Honor roll: Edgar Allan Poe Award® for Best Motion Picture

Each of these films has been nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award® for Best Motion Picture. They are ranked by honors received.

Film:Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction

Quentin Tarantino

With the knockout one-two punch of 1992’s Reservoir Dogs and 1994’s Pulp Fiction writer-director Quentin Tarantino stunned the filmmaking world, exploding into prominence as a cinematic heavyweight contender. But Pulp Fiction was more than just the follow-up to an impressive first feature, or the winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival, or a script stuffed with the sort of juicy bubblegum dialogue actors just love to chew, or the vehicle that reestablished John Travolta on the A-list, or the relatively low-budget ($8 million)…

Film:The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs

Jonathan Demme

Based on Thomas Harris’s novel, this terrifying film by Jonathan Demme really only contains a couple of genuinely shocking moments (one involving an autopsy, the other a prison break). The rest of the film is a splatter-free visual and psychological descent into the hell of madness, redeemed astonishingly by an unlikely connection between a monster and a haunted young woman. Anthony Hopkins is extraordinary as the cannibalistic psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter, virtually entombed in a subterranean prison for the criminally insane. At the behest of the FBI,…

Film:The Departed

The Departed

Martin Scorsese

Rookie cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) grew up in crime. That makes him the perfect mole, the man on the inside of the mob run by boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). It’s his job to win Costello’s trust and help his detective handlers (Mark Wahlberg and Martin Sheen) bring Costello down. Meanwhile, SIU officer Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) has everyone’s trust. No one suspects he’s Costello’s mole. How these covert lives cross, double-cross and collide is at the ferocious core of the widely acclaimed The Departed. Martin Scorsese directs, guiding a cast for the ages in a visceral tale of crime and consequences. This is searing, can’t-look-away filmmaking: like staring into the eyes of a con—or a cop—with a gun.

Film:L.A. Confidential

L.A. Confidential

Curtis Hanson

In a time when it seems that every other movie makes some claim to being a film noir, L.A. Confidential is the real thing—a gritty, sordid tale of sex, scandal, betrayal, and corruption of all sorts (police, political, press—and, of course, very personal) in 1940s Hollywood. The Oscar-winning screenplay is actually based on several titles in James Ellroy’s series of chronological thriller novels (including the title volume, The Big Nowhere, and White Jazz)—a compelling blend of L.A. history and pulp fiction that has earned it…

Film:Chicago (2002)

Chicago

Rob Marshall

Bob Fosse’s sexy cynicism still shines in Chicago, a faithful movie adaptation of the choreographer-director’s 1975 Broadway musical. Of course the story, all about merry murderesses and tabloid fame, is set in the Roaring ‘20s, but Chicago reeks of ‘70s disenchantment—this isn’t just Fosse’s material, it’s his attitude, too. That’s probably why the movie’s breathless observations on fleeting fame and fickle public taste already seem dated. However, Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones are beautifully matched as Jazz Age vixens, and Richard Gere…

Film:No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men

Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

The story begins when Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) finds a pickup truck surrounded by a sentry of dead men. A load of heroin and two million dollars in cash are still in the back. When Moss takes the money, he sets off a chain reaction of catastrophic violence that not even the law—in the person of aging, disillusioned Sheriff Bell (Jones)—can contain. As Moss tries to evade his pursuers—in particular a mysterious mastermind who flips coins for human lives (Bardem)—the film simultaneously strips down the American crime drama and broadens its concerns to encompass themes as ancient as the Bible and as bloodily contemporary as this morning’s headlines.

Film:Fargo

Fargo

Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Leave it to the wildly inventive Coen brothers (Joel directs, Ethan produces, they both write) to concoct a fiendishly clever kidnap caper that’s simultaneously a comedy of errors, a Midwestern satire, a taut suspense thriller, and a violent tale of criminal misfortune. It all begins when a hapless car salesman (played to perfection by William H. Macy) ineptly orchestrates the kidnapping of his own wife. The plan goes horribly awry in the hands of bumbling bad guys Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare (one of them being described by a local girl as “kinda funny…

Film:Erin Brockovich

Erin Brockovich

Steven Soderbergh

Much will be made of Julia Roberts’s wardrobe in Erin Brockovich—a brash parade of daring hemlines and Wonderbra confidence. Roberts is unabashedly sexy in the title role of this fact-based comedy-drama, but she and director Steven Soderbergh are far too intelligent to rely solely on high heels and cleavage. Susannah Grant’s brassy screenplay fuels this winning combination of star, director, and material, firing on all pistons with maximum efficiency. With Ed Lachman, his noted cinematographer from The Limey, Soderbergh tackles this A-list project…

Film:The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects

Bryan Singer

Ever since this convoluted thriller dazzled audiences and critics in 1995 and won an Oscar for Christopher McQuarrie’s twisting screenplay, The Usual Suspects has continued to divide movie lovers into opposite camps. While a lot of people take great pleasure from the movie’s now-famous central mystery (namely, “Who is Keyser Söze?”), others aren’t so easily impressed by a movie that’s too enamored of its own cleverness to make much sense. After all, what are we to make of a final scene that renders the entire movie obsolete? Half the fun…

Film:Traffic (2000)

Traffic

Steven Soderbergh

Featuring a huge cast of characters, the ambitious and breathtaking Traffic is a tapestry of three separate stories woven together by a common theme: the war on drugs. In Ohio, there’s the newly appointed government drug czar (Michael Douglas) who realizes after he’s accepted the job that he may have gotten into a no-win situation. Not only that, his teenage daughter (Erika Christensen) is herself quietly developing a nasty addiction problem. In San Diego, a drug kingpin (Steven Bauer) is arrested on information provided by an informant (Miguel Ferrer) who…

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