Welcome to Part 4 of The Decade’s Best: 2010-19 – #25-#1.
Another decade gone, another great decade of films. I’ve, insanely, decided to write up my top 100 best films of the last ten years. That’s 2010 to 2019, when I watched 1,264 movies (thanks Letterboxd!), of which I considered about 200 for this list. The top 25 or so was easier to sort out than the bottom 25, with a number of films missing out that I wish I could have squeezed in.
This was a list built on re-watches, filmmaking excellence, nostalgia, gut feelings, and just sheer enjoyment. I’m a favorite = best kind of guy, so even if I found something to be technically exquisite, but it didn’t affect me, it’s not going to probably end up on this list. That doesn’t mean all of these films are pure popcorn entertainment, though you’ll find plenty of that on my list, I have arthouse entries, dramas, action, sci-fi, mostly english language films, and a lack of comedies. Which I think says a lot about that genre as of late.
If you’ve been subscribed to our podcast, you might have noticed a few episodes based on The Decade’s Best (found here). I did this for the last decade too, with three list entries, 100-66, 65-33, and 32-1, but as time passes, so do feelings, so I reorganized that list to more current moods (00-09 Revisited vs. 00-09 Original). Which brings me to the weird thing about these lists, what I feel today will probably be different in another decade. Which I think is really interesting! If you compare those two 00-09 lists you will see some wild disparities. Take my #1 film from that decade today (and my current #1 of all-time!), Fantastic Mr. Fox; I placed it at #54! How is that possible? In fact, 11 of the top 20 have been swapped out from the original list.
So why should you care about this list order? Well, you shouldn’t. But what I do think is that all 100 of these films are well worth your time! They are all GREAT in my book. Your book? Only one way to find out! So with that, on to the list!
And Now That The Whole Thing Is Out There: The Runner-Ups: The Movies I Considered That Missed The Cut
#25 – #1
25. Drive (2011)
When the opening sequence of Drive ended, I turned to Amy and said, “Holy shit, this is going to be amazing.” I wasn’t wrong. The Ryan Gosling Nicolas Winding Refn driver movie starts off with a bang, lets us into the drivers world, and then blows it all to hell. Gosling is the quiet eye of the storm, stoic and quiet until he erupts. The cast is riddled with greatness, Carey Mulligan plays a love interest that we can believe in, Oscar Isaac plays a poor sap that never had a chance, Bryan Cranston is the guy too far in over his head, Albert Brooks is somehow menacing, this movie has got it all before you even mention Ron Perlman and Cristina Hendricks. The set pieces are excellent throughout, Refn painting with neon and setting it all to a synth soundtrack that works to perfection. I have seen Drive in awhile, it feels low on this list. It was my number one of 2011, surpassed by one movie still to come, I fresh watch might have sent this one higher.
Best Version of Gosling: Stoic Gosling made this list a couple of times in higher places, but I’m taking charming Gosling EVERY. DAY. OF. THE. WEEK.
24. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
There has been much hullabaloo about this film since it come out, I’m not here to talk about that. What I’m here to discuss is Kathryn Bigelow’s superb direction, Jessica Chastain’s incredible performance, and a compelling narrative set around the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Chastain’s Maya is a focused, and eventually obsessed, agent that sort of falls into the hunt for Bin Laden, and once things get going, Bigelow never lets up. The filmmaking is truly impeccable, with not a bad scene in the bunch. The raid finale is also just flat out incredible, building tension through and through, even though we know how this is ultimately going to play out for most wanted #1. The film has the emotional send off you need too, as Maya’s release is the one we need as Bigelow finally let’s the viewer breathe along with her. Like the film before it, it’s been a minute since I’ve seen this, but I think it might have also placed higher had I got a chance at a rewatch.
Winner Of The What Are You Doing In This Movie Award: Chris Pratt, what are you doing in this movie? He’s good though!
