The Ten Best Films of 2005

10.) Syriana
It’s easy to get lost in this film’s labyrinthine plot, but thanks to a number of great performances (especially by Jeffery Wright and George Clooney, who won an Oscar for his work) and some exceptionally strong writing, this film beats out the likes of Crash, King Kong, and Capote for the tenth slot on my list.

9.) A History of Violence
It’s probably David Cronenberg’s most accessible film, but it’s still an odd little nugget. Maria Bello and Viggo Mortensen shine, though, as an ordinary married couple forced to face some extraordinary circumstances. And props to Howard Shore for composing one of the year’s best scores.

8.) Sin City
Easily the year’s most visually interesting film, Robert Rodriguez transports us to the world of comic book noir with Sin City. Its themes are dark, but they’re played in such an over-the-top fashion that you can’t help but have fun.

7.) Brokeback Mountain
The most haunting love story of the year, the most beautiful western, and the most emotional tragedy all rolled into one. Its loss at the Oscars is still surprising, but time will always be friendly to Ang Lee’s truly timeless Brokeback Mountain.

6.) Good Night and Good Luck
George Clooney had quite the year in 2005, but this film stands out for solidifying him as a great director. It’s most memorable for David Strathairn’s brilliant work as Edward R. Murrow, as well as the gorgeous black-and-white cinematography. And as far as history lessons on film go, this is one of the most involving and entertaining.

5.) Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
This film, Shane Black’s directorial debut, has developed quite a cult following in the years since its release. It’s not groundbreaking or anything, but it’s a hell of a good time. Robert Downey, Jr. has never been better and his chemistry with co-star Val Kilmer is astonishingly good.

4.) Match Point
Woody Allen’s very sexual, very slow-burn thriller is as well-paced and well-written a film as any the great director has done in years. Plus, it’s perfectly cast. Each actor always does precisely what the script demands of them—nothing more, nothing less.

3.) Batman Begins
If people weren’t aware of the directorial talent that was Christopher Nolan before this film, Batman Begins certainly made them notice. It’s the first superhero origin story that I ever thought worked on more than just an introductory level. Why does it? So many reasons, but tremendous direction, acting, cinematography, and sound work of course help, as does the script, which creates a new kind of superhero environment.

2.) The 40-Year-Old Virgin
The funniest comedy ever? It’s up there for me. It introduced us to the Apatow brand of humor (which is inescapable now), as well as the comedic genius that is Steve Carell. He had been in films before, but this is the one that made folks stand up and take notice. His work is matched by the magnetic Catherine Keener and the hilarious troupe of now familiar faces (Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, etc.)

1.) Munich
In the end, however, the contest isn’t very close. Munich is a film that absolutely floored me the first time I saw it and continues to floor me now. Steven Spielberg doesn’t condemn the Israelis or the Palestinians for their roles in this intractable conflict, which is admirable. He also gives us a hero in Eric Bana’s Avner who is easy to root for and sympathize with, even if his situation is far beyond our comprehension. It’s extraordinarily written, acted, and put together, and it’s my very favorite film of 2005.

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