I saw more theatrical releases than ever in 2007—140 of them by mid-January—and while I'm still not prepared to argue that this was a banner year in movies, it was at least a banner year in cinematic ambition. Whether by using the empty, dusty spaces of the West as a dark mirror of the distorted national conscience (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood) or by juxtaposing the quandaries of pregnancy (Juno, Knocked Up, Stephanie Daley, Lake of Fire) to the poignancies and agonies of aging (Away from Her, The Savages, Starting Out in the Evening), or by wrestling with the arrogance, contradiction, and loneliness that inevitably mark those lives, both public (I'm Not There) and private (Into the Wild), that most insist on liberty and the ideal of sublimity, the movies of 2007 cannot be accused of shying away from complicated themes, bold aesthetics, and public debates. Sure, some of the best movies by some of the freshest voices found only the smallest of audiences (Red Road, Day Night Day Night, Zoo, A Mighty Heart), but for once there were good movies to go around in every season and every register of the market, from studio-backed head-turners (Michael Clayton, Grindhouse) to bracing international visions (I Don't Want to Sleep Alone, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days) to stylish surprises by reinvigorated veterans (Zodiac, Lust, Caution, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead). Here were some, but not all, of the best.