Mike’s Top 100 Films of the Decade (60-51)
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:
Spike Jonze has quietly put together a perfect filmography. To date, he’s made four films, and they’re all amazing (and I think all top ten films for me). People don’t necessarily realize it, but the films he’s directed are Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Where the Wild Things Are and this film. Amazing, right? So this one — I think we’ve all seen it. I think we all know how great it is. The story is so good it somehow felt like a parody of itself not long afterward because it was so on point in so many ways. Joaquin Phoenix followed up his ‘Master’ performance with another incredible one and further cemented his status among the best working actors. Amy Adams is quietly incredible in this movie. And the reason it’s quiet is because Scarlett Johansson does a terrific job using only her voice. It’s one of those films that isn’t flashy, yet feels like one of those films that best represents this decade in film.
59. The Impossible
A stunning achievement that I did not see coming whatsoever. I remember being at work, and we got a bunch of screeners in from the studio, and the other ones that came in the pack were the ones that everyone else cared about. And I saw this and went, “I don’t know what this is, but I see it’s Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, so there has to be something here, right?” So I put it on, knowing nothing about it or what it was about, and I’m watching this family go on vacation in Thailand, and I’m mostly interested, but I’m not really sure what I’m watching. And then out of nowhere this tsunami hits and for the next 20 minutes I’m just watching this giant wave of disaster hit and watching these people survive it, in the most brutal, realistic way possible. It’s exactly what would happen if any of us went through this. And it’s scary, realistic, and one of the most engrossing sequences I saw all decade. And then you just see the aftermath. They’re separated, have no idea if each other is alive, are going to the local hospital, which is overrun with people in triage, searching desperately for everyone else, trying to get a hold of a phone that works so they can tell their families they’re all right. It’s incredible. It’s one of the best experiences I had this decade with a movie and it’s a desperately underseen gem from the decade more people ought to check out.
58. Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson again. This is the one that is perhaps most perfectly suited to my tastes. The minute I saw what this was about I knew it was gonna be one of my favorites of his. He adds the love story element, which is something he hadn’t really ever broached before, and he focuses on children, which is also something he hadn’t really ever done before. And the result is this really sweet story that still bears all of his hallmarks. At this point, there’s really nothing you need to say about a Wes Anderson movie and why you consider it one of the best of the decade.
57. The Nice Guys
Shane Black. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was a bit of a hidden gem for a while, though it seems to have found its proper audience in the time since. This one started out a lot closer to the mark, fortunately, and I do think a fair amount of people have seen this one and know how great it is, even though I’m not sure it’s all the way there yet. Still, I think people have caught on that Shane Black is such a great writer, and that as long as he’s working in the original genre realm and not necessarily the franchise realm (since Predator didn’t quite work and Iron Man 3 is, shall we say, divisive), it’s gonna be amazing. This is true to his form, the buddy cop movie, though here it’s private investigators, and you get Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling really turning up the comedic instincts, where both play slightly more exaggerated versions of characters we’ve seen them play before, with Crowe making you think of his bruiser L.A. Confidential character and Gosling taking that charming, sarcastic guy he plays and taking him to the natural endpoint of just being a full on sleazy scumbag. This movie is so good and features some absolutely brilliant scenes and moments, with Shane Black’s typical fantastic dialogue. It’s just an amazing movie, and one of those where I knew immediately upon seeing it that it was a top ten for me and a best of the decade contender. Just because Shane Black movies are so watchable, that even though some people won’t admit that this is amazing, after a few years you realize you just keep going back to it because it’s so damn good.
56. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I remember watching the original Swedish film after so many people had said it was amazing and going, “Okay, let’s see what this is.” And I put it on, doing other things, and within a half hour, I was sitting in front of the TV, totally invested in everything going on. And then almost immediately they were remaking this in America with David Fincher. And I knew that you automatically trust David Fincher, so I wasn’t so much worried about the film’s quality. Mostly I was wondering how they were gonna pull off Lisbeth and who was gonna be the one to do it, and I was wondering if I’d care about this movie, seeing it again so soon after seeing it the first time. And honestly… no difference. Rooney Mara takes over for Noomi Rapace and the two takes on the character are very different. Mara’s character feels a lot more vulnerable and a lot more prone to being victimized, while Rapace’s is much more of a strong outsider. So that’s apples and oranges and both are great takes. Fincher, though — I think he directs this so well that this ends up being the better version of the film. It’s so damn watchable, even though he does this weird thing of casting Daniel Craig as a Swede and not having him do the accent whatsoever, yet most other people seem to be doing accents or are Swedish. But you know what? It works. The movie’s watchable as hell and just really terrific all around. I feel like this is one we all liked a lot when it came out but have sort of forgotten about and slept on in the ensuing years. So this is your casual reminder that this is one of the best movies of the decade and that David Fincher has not made a bad film in his career.
55. The Big Sick
One of the most charming movies of the decade. I had no expectations for this whatsoever. To me it was just a Sundance movie. But the uniqueness of the story mixed with the absolute heart and honestness with which they told it turned it into a movie that’s truly one of those that everyone needs to see. If for some reason you haven’t seen this (which I think most people have by now, given the kind of press it got and money it made and easiness of access to it), it’s based on Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon’s actual relationship, where just after they break up, she gets really sick and ends up in the hospital in a coma. And so he ends up calling her parents and spending all this time in the hospital with them as they try to figure out what’s wrong with her. It’s so good. I’m not doing the best job of describing it, but trust me when I say this movie is incredible. Kumail plays himself, and does a fantastic job with it, and Zoe Kazan plays Emily. And you get Holly Hunter and Ray Romano as her parents, and they are both superb in it. Truly one of those movies that will charm everyone, because the story is so specific, yet the characters are so likable and the whole thing just rings so true to life (because it did happen) that it’s impossible not to fall for it.
54. Silver Linings Playbook
To me, this is the apex of that David O. Russell new style he introduced this decade. The Fighter was a reminder of, “Hey, I’m still here and I make good movies.” And then American Hustle is the one where most people would say is the apex of that style, going balls to the wall with it. But to me, this is the one that achieves the greatest success and really manages to be quietly the best film of them all Especially because… there’s really no plot here. You watch this and try to explain what it’s about and you really can’t. Because it’s really just about him setting up these characters and letting you live with them for a while, and because they’re all so well-drawn and the actors are all so good that you don’t really care what’s going on. Bradley Cooper is a former teacher in Philadelphia who, after finding his wife cheating on him had a mental breakdown and was institutionalized. He’s now back and living at home with his parents as he tries to get his bipolar disorder under control. Meanwhile he finds Jennifer Lawrence, a young widow who is responding to her trauma by sleeping with anyone she can find, and the two begin this odd relationship where they both help the other heal. Meanwhile you’ve got Bradley Cooper’s family and all this other stuff going on — De Niro is his father and also a small time bookie, and then Cooper and Lawrence are training to be in a dance competition together. It’s all this stuff. Doesn’t matter. Because Russell does what he did in The Fighter, strips away the plot and focuses on character and environment and just lets you live in the energy of the film he sets up, and he adds such heart to it that it’s really just one of those movies that I find myself watching constantly just because it’s so damn good. It also really gave us Bradley Cooper as a star and a great actor (he was not both before this movie) and cemented Jennifer Lawrence as the same as well (even though she was kinda there). Pound for pound, this is definitely one of those hallmark movies of the decade for me.
