Terry Teachout has an intriguing list, which seems to be in "article-steeping" mode. Here are his fifteen (correction: 20 runners-up - thanks, FCB):
Being John Malkovich
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind(!)
The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou(x)
Lilo & Stitch(!)
Lovely and Amazing(x)
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World(!)
Me and You and Everyone We Know(x)
The Secret Lives of Dentists(x)
The Tao of Steve
The Whole Nine Yards(x)
"x" means, "I haven't seen this." "!" means, "Amen, brother!" I'm tempted to comment on all the ones I've seen, but I don't have the time. Instead, I'll focus on two I think are particularly noteworthy, and add a third title no-one seems to have seen.
1. Lilo & Stitch. This title keeps making appearances on this blog, for a couple of reasons: 1) my girls love it, 2) I love it even more than they do. This title alone should have prompted Disney to keep investing in cel-animation - or at the very least, in compassionate story-telling that bucks against the trends.
The overarching trend in North American children's entertainment is Smart-Ass Kids With Dumb-Ass Parents. It's entirely loathsome, and suggests at least two depressing undercurrents: the adults producing this crap feel terrific guilt over the rearing of their children; these same adults are frightened of the future and are hoping desperately that their children will bail them out of the messes they've created.
The Lilo character plays off this trend with some intelligence and insight. She's got attitude and smarts to spare, but the movie makes it clear that this is a line of defence she's adopted to deal with the immeasurable grief of losing both her parents. When the movie opens, this defence is developing fissures that are certain to lead to disaster, and the rest of the movie is a race against time and against her desperate, self-defeating impulses. This is a lovely, absorbing, funny and moving film.
2. The Cooler. I loved this film, and if you can buy into the early premise that there is actually something about the William H. Macy character that brings bad luck to the casino tables, then I expect you will love it, too.
3. If you wanted to like The Cooler, but hesitated to "buy in", you should go out and rent Diamond Men. I can't think of another movie from the last seven years that steadily builds effective drama out of a man's line of work - in this case, a travelling diamond vendor. In fact, prior to Diamond Men, the most recent example to come to mind is Save The Tiger, from 1973. If there's another example or two that fits between the extremes of this time-frame, let me know.
Robert Forster did this movie shortly after what should have been another Tarantino "breakout" role (a la John Travolta) in Jackie Brown. Forster was justly praised for his nuanced performance in Jackie Brown, and did what he could to ride that wave with his follow-up as "Eddie" in Diamond Men. Eddie is a plum role for this man, and Forster patiently paints the picture of a man who has learned the values of caution, fidelity, and respect for others. In short, Eddie possesses actual wisdom, and needs to impart a great deal of it to his new upstart partner. As life throws a few nasty curves his way, Eddie learns to cautiously indulge in a little risk-taking with love and with life.
Diamond Men, like Save The Tiger before it, has its imperfections. But like Save The Tiger its approach to real people and real work is so articulate and rare, it earns and rewards our attention with a deep emotional resonance.
Forster gives his thoughts on Diamond Men here.