As film critics, we had a problem this year. There were too many great movies to choose from and only 10 spots on our best-of lists. After much soul-searching and paring, here's what we came up with -- the absolute best of the best.
The top 10 films of 2005, according to AP Movie Writer David Germain:
1. "Dear Frankie" -- Director Shona Auerbach spins a heart-on-its-sleeve drama of pure decency and inspiration. Emily Mortimer imbues her porcelain facade with steely inner strength as a Scottish mom who concocts a distant fantasy father to protect her deaf son (Jack McElhone) from the nasty truth about dad. Gerard Butler is a stoic stranger who finds his inner saint after signing on as the boy's sire for hire.
2. "King Kong" -- This is why Peter Jackson is lord of the primates, at least in Hollywood. Jackson has made an action flick monstrous in scope yet with an intimate sense of pathos and tragedy. His remake about the giant ape doomed by love for a blonde (Naomi Watts, the new Fay Wray) dotes on the details of the 1933 original while indulging Jackson's aim of big-footing all the special-effects extravaganzas that came before.
3. "A History of Violence" -- David Cronenberg has gone mainstream as only he can, presenting an action-packed crowd-pleaser that's still as weird as many of his esoteric films. Cronenberg offers a harrowing but often perversely comic study of what really lies beneath those we think we know so well, with ferocious performances from Viggo Mortensen, as a family man fending off mobsters, and Maria Bello, Ed Harris and William Hurt.
4. "Transamerica" -- Felicity Huffman joins Dustin Hoffman, Julie Andrews and Hilary Swank in the Academy of Great Gender-Bending Performances, playing a man preparing for surgery to become a woman in Duncan Tucker's road-trip comic drama. Huffman undergoes a remarkable physical transformation, but it's her bearing -- wry, shy glances, the tics of someone adjusting to a changing body -- that makes her so lovably, painfully authentic.
5. "Capote" -- Philip Seymour Hoffman is this year's Jamie Foxx, following that actor's uncanny portrayal of Ray Charles with a brilliant personification of Truman Capote as he researches his true-crime book "In Cold Blood." In Hoffman's hands, the vain, off-putting Capote is riveting, while he and director Bennett Miller present the man as both genius and fiend, torn between human affection and the unforgiving call of his art.
6. "Syriana" -- Aren't actors supposed to be dumb? Nobody told George Clooney, who directed and co-starred in the Edward R. Murrow saga "Good Night, and Good Luck" and followed with a fiercely intelligent turn in Stephen Gaghan's thriller about oil-industry corruption. Clooney leads a rich ensemble of actors, and writer-director Gaghan crafts a dense, intricate world of greed and intrigue that rings frighteningly true.
7. "Grizzly Man" -- Knowing the death Timothy Treadwell would meet in the grips of one of the bears he swore to protect, it's truly agonizing to watch this buoyant soul prattle on in self-recorded monologues that are the backbone of Werner Herzog's documentary. Some called it hubris to live with bears in the Alaska wild, yet Herzog captures a spirit lost among his own brethren who found himself only through kinship with these beasts.
8. "Broken Flowers" -- Bill Murray has this droll, sad-sack thing down to an art. He's perfectly cast in Jim Jarmusch's story of an apathetic, aging Don Juan, whose road trip to revisit past lovers leads him to spiritual and physical crossroads. Murray's stillness is an ideal complement to Jarmusch's cryptic storytelling, the actor's stone face the place where viewers are asked to write their own interpretation of what they're seeing.
9. "The Producers" -- The Mel Brooks movie that became a stage musical becomes a movie again, with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick reprising their roles as Broadway con men aiming to concoct a sure flop. Broadway director Susan Stroman brings great energy and inventiveness to her film debut. It's silly, goofy, stagy, hokey, with scene-stealing performances by Uma Thurman as a bouncy Swedish bimbo and Will Ferrell as a crackpot Nazi playwright.
10. "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" -- Steve Carell finally gets some, climbing to leading-man status with this hysterically funny, raunchy yet sweet-hearted tale of a middle-aged guy who's never done the deed. Carell's boyish earnestness carries the film, while he and co-writer and director Judd Apatow pile on broad, outrageous comedy and plenty of gross-out gags and crudity while still managing to keep it a class act.
