1. The Dark Knight: Sometimes you just have give it up for the leader. And this one dominated the box office for the best of reasons: outstanding technical elements, a story that thrills and provokes and a crackerjack cast led by the cackling Joker of the late, great Heath Ledger. If only every blockbuster were this good.
2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: The special effects alone make you stare in wonder, as Brad Pitt seamlessly transforms from senior to newborn. But there's also grand fable and epic inspiration in this life lived backwards, with David Fincher's skilful direction pulling it all together.
3. My Winnipeg: Guy Maddin's lyrical ode to his prairie hometown finds sleepwalkers sharing the frigid streets with nagging moms, threatening urinators, scorched squirrels, hysterical parakeets and a golden pagan symbol hidden in plain view by canny Masons. Pure delirious joy.
4. Man on Wire: James Marsh's documentary account of French daredevil Philippe Petit's 1974 tightrope walk between the Twin Towers is a celebration of human achievement, making us forget for a moment the 9/11 terror that followed. It soars with the promise that we are tethered to the ground only by lack of imagination.
5. Wall-E: R2-D2 and E.T. smashed into one irresistible mobile love machine. No mere environmental rant, Pixar's latest and greatest is a romance starring a goggle-eyed rust-pot with treads for feet and a big thumping mechanical heart. He's saving the world and serving Cupid, one trash heap at a time.
6. Doubt: Writer/director John Patrick Shanley retains the most unsettling questions of his stage creation: Whom can we trust? Is morality absolute? He invites us to judge in this parable of Catholic school tensions, roiled by Meryl Streep's crusading nun, but then lays out reasons why our verdict might be tragically wrong.
7. Rachel Getting Married: Jonathan Demme does Altman and Anne Hathaway courts Oscar in the year's most emotionally fraught observation of the blood sport known as weddings. There are also some very funny moments, and a few where the music is in tune, up-tempo and capable of moving hips.
8. Let The Right One In: This exceptional Swedish vampire film warms your heart as it chills your blood, and that's the most disturbing thing about it. Heinous acts are justified as necessary measures taken by lonely and desperate people. You feel for these characters, especially the empathetic child leads played with astounding grace.
9. The Wrestler: Wayward actor Mickey Rourke and indulgent director Darren Aronofsky meet on the mat in this humane, soulful portrait of an aging ring champ, finding new strengths in both men. It's so easy to hurl "has been" when the skyrocket sputters; so much harder to praise the long climb back.10. Gran Torino: Clint Eastwood transforms a stereotypical racist into a fully realized character in a thoughtful work that continues the actor/director's remarkable late-career surge. It's set in Detroit, but it's really a western like Unforgiven, with a similar theme of reconciling past deeds and paying the toll that violence exacts.