Mike’s Top 100 Films of the Decade (80-71)
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:
80. Sing Street
John Carney captured lightning in a bottle with Once last decade, and he manages again with this film. It’s the same story — Irish music film that wins you over by being so damn charming and pure, only here it’s a ‘guy starts a band to impress a girl’. It’s just so damn likable on every level, and all the songs are amazing. The songs are what make this work as well as it does. It’s just an absolutely lovely film and one of those I’d recommend to anyone and everyone because it’s almost impossible not to like.
79. Blue Valentine
It feels passé a decade later, but at the time, this was one of the most unique things out there. You didn’t really see people going the full Cassavetes anymore. And now, with so many films doing things of this sort, people don’t really go back to this one like they should. It feels like the early prototype of something that’s long since been perfected. Almost like going back to a gen 1 Playstation game when you’ve seen where things are at now. Still, it’s incredible. An almost entirely improvised film about the relationship between Ryan Gosling’s and Michelle Williams’ characters, told at the beginning and the end of their relationship. The acting here is wonderful and Derek Cianfrance projects a brutal realism on the screen that just shows you everything, warts and all. I really love this film a lot.
We’ve all seen it, we all like it, there really isn’t much to say here. Christopher Nolan crafts a high-concept thriller with a great cast that is so much more unique and inventive than almost anything else in its budget level. And it’s allowed him to maintain this sort of level for all his films, making everything he makes an event-level release. It’s not easy to do. He’s one of a very few that gets that sort of leeway. This one…. while I have issues with the fact that basically every line of dialogue is exposition, it’s hard to say it’s not a great movie. I prefer others to it in his filmography (two of which we’re still to get to), but great is great.
77. Son of Saul
This is one of the most intense film experiences I’ve had. It’s a Holocaust film — generally intense by itself — shot entirely close up on its main actor, Geza Rohrig’s, face, just like the shot pictured above. So rather than directly see all the atrocities that you know are happening (because you’ve seen enough Holocaust films and learned enough history to know what’s going on), they all happen just out of focus and out of frame, somehow making it even more harrowing, because you’re projecting it all on the unchanging face of Rohrig, who seems to desensitized to everything after seeing so much of it. I know it sounds like something most people wouldn’t want to put themselves through, and I suspect a lot of people haven’t for that reason. But, this did win Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars for a reason, and it is generally considered one of the absolute best films of the decade for a reason. I think you owe it to yourself just to see it from a filmmaking standpoint. It’s truly one of the best films you can see from this past decade.
76. Gone Girl
David Fincher. His blessing and his curse is that he takes material that would otherwise be almost TV movie quality and makes them amazing. They made this movie with a lesser director, and it became The Girl on the Train. They’ve copied this movie a bunch and they’re all shitty Netflix and Lifetime thrillers. The only reason this works as well as it does is because of David Fincher. We don’t need to get into why he takes films like this all the time, but the truth is… it’s a great movie. An off-the-rack paperback best seller turned into one of the best movies of the decade because Fincher put his directorial hooks in it. He gets one of the best Ben Affleck performances of his career and gets an Oscar-worthy performance out of Rosamund Pike. And he even gets a great supporting turn from Tyler Perry, who generally doesn’t ever get props for his acting skills. It’s just an all around fantastic movie and one of those movies I think we all go back and rewatch and enjoy.
75. The Descendants
Alexander Payne doesn’t work often, but usually when he does, it’s something worthwhile. Citizen Ruth, Election, About Schmidt, Sideways, this film, Nebraska and Downsizing. You may not like them all (I’m openly not the biggest Sideways fan and Downsizing didn’t quite work for me), but there’s at least one of them you really like. This and About Schmidt, to me, are both masterpieces. I love Election a lot too, but the other two are straight up masterpieces. This movie is so good you forget that it’s about a rich guy deciding whether or not to build a hotel. I mean, sure, there’s all the family stuff as well, but ultimately the main plot of the film is him deciding if he should keep the land or sell it to developers to put up a resort. No one remembers that, and it’s because the emotional, character-driven stuff is so good. Clooney is amazing, and it’s his best dramatic work possibly of his career. Shailene Woodley instantly became a star because of her work in this. And you also get great supporting work from Matthew Lillard, Judy Greer, Beau Bridges and Robert Forster. There’s just a great tenderness and humor to this, even though it’s about all this hard family stuff and absolutely ridiculous hotel stuff. It’s the little moments between the characters that really make this film as good as it is and keep me wanting to go back and rewatch it.
