The Best Overlooked Movies & Shows of 2005

All the movies here are highly-rated (by both critics and viewers), little-known, and handpicked by our staff.

This list is ordered by most recent good movies, and therefore is not a ranking. Here are the titles considered as the best from the year 2005.

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Stars: Jeff Daniels, Jesse Eisenberg, Laura Linney, Owen Kline
Directed by: Noah Baumbach

Director Noah Baumbach’s autobiographical film is a strikingly realistic take on divorce and the turmoil it sets on an already-dysfunctional family. Bernard (Jeff Daniels) is a selfish decadent writer who’s splitting with his unfaithful wife Joan (Laura Linney). Their two sons, Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) and Frank (Owen Kline), are taking different sides that reflect their personality. This separation only reinforces their insecurities as they quickly fall into depression and grow away from their friends. The parents, however, find unconventional lovers just as quickly, Bernard with a student of his, and Jane with her son’s tennis coach.

The Squid and the Whale is a funny, emotional, and gripping story that finds a perfect balance in tone despite dealing with bitter divorce and troubled adolescence.

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Stars: Kôjun Itô, Travis Willingham, Yûto Nakano

Mushishi is one of those shows that you watch one episode at a time to relax after a long day of work. It’s a slow, atmospheric animation about a world where peculiar plant-like creatures called Mushi live alongside humans who are usually unaware of them. Think of Mushi as the most basic form of life. While being purposeless, they can unintentionally have a wide variety of effects on humans, sometimes helping them but always at an unforeseen cost. Ginko is a traveler who studies Mushi and on his way helps villagers with their problems.Each episode is an independent short story about a chapter of Ginko’s travels. The stories feel weirdly the same as folklore you grew up with. They are comfy, they hold a few moral lessons at the end of each one, and they’re sometimes scary and thought-provoking.  Despite being “anime”, this show might as well be a genre on its own. It holds none of the stereotypes surrounding anime, and it’s really just a collection of solid short stories coupled with great animation and an amazing soundtrack. If you’re tired and need a show to watch late at night with a loved one or by yourself, pick an episode at random and see for yourself how great of a show this is.

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Stars: Batchuluun Urjindorj, Buyandulam Daramdadi, Nansal Batchuluun
Directed by: Byambasuren Davaa

Vivid, sweeping landscapes surround the simple beauty of a Mongolian family navigating the pressures of globalization while still practicing their traditional nomadic lifestyle. Ostensibly it’s about the charming, captivating relationship that forms between a young girl, Nansal, and a dog that she finds. However, the magic of this slow, enthralling film is that it captures the brilliance of familial relationships and power of culture and stories through this simple backdrop. And it is a simple film; everything you can learn from this film comes through its gentle storytelling that invites you to recognize the beauty and profundity that exists in everyday lives.

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Stars: Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Maurice Bénichou
Directed by: Michael Haneke

Beginning with a great opening shot of townhouse on a side street in Paris, only ti discover that the shot is actually from a video sent to Anne and Georges Laurent (Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil). The married couple who live in that house have no idea who sent the video. More videos appear and events unfold. I can’t say much more about this film without ruining it, it’s definitely one of those films better enjoyed if you go into it not knowing a lot. Directed by Michael Haneke who won the Cannes Best Director Award for it.

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Stars: Michelle Monaghan, Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer
Directed by: Shane Black

Robert Downey Jr’s triumphant return to film, this movie is a satirical take on film noir and detective movies in general. The screen chemistry between Gay Perry the private eye, played by Val Kilmer, and Downey Jr’s robber turned actor, Harry Lockhart, is hysterical, and the film’s tongue in cheek nature is witty, smart, and delivers. Directed by the man who directed Lethal Weapon, the action is top notch, the laughs are pretty much constant, and the mystery is compelling. It’s mind boggling that nobody saw this when it came out.

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Stars: Amie Huguenard, Timothy Treadwell, Werner Herzog
Directed by: Werner Herzog

Arguably Werner Herzog’s most renowned film, Grizzly Man is a thought-provoking documentary about Tim Treadwell, a man who, as the title suggests, lived among bears. While he remained only known for how his story ended, by one of the bears turning on him, Grizzly Man is the exploration of the man’s complex mind, unlimited energy and love for nature. It could be because of the subject matter or because of Herzog’s mesmerizing monotone narration, and maybe it is because of both – but Grizzly Man becomes a supremely beautiful look at psychology and how it collides nature. Also like most of Herzog’s other work it’s a hunt for the peculiar, so expect many funny, absurd, and charming moments.

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Stars: Danielle Proulx, Marc-André Grondin, Michel Côté
Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée

C.R.A.Z.Y. is crazy good, so to speak. A portrait of a French-Canadian family in 70’s Quebec that will knock your socks right off, it’s the story of a boy struggling with his identity and his relationship with his father. Featuring a killer soundtrack (including but not limited to Bowie, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones), it received Best Canadian Film in 2005 at Toronto International Film Festival. There are many things I would like to say about C.R.A.Z.Y. but I fear it’s one of those films you enjoy best when you go into them not knowing much.

