2007 is to the serious film what 2008 was to the blockbuster. It was an all-time great year for serious films. And I’m about to overlook them almost entirely. 2007 was a great year for serious films but audiences gave them a wide berth. Let’s see what they saw instead.
The Bottom 25
#76. The Messengers. Unless it’s an unexpected breakout, the bottom 25 will always be where most horror films go. This isn’t one I got to but it does have one of the most incredible back stories as the original script by the underrated Todd Farmer was so heavily rewritten it became the script to the DTV prequel.
#77. The Number 23. I’ll give the makers of this film credit: they tried. Too bad they tried their all on ludicrous ideas and twists that inspire awe in their ridiculousness. Jim Carrey could be great in a thriller but this ain’t the one.
#78. Good Luck Chuck. We all agree Dane Cook was a bad idea. Gifted stand-up and superb character actor as Mr. Brooks showed but a terrible idea as a leading man. This movie is gross.
#79. Mr. Bean’s Holiday. On the other hand, I’m always happy to see Rowan Atkinson show up. A funny guy who’s given us some legendary work. Not saying this is a good film but how often do you see a G-rated film anymore? Nice.
#80. Breach. The real hidden gem of this year. A underseen film that works because every element is honed to precision. Chris Cooper belonged in the Oscar conversation that year and was completely overlooked. The release hurt this film.
#81. Zodiac. Imagine if this had been held to the fall. It would’ve played far better I think and enjoyed the accolades it got at the box office. The release hurt it. But it’s endured.
#82. Balls of Fury. 2007 confirmed it definitively: Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant are geniuses on TV but the big screen is not where they have any business operating. It’s as if their sense of humor shuts off in long form. Reno 911: Miami made even less money and that was with a popular show behind it.
#83. Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. The second live action G-rated film on this list marks the abrupt halt to the career of Zach Helm, who quit filmmaking aftera disastrous experience on this. A shame as while it didn’t connect, Stranger Than Fiction showed he has a voice.
#84. August Rush. One of those “well that happened” movies. I don’t know anybody who saw it. I don’t remember anything beyond the logline. Millions of dollars spent on a film that is gone.
#85. Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls. Hate on Tyler Perry all you want but he at least knew actors well enough to give Idris Elba a leading role when he wasn’t getting those. This is a melodrama but I can’t hate on those either. Man knows his audience.
#86. The Great Debaters. A rare, rare film about my beloved Marshall, Texas! I was actually in the area when this film hit and it was huge. Denzel Washington hasn’t been a flashy director but he’s developing a voice.
#87. 28 Weeks Later. I’m honestly shocked this didn’t do better. It had a strong ad campaign and the original had a nice afterlife but this actually made considerably less money than the first. Sometimes lightning can’t be recaptured.
#88. We Own The Night. Once more the difference between a hit and a miss is all about expectations. This is actually by a giant margin James Gray’s biggest hit and a decent recouper. Not his most popular film with Film Twitter but Gray’s found his niche.
#89. Mr. Brooks. We need more films like this. A cool premise. A nice script. A great cast. Nothing great but solid. This is the kind of film that would probably head to Netflix today.
#90. Hannibal Rising. You know a film is good when the writer is told to write it or someone else will. The death of Hannibal Lecter on the big screen which at least led to his rebirth on the small screen.
#91. The Nanny Diaries. :sigh: The follow-up project from the team that did American Splendor. It’s not as good as that film to say the least. It is fun to see Captain America and Black Widow in their second film together and last before they joined Marvel.
#92. Mr. Woodcock. Really only notable as it came from the director of Lars and the Real Girl and sat on the shelf for so long it was in the theaters at the same time as that film which I saw. Didn’t see this.
#93. Nancy Drew. On directors, Andrew Fleming doesn’t get enough credit for how often he worked with young women and did it quite well. While this isn’t on the level of The Craft or Dick (or 2008’s genius Hamlet 2), he at least seems to genuinely like making films for that crowd.
#94. The Mist. Time has been so good to Frank Darabont’s unexpectedly nihilistic take on Stephen King’s novella. Darabont clearly relished finally getting to let loose in the mode of The Blob and Nightmare 3. This has a sizable following now as it should.
#95. The Reaping. Dark Caste and not Jaume Collet-Serra Dark Castle so not worth discussing.
#96. Grindhouse. Look, nobody had any idea what the hell this was. It was made for a niche audience. Trying to ape movies most people think are bad won’t draw people in. I love this project but it was a weird creation and I’m not shocked it bombed badly.
#97. Sicko. Michael Moore makes propaganda films. That said, with the exception of Fahrenheit 9/11, which was admittedly a fell good film for the left, he makes genius ones. His argument here, the need for socialized medicine, is well expressed even as it’s wildly manipulative.
#98. Across The Universe. Here’s how you know time is the ultimate arbiter of success. You don’t remember or care about much of the top 25 grossing films. But this money losing film is getting revival screenings nationwide at the end of July. I find that awesome.
#99. Perfect Stranger. Oh man the plot twist on this one is genius in its ridiculousness. Otherwise boring.
#100. Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure. IMAX doesn’t do a lot of in-house movies now that most of their screens are used for mainstream films (and aren’t full IMAX) but these were huge business. We’ll run into more.
The Top 25
#25. Blades of Glory. I noted that the Will Ferrell in this kind of film audience dried up when Semi-Pro came out. I think this was why. It was a perfectly fine piece of entertainment but it was enough forever.
#24. Hairspray. Not a film I was much into but I have respect for it. Another nice film in a year when we needed nice films.
