Mike’s Top Films of the Decade (260-251)
And here we are. The big list. Theoretically the one we’ve been building toward. But really anticlimactic when you get down to it. You think the list of my ‘favorite’ films of an entire decade would be the thing you want. But really it’s just me going back over a lot of the stuff I covered on the other lists and a broad regurgitation of my top ten lists from the ten years. So, rather than treat this like some big holy set of rankings, I’m just gonna do what I did with all the other lists – try to get you to see some of these you haven’t seen before and maybe introduce you to some cool movies.
It’s important to note, as it’s important to note with all my lists – the rankings don’t really matter. The number is only a function of the day I put it together. The only way to truly get a real ranking of my favorite films of the decade is for me to take the pool of films I used and make up this list from scratch at least ten different times and then use some sort of formula to figure out the average position of each movie and then create a ranking. And that’s not the goal here. I don’t care about the numbers. I care about talking up the films I like and trying to get people to see some of them.
So, if you feel like you want to get upset about where something is ranked, know that it’s a broad ranking. For the most part, films are in the general range of the 25-50 where I’d generally rate them next to everything else. Things will change as I revisit stuff and as time goes on. Like I said, this is really just about telling you what I enjoyed most in the hopes that it gets you to check out some of the stuff you either didn’t know about before or never bothered to see (or maybe saw and didn’t fully appreciate at the time). That’s it. It’s really just about celebrating movies. Don’t get so hung up on the numbers.
So, here are my 500 favorite films of 2010-2019:
260. Finding Dory
Outside of the Toy Story series, Pixar hasn’t been that great with sequels. Until Toy Story 3, they hadn’t done any sequels until that point. Then this past decade — Cars 2 and 3, Monsters University, Incredibles 2, Toy Story 4 and this. And excluding Toy Story, I’d say this is the only one of those that feels remotely worthwhile. And even then, it’s just good. It’s not all-time Pixar. And while I know that belies the ranking of this one, but what you’ll see is — Pixar can always get a ranking like this with any old film. It’s when they make one of their originals that they go really high. So, while we get more Finding Nemo stuff and it’s cute and it’s fun and it’s got all the artistry we’ve come to expect with Pixar… as much as I really like this movie, I do hope they stick original as much as they can. But if anything, it does show that it is possible for them to make worthwhile sequels, which is good. I was beginning to doubt it with those other ones.
259. All the Money in the World
This movie is known by everyone but wasn’t seen by almost anyone. It’s Ridley Scott’s story of the Getty kidnapping which made news headlines two months before release when they announced that they were cutting Kevin Spacey out of the movie. And sure enough, within two months they released the movie as scheduled with Christopher Plummer playing the part. Which… he was better suited for it anyway, and also he’s terrific in it. That said… no one saw it. At all. And, like most Ridley movies, it’s really solid. Sometimes they might not be for you (Exodus wasn’t for me. Neither were Robin Hood or The Counselor), but no matter what, they’re always interesting. They’re always well made and worth your time. And that’s the beauty of him as a filmmaker. But this one… Alien: Covenant had just come out a few months prior and this was the second of his films, and I just don’t understand why no one went to see it. Because it’s really good. You can see it for whatever reason you like — its place in film history because of the news around it, or because you know Ridley Scott is a great filmmaker — but see it. Because it’s great.
258. Morris from America
One of my favorite indies of the decade. Coming of age story with an angle you’ve never seen before. American (black) kid growing up in Berlin with his widowed father. So you have someone who completely stands out in every way, going to school with German kids and learning German and coming of age around all of that. It’s not the same as how most other people do it. So it’s great. There’s some really great stuff here, particularly with Craig Robinson as the dad. It’s really well-written and made and I cannot recommend it highly enough to people to check out.
257. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
It’s funny how the first Mission: Impossible is this amazing movie, but so much of it feels like Brian De Palma making this movie. Tom Cruise is the lead, but he becomes the lead over the course of the movie. It’s really great how that works. And then the second one is very John Woo and very action-heavy and is its own thing and fit for what that was at the time. And then J.J. Abrams came on and made it very streamlined and set the course for what the films would become. But now they’ve just become Tom Cruise going above and beyond and trying to figure out what insane set pieces he can do next. This one has him literally holding onto the side of a plane as it takes off. And that’s really what you remember from these movies. They’re all great, they all feel better than the last one and they’re just fun thrill rides that you’re never disappointed by. Even this one… it’s got the climax in London on foot… very low tech. But no one remembers that. They just remember the feel of Mission: Impossible. It’s one of the few consistently great franchises we have.
256. A Separation
One of the ten or twenty best foreign films of the decade. It’s incredible. Asghar Farhadi’s film about a couple getting a divorce in Iran. Which, if you’re not familiar with Iran… not the easiest thing to do. It’s Kramer vs. Kramer in a lot of ways, but the setting of Iran really makes it stand out and gives it a different vibe than it would have if it took place in, say, Ohio. It’s an incredible drama with great performances and, if you’re gonna dip your toe into foreign cinema, this is one from this decade I would absolutely suggest you go for above most others.
