100. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Gore Verbinski, 2003)
Wild that an extremely misogynistic Disney ride could spawn a fun, pulpy action adventure franchise that would gross billions of dollars, but that’s exactly what “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” did. And while the series suffers from diminishing returns as it drags on, the first film is legitimately good. Johnny Depp chews on the scenery as Captain Jack Sparrow, but at this point his schtick hadn’t worn out its welcome yet. Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom are excellent as the adventurous lead couple, each getting their own moments to shine. And Geoffrey Rush is note-perfect as the ill-fated Captain Barbossa, adding just the right amount of poignancy and regret to his doomed villain. The entire vibe of “The Curse of the Black Pearl” is a gleeful throwback to classic swashbucklers, and it’s evident that everyone involved is having a ton of fun.
99. Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi (Shemi Zarhin, 2003)
Shlomi is the emotional heart of his family, the one who does all the cooking and cleaning and makes sure that everyone is emotionally taken care of. He mediates all of their domestic squabbles with an inordinate amount of patience. It’s just a shame he isn’t brighter — or at least that’s what his family thinks. But it turns out he’s actually quite gifted, only his parents and teachers have been too wrapped up in their own shit to notice, so well does Shlomi fly under the radar. “Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi” is an eccentric but intensely likeable Israeli comedy, with an off-beat sense of humor that can’t help but charm. Oshri Cohen puts in a beautifully understated performance in the lead role, creating a character with a quiet presence but always something going on under the surface.
98. Death to Smoochy (Danny DeVito, 2002)
“Death to Smoochy” is as pitch-black a comedy as they come, so much so that audiences at the time didn’t quite know what to make of it. But coming off performances in “American History X” and “Fight Club,” this is the single greatest follow-up role Edward Norton possibly could have done. The famously intense actor plays Sheldon Mopes, a child entertainer who by all accounts appears to be a genuinely kind-hearted person, and Norton gives him just a hint of darkness under the surface. It’s a pretty hilarious satire of the gritty underbelly of children’s entertainment, featuring excellent supporting performances from Robin Williams, Danny DeVito, Jon Stewart, and Vincent Schiavelli.
97. Lore (Cate Shortland, 2012)
What do you do when you’re a child and everything you thought you knew is wrong? In “Lore,” a young German girl is tasked with taking her younger siblings on the long journey to their grandmother’s house in the chaotic aftermath of World War II. Her parents were high-ranking Nazi officers, but it’s clear that she’s been shielded from the ugliest details of their wartime activities. On her journey, she is forced to come face-to-face with the truth of who her parents were, and it’s a rude awakening. A true loss of innocence, and an uncomfortable confrontation of what she thinks she believes. Saskia Rosendahl is breathtaking in the lead role of Lore. And audiences should get used to its director, Cate Shortland, who will also be bringing us “Black Widow” in 2020.
96. The Big Sick (Michael Showalter, 2017)
How rare is it to find a rom-com that is genuinely romantic, laugh-out-loud funny, and even moving? “The Big Sick” tells the extraordinary story of writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon’s real-life relationship, where their breakup is complicated when a sudden and life-threatening illness puts Emily (played by Zoe Kazan) in a coma. Kumail stars as himself, showing the range that has made him a versatile and in-demand comedic actor. Their love story is so natural and well-written, so free of unnecessary sentimentality, that it provides the perfect balance with the high drama of Emily’s illness. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are at their best here, as two parents entirely out of their depth as they try to cope with their only daughter’s terrifying health crisis.
95. Son of Rambow (Garth Jennings, 2007)
For people who have spent their lives obsessed with movies, “Son of Rambow” is a journey back to that feeling of being a child and watching a film that you connect with so deeply that you can’t think about anything else. Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) is a young, sheltered boy whose family is part of a conservative religious community with so many media restrictions that he has to leave the classroom at school when they watch a film. So when he sees “First Blood” for the first time and finds a kindred spirit in his angry, rebellious classmate Lee (Will Poulter), his world is turned upside down. It’s a charming coming-of-age story that has a lovely message about friendship and, of course, the power of cinema.
94. The Emperor’s New Groove (Mark Dindal, 2000)
One of Disney’s most irreverent and objectively hilarious films, “The Emperor’s New Groove” feels unlike anything that came before it. Emperor Kuzco (David Spade) is an arrogant and self-absorbed ruler with no regard for his people, until circumstances conspire to a.) turn him into a llama, and b.) throw him into the path of Pacha (John Goodman), his moral compass and future best friend. But the real highlights of the film are Yzma and Kronk, the power-hungry villain of the piece (voiced by Eartha Kitt at her malevolent best) and her dim-witted henchman (Patrick Warburton). Every scene they share is a delight filled with intensely quotable dialogue.
93. Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, 2006)
In its depiction of the Hoover family, “Little Miss Sunshine” nails the balance between dysfunctional and unquestioningly loyal better than perhaps any other film. When quirky Olive (played by an effervescent Abigail Breslin) is given the opportunity to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant, her parents spring into action, hauling the entire family on a cross-country roadtrip. The whole cast is remarkable, with Alan Arkin putting in a surprisingly poignant performance as Olive’s grandfather/pageant coach, Steve Carell cutting his teeth on indie drama as the depressed intellectual uncle, and Paul Dano stealing the show as the delightfully bizarre older brother. They’re such a strange group of misfits, but the way that they unwaveringly support one another is a joy to watch.
92. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Edgar Wright, 2010)
“Scott Pilgrim vs the World” is one of the first comic book movies that shows exactly what the genre is capable of with a little imagination. A creative adaptation of a graphic novel, Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is attempting to win the heart of his manic pixie dream girl Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). But in order to do so, he must face off against her seven evil exes, all of whom seem to have wildly intimidating superpowers. With a playful and visually dynamic style, director Edgar Wright continually subverts expectations and refuses to conform to general filmmaking conventions, smashing the fourth wall to bits and creating a cinematic experience with the energy of an actual comic book.
91. Happy Death Day (Christopher Landon, 2017)
Every once in a while you encounter a film, an unassuming little movie that takes you entirely by surprise. “Happy Death Day” is a horror comedy that comes out of absolutely nowhere, a delightful mash-up of “Scream” and “Groundhog Day.” And it’s so much fun! A mean sorority girl wakes up in a strange bed on campus and is forced to live the same day over and over again, each time ending with her own murder. No matter what she does, she can’t avoid being killed in ever more inventive ways. But the best part about all of this is that Tree, played charmingly and with a razor sharp wit by Jessica Rothe, begins to face her own mortality with exasperation rather than fear. By all accounts, “Happy Death Day” is better than it has any right to be.
90. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012)
The sign of a great documentarian is the ability to think on your feet, and not let the story you wanted to tell get in the way of the story you’ve discovered. When Joshua Oppenheimer was interviewing Indonesian citizens for an entirely different project, the subject turned to the mass killings of 1965-66, and he found the perpetrators willing to sit down and discuss their murders with him. So he adjusted the narrative. The result is a remarkably candid and disturbing look at the mass executions of communists with full support from the government and armed forces. Unlike many other violent regimes that have since been brought to justice, the men who committed these crimes are not only free, but in power. There are entire sections of the credits that have crew members listed only as “Anonymous,” so great were their fears of reprisals. In a country where war criminals escape justice and are even promoted for their crimes, how can victims and their families ever find a sense of peace?
89. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (Guy Ritchie, 2015)
There must be a reason why “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” is so consistently ignored, championed by only a small but dedicated group of fans. But whatever the reason is, it can’t be the film’s quality, which is nigh unimpeachable. It’s a remake of a spy show that paired an American and Soviet agent together in an extra-governmental intelligence agency called U.N.C.L.E. and was notable largely for providing the more discerning 1960s teenager with excellent crush material. “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” is tremendously entertaining, a wild adventure through Cold War era Europe that never takes itself too seriously. These were the roles that Armie Hammer and Henry Cavill were born to play, and neither have been used quite as effectively before or since. Also, there’s Alicia Vikander.
88. La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)
“La La Land” deserves a great deal of credit for even attempting an original movie musical in this cultural landscape so utterly dominated by well-established properties that audiences are already familiar with. It’s an energetic, vibrant splash of color surprisingly confident that it knows what it’s doing. The soundtrack is a lush ode to the golden age of musicals, and has a few stand-out numbers that take your breath away. The chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone is electric, cementing the duo as an on-screen pairing that rivals classical Hollywood couples for charm. And perhaps most importantly, director Damien Chazelle has the courage to evade the traditional Hollywood ending, opting instead for a gut punch that’s as poetic as it is heartbreaking.
