Starting at #500, I’ve counted down my favorite films of the 2010s, and now we’re almost at the end of my list. Here are entries #50 through #11 on my list of the decade’s best films.
- Brigsby Bear
Creativity is all about weirdness, and Brigsby Bear is crazy weird and appeals to the age old idea of “what if we could just run into the woods and make something?” It’s a movie about an adult man who’s sheltered from the real world by his insane adopted parents who keep him trapped in their confines by producing a children’s television show made for only him, and the man’s escape from that world, his adjustment to normal life and family, and his journey to recreate the show his parents made for him with the help of new friends. It’s just as incredible as it sounds.
- Honey Boy
An unprecedented look of on screen introspection, Honey Boy was written by Shia Labeouf as a means of coping with his own childhood trauma, and Labeouf gives the performance of his career as a character based on his own father. Noah Jupe gives one of the greatest child performances of all-time in this affectionate retelling that ends with a bitter, not quite conclusive note.
- The Irishman
This is Martin Scorsese’s Unforgiven, a return to the genre that gave him his name that shows how these larger than life characters can give a lifetime of service and age into nothingness. The brilliant deaging digital technology allows Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino all live out and live past their own glory days, visualizing a legacy that passes them by.
- Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn’s novel is one of my all-time favorites, so to say I was nervous about this adaptation is an understatement; fortunately, David Fincher really knows what he’s doing an understood that media circus, unhappy marriage, murder, botched police investigations, and celebrity can all be funny if we think about it. The perfection of the casting of Ben Affleck as the hapless and morally dubious husband who becomes an icon cannot be overstated.
War is chaos and survival is victory. Dunkirk explores the experience of war more than any one person. It shapes the overall vision based around individual struggles, giving us a journey that allows sucks us into the chaos before treating us to the tapestry.
As history becomes myth and people become characters, it’s easy to forget the real ramifications and consequences of an event that occurs after it has faded from the news cycle. Jackie is a testament to the end of Camelot, but from the perspective of those left in King Arthur’s wake.
- Brad’s Status
There’s so much wisdom packed into this heartwarming, introspective father and son story; Ben Stiller’s character wrestles with how his son’s success may or may not fulfill the perceived gaps in his life, and the film expertly pokes holes in middle aged cynicism and the wide-eyed innocence of college.
- Everybody Wants Some
I’ve never wanted to hang out with characters in a movie more than I’ve wanted to hang out with the characters in Everybody Wants Some. I’ve never wanted to sing “Rapper’s Delight” with anybody in a car more than the characters in Everybody Wants Some. I’ve never wanted to go to a theater kid party more than I’ve wanted to go with the characters in Everybody Wants Some. I’ve never wanted to sleep through classes with anyone more than the characters in Everybody Wants Some.
- The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson redefined his own style but telling a story about what stories are; he allows us to dip into the most exciting, most accessible, most satisfying version of what a real story could be, showing that the past is a fun place to be for a little while, but isn’t a place to stay.
- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The best spy film ever made. Real life espionage has a lot less explosions and car chases, but in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy the realistic is made to be gripping. Also, the best ending montage in any movie ever, and I’ll stand by that.
- Bohemian Rhapsody
The music of Queen has always energized and inspired, and Bohemian Rhapsody channels this inherent energy into a fast-paced blast through the life of the legendary frontman, crossing through his major life events at the speed of “Don’t Stop Me Now.” It’s an energetic romp that navigates gracefully between the extremes in the life of Freddie Mercury, portrayed by Rami Malek in the role that rightfully earned him an Oscar.
Like Hitchock before him, Christopher Nolan has developed a real relationship with the audience in which he draws us in, demands we pay attention, and still pulls the rug out beneath us. This is a journey into the mind of someone who has an incredible imagination.
- Good Time
I don’t have a take on what the underlying message of Good Time is, but for a film that takes on the “one wild night” premise, Good Time ups the ante on the wildness in every situation, managing to feel sporadic in a way that is always satisfying.
- Mad Max: Fury Road
This is what movie reboots and sequels should be; stripping away the nonsense and delivering the visceral thrills that only a master filmmaker could, Mad Max: Fury Road is absolutely the best version of what a Mad Max movie could be.
Her is perfectly attuned to the future of what our world today may look like, not necessarily because of the technological angel, but because the honest depiction loneliness feels authentically suited to where we are headed.
This is a movie about a fake movie that was used to rescue real people, and of all the true events that feel suited to be adapted into a movie, none feel as perfect as this movie. A movie for people that like movies, not just because of the effervescent references to other movies, but because it mines all the possible dramatic and comedic situations that could occur considering the premise of this movie. Movies!
- Call Me By Your Name
Luca Guadagnino understands that relationships can’t be formatted into a three-act structure or a series of tear-ridden exchanges; Call Me By Your Name just lets us sit back and watch emotions develop and letting the inevitable occur.
