My Favorite Theatrical Experiences of the 2010s



I will speak frankly – I think most Americans will have to get used to the fact that we are just not going to be able to go to movie theaters for a long while if at any point before 2021 (for the rest of the world, it appears that a lot of you got your shit together and won’t have that particular displeasure). This is undoubtedly for the better as we need to take whatever measure necessary to control and combat COVID-19 (which means put your fucking mask on, redneck!). I think it’s just going to be a lot more healthy if we recognize and accept that and work to what we wanna do.

But of course, I do miss the cinema as a location. It’s absolutely not the same watching anything at home, no matter how good your home theater setup is, there is just the right quality in the scope and space set up specifically for theatrical presentation that you’re never going to be able to imitate like the glowing path from the projector to the screen as though the movie is transporting a ghost or the dwarfing perspective of sitting below that image rather than before it. More particularly, there is something really epic about the communal experience of going to see a movie – whether with a crowd or with a friend or a group of friends – where it seems there’s a quiet connection with every single person in that room and somehow their joy is your joy, their disgust is your disgust, and the trance all ends when the lights come out.

So with that said – and this post is mostly for myself so forgive the minimal description or explanation – I list out my favorite memories of going to the movies in the most explicit physical sense and leave it as something of a Peter Greenaway-esque map when I try to revisit the sort of journeys that eventually culminated in the massive lists of movies I’ve left as a final note to the 2010s as a decade for me as a moviegoer.

