Mike’s Top Films of the Decade (240-231)
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:
240. Spider-Man: Homecoming
Marvel had a lot of heavy lifting to do when they made this movie. They were rebooting Spider-Man for the third time in 15 years. Sam Raimi had the one in 2002, and within five years and three films, that was done. Then they rebooted it five years later with Andrew Garfield. And that first one was kinda promising. But then they destroyed it within two years and the second film. So, three years later, Marvel steps back in, brings Spider-Man into the fold, introduces him in Civil War and then spins him off into his own film. And man, did I not expect this to be as good as it is. Because they nailed it. It’s Spider-Man. A teenager just figuring out his own shit who gets superpowers. And he’s wisecracking but also very real. And the film is almost a response to everything I and others have been saying — just stop making the universe so big. They literally write it as a line/callback, “Can’t you just be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man?” He doesn’t need to be an Avenger. Just do Spider-Man. And they do. It’s a high school movie. And it’s amazing. And they have one of the single best villains they’ve ever had in the Marvel universe. They give you a backstory as to why this guy’s doing what he does. He doesn’t have powers. He has technology and desperation. And then the bonus of the reveal near the end of the film, which is just incredible. That moment is, for me, one of the five best moments in the entire universe. It’s a really great film, and Spider-Man is pretty much the best superhero ever created. I know everyone loves Batman, but Batman’s only great because of the villains. Spider-Man is great all around. So I’m glad they brought the franchise back to prominence. This is legitimately one of the five best films Marvel’s put out thus far.
239. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
The interesting thing about John Wick is that all the films are good, Mission: Impossible style. You go in, get exactly what you’re expecting, don’t think too much and it’s great. There’s always gonna be diminishing returns with sequels until you hit that serialized point that Mission: Impossible did with 4-5-6. John Wick is still kind of in the realm of ‘story arc’. And that’s why this is the weakest of the three for me. It builds the universe even more, as the second one did from the first one, but it feels like a hodgepodge of ideas that don’t fully coalesce. It feels like maybe half a movie’s worth of plot stretched out over a whole movie. Like, where this movie ends is setting up a fourth movie… that’s the plot I expected for this movie. This, to put it in video game terms, feels like a DLC to a main game and not a game. But it’s John Wick, so it’s awesome and no one really cares all that much. And you know what? We’re gonna get the fourth one and that’s gonna be awesome. Few franchises are as automatic as this one is.
238. The Sisters Brothers
This movie is everything I want in a film. John C. Reilly had tried to get this made for years. They eventually got Jacques Audiard (director of A Prophet, Rust and Bone and Dheepan) to make it, and the cast, alongside Reilly, is Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed. That’s the cast. And it’s a western. Like I said, everything I want. However, it’s nearly impossible to recommend to people in the broad sense because… it’s an anti-western. In terms of both narrative and how they shot it. There’s hardly any gunfighting in this movie at all. It’s kind of like Killing Them Softly. It’s not what you would sell it as, and because of that, people going in expecting one thing aren’t gonna get that one thing. It’s about a pair of assassin brothers (Reilly and Phoenix) who are sent on a job to find a runaway chemist (Ahmed). Sent ahead to tail the guy to make sure the pair can do their job is Gyllenhaal, this mannered city gentleman (another incredible left-of-center Gyllenhaal performance from this decade). And so a lot of the movie is the two brothers traveling to their destination, with us also following Gyllenhaal and Ahmed as we start to figure out what Ahmed’s deal is. It’s really great. But it’s, like I said, more of an anti-western than anything. There’s a lot of humor (some of the biggest laughs in the film involve a toothbrush) and honestly… it’s just a really great movie. You need to know what you’re getting into, because it’s so easy to see the cast and/or see that it’s a western and come out going, “What the hell was that?” and dismiss it. But if you know what to look for going in, you’ll see that there’s something really special here.
237. Life Itself
Documentary about Roger Ebert, the greatest film critic we’ve ever had. He was America’s critic for a solid 40 years. You listened to him. You trusted his opinion. He was the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize (and it took almost thirty years for them to award another one to a film critic) and his writing was just so good. His review of a movie was the only one I cared about. I read him and maybe like three other sources. But in a way, the others were about where they were from (the Times, Variety, Hollywood Reporter), but his was because it was him. And he was someone who, like a friend, even if you disagreed with him about stuff, you knew his tastes. You knew which stuff he always liked more than you did and which stuff he hated that you were gonna like. And this is a celebration of him as a person and as a writer and a critic. And it’s beautiful. You’re not gonna see a documentary like this anytime soon about a film critic. He was so singular in that. That’s the brilliance of him as a human being.
236. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
This movie, I don’t wanna say saved the franchise, but it’s the reason this franchise is still going strong today. They had the third one with J.J. and it was really solid. But then they didn’t have anything for five years there and finally bam. This came out and everyone took this franchise very seriously again. Part of that is because Brad Bird really came in and staged everything beautifully. And part of it is this behind-the-scenes alchemy where, if you remember… they were trying to take the franchise away from Cruise. They brought in Renner to try to phase Cruise out and have him be the lead instead. And then, by the end of this movie, everyone realized, oh no. Cruise isn’t going anywhere. And then Renner had a couple of failures and flamed out as an action star and now two more of these later (and two more about to be shot back-to-back as I type this) and this franchise is stronger than ever. This brought back the playfulness and brought the insane set pieces to the forefront. It starts with that amazing Russian prison sequence and has that awesome Burj Khalifa sequence where Cruise is literally hanging off the side of the tallest building in the world. It’s insane and it’s wonderful. You forget because it’s been a decade but this was one of the best films of that year. That’s how good this movie is. It might be the best one of all these films (though I’m always gonna be preferential to the first one).
