the effort.