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Stars: Charles Berling, Morgan Freeman, Romane Bohringer
Directed by: Luc Jacquet

An extraordinary documentary full of drama, comedy and heartbreak. It follows two penguins, a couple, for a year as they migrate, give birth and face hardships and tragedy. It captures never seen before moments that stand as a perfect illustration of survival in particular and life in general. All in a very well crafted documentary that you will find both instructive and deeply moving. Won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.

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Stars: Daniel Craig, Eric Bana, Marie-Josée Croze
Directed by: Steven Spielberg

From Steven Spielberg, Munich is the sharp and thrilling depiction of Mossad agents on a mission to avenge the Munich Massacre, the killing of 11 Israeli Olympic team members at the 1972 Summer Olympics. Despite being based on real events, it’s a work of fiction. This allows the film to stand on clear yet nuanced grounds, focusing on the moral dilemmas that may rise for the secret agents and the perpetrators, now targets. The ensemble cast including Daniel Craig and Eric Bana allow Spielberg to deliver the film you can tell he wanted to make. A personal and striking effort.

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Stars: Barbara Boxer, John Beard, Tim Belden
Directed by: Alex Gibney

A documentary about the rise and fall of the Enron Corporation, the energy-trading and utilities conglomerate that gained worldwide attention in 2001 upon its headline-grabbing bankruptcy. Detailing the massive amount of fraud and malfeasance committed by the organization’s top executives, the film delves into the many intricate strategies and “special purpose” entities that were manufactured in order to hide enormous losses and debt from shareholders and the general public. It’s a fascinating and distressing examination of hubris and greed, with so many ethical considerations laid aside in the pursuit of financial gain. The film is as pertinent today as it was when it was released in 2005—perhaps even more so in this post-financial collapse era of increased distrust in corporate agendas.

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Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Gina Torres, Nathan Fillion
Directed by: Joss Whedon

Serenity is a futuristic sci-fi film that serves as a feature-length continuation of the story-line from the TV program Firefly (2002-2003). The story revolves around the captain (Nathan Fillion) and crew of the titular space vessel that operate as space outlaws, running cargo and smuggling missions throughout the galaxy. They take on a mysterious young psychic girl and her brother, the girl carrying secrets detrimental to the intergalactic government, and soon find themselves being hunted by a nefarious assassin (Chiwetel Ejiofor). The first feature-length film from Joss Whedon (The Avengers), Serenity is a lively and enjoyable adventure, replete with large-scale action sequences, strong characterizations and just the right touch of wry humor. An enjoyable viewing experience that stands alone without demanding that you have familiarity with the original program beforehand.

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Stars: Craig Bierko, Renée Zellweger, Russell Crowe
Directed by: Ron Howard

I was surprised by how dramatically and deeply emotional this film was. While there is a love story included, it is not that of young puppy love. Rather, it the story of a man’s undying and perseverant love for his family. What would you do when given a problem to which there is no solution and everything beloved to you is at stake? I was in emotional agony experiencing the Depression with this family whilst ironically perched upon my plush bed devouring extensive amounts of food. Were I you, the person reading this, I would take the time tonight to watch it. It’s worth it.

 

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Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Diane Ladd, Iain Rea
Directed by: Roger Donaldson

You know Anthony Hopkins as the evil Hannibal Lecter, but in this film he gives a warm and heartfelt performance portraying real life New Zealand motorcycle legend Burt Munro who set a land speed record in 1967 on a hand-built 1920 Indian. It’s a story of never giving up on your dream even in the face of ridicule and opposition. Hopkins’ performance turns what could have been just another schmaltzy formulaic story line into true gold. You’ll be cheering for Burt/Anthony by the end!

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Stars: Brady Corbet, Elisabeth Shue, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Directed by: Gregg Araki

When Brian was eight years old he lost five hours of his life to a black out. Now ten years later he is searching for the truth. His search leads him to Neil, a boy who was on his little league team the summer of the blackout. Brian has always believed he was abducted by aliens from the dreams he had with Neil in them. Neil however knows the truth. Neil had just left the small town life and moved to New York. When he comes home for Christmas and meets Brian will he finally tell him the answers he has been looking for? This is the story of one boy who can’t remember and a boy who can’t forget.

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Stars: Aaron Eckhart, Cameron Bright, Maria Bello
Directed by: Jason Reitman

As black a comedy as they come. Nick Naylor (superbly portrayed by Aaron Eckhart) is the chief spokesperson for tobacco and shows the world why smoking is as key to protect as any other liberal value. This movie is funny, smart, thoughtful and raises some good questions about the ego, the morale and what we leave behind, from unexpected sides.

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Stars: Aurélien Recoing, George Babluani, Pascal Bongard
Directed by: Géla Babluani

13 Tzameti is a unique suspense movie from Georgia and the debut of director Géla Babluani. This film explores the life of a migrant worker from Georgia working in France, who literally gambles his life in a high stakes game of chance organized by powerful criminals.  13 Tzameti won the World Cinema Jury Prize at Sundance in 2008, and of course, a not nearly as good American remake. Do yourself a favor and check out the original!