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After the weak tea years of the early Aughts, cinema started to kick back up in 2005, with 2006 revving up the engines once again. So when 2007 came along, the stakes were higher, and so were the rewards. 10 years on, and out of all of the year's best, there are just as many clearly defined winners that we not only still talk about, but have also left a clear mark on the movies that have come after it. With apologies to the multitudes of similarly excellent films we didn't have the room to include, it's time to look at the class of 2007's best and brightest.
Accept no substitutions on this one, and trust us, there were plenty. Superbad was not only the apex of the "teen party" genre, it's also a sweet love letter to writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's actual childhoods. Also, if it wasn't for this flick, the careers of Jonah Hill, Emma Stone, Michael Cera, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse wouldn't have shot to the heights they're at today. Especially in the cases of Hill and Stone, that's a pretty big deal.
9. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
A film as gorgeous as it's title is long, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is an understated Western in an era that has almost completely forgotten the genre. In one of two absolutely tremendous turns in 2007 film, Casey Affleck's titular coward is the ultimate cypher of hero worship, as well as close and personal betrayal. Commercially, the film fell flat, but artistically, it's a film that provides more than its fair share of proof that it deserves a wider audience.
8. There Will Be Blood
Some say that There Will Be Blood is Paul Thomas Anderson's magnum opus. While we're not here to debate that point's validity, it's hard to deny that Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano's central struggle throughout the film is the stuff that Anderson truly excels at. Both leads play a dangerous game of one-upmanship, all focused around drilling rights on a particular plot of land. And yet, for a film that's technically classified as a drama, there's a fair amount of horror to There Will Be Blood, both in the tense atmosphere the film trades in, as well as the deliverance of said titular promise.
Ratatouille is quite possibly one of the most criminally underrated entries in the Disney/Pixar canon. Before sequels ruled the studio's slate, the era of almost exclusively original IP brought some of Pixar's best films, and Brad Bird's paean to food undoubtedly qualifies. With sparkling dialogue, some choice action set-pieces, and Patton Oswalt's mix of warmth and snark as protagonist Remy, Ratatouille follows the dreams its plot lays down to its obvious, logical conclusion. And we, the audience, are all the better for it.
Joe Wright can be a hit or miss prospect as a director, but he's almost always a hit when he adapts romantic English literature. Atonement is quite possibly his biggest hit, as Keira Knightly and James McAvoy's tragically aligned couple anchor a story of false witness, fiction, and trying to make things right. Though it would be criminal not to mention Saoirse Ronan's tremendous breakout role as young Briony, our protagonist through whom we move through time to learn both the romantic and realistic version of the events she'd witnessed throughout her life. Even in such an early role, you could tell she was in it for the long haul.
5. Michael Clayton
It's no secret that George Clooney loves to make muckraking films. While they don't always hit, Michael Clayton certainly did, as its 1970s suspense vibe gelled well with the more modern politics of big corporations and legal malfeasance that the film deals in. Not to mention, both Clooney and co-star Tilda Swinton share one powerhouse final moment in this film that still, to this day, stands as one of the most satisfying resolutions to a filmed conflict. This film is all about actors at their prime, and story at its peak.
4. Gone Baby Gone
Back in 2007, hearing Ben Affleck was going to direct his first film was something that sounded extremely familiar to us. Another actor who thinks they can direct, big whoop. But by the time Gone Baby Gone had woven its magic in front of our very eyes, Affleck wasn't merely thinking he could direct: he actually went and damn well did it. With brother Casey at the lead of an all-star cast that included Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, and Amy Ryan, the cast is up to the challenges the film throws at them. And if that finale isn't a challenge, then you're probably not watching the film hard enough.
How do you make a movie about one of the most intriguing mysteries of modern crime? Well, if you're David Fincher, you hire top flight actors, embrace the ambiguity of the mystery's solution, and make your characters effectively wallow in their inability to solve said mystery. Zodiac does just that, as the film moves through almost three decades of the case's life-span, with a slick presentation of an investigation that ultimately lead nowhere. Don't get too frustrated with the ending, as the unavoidable open-ended nature is the point of the whole exercise.
2. Hot Fuzz
Edgar Wright made a name for himself when Shaun of the Dead landed in theaters in 2004. His keen eye for simultaneous satire and homage proved that he not only could craft a film that served as a legitimate entry in the genre it spoofed, but he could also take the genre to task with his examination. In the case of Hot Fuzz, cop films of all stripes, but mostly Point Break and Bad Boys, are sent up with gleeful British charm. Violence, comedy, and ice cream never had it this good before this film existed, and rarely has it ever since.
1. No Country For Old Men
The Coen Brothers operate on two speeds: satirical comedy and pitch black drama. Somehow, No Country For Old Men transcended the boundary between both films, thus creating a perfect storm of all talents at their disposal. Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin engage in a cat-and-mouse chase that, under normal Coens circumstances, would show a trail of idiots trying to get their own piece of the action. However, through Cormac McCarthy's high tension source material, those tendencies become much deadlier and even higher strung than usual. Still, there's some dark humor that slips through, and there's a reason why it not only won Best Picture of the '07 crop, but just might be the best Coen Brothers film period.