When the book is written on the history of film, 2007 is likely to be remembered as a year with many good films but few great ones. Such is the challenge when crafting a list of the best films of the year: there are many films that could find their way onto the list, but few that immediately come to mind to top it. Nevertheless, here are the best of the films I've had the opportunity to watch.
The most fun of the disappointing summer blockbusters, Michael Bay's explosion-fest was the rare occasion where Bay's inclination to go over-the-top was the correct one. Plus, Transformers was the only film to feature transforming robots spouting wacky catchphrases.
9. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Sidney Lumet's best film in several decades features Phillip Seymour Hoffman at the top of his game along with an intricate script dealing with issues of life, death, morality and ethics. The gutsyness of the third act alone warrants a spot.
Directed by Jason Reitman and written by the awesomely named Diablo Cody, Juno features the most unique and likeable protagonist of the year, a bevy of interesting characters and a wonderful cast. The only downside is sometimes the dialogue becomes too quirky.
7. Death at a Funeral
Ridiculously funny, Frank Oz's ensemble piece focuses on a family funeral where everything that can go wrong, does. Cleverly written and blessed with a large cast, Death at a Funeral was the best comedy of the year and didn't require nudity or swearing to make it happen.
Described by Gauntlet legend Garth Paulson as "the best gay porn you'll ever see," 300 adapted an acclaimed graphic novel in a way that almost-entirely duplicated the aesthetic of the original. Besides that, it's a gleefully violent tour-de-force of mayhem and has inspired countless "This is Sparta!" parodies.
5. After the Wedding
Directed by Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier and starring Casino Royale villain Mads Mikkelsen, After the Wedding is a heartfelt film about love, abandonment and reconciliation. Though subtitled, the film's skilled acting and smart script more than deliver the goods.
4. Mr. Brooks
Kevin Costner's best film since the'90s featured the actor playing against type as a successful father and businessman who moonlights as a serial killer. The supporting cast is also well-used, including comedian Dane Cook as a man who blackmails Costner and later gets maimed.
Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. anchor an excellent investigative piece into the identity and motivations of the infamous Zodiac killer that terrorized California's Bay Area during the 1960s. Based on a book on the subject written by Robert Graysmith (played in the film by Gyllenhaal), Zodiac maintains suspense despite the outcome being known to everyone with a library card or access to Wikipedia.
2. 3:10 to Yuma
Christian Bale takes time out from being Batman to play a rancher hired to escort a notorious killer (an awesome Russell Crowe) to a prison train. James Mangold follows up Ray with a great presentation of human chess. Ben Foster delivers the breakthrough performance of the year as Crowe's violent sidekick struggling to free his mentor.
1. No Country for Old Men
The Coen brothers present an unflinching battle between two men for a satchel full of cash. No Country for Old Men is an often shocking look at evil and the brutality some will inflict to get what they want. A gorgeous film with great acting, No Country is the best of the year.