53. Molly’s Game
Aaron Sorkin. That’s it. That’s all you need. There’s no proper screenplay the man has written that was made the way he wrote it that’s not an incredible film you can just watch over and over again. This is his first directorial effort and it’s just an amazing piece of work. Based on Moly Bloom, dubbed the ‘poker princess’ because she was running a high stakes celebrity poker game in both LA and New York that featured gigantic celebrities, titans of business and all sorts of people in between. And you watch this story of how she went from Olympic level skier to this woman being indicted for running this poker game that rakes in millions of dollars every night. It’s so good. Jessica Chastain is incredible as Bloom and you have Idris Elba as a fictional lawyer character she hires to defend her in court. So the film is half Elba learning about her case and trying to make sense of it all while seeing the flashbacks of it all happening and her narrating her own story, Goodfellas style. Trust me when I say this movie is great. Sorkin is one of the absolute best writers in the world and the movie is snappy, well-paced and one of those movies that, even if you don’t give a shit about poker at all, you will find yourself caught up in. I know people who said they didn’t necessarily love this the first time they saw it, but now years later it’s one of those that they constantly watch whenever its on. It’s that kind of movie. You don’t realize how much you like it until you find yourself watching it whenever it’s on.
52. The Wolf of Wall Street
Yeah, boy. This is, perhaps, one of those Martin Scorsese movies that is so on the nose that no one cares. It’s Goodfellas on Wall Street instead of the mafia. That’s it. You watch this guy go from young stockbroker to head of one of the richest firms on Wall Street, all before he turned 30. And of course it eventually descends in a mess of drugs and arrests and all that stuff. But really you came for all the crazy stuff in between. Because man… do they go balls out on this one. The crazy shit they do — the fucking quaaludes scene — everyone knows how good this movie is, because everyone’s seen it. There’s not much I need to say here, so I’ll just leave it on this note — Leo’s performance here is quietly one of the best performances of his career, and the physical comedy he has to do in this is really something that not enough people have ever given him credit for. And Jonah Hill really proves that not only is he a great comedian but also an amazing actor. Because I didn’t quite see it in Moneyball, but here he absolutely steals the entire film. Also, McConaughey.
Oh man, this movie. I saw it with little expectations and came out loving it, and even at the end of the year I thought, “This is a definite 11-20 film,” and figured that was a huge overperforming of it, since so few people even really saw it or knew what it was. But almost immediately after that I not only realized that it was a top tenner for me but also something that I loved very very dearly and was always gonna end up ranked this highly for me. Because it’s so charming, so honest and so damn rewatchable. Jon Favreau (and people forget he started his career with Swingers and Made and things before moving into the Iron Man realm), after the rush job of Iron Man 2 and not really having any say in how that film got made, went and did Cowboys and Aliens which I think he thought was a palate cleanser so he didn’t think about Iron Man 2, but then that also didn’t work. So he went back to the well and came out with this film, which, while not necessarily something you’d see on the surface but is clearly the the backbone of the story, is about what it’s like to be a creative person attempting to try new things and experiment when the higher ups who control the purse strings keep trying to get you to do the ‘safe’ stuff that they know will bring in the money and appeal to the most people. He plays a chef at a restaurant in Los Angeles who was a hot new chef a while back and now runs this family restaurant that’s become a sort of steady money-earner. They make chicken parm and all the usual dishes and while he’s still a great chef, the menu is very much broad restaurant style fare and not the stuff he came up making. And so a confluence of things happen — he gets introduced to Twitter by his son, leading to him getting into a big fight with a food critic who trashed his restaurant, all while wanting to get into more experimental fare, which the owner of the restaurant tells him not to do because what they have already has been working for over a decade, causes him to lose his job and become a laughing stock. So he decides to rebuild from the ground up. Do it for love of creating rather than the money. So he buys a food truck and goes to Miami with his son and they start making cuban sandwiches. And so he creates this food truck with his family and friends and just does it because he loves doing it. And the film is about him learning to love what he does again. And naturally, in that scenario, this movie is that food truck. And I love how you can read the movie as a metaphor for that, but also how it doesn’t matter because the movie is just so damn charming and likable and well made. It’s one of those movies I’ve recommended to countless people across the board and it’s always been well-received because it’s just something that will appeal to everyone. I really love this one a lot and hope everyone’s seen it or does see it, because I think it might be the best film Favreau’s made so far in his career.
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