Mike’s Top 100 Films of the Decade (100-91)
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:
100. The Hateful Eight
And here we are in the top 100. I feel like I’ve been writing these lists forever (it’s been, what, like five months or something?) and am not even sure I’m vaguely coherent at this point. The good news is, I’m not sure I’m remotely coherent even on the best of days, so it’s all good. The point here isn’t for me to be coherent or smart, it’s to try to get people to appreciate the movies I like.
Anywho, this film feels like a good way to start the top 100, because it’s a film that even I question if I’d put it there most days. And I come out like this — when I think about this film, I think, “Yeah, it’s pretty indulgent and I don’t like it the way I like most of his other films.” But when I watch this film (which I must have done at least five or six times since it’s come out), I’m deeply invested in it and enjoy the hell out of it. So I think I’m good. I find that everything Quentin’s done is so rewatchable and often rewards me for multiple viewings. He’s made three films this decade and all three are gonna be in this top 100 (and if I’m being honest, two of them probably have a decent shot at the top 10). So, this being one of his weaker films is like thinking something like A Serious Man is one of the weaker Coen brothers films — it’s still a Coen brothers/Quentin film, and something has to be considered the weaker one as compared to all the other greatness that surrounds it, and also… a ‘weaker’ Quentin movie is better than 90-95% of all other stuff that comes out. So yeah, I love this one, and anything Quentin makes is fantastic.
If I’m gonna give you any other reason to go back and rewatch this aside from the obvious, I think it would be this — he shot a film that largely takes place in a single location in 70mm. And I think if you just went and watched how he frames shots and gives this intimate film this seemingly huge scale, not really seen since the studio Cinemascope films of the 50s, you’d appreciate the kind of filmmaking chops the man has, since I feel like his skills as a pure director are usually less talked about than his skills as a writer or just a cinematic storyteller.
99. Jojo Rabbit
Man, I love Taika. It’s nice watching him go from this guy who made quirky New Zealand comedies to this massive force of a director who could give you both comedy and heart in a film. This one feels like the perfect representation of what he brings to a film. It’s a movie that, in a lot of ways, should not work. A boy in the Nazi youth in Germany has Adolf Hitler as his imaginary friend and finds out that his mother is secretly hiding a Jewish girl in their home. The amount of ways you can tell this story is both vast and also singular. And no one other than Taika could have really made it work the way it does. It’s the fact that he himself plays Hitler that takes the air out of all the seriousness of the Holocaust without ever removing it. The horrible shit is still there, and we acknowledge that it happens, but we’re in a space where we’re allowed to laugh. And you get these wonderful moments of this boy coming of age and really starting to realize just what these things really mean and how what he’s been doing is not just fun and games but actually has real world consequences. It’s a beautiful film, and Taika gets the best out of every single one of his actors. And, as I said all throughout this film’s prominence during awards season — he works in one of the trickiest and most rewarding kinds of moments in film that I rarely ever see pulled off (the moment with the shoes). That alone is worthy of high praise, as if you’re going to make a list of the moments in film that gave us all the most visceral reaction in the moment, that has to be on it (don’t care where).
98. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
We have to put the Potter films here (it’s gonna be a double entry, because how can you separate them). They mean too much to me as a human to not put them here. None of the films are particularly groundbreaking in terms of filmmaking, but the novels and the universe have quite literally grown up along with me. When that first movie came out, I remember knowing very little about the series except that people were really excited about it to immediately needing to find out everything about it and read all the books. I saw the first two movies and loved them, because they were for people around my age (though probably a bit younger. I was 13-14 at the time and they were probably for 10-11). And I remember Order of the Phoenix the book coming out in 2003 and that was the first one where I made sure to buy it the first day it came out. But I spent a solid decade with these films — the important decade in my life, where I most formed as a person. So I’ve got a real love for all of this that maybe other people might not have. It’s more than just the quality of the films themselves at work for me.
And this last one — it’s good. I prefer Part 1 (which is funny for reasons I’ll get to in a second) ultimately, but as a two-part finale, it’s really solid and just solidifies how great a job they did on these films all around, from the casting on down. I couldn’t not include them at this point on the list.
97. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
I remember seeing this in theaters. I had just graduated college and was going back and constantly visiting all my friends who were still there (mostly because I really still wanted to be there and delay having to be an adult for as long as I could). But I went back the weekend this came out. And so we, as we so often did when big things came out, were gonna go to a midnight showing of it. And because it was a Friday night, we also drank beforehand. And I remember drinking… a little too much beforehand. I think I actually stopped around 45 minutes beforehand because I knew that if I kept going I wasn’t gonna be conscious through the entirety of the film. And so we walked on down to the theater, got our seats, and watched the film. I was drunk as anything when that movie started. And apparently was still drunk near to the end, because during that scene where Ron has to destroy the locket in the woods and that CGI version of naked Harry and Hermione comes up (something I did not remember from the book and was appalled at in the moment), the whole sequence happens and Ron destroys it with the sword and there’s this big burst of white light and then all the sound and everything drops out and there’s a few moments of silence. And in the theater, the only sound anyone could hear, was me in the back saying very loudly, “What the fuck was that?!”
I think I may have been too drunk to appreciate the film at the time. Because admittedly, it’s a very slow film, not much happens and largely it’s character-based, with the three leads off on their own in the woods for a lot of the time. However, going back over the past decade (partly for myself because I love the films and partly because — shameless plug — we did the Fun with Franchises articles on the films), I’ve come to really like this film quite a lot, to the point where it might, next to Azkaban, be my favorite film in the entire franchise. I think it’s gorgeously shot, with a lot of stunning images and great moments that have stuck with me. And I think it really brings everything we love about these characters to the forefront. You really get to spend quality time with them, rather than having them rush through a narrative because we have to fill 800 pages in 150 minutes like they’d done in the three previous films. And there are some really incredible moments in this one. You forget, it starts with Hermione wiping her parents’ memories of her. Which is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the entire franchise. And that’s how this STARTS. It’s a really great piece of work and I love that they chose to split up the films.
I had no idea this movie was gonna end up like this for me. Because I knew I’d like it. The trailers and marketing were amazing and Natalie as Jackie was spot on casting. So I knew it would be good. But even at the end of its year I found myself going, “Is this a top ten movie for me?” And I ended up having it just miss the cut (I believe) because I overthought certain things in the rankings. But now that time has gone on, it really is a top ten movie for me for that year. I constantly find myself thinking about this movie and going back to it for certain things. Looking for a shot here or a piece of editing or acting or whatever. I really like this one and I’m surprised that it didn’t get more of a reaction from people. (I find myself saying that a lot. Sometimes I think it comes across as, “Why doesn’t everyone have the same opinion as me?” but for me it’s more like, “Are we not seeing the same thing? Is this not great?”) Natalie gives truly one of the best performances of the decade, Pablo Larrain brings a beautiful look to the film, with his use of 16mm, Super 8 and faded 60s/70s look to all the scenes. (I’m a sucker for grain, if you couldn’t tell.) And there’s just this beautiful aura of grief and inevitability and ethereality to the film. I can’t quite explain it, and I’m gonna keep trying to put it into actual words each time I go back to it. But there’s just something about the feel of this one that keeps drawing me to it. It’s getting to the edge of something — you don’t ever really see the assassination, and you don’t ever really approach anything specific, and yet it all feels there. And there’s this really great thing about seeing her dealing with all this stuff essentially in public, while also being able to rigidly control the narrative of what’s being told. It’s just such a fascinating movie from so many angles, and I really cannot fathom why people aren’t talking about this as one of the best of the decade.
Fucking Pixar. It’s movies like this that frustrate the hell out of me, because by now, they’re giving you one or two sequels in between them. So you watch them do these sequels and think, “Why are you wasting your time on these?” And then something like this comes along, and it’s like, “Goddamn, you guys can make stuff like this!” If this wasn’t that great, I wouldn’t have to get so upset about all the damn sequels! But yeah. We know Pixar at this point. It’s funny how obvious a lot of their narratives are and how most of the time it doesn’t matter. This one especially. You know where it’s going, you know what the twist is gonna be and what the reveals are gonna be, but it doesn’t matter. Because they still get you. I’m still gonna cry when he starts singing the song for his grandmother at the end. That’s the beauty of them as storytellers. Of their original films, there really aren’t that many duds in there (the first Cars is actually a solid film, even if the sequels are, in various ways, abominations. I’ll count Brave as half a good film, even though I’m not on board with the direction it takes, even though it also is a solid one. The Good Dinosaur is the only real ‘ehh’ one of the lot), and most of the time you’re just in awe of how they do it.
