Directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson
Pixar's 10th feature is its best yet, an especially incredible feat considering the studio's never made a bad movie. Ringing much more true than a good 99% of movies in the last decade, this surely has a legitimate shot at not only being nominated for Best Picture, but winning it as well.
2. Public Enemies
Directed by Michael Mann
The thinking man's action flick, Michael Mann (Heat, Collateral) completely rebounds from his disastrous Miami Vice adaptation to deliver an introspective, romantic, highly stylized gangster picture with an duo of Oscar-worthy performances from Johnny Depp as John Dillinger and Marion Cotillard as his faithful lover.
3. The Hangover
Directed by Todd Phillips
Brilliantly told, this summer's breakout hit made stars of its trio of lead actors (see below) and never let up with the laughs. A rowdy, ingenious comedy, it's everything Wedding Crashers wanted to be but wasn't.
4. Star Trek
Directed by J.J. Abrams
In a world where every week brings yet another remake, here's a relaunch that fires on all cylinders. It's everything that a summer movie should be: sharp, visually stunning, and tremendously entertaining.
5. Drag Me to Hell
Directed by Sam Raimi
It was just a few short years ago (October 2005, to be exact) when American horror died, shortly after the release of Saw II. And so the American public has been forced to be stuck with horror movies with no scares, no sense of humor, no real story, just gallons of blood and hundreds of bare breasts. But master Sam Raimi has triumphantly returned to the genre that made a name for himself, completely recovering from the overblown Spider-Man 3. The film delivers scares and laughs with equal measure. A real cinematic treat.
1. Johnny Depp, Public Enemies
Portraying John Dillinger
After years of going brilliantly over the top in three Pirates films and Tim Burton's adaptation of Sweeney Todd, Depp again proves his impressive range by going introspective, showing us the complexities of a simple man.
Portraying Billie Frechette
But Depp's performance wouldn't be quite as impressive were it not for his character's anchor throughout most of the film, his faithful girlfriend Billie. Cotillard already has an Oscar for La Vie en Rose, but I wouldn't be surprised if she picks up another nomination here. She simply captivates the screen in every scene.
Portraying Stu, Phil, and Alan
While they're the "three best friends that anyone could have," this brilliant comic trio really makes this comedy work, as they desperately try to search for their missing compatriot Doug through the impound lots and seedy motels of Las Vegas. Each gives a distinctive performance: Helms as the hen-pecked dentist, Cooper as the douche-y schoolteacher, and standout Galifianakis as sweet-natured possible pedophile Alan. Together, they create one of film's greatest comic teams.
Portraying Penelope Stamp
While the entire cast (including Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, and the always intense Rinko Kikuchi) gives textured performances, it's Weisz, playing the perpetually sunny Penelope, that makes this con-man comedy sing. Having resided as a shut-in for most of her life, she's bursting with life and ready to go out and experience the world. It's a downright joyous performance.
Portraying Marcus Wright
Christian Bale may have had top billing, but it's the Aussie heartthrob who's the real discovery here. In his first U.S. feature, he proves to possess some serious acting chops. As the death row inmate-turned-robot prototype, he's desperate to learn his true nature. He makes this hunk of metal human.
1. Where the Wild Things Are (Oct. 16)
Directed by Spike Jonze
Set to the wistful score of Arcade Fire's "Wake Up," the tease of Spike Jonze's adaptation of the beloved children's book brings a tear to one's eye. Not because it's sad; it's just that beautiful.
Directed by Larry Charles
On the other end of the spectrum, the completely unsubtle creator of Borat returns to wreak havoc and reveal the darkest of human nature, but does it while splitting your sides with laughter.
Directed by Todd Phillips
The perfect trailer: just enough information to make you pay attention and say "I gotta see that." And Mike Tyson singing "In the Air Tonight"? I'm there.
4. The Hurt Locker (now in limited release)
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
First thought: "Oh, great. Another Iraq movie." But once the focus shifts on the real people serving overseas as well as the tense action sequences, you quickly realize this isn't your typical war (or anti-war) movie, the kind that can't be ignored.
Directed by Neill Blomkamp
The interviews seem to be pulled from any news report, and the testimonials about racism and immigration certainly seem real, but it's all about the sucker-punch at the end of the trailer for South Africa native Neill Blomkamp's faux documentary: the unwanted aliens are actually aliens.