Mike’s Top 100 Films of the Decade (40-31)
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:
40. The Martian
Ridley Scott always makes worthwhile movies that are all at a certain level of quality. But only once in a while does he come out with one where you go, “Oh that’s, extra level great.” You look at his filmography post-Gladiator — love Matchstick Men, love Black Hawk Down, Hannibal’s solid. But then Kingdom of Heaven never got released properly, A Good Year only I seem to like, American Gangster I love but it’s a big bloated and uneven. And then Body of Lies is fine, Robin Hood is fine, Prometheus is fine, The Counselor didn’t quite work and Exodus didn’t quite work. So you see this and you go, “Sure, gonna be solid like the rest of them and I know it can’t be any worse than the stuff on that list.” But then you see it and go, “Oh shit, this is really great.” Because space movies — usually really interesting. And this is one of those Apollo 13’s, where you get half astronaut in crisis and half NASA trying to figure out how to get them home. Only you get the extra stuff of Damon terraforming Mars and eating shit potatoes for half the movie. And it’s got this fun tone above all the serious stuff and there’s just great stuff all around in it. The cast is fantastic (despite some of the whitewashing over of roles of color in the film) and it’s just all around one of Ridley’s best movies.
It’s weird to think how good this movie is versus how quickly it almost all went wrong. Steven Soderbergh was gonna make it and they fired him a day before filming was supposed to commence. And then there was a Steve Zaillian script and they were gonna shoot it documentary style and then the whole thing blew up. Then Bennett Miller came on and Aaron Sorkin came on to do a rewrite and they just made the film. And we’ll never know what the Soderbergh version would have been (though we kinda do, since I think some of High Flying Bird came from his ideas on this), but at best it could have been as good as this is. Because this is about baseball but not about baseball. The baseball stuff is ancillary in a lot of ways. It’s really about a guy changing the system with a new way of looking at things in the face of a hundred years of tradition and people looking sideways at him. Pitt is incredible here and this is the performance where he firmly cemented his new way of using silence and stillness, which he really started doing in Assassination of Jesse James. This is where he brought it out and everyone realized it and saw it. Because Benjamin Button had too much CGI to really notice either. But he really anchors the movie in a powerful way and the combination of the Zaillian and Sorkin scripts really provides an amazing bedrock for Bennett Miller to do his thing. It’s straight up one of the best movies of the decade that seems to appeal all over, because I know people who don’t care about sports or baseball at all and they will always watch this movie when it’s on.
It’s Christopher Nolan’s best directing work of the decade, though I know it’s not necessarily a sexy choice to call this his best overall film. Because it’s very straightforward and it’s just a war movie. I appreciate that in his last couple of original movies, the big quibble was always, “Dude all your dialogue is exposition. Spice it up or make it feel more artful.” And so he just cut out all the dialogue and it’s simply just war stuff. Tom Hardy barely says anything in this movie and is incredible in it. And then you got the three timelines, which are great. I love how it all weaves together even though one timeline happens over a week, one over a day and one over an hour. And somehow it all flows and edits together beautiful. And the film is stunning. Hoyte van Hoytema really shoots the hell out of this movie and if I were gonna make a list of my favorite cinematography efforts of the decade (which somehow I’ve still not yet felt remotely qualified to do, even though I’m not remotely qualified to talk about the rest of this other shit), this feels like it would probably be in the top ten. It’s stunning. And with Hans Zimmer’s score, they make the movie feel like a giant ball of tension that starts at like a 7 and slowly cranks up the rest of the way through the majority of the movie until you get that one moment of release when the boats show up. It’s really just an all around incredible movie, and I feel like this is one that a lot of people wouldn’t necessarily call their favorite, but do respect enough to concede that it does belong near the top of best films of the decade.
37. Knives Out
I wasn’t expecting this to be Rian Johnson’s best movie. I didn’t think he could top Looper so soon. For myself, at least. But damn. I saw this and immediately knew. And then I watched it like three more times within a month of that. It’s… so good. It’s a straight up Agatha Christie style murder mystery with an incredible cast and fantastic writing. But more than anything, the mystery isn’t too complicated and is more about other things than the central mystery, which is really smart of the film. At a certain point you basically know what happened and you’re focused on something else entirely. Plus you get the great pacing and editing and performances from the cast. Daniel Craig is there doing his thing. Ana de Armas finally gets a starmaking turn. Everything Chris Evans is doing. I can just keep going listing all the amazing things from this movie. Christopher Plummer! Not even close how much I love this movie and how highly I would rank this for the decade. It’s incredible.