23. Roma (2018)
Alfonso Cuarón is a master, I probably already said that once before in this feature, and his authorship over Roma helps make it as beautiful a movie as it is. He directed, wrote, produced, shot and edited this movie. It’s his film. And it’s also auto-biographical, as Cuarón’s script and main character, Cleo, were inspired by his own domestic worker who helped raise him and take care of his family. Cleo is played with such empathy and quiet charisma by Yalitza Aparicio, who was a non-actor, but deservedly wound up being nominated for an Oscar for this film. Her love for the children is palpable, but it’s the way she navigates everything this family and world throws at her that makes her performance and story so powerful. Cuarón’s story is beautiful and every shot and sequence supporting it is perfect along the way. It might not be as showy as his previous efforts, but it’s grand and epic all the same. I still have only seen this film in a theater, twice (not a complaint), and I wonder how long I can go without firing it up on Netflix, as I would definitely see it on the big screen again. A beautiful film.
Thing I Learned I Could Do: I can totally do that balancing thing the wrestler guy and Cleo can do!
22. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)
The highest a 2019 film will get on this list, Quentin Tarantino’s latest was great on a first viewing, revelatory on a second, as it jumped into my top 3 Tarantino after that second take cemented its greatness. The two lead performances, by Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are two of the year’s absolute best, maybe the best, while his supporting cast is excellent through and through. Less reliant on huge stars, Tarantino actually fills his cast with a bunch of young up and comers who all take full advantage of their opportunity, while Margot Robbie is perfect as Sharon Tate. She is the key to the movie, you fall in love with Tate, and it makes you root for Rick “Fucking” Dalton and Cliff Booth in the finale. We know this rescue from reality isn’t permanent, but the melancholy feeling that final beat and title card give you is enough. What starts as a hangout movie, evolves into a tension filled trip into Manson land, before a glorious orgy of violence you can’t help but root for as you look away from the carnage, before rooting again when Leo comes out of that shed. Beautiful. Perfect. Check back in a decade and this might be my number one.
Best Dog Of The Decade Award: Brandy is the dog of the decade, maybe the dog of all time.
21. Phantom Thread (2017)
Paul Thomas Anderson finally appears on this list! He’s the last of the six directors to feature three times on this list to appear, the only one of those six with more than one movie in the top 21, and he has all three of his narrative features from the decade featured going forward. Paul Thomas Anderson was the director of the decade for me. And frankly, Phantom Thread probably deserves to be higher than its current placing as well! I felt bad having Anderson fill so much of the tippy top of this list, I think Phantom Thread was a bit unfairly demoted to this space, just to let some other people have some glory. This movie is perfect though. Nobody but Anderson could have came up with a movie like this and made it this damn good, as we watch an unlikely romance rise and attempt to self-implode thanks to the fussy Reynolds Woodcock. Daniel Day Lewis is phenomenal in his “last role”, but he is kept pace with at every turn by the incredible Vicky Krieps. Gosh, Krieps is great, you can’t help but fall in love with Alma too, and you will be root for her every step of her depraved way of managing the great House of Woodcock. We can’t forget Lesley Manville either, as sister Woodcock, who is the only other person who can cut Reynolds down a peg or three. I love Phantom Thread, it’s one of the best relationship movies ever. More please, Mr. Anderson.
Score of the Decade?: Jonny Greenwood’s work with Anderson has been stellar, but the score here is a character in the film, propelling us forward and a part of the journey every step of the way, it’s perfect.
20. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Martin Scorsese had a pretty good decade, but only one of his films made it onto this list. Hugo and Silence were both considered, The Irishman probably deserved a look too, but it is this damning and rockus ode to Wall Street assholery that keeps me coming back. This film gets better, funnier and more rewatchable every time I see it. DiCaprio is at it again here, in probably his best performance to date, and between his work in this and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood you just wish he would be funny more? Those two performances are two of the most comedic turns of the last twenty years, and it goes to show just how great an actor he is. Scorsese’s kinetic filmmaking never lets go of your collar either, whipping you around like you are taking lines at the same rate as these brokers were, making being terrible a whole lot of fun. That’s not to say Scorsese approves of this, but he isn’t ashamed to show you why these people did and why we should be reminded that there is always someone out there trying to fuck you over. I don’t know how you can watch this movie and think about investing in the stock market is a good idea. At best you are gambling and get lucky, at worst you are the mark and get taken for the fool these fucking idiots think you are. Fuck that. A masterpiece.
