Best of 2002

Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven was the clear favorite amongst critics in 2002, as it appeared on 215 of the 360 top ten lists for the year.

50. Auto Focus (17 lists)


“This true-life saga of sex, lies and videotape is one of director Paul Schrader’s best films, and like Boogie Nights ranks as a shrewd expose of recent Hollywood’s slimy underside.” — Todd McCarthy, Variety

50. Antwone Fisher (17 lists)


“Not only is it unusual that this emotional story of how a damaged boy became a whole man made it to the screen at all, it is a measure of its strengths that it overcomes storytelling flaws that would have disabled a weaker project.” — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

49. Signs (17 lists; 2 top spots)


“For most of its footage, the new thriller proves that director M. Night Shyamalan can weave an eerie spell and that Mel Gibson can gasp, shudder and even tremble without losing his machismo.” — Philip Wuntch, Dallas Morning News

47. One Hour Photo (18 lists; 1 top spot)


“A thought-provoking, artful accomplishment by writer/director Mark Romanek, who reveals a powerfully understated vision of the haunting loneliness behind the forced cheerfulness of the discount store.” — Steven Rosen, Denver Post

47. Secretary (18 lists; 1 top spot)


“For all the dolorous trim, Secretary is a genial romance that maintains a surprisingly buoyant tone throughout, notwithstanding some of the writers’ sporadic dips into pop Freudianism.” — Manohla Dargis, Los Angeles Times

46. Standing in the Shadows of Motown (19 lists)


“It’s a revelatory aural journey that gets you to hear something you’ve always known without quite realizing it: that the magic of the Motown sound was, quite literally, its sound, which the Funk Brothers created.” — Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

44. 8 Mile (21 lists)


“Like the recently released ‘Welcome to Collinwood’ from Cleveland’s Russo brothers, Curtis Hanson’s ‘8 Mile’ brings affection and honesty in equal measure to its tale of impoverished middle-Americans determined to get a better life — on their own terms.” — Susan Stark, Detroit News

44. Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (21 lists)


“Each of these stories has the potential for Touched by an Angel simplicity and sappiness, but Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, for all its generosity and optimism, never resorts to easy feel-good sentiments.” — Loren King, Chicago Tribune

43. In Praise of Love (21 lists; 2 top spots)


“Godard has always made films that are as thrilling for their ideas and ideals as for the sheer beauty of their images; the difference here is that for the first time in years he’s more interested in turning us on than in turning us off.” — Manohla Dargis, Los Angeles Times

42. All or Nothing (22 lists; 1 top spot)


“Leigh’s daring here is that without once denying the hardscrabble lives of people on the economic fringes of Margaret Thatcher’s ruinous legacy, he insists on the importance of those moments when people can connect and express their love for each other.” — Charles Taylor,

41. Igby Goes Down (24 lists)


“Although Igby has its share of glitches and tonal inconsistencies, it packs an emotional wallop similar to that of another cultural golden oldie as beloved in its way as The Catcher in the Rye: The Graduate.” — Stephen Holden, New York Times

40. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (25 lists)


“Never mind whether you buy the stuff about Barris being a CIA hit man. The kooky yet shadowy vision Clooney sustains throughout is daring, inventive and impressive.” — Gene Seymour, Newsday

39. Morvern Callar (25 lists; 1 top spot)


“With little dialogue to assist her — just the strains of that wonderfully organic music — [Morton] still manages to suggest the internal struggle, and to slowly reveal a fierce toughness that flies in the face of conventional morality.” — Rick Groen, Globe and Mail

39. Solaris (25 lists; 1 top spot)


“So beautifully made (everything in it is understated except the gorgeous good looks of its stars) and turns out to have such real cumulative power that it is worth holding out to the end.” — Jonathan Foreman, New York Post

37. I’m Going Home (25 lists; 2 top spots)


“If it seems like a minor miracle that its septuagenarian star is young enough to be the nonagenarian filmmaker’s son, more incredible still are the clear-eyed boldness and quiet irony with which actor and director take on life’s urgent questions.” — Manohla Dargis, Los Angeles Times

36. Femme Fatale (25 lists; 3 top spots)


“The film has the high-buffed gloss and high-octane jolts you expect of De Palma, but what makes it transporting is that it’s also one of the smartest, most pleasurable expressions of pure movie love to come from an American director in years.” — Mahola Dargis, Los Angeles Times

