A politically conscious monster movie with bite, humor, quietly intense performances, and a lot of tentacles.
(3) The Descent (Neil Marshall, UK). A major leap forward for a young horror director who's also a huge horror movie fan, this cave-set chiller with an outstanding (nearly all-female) cast melds Alien, The Shining, The Thing, Apocalypse Now, and Carrie.
(4) Half Nelson (Ryan Fleck, US). Proof that the American indie is still able to flourish without stooping to any clichés. Ryan Gosling's heartbreaking lead performance is among the year's standouts.
(5) Brick (Rian Johnson, US). High school hasn't been this dark or exquisitely vernaculared since Heathers.
(6) Exiled (Johnny To, Hong Kong). Johnny To's Sergio Leonebywayofthetriads spectacular wields gun fu, spaghetti western 'tude, and a never-better Anthony Wong.
(7) Red Road (Andrea Arnold, UK/Denmark). If you caught Andrea Arnold's Oscar-winning short, Wasp, you knew she was headed for greatness; the stark, stunning Red Road bears this out.
(8) Lady Vengeance (Park Chan-wook, South Korea). Yeah, I had this on my list last year. But since it finally emerged in San Francisco in 2006, it's back and well worth a second mention.
(9) The Departed (Martin Scorsese, US). Sure, it's got stars Leo's great, Matt's good, Jack's a wee bit self-indulgent but the supporting players (Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, Vera Farmiga, and especially Mark Wahlberg) are what really buoy Scorsese's stylish triumph.
(10) Naisu no Mori: The First Contact (Katsuhito Ishii, Hajime Ishimine, and Shunichiro Miki, Japan). I quote an imdb.com user: "This movie melted my mind!" Show me your dancing!