Best McConaughey of the Decade?: He comes in and destroys everything in his path for fifteen minutes. I think Magic Mike might take this for the extended nature of it, but man, this has got to be close.
19. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Why everyone didn’t watch this movie and realize Oscar Isaac is one of our greatest actors is crazy to me. Like, seriously, him and Leo should have been neck and neck at the Oscars for this and instead we gave the award to (checks Google) McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club? (Ok, this wasn’t an egregious pick, especially paired with his bit in Wolf of Wall Street and the category was pretty stacked, but, come on!) Isaac’s sad and grumpy title character is on an odyssey of failure in a world that isn’t quite ready for him. But he doesn’t really want to help himself either. It’s an incredible performance, as the Coen Brothers masterfully send him halfway across the country and back, in the snow, only to end up right back where he started. The music is great, the supporting cast is aces, and the cat is one hell of an actor. The tone and overall mood of this movie left a lot of people cold, especially coming from the Coen’s, but once you get on its rhythm there is nothing but stuff to love here.
Is This Top 3 Coen?: Maybe? In the running is A Serious Man, Fargo, Lebowski, Raising Arizona, No Country For Old Men, O’ Brother and this. That’s a masterpiece or two each decade for the last four if you are counting by the way. I think my ranking is probably Raising Arizona, No Country and Llewyn and A Serious Man battling it out for that third spot. The Coen’s are really good at making movies, people.
18. 12 Years A Slave (2013)
Steve McQueen’s slavery epic follows a free man who is drugged and sold off into slavery from the North, leaving a family behind and a trip into a world he never knew before in front of him. McQueen’s direction is often harrowing, with incredible performances from everyone involved. Not a rewatchable film, but a powerful one nonetheless, the film has stuck with me all these years because it is probably the most I’ve ever cried in the movie? Out of sadness, dread and joy, thankfully, in the end. Though, those tears of happiness at the end of Solomon’s 12 year journey are tinged with the loss of life that came before and will follow for a number of people we have come to care about. McQueen fills out the cast with a who’s who Hollywood’s best actors, with Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o keeping up right along side Chiwetel Ejiofor’s devastating lead performance as Solomon. The single take whipping of Nyong’o was visceral and thrilling filmmaking, built to enhance the horror and shock of what was unfolding on screen. I’ll never forget it, among a handful of incredible moments crafted by McQueen.
Best Bit Performance In A Film Full Of Them: Paul Giamatti’s quick appearance as the leader of an auction house for slaves is so casually and politely degregating, he pulls off the part in a way that makes you see how people could think this was all just a transaction, dehumanizing every slave along the way. It’s sickening to watch how charismatic he can be selling a human being.
17. Before Midnight (2013)
Richard Linklater’s third film in the Before Trilogy (I think we will get one or two more) is such a naturally perfect extension of Celine and Jesse’s relationship, it took a viewing or two to see why they change up the formula ever so slightly from the first two films. What used to be tantalizing walk and talks along European cities with gorgeous rivers has turned into a relationship that is settling in to itself and hiding behind everything that can be put in front of it. Children, family, friends, are all obstacles from getting to the nitty gritty of how things are really going, and we get to see when those barriers finally get out of the way. The final act of this film is one of the best relationship fights every put on film. Funny, heartbreaking, honest, anyone who’s been in a long term relationship with someone they truly love can see some part of themselves in this battle, which is played perfectly by Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. The two are just electric with one another, and I really, really hope Linklater isn’t done with this duo.
Dumbest Thing I Did Surrounding This Movie: When the trailer started playing for this before a movie I was seeing, I ran out of the theater, literally, covering my ears as I wanted to know absolutely nothing about what I was getting into here. It was the right choice.
