24. Antichrist (Lars Von Trier)
Full review here. Von Trier’s latest is a gorgeous, daring look at loss and mental illness, loaded with symbolic imagery and fierce performances.
23. Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro)
This rich fantasy boasts a stunning child performance from Ivana Baquero as Ofelia, composed and graceful even as the horrors stack up against her. Sergi Lopez makes one of the most terrifying villains of the decade, adding real danger and weight to the lush, dreamy atmosphere. It’s an expertly constructed fairytale, full of demons and monsters that sprout straight from Ofelia’s tortured imagination, and mirror her real-life struggle to survive and protect her family. Whether or not you believe in the fantasy, the finale is devastating.
22. Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
Jeunet takes the feel-good movie and throws so many unique visual tricks and playful narrative digressions that it becomes something much richer and stranger than the tale of a shy girl hoping to find her own bliss by creating joy for others. Audrey Tautou is luminous, and Paris has never looked so warm and charming.
21. Quills (Philip Kaufman)
A bleak but darkly funny look at the last days of the Marquis de Sade, as he rails against censorship and sexual repression under Napoleon’s reign from the confines of his asylum cell. His perversions and delirious writings inspire lust and violence in all that come in contact with them, including the priest trying to convert him, a lecherous doctor, his fellow inmates, and the ripe, innocent laundry maid at the asylum. The results are tragic and thought-provoking. Geoffrey Rush is endlessly watchable even in his most deranged moments as the Marquis.
20. Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog)
Werner Herzog has made an entire career out of the clash between man’s ambition and the indifferent brutality of nature. In Grizzly Man, he turns his lens to Timothy Treadwell, a lost soul who found himself while living for years among bears in the Alaskan wilderness, before he and his girlfriend were devoured by them. Treadwell taped extensive footage of his experiences, and Herzog is wise enough to let them mostly speak for themselves. The closeness he experienced with animals is amazing to watch and much of his nature footage stunningly beautiful. Yet he is clearly deeply troubled, and this probing film goes deep into his psyche and those affected by his death. The question of what drove him to his violent end is largely unanswered, so the film lingers long after it ends.