10. The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)
This film unexpectedly beat presumed front-runner Pan's Labyrinth in the Best Foreign Language Film race. While I may not fully agree (see this list), I consider this film great enough to warrant a place in the Top 10. The film about an East German officer spying on a playwright takes some unexpected turns. It features a truly great performance by lead actor Ulirch Muhe.
9. United 93 (Paul Greengrass)
A lot of people hated this movie. Some people felt it was too soon. Some people felt it was exploitative. Maybe it was a tad too soon but I didn't feel it the least bit distasteful or exploitative. Director Paul Greengrass meticulously directs a scene-for-scene, matter-of-fact recreation of Flight United 93, the flight that fought back the terrorists during the 9/11 attacks. It even features cameos by some actual people involved. Even though we already know the outcome, director Greengrass keeps us in suspense and the unknown ensemble cast adds another great deal of realism to the piece.
8. The Departed (Martin Scorsese)
Martin Scorsese FINALLY won a Best Director Oscar for this film, a remake of the Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs. It's not his best work. I think he's made better work after and way better work before this. But hey, an Oscar is an Oscar. It's still a pretty damn good film about undercover cops and moles within criminal syndicates and the police force. I regard this as Leonardo DiCaprio's career-best performance.
7. INLAND EMPIRE (David Lynch)
If you thought Mulholland Drive was incomprehensible, you should see this film. It makes David Lynch's other film seem conventional in comparison. Like, the former film, this one is also sort of about an actress trying to make it in Hollywood but the film just forgoes any conventional narrative arcs and goes right into surrealism with occasionally darkly humorous moments. Laura Dern still manages to give an impressive performance despite it all.
6. Monster House (Gil Kenan)
Until relatively recently, this was probably my favorite non-PIXAR feature length CGI film and still my favorite feature-length motion-capture animated film. It's a horror film for kids but still manages to be somewhat spooky. A boy finds out that the house next door is quite literally a monster. The film strongly reminds me of films made by Joe Dante, John Landis or even Steven Spielberg during the '80s (it's Super 8 before Super 8) and it's absolutely wonderful.
5. Volver (Pedro Almodovar)
This is probably the film that saved Penelope Cruz's acting career both in Spain and in Hollywood. She reunites with director Pedro Almodovar for this mother-daughter tale of a dead mom who seemingly returns from the grave. Almodovar continues his streak of great films with this sweet, heartfelt but still quirky and twisted dramedy.
4. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron)
Some of the most impressive and stunning tracking shots can be seen in this film and for that alone, it's well worth watching. As it is, it's a thrilling, absorbing post-apocalyptic tale of a world where people can no longer procreate and the youngest person in the world is 18. Adapted from PD James' novel, director Alfonso Cuaron continues to prove that he is an auteur who is making his mark in world cinema.
3. The Host (Bong Joon-ho)
After an American facility spills dangerous chemicals into the river, a new dangerous mutant monster emerges terrorizing the populace. Now, put this in the hands of a hack American director, it's just gonna be a routine action/sci-fi/horror flick but put it in the hands of one of best Korean directors out there, Bong Joon-ho, it becomes something else entirely. Yes, there are scares and thrills but there's also depth and laughs to be had. It's a monster movie with a heart, essentially. Well, you just gotta see it.
2. Letters from Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood)
Clint Eastwood made two films about the World War II battle of Iwo Jima. The first one, Flags of Our Fathers was good but kind of routine World War II picture. The second film which tells other side of the story, however, is something absolutely extraordinary. I daresay it's one of his masterpieces. As an American director telling what is essentially a Japanese story, Eastwood adds a layer of nuance and sensitivity to what is usually expected in a standard war movie and elevates it into an absolutely beautiful piece of filmmaking.
1. Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro)
Runners-Up: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Larry Charles); Dreamgirls (Bill Condon); Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola); Half-Nelson (Ryan Fleck); Casino Royale (Martin Campbell).