16. Toy Story 3 (2010)
The final film in Pixar’s best run of films (The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Wall-e and Up ran up to this, with an underrated Cars thrown in there), this was their first real dip back into the well since the company’s inception. (The story goes with Toy Story 2 that this was originally supposed to be one of those Disney direct to video cash grabs and Pixar didn’t have the heart to let them sully their good name so they took over just to be sure their brand wasn’t tarnished so quickly.) Their success with sequels has been varied ever since (most are second or third tier Pixar, all good films mind you), but Toy Story 3 is the best entry of this four film franchise. There isn’t any bad Toy Story content, all of the shorts are even great, but this film almost destroyed me in the theater. What starts off as a hilarious and natural evolution for these toys (“Hello, daycare!”), turns into a brilliant heist movie, then into a tortuous exercise in accepting your fate, before being whisked away into devastating look at the end of your childhood. Did I mention this film almost crushed me. I was a mess at the end of this thing, lots of tears as I was surrounded by children I didn’t know, I was the perfect age for all of this to be played at me. Beautifully animated, sharply written, Lee Unkrich’s solo directorial debut cemented him as one of Pixar’s best (he also directed Coco, which sits on this list).
Best Bit I Didn’t Know I Needed: The Mr. Potato Head being put into other objects besides his body had me rolling in the theater and it was all so beautifully animated as well.
15. Her (2013)
A director that could have given Paul Thomas Anderson a run for his money, Spike Jonze sadly only made one movie this decade. He’s one of my favorite filmmakers and I was blown away by his first standalone effort as a writer/director. The quick pitch of “What if a guy fell in love with his computer?” might seem like a potentially lame and limiting idea, Spike Jonze not only maximizes that that concept to its perfection, but also ultimately makes a film about moving on from a break up you never thought would happen. An oddly compelling double feature with Lost in Translation, this feels like an echo to that film by Jonze’s ex-wife Sofia Coppola. Lost in Translation feels like Coppola working through her falling out of love with Jonze, while Her feels like Jonze working through he finally moved past Coppola. It only gets more compelling when Scarlett Johansson is at the middle of both of these films, brilliantly in both, both as the Coppola avatar in translation and the relationship that lets Jonze’s avatar move on. Johansson plays the AI that Joaquin Phoenix falls for in Her, both are incredible, as Johansson fills every scene like we can see her and lifts Phoenix up to show a side of his character, Theodore, that has been dormant since his impending divorce. The arc of love with Johansson’s Samantha is wonderful, the act of forgiveness with his ex (Rooney Mara) feels earned, but what makes this film so brilliant is the extrapolation of what the life cycle of AI might actually play out as in our real world. Samantha’s journey with Theodore is great, but her journey of self-discovery is my biggest take away from this brilliant film. Not only for the outcomes that affect her, but the effect it has on humanity as well. Her is brilliant, make another movie Spike, and soon.
Best Thing Spike Jonze Did Besides Her This Decade: This perfume commercial starring Margaret Qualley is fantastic:
14. Lady Bird (2017)
Greta Gerwig is someone I’ve always been on the same wavelength with ever since she landed on my radar, but it was her solo writer/director debut that really put it all into focus. It felt like a movie made just for me, even though I’ve never been a teenage girl and was definitely as outspoken and sharp witted as Lady Bird was for her senior year in high school. Gerwig’s filmmaking style (fast paced and razor sharp), her screenwriting (thoughtful and witty) and this story she decided to tell (about the feeling of needing to escape a boring world you know nothing of beyond its boundaries), set in the exact time period I was exiting high school (early 2000’s) all resonated. This is what I want movies to feel and sound like, and Lady Bird’s desires were ones that made sense to me in hindsight. I never thought about escaping my hometown when I was in high school, in fact, I thought I would one day end up working back in it! But looking back on my life, leaving home and finding a new one was the greatest thing I could have ever done. Leaving family and friends is hard, and will always be the hardest part, but moving to California with Amy was the first step through a door that allowed us to only expand out further and see the world. Gerwig’s setting, and assessment, of Sacramento couldn’t be more accurate, “the midwest of California”, and living just one town over from that city for our first five years in California was both a blessing and I’m so glad to have moved past it. It’s great to feel like you’ve taken the right steps moving forward in your life, and Lady Bird, oddly helped confirm that. But enough about me. Saoirse Ronan is incredible as Lady Bird, a force of nature, and Gerwig’s ability to wrangle such a perfect performance out of her is a testament to both of their talents. The rest of the ensemble is equally great, just point a finger at anyone in the cast list and they did amazing work. Laurie Metcalf gets singled out as being excellent, and she is, but I think you could say that about just about any of the main five or six characters in the film. It’s pitch perfect. Should I have this movie higher too?
