Best Movies of 2004

10. FINDING NEVERLAND

Finding Neverland

130 LISTS | 13 TOP SPOTS
Marc Forster | 106 mins | Biography/Drama/Family
Johnny Depp | Kate Winslet | Julie Christie | Radha Mitchell

“James Matthew Barrie’s Peter Pan is one of the most beloved classics of children’s literature. It is a magical story of a boy who refuses to grow up. It is commonly accepted that Peter Llewelyn Davies, the son of one of Barrie’s friends, was the inspiration for Peter Pan. In Finding Neverland, director Marc Foster suggests it was Barrie himself in search of eternal youth. Playing the diminutive writer with childlike enthusiasm to match his childlike innocence, Johnny Depp delivers a bravado performance. His eyes take us into the soul of this creative genius who found inspiration in a lonely widow (Kate Winslet) and her four sons. The genius of Forster’s film is that even as he keeps it rooted in reality, he weaves in just enough magic to show how Barrie viewed the imaginary worlds he created. The supporting performances from Winslet, Freddie Highmore as her son Peter Llewelyn and Julie Christie as his stern grandmother all shine, as do the film’s production values. It’s a heartfelt story that becomes a heartwarming film.” – Louis Hobson, Winnipeg Sun

9. SPIDER-MAN 2

Spider-Man 2

136 LISTS | 2 TOP SPOTS
Sam Raimi | 127 mins | Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
Tobey Maguire | Kirsten Dunst | Alfred Molina | James Franco

“There has to be a popcorn movie on every top 10 list. “Spider-Man 2” is that rarest of all pictures, a sequel that’s better than the original. Director Sam Raimi assumes that his audience knows what they’re getting into and sets Peter Parker/Spidey on a real adventure taking on Doc Ock, a great villain with mechanical octopus arms.” – L. Kent Wolgamott, Lincoln Journal Star

8. KINSEY

Kinsey

149 LISTS | 7 TOP SPOTS
Bill Condon | 118 mins | Biography/ Drama/Romance
Liam Neeson | Laura Linney | Chris O'Donnell | Peter Sarsgaard

“The standout in a year of biopics, Bill Condon’s life of the mid-century sex researcher Alfred C. Kinsey is an intelligent, witty investigation of scientific zeal, moral fallibility and marital loyalty (if not fidelity) — a stirring and timely reminder of the complexity of human behavior, sexual and otherwise.” – A.O. Scott, New York Times

7. KILL BILL: VOL. 2

Kill Bill Vol 2

167 LISTS | 8 TOP SPOTS
Quentin Tarantino | 137 mins | Action/Crime/Thriller
Uma Thurman | David Carradine | Michael Madsen | Daryl Hannah

“Quentin Tarantino takes Uma Thurman’s Bride character from Kill Bill Vol. 1, fills in some backstory, leavens her by introducing something worth fighting for (a daughter) and transforms the Kill Bill saga from a pure adrenaline rush to one that proves both emotionally and viscerally satisfying. Better yet, he brings Bill into the picture in the person of David Carradine, who oozes terrifying charisma from every pore.” – Chris Kaltenbach, Baltimore Sun

6. MILLION DOLLAR BABY

Million Dollar Baby

215 LISTS | 35 TOP SPOTS
Clint Eastwood | 132 mins | Drama/Sport
Hilary Swank | Clint Eastwood | Morgan Freeman | Jay Baruchel

“Classical filmmaking by Clint Eastwood, pure, simple and true. Great because of what it puts in, and great because of what it leaves out: No flash, nothing much in the way of special effects, no pandering to the audience, but a story that gains in power with every scene, about characters we believe in and care for.
Hilary Swank stars as Maggie, a waitress who dreams of becoming a boxer. She’s 31, too old to start professional training. That’s what Frankie (Eastwood) tells her. Besides, he doesn’t approve of women boxers. He owns a rundown gym and runs it with the help of his oldest friend, Eddie (Morgan Freeman). Maggie will not listen to discouragement. She comes back every day, and finally Eddie takes mercy and shows her a few moves, and finally Frankie breaks down and agrees to train her.
So now you think you know where the movie is going, but you are wrong. It’s not a boxing movie; it’s the story of these people and what happens to them, and it goes deeper and deeper, never taking a wrong step, never hitting a false note. It touched me like no other film this year.” – Roger Ebert

