This was a year in which the most memorable screen image belonged to reality, not cinema. Indeed, as many have noted, the spectacle of airline jets ramming into the World Trade Center towers was all too reminiscent of a Hollywood blockbuster's money shot -- and that may have been the point. Terrorists -- just like Hollywood -- follow a principle of escalation, realizing that even greater disasters must be staged for the cameras to gain our highly jaded attention.

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Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "Le Fabuleux destin d'Amelie Poulain"

In a year in which even a military debacle that resulted in 3,000-plus deaths could be sold as summertime action-romance entertainment ("Pearl Harbor"), Sept. 11 came as a rude eruption of reality, of the real pain and devastation that is all too often glossed over by special effects. Now that high-body-count catastrophe films have become impolitic, Hollywood is staggering in search of a new formula, but -- as 2001's best films indicate -- it is possible to make films about people, not pyrotechnics.