As the motion picture industry begins its second 100 years, we take stock of the good and the bad. Escapist fare like musicals ('Chicago') may be a rare occurrence these days, while weightier films ('Bowling for Columbine,' 'Children of Men,' 'City of God') reflecting these uncertain times, proliferate.

Perhaps the best example of the wondrous evolution of film is the array of excellent animated movies ('Up,' 'Shrek,' 'Finding Nemo' and 'The Incredibles') on display in this first decade of the new millennium. 'Toons have blossomed full flower and attract hordes of moviegoers into theaters.

But whatever your taste in film -- from action movies and comedies to documentaries and indies -- here's looking forward to the long march of a new century filled with glorious flicks. As the motion picture industry begins its second 100 years, we take stock of the good and the bad. Escapist fare like musicals ('Chicago') may be a rare occurrence these days, while weightier films ('Bowling for Columbine,' 'Children of Men,' 'City of God') reflecting these uncertain times, proliferate.

Perhaps the best example of the wondrous evolution of film is the array of excellent animated movies ('Up,' 'Shrek,' 'Finding Nemo' and 'The Incredibles') on display in this first decade of the new millennium. 'Toons have blossomed full flower and attract hordes of moviegoers into theaters.

But whatever your taste in film -- from action movies and comedies to documentaries and indies -- here's looking forward to the long march of a new century filled with glorious flicks.


40. 'Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl' (2003)
Who'd have thought a cheesy Disneyland ride could ever be co-opted into a mega-hit movie (with no end of sequels in sight). Johnny Depp's heavily mascaraed, mincing take as pirate blackguard Capt. Jack Sparrow is a delicious hoot as he helps young Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) track down the love of his life (Keira Knightly), who's being held for ransom by some of Sparrow's motley confederates. The first (and best) movie of the franchise strikes just the right balance between heroic swashbuckling and tongue-in-cheek slapschtick.


39. 'Shrek' (2001)
DreamWorks won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature and birthed a huge hit (and franchise) with this film -- billed as the greatest fairytale never told -- of a green ogre (voiced by Mike Myers) who sets out on a picaresque journey to save a princess (Cameron Diaz) and get his swamp back. You gotta love the sand of the creative team that came up with Lord Farquaad as the name for the loathsome conniver and Shrek's nemesis -- an inspired circumvention of the censors if ever there was one.


38. 'Children of Men' (2006)
In the not-so-distant Orwellian future, it seems that no children have been born in many years -- effectively dooming the human race to premature extinction. Director Alfonso Cuaron has invented a stark, dystopian future populated by despairing masses that are driven by warring sects and the "threat" of unbridled illegal immigration. Best Scene: The long tracking shot of Clive Owen leading the mother with "miracle" baby in tow through a building that's being torn apart during a massive firefight between revolutionaries hunkered down inside and government troops taking aim from outside. It's like something you'd see broadcast on CNN ... or Al Jazeera.

37. 'An Inconvenient Truth' (2006)
Davis Guggenheim directs this riveting documentary based on Al Gore's long-running dog-and-pony slideshow presentation about global warming that he's given -- by last count -- more than 1,000 times. The film, spearheaded by producers Laurie David and Lawrence Bender, has been credited with raising awareness around the world of climate change and, in the process, reinvigorating the entire environmental movement. Winner of the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that the notoriety of 'Truth' led directly to Gore winning the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.


36. 'Borat' (2006)
British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen built a hilarious mockumentary around the fictitious "sixth most popular journalist in Kazakhstan" (a staple character on his 'Da Ali G Show'). Borat (sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and totally clueless) records his experiences meeting (and offending) average Americans culminating in his encounter with "dream girl" Pamela Anderson. The conceit, which grounds itself in shock humor, is brilliantly simplistic but can really only work once ('Bruno,' anyone?). Regardless, attention must be paid to Cohen, who'd do anything -- and we mean anything! -- to satisfy his warped comedy muse.


35. 'The Wrestler' (2008)
Mickey Rourke portrays has-been pro wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a former big attraction who's reduced to brawling in high school gyms for crappy minimums. In the comeback performance of his career (and for which he earned an Oscar nod), Rourke piteously plumbs the soul of Randy, who can barely walk upright after a career of carnage but who wants nothing more than to entertain fans who remember him from his glory days. It's as if every career reversal and bad decision Rourke ever experienced has been transferred to the screen in a performance that's both fearless and redemptive. Directed by Darren Aronofsky and co-starring a fine Marisa Tomei.


34. 'Sideways' (2004)
There's nary a hiccup in this closely observed dramedy about two buddies, Miles and Jack (Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church), who take a northern California road trip to sample some nice wines and play some golf before Jack gets hitched. The cast is splendid, including Giamatti as a failed novelist who clings fervently to one last hope at getting published; and Virginia Madsen's never been better, shucking her usual femme fatale role to play a waitress who might just be the best thing that ever happened to Miles ... if he can just get out of his own way. Won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.


33. 'Chicago' (2002)
Bob Fosse's visionary brilliance comes to the screen largely intact thanks to devoted acolyte Rob Marshall, who directs this Oscar winner for Best Picture. Husband killers Velma Kelly (Catherina Zeta-Jones, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar) and Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) beat their respective raps and then turn their notoriety into a vaudeville act. This musical, with a first-rate score by John Kander and Fred Ebb and a central thesis of stardom at any price and any fame (even infamy) a thing to be desired, was fully 20 years ahead of its time when it debuted on Broadway in the mid-1970s.


32. 'Eastern Promises' (2007)
Stoic heartthrob Viggo Mortensen is at his immutable best as Nikolai Luzhin, the Russian-born driver to one of London's biggest organized crime families. His body covered with tats that illustrate key moments in his criminal rise, Nikolai is one dude not to be messed with. Nonetheless, at his core, the character knows enough to do the right thing when it really matters. Most Wince-Inducing Scene: the steam-room bloodbath that features more slicin' and dicin' than a Martha Stewart kitchen tutorial. Directed by David Cronenberg; the perfect man for any job requiring immoderate bloodletting.


31. 'X-Men' (2000)
Bryan Singer directed this superior adaptation from the 1960's Marvel Comics universe about a group of misunderstood mutants (each with a defining superpower) who just want to peacefully coexist with humans. Yeah, right! A stellar cast including Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Halle Barry, Anna Paquin and Rebecca Romijn breathed life into fanboy favorite characters like Wolverine, Rogue and Magneto, and in doing so jumpstarted superhero films as a viable genre and a box office moneymaker.


30-21 >>