AP Movie Critic Christy Lemire:
1. "The Squid and the Whale" -- There isn't a false note in this darkly funny story about married writers who are divorcing, and how the split affects their sons. Writer-director Noah Baumbach's film, loosely based on his own '80s adolescence in Brooklyn, is poignant and observant, hilarious and achingly sad, often at the same time. Jeff Daniels is perfect as the pompous patriarch whose glory days have long since passed; he gets excellent support from Laura Linney as his wife and Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Kline as their confused kids.
2. "Capote" -- They should just give Philip Seymour Hoffman the Oscar now and get it over with. The longtime character actor gives the performance of a lifetime as Truman Capote during the writing and researching of "In Cold Blood." Hoffman doesn't just look and sound like him -- in Bennett Miller's film, he manages to embody a famous figure fully without devolving into caricature, something it could have been easy to do in portraying someone as well-known for his idiosyncrasies as his brilliance.
3. "Syriana" -- Mind-bogglingly complicated yet full of small, pivotal moments, writer-director Stephen Gaghan's multilayered look at oil, power and manipulation in the Middle East demands more than one viewing. Don't be daunted by the subject matter; this is a meaty, intelligent film that truly has something to say, and will reward your perseverance. The flawlessly chosen ensemble cast includes Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, Christopher Plummer, William Hurt and an unrecognizable George Clooney as a veteran CIA officer.
4. "Good Night, and Good Luck" -- Speaking of Clooney, he also proves himself surprisingly confident behind the camera, directing for only the second time. His depiction of Edward R. Murrow's on-air battles with Sen. Joseph McCarthy is a marvel of precise vision, shot in crisp black and white, set in only a few rooms at the CBS News headquarters and anchored by David Strathairn's measured, dead-on performance. Totally relevant today, even though it takes place a half-century ago.
5. "Murderball" -- This documentary about quadriplegic rugby players is fast and furious, and it's touching without trying hard to be. It strikes the perfect tone throughout, without an ounce of condescension or heavy-handedness. The athletes are hardcore competitors and complete characters, joking about sex and the idiotic way in which they're often treated, and they allow us into their homes and lives with trust, dignity and grace.
6. "Crash" -- Paul Haggis delivers a knockout punch that rivals the one he leveled with his Oscar-nominated "Million Dollar Baby" script. As director and co-writer, he weaves a tale of disparate, disconnected Los Angeles residents whose paths cross over a 36-hour period. The encounters expose their prejudices and frailties, but Haggis judges none of them and offers no easy answers; rather, everyone is to blame equally, simply for being human and imperfect. The excellent ensemble cast includes Terrence Howard, Matt Dillon, Don Cheadle and rapper Ludacris.
7. "The Upside of Anger" -- Joan Allen gives a tour-de-force performance as the wealthy mother of four daughters coping with her husband's disappearance, and Kevin Costner does his best work in more than a decade as the alcoholic ex-ballplayer who becomes her unlikely ally. Like "American Beauty," it rips the veneer off genteel upper-middle class life to expose the angst and insecurity, all the while maintaining a dark sense of humor -- only it isn't nearly so self-important.
8. "Broken Flowers" -- Bill Murray does more with one eyebrow, raised in faint bemusement, than most actors can do with their entire bodies. In Jim Jarmusch's relaxed road trip pic, Murray's middle-aged lothario half-heartedly searches for the teenage son he never knew he had, and we learn about him -- and he learns about himself -- through his wildly unpredictable reunions with various ex-girlfriends. Jarmusch, in his typical subtlety, allows us to interpret the journey for ourselves.
9. "Tell Them Who You Are" -- Mark S. Wexler's documentary about his father, veteran cinematographer Haskell Wexler, works as a warts-and-all look at a colorful, cantankerous character; as a study of movie history and methodology; and as a who's who of Hollywood, including interviews with everyone from Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier to Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas. But mainly it works as a portrait of a father-son relationship that's awkward, volatile, uneven and always painfully real.
10. "Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" -- Astonishingly elaborate yet undeniably cute, five years in the making yet utterly timeless, Wallace and Gromit finally reach the big screen in their first feature film, and it's a complete delight. The result is very much of the unique W&G universe, featuring the sweetly clueless, veddy British inventor Wallace and his best friend, the silent Gromit, who's the brains of the operation.