Mike’s Top Films of the Decade (120-111)
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:
There’s a lot of factors that went into making this as great a movie as it is, but the major point here is that the movie is great. We had 17 years with Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and he’s been the constant throughout all the X-Men films. He was the best thing about the original and is arguably the main reason the franchise has endured various failed entries. It’s that, mixed with James Mangold as director (and he hasn’t made a single bad film, and single-handedly helped make the Wolverine sub-series legitimate after the debacle that was the Origins movie) and the fact that they were gonna treat the story as entirely realistic as much as they could. They made it the Unforgiven of superhero movies, and as such it’s one of the few superhero movies that transcends the genre, a list that’s incredibly short and might only include The Dark Knight. It’s incredible. Jackman brings every ounce of his dramatic chops to the character for perhaps the first time. The movie is a character study of this guy more than it is about another X-Men story. And then you get the introduction of Dafne Keen, who is just incredible and one of the best casting decisions that was made this decade. The movie never fails to make me emotional. And I’ve seen it probably between five and ten times by this point. It’s just incredible all around, and so rarely do you get that kind of time with a character to really have a story land like this one does.
119. The Adjustment Bureau
One of the most hugely underrated movies of the decade. Every time I go back to this I find myself thinking, “Why was’t this a bigger hit?” You’ve got Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, you’ve got a story by Philip K. Dick and you’ve also got Anthony Mackie and Terence Stamp to boot. And it’s just a wonderful film. Damon plays a politician who meets Blunt by chance one night and immediately the chemistry is apparent. But then he never sees her again and moves on with his life. Until one day… he does. But that’s when we find out that he wasn’t supposed to see her again. See, there’s this shadowy group of people who operate within the margins of time and space who make sure things go ‘according to plan’. And because one of them wasn’t paying attention for a brief moment, the two met again and Damon accidentally got a look behind the curtain. So, the men give him a choice — go forward and pretend it all never happened and never see her again, and he’ll have a very promising future ahead of him. But, he feels something for her. So the film is about him and her trying to essentially outrun fate or divine planning, or what have you. And it’s a romantic thriller. But it’s terrific. It really is. The fact that this isn’t casually known as one of the best movies of the decade surprises the hell out of me. I think a lot of people need to go back and give this one another look.
118. The Front Runner
This is the Jason Reitman we saw at the end of last decade, with Up in the Air. He was relatively quiet for most of this decade, with Young Adult, Labor Day, Men Women and Children and Tully, but this one is a complete return to form that really should have gotten all the acclaim that his first few films got… if only people actually gave a shit enough to look this one’s direction. It begins like a Robert Altman film, giving you this Player-like shot that weaves out in and out of all the different characters and storylines that are at play. Ultimately the film is about Gary Hart’s 1988 presidential campaign, which came to a screeching halt after some photos came out with him on a boat with his mistress, days after he told reporters he had nothing to hide and they were free to ‘follow him around’. That’s the main story, but there’s so much stuff going on alongside that, about ethics in journalism, the rise of tabloid journalism and the 24 hour news cycle, where it’s more about ratings than what’s actually a sourced and printable story, the Me Too movement and the treatment of women in all these sorts of scandals, and also how something like this is more likely to ruin a presidential candidate’s career than any number of other things (which obviously you can guess where that part plays in). It’s an incredibly layered film and there’s so much to like about it. Reitman has such command of everything you see on screen, plus he’s got Hugh Jackman giving one of the best performances of the decade and his career. It’s a damn shame this isn’t thought of as one of the best of the decade, because it sure is.
117. The Night Before
I’ve been pounding the table for this one since it came out. I think this is one of the best comedies of the decade and should be looked at as a classic Christmas movie and watched alongside all the other great ones. this always seemed like something I’d enjoy and I remember going to see it on Thanksgiving Day 2015. I was in LA, everyone was out of town and it was just me. So I cooked myself a big dinner and went to the movies. And I ended up seeing a triple feature of Creed, this movie and The Danish Girl. Odd combination, I know. But that was what I saw. And I was practically alone in the theater for this one (I think there may have actually been more people in the 1am showing of The Danish Girl than there was for this one). And I laughed my ass off throughout the entire film.