The Bond franchise has always been consistent, even when the films haven’t been great. Fortunately, they’re almost never not solid, so you rarely get anything more than “that was disappointing for a Bond film,” which is usually the direct result of the films that came before it. The last truly disappointing Bond film we had was Die Another Day, and even that’s enjoyable on a ridiculous level. We’ve been utterly spoiled by the Daniel Craig era. Casino Royale is truly one of the best Bond films ever made, Quantum of Solace is solid, but lesser than Casino and also slightly the victim of a writer’s strike. But it’s still better than I’d say most of the Roger Moore movies. And then this — this movie almost transcends Bond, it’s so good. It doesn’t, but it’s that level of great, mostly owing to Sam Mendes deciding to tell a story worth telling that just happened to be about James Bond and getting Roger Deakins to bring a level of cinematography that this franchise just never truly had before. The images in this movie are stunning and make the the whole thing even better than it already is. What’s great about the film is how it accepts the passage of time and, for really the first time ever, deals with Bond as someone whose body is breaking down, has maybe lost a step and as someone who doesn’t exist in this episodic time machine where things just happen and we don’t really notice how old he is or how long he’s been on the job. And then they have this story with Judi Dench as M, utilizing her 17 years and 7 films in that role (she’s been there since GoldenEye, guys). And they weave this really terrific film that actually makes Bond a character who has to deal with some real shit. Deep-seeded family stuff, the loss of his ‘mother’, the aging/body breaking down thing — in a sense, this is like Casino Royale in that you watch him slowly become James Bond. Whereas there he becomes him because that was a sort of ‘origin’ story, here he becomes him again. And they introduce a new M and Moneypenny and Q and all the stuff we remember from Bond. It’s a really terrific film, and it’s been almost a decade since we ‘ranked’ the Bond films, but I suspect that if I were to make that list again, I’d have to put this one in the top seven overall. For me it’s any three Connery films (but probably those first three), Casino, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, this and GoldenEye. Those are the tops for me. And then everything else is in either that next tier of ‘really good for the franchise’, ‘solid enough’ or ‘not my favorite’. It truly is one of the best Bond films they’ve made, and while I’m always gonna like the franchise more than I like most things, is not something I throw out that lightly.
73. The Fighter
This movie brought David O. Russell back. It was a complete rejuvenation for him as a filmmaker and showed an energy and a style that he had not really shown before on screen. And it was wonderful to see. It’s funny that the film was anchored by Mark Wahlberg, but in essence he’s the least interesting thing on screen, because you get these powerhouse performances from Christian Bale and Amy Adams and Melissa Leo. And it’s just one of those movies that’s great because it focuses on the characters and the environment more than it focuses on the plot. Honestly, who remembers the boxing in this movie? I don’t. I remember stuff like the fighting with the sisters on the porch or Bale thinking he’s filming a documentary about his comeback when instead it’s a documentary about the crack epidemic in America. I remember little moments like Bale running through the streets with a cake in his hand or Wahlberg getting ready to fight the guy, going, “He did not just get off the fucking couch. If he did, I want a couch like that.” The boxing is completely ancillary, and that’s why the movie’s so good.
Ben Affleck. He was a laughing stock (for the wrong reasons, but still) eight years before this. He had Gigli and the high profile romance with Jennifer Lopez, and then for a few years he couldn’t book a movie. And then he refashioned himself as a director with Gone Baby Gone, which is great, and then The Town, which is really great. And then he came back with this and fully brought himself back to prominence. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting this film to land as it did, awards-wise, but that’s a separate discussion. It’s a really entertaining film and one of those movies that works because it’s about a fun subject, maintains the right tone and is really rewatchable. The cast is fantastic, you get the fun ‘we’re making a fake movie’ aspect along with the true life story that’s just insane and works because it’s insane. It’s just an amazing movie.
71. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson. It’s weird how he’s become a parody of himself so many times over that it’s somehow come back around and not only are we fine with it but we even embrace it. This movie is just ridiculous. He’s doing Wes Anderson. He’s one of the only people who does the same thing over and over and we don’t care. I can’t explain it. But I also don’t care to. Because I love what he does. This one is just wonderful. Try to explain the plot of this one — the story of a concierge at a prestigious (I think?) European hotel who starts training a new lobby boy but also gets involved in the murder of an 80-something year old woman he’d been sleeping with… the plot is nuts. Doesn’t matter though, because it’s Wes Anderson, and we trust Wes Anderson. It’s lovely. He’s one of those people where we know the films are great and really only look at them among the other Wes Anderson films. But yeah, this movie’s terrific. There’s really not much else to say. We all know it.
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