  • Toy Story 3 at the Regal Kendall Village – Miami, FL, June 2010 – In which my childhood biffle and I watched together before splitting apart for college.
  • The Big 4 Live from Sofia, Bulgaria at United Artists The Falls – Miami, FL, June 2010 – In which my very last day before returning to Algeria is spent watching a livestream of the Big 4 Thrash Metal bands with my high school biffle and laughing at the dude’s moshpitting in front of the screen before joining in (I’d later see the Big 4 in person the following year).
  • Inception at the Harkins Tempe Marketplace – Tempe, AZ, August 2010 – in which I go to a movie theater for the first time since spending the summer in Algeria with a brand new group of friends for college.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World at the MadCap Theaters – Tempe, AZ, September 2010 – in which I encounter my first loud cult showing of a movie and feel like I discovered electricity.
  • Halloween/Night of the Living Dead at the MadCap Theaters – Tempe, AZ, October 2010 – in which my friends and I decide Halloween weekend ought to be spent watching horror movies late at night.
  • Evil Dead II at the MadCap Theaters – Tempe, AZ, November 2010 – in which I witness the film print’s attached trailers and pre-screening videos for Loews Theaters and it makes me feel like I’ve travelled through time. The Sesame Street “Don’t Forget to Watch the Movie” theater etiquette video particularly becomes a staple of when I’m having friends over to watch movies.
  • TRON: Legacy at the IMAX Arizona Mills – Phoenix, AZ, December 2010 – in which I really witness how big spectacle cinema can be when done exactly right.
  • The Tree of Life at the AMC Sunset Place – Miami, FL, June 2011 – in which I spend my birthday watching what could have been one of my new favorite movies at the time alone and enjoyably with time for myself to think.
  • Hugo at the Harkins Tempe Marketplace – Tempe, AZ, November 2011 – in which I decide that maybe 3D is good actually.
  • Beauty and the Beast 3D at the Harkins Tempe Marketplace – Tempe, AZ, January 2012 – for the most sentimental of reasons although part of it how I’ve seen the light regarding Disney’s accomplishments in animation.
  • Cloud Atlas at the Harkins Tempe Marketplace – Tempe, AZ, October 2012 – in which the scope and sweep of a modern epic brings more perspective to me than I expected.
  • Skyfall at the Harkins Tempe Marketplace – Tempe, AZ, November 2012 – in which my closest friend in college wisely surmises that maybe a big damn popcorn movie with an opening night crowd is what I needed… and I think he turned out to be right.
  • Holy Motors at the FilmBar – Phoenix, AZ, December 2012 – in which even despite discovering my discomfort with dine-in or bar theaters, I also discover there is a whole world of movies still beating out there and they are just as jazzed about it as we are… if not more.
  • Django Unchained at the AMC Southland Mall – Miami, FL, December 2012 – in which watching the movie with an all-black audience on Christmas Day made the entire experience more hype than the movie deserved.
  • Evil Dead (2013) at the Harkins Tempe Marketplace – Tempe, AZ, March 2013 – in which I discover my love for fake cinematic gore and my limits for it still as THE thing.
  • The Shining at Pollack Tempe Cinemas – Tempe, AZ, June 2013 – in which I discover my favorite movie theater that I’ve been through yet and also learn the appeal in talking a long walk at night back to my apartment, listening to music and processing what I watched by myself
  • Man of Steel at the Arizona Mills IMAX – Phoenix, AZ, July 2013 – in which my Thai foreign exchange co-workers and I decide to take a day off to catch a big popcorn flick and they walk out declaring Superman is the coolest dude ever, which endears even beyond my muted attitude to the film.
  • The Wizard of Oz at the AMC Arrowhead – Phoenix, AZ, September 2013 – in which I shock one of my professors by expressing excitement that I’m seeing it on the big screen later tonight.
  • Metallica: Through the Never at the Harkins Tempe Marketplace – Tempe, AZ, September 2013 – in which I remind myself that “yeah, they’re not excellent movies but it’s really something to get stuck in a theater with other metalheads”.
  • Gravity at the Arizona Mills IMAX – Phoenix, AZ, October 2013 – in which I regret dying of laughter every time I saw the trailer because holy shit, that was a scary experience to watch in the most immersive presentation.
  • The Lego Movie and The Raid 2 at the Harkins Chandler Fashion – Phoenix, AZ, February 2014 – in which I decide to take a day off of work to just have an impromptu double feature.
  • The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès – Cannes, FR, May 2014 – in which my friends and I go straight from Graduation to Cannes, our very first movie premiere, and I fucking fall asleep (a struggle I find tough to perform throughout).
  • The Umbrellas of Cherbourg at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès – Cannes, FR, May 2014 – in which I discover another new favorite movie in the best place to discover it.
  • It Follows at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès – Cannes, FR, May 2014 – in which I feel actively part of the festival hype phenomenon for the very first time.
  • Goodbye to Language at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès – Cannes, FR, May 2014 – in which I take an early morning screening without the rest of my friends to feel like I’ve now just learning totally new dimensions to movies that I rejected because they didn’t seen right?
  • Godzilla at the AutoNation Museum of Science IMAX – Ft. Lauderdale, FL, May 2014 – in which I punctuate a kaiju binge several years long with this big experience.
  • Boyhood at the Classic Gateway Theater – Ft. Lauderdale, FL, June 2014 – in which I drive across county lines to discover another favorite cinema of mine for the first time and to watch one of my most anticipated movies of the decade.
  • Snowpiercer at the O Cinema Wynwood – Miami, FL, July 2014 – in which I am so hype over Bong Joon-ho’s victory that I drag my friends in the middle of the night to see it in a nearly empty theater.
  • Interstellar at the AutoNation IMAX – Ft. Lauderdale, FL, November 2014 – in which I witness the last 70mm print they will ever play.
  • National Gallery at the Bill Cosford Cinema – Miami, FL, November 2014 – in which I realize that I am fully on board with Frederick Wiseman’s approach to observing a place.
  • Goodbye to Language at the BAM Rose Cinemas – Brooklyn, NY, January 2015 – in which I decide I’m so determined to see that movie more than once that I fly up to see it by myself and laugh along with it one more time.
  • Moulin Rouge! at the IFC Center – Manhattan, NY, January 2015 – in which I learn one of my favorite movies is playing at midnight so I run! (not take the subway!) after one of my most anticipated boxing matches of the decade concludes from Times Square all the way down to Washington Square and dream with it in my fatigue.
  • Jupiter Ascending at the Cobb Theaters Dolphin – Miami, FL, February 2015 – in which I determine that everyone is wrong sometimes.
  • Alien at the Coral Gables Art Cinema – Miami, FL, February 2015 – in which I first encounter the Secret Celluloid Society, which becomes a weekly pastime for a good year.
  • The Evil Dead (1981) at the Coral Gables Art Cinema – Miami, FL, April 2015 – in which one of my earliest movies that made me love movies gets the rotting 35mm presentation it deserved.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark at the Coral Gables Art Cinema – Miami, FL, April 2015 – in which Secret Celluloid Society showed one impatient dude what the fuck is up.
