20. "Volver" (2007)

More than just femme-centric, Pedro Almodovar's tale of family secrets takes its life force from the warmth and richness of its female characters, led by a radiant Penelope Cruz.

19. "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" (2006)

In an all-too common story of health care inadequacies and petty bureaucracies, Romanian Cristi Puiu finds an extraordinary drama that haunts on a primal level as surely as any horror film.

18. "No Country for Old Men" (2007)

Nothing too fancy from the Coen brothers just a simple Western story from Cormac McCarthy, some fine performances from an all-star cast, and in Javier Bardem's killer, one of cinema's most frightening depictions of pure, random evil.

17. "In the Mood for Love" (2001)

I wish I could hang this star-crossed romance from Wong Kar-Wai on my wall. It's got mood to spare for sure, and as a visual experience, it's utterly breathtaking.

16. "Kings and Queen" (2005)

Emmanuelle Devos gives one of the best female performances of the decade, acting as a skilled accomplice for director Arnaud Desplechin's mind-blowing exercise in distract-and-subvert.

15. "Up" (2009)

The latest Pixar film had me in the first 10 minutes, a self-contained marvel of visual storytelling that should become part of every film school syllabus.

14. "Synecdoche, New York" (2008)

Philip Seymour Hoffman leads an amazing cast, and all us viewers out there, through Charlie Kaufman's wildly ambitious consideration of life, creativity and all that they entail.

13. "Punch-Drunk Love" (2002)

Paul Thomas Anderson's Technicolor Adam Sandler vehicle accomplished the unthinkable: it made a deeply moving romance out of the career mash-up between one of America's most promising filmmakers and the man-child responsible for "The Waterboy."

12. "Adaptation" (2003)

It's a wonderful showcase for Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper and leading man Nicolas Cage. Also, there's something indescribably fun about watching Spike Jonze's movie become everything that Charlie Kaufman - its writer and its fictionalized main character - claims to hate.

11. "Amelie" (2001)

Jean-Pierre Jeunet's magically realist love story includes moments of such unadulterated joy, it can work almost like therapy. Go ahead and try to feel bad after watching Audrey Tautou's street encounter with a blind man who could use some direction.