35. Insomnia (26 lists)


“Nolan is a craftsman who joins the ranks of Steven Soderbergh, David O. Russell, Curtis Hanson, and M. Night Shyamalan as an individual voice working within the Hollywood system.” — Paul Tatara,

34. Lovely & Amazing (27 lists)


“For all its dirty talk and up-frontness, this is a family film — it’s about one family and the extended family of females. Any woman who sees it will recognize that, and any man who sees it will be better for it.” — Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press

33. Late Marriage (27 lists; 1 top spot)


“This terrific film is fueled by several scenes that are shocking — but not for the reasons you might think. The shocks here come not from the unexpected sensationalism of them but from their bracing humanity and spontaneous, eye-opening rawness.” — Joe Baltake, Sacramento Bee

32. Sunshine State (28 lists; 1 top spot)


“Because we are so familiar with the conventional approach to a story like this, it takes time to catch on that Sayles is not repeating the old progressive line about the little guy against big capital.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

31. What Time Is It There?


“Tsai’s confidence in the deep power of silence drives home the film’s inner convictions. Its surface works coolly, intriguingly and, happily, feebly in opposition to the heart of the matter.” — Susan Stark, Detroit News

30. Russian Ark (29 lists; 3 top spots)


“A extraordinary film, one that, like the museum itself, captures and shows three centuries of Russian culture and history in all its beauty, confusion, terror and majesty.” — Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

29. Spider-Man (30 lists)


“A perfectly serviceable early-summer popcorn picture that will satisfy its core teen constituency and not displease general viewers looking for some disposable entertainment.” — Todd McCarthy, Variety

28. The Kid Stays In the Picture (30 lists; 1 top spot)


“Hugely entertaining from start to finish, featuring a fall from grace that still leaves shockwaves, it will gratify anyone who has ever suspected Hollywood of being overrun by corrupt and hedonistic weasels.” — Peter Howell, Toronto Star

27. Frida (34 lists; 2 top spots)


“Taymor, the creative mind behind Broadway’s The Lion King, fills Frida with brilliant, surreal flourishes…a rich, funny and sometimes erotic film about an inspiring and influential figure in 20th-century art.” — Bill Muller, Arizona Republic

26. 25th Hour (34 lists; 4 top spots)


“Sorrowful and thoughtful at the same time, 25th Hour is about how a single situation can jolt us out of our comfortable complacency and threaten us with the harsh fact that nothing will ever be the same again.” — Joe Baltake, Sacramento Bee

25. The Piano Teacher (35 lists; 2 top spots)


“There is an old saying: Be careful what you ask for, because you might get it. The Piano Teacher has a more ominous lesson: Be especially careful with someone who has asked for you.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

24. The Quiet American (37 lists; 1 top spot)


“Phillip Noyce and all of his actors — as well as his cinematographer, Christopher Doyle — understand the delicate forcefulness of Greene’s prose, and it’s there on the screen in their version of The Quiet American.” — Stephanie Zacharek,

23. Monsoon Wedding (38 lists; 3 top spots)


“Swirling, loving, and brilliantly, sensuously colorful, Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding energetically celebrates love, family, a culture that comfortably accommodates past and present.” — Susan Stark, Detroit News

22. 24 Hour Party People (39 lists)


“Even if you have never heard of the Mondays, whose members swiftly self-destructed in Ecstasy and excess, or of Tony Wilson, the entrepreneur the film is about, you may find yourself drawn into the vortex created by director Michael Winterbottom.” — Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press

21. Rabbit-Proof Fence (41 lists; 2 top spots)


“All of Rabbit-Proof Fence’s characters are so well-drawn, so human — that even in the harsh light of history — it remains difficult to understand how Australia allowed such inhumanity to become institutional, mechanized and accepted.” — Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

20. Time Out (50 lists; 4 top spots)


“Moody, reflective and acutely noticing, Time Out is less a drama than a cinematic essay about one man’s experience in an era defined for professional and laborer by downsizing.” — Susan Stark, Detroit News

19. Bloody Sunday (50 lists; 8 top spots)


“Greengrass (working from Don Mullan’s script) forgoes the larger socio-political picture of the situation in Northern Ireland in favour of an approach that throws one in the pulsating thick of a truly frightening situation.” — Geoff Pevere, Toronto Star

18. Catch Me If You Can (55 lists; 2 top spots)


“A gently funny, sweetly adventurous film that makes you feel genuinely good, that is to say, entirely unconned by false sentiment or sharp, overmanipulative Hollywood practices.” — Richard Schickel, TIME Magazine