  • The Apu Trilogy at the Coral Gables Art Cinema – Miami, Fl, April 2015 – in which I spend the whole day taking the walk of life with Satyajit Ray’s iconic protagonist.
  • Blade Runner at the Coral Gables Art Cinema – Miami, FL, April 2015 – in which I introduce my sister to my favorite movie at the insistence of my mom.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road at the Regal Kendall Village – Miami, FL, May 2015 – in which I have the single most physical cinematic experience ever.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road at the Regal Kendall Village – Miami, FL, May 2015 – in which I drag my friends in to have that physical experience with me.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Classic Gateway Theater – Ft. Lauderdale, FL, May 2015 – self-explanatory.
  • Creature from the Black Lagoon at the Miami Beach Cinematheque – Miami Beach, FL, October 2015 – in which I see it in 3D with Ricou Browning himself.
  • The ThingNight of the DemonsEraserhead, & The Texas Chain Saw Massacre at the Coral Gables Art Cinema – Miami, FL, October 2015 – in which Halloween is spent all night at a movie theater until the dragging dawn.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road at the Coral Gables Art Cinema – Miami, FL, December 2015 – in which I learn that oh they make 35mm prints of everything.
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the AutoNation IMAX – Ft. Lauderdale, FL, December 2015 – in which my childhood friends and I make our dramatic return to watching movies together via the dramatic return of Star Wars to the big screen.
  • The Hateful Eight at the Regal Kendall Village – Miami, FL, December 2015 – in which my Tarantino-loving homie and I find that the Road Show is happening less than 10 minutes away from us, to the dismay of nearly everyone we watch it with.
  • The Wild Bunch at the Coral Gables Art Cinema – Miami, FL, January 2016 – in which life got wild.
  • The Witch at the Regal Kendall Village – Miami, FL, February 2016 – in which I opt to sleep with the lights on that night.
  • Miami Connection at the Coral Gables Art Cinema – Miami, FL, March 2016 – in which I have the best time I’ve ever had at a movie theater.
  • The Lobster at the Angelika Film Center – Manhattan, NY, May 2016 – in which I recalibrate my position in life.
  • Love & Friendship at the Malverne Cinema – Long Island, NY, June 2016 – in which I discover another of my favorite movie theaters I’ve ever gone to.
  • Close-Up at the Coral Gables Art Cinema – Miami, FL, July 2016 – in which I pay my respects to Kiarostami.
  • Kiss Me Kate at the Coral Gables Art Cinema – Miami, FL, July 2016 – in which I revisit it in 3D and catch that 50s musical magic in an entirely new way.
  • The Barn at the O Cinema Wynwood – Miami, FL, August 2016 – in which I integrate myself more into Popcorn Frights as an audience member and reignite my enjoyment of genre cinema as is.
  • Suspiria (1977) at the O Cinema Miami Beach – Miami Beach, FL, September 2016 – in which my long awaited Secret Celluloid Society request is met with hilarious anti-climax.
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom at the O Cinema Miami Beach – Miami Beach, FL, September 2016 – in which shit gets wild in my life yet again.
  • Lawrence of Arabia at the Coral Gables Art Cinema – Miami, FL, September 2016 – in which I realize that there’s no going back after seeing it in 70mm.
  • Casablanca at the Coral Gables Art Cinema – Miami, FL, September 2016 – in which I learn that my familiarizing with the theater runners of Miami has in fact saved my date and introduced them to possibly my favorite movie (I know I just said that about Blade Runner, fite me).
  • Moonlight at the Colony Theatre – Miami Beach, FL, October 2016 – Yet another unexpected movie premiere I got to attend at the last second.
  • Phantom of the Paradise at the O Cinema Miami Beach – Miami Beach, FL, October 2016 – in which it was clear that just because SCS’ venue changed didn’t mean it wasn’t going to be any less raucous.
  • Nosferatu, A Symphony of Terror at the Coral Gables Art Cinema – Miami, FL, October 2016 – in which I experience a live scoring that is outstandingly chilling against the beautiful restoration.
  • Blood Diner at the O Cinema Miami Beach – Miami Beach, FL, October 2016 – in which I discover the value of trusting someone to deliver you shlock.
  • La La Land at the AMC Sunset Place – Miami, FL, January 2017 – in which I find the way sentiment off the screen can translate to sentiment in life.
  • Get Out at the Regal Kendall Village – Miami, FL, February 2017 – in which nobody could keep to their seats.
  • Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem at the O Cinema Miami Beach – Miami Beach, FL, April 2017 – in which the theater is transformed into a party.
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the Bill Cosford Cinema – Miami, FL, June 2017 – in which I watch my friend finally lift off their long-time passion project in movie and drag performance presentation.
  • Dunkirk at the AutoNation IMAX – Ft. Lauderdale, FL, July 2017 – in which I think my friends and I realized that an annual visit to see a big fucking movie here was going to be a frequent thing.
  • Grindhouse at the Coral Gables Art Cinema – Miami, FL, August 2017 – in which a movie I never expected to get the same midnight movie house screening again with… got exactly that same nostalgic feel outta me.
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind at the Regal Kendall Village – Miami, FL, September 2017 – in which I eschew hurricane preparation to revisit one of my most purest movie loves in excellent presentation.
  • Loving Vincent at the Regal South Beach – Miami Beach, FL, October 2017 – in which I saw how physical textures of art can be translated to the big screen in a manner that can never apply elsewhere.
  • 24 Frames at the Coral Gables Art Cinema – Miami, FL, February 2018 – in which I’m tickled at what Kiarostami left behind.
  • The Hurrican Heist at the Cobb Theaters Dolphin – Miami, FL, March 2018 – in which my homie and I discover the true joy of discovering a piece of so-bad-it’s-good cinema before any of the cult can lock in.
  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) at the Lucas Theatre – Savannah, GA, April 2018 – in which I experience a live scoring by snubbed Antonio Sánchez that spills over past the runtime into an epic drum solo performance.
  • Isle of Dogs at the O Cinema Wynwood – Miami, FL, April 2018 – in which I allow my baby dog Bruno to feel like a movie star up in the motherfucking theater before he decides he’d rather go home than finish.
  • The Full-On Studio Ghibli Festival at The Coral Gables Art Cinema – Miami, FL, June 2018 – which took up the entirety of 2 weeks for my friend and I to attend it all and introduce him to all of those movies for the first time while I revisit all of them. I honestly can’t pick just one screening as they were all magical and fun in their own way but if I had to pick a top five in viewing experience: My Neighbors the YamadasKiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor TotoroThe Cat Returns, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Coral Gables Art Cinema – Miami, FL, July 2018 – in which it’s about the end of my time with this movie… I don’t know how the experience can surpass that one.