36. Mad Max: Fury Road
No one’s gonna argue with this one. We’d all have it in the top 50. At a certain point it comes down to preference and which things you really liked versus which things you just regular love, but everyone knows how great this is and I’d be surprised if this wasn’t in most people’s top 50 for the decade. It’s just awesome and amazing. We’re all kind of on the same page about this, so there’s not really much else to add.
35. Green Book
Yes, I’m aware this is divisive. Yes, I’m aware that this is a simplistic version of racism. I’m aware of a lot of things about this movie. But, if this didn’t win Best Picture, no one would care. It’s a really entertaining movie. Really well written. The performances are fantastic. I really don’t think about it past that. At a certain point you’re just ridiculing it because it’s easy and fun to ridicule it. The discussion about whether it deserved Best Picture is a completely separate discussion. This is simply about how much I enjoy the movie. And I really enjoy the movie. So I’m really not gonna think about it past that. You can really like something while also being aware of its flaws. Because if you couldn’t, you wouldn’t be reading my dumb ass right now.
34. Steve Jobs
I’m surprised this doesn’t have more notoriety than it does. It’s so good. First off, as I’ll say every time — any time Aaron Sorkin writes a script, it’s great. The movie is always great. So that alone should tell you how good this is. Unless you’re someone who hated The Social Network and Moneyball and Molly’s Game, you’re probably gonna really like this movie. And Danny Boyle does this incredible thing in directing it. Because Sorkin wrote the script as three one-act plays. It’s about Jobs before three important product launches in his life. And he keeps running into all the same people in each of them. And so what Boyle does is shoot it to underscore the development of technology. So the first act is shot 16mm, the second is 35mm and then the third is digital. And you’re kind of aware of it as you watch, but the film gets crisper as you go along and looks kinda like graphics improving. Which is nice. And Daniel Pemberton’s score is just incredible too, also underscoring that with its use of noises and sounds along with the music. But really the Sorkin script is the star of the film, along with Michael Fassbender as Jobs (one of his top three performances of his career), Kate Winslet as his right-hand woman (incredible. You forget how amazing she is because she’s been largely quiet since she won her Oscar), Seth Rogen as Wozniak, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston. It is so damn good. The fact that this hasn’t gotten the acclaim it deserves really hurts. But also, Molly’s Game is the same way. I feel like people just need to see it and then they’ll just keep watching it whenever it’s on, because that’s the kind of stuff Sorkin writes.
33. 12 Years a Slave
I think we’re all generally agreed on this one. Pretty much a masterpiece all around. Steve McQueen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Fassbender — it’s all great. Kinda hard not to have this in the top 50. Really just a function of personal preference at that point.
Oh, so we are at that point on the list where it’s just banger after banger. Another one. This one’s recent too, and seeing as how much this caught on like wildfire en route to all those Oscar wins, I think everyone’s seen this and knows how good it is. Not really much to say here either. It’s perfect. It’s a perfect movie. The only reason this isn’t higher is because I’ve got 31 other movies I like slightly more than this. But like I said, rankings don’t really matter here. This being where it is tells you how strongly I consider it among everything else of this decade. That’s the point of this. I don’t think I need to urge anyone to see it at this point, so really we’re just celebrating how great it is.
31. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Having a documentary in my top ten for the year is unfathomable to me. It’s only happened twice ever, and one is me retroactively going back to make up top ten lists for years I wasn’t alive. This one happened in the moment, and was initially my #1 for its year. (It’s not at the moment, but it’s still #2.) It’s incredible. Mr. Rogers is one of those figures I just love and adore, and seeing this documentary — I say this whenever I talk about the film: I went to see this on a Sunday morning at 10am. The theater was maybe 45% full. Every person in it left the theater having cried. That’s just the power of this film and of him as a human being. I just love this documentary and I love Fred Rogers.
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