Moving into the top five:
Director: Andrew Stanton
Writer: Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, Jim Reardon
Cast: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin
Why it’s one of the best: Animation giant Pixar is matched by no artist or studio in the world for its ability to consistently merge art with commerce. Their films, almost as a matter of course, are among the most critically acclaimed and financially successful of any given year, but WALL-E, their 2008 parable/love story about technology and human progress, is a high-water mark even they might be hard-pressed to reach again. The first third of the film is virtually a silent film, showing with the utmost visual poetry the end result of reckless human consumption. It follows a waste-allocation robot named WALL-E, a Chaplin-esque creation who, as he pursues his true love, EVE, witnesses how far the human race has fallen and how we fight to climb back up. The film is so visually majestic and emotionally overflowing that it gives you goose bumps.
Director: Paul Greengrass
Writer: Paul Greengrass
Cast: David Alan Basche, Christian Clemenson, Cheyenne Jackson
Why it’s one of the best: Director Paul Greengrass, best known for bringing his kinetic style to the last two Jason Bourne movies, made his masterpiece in 2006 by dramatizing the events leading up to the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001. That was the plane that failed to reach its intended target because the passengers resisted their hijackers, but the director wisely — and courageously — avoids any trace of hero-worship sentimentalism or jingoistic fervor. There are no politics in the film, no commentary or analysis, no central hero or villain. Only the facts of the day, presented with the urgency of a thriller but the soberness of tragedy. Its unflinching, documentary-style realism makes it by far the most difficult film on my list to watch, but it may be as close to the truth of that morning as we’ll ever see on film.