  • Pina at the Walter Reade Theater – Manhattan, NY, July 2018 – in which I remind myself of the proactive quality of 3D and my love for dance as an artform.
  • Mission: Impossible – Fallout at the AMC IMAX Lincoln Square – Manhattan, NY, August 2018 – in which I finally re-watch the movie in the presentation I’ve deeply been wanting since I first saw it and make for a distant second to Mad Max: Fury Road in physical cinema experience.
  • Andrei Rublev at the Walter Reade Theater – Manhattan, NY, July 2018 – in which I revisit one of the most beautiful films ever with stunning clarity that makes me feel like I’m watching it for the first time.
  • Night Is Short, Walk on Girl at the Metrograph – Manhattan, NY, September 2018 – in which Yuasa Masaaki refreshes me from an uncertain point in my life.
  • ★ at the Anthology Film Archives – Manhattan, NY, September 2018 – in which I catch a long elusive watch I’ve been dying to catch and hope to see it again sometime in the future.
  • The Master Phantom Thread at the Museum of the Moving Image – Manhattan, NY, September 2018 – in which I catch both in the 70mm presentation they were made for and it is something else.
  • Mandy at the United Artists Kaufman – Queens, NY, September 2018 – in which I witness my favorite movie of the decade for the first time.
  • A Simple Favor at the United Artists Kaufman – Queens, NY, September 2018 – in which a full house was at the same level of shlock enjoyment as I was (including my second favorite audience outburst in a movie “this is a really good movie”).
  • The Other Side of the Wind at the Lincoln Center – Manhattan, NY, September 2018 – in which I watch the most anticipated movie of my life as it is premiering in North Americe in the unexpected company of some huge icons of filmmaking.
  • Halloween (2018) at the Brendan Palms Casino – Las Vegas, NV, October 2018 – in which I calibrate where I can catch movies in my city of work with the return a beloved slasher.
  • Suspiria (2018) at the Regal Union Square – Manhattan, NY, October 2018 – in which I exhaust myself by going straight from a flight returning from Las Vegas, race from Queens to Manhattan, and catch the very last opening night showing of a film that sank in better dreamily with that exhaustion.
  • The Favourite at the Cinerama Dome – Los Angeles, CA, December 2018 – in which I visit that famous institution and find the perfect visually warped movie to make that first impression with the huge screen.
  • Roma at the Vista Theatre – Los Angeles, CA, December 2018 – in which I thank fortune on finding a way to see a movie in a theater that deserves it when I can. Even though my homie falls asleep during it.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse at the Regal Kendall Village – Miami, FL, December 2018 – in which I discover a movie that makes me feel like I’m flying in the sky.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse at the AMC Classic Savannah – Savannah, GA, December 2018 – in which I make my friends experience that same feeling.
  • Celine and Julie Go Boating at the Quad Cinema – Manhattan, NY, January 2019 – in which I feel like I’m in on a joke with the movie that apparently most of the audience couldn’t get ahold of.
  • 76 Minutes and 15 Seconds with Abbas Kiarostami 3 Faces at the IFC Center – Manhattan, NY, January 2019 – in which I spend a double feature with two of the most gracious presences in cinema.
  • Flash Gordon at the Savor Cinema – Ft. Lauderdale, FL, February 2019 – in which I admire how the venue has literally taken movies as a religion seriously while also introducing my friend to one of my deepest guilty pleasures of space opera fun.
  • Police Story Police Story 2 at the Music Box Center – Chicago, IL, February 2019 – in which I spend another double feature acquainting myself with one of my cinema Meccas.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse at Harkins Arizona Mills – Phoenix, AZ, February 2019 – in which the victory lap of one of the best animated movies coincides with reuniting with one of my closest friends over the past 10 years.
  • PROTOTYPE at the Cornell Cinema – Ithaca, NY, March 2019 – in which I re-experience one of the most incredible 3D experiments I’ve ever encountered in the intimate basement of Cornell University (actually it’s a much nicer theater than that sounds).
  • Us at AMC Sunset Place – Miami, FL, March 2019 – in which I’m reminded why opening weekend horror movie crowds are the best with my favorite outburst in a movie (“I thought this was supposed to be a comedy”).
  • Shadow at the Ritz at the Bourse – Philadelphia, PA, April 2019 – in which I commit to the interstate drive from my new workplace just to get a fixing for great cinema.
  • Long Day’s Journey into Night at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center – Manhattan, NY, April 2019 – in which I take a one of a kind unique film experience… and my homie falls asleep during it.
  • High Life at the Ritz Five – Philadelphia, PA, April 2019 – in which I once again find the perfect movie to go in dreamy and exhausted-like.
  • Stop Making Sense at the Fillmore – Miami Beach, FL, May 2019 – in which I resolve to one day find an audience with this movie that will actually fucking dance with this bitch.
  • John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum at the Regal Kendall Village – Miami, FL, May 2019 – in which I finally convince my biffle Josh to join our ranks in the John Wick hype squad.
  • The Last Black Man in San Francisco at the Grand Lake Theater – Oakland, CA, June 2019 – in which even despite disliking the film, I found myself introduced to an excellent movie palace and felt the voodoo of location in watching a movie based in the city it is a love letter to.
  • Crawl at the AMC Sunset Place – Miami, FL, July 2019 – in which we had the single best horror movie audience to sit behind us and also felt that voodoo of location in an entirely different and trashier way.
  • Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood at the AMC Tamiami – Miami, FL, July 2019 – in which I re-watched it with one of my best friends and finally found myself warming to it.
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire at the Tower Theater – Miami, FL, October 2019 – in which we took up a whole row prepared for the hype of this movie and not one of us left unaffected.
  • Gemini Man at the AMC Dolby Aventura Mall – Miami, FL, October 2019 – in which my friend and I watched this video game movie dictate to us the true power of 3D HFR.
  • The Lighthouse at the AMC Sunset Place – Miami, FL, October 2019 – in which my biffle and I formally decide we are way too mad for being into this shit.
  • Apollo 11 at the Smithsonian Air and Space IMAX – Washington, DC, November 2019 – in which Thanksgiving is spent revisiting this movie in the best possible theater to visit it and convincing my dad and sister that I have the ultimate taste.
  • Knives Out at the Senator Theater – Baltimore, MD, November 2019 – in which I find another movie palace with my sister.
  • Cats at the AMC Sunset Place – Miami, FL, December 2019 – as my friend and I lost our heads in the madness of the film, took silent note of every single walkout (11!), and threw paper balls at teenagers texting in the middle of the movie until they stopped.
  • A Hidden Life at the Classic Gateway Theater – Ft. Lauderdale, FL, December 2019 – in which it wasn’t the very last movie I saw in the 2010s but it felt like the perfect final note for a long drive, a long movie that I waited a long time for, and a long horizon to look beyond.