Most Used Meme Out Of Lady Bird:
13. Frances Ha (2013)
Oh hey, Greta, it’s you again! Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach’s second collaboration is also co-written by the duo, but it feels like Gerwig more than Baumbach, probably because she also stars at the center of it all in the titular role as Frances. Frances Ha is about friendships that fade without ever really knowing it. Growing up without ever really knowing it. Realizing you are thirty years old and you haven’t really accomplished anything. More Autobiographical Synchronicity With Greta Gerwig Movies Alert! Frances is adorable, but also lost, and watching her spend a year bouncing around from apartment to apartment is hilarious until the melancholy sets in. Gerwig is marvelous in the lead, while Baumbach fills each new apartment with some wonderful fresh faces. The script is as succinct and thoughtful as Gerwig’s other works, moving along at a clip, but somehow still full of fully realized and alive characters. She’s something special and her two formal collaborations with Baumbach as co-writers really are something. I don’t know if we will get to see them collaborate together again, Gerwig’s too good on her own, but I will always treasure Frances Ha as the loudest announcement of Gerwig’s talents to come.
Best Roommate In Frances’ Journey: While Lev might be a bit of a bro, he does some like a pretty cool, if absurd, guy; and he is also Adam Driver, soooooo.
12. Black Swan (2010)
Darren Aronofsky has always been one of my favorite directors. It was somewhat a theoretical obsession at first, as his sheer talent displayed in Requiem for a Dream was crystal clear, all of the movies he almost made had me hyped for years. When we finally got his scaled back version of The Fountain (I wanted that Pitt/Blanchett version so bad!) it was still pretty fucking incredible. That movie holds up, people. After making his acclaimed “bounce back” with The Wrestler, this decade started off with a bang with Black Swan. One of the best horror/thrillers I’ve ever seen, Aronofsky’s filmmaking is just impeccable here. Natalie Portman delivers her best work as a ballerina, Nina, losing her grip on reality, while Aronofsky takes full advantage of this conceit to play with the imagery he throws up on screen that conveys Nina’s descent into madness. Terrifying and exhilarating all at once, the finale to this film really lives up to the film’s final line, “It was perfect.” For directors bragging in their own films with how much they nailed it, I don’t know who was more right, Aronofsky or Tarantino in Inglourious Basterds.
Best Shot Of The Decade?: The transformation sequence of Nina into the Black Swan is the best scene in a film full of brilliant ones, but the wide shot of Nina posing at the end, with the giant wing shadows, wowzer!
11. Midnight in Paris (2011)
Woody Allen’s time traveling, walking around Paris movie might be the film my wife and I wholly agree on its greatness. Owen Wilson is so damn funny and charming as Gil Pender, a nostalgic writer who accidentally stumbles upon a time portal into the 1920’s where he can interact with all of his heroes, and it serves as an interesting case study into the dangers of always looking back and never forward. Sure it’s fun to revisit all of those things that you love, but you also have to be present. This plays out to comedic effect as Gil reassess his current love life situation as he flirts with the idea of engaging with a lovely woman in the past, before realizing everyone is looking back and he needs to move forward. Rachel McAdams is great as the entitled modern day girlfriend, Inez, and this also counts as another entry into Rachel McAdams interacts with time traveling men movie marathon. Michael Sheen is hilarious as a pretentious know it all, Corey Stoll shines as Ernest Hemingway, while Tom Hiddelston and Alison Pill are enigmatic as the Fitzgeralds. The film just feels like comfort food, I could play it on repeat, and it might be the movie I’ve watched the most this decade. I love it.
Hey, I’ve Been There!: When Amy and I visited Paris we found the steps that Gil transports through at midnight, sadly, the lighting in the film made my picture sitting on the steps look shitty by comparison.
