Directed by Neill Blomkamp
District 9 is an allegory for our time, bursting with contemporary themes such as oppression, greed, power and propaganda and while the metaphor itself is pretty clear, Blomkamp goes for the visceral quality of the images and situations proving that sci-fi thrillers don’t have to be star-studded or mega-budgeted to be visually compelling and thoroughly entertaining. This high-concept picture with a relatively small budget was a major success at the box office, and now major studios not only promise to generate a “calling-card system” for independent filmmakers, allowing them the chance to experiment at low risk within the studio system, while also being given a generous marketing campaign. Hopefully future films like The Hurt Locker and Moon will find a larger audience as studio heads shows more faith in their indie-film makers.
Directed by Peter Jackson
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
With The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Peter Jackson brings his epic series to a glorious finish. If not for the many endings, it may have ranked much higher on this list. Still this is truly an amazing, jaw dropping spectacle which can rightfully claim to be one of the greatest achievements in cinematic history.
Directed by Tom Tykwer
Genre: Thriller, Drama
The last film written by the late master filmmaker Krysztof Kieslowski and writing partner Kryzsztof Piesiewicz, Heaven is masterfully directed by Tom Tykwer, who manages to put his own stamp on the film without neglecting the vision of the men who wrote it. On the surface Heaven is a lovers-on-the-run crime flick, but like many of Kieslowski’s religious analogies you may unlock many of the inner mysteries if you look deeper within. Still, for the average movie-goer the film’s greatest achievement is in creating and maintaining a certain mood, tone and tense visual energy to the lyrical, multi-layered story of an ordinary woman who takes divine justice into her own hands.
Directed by Gregg Araki
Genre: Coming of Age, Drama
A powerful, intriguing and deeply felt coming-of-age tale about two young men struggling to overcome childhood scars, Mysterious Skin pushes the audience out of their comfort zones and may be one of the most controversial films on this list. Director Gregg Araki courageously delivers a powerful and haunting film which most filmmakers wouldn’t dare to explore. Also worthy of note is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s unforgettable and nuanced performance. Skin is both disturbing and difficult to watch but also one of the best gay-themed movies ever made.
Directed by Lars von Trier
The Danish filmmaker-provocateur Lars von Trier has never been to America, but he has an unshakable notion of what America is like. Dogville is his gorgeous, experimental and completely unique film presented entirely as a stage play (minus a set). His intention is for the audience to focus on the acting and themes without being distracted by the setting so instead of houses with walls and doors, there are chalk lines on the ground and imaginary props. Yet somehow Dogville is an extraordinary movie —a masterpiece, in fact – by one of the world’s most adventurous directors on top of his game.
Directed by Spike Jonze
Genre: Family Drama
Spike Jonze’s heartfelt adaptation is as beautiful, heartbreaking, and ingenious as the original source material. Jonze manages to never take anything away from the story but rather he enhances and enriches its text and makes the clever choice of making a film about childhood as appose to a children’s film. If his audience is children, he always pays respects to them by never talking down and never shies away from striking minor chords and tugging on many emotional strings. It involves viewers of all ages on different levels and is one of the most visually interesting family pictures since The Wizard of Oz.
Directed by Danny Boyle
Danny Boyle has excelled in nearly every genre he’s touched from the family holiday film Millions, to the epidemic horror film 28 Days Later to the drug-fuelled drama Trainspotting and his underrated thriller Shallow Grave. With an intriguing premise, stellar visuals and an ending that spirals out of control, genre-jumper Boyle’s sci-fi effort Sunshine is an incredible thriller, packed with tension and spectacular special effects. However like Stanley Kurbick’s classic 2001, Sunshine’s appeal extends beyond its genre. Intelligent writing, brilliant production design and a terrific cast make this one of the most inventive and fascinating science-fiction films in decades.
Directed by Claire Denis
Blending poeticism and realism has been part of Denis’ repertoire for some time but it has never been quite as soulful and seductive as it is with 35 Shots of Rum. Denis, who has called the film a tribute to the great Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, delicately explores the relationship between a widowed Parisian train driver and his university student daughter. Impressively directed, beautifully acted, and with a terrific soundtrack, the painfully slow pacing and relative lack of dialogue may prove off putting to some but in my opinion 35 Shots of Rum is supremely confident film-making at its very best.
Directed by Kar Wai Wong
Genre: Drama, Romance
Since 1989, Wong Kar-wai has directed several feature films and won numerous awards, including the best director’s prize at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival for Happy Together. In The Mood For Love is his heartbreaking and erotic meditative tale on the confines of love; heavy on atmosphere with ravishing visuals provided by the great cinematographer Christopher Doyle and memorable performances by Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung who are working at the top of their game. An elegant romance for the ages and a masterpiece of its genre.
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar
Genre: Dark Comedy, Drama
This is Almodovar’s stab at serious drama, and the result is compelling, engaging, thought-provoking and in the end, an invitation to countless interpretations. Talk To Her is both unnerving and comforting at once with superb work in front of and behind the camera.