Mike’s Top Films of the Decade (250-241)
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:
Kathryn Bigelow’s followup to Zero Dark Thirty, a look at the Detroit riots of 1967, focused on one particular incident at the Algiers Motel, in which police murdered unarmed black man for no real reason other than racism. It’s a film that takes place 50 years ago and feels just as timely (if not timelier) now than it did then. And it’s funny. I remember seeing this in 2017 and thinking, like usual, Bigelow does a great job of shooting action and maintaining tension and keeping everything feeling visceral and alive. But you also felt that people didn’t really see the film as something they needed to or wanted to see. I think some people had the reaction of “there’s too much of this on the news, so why would I want to go see this on the screen when I can watch explosions and take my mind off this?” and others didn’t see the true prescience of it. It came out a week before the Charlottesville incident with the tiki torches and Heather Hyer getting murdered. There were all these high profile deaths but it didn’t feel as pressing then (as much as it was) as it feels right now. And now’s a perfect time for people to go back and see this, because it’s just as good as Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty are and is about something we should all be relating to and should all see as a sign that things need to change and have needed to change for a long time.
249. Tron: Legacy
I have such a soft spot for this movie. I don’t even think it’s that great, but I also love it. I love the visuals of it all, I love the soundtrack (Daft Punk crafts one of the best scores of the decade with this one), and I just enjoy it. That’s really all I have. The original is noteworthy but not a movie people necessarily have seen (unless they grew up during that time), and even this I’m not sure a lot of people even bothered to see. And yet… can’t wait for them to make a third one. Keep making Tron movies. I’m good.
248. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth. On the whole, welcome but unnecessary. A film that should have been two at most is three, and the whole thing is bloated, overly CGI-d and all the problems that Peter Jackson has faced as a filmmaker since the Rings movies. Too long, too much money, too much focus on CGI and not enough on the feelings of the film. But also, it’s fun. It’s for kids. It’s a lighter tone and it generally works if you like Middle Earth. I appreciate this one more than the other two because at least this has the ties to the original, with the Elijah Wood and Ian Holm opening and Rivendell and the feel of the original. Sure, that dinner party sequence lasts forever, but I kind of prefer it to that trolls sequence. And then there’s Gollum, and one of Andy Serkis’ best performances I’ve ever seen. The one scene he’s in this movie blows everything he did in the first three out of the water. So there’s definitely some pleasures to be had from this film, even though I’d tell people to just go back and rewatch the original three before you go back and rewatch this. Still, if you haven’t seen it, it’s fun enough.
247. Isle of Dogs
Wes Anderson made Fantastic Mr. Fox in stop motion and it was, for a minute, my favorite film of his (over time, Life Aquatic has gone back to that top spot, but Mr. Fox does hold a solid second). His style is so perfectly suited to stop motion. And this one… so great. I don’t even care what the plot of this movie is and really couldn’t even tell you past — all dogs get banished to a garbage island off the coast of Japan for whatever reason and one boy decides he wants to get his back. That’s pretty much it. And it’s great. Anderson’s a terrific filmmaker and every movie he’s made is wonderful. This is no different.
246. Anna Karenina
Joe Wright’s had one interesting career thus far. He starts with Pride and Prejudice, which people seemed to really like. Then he follows it up with Atonement, which is amazing. Then The Soloist, which doesn’t work. Then Hanna, a film I adore to no end. Then he goes back to the period piece well with this one. It’s a story that everyone kinda knows, even if they haven’t read the novel, because of how many times they’ve made it on the screen or as a miniseries or just referenced in the plots of other things you’ve seen while growing up. But what he does is turn it completely into a style exercise. Which, to me, is the only way you can make one of these films anymore. Certain material eventually hits a shelf of ‘unmakeable’. Shakespeare is on that shelf. Leave that to Kenneth Branagh to make definitive versions of the plays on screen. Otherwise, just do a Baz Luhrmann and go nuts with it, or reconfigure it into West Side Story or 10 Things I Hate About You. That’s how you do it. This is one of those pieces of material. No one’s gonna care if you just make it. The costumes will look great, the films will look great and that’ll be it. Nothing new will be said. So just have fun with it. And that’s what Wright does. It’s a stunning film to see. Trust me. If you haven’t seen it, just watch it for how he uses the camera and directs the action. It’s all about production design and camera movement and feeling over plot. It’s as if he made a detailed stage version and then said, “Okay, how can I film this as fluidly as possible but also add camera tricks?” And this is the result. It’s wonderful. It’s not gonna be for everyone, but I think this is a great example of how you can take a piece of material that doesn’t need to be made and make it feel like it was a worthwhile endeavor.
