Why 35? Because 10 (and 20) was too hard to compile… and 34 just sounds ridiculous.
The following films are ones that I instantly fell in love with upon first viewing — and have since only adored them more and more.
Donnie Darko — Richard Kelly’s trippy directorial debut, this movie may very well be responsible for the founding of the phrase “WTF?”
Snatch. — Guy Ritchie’s second outing as a director. The movie is in many ways a rehash of his first film, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels… but then it’s also so much more in terms of its style and wit.
Mulholland Drive — Another trippy film (it is David Lynch after all). If you’re able to wrap your head around the story Lynch tries to convey you just might find it to be a heartbreaking tale of a woman’s shattered dreams of not only fame and fortune, but of love as well.
X-Men II — Far and away the best X-Men film to be released yet — and as fun and action-packed as the film is, the entire theme of the story is also an allegory for being gay (think about it).
The Bourne Supremacy — While all three are pretty classy action pictures, this one has the be the best. From Marie dying in the first half hour to the heartbreaking scene where Bourne apologizes to the daughter of the parents he assassinated, this is the Bourne story with the most soul.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind — What can I really say? A love story so honest and true that the audience doesn’t even realize they’re watching science-fiction!
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — This is the Potter film where things began to grow darker for the young wizard. And thanks to director Alfonso Cuaron, they also grew even more beautiful and whimsical than ever.
The Machinist — This movie’s craziness is perfectly carried through thanks to a truly harrowing performance from Christian Bale (not to mention the man is a walking skeleton in this film). A little guilt goes a long way, indeed.
Shaun of the Dead — The first official RomComZom and a wonderful character-driven comedy/drama/horror/spoof/homage/romance/…bromance that introduced the U.S. to Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost. We still thank you guys.
Lord of War — A fairly honest story about gun trafficking, and a story about the man who reasons himself into such work. And we would hate him if not for the fact that everything he says about the business is true.
Serenity — Joss Whedon’s big-screen directorial debut returns us to the land of Malcolm Reynolds and his crew aboard his Firefly craft from their ill-fated television show. Wonderful entertainment, and probably the first true space western.
V for Vendetta — I’m going to state this upfront: I enjoyed the film far more than the graphic novel it’s based on. Sue me. My favorite thing about this film? V talks probably more than he actually fights. How many superheroes can you list that do the same?
The Weather Man — Another good Nic Cage movie from 2005. And just like Lord of War, this film is sorely overlooked far too often. Best scene? Cage forgetting to pick up the tartar sauce for dinner because along the way his inner-monologue was too busy thinking about sex. Genius.
Children of Men — Another Alfonso Cuaron film. The man’s got talent. This film is all about putting you right in the moment with its characters. And nothing quite keeps you on the edge of your seat more than an action scene filmed entirely in one take!
Clerks II — Kevin Smith’s return to the further adventures of Dante and Randal was a film full of sweet nostalgia for fans of his work. And for those unfamiliar it also served as a heartfelt introduction.
The Departed — The movie that finally got Scorsese his Oscar. ‘Nuff said.
Pan’s Labyrinth — An adult’s fairy tale, wonderfully grounded in realism with some of the most beautiful cinematography you’ll ever see.
A Scanner Darkly — Another trippy film, though with this movie the direction and surreal animation actually play into the story about a group of drug addicts, all paranoid and distrustful of everything, including each other.
Stranger Than Fiction — A near perfect character-driven dramedy that showed us just how good an actor Will Ferrell is capable of being… if he so chooses.
Gone Baby Gone — Ben Affleck’s directorial debut with a story about a girl gone missing and the brutal honesty of the police procedural that follows.
Hot Fuzz — The boys behind Shaun of the Dead return with their similar spoof/homage take on the action/buddy cop genre. Every bit as brilliant as Shaun, but now chock full of even more hilarious characters who are all, surprisingly, well-developed.
No Country for Old Men — Anton. Chigurh.
The Orphanage — One of the finest ghost stories I’ve ever seen… ever.
Superbad — One of the finest teen movies I’ve ever seen… ever.
Zodiac — An epic police procedural, literally. Here we have a wonderful docudrama that spans decades in accounting the story of not only the Zodiac Killer, but the people who became obsessed with finding him as well.
The Dark Knight — Batman has always been the most interesting of all the comic book heroes and with this most recent installment we are given an epic crime drama on par with The Departed… Did I mention The Joker?
In Bruges — An existential tale of two hit men sent to Bruges following a botched assassination. Beautifully shot and told, it also sports one of my personal favorite musical scores.
Let the Right One In — The most perfect vampire tale I’ve ever seen (and one that reminds us that vampires do NOT sparkle when exposed to sunlight; they burn to a crisp. Get it right!).
Slumdog Millionaire — The DVD of this film boasts the line, “The feel good film of the year.” You know that phrase has gravity when the majority of the story told involves its main character being beaten, tortured, and betrayed!
Synecdoche, New York — A movie about the relationships that define who we are, and how we then define them in the course of our everyday life… Also Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut.
WALL·E — Ah, WALL·E, what can I say? You’re perfect. If I had to make an all-time top ten list, this would easily find its way on there.
(500) Days of Summer — As the movie tells us in the beginning, “This is not a love story.” Indeed, it’s actually a story of, well, getting over it!
Inglourious Basterds — Quentin Tarantino’s wonderful World War II epic… that doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with the war… except when it does.
Up — Almost as perfect as WALL·E and may very well be the first Pixar film whose main character is actually a human being (not to mention on old one at that).
Up in the Air — A lovely tale about a man with very little, and happy with it. Oh, he’s got money, but he’s also got a philosophy; thanks to a new co-worker, though, it’s one he’s slowly beginning to question.