01. The Sixth Sense (M Night Shyamalan, USA)
When I first saw The Sixth Sense, I was in utter awe. I have seen it more than six time since then, and, contrary to popular opinion, it doesn't lose any of its impact - rather, its ability to enthrall remains intact, even though the surprise ending is not a surprise any more. It can be watched many, many more times and you can still be amazed by it all, because there are tiny details that you begin to pick up which you had not seen before, thus providing the film (or the viewer) with other meanings. Some people say that it is a film that is only good because of its twist ending: false! Needless to say, The Sixth Sense would not have been tied as exquisitely had it been lacking it, yet, prior to our "discovery of the real truth", we knew that what we had been watching was indeed a very good movie with some truly stunning components. Without the ending, the film would have felt empty, redundant, pointless - a total mess, really. But a greatly executed one, at that. It is a film that can be terrifying and intimate, creepy and emotional; a film that features a quartet of excellent performances, a brilliant score by James Newton Howard, thoughtful, atmospheric camerawork by Tak Fujimoto and intelligent (and often misleading -or deceiving-) direction. The Sixth Sense is one of the finest thrillers I have ever seen.
02. The Matrix (Wachowski brothers, USA)
Completely revolutionary, innovative, influential, mind-bending and superbly kickass... Few words are there to properly describe this film. An exercise in both pseudo-philosophy and explosive action, The Matrix changed the way movies were both seen or heard, with its ever-seducing mix of amazing visuals and constant references to stories such as Alice in Wonderland and The Bible. It's a tour-de-force from start to finish, a film that is at times profound and cool, intelligent and exhilarating. Technically superlative and visually spectacular, it is a picture that, with its sheer originality and vibrant concepts, takes the viewer upon a journey unlike no other. The action movie of the century, The Matrix tricks us, deceives us and disorients us -- thus blinding us from the real truth. Because, really, just what is The Matrix? You'll have to plug in and find out.
03. The Straight Story (David Lynch, USA)
David Lynch, who is of the best directors working nowadays, is vastly known for his nightmarish, dark, bizarre --almost Kafkian-- films. However, with The Straight Story he has crafted a story so simple, yet so powerful and so beautiful that it is rather hard to forget. Who would have known that Lynch, master of the twisted and the strange, could have done such an accomplishment? The optimism that continually underlines the film's surface constitutes one of the film's most pivotal elements, given that the film speaks to us about death, grief and the life that lies beyond -- all narrated in the most classic of ways, with interminable passion and love. Richard Farnsworth delivers a mostly brilliant performance that can be often melancholic and bittersweet, and Sissy Spacek gives, yet again, fine support. The cinematography, visually stunning, is delightful, as is Angelo Baladamenti's score, lovely as few others. The Straight Story enchants the viewer with its humbleness and sincerity, it communicates with the viewer in simple yet fascinating ways, and most important of all, it remains a film true to life.
04. Fight Club (David Fincher, USA)
Way ahead of its time this movie is. Hypnotic, cool and utterly absorbing, David Fincher's Fight Club is a brutal, often painful depiction of the male psyche and our present society. What makes the film so powerful is the fact that Fincher shows us things we've never seen before, yet makes no apologies. Some consider to be be a kind of setpchild to Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange or Scorsese's Taxi Driver in terms of its thematic relevancy, cinematic nature and the controversy that it sparked upon its initial release, given that it looks and sounds like nothing else around. And I couldn't agree more. Fincher creates a dark, angry world in which you wouldn't want to live, and he does it masterfully, with great fluidity. Fight Club is a picture that tells us: this is how we live now. It shows how we've become overly dependant on what publicity tells us to do, say or look like, it illustrates (and flawlessly, at that) the way society has been deteriorating over the course of the years, how we seem to concentrate more on our outer self than our inner self. Edward Norton is truly fantastic in the role of the Narrator and Brad Pitt has seldom been better. Darkly comic, the film satirizes and mocks our world with remarkable skill. It asks questions and answers few of them, it challenges us, it compells and ultimately enthralls with its overwhelming amount of philosophical gobbledygook.
05. The Iron Giant (Brad Bird, USA)
Without a doubt one of the most elegant animation films I've ever seen, The Iron Giant is a charming story of unlikely friendship between a little boy and an immense robot from outer space. Finely drawn and accurately narrated, the film contains many elements which are beyond admirable: the voice work is stupendous, the score is, simply put, terrific, and emotionally, it is rather affecting. It has characters we care about, a story that, without being overwrought and with a tiny bit of fantasy still remains plausible and, most of all, a wonderful balance between the serious and the sheer fun, thus being both suitable for kids and grown ups. I fell in love with the film, if only because of what it dared to do.
06. Sleepy Hollow (Tim Burton, USA)
07. The Hurricane (Norman Jewison, USA)
08. Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, USA)
09. Three Kings (David O. Russell, USA)
10. Toy Story 2 (John Lasseter, USA)
11. The Ninth Gate (Roman Polanski, France, Spain, USA)
12. Man on the Moon (Milos Forman, USA)
13. Tarzan (Kevin Lima, Chris Buck, USA)
Notable film that I missed: American Beauty, All About my Mother, Any Given Sunday, Blair Witch Project, Bringing Out The Dead, Eyes Wide Shut, The Green Mile, The Insider, Magnolia.
Worth a viewing: Analyze This, Deep Blue Sea, Entrapment, The Mummy, The World Is Not Enough.
Worst films: American Pie, Baby Geniuses, The Haunting, Lake Placid, My Favorite Martian, Pokemon, The First Movie, She's All That, Stuart Little, Universal Soldier: The Return, Virus, Wild Wild West.