87. Thor: Ragnarok (Taika Waititi, 2017)
One of the upsides of Marvel world domination is that the studio can afford to hire imaginative directors who bring their own unique style to the franchise. In “Thor: Ragnarok,” Taika Waititi creates a version of the Norse god that serves both the character and its actor better than any of the other Marvel films. He utilizes Chris Hemsworth’s natural sense of humor, finally giving Thor some much-needed personality. Along with that comes an interesting and hilarious brotherly dynamic between him and Loki, a delightful Cate Blanchett who turns up to chew the scenery to pieces, and one of Marvel’s greatest tertiary characters, Korg. “Thor: Ragnarok” is chaos in the best possible way, a tremendously fun adventure that balances humor and pathos perfectly.
86. El Angel (Luis Ortega, 2018)
“El Angel” is a stylish Argentinian crime drama, revolving around the exploits of a teenage cat burglar turned serial killer loosely based on an actual criminal from the 1970s. Lorenzo Ferro plays the lead role with a chaotic, barely restrained sexual energy, and his chemistry with co-star Chino Darin is palpable. It’s been referred to as the gay “Bonnie and Clyde,” and that’s not too far off the mark. Director Luis Ortega has a unique and confident visual aesthetic that pulls audiences in from the very beginning, as Carlos luxuriates in an empty home he’s robbing, drinking a rich man’s liquor and dancing alone to his records.
85. Pride (Matthew Warchus, 2014)
“Pride” is sweet, charming, and perhaps most importantly these days, genuinely optimistic about humanity. It’s set in the mid-1980s, and Welsh miners are in the news as they embark on what will be a long and economically devastating strike. A small group of gay and lesbian activists in London make the decision to raise money in support of the miners, having experienced enough confrontations with the police to feel a certain amount of solidarity. Their altruistic act forges a strong and powerful bond between the two frequently disenfranchised communities that changes both in surprising ways. With a talented cast including up-and-comers George McKay, Joseph Gilgun, and Andrew Scott alongside established stalwarts Billy Nighy, Paddy Considine, and Imelda Staunton, “Pride” is an overwhelming positive viewing experience, a rare gem in a sea of cynicism.
84. Good Night, and Good Luck. (George Clooney, 2005)
“Good Night, and Good Luck,” directed by George Clooney, centers its narrative on the legendary news anchor Edward R. Murrow and his principled stand against Joseph McCarthy’s fervent anticommunist campaign of terror. David Strathairn is given the role of a lifetime as Murrow and does some of his best work in an understated performance that perfectly encapsulates the quiet nobility of the journalist. There are no flashy, bombastic sequences with pompous moralizing from any of the reporters — just mostly good people trying to do their jobs as best they can.
83. Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard, 2011)
“Cabin in the Woods” joins the ranks of “Scream” in its ability to send up a genre while still remaining steadfastly devoted to it. The affection director Drew Goddard and producer Joss Whedon feel for horror is obvious, as they chock “Cabin in the Woods” full of as many tropes as they can get their hands on. A group of college students take a vacation to the titular cabin in the woods when a mysterious organization launches holy hell on them in the form of common horror film adversaries. It’s a wild ride with genuine scares and surprises. Also, it gives Chris Hemsworth one of his first leading roles (he did this film the same year as “Thor”) and for that we owe it a debt of gratitude.
82. See You Up There (Albert Dupontel, 2017)
“See You Up There” is a truly bizarre little French film. Set in the immediate aftermath of World War I, a soldier who has had the lower half of his face blown off by a shell concocts a plan to scam a grieving France, selling designs for monuments he has no intention of ever building. The art design of this film is breathtaking, as he constructs a series of increasingly flamboyant masks to hide his facial injury. These reflect the growing distance between himself and the rest of humanity. And the fact that he’s even able to dream up such a plan shows a profound disillusionment with the war and its place in French society, the sanctification of so many lives thrown pointlessly away. A thought-provoking, frequently macabre exploration of life after war, “See You Up There” as a unique energy all its own, and despite its subject matter never loses its grim, mischievous sense of humor.
81. Young Adult (Jason Reitman, 2011)
When you really think about it, there are so few films that give their female protagonists permission to be petty and mean and just plain unlikable. So what Charlize Theron is able to do in “Young Adult” is not just an incredible performance, but something that feels like a coup against an industry that demands that women be either pleasant or the villain, with no space in between. Mavis has villainous qualities, to be sure, as she returns to her hometown and spends most of her time either insulting her former classmates or trying to seduce her happily married high school ex-boyfriend. But she’s also sad and broken and wildly insecure. We want her to break out of her self-destructive cycle of behavior long enough to find a way to be happy.