6. The Departed - Sure, the action isn't in the mean streets of New York City, but Martin Scorsese still brilliantly uses crime, corruption and social decay as a torchway to the soul. His viceral tale of crime and conseuences is a remake from the Hong Kong masterpiece Infernal Affairs, this time set in Boston. Collin Sullivan is a rat implanted in the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) unit to keep Irish mob boss, Frank Costello (a wicked and electifying Jack Nickelson) from being turned in to Capt. Queenan (the always reliable Martin Sheen) and Staff Sgt. Dignam (an excellent Mark Walberg). Meanwhile, rookie cop Billy Costigan (the ever-brilliant Leonardo DiCaprio) is picked by Queenan and Dignam to act as a mole in order to gain Costello's trust and take him down. How the rest of this thrilling crime drama shakes down, I won't reveal. But it's what Scorsese brings out in DiCaprio and Damon's characters - two men struggling to out the other without compromising their identities, and wrestle with their own dilemas; Sullivan wants to break free from Frank and start a new life with Madoyln (Vera Farminga); Billy wants out of his mission of trying to nail Costello after a year of doing his dirty work - that makes The Departed unforgettable and unmissable.
7. The Incredibles - Pixar is to animation, as Radiohead is to rock music - neither group can do wrong. For me, Brad Bird's take on a family of supers forced into seclusion because the U.S. Government couldn't keep paying for the damages they've created as a result of their heroics is my favorite of the decade from this extrodinary company. It's a mix of James Bond, X-Men and Indiana Jones all rolled into one, but it's Bird's first-half, his satire on surburbia and the stuggles of marriage after 15 years, that really resonates.
8. Mystic River - Clint Eastwood's haunting and hypnotic murder mystery is as powerful and as compelling as any other work he's done this decade. Sean Penn breathes fire and menace as Jimmy, the father who's daughter was murdered and now turns on his childhood friend Dave (a wonderful and tragic Tim Robbins), the prime suspect in the case, as Sean (Kevin Bacon) tries to search for the truth before Jimmy takes matters into his own hands.
9. Almost Famous - I've seen many coming-of-age comedies that have made me laugh and sympathize with the gangly, awkward protagonists, but writer-director Cameron Crowe's story of William Miller, a 15 year-old getting the chance of a lifetime as he travels with his idol rock group across America and writng for Rolling Stone magazine about Stillwater, stole my heart, and then broke it so the audience can feel as if we are William himself. Billy Crudup as the asshole lead guitarist for Stillwater, Kate Hudson as the legendary Band-Aid Penny Lane, and Frances McDormand as young William's overprotective mother all give fine performances, but it's Patric Fugit as William that shines in this love letter to rock 'n' roll of the 60s and 70s.
10 (tie). Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and The Dark Knight - Simply put, both Christopher Nolan's and Alfonso Cuaron's works have pulled off an amazing feat: they both combine spectacular entertainment without compromising their visions of our favorite worlds, and both directors have made their sequels complete standouts from thier original predecessors.