And also shout out to J.A.B. for the times they’ve arranged certain screenings that I can’t particularly talk about in public but if I could, they’d be peppered all over here. I will only say name the movies – Resident Evil series, Inland EmpireParasite.

And these are just the experiences I REALLY cherish.

The 150 Best Movies of the 2010s – Master List


For all y’all who just want the label without the wine…


  1. Mandy (Cosmatos, 2018)
  2. Goodbye to Language (Godard, 2014)
  3. The Eagleman Stag (Please, 2011)
  4. The Tree of Life (Malick, 2011)
  5. Mad Max: Fury Road (Miller, 2015)
  6. The Green Fog (Maddin, Johnson, & Johnson, 2017)
  7. La Flor (Llinás, 2018)
  8. Certified Copy (Kiarostami, 2010)
  9. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Sciamma, 2019)
  10. The Act of Killing The Look of Silence (Oppenheimer, Cynn, & anonymous, 2012-’14)
  11. Holy Motors (Carax, 2012)
  12. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (Hertzfeldt, 2012)
  13. Glistening Thrills (Mack, 2013)
  14. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Anderson, 2014)
  15. World of Tomorrow World of Tomorrow Episode 2: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts (Hertzfeldt, 2015-’17)
  16. The Red Turtle (Dudok de Wit, 2016)
  17. A Separation (Farhadi, 2011)
  18. Zama (Martel, 2017)
  19. Tabu (Gomes, 2012)
  20. High Life (Denis, 2018)
  21. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Persichetti, Ramsey, Rothman, 2018)
  22. Arabian Nights (Gomes, 2015)
  23. Day & Night (Newton, 2010)
  24. The Last of the Unjust (Lanzmann, 2013)
  25. The Forbidden Room (Maddin & Johnson, 2015)
  26. Boy and the World (Âbreau, 2013)
  27. Faces Places (Varda & JR, 2017)
  28. A Hidden Life (Malick, 2019)
  29. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (McQuarrie, 2018)
  30. Night Is Short, Walk on Girl (Yuasa, 2017)
  31. Southwest (Nunes, 2011)
  32. At Berkeley (Wiseman, 2013)
  33. The Turin Horse (Tarr & Hranitsky, 2011)
  34. Moonrise Kingdom (Anderson, 2012)
  35. Batman Ninja (Mizusaki, 2018)
  36. The Girl Without Hands (Laudenbach, 2016)
  37. Film Socialisme (Godard, 2010)
  38. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Takahata, 2013)
  39. Cameraperson (Johnson, 2016)
  40. Gravity (Cuarón, 2013)
  41. The Lighthouse (Eggers, 2019)
  42. The Assassin (Hou, 2015)
  43. Toni Erdmann (Ade, 2016)
  44. The Illusionist (Chomet, 2010)
  45. The Lobster (Lanthimos, 2015)
  46. 24 Frames (Kiarostami, 2017)
  47. Annihilation (Garland, 2018)
  48. The Favourite (Lanthimos, 2018)
  49. Starless Dreams (Oskouei, 2016)
  50. You Were Never Really Here (Ramsay, 2017)
  51. Roma (Cuarón, 2018)
  52. Meek’s Cutoff (Reichardt, 2010)
  53. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Tarantino, 2019)
  54. The John Wick trilogy (Stahelski & Leitch, 2014-’19)
  55. Personal Shopper (Assayas, 2016)
  56. Parasite (Bong, 2019)
  57. Under the Skin (Glazer, 2013)
  58. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Ceylan, 2011)
  59. The Missing Picture (Panh, 2013)
  60. Mr. Turner (Leigh, 2014)
  61. Kubo and the Two Strings (Knight, 2016)
  62. Knight of Cups (Malick, 2015)
  63. Timbuktu (Sissako, 2014)
  64. Taxi (Panahi, 2015)
  65. Democrats (Nielsson, 2014)
  66. Snowpiercer (Bong, 2013)
  67. Jackie (Larraín, 2016)
  68. Inside Out (Docter & del Carmen, 2015)
  69. This Is Not a Film (Panahi, 2011)
  70. Cold War (Pawlikowski, 2018)
  71. Hugo (Scorsese, 2011)
  72. Carol (Haynes, 2015)
  73. Ride Your Wave (Yuasa, 2019)
  74. Haywire (Soderbergh, 2011)
  75. 45 Years (Haigh, 2015)
  76. El Mar La Mar (Sniadecki & Bonnetta, 2017)
  77. Atlantics (Diop, 2019)
  78. Monos (Landes, 2019)
  79. National Gallery (Wiseman, 2014)
  80. Lincoln (Spielberg, 2012)
  81. Apollo 11 (Miller, 2019)
  82. The Babadook (Kent, 2014)
  83. The Lords of Salem (Zombie, 2012)
  84. Oslo, August 31st (Trier, 2011)
  85. Phoenix (Petzold, 2015)
  86. The How to Train Your Dragon trilogy (DeBlois & Sanders, 2010-’19)
  87. Before Midnight (Linklater, 2013)
  88. Incredibles 2 (Bird, 2018)
  89. Widows (McQueen, 2018)
  90. All Is Lost (Chandor, 2013)
  91. Boyhood (Linklater, 2014)
  92. The Garden of Words (Shinkai, 2013)
  93. Phantom Thread (Anderson, 2017)
  94. Nostalgia for the Light (Guzmán, 2010)
  95. Cloud Atlas (Tykwer, Wachowski, & Wachowski, 2012)
  96. The Raid: Redemption The Raid 2: Berandal (Evans, 2011-’14)
  97. Hard to Be a God (German, 2013)
  98. Pina (Wenders, 2011)
  99. La La Land (Chazelle, 2016)
  100. The Wailing (Na, 2016)
  101. Suspiria (Guadagnino, 2018)
  102. First They Killed My Father (Jolie, 2017)
  103. Blue Valentine (Cianfrance, 2010)
  104. 12 Years a Slave (McQueen, 2013)
  105. Private Life (Jenkins, 2018)
  106. The Human Surge (Williams, 2016)
  107. Atomic Blonde (Leitch, 2017)
  108. Your Name. (Shinkai, 2016)
  109. The Deep Blue Sea (Davies, 2011)
  110. Elena (Zvyagintsev, 2011)
  111. Edge of Tomorrow (Liman, 2014)
  112. Tuesday, After Christmas (Muntean, 2010)
  113. Neruda (Larraín, 2016)
  114. The Loneliest Planet (Loktev, 2011)
  115. Coda (Holly, 2013)
  116. Rango (Verbinski, 2011)
  117. Francofonia (Sokurov, 2015)
  118. Black Coal, Thin Ice (Yinan, 2014)
  119. Mudbound (Rees, 2011)
  120. Weekend (Haigh, 2011)
  121. The Lego Movie (Lord & Miller, 2014)
  122. Embrace of the Serpent (Guerra, 2015)
  123. Cheatin’ (Plympton, 2013)
  124. The Homesman (Jones, 2014)
  125. Weathering with You (Shinkai, 2019)
  126. The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears (Catter & Forzani, 2013)
  127. Two Days, One Night (Dardenne & Dardenne, 2014)
  128. Ida (Pawlikowski, 2013)
  129. The Duke of Burgundy (Strickland, 2014)
  130. The Witch (Eggers, 2015)
  131. No (Larraín, 2012)
  132. Love & Friendship (Stillman, 2016)
  133. Heli (Escalante, 2013)
  134. The Bling Ring (Coppola, 2013)
  135. Margaret (Lonergan, 2011)
  136. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (McQuarrie, 2015)
  137. Point de Gaze (Mack, 2012)
  138. Inside Llewyn Davis (Coen & Coen, 2013)
  139. Rhino Season (Ghobadi, 2012)
  140. In This Corner of the World (Katabuchi, 2016)
  141. Li’l Quinquin (Dumont, 2014)
  142. Sorry to Bother You (Riley, 2018)
  143. Shoplifters (Kore-eda, 2018)
  144. Wolf Children (Hosoda, 2012)
  145. Transit (Petzold, 2018)
  146. Toy Story 3 (Unkrich, 2010)
  147. First Reformed (Schrader, 2017)
  148. Blade of the Immortal (Miike, 2017)
  149. Song of the Sea (Moore, 2014)
  150. Beyond the Black Rainbow (Cosmatos, 2010)


