Million Dollar BabyClint Eastwood, Hilary Swank
As both a director and actor, 74-year-old Eastwood is operating at the top of his game. This heartbreaking film, a seemingly simple story about a veteran boxing coach and the female pugilist he trains, becomes ever more complex as it goes along, just like life.
Spider-Man 2Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst
This perfect popcorn movie proves Spider-Man is still the swingingest superhero in screenland. Our favorite scene: Peter Parker washing his Spidey costume at a Laundromat (and the apparently non-colorfast outfit turns his underwear pink).
The IncrediblesVoices by Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson
Let’s hear it for the recent crop of entertaining animated films that appeal as much, if not more, to adults than to kids. Incredibles, a smart, laugh-filled look at middle-aged angst as seen through the eyes of superheroes, earns a place at the tippy-top of that list.
RayJamie Foxx, Regina King
The late singer-songwriter Ray Charles gets his due in a splendid biopic that glories in his talent and music while acknowledging his failings. Foxx is masterful as Charles, interpreting rather than simply imitating him.
SidewaysPaul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church
Raise a glass high to salute this wonderful, bittersweet comedy about two guys whose wine-tasting vacation teaches both valuable lessons about who they really are.
The Motorcycle DiariesGael García Bernal, Rodrigo de la Serna
In a captivating film about being young and discovering the world beyond one’s self, future revolutionary Ché Guevara takes a scenic trip through Latin America in the early ’50s that awakens his political consciousness.
KinseyLiam Neeson, Laura Linney
It’s not polite to ask people about their sex lives, but that’s exactly what pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey did back in the ’40s and ’50s. A savvy biopic reveals, with wit and warmth, the man behind the questions.
HeroJet Li, Maggie Cheung, Ziyi Zhang
Scene after sumptuous scene is more “wow!”-provoking than the last in this mini-epic set in ancient China. A complicated tale of love, betrayal and political intrigue among political assassins (of both sexes), the film also boasts sword fights to rival those in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). It all adds up to pure movie magic.
Hotel RwandaDon Cheadle, Nick Nolte
Recent history comes to terrifying life in a harrowing movie, based on a true story, about how the Rwandan manager of a four-star hotel in Kigali managed to shelter and save hundreds of his fellow citizens during the 1994 genocide in that African country. Don Cheadle gives the performance of his life as Paul Rusesabagina, a man who does what’s right despite enormous personal risk.
Vera DrakeImelda Staunton, Phil Davis
A kindhearted English housewife keeps her sideline, performing illegal abortions, a secret from her loving family in a delicate drama set in 1950. Staunton’s accomplished, sympathetic performance in the title role is as good as acting gets.