I think people generally are aware of this because it’s Seth Rogen and Anthony Mackie and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and maybe they’d seen trailers or whatever. But it’s actually a legitimately funny movie through and through. It’s so good. The plot doesn’t even matter. It’s just the three of them getting into a bunch of hijinks on Christmas Eve. Michael Shannon as their gym teacher/the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future is fucking hilarious, and everything the movie does pretty much just works. I’m the first one to say how much I don’t like studio comedies, but I find that Seth Rogen is one of those people who actually puts time and effort into his films to make them legitimately funny. And this one reunites him with Jonathan Levine, who did 50/50 with him and Gordon-Levitt and also directed Long Shot, which is another terrific film from this decade. Everyone needs to give this one a shot, because it’s really one of the funniest movies I’ve seen and should be a Christmas classic by now.
116. Baby Driver
Edgar Wright, man. Dude makes great movies. Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim, The World’s End, this movie. That’s his filmography to this point. It’s crazy. This one is just a pure car chase movie and it’s just complete style over substance, but there’s also a shit ton of substance there too. It’s just a good time at the movies. I know everyone’s seen it, so there’s not much I need to do in order to sell this one to people. It’s just a great one.
115. Captain Phillips
When you’re gonna boil the 2010s down to the most iconic lines in cinema, “Look at me, I am the captain now” almost has to be in the top ten, right? I mean, it doesn’t have any bearing on how great this movie is, but it does, right? I remember when they announced this one and I was really worried about it. I was very much opposed to Paul Greengrass deciding that he was just gonna have shaky cam as his go-to shooting style, and it annoyed the hell out of me, as great as I think his two Bourne movies are. Then he had Green Zone, which didn’t work, and so I thought, “Oh god, here’s a hero worship movie that’s gonna suck.” Because I’ve always had a low tolerance for that sort of stuff. I felt the same way about all those recent Clint Eastwood movies and anything that glorifies regular people. But… I’m the first to admit… this is a great movie. It’s not a hero worship so much as it’s just the reenactment of a situation that happened. And Greengrass brings his filmmaking style to provide all the tension of that moment. It’s a really terrific piece of work. It’s not one I’ve gone back to revisit a whole bunch since it’s come out, but I do remember some sequences in this movie really fondly, and I think this, apart from the Bourne movies, might go down as Greengrass’s best film when all is said and done.
114. The Dark Knight Rises
It’s funny watching time work. This came out, and after the middle film everyone was hugely anticipating it. I remember being at a midnight showing and seeing it, and when a movie is as highly anticipated as this is, you don’t — or at least I don’t — have any feelings about it once I’m out. I feel like seeing it is just about seeing it so no one spoils it for you, but I don’t have any real opinions on it until either a few days later or until I see it again in a more neutral space. But this one, I’ve noticed that in the ensuing years, people have gone from very negative on it to almost coming back around to really liking it again. I have no idea where anyone is now, nor do I particularly care. I find that, while it’s not The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight also is barely The Dark Knight. A lot of that movie is owed to what Heath Ledger brought to it. This one… Nolan had his story and told his story. He told the version he wanted to tell and I still really like a lot of it quite a bit. I mean, obviously. It’s #114 for the decade for me. Obviously I like it. Any nitpicks I’m gonna have are based on the trilogy he set up and are getting into the weeds. On a macro level… dude took a superhero franchise and made it as realistic as he possibly could. He stripped away all the bullshit and took away the giant blue light in the sky CGI third act that Marvel can’t seem to ever get away from. He made a legitimately character-based story that had stakes, had dramatic heft and actually meant something more than pure blockbuster entertainment. And on that level, I love all three of these movies. This is the weakest of the three, but what’s that saying? There has to be a weakest Martin Scorsese movie too. That doesn’t mean anything. It’s a really great movie and I’m really interested to sit down with all three of the films in this trilogy again and watch them with older, fresher eyes.