  • 3 Faces (Panahi, 2018)
  • 3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets (Silver, 2015)
  • 13th (DuVernay, 2016)
  • 1945 (Török, 2017)
  • American Honey (Arnold, 2016)
  • American Hustle (Russell, 2013)
  • Another Year (Leigh, 2010)
  • April and the Extraordinary World (Desmares & Ekinci, 2015)
  • The Artist (Hazanavicius, 2011)
  • Ash Is Purest White (Jia, 2018)
  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Coen & Coen, 2018)
  • The Beguiled (Coppola, 2017)
  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Heller, 2019)
  • Bernie (Linklater, 2011)
  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Iñárritu, 2014)
  • Black Sheep (Perkins, 2018)
  • Blancanieves (Berger, 2012)
  • Borgman (van Warmerdam, 2013)
  • The Boxtrolls (Annable & Stacchi, 2014)
  • Buried (Cortés, 2010)
  • Captain Phillips (Greengrass, 2013)
  • Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Herzog, 2010)
  • Climax (Noé, 2018)
  • The Conjuring (Wan, 2013)
  • The Conjuring 2 (Wan, 2016)
  • Creed (Coogler, 2015)
  • A Cure for Wellness (Verbinski, 2017)
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Reeves, 2014)
  • The Death of Louis XIV (Serra, 2017)
  • The Death of Stalin (Iannucci, 2017)
  • Dunkirk (Nolan, 2017)
  • Drug War (To, 2012)
  • Elle (Verhoeven, 2016)
  • Ernest & Célestine (Renner, Patar, & Aubier, 2012)
  • Everybody Knows (Farhadi, 2018)
  • Ex Machina (Garland, 2014)
  • Eye in the Sky (Hood, 2015)
  • The Eyes of My Mother (Pesce, 2016)
  • First Man (Chazelle, 2018)
  • The Fits (Holmer, 2015)
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Amirpour, 2014)
  • Girlhood (Sciamma, 2014)
  • Graduation (Mungiu, 2016)
  • Green Room (Saulnier, 2015)
  • Green Zone (Greengrass, 2010)
  • The Grey (Carnahan, 2011)
  • Hail, Caesar! (Coen & Coen, 2016)
  • A Hijacking (Lindholm, 2012)
  • Honeyland (Stefanov & Kotevska, 2019)
  • How to Survive a Plague (France, 2012)
  • Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Waititi, 2014)
  • Hustlers (Scafaria, 2019)
  • “I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians” (Jude, 2018)
  • In Jackson Heights (Wiseman, 2015)
  • The Interrupters (James, 2011)
  • Into the Abyss (Herzog, 2011)
  • Kaili Blues (Bi, 2015)
  • Kedi (Torun, 2016)
  • Krampus (Dougherty, 2015)
  • Leviathan (Castaing-Taylor & Paravel, 2011)
  • Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Bi, 2018)
  • Lost in Paris (Abel & Gordon, 2016)
  • Loving Vincent (Kobiela & Welchman, 2017)
  • Lu Over the Wall (Yuasa, 2017)
  • Magic Mike (Soderbergh, 2012)
  • Manchester by the Sea (Lonergan, 2016)
  • Maps to the Stars (Cronenberg, 2014)
  • Marilyn Myller (Please, 2013)
  • Marjorie Prime (Almereyda, 2017)
  • Mary and the Witch’s Flower (Yonebayashi, 2017)
  • Minding the Gap (Liu, 2018)
  • Les Misérables (Hooper, 2012)
  • Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Bird, 2011)
  • A Most Violent Year (Chandor, 2014)
  • Mother of George (Dosunmu, 2013)
  • The Neon Demon (Refn, 2016)
  • Norte, The End of History (Diaz, 2013)
  • Only Lovers Left Alive (Jarmusch, 2013)
  • An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (Nance, 2012)
  • Pain and Glory (Almodóvar, 2019)
  • ParaNorman (Fell & Butler, 2012)
  • Pariah (Rees, 2011)
  • Paterson (Jarmusch, 2016)
  • Piper (Barillaro, 2016)
  • Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Schaffer & Taccone, 2016)
  • A Quiet Passion (Davies, 2016)
  • Raw (Ducornau, 2016)
  • Restrepo (Hetherington & Junger, 2010)
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Wright, 2010)
  • Selma (DuVernay, 2014)
  • Shadow (Zhang, 2018)
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie (Burton & Starzak, 2015)
  • A Simple Favor (Feig, 2018)
  • The Social Network (Fincher, 2010)
  • Song to Song (Malick, 2017)
  • Take Shelter (Nichols, 2010)
  • Tangled (Greno & Howard, 2010)
  • The Teacher (Hřebejk, 2016)
  • Things to Come (Hansen-Løve, 2016)
  • Tigers Are Not Afraid (López, 2017)
  • Timecode (Giménez, 2016)
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alfredson, 2011)
  • A Touch of Sin (Jia, 2013)
  • Train to Busan (Yeon, 2016)
  • Vox Lux (Corbet, 2018)
  • War Witch (Nguyen, 2012)
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin (Ramsay, 2011)
  • What We Do in the Shadows (Waititi & Clement, 2014)
  • Winnie the Pooh (Anderson & Hall, 2011)
  • The Work (McLeary, 2017)
  • The World’s End (Wright, 2013)
  • Zero Dark Thirty (Bigelow, 2012)