#23. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. That this existed in 2007 when it would’ve been hopelessly dated in 1987 staggers me. Almost as much as Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor’s names on it. It’s well-known their script was gutted but still they came anywhere near this and I do not respect.
#22. Superbad. This one really is aging great and I think it’s because the film is honest. These guys are buffoons and the film loves them. Giving Emma Stone her first film role and letting her instantly be a force really helps balance the often uneven portraits of women in these films. I just adore everything about this sweet film.
#21. Bee Movie. I hate you all. I’ve never seen this. I won’t see this. I don’t care to see this movie. But I know every word of it because it became a meme. I hate it for that reason.
#20. Enchanted. With the hindsight of 10.5 years, it’s now clear this is entirely a film that works because of the lead performance and really nothing else. The script is hopelessly muddled. It’s generically made. But Amy Adams is utterly ablaze in the film and elevates it so far above its weaker points. Watch it for her.
#19. American Gangster. I’m hot and cold on Ridley Scott. This is the hot side. Sure this movie is largely elevated by its cast but when that cast is Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Josh Brolin, Cuba Gooding Jr., Ruby Dee, and John Hawkes, of course it’s worth seeing. Everybody in this film is so good.
#18. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. I’ve gone from enjoying this film when I saw it to getting bitter about it later to now kind of feeling affection for it. Sure it gets the Galactus story completely wrong and Doom is a joke again. It does however get the Silver Surfer spot on and Chris Evans is really strong here.
#17. Live Free or Die Hard. I’ll take some flack. I dig this film. It’s nowhere near Die Hard but as a high goofy action movie, it works. Len Wiseman knows how to shoot this material and Bruce Willis actually seemed to be on set. It’s fun.
#16. Rush Hour 3. I didn’t see this movie because I stopped caring about Rush Hour in 1999. Not wasting one more breath.
#15. Juno. I love that this film has gotten the reevaluation it deserves. This is a potent, powerful film about serious issues and in no small way how we cope. Juno’s entire persona is a coping mechanism, not who she really is. She has to act so arch because otherwise she’s dealing with genuine trauma. Love this film.
#14. Knocked Up. I have such complicated feeling about this film. I adored it in 2007. But in 2018 I’m really struggling with it. As great as Leslie Mann’s breakdown outside the club is, the film really doesn’t know how to handle women. The film also has a plot that no matter how much it pretends otherwise, really should be over before it starts. So much great comedy and some great performances but I’m not sure now.
#13. Wild Hogs. I didn’t see this film because I’m nowhere near the target audience. Movies like this baffle me though. Who were they made for. You have three guys who were long past their box office draw moment and William H. Macy counting the days until the gift of Shameless yet this was a bigger hit than the “hip” Knocked Up and Juno. There’s a huge swath of audiences that isn’t being served.
#12. The Simpsons Movie. Can we all bask in the joyous fact that for 90 minutes we got The Simpsons firing on all cylinders one final time? I love this hysterical translation of the show to the big screen. It proved the show’s last gasp for me but it was a good one.
#11. Ratatouille. I feel like with Pixar films in this age I can just list them and move on. We all know this was something special. One funny thing to come out of it: I started listening to Patton Oswalt’s stand-up after seeing this film.
#10. 300. Oh joy, I get to discuss a Zack Snyder film. The internet hasn’t made that horrible in the last three years! Honestly I don’t really have an opinion on it one way or the other. It’s stylish but utterly hollow. Aside from Lena Headey, none of the performances are notable. Just not a memorable film.
#9. Alvin and the Chipmunks. This might seem bizarre but there was virtually nothing for kids out at Christmas 2007. In fact the two big releases were horror movies! So of course this cleaned up. As for spawning a 4 film franchise, well I’m at a loss.
#8. National Treasure: Book of Secrets. I’m honestly confused as to why this franchise stalled out at 2. It’s one I really like, even if this was a weaker sequel.
#7. The Bourne Ultimatum. Part 3s dominate this list from here on out. This one is one of the very best. A deeply satisfying conclusion that refuses to cop-out from the moral bleakness of the series to date.
#6. I Am Legend. A solid film. I feel like the first half is outright great and the second half is just fine. I wish Francis Lawrence would get back to horror as he’s one of the few directors to make genuinely scary films with big budgets.
#5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I love 6 of the 8 Harry Potter movies. One of the two I don’t love? This one. Not a shock as it’s based on the utterly drained of life fifth book. The Order of The Phoenix is a long work of wheel spinning and the film is the same way. Notable for the one film series writer Steve Kloves took off. It shows.
#4. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. Another part 3 and another truly great one. I love the PotC trilogy. Three incredible pulp fantasies. This is also seals the series as well as you’d hope. I know the Pirates sequels are popular to hate (and the 2 films that follow this I’ve skipped) but I’m not there for it.
#3. Transformers. Also popular to hate and deservedly so. So many atrocious decisions made in this overloud, obnoxious film. This is thankfully the only one I’ve seen in a theater and without Rifftrax. I’m glad I’ll never have to say another word about this series.
#2. Shrek the Third. Swing and a miss. How do you go from two phenomenal films that haven’t lost a second of watchability to this? Maybe Shrek really was a done in two franchise.
#1. Spider-Man 3. I know there is a massive movement to rehabilitate this film. I know there was the new edition last year that supposedly fixed it. I don’t care. This movie is hopelessly broken on the script level. Thematically it’s an unsatisfying mess where the characters all betray who they’d spent two genius films before becoming. I don’t care about nice guy Sandman and I especially don’t want asshole expert Thomas Haden Church playing a sympathetic version. This is a bad movie.