10. Inherent Vice (2014)
Paul Thomas Anderson, kicking off the top 10! This adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s stoner noir perfectly captures the vibe of that book. Absurd and hilarious, Joaquin Phoenix delivers yet another amazing performance, but this time on the comedic end of the spectrum as our doped out lead Doc Sportello. Kathrine Waterston is mesmerizing as the film’s femme fatale stand in, Josh Brolin delivers, possibly, his best performance to date as a wannabe actor/full time detective hard ass Bigfoot Bjornsen, Martin Short pops up for one scene and bats a 1.000, while the rest of the film is peppered with familiar faces who are all game for the silliness of all this. The movie isn’t really about the mystery, it’s about the people you meet along the way, but Doc still somehow puts it all together. It’s the film’s ultimate coda that hits me in the heart every time though, Doc’s intentions to cure those “little kid blues” never fails to get me, and that’s thanks to a great turn by Owen Wilson as a recovering junkie who fell in with the wrong crowd. Endlessly quotable, entirely brilliant, Anderson throws together a detective tale that not only engages with its mystery, but is equally hilarious from start to finish. Phoenix is truly incredible in the lead too, this would probably sit higher on the list if this duo hadn’t, somehow, produced an even better film this decade.
Best Line: “He perished in a trampoline accident…”
9. mother! (2017)
Aronofsky again! mother! is everything. The guy put all of his ideas up on screen. Retelling of the old testament, check. A look at the latent misogyny of our culture, check. An allegory for climate change, check. Home invasion thriller, check. Literally, the rise and fall of a civilization, check. God himself, I think so. We weren’t ready for mother! Sold as a creepy Jennifer Lawrence in a haunted house mystery, all of Aronofsky’s real ideas lingered under the surface of the advertising and I was truly blown away. The first half of the film plays as an unnerving thriller of sorts as more and more people keep showing up to Lawrence’s home, that she shares with her poet husband (played by Javier Bardem), before exploding into something else entirely once that matter is resolved. The filmmaking on display in the back half of this film is truly astonishing. I don’t know how Aronofsky does most of the shit he does in the film, ramping up the insanity to 11 while maintaining a coherent through line that fits alongside all of the allegorical work he is doing in the film. Lawrence is mesmerizing as she gets chewed up and spit out by a world that hates her, humanity might not survive, but god doesn’t really give a shit because we get to see he can just pick up and start again, this time with a red head. Watch this movie, hate me later.
Most Surprising Use Of Kristen Wiig: I did NOT see that coming! Twice!
8. Inception (2010)
Christopher Nolan’s big bet on himself was the last movie I rewatched for this list. I was a little worried how it would hold up all these years later, it had been a minute since I’ve seen it, but I was thrilled to be just as sucked in and exhilarated as I was ten years ago. Truly a unicorn of originality in our big budget fare, Nolan took his The Dark Knight cache and turned it into this crazy ass movie about dreams within dreams within dreams, front loading the film with exposition that explains how the hell all of this works, so that once we dive into the final heist we just sort of get what the hell is going on. Even if you don’t know what exactly is happening, Nolan’s filmmaking and construction of this film is entrancing. Jumping between set pieces all taking place simultaneously and a part all the same, every set piece has something you’ve never seen before, all while we get to watch Leonardo DiCaprio and company look cool as hell while doing it. Tom Hardy reminds us why he became such a big star here, with Nolan rounding out the rest of the cast with a stellar line up of star talent. I also forgot how terrifying Marion Cotillard sort of is in this film, and how tragic her story with DiCaprio’s cob really gets. I am still a bit peeved about the ambiguity of the final beat, I choose to believe in the happy ending, but that is the only ding I can give this action masterpiece from one of our big budget masters.
How Did They Do That?: Watching the zero-gravity hallway fight has lost none of its awe power, props to Nolan for thinking this sequence up and executing it in a way that is practical and looks incredible.
7. Under the Skin (2014)
Jonathan Glazer’s sci-fi film is a haunting and heart stopping look at the dangers of being a female, even if you are an alien from another planet. Scarlett Johansson has never been better than she is her, evolving from a laser focused flirt meant to bring back meat for harvest, into a creature fascinated with humanity and what it means to be a woman. Sadly, she finds out the worst of it, but her path to that conclusion is one that you can’t look away from. Glazer’s imagery will burn into your brain, and the sense memory you will have to Mica Levi’s score will run chills down your spine. So much of this film is otherworldly in all the right ways, it is sort of hard to really explain much about this film. It has to be experienced. All I can do is heap praise on everyone involved in this production, they created something so unique and singular, you’ll never see another film like this.
