The Top Ten Movies of 2007 List, as selected by me, Erik Samdahl, is here! As I said all year, 2007 was a terrific 365 days for film, as there were more quality movies than the last two or three years combined. I usually scrape to put a Top Ten List together, but this year I had nearly twenty candidates that I would feel happy about mentioning here. Beyond those twenty candidates, there were several others that were still well done, including some great action movies, quality thrillers and some of the funniest comedies in a long while. Still, in such a competitive year, these films below really stood out. These are the creme of the crop, the best of the best, the must-see films of 2007…
11. Ratatouille (UPDATED: I moved this to #11)
I normally don’t place animated films in my Top Ten, but Pixar came along, delivered a comeback after the horrible movie Cars and provided audiences with the best animated picture in years. Ratatouille is the perfect example of why Pixar is better than any other animated comedy; unlike the other companies, they actually try (and normally succeed) to do something unique. They don’t rely on modern day satires, spoofs and references, and instead go about creating memorable, high quality stories. Ratatouille is a well-written, witty and entertaining animated picture, and a sure lock for this year’s Oscar in the category. On top of that, the visual effects are simply stunning; the Pixar team really outdid themselves this time.
10. I’m Not There
I had trouble deciding where to place I’m Not There on this Top Ten List. I found I’m Not There pretty confusing at times and didn’t find it as entertaining as some of the other pictures on the list. That being said, the movie is easily the most ambitious film of the year. Writer/director Todd Haynes really deserves props for managing to pull this feat off, as his movie stars not one but six actors (including Richard Gere, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Cate Blanchett and even some little black kid) as Bob Dylan. To make things even more confusing, each actor represents a metaphorical stage in Dylan’s life and career, and if you’re like me and don’t know a thing about Dylan, you’ll be lost. Still, for Haynes to actually develop a coherent film out of this chaos is absolutely amazing, and he makes it look easy.
9. Lars and the Real Girl
I normally don’t place feel-good movies on my top ten lists as I generally tend to lean toward serious dramas, but I have two on here this year. Lars and the Real Girl stars Ryan Gosling as a socially awkward young man who finally gets a girlfriend – unfortunately, his girlfriend is a life-size sex doll. To help Lars get over his psychological issues, the townspeople decide to pretend that his girlfriend is real. The movie features some great comedic performances, and, in general, the movie is quite funny; it’s also sweet, touching and sad all at once.
8. Charlie Wilson’s War
Funny and politically charged, this movie based on the screenplay from “West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin stars Tom Hanks as a womanizing, cocaine-snorting U.S. Representative who decides to covertly fight the Russians by funding Afghanistan militants. It doesn’t sound like a comedy at first glance, but the movie is at times quite hilarious. Hanks is the best we’ve seen him in years, but Philip Seymour Hoffman is the scene-stealer. Charlie Wilson’s War isn’t for everyone, but for those who like a little dose of politics with their comedy, this one is a must-see.
7. Once (UPDATED: I added this movie to the list on 1/23/2008)
I forgot to add Once to this Top Ten List because based it on a list of movie reviews I had done for 2007. However, I hadn’t yet written a review for Once, a film I had already intended to put on the list. Hence, I forgot. Once is an incredibly simply but mesmerizing film. The song, which is nominated for an Oscar (it better win!), is simply astounding, and pretty much makes the film. Regardless, the chemistry between the two leads is terrific.
6. No Country for Old Men
And now come the heavy hitters. No Country for Old Men is still a front runner for Best Picture, as it has already picked up several awards over the last month and a half. The movie, easily the best Cohen Brothers film in years, is a dark and depressing action-drama about a man (James Brolin) who discovers a bunch of drug money and finds that by taking it he has unleashed the wrath of one of the nastiest, most psychotic assassins in the history of cinema. Javier Bardem is absolutely stunning as the madman killer. Still, as good as the movie is, I feel it was slightly over-hyped; the ending left a lot of audiences wanting more, and in all honesty, it isn’t a very satisfying conclusion to such an exciting, suspense-filled film. Nevertheless, No Country for Old Men leaves you on the edge of your seat the entire time, and that’s worth something.
The other feel-good movie of the year, Juno is tearing it up at the box office and has critics singing praise with its excellent screenplay and terrific acting from young star Ellen Page. The screenplay, from writer Diablo Cody, is one of the top candidates to win Best Screenplay, and Page has an outside chance at winning Best Actress. The dialogue is what makes this movie – about a pregnant 16-year old girl who decides to give away her baby – so good, as its sharp wit flies so fast that’s it hard to keep up with all of it. Juno also has its sweet side to it, which will delight the female members of the audience.
David Fincher’s Zodiac may long be forgotten as the film was released way back in March, but those of you who saw this picture hopefully realized that Fincher has developed quite a masterpiece. While the movie, based on the real Zodiac serial killer investigation, isn’t your typical crime thriller, Fincher somehow managed to make a suspenseful drama out of a three-hour, dialogue-driven screenplay. Not everyone loved Zodiac, but it is one of the best serial killer films in a long time.
3. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Few people have seen this Brad Pitt/Casey Affleck drama, and even fewer would probably place this film in their top ten list, but The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is an amazingly engrossing and deep drama. The film is nearly three hours long and features almost no action, which may surprise people expecting an action-western, but for those of you who know better, the picture is an impressive character study of two drastically different men. Brad Pitt is stunning as the outlaw James, even if you don’t realize how good he is for most of the movie. Casey Affleck, however, is absolutely captivating, and delivers the best performance of his career, knocking off his previous best – from Gone Baby Gone, which just missed out on making this top ten list. Needless to say, 2007 was a good year for the younger Affleck brother, and Jesse James is an excellent movie, highlighted by a shockingly good final half hour.
2. There Will Be Blood
The top two films of 2007 really set themselves apart from the rest. There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece, is a bold and powerful examination of one man’s rise and fall. The movie is excellent, but Daniel Day-Lewis delivers his best performance ever – and that’s saying a lot. Day-Lewis transforms himself into a mesmerizing character who hates everyone and is greedy beyond belief. Like I say in my movie review, if he doesn’t win an Oscar, I will turn my back on the awards show forever.
While There Will Be Blood was amazing, it will not appeal to everyone. Atonement, on the other hand, is a bit more mainstream, but thanks to incredible direction from Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice), Atonement is the best movie of 2007. Its widespread appeal is not the reason Atonement is the best movie of 2007; the movie is simply captivating from beginning to end. A near-thriller to begin with, the film turns into a war romance in the second half, but the film carries more than a few punches that catch you off guard. Wright does a marvelous job of crafting a story that makes you optimistic and then crushes your emotions, and then starts all over and does it again. Atonement is a sad movie, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great.
Why did I choose Atonement over There Will Be Blood? It was a close decision, but I felt There Will Be Blood dragged in a few small sections while Atonement did not; there were a few parts where Blood seemed to lose focus, whereas Atonement is just a bit more consistent. There Will Be Blood has better acting, but Atonement pulls at your emotions slightly more. Still, it was a tough decision, but I stand by it.
Stay tuned for other top ten lists over the coming weeks!