2. The Matrix (Andy and Larry Wachowski) Philip K. Dick meets Hong Kong action cinema: What more could one possibly ask for? The special effects are not only dazzling, but also never gratuitous; the script is not merely clever but downright smart. The whole thing shows that loud action movies are not a played-out genre, if you're willing to take a few risks . . . like trusting the audience's intelligence.
3. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (Trey Parker) Okay, so the animation's crappy, but, you know, it's supposed to be. This is still the best musical comedy written directly for film in years and manages to stay true to the TV show while adding a little more thematic heft. It's also very, very funny.
4. The Straight Story (David Lynch) Lynch's much touted change of pace is merely the other side of the coin from his usual weirdness -- a paean to basic human decency and the strangeness of life.
5. The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan) The perfect example of a big studio production that is enriched by the indie sensibilities of its young writer-director. Not only amazingly clever, but also more complex each time you watch it, and with genuine emotional content.
6. Lovers of the Arctic Circle (Julio Medem, Spain) This lovely and intriguing Spanish film flickered through theaters quickly. For those who like an intricately constructed, nonlinear story -- like Toto the Hero -- it was a treat.
7. Toy Story 2 (John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich, and Ash Brannon) Pixar keeps up their unbroken chain of completely entertaining computer-generated features.
8. Cookie's Fortune (Robert Altman) You can never quite count Altman out. After a string of less satisfying films, he came back this year with a sweet, low-key look at a small Southern town. Every performance was spot-on.
9. Run Lola Run (Tom Tykwer, Germany) It may not be profound, but it's a great reminder of the sheer kineticism that no narrative medium besides cinema can reproduce.
10. The Limey (Steven Soderbergh) Soderbergh follows up Out of Sight with a very different kind of crime film -- crisp, no-nonsense action that never stops being driven by character.
Bubbling right beneath these selections were the American productions Three Kings (David O. Russell), Boys Don't Cry (Kimberly Pierce), The Talented Mr. Ripley (Anthony Minghella), The Iron Giant (Brad Bird), The Insider (Michael Mann), Office Space (Mike Judge), Where's Marlowe? (Daniel Pyne), and Titus (Julie Taymor), along with All About My Mother (Pedro Almodovar, Spain), Leila (Dariush Mehrjui, Iran), and Bandits (Katja von Garnier, France). Best documentaries were Rabbit in the Moon (Emiko Omori, USA), The Brandon Teena Story (Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir, USA), Genghis Blues (Roko Belic, USA), and 42 Up (Michael Apted, UK).
Ask me about Eyes Wide Shut in about 10 years.