10. Under the Tuscan Sun
A light, refreshing journey of self-discovery in the Italian countryside. Based off the best selling novel by Frances Mayes, the film is beautiful in scenery and charming for all the right reasons. Portraying Mayes herself, Diane Lane is wonderful and an absolute joy to watch.
9. The Last Samurai
Tom Cruise is turning Japanese in this fictional adventure about global and personal change. But there is more at stake than simply watching Mr. Hollywood transform into a samurai. Ken Watanabe turns in an award winning performance and the camera work by well-known cinematographer John Toll is bold and beautiful.
8. American Splendor
One of the best films derived from comic books. This one follows the misadventures of every day hero, Harvey Pekar, and the tribulations of his ordinary life. With great performances from Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis, a unique presentation, and gloomy yet spriteful sarcasm, this is one of the year's best alternatives.
7. Shattered Glass
Thought provoking, entertaining, and controversial. I haven't seen a journalistic film look this good since 1976's "All the President's Men." Based on the fictitious writing of Stephen Glass, the film stars Hayden Christensen as Glass; but more importantly, it has a phenomenal performance by Peter Sarsgaard as Chuck Lane, the editor who confronts Glass about his misdeeds.
6. Man on the Train
My favorite foreign language film of the year. It relays the story of two different men, one criminal and one professor, each wanting to be more like the other. Great script, great dialogue, and great acting. Starring Johnny Hallyday and Jean Rochefort, one of France's most celebrated actors.
5. House of Sand and Fog
"Things are not as they appear" in Russian director Vadim Perelman's adaptation of the best selling Dubus novel about a two unlikely strangers at odds over a house: one former alcohol and drug addict and the other, an Iranian immigrant. You'll also find some of the best performances of the year are on display from Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley.
4. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
The grand finale of one of the greatest epics ever made. Peter Jackson along with cast and crew deliver an extravagantly dynamic and sophisticated looking film, capturing the essence of J.R.R. Tolkien's last chapter. Keep in mind, this is not a traditional film in the sense of storytelling and must be viewed in conjunction with "The Fellowship of the Ring" and "The Two Towers."
3. Whale Rider
Call it a diamond in the rough. This film is bound to get overlooked or forgotten. And that's a shame because it is truly one of the best and original films of the year. Following in the traditions of the Maori tribe, it's a coming-of-age story about a young girl who is destined to become the leader of her people, but must first overcome adversity from those who oppose her role in society.
2. Lost in Translation
A simple and highly original story about loneliness and isolation in a foreign land and the discovery of important, inspiring friendships. With a super understated performance from Bill Murray, this film may disappoint those long time SNL fans. However, it is one of the few films this past year to have a completely unique voice, thanks in large part to director/writer Sophia Coppola.
1. In America
There's something utterly touching about childhood innocence. It can turn even the most dismal situations into something positive and it can also bring grown adults to tears with an overly simplistic perspective of life. Such is the emotion evoked in Jim Sheridan's latest story about an Irish immigrant family coming to America in search of a better life following the death of their son. Beautifully inspiring and well acted, this film demonstrates that there is still magic to be found in the art of movie making.