I went to see this one in theaters because I had a feeling that if I didn’t, it was gonna not be something I could have seen before the end of the year. I thought it was gonna be pushed as an awards contender, but then it came out, got good reviews but really created no (pun intended) waves whatsoever, and then made no money. So I sat down in the theater, expecting a solid movie, but not much more than that. I had no idea what it was about, only that Trey Edward Shults had made two movies before this — Krisha, which was very indie, but solid in a John Cassavetes kinda way, and It Comes at Night, which showed a definite strength of style but didn’t much grip me narratively. So this one, I expected a solid character piece that would have been another step forward in Shults’ career as a filmmaker. And, to paraphrase Neil Armstrong, I got a giant fucking leap from this movie. I just was not remotely anticipating what I got from this. Within ten minutes and that revolving camera shot in the car, I found myself going, “Okay, this guy has total command of this movie.” And then I found myself getting deeply invested in the story, even as I struggled to figure out what story it was actually trying to tell. And then it didn’t matter, because I cared about these people. And then everything just built and built until that mid-point sequence, which is one of the most intense things I’ve seen all decade. I felt my heart actively beating fast from it because it was legitimately increasing my own stress levels, even though I was comfortably sitting in an air-conditioned theater at the time. And then the movie just completely shifts gears for the second half and becomes a completely different film. And that’s when I fully knew I was watching something incredible and transcendent. Not everyone’s gonna be able to get through this movie and see everything I saw. But let me tell you — this is one of the best pieces of filmmaking I saw this decade and everyone who loves movies owes it to themselves to see it. Sterling K. Brown is the major actor everyone would be going into the movie to see, but when you come out, you will know who Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Taylor Russell are. Because they give some of the absolute best performances of the entire decade. This movie is so beautiful and so essential and I really do hope you go out and see it if you haven’t.
112. Toy Story 3
Everyone’s seen this. Everyone knows how amazing it is. I cried watching the trailer for this movie. It’s beautiful. Toy Story has in many ways been one of the franchises of my life. I grew up around this franchise much like I grew up around the Harry Potter movies. These toys have been in my life since I was 7. So having them come back and continue to give me these beautiful life lessons through their films… that hits me a lot different than it may some younger people. But man, I remember being in the theater for this one, having just graduated from college, sitting in the first or second row in a packed theater with the majority being kids under 10 and their parents, and just openly weeping in the seats as the credits rolled. It’s really an incredible film.
111. Logan Lucky
I watched this again earlier this week and again I’m reminded of how amazing this movie is. This was Steven Soderbergh’s return to filmmaking after a four-year hiatus after Side Effects/Behind the Candelabra. It’s a ‘hillbilly heist’ movie written by his wife and is basically Ocean’s 11 but with NASCAR (or as the movie puts it, “Ocean’s 7-11”). Channing Tatum and Adam Driver are brothers raised in West Virginia who have a plan to rob Charlotte Motor Speedway during an upcoming race. And it’s just a heist movie. Lots of great characters and performances — Daniel Craig is amazing as Joe Bang, and you’ve got Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston, Seth MacFarlane, Sebastian Stan, Hilary Swank and Dwight Yoakam — it’s one of the most rewatchable movies I saw this decade. I remember seeing this in theaters and immediately felt that pulse line of, “Oh, I love this one.” And everyone I was with wasn’t fully sure. “Yeah, it was good, but I’m not sure it was that good…” and I just knew right there. It’s the same reaction I had with something like The Nice Guys, which other people were hesitant on immediately afterward but has also become one of those great, rewatchable movies that everyone seems to like. This one, though… too many people don’t even know this exists, which is the unfortunate curse of Steven Soderbergh, as every single one of his movies is solid and worthwhile (often times great) and yet almost no one actually ends up seeing them in any meaningful way. It’s a damn shame. But also… this movie is wonderful and I promise you will be entertained by it.
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