Best Movies of All Time + top 10

Top 10 Films of 2004

The year is 2004, and a lot has happened in the movie world. To help take you back in time, here's a look back at some of the film-related events that took place:

Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ opens to huge box office numbers and becomes one of the most talked about films of the year.

Shrek 2 becomes the year's highest-grossing film, earning over $919 million at the worldwide box office.
Million Dollar Baby wins four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Clint Eastwood) and Best Actress (Hilary Swank).

The world loses the likes of Peter Ustinov, Ronald Reagan, Marlon Brando, Jerry Goldsmith, Fay Wray, Elmer Bernstein, Janet Leigh, Rodney Dangerfield and Christopher Reeve.

I've been able to see 71 films released in 2004, and from those, I've compiled my own top ten list. As one can imagine, some great films had to be left off the final list. Here's a look at some of the movies (listed alphabetically) that just missed the cut:

Open Water
The Passion of the Christ
Riding Giants
Secret Window
Shrek 2
But enough about the runners-up; here's the list you've been waiting to see! Counting down from number ten to number one, I've listed each film and have given the principal cast list as well as if and how fared at the Academy Awards. Also, I've listed the film's rank on my "Best Films of All-Time" list, if applicable. So without any further delay, here's my top ten movies of 2004!

10. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Rated: PG
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Gary Oldman, David Thewlis, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Tom Felton, Timothy Spall
Academy Awards: 2 nominations
Although I have never read the source novels, I've managed to enjoy the Harry Potter film franchise quite easily, and this third installment proves to be the best, in my opinion. This is where the storyline starts to turn a little bit darker for our wizarding trio of heroes, and Alfonso Cuarón was the perfect choice to take the franchise in that direction. This one's at least a head above the next closest Potter film, in my opinion.

9. The Incredibles

Rated: PG
Directed by: Brad Bird
Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee, Spencer Fox, Sarah Vowell
Academy Awards: 4 nominations, 2 wins
It's going to be tough to leave any Pixar films off these top ten lists, and The Incredibles did enough to warrant at least a number nine spot. Combining their fantastic visuals with an action-oriented storyline, Pixar managed to make a pitch-perfect popcorn-muncher that delivers the excitement of an action/adventure flick with the laughter and sentimentality that has become a Pixar trademark. Cemented by great vocal performances from the likes of Nelson, Hunter and Lee, this one's not one to miss.

8. Friday Night Lights

Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Peter Berg
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Lucas Black, Garrett Hedlund, Derek Luke, Jay Hernandez, Tim McGraw
You know that feeling you get when you're completely surprised by how good a movie turns out to be? That's how I felt after watching Friday Night Lights. What seems like your standard high school football movie about a team destined for greatness takes a different turn and proves to be one of the most powerful sports films I've ever seen. Aided by strong performances from Thornton, Luke and a spectacular Tim McGraw, this is a football movie that every sports fan should be sure to watch.

7. Ray

Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Taylor Hackford
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Regina King, Clifton Powell, Terrence Howard
Academy Awards: 6 nominations, 2 wins
It's been a while since I've had the opportunity to see Ray, but I can remember that this one was all about Jamie Foxx and his brilliant performance of the late musician Ray Charles. Otherwise your standard biopic, Foxx found a way to encapsulate everything that was Ray Charles and bring forth the very character of the man whose music so many people had grown to know and love over the years. The tale has its ups and downs, but at the end of the day, this film is truly inspiring.

6. Garden State

Rated: R
Directed by: Zach Braff
Starring: Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Ian Holm
I've only seen Garden State once, but it brought together a lot of my favorite plot and character devices and consolidated them all into one film. We have an easily relatable character in the leading role, and the quirky, offbeat style of drama and comedy works well and blends together. Throw in the charm of the cast as well as the successful romantic arc, and you're going to have me hooked. I'd have to say we should applaud Braff for his directorial effort here.

5. The Aviator

Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda, Ian Holm, Danny Huston, Gwen Stefani, Jude Law
Academy Awards: 11 nominations, 5 wins
All-Time Ranking: 124
The Aviator tied together one of Scorsese's strongest career efforts with DiCaprio's best career performance (in my opinion), and yet I feel as though it hasn't received the recognition it deserves. Upset at the Academy Awards by Million Dollar Baby, the film still took home five awards at the end of the night, but it deserved so much more. This film should rank as one of the better films of the 2000s, and as you can see, I've ranked it as one of the best I've ever seen.

4. Collateral

Rated: R
Directed by: Michael Mann
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Tom Cruise, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo
Academy Awards: 2 nominations
All-Time Ranking: 92
For those of you who aren't sold on Tom Cruise's ability to act, I'd wave you towards this little gem of a film. Despite receiving two Academy Award nominations, Collateral managed to slip under the radar for most people, and that's quite a shame considering we're getting top-notch performances from a great cast as well as a stellar screenplay to boot. And seeing Cruise in the antagonist role is quite a refreshing change, to say the least. He definitely knocks this one outta the park.

3. Shaun of the Dead

Rated: R
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Penelope Wilton, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Bill Nighy
All-Time Ranking: 75
Shaun of the Dead was my first introduction to the comedic genius that is Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and I'll never forget the first time I saw it. I was sixteen years old, and my mother decided we should make it a family outing see as the titular character spelled his name the way I spell mine. And so, with my mother and younger sister in tow, we went into this gory, raunchy romp of brilliance. They didn't much care for it, but I fell in love with Shaun of the Dead from the opening credits. This is horror-comedy at its finest, folks.

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Rated: R
Directed by: Michel Gondry
Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Wilkinson
Academy Awards: 2 nominations, 1 win
All-Time Ranking: 64
I first saw this film about a year after it was initially released, but it wasn't until I re-watched it recently that I truly saw how brilliant it is. With a Charlie Kaufman-written screenplay, it only makes sense to throw Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet into the offbeat mix. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more original romantic dramatic comedy out there, and this one's so well-done that it's going to keep even the most skeptical viewer engaged throughout its entirety.

1. Finding Neverland

Rated: PG
Directed by: Marc Forster
Starring: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Freddie Highmore, Julie Christie, Dustin Hoffman, Radha Mitchell
Academy Awards: 7 nominations, 1 win
All-Time Ranking: 59
Call me a sap and call me biased towards films relating to the "Peter Pan" story, but there's something incredibly magical about this journey into the creative process behind J.M. Barrie's writing of the original "Pan" play. Mixing in a story of romance only adds to the emotional tale, and a powerhouse supporting performance from a young Freddie Highmore puts the final seal of approval on this one. It's a fun film good for the whole family, and at the end of the day, that's part of its overall appeal.

2004, Aviator, best, Collateral, Eternal Sunshine, Finding Neverland, Friday Night Lights, Garden State, harry potter, Incredibles, Ray, Shaun of the Dead, and more:

Relevant to: Top 10 Films of 2004 + top 10