It was unusually hard coming up with a 10-best list this year. Not because there weren't enough good movies but because there were too many, and it hurt to leave so much good work off the list. So I'm appending a second 10 and a host of other highly recommended movies, many of which, depending on the day I made the list, might easily have crept into the first tier. These were the movies that made me feel like Anton Ego, in one of the year's most transcendent cinematic moments, tasting his first bite of glorious ratatouille.
1. Syndromes and a Century Never heard of it? Sadly, this entrancing Thai movie played in only a few cities. But no film transported me like Apichatpong Weerasethakul's lovely, earthy, funny and mysterious film. A movie about doctors, lovers and Buddhist monks, divided into two parts that mirror each other—one set in the country, one in the city—"Syndromes" is almost impossible to describe. There's not a scene in it quite like any you've ever watched before. It allows you to look at life, and movies, with newborn eyes.
2. There Will Be Blood Another astonishing metamorphosis from Daniel Day-Lewis, who turns himself into a ruthlessly ambitious, misanthropic oil tycoon in early-20th-century California. Paul Thomas Anderson's superbly crafted, uncompromising study of unchecked egotism and greed is an epic character study as dark, and as daring, as they come. Anderson's images imprint themselves indelibly on the mind.
3. This Is England Set in the Midlands of England during the Thatcher years, writer director Shane Meadows's deeply personal coming-of-age story follows a fatherless 13-year-old working-class kid who falls under the malign influence of a racist skinhead (a great performance from Stephen Graham). Every frame of this funny, scary movie is wonderfully alive.
4. The Lives of Others The well-deserved winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's wrenching study of an East German Stasi officer spying on a playwright and his lover is a thrilling, near-definitive portrait of life in a totalitarian state.
5. No Country for Old Men The Coen Brothers were a perfect fit for Cormac McCarthy's brooding, gripping vision of evil unloosed upon the Western landscape. Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones and the terrifying Javier Bardem are pitch perfect in this unblinkingly tense thriller, a philosophical genre movie without an ounce of fat on its lean, mean body.
6. Knocked Up You don't need to think that Seth Rogen's grungy slacker and Katherine Heigl's pregnant career girl belong together—who does?—to find this the smartest, funniest romantic comedy of the year. Nobody understands the eternal adolescent American male quite like Judd Apatow, who reinvents the battle of the sexes for the 21st century.
7. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly The hero of Julian Schnabel's movie may be paralyzed, and able to communicate only by blinking his left eye, but this dazzlingly inventive film soars as far as protagonist Jean-Dominique Bauby's liberating imagination can take us.
8. Away From Her In Sarah Polley's piercing adaptation of Alice Munro's unsentimental love story, a husband loses his wife to Alzheimer's and watches her fall in love with another man. A great cast led by the heartbreaking Julie Christie made this the most emotionally devastating movie of the year.
9. The Hoax Strangely overlooked, Lasse Hallström's spirited, smart, enormously entertaining account of master scammer Clifford Irving's fake Howard Hughes autobiography gave Richard Gere his best role in decades. Mixing fact and fantasy with some sleight of hand of its own, it portrays Irving as a pawn in an even bigger drama that reached all the way to the Nixon White House.
10. Sweeney Todd In Tim Burton's darkly inspired reimagining of Stephen Sondheim's classic show, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter slice, dice and sing their way through Victorian London, pumping fresh (and copious) blood into the Hollywood musical.
The Runners Up
"No End in Sight"
"After the Wedding"
"The Wind That Shakes the Barley"
And the Rest of the Best of 2007:
"Into the Wild," "Michael Clayton," "The Bourne Ultimatum," "I'm Not There," "Exiled," "Ratatouille," "Black Book," "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," "Juno," "Atonement," "Margot at the Wedding," "Starting Out in the Evening," "Offside," "Sicko," "The Host," "Rocket Science," "8:10 East of Bucharest," "Superbad," "The Darjeeling Limited," "Brand Upon the Brain!," "The Golden Door," "Ten Canoes," "The TV Set," "Live Free or Die Hard," "The Namesake," "Hairspray," "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," "Breach," "Avenue Montaigne," "The Simpsons Movie," "Lake of Fire"