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The Best and Worst Movies of 1999

January 20, 2000 1:35 PM ET

The Ten Best Movies of 1999

1. American Beauty, directed by Sam Mendes, tops the list for its searching and justly celebrated look at what gets lost in life when we numb ourselves to feeling. Attention must also be paid to David Fincher's decidedly uncelebrated Fight Club, a raw wound of a film that grapples with the same theme.

2. Topsy Turvy – A gloriously entertaining biopic about those pirates of Victorian operetta, Gilbert (the great Jim Broadbent) and Sullivan (Allan Corduner), is transformed by Mike Leigh into a touching master work about the art of making art.

3. Being John Malkovich – First-time director Spike Jonze, 30, displays visionary daring and creates the year's most blazingly original comedy.

4. The Insider – Michael Mann's brilliant whodunit about who killed, of all things, ethics. The implosive Russell Crowe gives the performance of the year.

5. Magnolia – "It's not going to stop/Till you wise up," sings Aimee Mann in this millennial wake-up call from Paul Thomas Anderson, who follows Boogie Nights with another emotional powerhouse.

6. Three Kings – David O. Russell delivers an acutely funny and astutely provocative Gulf War satire about a group of U.S. soldiers out to steal Iraqi gold.

7.Boys Don't Cry– Kimberly Peirce joins the ranks of breakout directors with this true story of a Nebraska girl who lived as a boy. Hilary Swank's sensational performance is unique and unforgettable.

8. The Straight Story – A G-rated film from wizard of odd David Lynch rides to glory with Richard Farns – worth, 79, as an Iowa widower who takes a six-week trip to Wisconsin on a beat-up lawn mower.

9. The Winslow Boy – A G-rated film from David Mamet, who drops the expletives to deliver an Edwardian-era drama about class and gender warfare that emerges as timely as Clinton and Lewinsky.

10. The Sixth Sense – The only blockbuster on the list is a classic ghost story artfully written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, 29, and hypnotically acted by Haley Joel Osment, Bruce Willis and Toni Collette.

Runners-up: No list of the year's best movies should exclude the animated joys of Toy Story 2, Princess Mononoke, The Iron Giant, Tarzan and South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut; the dazzling visuals of The Matrix and Sleepy Hollow, the dramatic highs of The Limey, Bringing Out the Dead, Limbo and End of the Affair; the comic edge of Election, Go!, Dogma, Man on the Moon and Cookie's Fortune; the foreign-language triumphs of All About My Mother, Run Lola Run and Rosetta; the documentary dazzle of Buena Vista Social Club, Mr. Death and Regret to Inform; the bold strokes of The Talented Mr. Ripley, a spellbinder with the power – warts and all – to haunt your dreams; and, last, the ingenuity of The Blair Witch Project, a smashing scare flick that never ran out of imagination, even on a paltry $30,000 budget.

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