Life Lesson Learned: Never follow a gorgeous woman into black goop. Never, never, never.
6. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Wes Anderson is the other Anderson that has a stranglehold on my film loving heart, and his last live action effort really feels like where he put everything together. Marrying his aesthetics and storytelling into a beautiful and ultimately melancholic story about love, he still finds plenty of fun and adventures along the way. This is made so mainly by the incredible performance at the center of all this by Ralph Fiennes, who gives the best performance ever in a Wes Anderson movie. Rewatching this recently, you can’t discount how perfect and hilarious he is as Monsieur Gustave H. I mean, the lines that Anderson gives him are just legendary and he delivers every one with a quality that could be defined as Gustave H.-esque. They created a wholly original persona. Anderson’s ensemble is top notch, as always, and everyone gets a moment to shine among the madness that begins to unfold as Gustave and his lobby boy, Zero, get caught up in the family drama of the Desgoffe-und-Taxis. I could hand out superlatives all day for this film, but I will wrap it up by shouting out Alexandre Desplat’s score, which is essential to the film’s magic, and might be his best work in a decade full of great works by him.
Best Tiny Detail In A Film Full Of Them: The fingerprint chart missing four digits for Deputy Kovacs after his unfortunate end.
5. The Tree of Life (2011)
When I saw Terrence Malick’s long gestating film I was a soft Malick fan, having loved The New World and appreciated The Thin Red Line (aka, misunderstood it), but I walked out of this movie changed. I turned to my friend Todd and said, “I think that was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.” He scoffed at me, but almost ten years later I still feel the same. No film has captured the experience of being a child like this film does. Malick’s focus on the three O’Brien’s as they come of age, the oldest particularly, feels so raw and authentic, especially for the 60’s setting the film takes place in. This is a fairly conservative version of the 60’s, as the patriarch of the O’Brien’s is a man that is raising his boys the way he was, tough and direct. Brad Pitt is great as that man, you feel his love, but you get why the boys are intimidated by him. Why they feel like they might rebel against him. And you can say the same about Jessica Chastain’s angelic performance as the matriarch, who is the opposite in the way she shares her love with her boys. This dichotomy is intentional, but also works beautifully as this story is being told from the children’s perspective. Malick and Emmanuel Lubezki’s camera work is arguably the most beautiful film of the decade, and the opening detour through the creation of Earth and the Universe feels oddly appropriate as Malick’s shows us where empathy came from. This film is just as captivating as the day I saw it, and I look forward to watching this every couple years for some time to come. A beautiful film.
Best Poster Of The Decade?: The baby’s foot is a perfect encapsulation of the movie and one of the most beautiful images in the film. The scene it’s pulled from is also a great showcase of the complexity of Mr. O’Brien, how soft and how deep he loves these boys, even if he gets tougher on them as the get closer to being men.
4. Upstream Color (2013)
Two directors on this list directed, wrote, shot, edited and produced their films, Alfonso Cuarón on Roma and Upstream Color’s Shane Carruth. But Carruth one ups him, as he also composed his film, and created one of the best scores of the decade to boot. Oh he also stars in the movie too. Carruth’s first film, Primer, was a sci-fi/time travel puzzle of a movie, made for nothing. Upstream Color wasn’t made for much more, but it looks leaps and bounds better. It’s beautiful, and Carruth unlocks a level of visual storytelling that is unparalleled. The film’s mysteries are many and deep, and the dialogue never tries to fill you in, but Carruth’s camera is always telling the story, full of details and information that rewards future viewings. Part crime film, part body horror, part love story, part parasitic mind control narcotics distributed through worms story, you know, your basic film. Upstream Color is one of a kind and is anchored by a brilliant lead performance from Amy Seimetz. She is fragile, yet strong. Damaged, but always a fighter. And when she figures out the piece of the puzzle she does, you wouldn’t want to get in her way. Still waiting on his follow up, Carruth get on that.
