You could make the case that a year ending in “5” represents the decade it belongs to better than a year beginning with “0” or “9.” 2005 is more or less at the center of the 2000s, for example, and while the earlier and later years from that decade can feel a little reminiscent of the late 1990s and early 2010s respectively, 2005 was a year that stood in a firmly independent manner from any other decade. The 2000s were in full swing, and weren’t winding down anytime soon, for better or worse.
This applies to the world in general circa 2005, but also more specifically to the films that saw their release that year. It was a truly diverse and consistently interesting year for cinema, and it’s sufficiently far enough back in the past to objectively assess the quality of the movies released that year, and come to some conclusion about what represented the year at its best. The following aims to do just that, ranking a selection of great – and varied – 2005 releases below from great to greatest.
10 ‘The Proposition’
An essential modern Western with a unique setting, The Proposition is a grim and very memorable story that explores justice and revenge in the 1880s Australian Outback. It’s about one man being sent on a difficult mission: he’s asked to kill his older brother – who’s committed a terrible crime – with the threat that his younger brother will be executed if he fails to do so.
It doesn’t shy away when it comes to violence, and has a premise that challenges both the main character and any viewers who are brave enough to watch such a gritty and bloody film. The Proposition may therefore an acquired taste, but those who like their Westerns raw and intense will be enamored by it.
9 ‘Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’
It would be remarkably challenging to find someone who’s familiar with Wallace & Gromit and isn’t at least a little bit of a fan. The duo’s one of the most iconic of the last several decades, when it comes to animation, and after being featured in a trio of excellent animated shorts released between 1989 and 1995, 2005’s The Curse of the Were-Rabbit marked their feature film debut.
The plot follows the two running a pest control service, and eventually stumbling upon a mystery involving an apparently giant rabbit that poses a threat to an upcoming vegetable-growing contest. The stop-motion animation is as dazzling as ever, with good-natured humor and endearing characters also ensuring this movie’s up there with the best animated features of its decade.
8 ‘The Descent’
Anyone afraid of the dark and/or enclosed spaces should steer well clear of The Descent, which is among the best horror movies of the 2000s. It follows a group of young women who go on a caving expedition following one suffering a devastating tragedy, only for the intended trip/escape from reality to turn into a nightmare they struggle to escape from.
It utilizes its setting almost too effectively, because once disaster strikes the party deep in an underground cave, what might be slightly nerve-wracking turns into something downright terrifying and almost hellish. Few horror movies sustain a level of terror for such a long time, making The Descent a classic horror/thriller movie that still horrifies to this day.
7 ‘Kingdom of Heaven’
The director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven ranks among the best movies of 2005, even though the inferior theatrical cut was the one that likely got more exposure during the year in question. It’s an epic action/war/historical drama film directed by Ridley Scott, centering on a blacksmith getting involved in the holy wars that were fought as part of the Crusades, way back in the 12th century.
The fact it wasn’t properly appreciated at first – and released in a way that didn’t do the film favors – ultimately makes it one of Scott’s most underrated movies, though thankfully, it’s now easy enough to access the superior version. It tells a compelling story and features stunning, large-scale battle sequences, making it a must-watch for fans of epic movies.
6 ‘A History of Violence’
Even though David Cronenberg will likely remain best-known for his various horror movies (of the body variety or otherwise), movies like 2005’s A History of Violence – and 2007’s comparable Eastern Promises – show he’s capable of so much more. A History of Violence can be expectedly violent and difficult to watch in parts, but does so while functioning as a crime/drama, rather than a work of horror.
It’s one of those movies that starts simple and has things gradually spiral out of control for its characters, centering on the consequences that impact a man and his family after he kills another person in self-defense. It’s well-paced, brutal, and consistently compelling, also featuring great performances from a talented cast that includes Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, and Ed Harris.
5 ‘Mysterious Skin’
One of 2005’s best – and most challenging – films, Mysterious Skin (first screened in 2004 before getting a wider release in 2005) is centered by a remarkable performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and tells a story that’s difficult yet important. It centers on child abuse and the way it can shape a person’s life going forward, following two young men whose pasts are linked by one particularly harrowing event from their childhoods.
It gradually brings the two together as the film goes on, with the story taking its time while gradually building to a devastating final 10 minutes. Mysterious Skin is undeniably challenging and not fun to watch, but remains an essential film, owing to its exploration of difficult subject matter through remarkable filmmaking and impressive performances.
Caché is another challenging film from 2005, with its disturbing elements and slow, uneasy pacing feeling instantly distinct and familiar for anyone who’s a fan of its director, Michael Haneke. Still, this stands as one of his most tightly-paced films, making it a little more accessible than most of his work, even though it does still intend to challenge and maybe even provoke, to some extent.
It centers on a married couple who are harassed and eventually terrorized by a mysterious person who continually leaves mysterious videotapes on their front porch. It’s a mystery film without easy answers, becoming more and more troubling as it builds and goes on. Besides (forgivably) featuring dated technology as part of its premise, Caché has essentially aged flawlessly since 2005.
3 ‘Sin City’
An iconic neo-noir movie that takes film noir tropes and pushes them to ridiculously heightened levels, Sin City is a fantastic and stylish movie with a look like no other film out there (besides its inferior 2014 sequel, perhaps). It tells three different stories set in the titular city, all revolving around crime, corruption, anti-heroes, and femme fatale figures to some extent.
Having multiple stories ensures nothing ever feels dull or slow-moving, giving this the feel of an anthology film that’s far more consistent than most other anthology films. The use of black-and-white visuals with splashes of color still dazzles to this day, and the cast – which includes Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Benicio del Toro, and Mickey Rourke, among others – is seriously impressive.
2 ‘Grizzly Man’
Werner Herzog has made plenty of incredible documentary movies throughout his long career, but none are quite as great as Grizzly Man. It centers on a man named Timothy Treadwell, a divisive figure who spent more than a decade living among grizzly bears in Alaska every summer, only to one day be killed – alongside his partner – in a bear attack.
Herzog uses the film as a way to explore Treadwell’s mind, and he has plenty of material to work with. Beyond plentiful interviews, the film also features excerpts of the vast quantity of footage Treadwell himself shot during his expeditions. It all adds up to being a psychologically fascinating, emotional, tense, and perplexing viewing experience, in turn becoming one of the greatest documentaries of all time.
1 ‘Brokeback Mountain’
Though it didn’t win Best Picture, it’s more or less a universally acknowledged truth that Brokeback Mountain should’ve. As such, it deserves to be crowned 2005’s greatest movie, telling an emotional story about two cowboys falling for each other in a place – and at a time – when such a relationship was generally frowned upon.
Considering its competition, it’s truly saying something to declare Brokeback Mountain one of Ang Lee’s best films, because he’s made numerous great ones. It’s also a perfect showcase for the talents of Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, with the two actors giving career-best performances while helping to make Brokeback Mountain one of the most emotionally affecting films of the 21st century so far.
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