You surely disagree with *something* on this list – so comment away, and stay tuned for our Worst Of, coming tomorrow.

1.  Match Point

Match Point
has the conventions of an easy-to-follow thriller - a busty seductress, a suspicious wife, a scheming husband and an act of murder - but what it lacks is what makes it special. The film is a post-religious parable, with no overriding moral authority at the center. "Faith is the path of least resistance," one character scoffs at a dinner party. In other words, the only meaningful struggle with moral choice is the one that we are willing to have internally. Is the main character - an ambitious, social-climbing young tennis coach - willing to have that struggle? The signs aren't promising. He reads a Penguin edition of Crime and Punishment with the attention you would give US Weekly, and morally-loaded Verdi operas inspire nothing more from him than a blank stare. On the other hand, he has the self-preservation instincts and the dumb luck of a Patricia Highsmith fox. Watching him operate will keep you on the edge of your seat for the full two hours. The year's best film. – Ryan Stewart

2. A History of Violence

A History of Violence
is a rare thing: a genre hybrid film that actually works. On one level, it's an effective thriller about a mild-tempered Midwesterner who may or may not be a stone killer masking his identity; on another level, it's a schlock horror film with make-up effects that would be appropriate for a Friday the 13th film, circa 1987. A lot of bullets fly, but when they do, people aren't simply knocked down or off-screen - they are disfigured, maimed or reduced to chunks of sputtering flesh. It's as if an EMT was present on set as an advisor, and piped in with "no, no...a shotgun blast at that range would do much more damage..." The result is that the audience's ho-hum desensitization to violence is briefly circumvented and the central question about the main character – why is he so at home with blood and gore? – is brought into sharp relief. Director David Cronenberg is asking the same question of the audience. – RS

3. Pride & Prejudice

Pride & Prejudice
is, in some ways, a perfect film. Director Joe Wright follows the much-worshipped source material closely and never steps wrong with character, music or scenery. When we think of Austen, our first thought is not wild animals roaming through the Bennett house, but little details like that seem to have some historical grounding, and it adds to the realism. The screenplay also modernizes and clips Austen's language in the most surgically careful ways, so that only those who pay their Austen Society dues a year in advance will notice the seams. Keira Knightley, though certainly more athletic and forcefully feminist than anything Austen could have imagined for her Elizabeth Bennett, somehow owns the role like no one before her. Austen characters famously speak in unbroken paragraphs, expounding themselves purple in the face, but Knightley handles the language and the meaning behind it as easily as slipping into a warm bath, and the other characters fall into line behind her. – RS

4.  The New World

Don't be fooled by New Line's last-ditch efforts to recoup their investment in Terrence Malick's latest: The New World is not a de-Disneyfied tale of pilgrims and indians and a snow-crushed first Thanksgiving full of pious pumpkin eyes; it is not a battle-heavy, voodoo-tinged culture-clash adventure; it is not, by any means, a Colin Farrell film. Sure, Farrell is stunning as Captain John Smith, the borderline-infidel who is spared from execution just in time to meet and fall powerlessly in love with a 12-year-old native princess. But this is The Pocahontas Story, and from its opening frames of still-water reflection to its near-hallucinogenic final sequences, The New World  reimagines a historical footnote known to most six year olds as a fairy tale rich enough to seduce most adults. Drunk, in grand Malick fashion, on sunlight and internal monologue, The New World will irk those who want their historical epics to function as freeze-dried educational substitutes. The rest of us will stare slack-jawed at Q'orianka Kilcher, as she and Farrell and Malick recast the silliest of American myths as a swirling tale of obsession and longing on the order of Lolita. – Karina Longworth

categories Cinematical