20. 'Bowling for Columbine' (2002)
Activist filmmaker Michael Moore trains his biased (and persuasive) camera lens on America's love affair with firearms in this incendiary feature that won the Oscar for Best Documentary. Using the tragedy of the Columbine High School shootings as a crux, Moore (always a lightning rod for controversy) compares why guns and assault weapons are so easily available in the U.S. vis-à-vis other countries and why those nations have drastically lower murder rates. Moore posits that a culture of fear, bigotry, violence and corporate greed in the U.S. -- together with easy accessibility to firearms -- is the match to the kerosene that sets off tragedies like what happened at Columbine.


19. 'Casino Royale' (2006)
Finally, the longest-running action movie franchise in filmdom found a successor worthy of filling Sean Connery's formal wear as James Bond. Daniel Craig's 007 -- while still a smoldering he-man -- is a tad less self-assured but, in the process, infinitely more human. Gone are the cardboard cutouts of Bond as invincible superhero. Craig's "shower" scene where he comforts the luscious Eva Green after she witnessed him killing the usual gaggle of hired assassins achieves a level pathos unheard of in a Bond film. It all makes for a viewing experience where you'll be shaken and stirred.


18. 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' (2000)
Ang Lee directs this lyrically beautiful movie (which was a surprise international hit) starring Chow-Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang about the quest for a magical jade sword. Based on the fourth novel in five-book series, known in China as the 'Crane-Iron Pentalogy,' the movie is fairly saturated with color and features some of the dreamiest martial arts wire-fu you'll find this side of the Yangtze River. Four Oscars include Best Foreign Film and a richly deserved statuette to Timmy Yip for Art Direction.


17. 'Finding Nemo' (2003)
A widowed, overprotective clownfish (voiced by Albert Brooks) living on the Great Barrier Reef loses his son, Nemo, to a fishing boat and so begins an epic journey toward reunification in this hit written and directed by Disney animation grandee Andrew Stanton. (The film won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.) The deft ballet between laughter and tears -- a Disney/Pixar specialty -- propels the story forward like driftwood caught in the Gulf Stream. Catch of the Day: Ellen DeGeneres' hysterical turn as Dory, a regal tan with short-term memory loss and the attention span of a modern-day teen.


16. 'Slumdog Millionaire' (2008)
Last year's biggest feel-good hit about an underdog everyone could root for was more Bollywood than Hollywood. A slum-dwelling Mumbai teenager (Dev Patel) makes it on India's most popular game show ('Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?'), and through judicious flashbacks we learn how he came upon all the hard-won knowledge that propels him forward to the final question. Starring a talented cast of Indian actors, including Freida Pinto and Anil Kapoor, the English-Hindi co-production won eight Oscars including Best Picture, Director (Danny Boyle) and Adapted Screenplay.


15. 'Shaun of the Dead' (2004)
British slacker/appliance salesman Shaun (Simon Pegg) has hit bottom. His girlfriend dumped him, he gets no respect from co-workers and his job is a dead end. But just when he resolves to turn that frown upside down, zombies arise and begin feasting on the flesh of the living. An unlikely hit on both sides of the pond, this wry pastiche of romantic comedies and zombie-themed flicks (a self-styled "RomZomCom") hilariously sends up the conventions of both genres at the same time managing to pay tribute to the legacy of horror paved by George Romero et al.


14. 'Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers' (2002)
In the second installment of filmdom's greatest "road movie," Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) continue their heroic plod toward the fires of Mordor and their self-appointed task of destroying the One Ring. Meanwhile, the other fellowship members and their foes and friends battle and declaim and, in the process, raise the stakes for the final confrontation to come. A special shout-out (or gurgle/gawp) to Andy Serkis as the reviled Gollum for a performance throughout the three movies that indelibly combines Machiavellian cunning with reptilian sliminess.


13. 'Memento' (2000)
Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) is on the hunt for the man he thinks raped and killed his wife in this intricate jigsaw of a psychological thriller. Trouble is, Leonard has anterograde amnesia and can't retain short-term memories, so, as a coping mechanism, he's developed a system of notes, Polaroids and tattoos. The real artistry is how the narrative (two of them, actually) unfolds: One is in color and reverse chronological order; the other is in black and white and chronological. As each sequence begins, viewers are unaware of the preceding events, giving audiences a sense of Leonard's bewilderment. Christopher Nolan directs and co-wrote the screenplay (nominated for an Oscar) with his brother Jonathan from one of Jonathan's short stories.


12. 'The Bourne Ultimatum' (2007)
The action genre's favorite amnesiac is back in the best of the Jason Bourne trilogy of movies. Bourne (Matt Damon) is lured out of hiding by a rogue CIA operation and must dodge a new band of assassins intent on punching his clock -- permanently. Think a harder hitting James Bond for a new millennium; less winky-winky and with a higher quotient of bludgeoning body blows. What really makes this entry hum is the fantastic (and Oscar-winning) editing, which packs its own visceral punch.


11. 'No Country for Old Men' (2007)
This Best Picture Oscar winner continues Joel and Ethan Coen's (Best Director winners) predilection for stories weighted in fate and chance circumstance. As stark and arid as the West Texas landscape in which it's set, 'Men' tells the story of a "local" (Josh Brolin) who runs across $2 million from a drug deal gone awry. Soon a contract killer (Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Javier Bardem) is on his trail in a lethal game of cat and mouse. Adapted from Cormac McCarthy's novel, the movie also won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, but it's Bardem's portrayal of an unpredictable psychopath (with a page-boy haircut, no less) that truly vexes.


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