5. BEFORE SUNSET

Before Midnight

220 LISTS | 40 TOP SPOTS
Richard Linklater | 80 mins | Drama/Romance
Ethan Hawke | Julie Delpy | Vernon Dobtcheff | Louise Lemoine Torrès

“Director Richard Linklater and actors Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke reconnect nine years later to show us what kind of lives Celine and Jesse went on to lead after their one-night love affair in “Before Sunrise.” “Before Sunset” is so beautifully written, and so simply constructed, that it could easily fool you into thinking it’s inconsequential. But this evocative, haunting romance (in addition to being very funny) is adult enough to recognize that disappointment is not only a fact of adult life but also, sometimes, a component of love. There have been bigger movies made about smaller things. This one is modest, fine-grained and close to perfect.” – Stephanie Zacharek, Salon

4. THE INCREDIBLES

The Incredibles

230 LISTS | 17 TOP SPOTS
Brad Bird | 115 mins | Animation/Action/Adventure
Craig T. Nelson | Samuel L. Jackson | Holly Hunter | Jason Lee

“It’s not surprising that passionate debate continues about the elitist-versus-inclusive philosophies espoused by the cartoon characters who come to life in The Incredibles — is specialness a gift to be rewarded or a right to be pursued? What is surprising is that Brad Bird’s thrilling Pixar-animated tale of a marvelously human-style family of Marvel-style superheroes struggling to get along in a hero-fatigued world is meaty enough to invite serious conversation. By now, we may take Pixar’s artistic and technical wizardry for granted (which is incredible in and of itself). But this auteurist animated delight is a breakthrough in tone, elegance, and complexity of intentions.” – Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

3. THE AVIATOR

The Aviator

247 LISTS | 35 TOP SPOTS
Martin Scorsese | 170 mins | Biography/Drama
Leonardo DiCaprio | Cate Blanchett | Kate Beckinsale | John C. Reilly

“Director Martin Scorsese soars triumphantly close to the sun, and unlike Icarus, never falters in his flight. An epically scaled biography of Howard Hughes, the mad genius of airplanes, movies and womanizing, this is filmmaking on a grand, rare, often curiously poignant scale, featuring a stunning performance by Leonardo DeCaprio as one of the great American nut cases. In an era when the better American directors are making chamber pieces, Scorsese dares the symphonic, with deeply satisfying results.” – Richard Schickel, TIME

2. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

352 LISTS | 77 TOP SPOTS
Michel Gondry | 108 mins | Drama/ Romance/Sci-Fi
Jim Carrey | Kate Winslet | Tom Wilkinson | Gerry Robert Byrne

“Any year that produces Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a great one for movies. In fact, I’m a little dismayed that not everyone shares my conviction that this is an inexhaustible masterpiece and, by a wide margin, the best film in many years. I don’t rubber-stamp every Charlie Kaufman picture; I thought he boxed himself into a corner at the end of the otherwise marvelous Being John Malkovich, and Adaptation, despite its rollicking wit and invention, struck me as a conceptual dead-end. But in Eternal Sunshine, Kaufman moves the boundary posts of romantic comedy—what Stanley Cavell calls the “genre of remarriage”—by infusing it with the futuristic neuroscience (and paranoia) of Philip K. Dick. In the greatest remarriage comedies, enduring romantic happiness is only possible by falling in and out of love with the same person—your true love often being difficult to live with yet impossible to forget. But by forcing yourself to forget—sometimes just to go on living—you lose a part of your soul. Kaufman made the memory purge literal and the process by which the memories leak back into the psyche literal, too. What a journey: By the time the protagonist has circled in on the moment he found his soul mate, all traces of her have blown away. This is Orpheus and Eurydice in reverse: the one-way ticket to the underworld is not looking back. Michel Gondry brings all his delirious visual imagination to bear on this precarious lover’s mindscape, and the performances are heartbreaking—Jim Carrey the straightjacketed clown, Kate Winslet the rash, unstable, desperately unhappy romantic. If you didn’t get it, see it again. If you didn’t like it, I am so, so sorry—for us both.” – David Edelstein, Slate