17. About a Boy (56 lists)


“About a Boy vividly recalls the Cary Grant of Room for One More, Houseboat and Father Goose in its affectionate depiction of the gentle war between a reluctant, irresponsible man and the kid who latches onto him.” — Joe Baltake, Sacramento Bee

16. Road to Perdition (57 lists; 5 top spots)


“Directed by Sam Mendes, this movie might not be as flashy as his Oscar-winning American Beauty, but it’s a smarter film, more mature and emotionally honest.” — Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

15. Minority Report (65 lists; 6 top spots)


“Cruise will never be a master thespian, but there’s no one better at putting across the charisma of control, and the opening sequence of Report is an astonishingly fluid demonstration of his gifts.” — Ty Burr, Boston Globe

14. Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (69 lists; 7 top spots)


“Both a thrilling adventure about endurance and survival, and an elegiac examination of centuries-old tribal culture, fast-fading in the new millennium.” — Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer

13. The Hours (75 lists; 9 top spots)


“A viewer can forget about Woolf, not care a fig about Cunningham, and just bathe — soak, more like — in the voluptuous sadnesses of Mss. Woolf, Brown, and Vaughan, delineated with such refinement by Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, and Meryl Streep.” — Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

12. Bowling for Columbine (84 lists; 3 top spots)


“Stuffed with content that is sometimes riveting and occasionally meandering and often arguable, the documentary is a bit of a shambles — yet an intriguing and, in light of the timid conservatism that typifies pop Americana, a valuable shambles.” — Rick Groen, Globe and Mail

11. The Pianist (84 lists; 10 top spots)


“With The Pianist, Polanski’s strange genius serves Szpilman’s remembrance and, in doing so, rescues his legacy from the blunder of much of the director’s recent work.” — Manohla Dargis, Los Angeles Times

10. Punch-Drunk Love (99 lists; 8 top spots)


“You may be captivated, as I was, by its moods, and by its subtly transformed star, and still wonder why Paul Thomas Anderson ever had the inclination to make the most sincere and artful movie in which Adam Sandler will probably ever appear.” — Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

9. Spirited Away (99 lists; 12 top spots)


“Visually imaginative, thematically instructive and thoroughly delightful, it takes us on a roller-coaster ride from innocence to experience without even a hint of that typical kiddie-flick sentimentality.” — Jay Boyar, Orlando Sentinel

8. Chicago (100 lists; 16 top spots)


“In Marshall’s virtuoso hands, this movie version of the 1975 Bob Fosse Broadway musical based on the 1942 Ginger Rogers movie Roxie Hart based on the 1926 play Chicago, the rhinestones shimmer like diamonds and brass glows like solid gold.” — Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer

7. Gangs of New York (108 lists; 13 top spots)


“It vividly and energetically evokes a fascinating time and place that has never before been the subject of film, and presents a powerful if imperfectly coherent vision of urban politics at their most primal.” — Jonathan Foreman, New York Post

6. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (111 lists; 15 top spots)


“Not since Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s Ran have the savagery of combat and the specter of death been visualized with such operatic grandeur.” — Phillip Wuntch, Dallas Morning News

5. Talk to Her (112 lists; 13 top spots)


“The Spanish master redefines love in all its weird and surprising permutations with this characteristically eccentric tale involving a lady bullfighter, a male nurse, a ballet dancer and a journalist with hyperactive tear ducts.” — Jan Stuart; Newsweek

4. About Schmidt (123 lists; 12 top spots)


“There is a casual courage and dignity, and no small amount of obliviousness, in Nicholson’s Schmidt that will remind many younger people of their parents, and many older people of their brothers and friends — and themselves.” — Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press

3. Adaptation (154 lists; 16 top spots)


“Demonstrates that Kaufman, the real Charlie Kaufman, has a rare and really weird talent not only for finding portals into other people’s psyches but also for Silly Puttying his own into the stories he tells.” — Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

2. Y Tu Mama Tambien (166 lists; 21 top spots)


“Director Alfonso Cuaron gets vivid, convincing performances from a fine cast, and generally keeps things going at a rapid pace, occasionally using an omniscient voice-over narrator in the manner of French New Wave films.” — Jonathan Foreman, New York Post

1. Far From Heaven (216 lists; 35 top spots)


“This film is a triumph of art direction and acting, with Moore, Quaid and Haysbert giving performances that feel authentic to the time even as they explore subjects and feelings that were at best implied in movies of that period.” — Richard Roeper, Ebert & Roeper

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