Ah, the film that launched a thousand pretentious student thesis films. The fact that I don’t hate this film for what it put me through having to deal with all the annoying film assholes who took this way too seriously really speaks to how awesome a movie it is. (I think it’s because Refn made Only God Forgives, which is just a straight ‘fuck you’ to all those people who took this one way too seriously, by giving them so much more of what they thought they loved about this one to the point where they turned on it.) It’s a straight B movie kinda plot, but he puts such a style on it that it transcends all of that. He just makes it cool. If you can avoid how obvious hipster bait it all is, there’s also some really great filmmaking here too, and that’s largely what I’m responding to. Because the plot — who cares about the plot. It’s all about how he tells it. In a way, it’s like You Were Never Really Here. A film that could have gone straight to video if done my a different director. It’s been played to death, but if we can get back to a point where we can watch this with relative objectivity, I think we’ll all come out the same way… that it’s a really awesome piece of work.
93. Beasts of the Southern Wild
It took two or three watches for this to fully click for me, but I’m glad it did. It’s an exceptional experience. And it really is lightning in a bottle (as evidenced by them trying to capture the same magic again with Wendy, which does not work the way this does, even though it’s the same filmmaking style, the same kind of score, basic setting and the use of non-actors). There’s just a real sense of life that is captured here and it’s wonderful. I suspect, given the Oscar nominations, people are aware of this one. But if you haven’t seen it, you really ought to, because it’s just so wonderful. I still find myself listening to the film’s score all the time, and immediately I’m brought back to the vibrancy of the film and just how alive it all feels.
92. Call Me By Your Name
God, what a movie. You can’t tell the story of the 2010s without mentioning this one somewhere. It’s just such a quiet, unassuming film, and yet somehow became this absolutely stunning portrait of young love. It’s not trying to oversell or overdo anything, and there’s really no big romantic moment or dramatic turning point or any of that. It’s just laid back and shows you things happen. And yet somehow the films creates this deep, lasting emotional feeling that stays with you long after it’s finished. You watch everything happen in the early scenes, but you don’t realize the profound effect it’s going to have on you until you get to the end, when there’s that phone call between the two of them, and the (incredible) monologue from Michael Stuhlbarg, and those jaw-dropping closing credits. It’s really just a stunning piece of work, and this is immediately one of those films I would tell every single person alive to watch at some point in their lives, specifically between the ages of 13 and 22. I don’t care where in there, and I really don’t care if you’re interested in film at all. I feel like this is just a life movie. This movie says so much about life without ever coming out and saying it that I think it’s just something everyone needs to see. It instantaneously became one of the most essential films ever made as soon as it came out, and I can only hope that time is even more kind to it than that.
91. Loving Vincent
This is worth seeing purely because of the story of how it was made. One of the ten most unique films of the decade, and one of the most beautiful as well. They made the film using actual hand-painted oil canvases. They hired some number of actual painters, shot actors on green screen and then took the photographs and had the painters personally hand-paint every single frame of film. So everything you see on screen is painted by an actual person. You look at something like Rango, which took actual actors in some sort of environment (be it half-set or green screen) and then used computer animation to create the look — this did that and made paintings of it, and then spliced them together to create the film. It’s incredible. That alone makes it worth seeing and one of the best animated films of the decade. And it’s also great because it’s based on Van Gogh and his paintings and features a lot of images that are based on the things he painted (the end credits show you all of that). The story is about a mailman who is to deliver a letter he wrote to his brother Theo shortly before he died. And in doing so begins to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. But really it’s just an excuse to give you these stunning visuals. The film is one of the most gorgeous I’ve ever seen and is something I will just put on to look at, because it looks that amazing. Give me this film over 95% of American studio animation any day of the week.
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