34. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Peter Weir)
I’m a sucker for the “epic bromance” – tales of the friendship between powerful men, set against historical backdrops, treated with both elegant sensitivity and aggression in the sweeping action sequences. See HBO’s Rome, one of the finest achievements of the decade, as the best example of this. The relationship between Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin is at the heart of this film, depicted through philosophical conversations and the shared performance of music, rather than the more traditional support in battle that you often see in Hollywood adventure films. Weir nicely captures the rhythm of life at sea, and the jarring, unexpected transitions between peaceful lulls and fierce battles. Because he gives his characters room to breathe in between spectacular set-pieces, the action is all the more thrilling.
33. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola)
The relationships we form while traveling are, by their nature, fleeting and impermanent, and when we return home, can seem almost as if they existed in a dream, so removed are they from the routine that grounds the rest of our experiences. They can become profound in their brevity, especially because of the vulnerability we feel when outside of our comfort zone, that allows us to find comfort and companionship in strangers. Coppola’s tender film perfectly captures that relationship, between two entirely dissimilar people that are united by loneliness and the desire not to be overwhelmed by the neon Tokyo landscape.
32. The Fall (Tarsem)
One man’s redemption through the power of storytelling is at the heart of Tarsem’s dazzling fairytale, and though the strength of the central relationship is often obscured by the grandiose imagery, it succeeds as a touching portrait of hope and innocence. A young man, hospitalized and likely crippled, persuades a curious child to bring him pills to aid in his suicide, in exchange for stories to keep her mind off her own pain and boredom. His delirious and lovelorn state reflects in the stories he tells, which are often silly, nonsensical, and over-the-top, but to the girl, they are beautiful and enthralling. The visual language Tarsem employs is awe-inspiring, as he traveled to some of the world’s most incredible places for his doomed heroes to complete their quest.
31. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
I wrote a full review of this film on my blog here. If you can’t be bothered to read all that – basically, this film is awesome. A fantastic cast of characters, exchanging sharp, layered dialogue in a myriad of languages. It’s a playful, yet powerful, look at the way cinema and illusion influence and shape our lives, and the way we view history.
30. Gosford Park (Robert Altman)
Altman’s indictment of the self-absorbed British “manor class” of the 1930s is razor-sharp, but goes down smooth as brandy, thanks to the opulent art direction, lovely musical score, and the pitch perfect performances of the massive cast. His trademark camera moves swiftly through the rooms of the house, eavesdropping on the rich guests that have come to attend a dinner party and their bitter servants, who form complex relationships of their own. When someone is murdered, the mystery is secondary – what’s important are the emotions and suspicions that boil over after the death. The genre tropes of the period piece and thriller are completely discarded for something more intelligent and nuanced, aided by Altman’s unparalleled gift with dialogue.