10. Spider-Man 2
One of the most essential, memorable
super hero movies of all time. And it's due in large part to a story
that never strays far from humanity. Here, super villain Doctor
Octopus is as sympathetic as Peter Parker is himself. And that effectively
turns the situations and ensuing action sequences into a compelling,
compassionate, and complex web of wondrous delight.
9. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Much more mature and sophisticated,
"Azkaban" is the finest film in the series. And it's also one of
the finest films of the year. The reason? Direction - both from
newcomer Alfonso Cuaron, who experiments with delightful detail;
and from author J.K. Rowling, who comes out on all four cylinders,
with a remarkably wicked story of adolescence, vulnerability, and
A cold, harsh look at relationships
gone sour, from the chance encounters to the initial attractions
and ultimately the bitter betrayals. This is a gripping, thought
provoking piece, with four great performances by Law, Roberts, Owen,
and Portman. And Patrick Marber's dialogue is "the best" in class.
Features the most outstanding male
performance of the year in Jamie Foxx, who embodies the spirit of
Charles' heart and soul. And with an expertly crafted musical narrative
by Taylor Hackford, the film stands out as a vibrant, compassionate,
and honest reflection of the Ray we never knew.
From a direction standpoint, this
is the best film of the year. It's moody, it's gritty, and it's
sensational. Michael Mann uses groundbreaking cinematography and
terrific dialogue to elevate a generic story into a real time thriller.
And his sense of pacing, balancing heart pulsing action with heart
felt drama, is perfection. Add to that two understated performances
by Foxx and Cruise and you have one of the year's underrated gems.
5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Charlie Kaufman is a delusional genius.
And his latest work, about relationships and the meaning of memories,
is a masterpiece. Ironically, it's one of those films that gets
even better the more you think about it - what brilliance. Featuring
another outstanding serious role for Jim Carrey, accompanied by
a touching performance from Kate Winslet, this is one of the most
original love stories you'll ever see.
4. The Incredibles
The most sophisticated animated motion
picture ever made. It's great looking, has great characters, and
great action and humor in between. Additionally, it has a story
that deals with modern family issues and individuals who are relatable,
despite the appearance of super powers. And most importantly, it's
3. Finding Neverland
Adapted from the brilliant Allan Knee stage play,
"Neverland" features another award worthy performance from Johnny Depp. And
it's as inspirational and magical as anything you will see. Additionally,
it features yet another great supporting performance from Kate Winslet!
Although more conventional than "Eternal Sunshine," it is highly
creative in the way it flirts between fiction and non-fiction. And
in the end, you'll find it a tearful and joyous tribute to the man
and the boy who refused to grow up.
2. Hotel Rwanda
The most powerful, significant picture
of the year. And regretfully, few will bother to see it. Were it
not for Jamie Foxx's role of a lifetime, Don Cheadle would sweep
the best actor awards. Depicting the true-life story of Paul Rusesabagina,
Cheadle is phenomenal in the leading role - the epitomy of grace
under horrific pressure. And with the support of outstanding newcomer,
Sophie Okonedo, this film achieves a frightening realism unmatched
by any other in 2004.
1. Million Dollar Baby
Not just the finest film of 2004.
It's one of the finest character dramas ever made. And it has less
to do with boxing than you might think. Depicting the relationship
between three complex characters, the film deeply explores issues
of family, friendship, and responsibility. It's Clint Eastwood's
finest film, one that benefits from a remarkable adaptation from
Paul Haggis, a careful use of light and shadow, and three out-of-this-world