255. The Imitation Game
This is one of those movies that was a rollercoaster for me. It’s that really classy Oscar bait movie that you know is gonna be good because of all the people involved that is very good, but then because it’s such an obvious movie and is good in that traditional kinda way, you forget about it and lose excitement for it because it’s not as thrilling as some of the hidden gems you’ve found along the way. But then you go back to it and realize, “Oh no, this is a really great movie.” I find myself going back to the scene where they finally realize the key to breaking Enigma (“Heil bloody Hitler”) constantly because it’s almost textbook as to how you want a scene to progress and how you want your audience completely along for the ride with every fluctuation of mood and tone as it changes throughout the scene. Because, remember, that scene ends with them realizing, “Oh shit, we can save a ship that’s gonna be attacked, and there are even personal stakes attached to this, as one of our people’s brother is on that ship. But if we do that, then they know we’ve broken it and we’ve just lost everything.” There’s a lot of complex stuff going on there and it’s a really great moment. But on top of that, it’s also a nice biopic of Turing and surprisingly even gets into the castration stuff, which is really powerful and important to tell, because it’s not just about breaking Enigma, even if that is the primary thrust of the narrative. It’s a terrific piece of work with great performances all around (and a killer score. Alexandre Desplat’s score is one of my favorites of the decade). You’ve probably seen it, but go back to it. You’ve probably forgotten how good this is.
254. Big Eyes
The forgotten Tim Burton movie. That’s right, this is Tim Burton. He’s paired with the writers of Ed Wood for another ‘offbeat subject’ biopic. It’s about Margaret Keane, famous for the paintings of the girls with (insert title here). And the film is largely about her life and her husband Walter, who for many years took credit for her work even though he was responsible for it being as famous as it was. It’s a really strong piece of work from Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz. It’s a bit neutered for Tim Burton, visually, but I suspect that might have been because of who he made it for (and let’s not pretend like Burton isn’t all kinds of neutered visually this past decade). It’s still a great film and one of those unlooked at gems that’s just sitting right there for people to find.
The return of Jason Reitman. He had that run of Young Adult (nobody cared for it), Labor Day (either unliked or unseen), Men Women and Children (completely unseen to the point where I’m not even sure people know it exists) and then four years without a film. Then he returned with this, which completes his ‘motherhood’ trilogy with Diablo Cody (or maybe it’s a ‘maturity’ trilogy. Either way, it’s three films), and is a really nice little film. It’s one of those you almost need to watch twice. Because narratively… there’s stuff happening here that might make you feel a certain way about the film, which could diminish the thematic impact of what’s going on. I’m hesitant to get into it for those who’ve not seen it. But it’s definitely one of those where, you might see what it’s trying to do and then be unable to see the forest for the trees. That said, when you watch it the second time, knowing full well what’s happening, everything just becomes so thematically richer and you really understand what the film is trying to see. It’s a quietly amazing movie. And I feel like, with Reitman, once you strip away the weight of expectation (which there’s no denying he had after Juno), you see his strengths as a filmmaker, which tend to be more subtle. I heard him say once he hates calling attention to shots in his films, which allow you to live inside them more, and I feel like that’s what’s happening here. You get to live with this woman and really learn something about motherhood and women and just life in general from seeing this. It’s really good and destined to be perennially underrated because of it.
252. Leave No Trace
Debra Granik started the decade with Winter’s Bone, a consensus great movie. Then she didn’t make another movie until almost the end of the decade. But man, did she outdo herself. This movie is so good. It instantly makes Thomasin McKenzie a star and further solidifies Ben Foster as one of our most underrated great actors. It’s about a father and war vet with PTSD who has raised his daughter in the wild, living off the grid inside a national park away from where the tourists go. The girl has grown up learning how to survive and fend for herself but also knows to stay away from other people. But now, as a teenager, she feels that pull of ‘normal’ life, which leads to them eventually being seen and forced to integrate into society. And the film is about what happens to the two of them during this time — the girl takes to it very well, while the father struggles mightily and keeps feeling the pull to leave, but stays because he loves his daughter. It’s a wonderful drama and really should be seen by anyone who loves movies.
251. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
There’s nothing I need to say about this movie. Everyone’s seen it. Everyone loves it. It furthers animated film in a way that was sorely necessary. I can’t really point to five American studio animated movies from this decade outside of Disney or Pixar that truly do something impressive in terms of how they present their material. But this one… you feel it. It’s colorful, it blends styles. It’s not content to just make everything as photorealistic as possible. It’s about furthering a mood and a theme and doing something that brings you into the story without trying to look exactly like the real world. And that’s the best thing you can say about this movie above all else. Oh, and the soundtrack is amazing too.
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