235. Zero Dark Thirty
While I have some issues with the film, there’s no denying that it’s an incredible piece of work. Kathryn Bigelow brings that directorial energy she brought to The Hurt Locker to this and Jessica Chastain just commands the screen with her single-minded determination. And you get various aspects of this bin Laden hunt, from the torture to the bureaucracy to the actual raid itself — it’s a film made up of multiple parts but is also really strong. There’s not much to say about it except that it’s just good. Anyone who sees it pretty much says the same thing. It’s a really good movie.
234. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
One of the best Ghibli films there is, and one of the absolute best non-Miyazaki animated films that’s come out of Japan. This is the final film of Isao Takahata, who also made the masterpiece Grave of the Fireflies as well as Only Yesterday, Pom Poko and My Neighbors the Yamadas. It’s the story of a bamboo cutter and his wife who discover a miniature girl growing in one of the stalks. So they take her in and raise her and she ends up growing up very quickly. And eventually she becomes so beautiful that she attracts suitors from all over, including the Emperor. It’s a beautiful fairy tale that is stunningly animated and one of the most gorgeous pieces of film you’ll ever see. Anyone who loves animated film should automatically see every Ghibli movie, whether it’s by Miyazaki himself or not, but especially you should see this one .
233. Captain America: The First Avenger
I love this movie. And it’s not even that it’s the most amazing movie. Marvel’s outdone themselves visually and otherwise three times over since this came out. Remember, this is the fourth Marvel film ever. Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2 and then this. Thor came out later this year, and then they had Avengers. That was the progression. This was super early for them. But what I loved about it (and still do) is that it’s a completely contained film that takes place 70 years before everything else. It’s World War II. Captain America fighting Nazis. They haphazardly tack on him going present day at the very end, but otherwise, it’s entirely World War II. Which is what I like most about it. Plus, they reference A Matter of Life and Death, one of my all time favorite movies, with the climax, and that was never gonna go unnoticed by me. It’s just a really fun movie with terrific cameos from Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones, and it sets up who ultimately becomes the heart of the entire universe. Iron Man is the lead singer who everyone is amused by, but Captain America is the guitarist who makes everything run. It’s a great first film and is still one of my favorites of anything they’ve done. Plus, look at that picture up there — Neal McDonough is wearing a bowler hat, holding a shotgun and shooting Nazis. What more could you ask for in a movie?
232. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
One of my favorite hidden gems of this entire decade. I love this movie so much, and it was so sad that this came out and no one saw it. This was Ben Stiller’s directorial followup to Tropic Thunder. It’s a remake of the 1947 movie with Danny Kaye and based on a short story. The plot of the Danny Kaye movie was about a guy who can’t hold a job because he daydreams too much. So a lot of the film is him imagining he’s a spy and all that sort of thing with all these fantasy sequences as he ends up on an actual real-life adventure. This film is kind of that, but also very much a meditation on a lot of things. Stiller plays the title character, who is a layout artist at Life Magazine. He’s the one that figures out where to put all the photos on the cover and in the issue itself. And the magazine is about to go digital and stop publishing in print, so they’re readying for their final issue. Which already is great because it’s got something to say about the death of print media and how sad that is. But it’s also about this guy, who lives a lonely life, spending most of his time in a dark room or in a basement, looking at photos and not enjoying life. And so his plan for the final issue is to put a photo from his favorite nature photographer, whose stuff he’s put on the cover many times. And the photographer sends him a gift along with a roll of film, thanking him for what he’s done over the years and saying that a particular shot is the one that should be the final cover. Only that particular negative is missing. So now Stiller, determined to have this cover be the one that prints, goes on an adventure to go find him, which takes him to all these remote places of the world, quite literally putting him on an adventure. It’s really wonderful. It’s a sweet movie with a lot of heart, and I just find the whole thing so touching and beautiful. I truly believe that anyone who sees this will love it and see how great it is. But so few people even know this exists, it really is a battle to try to get more eyes on it. But trust me. It’s one of the best movies of the decade that you probably don’t know about.
231. The Town
Ben Affleck’s sophomore feature, after Gone Baby Gone, which he made just before Argo, and is the film that confirmed to all of us, “Man, this guy really is a good director.” Because Gone Baby Gone is good, but it’s always that second one that proves that this guy knows what he’s doing. And then after this it was, “Can he make a film that’s not about Boston?” And then he made Argo and we all knew. But anyway, this is about a bunch of bank robbers in Boston trying not to get caught by federal agents who’ve long been after them. Affleck plays the leader of the gang who is trying to get out of the hole that is this neighborhood he’s grown up in. Meanwhile he starts dating the bank teller at his last job (who saw one of their tattoos and can identify them) while he plans his next big heist. It’s really great. Affleck directs the hell out of it. He’s got a cast of stars all around, Jeremy Renner is incredible and Affleck doesn’t take any of the big scenes for himself. That’s my favorite part about him as a director. When he is in his own movies, he doesn’t give himself the showy moments. He’s content to just lend his star power and give everyone else the big scenes. It’s just a really solid movie all around and one that you can just put on and enjoy any time.
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