The genius of Burning is that it’s a thriller where we’re not entirely sure what we should be dreading, calling into question what we should see as real and what is just a byproduct of the characters’ fantasy. Burning lets us linger within its world long enough that we guess how every action will have consequences, leading to a jaw dropping ending that both recontextualizes the entire story and question what was important and what wasn’t.
- Lady Bird
Being a teenager really, really sucks, and a film like Lady Bird is all about the juxtaposition of hilarity, regret, and heartbreak that everyone experiences during their transitional years.
- Phantom Thread
Daniel Day Lewis’s career has been a gift to cinema like no other, and there’s perhaps no better way to let him go out than as an obsessive, caustically witty, imminently selfish, and gloriously watchable. The film buff’s rom-com.
There are a lot of films that have attempted to explore the day to day experiences of life, but given that most of them aren’t directed by Alfonso Cuaron, they don’t have the pitch perfect composition or devastating reversion to routine that Roma does.
- Django Unchained
Darker, richer, and more fulfilling than nearly everything Tarantino has ever done, Django Unchained is a deep genre flick rooted in uncompromising anger. Cinema has never seen a villain like Calvin Candie.
- 12 Years a Slave
Essential in a way that only this story could be, this is a film that everyone should see, not because it is a totality of the ugliest period in American history, but because it is an example of the countless stories that could be told.
- Cold War
As Tommy Wiseau might say, “love is blind,” and in Cold War, it’s also fatal.
- Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
“Popularity is the slutty little cousin of prestige”- Mike Shiner.
- The Tree of Life
The most ambitious take on the vastness of time and the entirety of existence since 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Tree of Life is one of, if not the most beautiful looking movie ever made.
- Marriage Story
Marriage Story doesn’t try to explore what every divorce is like, but gives us a lot of insight into one specific one. What’s important is that we don’t end up hating either party, and we’re left wishing they could get back together while knowing that it will never happen. A refreshing update of Kramer v. Kramer for a new audience.
What are the lengths we’d go to achieve perfection in any given medium? Whiplash makes us realize that all aspirations are based partially in obsession, and leaves us to question whether it was all worth it.
- Manchester by the Sea
Possibly one of the most depressing movies ever made, but there’s insight in the banality of Manchester by the Sea, and the discussion regarding grief doesn’t ask questions as much as it explores its own complexity.
- La La Land
Forget the cynics, and forget the Oscars; this is a bombastic and expertly crafted musical that pays tribute to the classics, whilst pushing the genre closer to the future.
Equal parts disturbing and hilarious, Parasite shows how deep the wealth gap cuts into family priorities, allowing us to laugh at the absurdity and shake our heads at its relevance. The final act is an elegantly sinister coordination of brewing tensions that finally rise to the surface.
- Thunder Road
Jim Cummings writes, directs, and stars in this hyper-realistic take on a small town police officer’s mental breakdown following a series of traumatic events- like its opening twelve minute shot, Thunder Road lingers longer than should be comfortable and makes us laugh when we don’t have any other way to express ourselves. Cummings’s performance is affectionate and brave in its excruciating honestly; this film is proof that a crowd pleaser doesn’t have to be entirely comfortable.
- First Man
Envisioning the Moon Landing as a parent’s journey to cope with the loss of a child, First Man is a highly emotional experience that is elevated by Justin Hurtwitz’s operatic, all-time great score. Space can be exciting, but in First Man it’s also terrifying, as a group of brave astronauts venture into the great unknown with tragedy in the past and only shaky technology to aid them.
- The Favourite
As someone who has never related to period pieces and their attempts to humanize the most privileged, I found The Favourite to be a hilarious take on how we can be caught up in the bizarre maneuvering of the worst of people.
It may resonate with those who grew up in this decade the most, but the simple collection of moments that constitute growing up should be enough to resonate with anyone.
- The Revenant
Revenge and obsession feel more like destiny than fulfillment, and this epic odyssey of a tale is a testament to the everlasting relevance of revenge stories; they appeal to our darkest instincts, but the realized fantasy is often a grueling and fraught conquest.
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
No, there’s probably never been a movie made for me more than Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, but I’ve rarely been more aware that the creators of a film really love films more than this.
- Steve Jobs
Life is ultimately a series of conversations, and Steve Jobs condenses the life of its titular lead into three really great ones. Michael Fassbender is brilliant, but you already knew that.
- Baby Driver
Baby Driver is an age old story attuned to the specificity of today; this is a gimmick movie that knows how to use its gimmick, and gives a lot of great actors the chance to have a blast with some really wacky characters. If you don’t like Baby Driver, I’m assuming you’re either deeply cynical or just don’t like movies.
- The Wolf of Wall Street
It’s influence that draws people into something. The seductive cries of slickness. The Wolf of Wall Street is a rise and fall story that pans the audience for indulging, yet still leaves us wanting more. Sell me this pen.