1. SIDEWAYS

Sideways

385 LISTS | 78 TOP SPOTS
Alexander Payne | 127 mins | Comedy/Drama/Romance
Paul Giamatti | Thomas Haden Church | Virginia Madsen | Sandra Oh

“Two washouts – a failed novelist (Paul Giamatti) and a horn-dog actor (Thomas Haden Church) dreading his impending marriage – hit California wine country, get wasted and pick up two waitresses (Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh). And this I’m calling the best movie of the year? You better believe it. Sideways has it all: Sublime acting; acutely perceptive direction by Alexander Payne, who wrote the model of a script with Jim Taylor; and a way of getting inside the heads of its characters until the details of their obsessions, their language and their coping mechanisms for failure in life and love hold up a mirror for all of us to gaze at our flawed selves. It’s the only perfect movie of 2004.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Full Top 50:

RTITLEL#1ARL%#1%TCLTCL1TCL%TCL1%
1Sideways384783.6762%15%2345065%16%
2Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind351773.8557%14%1893752%12%
3The Aviator246354.3340%7%1421539%5%
4The Incredibles229174.3437%3%1421039%3%
5Before Sunset220404.1136%7%1452940%9%
6Million Dollar Baby215353.8035%7%1392638%8%
7Kill Bill: Vol. 216784.6527%1%99427%1%
8Kinsey14874.8924%1%87224%1%
9Spider-Man 213625.2822%0%73220%1%
10Finding Neverland130134.5021%2%60517%2%
11Hero125124.4520%2%72920%3%
12Vera Drake124114.3820%2%78622%2%
13Maria Full of Grace12375.5620%1%63417%1%
14Fahrenheit 9/1112245.3820%1%61217%1%
15Hotel Rwanda12264.8920%1%67519%2%
16Dogville108163.9118%3%761021%3%
17House of Flying Daggers10684.5417%1%72620%2%
18Collateral10216.0117%0%62117%0%
19Ray9574.8015%1%44112%0%
20The Motorcycle Diaries9165.3415%1%53415%1%
21Garden State8485.1714%1%40611%2%
22A Very Long Engagement8174.6413%1%54615%2%
23Bad Education7974.3613%1%47413%1%
24I Heart Huckabees7374.6312%1%46613%2%
25Closer7325.6212%0%36010%0%
26Shaun of the Dead6826.2111%0%35110%0%
27The Passion of the Christ60104.8210%2%2938%1%
28The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou5924.6110%0%38110%0%
29Tarnation53105.289%2%3169%2%
30Touching the Void5025.038%0%3419%0%
31The Sea Inside4834.768%1%3028%1%
32Napoleon Dynamite4625.477%0%2627%1%
33The Saddest Music in the World4444.317%1%2948%1%
34Moolaadé4214.577%0%3008%0%
35Super Size Me4115.777%0%2206%0%
36Team America: World Police4105.447%0%2206%0%
37Crimson Gold4045.597%1%2928%1%
38Notre Musique4044.376%1%3038%1%
39Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban4005.466%0%1905%0%
40Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ...and Spring3935.526%1%2637%1%
41Metallica: Some Kind of Monster3616.066%0%2206%0%
42Shrek 23525.396%0%1815%0%
43Control Room3515.716%0%2116%0%
44The Polar Express3426.176%0%1614%0%
45The Return3325.155%0%2617%0%
46Distant3115.285%0%2417%0%
47Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow3015.885%0%1705%0%
48The Five Obstructions2915.165%0%2116%0%
49Los Angeles Plays Itself2955.175%1%2557%2%
50The Door in the Floor2815.385%0%1203%0%

Lists Included 617 | Top Critics’ Lists Included 362

R Rank
L Total number of lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year
AR Average position on ranked top 10 lists
#1 Total number of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year
L% Percentage of total lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year
#1% Percentage of mentions where the film was selected as the best film of the year
TCL Number of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL1 Number of times that the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL% Percentage of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL1% Percentage of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists

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