Why Did No One Fund A Topiary?: Shane Carruth’s script for his intended follow up to Primer is an incredible sci-fi story, as visually rich and imaginative as Upstream Color, but on a more epic scale. Make this movie!
3. The Social Network (2010)
David Fincher’s film about the origins of Facebook might not be 100% accurate, but 10 years on one thing is for sure, Mark Zuckerberg is an asshole. Fincher’s film gets that point across in spades, but the film endures because of the lightning fast dialogue and the incredibly proficient filmmaking by Fincher. His cast is also incredible from top to bottom, but Jesse Eisenberg’s Zuckerberg is the standout. He is just so damn good. He does an incredible job of being the smartest guy in the room, makes us get on his side and agree with him, but also never letting us forget that he is an asshole. Rooney Mara basically launches her film career by killing it in one scene, the pivotal opening scene, that reminds us right from the get go that Mark Zuckerberg is an asshole. Aaron Sorkin’s script is full of great lines, gets across so much information without ever leaving the audience behind, while also creating complex character portraits for everyone with more than a couple lines. Even Dakota Johnson comes in for one scene and is a charming as hell French major who you fall for, or maybe that’s just a me and Dakota Johnson thing. There isn’t a bad beat in the film, it is endlessly rewatchable, and I get sucked in 100% every time I put it on.
Best Board Room Zinger: “I’m just checking your math on that. Yes, I got the same thing.”
2. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
George Miller’s fourth film starring Mad Max wasn’t a franchise I was waiting for a reboot of. I had vague remembrances of Thunderdome, but had no connection to these movies. Miller smartly anticipates that and created a story that stands on its own and puts the heroics on the shoulders of mostly new characters with his titular character along for the ride. The results were awe inspiring. The film is essentially a two hour chase scene, with this post-apocalyptic setting being the perfect setting for some gnarly and bizarre vehicular shenanigans. You can’t even wrap your head around how they did most of these stunts, especially since Miller relies on practical effects work whenever possible. He marries those images seamlessly with the extended CG mayhem, and watching how they did all of this effects work is almost as impressive as the film itself. Furiosa, The Doof Warrior, Immorten Joe, these are all now iconic characters of film. The story is empowering to the women in it and provides sharp social commentary in the biggest action film of the decade. It’s insane this movie exists, but I am eternally grateful that it does. We all should be. This is the best action movie of all time.
Most Unforgettable Moment: This could be a list of 100 items on its own, but when those cars get sucked up into that sandstorm, the imagery made me realize just how special what we were watching was going to be.
1. The Master (2012)
Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master has mesmerized me from the opening shot of the film. The alchemy that made all of that possible was the combination of PTA, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix. All three of these masters of their crafts came together and all delivered the best work to this date. Boogie Nights might be my favorite PTA film thanks to its script and ensemble, but The Master is his most compelling work as a director and the duo mentioned above have possibly the best chemistry ever put on film. Every scene between Hoffman and Phoenix is electric, and the first processing scene after the wedding might be my favorite scene ever? Phoenix’s performance is so raw, so unpredictable, so intense, but it feels entirely organic. He doesn’t feel like he’s overacting, he feels like he has become Freddie Quell and the same can be said for Hoffman and Lancaster Dodd. Even when they’re not together, they soak up all of the energy in the room and you can’t escape their energy. Beyond those two, Amy Adams somehow is almost equally as impressive, even if she is stuck in the cracks and background that the two boys are leaving for others, she takes full advantage of every moment she gets. In fact, the more you watch the film, the more you realize how important and vital Adams’ Peggy Dodd is to The Cause. Anderson’s script gives us so much depth to these three leads, each subsequent viewing peels back another layer. The film can feel like an enigma at times, but you can’t look away all the same. The film transports you into its world for two plus hours in a way only the greatest films can, it will never lose that magic, and will always be in my PTA Top 3; unless he makes at least two more masterworks on the level as this, which is entirely possible!
Contradictory Best Scene Alert: I know I mentioned the processing scene being my favorite scene ever, but Phoenix taking the picture of the dude, and then it turns into a fight is a very close second.
Thanks for reading! For a quick look at the full list, hit the link to letterboxd.