For about the last 35 years, I've thought that the best movie I have ever seen was The Quiet Man, with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. No more.
I can say I have never seen a better movie than Avatar.
I will say that all $458 million dollars spent on the production was visible on the screen. I was actually expecting a B movie with great special effects. I got something much, much better. The performances of Zoe Saldana and Michelle Rodriguez were their best so far. Sigourney Weaver was her usual excellent self. And you didn't really notice the spectacular special effects, you simply believed them.
The movie adhered to the ruling axiom of successful SF--grant your gadgets and circumstance and tell the story.
And the story was very very good. I don't know how much was deliberate, but there were echos of Ursela LeGuin's The word for World is Forest, Anne McCaffery's Pern, some of David Drake's Hammer's Slammmers short stories. And some of the story elements Incorporated echos of the Italian campaign in Ethiopia, the saga of Tecumseh, as well as features of the life of Blue Jacket and Simon Girty. There was a character who reminded me of Pontiac, as well.
Once, about 32 years ago I studied Anthropology, and whoever wrote the script managed to do a good job on tribal life. I noticed that the Alien natives seemed to be a cross between American Indians and Elves. Not to mention beautiful.
Oh--the movie is so beautiful to watch it's almost hard to watch.
I do want to mention something--this is in no way a Christian movie. It's not anti Christian--it is profoundly nonchristian--Christianity doesn't figure into the story.
And one las disclaimer, or maybe two. The area I spent my boyhood in, where I hunted and picked berries, hunter morels, all lthat good stuff no longer exists--it was strip mined. I'm far from a tree hugger, but that's a theme that resonates with me. Also, I'm part Chrokee--and I know how I felt when I first say the Oconoluftee. That theme resonated also.