5- Mission Impossible III
Though it suffered from some poor audience reception due to its "Tom Cruise is a nutjob" factor, the JJ Abrams directed spy-thriller is still easily the best of the series. Trumping even Casino Royale in sheer fun factor, MI:III suffered from none of the pacing problems plaguing its thematic cousin. With plenty of over-the-top stunts, a pseudo-intelligent plot-line and, hey, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, MI:III is a modern espionage classic.
4- Little Miss Sunshine
Proving that there is some small glory in making a solid indie flick, Little Miss Sunshine swept the festival circuit so clean it was only a matter of months before its official theatrical release. With an all-star cast including Steve Carell, Greg Kinear and Alan Arkin, Sunshine proves that a heart warming ending is possible without a deus ex machina or cranking up the sap.
3- The Prestige
Kicking the absolute crap out of The Illusionist, Chris and John Nolan's "magician flick" looked at a dark, intriguing side of the trade without being contrived or hammy. Though the studio-sanctioned ending keeps it from rising any higher on this list, it's still pretty hard to trump Victorian-era sci-fi. Unfortunately, fans of the Nolan brothers' collaborations have to wait, salivating, until next year when they follow up Batman Begins with Batman: The Dark Knight.
2- The Science of Sleep
Michel Gondry's latest opus cuts hard and deep with it's poignant writing and the lauded director's distinct style. While Gael Garcia Bernal might not hold the same star power as Jim Carrey, Science still scores just as many heart-wrenching points as 2004's Gondry/Kaufman effort Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. With surreal artistic direction and outstanding performances from both Bernal and costar Charlotte Gainsbourg, The Science of Sleep is a love story worth staying awake for.
1- The Departed
After several unremarkable offerings, legendary 64-year-old director Martin Scorcese shows the new generation of filmmakers that he can still direct the hell out of a gangster flick. Easily his best film since the outstanding Goodfellas, The Departed is a violent, darkly humorous North American adaptation of Hong Kong's Infernal Affairs. While most film snobs tend to side with originals, Scorcese's subtle touches and powerful shooting style added even more depth and artistry to an already excellent film. Rumblings about its early-Oscar contention aside, it's still very easy to call The Departed the best film of the year.