This is the biggest of the three ‘real life superhero’ films that came out within the same year or so. Defendor nobody knows about (unless you’ve been here a bunch, at which point you’ve heard me bring it up), Super some people have seen, but everyone knows this one. And this one’s much more comic book-y, because Matthew Vaughn directed it, and it’s very much a fun movie that sort of deals with the real world consequences of what would happen if you decided to be a masked vigilante despite not actually having superpowers, but also… Chloe Moretz is ten years old and flipping upside down and firing guns and calling people cunts. There’s a limit to it. But it’s also a really fun movie. This is one of those movies that crawled so Deadpool could walk. It feels a bit trite now, perhaps, and they definitely couldn’t recreate the magic a second time with the sequel, but it is a really fun movie.
244. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
This was, for a time, the best Marvel movie outside of Iron Man. Not my favorite, but it was the one you held up and said, “This is what they could be making if they actually gave a shit about the filmmaking.” Because everything else was the same CGI monstrosity with no villains and too much world building. Here, all the action sequences are among the best of the franchise (the Samuel L. Jackson car chase, the highway sequence, the elevator scene… I actually remember the shit they did here, as opposed to most other movies), because they’re almost all practically done, outside of a few moments here and there. They focus on the character of Captain America and his past and Bucky and all that. And you get this detective plot that goes small in order to go big. For a lot of the film it’s Cap and Natasha just going out and looking for answers. There’s not all this crazy stuff going on. And it’s nice. Again, personally, I think it’s top tier for them but I wouldn’t call it one of my top five (that would be Iron Man, the first Guardians, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Ragnarok and then probably Endgame, unless I’m forgetting something), but it’s right outside that top five and is one of the best they’ve done. In all, I would say that this is almost the best trilogy for a character they’ve done (I can’t give credit to Civil War because it’s basically an Avengers movie and not a Captain America movie. So for that, I think the Iron Man three I prefer to the Captain America 3, even though it’s close and debatable).
243. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
More Mission: Impossible. You differentiate these by set pieces. And this will forever be known as the one where Cruise breaks his ankle on camera running across the rooftops and jumping to the next one over. But this also has that great free fall sequence that happens entirely in one shot. Plus the bathroom fight is fun, the motorcycle stuff is good too, and there’s the cool third act that actually has consequences above and beyond the stuff we’re used to in this franchise. It’s a terrific film all around and begins to bring back pieces of the other films (which apparently the next two are gonna do in full force). You can never say a bad word about this franchise outside of ‘they all blend together’. But they all consistently entertain and feel like they’ve been entirely worth your time. Few franchises can say that every time out.
242. Good Time
This is the Safdie brothers gearing up for Uncut Gems. Most people never saw this, so when they saw Uncut Gems, it was this intense experience. But I’d been through this war already, so I knew what a two-hour panic attack of watching a dude on the edge make bad decisions felt like. I was ready. This movie is Robert Pattinson robbing a bank with his brother (who has a developmental disability of a sort), only for it to go horribly wrong and for his brother to get captured by the cops. So now, having just barely gotten away and able to lay low, he decides to go back to rescue his brother rather than flee to safety, and so the film is him, over the course of a night, trying to locate his brother, get his brother out and then figure out how to get out of town with him. And it’s intense and amazing. Pattinson is as good as he’s ever been (just like everyone said about Sandler), and the film is just really, really great. I prefer this to Uncut Gems because by the time Uncut Gems came around, I’d seen it already. They’re both great, but to me the first one is always gonna be the most special, and that’s this one.
241. The Spectacular Now
A lovely, lovely romantic comedy. People forget about this one, but it’s quietly one of the better films of the decade. This was James Ponsoldt’s followup to Smashed, and really put a lot of people on the map. Shailene Woodley cements her status after The Descendants (Divergent is whatever, and then she’d do Fault in Our Stars right after this) and Miles Teller continues his ascent as a leading man before becoming a real ‘actor’ with Whiplash just after this. It’s the story of a high school fuckup who doesn’t take his life seriously, probably has a drinking problem (as evidenced by the fact that he wakes up on a lawn having blacked out at the beginning of the movie) and finds his way with the help of the nerdy girl who he’d never have taken seriously or dated at any point before now. It’s a really sweet film. Because as much as it could have been another one of those Can’t Hardly Wait kinda high school movies, it also has something to say about getting over the shit you have to deal with but haven’t, learning to be mature and take responsibility for once and coming to terms with what it is you really want out of life. It’s a beautiful movie that people should go back and revisit. It’ll definitely make you feel good, that’s for sure.
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