If I do my math right, 2007 was exactly ten years ago. I’ve been thinking about that year a lot lately, as it has to be the best film year of the century thus far. Several bona-fide classics came out that year- but there was also a deep reserve of other great films released. Since just about everyone’s top threes would include Zodiac, No Country for Old Men or There Will Be Blood, I decided to put those aside and see what else 2007 had to offer. (note: some see Children Of Men as a 2007 release, but I choose to view it as a film from 2006. Otherwise it would be on here).
10. The Savages (dir. Tamara Jenkins)
Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney star as the titular adult siblings, who have to figure out how to care for an ailing father who never really cared for them. This is one of the performances I will always remember Hoffman for; as a stunted man with demons galore, he still manages to struggle through life with a sense of dignity. Linney also shines in a rare performance where she’s given something to do other than support a heroic husband.
9. Eastern Promises (dir. David Cronenberg)
This is without a doubt one of Cronenberg’s most straightforward stories- a Russian mob drama written by Steven Knight (Locke, Dirty Pretty Things). Yet it’s also one of his most effective, and one that has stuck with me over the years, always begging for a re-watch. Viggo Mortensen shines in his second of three collaborations with Cronenberg, as tattoo laden mobster Nikolai- who like Tom Stall in A History Of Violence, is very good at killing.
8. Shotgun Stories (dir. Jeff Nichols)
A lot of firsts come with this film- one of Michael Shannon’s first leading roles. Jeff Nichols’ first film. Michael Shannon’s first collaboration with Jeff Nichols (he’s gone on to appear in every one of his films since). For a director who has never made anything less than great films, this is one of Nichols’ best. This story of a blood feud between two sets of siblings, who come to clash after their abusive father dies, clearly established the themes that Nichols would go on to explore in each of his films. The powerful ties of family, fatherhood, and depicting modern life in the American South.
7. We Own The Night (dir. James Gray)
James Gray cemented himself as the heir apparent to Sidney Lumet with this tense police drama, a period piece depicting 1980’s New York when drugs and crime seemed to rule the city. I firmly believe that Mark Wahlberg can be a great actor- and this is one of his best performances. Throw in Joaquin Phoenix and Robert Duvall, and you get a New York crime drama that belongs in the conversation for the all time greats.
6. Knocked Up (dir. Judd Apatow)
If The 40 Year Old Virgin was Apatow’s takeover of mainstream comedy, this film was the cementing of his formula. It was a big surprise to see Seth Rogen step into a leading role so confidently- but he did it by portraying a very unconfident character, inventing a new archetype of the 21st century man baby. It also has one of the most stacked supporting comedy casts I can think of- with Martin Starr, Jason Segel, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig all before they blew up.
5. The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford (dir. Andrew Dominik)
Westerns used to be something that were epic in scale- huge movies that got everyone out to the cinema. Even if nowadays westerns mostly come disguised as something else (Logan, War For The Planet Of The Apes), there have been a few great traditional ones this century- none better than this. DP Roger Deakins and composer Nick Cave turn it into a one of a kind mood piece, while Brad Pitt turns in a career performance as the titular heroic outlaw. Casey Affleck as Robert Ford, in a star making Oscar nominated performance, is as good as advertised.
4. 28 Weeks Later (dir. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo)
One of those rare sequels that equals, if not betters, its predecessor. It does everything a sequel ought to do- building on the story, making it bigger and louder- but does so with expert tension and craftsmanship. In a time where we had dropped the “Mission Accomplished” banner behind George W. Bush but the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan still raged on, this film’s depiction of the false safety of a “green zone” was spot on- reminding us that plenty of crisis and conflict was still to come.
3. Hot Fuzz (dir. Edgar Wright)
Edgar Wright’s action comedy Hot Fuzz works so brilliantly because it not only parodies the genre with acute precision, but it also turns into one hell of an action movie itself. The laughs and thrills are non stop, often side by side, in this endlessly re-watchable second entry of the Cornetto trilogy.
2. The Mist (dir. Frank Darabont)
I was surprised to see this movie climb so high on this list, but I was also just as surprised when I first saw this movie; surprised that it could take a familiar concept (people trapped in a confined space turning on each other) and imbue it with such fresh blood- lots of it. This movie is top level gore hound stuff, in addition to being a throwback to classic creature features. It’s also a Walking Dead prequel of sorts (in addition to Darabont, Melissa McBride, Jeffrey DeMunn, and Laurie Holden all show up)…and who could ever forget that ending, which you are probably still scarred from to this day.
1. Into The Wild (dir. Sean Penn)
I included this one in my top twenty five films of the century so far, because few other films I’ve seen have packed such an emotional punch. When I saw it at age 21, I connected with Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) and his thirst for more from life than what he was given. I also connected with the extent to which he was willing to push away everyone who loved him, in order to get it. Penn never judges McCandless for his choices, but just follows him along on his journey of self discovery. It’s a beautiful one- that also makes you appreciate all the things you have that are already right in front of you.