As summer turns to fall and awards players gradually unfurl in multiplexes, we can’t help but feel nostalgic for 2007, which produced some of the most critically acclaimed and influential movies of the 21st century so far. A decade later, we rank that year’s most enduring modern classics.
In 2007, fans of movie musicals were gifted with enticing Broadway adaptations (Sweeney Todd), an out-there Beatles romp (Across the Universe) and a ferociously dedicated Marion Cotillard as French chanteuse Edith Piaf (La Vie en Rose). But none matched the heart of this Irish charmer about a pair of struggling musicians, which spawned the heart-tugging (and Oscar-winning) song Falling Slowly.
This World War II romance about a British soldier (James McAvoy) and his beloved (Keira Knightley) buckles under the weight of contrived melodrama. But the film’s first hour makes up for its flaws, as young Briony Tallis (12-year-old Saoirse Ronan, giving a formidable Oscar-nominated performance) meddles in the couple’s affair with devastating consequences.
The harrowing, bitingly funny coming-of-age story of a young girl during the ’70s Iranian Revolution. Ratatouille went on to win best animated feature, but this French-Iranian film outshone it in stylistic panache and raw emotion.
No one unspools a chilling procedural quite like David Fincher, whose slow-burning thriller tracks the manhunt for San Francisco’s infamous Zodiac killer from the perspective of a quizzical political cartoonist (Jake Gyllenhaal).
6. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Gangsters had their fingerprints all over 2007 cinema, from The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford to Eastern Promises. But the most unsuspecting criminals also happen to be the most memorable, in this tense drama about two brothers (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke) who decide to rob their parents’ jewelry store.
5. Into the Wild
Before Sean Penn’s much-maligned The Last Face, the actor was lauded for his spellbinding adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s survival tale. As restless thrill-seeker Chris McCandless, who died in the Alaskan wilderness, Emile Hirsch was never better.
With hamburger phone and a gallon of Sunny Delight in hand, Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) instantly stole our hearts as she awkwardly weathered an unplanned teen pregnancy. Page’s breakthrough performance aside, Diablo Cody’s crackling debut script is a disarmingly moving knockout.
3. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
The astonishing, bracingly unsentimental story of French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby, who was left paralyzed by a massive stroke and wrote his autobiography by blinking his left eye when an assistant read him the correct letter of the alphabet.
2. There Will Be Blood
Thanks to Daniel Day-Lewis, we can’t order a milkshake without launching into a full-on Daniel Plainview tirade. As the power-starved oil tycoon, the three-time Oscar winner brought to life an iconic antihero, whose fall from grace is at once identifiable and deeply haunting. With his supposedly final film role imminent in Phantom Thread (in theaters Dec. 25), we’re anxious to see what Day-Lewis will do when he re-teams with Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson.
1. No Country for Old Men
Whether you saw this once or seven times in theaters (as we unashamedly did), it’s impossible not to be shaken by Joel and Ethan Coen’s blood-curdling revenge thriller, as close to a perfect film as any this century. Grippingly paced and unexpectedly profound, this morality play of a man (Josh Brolin) who finds $2 million in cash and the relentless hitman (Javier Bardem) who hunts him is a storytelling and acting masterclass. It won four Academy Awards, including best picture and supporting actor for Bardem, whose cattle gun-carrying Anton Chigurh will blow a hole in your nightmares.
From vengeful pirate ghost to bitter cyberterrorist, Javier Bardem ranks his most chilling characters. USA TODAY