A little late to the party here, as I think the window for all these “best of the decade” lists was late December or early January according to all podcasts I follow. But, who cares? I just started posting on the blog again last week, so here we are.
Best of decade lists are interesting. It’s not like I can just go back to the last 10 years and pick my favorite movie of each year and call it a day. Opinions change, some movies are more rewatchable than others, and what may be my favorite movie of any given year may not necessarily be representative of the decade. Objectivity is a joke with “best of” lists. It’s an inherently subjective process. But, I stupidly still try to strive for some objectivity.
So, here they are. My picks for the Top 15 (why keep to just 10?) movies of the last decade. Here’s to another great 10 years of film!
15. Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Not sure how you can make a list of the decade and not recognize the gargantuan influence that Marvel Studios has had over the industry. For my money, the Captain America series is the most accomplished of the franchise, and Winter Soldier represents the high water mark. Avengers changed the game. Endgame wrapped it up in style. But, this is still the best Marvel film.
14. Drive: Effortlessly cool and stylish, with a stacked supporting cast of actors that almost looks prophetic in 2011, given how much their careers would take off afterwards. Excellent soundtrack full of synth-heavy, ’80s-drenched pop. A perfect representative of the hipster-cool indie flick that ages well.
13. Creed: I love this movie. Ryan Coogler would garner greater acclaim (and a Best Pic nod) with his follow-up Black Panther, but Creed is the pinnacle of modern Hollywood and sets the template for legacy sequels. Take a beloved IP, attach a great director, bring back original cast members for nostalgia, and infuse it with a fresh perspective and new set of actors to carry the series forward. Oh, and entertain the hell out of the audience.
12. Parasite: Bong-hive activate! I’m including this here now because I’m anticipating it may just pull of the impossible – a foreign language film winning the Best Picture Oscar. An essentially flawless film full of surprises. Brilliantly constructed and paced. The less you know about it going in the better, and it offers ample rewards on second viewings.
11. Gravity: Alfonso Cuaron is a master. One could argue he’s our best director working today. Certainly top 5. This sci-fi survival tale is intense and emotional, and it demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible. Sandra Bullock is terrific. Smart, big budget filmmaking with huge stars that doesn’t take its audience’s intelligence for granted. Wish every studio film was this good.
10. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: A game changer in the animation world. There are any number of Pixar movies you could put on this list (Toy Story 3 and Inside Out are particularly worthy) and The LEGO Movie is hilarious, but Spider-Verse is one-of-a-kind. It’s visually dynamic, well written and exquisitely designed. When it came out of nowhere to win the Best Animated Film Oscar, its craft was too undeniable. This movie drops your jaw and blows your eyes to the back of the skull while making you laugh and cheer.
9. Get Out: Jordan Peele burst out of the gate with his first film – a horror comedy that’s rich in political and racial allegory. Equally scary and funny (which most films of this ilk fail to find the right balance), with impressive performances across the board, Peele quickly established himself as an A-list director who can entertain the hell out of his audience while also having something to say.
8. The Social Network: Maybe the most important film of the decade? David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin prove to be the perfect combo of director and writer. Even if the film takes liberties with certain facts, it does so to make a larger point about the creation of Facebook and its co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. Jesse Eisenberg has never been better. I think there’s enough material now for a sequel – one that could track the questionable corporate decision-making and corrupted use behind the inescapable social media platform.
7. Moonlight: That rarest of things – a perfect film. Its Best Picture win at the Oscars is both wholly deserved and notable for the manner in which it won. Most “best movies” of the year don’t actually win Best Picture. Moonlight proved to be the exception to the rule. Brilliantly directed by Barry Jenkins, with tender performances by its cast, the movie operates as a pure empathy machine.
6. The Wolf of Wall Street: Martin Scorsese directs with boundless vigor and energy, and Leo (or LDC, as Brad Pitt might call him) delivers one of the decade’s best comedic performances. It’s long and crazy, and it revels in the excess of its characters, but doing so really drives home its point. These Wall Street characters are wild, reckless and not to be admired. The Quaaludes scene is an all-timer.
5. Whiplash: J.K. Simmons is amazing in this exciting look at one teacher’s push for greatness from his students, and deservedly won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Damien Chazelle almost instantly becomes one of the great directors of his generation. The last 20 minutes are as intense and thrilling as anything you’ll see. THIS is how you end a movie.
4. Lady Bird: In another decade, we’ll probably still be singing the praises of Greta Gerwig. I love this sweet and very funny semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale. While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel of its genre, it finds space in the margins to add depth and believable inflections of humanity. The cast is uniformly excellent – Saoirse Ronan may be the best young actress working today. Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts are both superb as Lady Bird’s mom and dad.
3. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping: Comedies never get their critical due. Rarely recognized with awards or “best of” lists, they’re usually taken for granted. So, when a great comedy comes along – and make no mistake – Popstar is one, I like to stand up and take notice. Popstar is not only the funniest film of the decade, it might make the top 10 on the all-time list. A pitch perfect parody of the pop concert documentary, it transcends that genre and just offers one hilariously absurd scene or line of dialogue after another. Pound for pound, minute by minute, it delivers the laughs.
2. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood: Quentin Tarantino is a master. What more can you say about him? Probably a lot, but the “master” label is an unshakable one. Once Upon a Time may just be his masterpiece? Certainly his most mature work. A love letter to old Hollywood and a haunting wish fulfillment piece by the end. Leo and Brad are at the top of their game. QT’s called this a “hangout” movie, and I completely agree. I saw it 5 times in theaters – mostly because I wanted to continue spending time with these characters in this location and in this particular time period.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road: I don’t know how George Miller did it. A swirling symphony of sound, ideas and action that starts strong at minute 1 and never lets up afterwards. The movie looks amazing (also worth checking out the B&W version) and the car chases are some of the best ever filmed. While it may be light on plot (it’s essentially one long car chase), Miller and his actors still find time to develop characters and themes that make the action scenes resonate. Fury Road is not only the best action movie of the decade, it represents the unlimited potential of movies when filmmakers utilize every tool at their disposal at the highest level of craft imaginable.