The 150 Best Movies of the 2010s – #10-1


10. The Act of Killing The Look of Silence (2012-’14, Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn, & Anonymous, Denmark/Norway/UK/Finland/France/Germany/Indonesia/Israel/Netherlands/USA)

Yes, it is of course the sort of movie that investigates the oppressor and the oppressed of an underspoken atrocity with the former falling into several different traps to indict themselves and the latter having to face the historical silence with a quiet rage, but if that’s all it was…  I’m not sure I would have considered it Top Ten Material. Indeed, The Look of Silence delivers this is all the upsetting anger that a survivor of the Pemuda Pancasila could carry for over 50 years and it absolutely earns a spot even without being tethered to The Act of Killing, but The Act of Killing sets its sights on more than just these individuals but also on cinema’s place in a culture such as this. That Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn, and the Indonesian co-director that tellingly decided not go credited for his work (the latter two are not credited in The Look of Silence but the timing of their filming makes me believe they also had a minimal amount of involvement it) offer to the beloved death squad leaders to recreate their favorite killings in a movie doesn’t just offer an auto-condemnation of their own actions but also gives us a dark look in how these men process cinema and how they reguritate in these horrifying images that try to glamorize atrocious crimes. Most people – good or evil – watch movies and they internalize them in some way and for the three major subjects of The Act of Killing, movies are a huge part of why they became what they became. So pulling through that medium their memories of all the awful things they did feels like a violation of the art in itself and in addition to documenting and publicizing crimes that these men will probably never answer for… it brings us to wonder how art and real-world horrors interact from the other side. That Oppenheimer opts to have the final word given to the survivors and lets them in turn capture their own sense of entrapment and inability to have closure when processing the trauma of it all with the camera in The Look of Silence is a necessary thing in conversation with the previous movie that I feel justifies pairing the two up (and I promise this is the last pairing) and makes each essential to anybody interested in the grapple between cinema and morality.


9. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019, Céline Sciamma, France)

I am hard-pressed to think of a challenger to what I’m about to say, so I’ll just say it: no movie that I’ve seen yet so perfectly marries the point of view of artist and lover. It feels like the ultimate answer to what I think so many dramatic movies fail to do: communicate the experience of the emotion by focusing on the particularities of the form and Portrait of a Lady on Fire gets to do this on two separate layers in the focus it gives towards the fine art of its point of view character and in Céline Sciamma’s outstanding control over the cinematic medium as a director. It seems all too easy to credit this with how Sciamma and Marianne’s subject of affections and portrayal are essentially both the same – the character of Héloïse is played by Sciamma’s ex-girlfriend Adèle Haenel, which must have been testament to how they trust each other as artistic collaborators – and if we are being honest ourselves, it probably had more than a small hand in the intensity of how the film watches Haenel and the camera eye admires her intimately. But I also just think we are subject to one of the most impressive works of direction around, the color in which Sciamma and Claire Mathon pull from any given shot especially aided by the solid costume work, the delicacy of the lighting in more interior moments, the subjectivity of the cuts where Marianne (and I wouldn’t dare finish this entry without crediting Noémie Merlant as an excellent relatable performance) is more particularly taking personal note. The phrase “perfect movie” is tossed around a whole lot without care every time a widely beloved picture drops, but if I had to toss it at one movie…


8. Certified Copy (2010, Abbas Kiarostami, France/Italy/Belgium)

In his late entrance to the European arthouse scene, Abbas Kiarostami performed possibly the greatest sleight of hand performed in 2010s cinema, one that I can’t possibly bring myself to spoil only that it suddenly shifts us to reconsider how we establish characters and perspectives in our mind and how movies are in the end a fluid and timeless thing. But even if you have no time for that kind of experimental poppycock (as it sadly appears more than a few film critics did have time for), the movie also works as a wonderful visual survey of Tuscany and a surprising examination of marriage as a concept and construct and the general lifespan it will have. I honestly find it amazing that Kiarostami with the help of Luca Bigazzi was able to foster such a visual familiarity with the streets of Tuscany as he was with the streets of Tehran, but perhaps that can be made to credit to either the inherent neorealism influence that the best of Iranian cinema perfected even beyond the Italians or to the versatile visual and structural poetry of a poet who could turn every artform he exercised into just that. In any case, we should give just as much credit to Juliette Binoche and (non-screen actor who apparently barely was familiar with the medium to begin with!!) William Shimell being able to play the game so deftly that it feels like they’re just as in control as Kiarostami was. In the end, we have hear an impressionistic film in a very solid stone place with fluid characters embodied by flesh-and-blood human beings.


7. La Flor (2018, Mariano Llinás, Argentina)

Six stories for the price of one, except for that caveat of their incompletion and the nesting structure of the third story and the split of focus in the fourth story and the 13-hour running time commitment that the movie requires. In any case, it turns out to work marvelously as an extended experience – the subtle variety in visual and genre styles (even the ones that don’t satisfy me as much) and the apologetic sense of humor the entire thing has regarding its own scale makes almost every minute of that running time pass by like binging a tv show to the point that the way it challenges our expectations of storytelling structure, star personalities as anchors (in which case one absolutely has to give it up to versatility and stamina of Piel de Lava just as much we are in awe with the globetrotting manner of this ambitious piece of work), and how long our interest in a particular tangent lasts sneaks up on us before we even realize it. In a decade where I believe we’ve had more than a few movies reveal themselves as extended conversations with the audience, this one felt the most pleasant and relaxed even despite its changing and lengthy nature. Honestly, my biggest regret in making these lists is how I made the “Movies I Look Forward to Revisiting” list before I could enter this film.


6. The Green Fog (2017, Guy Maddin & Evan and Galen Johnson, USA/Canada)

I mean, it’s all recycling, isn’t it? Or more particularly, it’s glorified YouTube poop. But there’s also just so many angles to look at Guy Maddin and the Johnson brothers’ commissioned work here. Some of those angles are more obvious than others like the Vertigo remake and the adoring tribute to San Francisco as a city represented by cinema that anybody can cursorily recognize at a glance. But even further than that is the eagerness to reconstruct a genre film out of the abstract treatment of material and even more further than that is the manner in which The Green Fog invites us to examining the meaning in between the cut and how we process that. And for the filmmakers’ part, what that cut brings in the things said or shown or unsaid or not shown. There’s a continuous sense of humor (which again… it’s glorified YouTube poop so it HAS to be there) that feels open enough about the content and context of the clips it has selected that it’s hard to feel like a viewer (even one that has never seen Vertigo) could feel alienated by the experiment in and of itself because if the experiment works… you should be able to follow along with what’s happening. And at the very basic level, there has to be a pure kneeslapping amusement out of the decision of which clips to utilize for which moments with the sort of punctuation that I hope could translate to any kind of cinephile. For this is a movie by cinephiles for cinephiles and I’m pretty pleased with Maddin’s decision to finally – 2 years after I’d seen it – make it available to the world at large for free.


5. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015, George Miller, USA)

5 years since Mad Max: Fury Road and I don’t think there is a movie more effective in showcasing the sum of all the possible resources big movie studio money can buy and making us watch it all and then some. Give George Miller who has proven himself over his career to be one of the most efficient filmmakers working while also being one of the most assaultive filmmakers working once upon a time (I don’t think anything since Mad Max 2 could have foreseen what a fucking physical impact this movie would pack as a viewing experience, even with Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome or Babe: Pig in the City foreseeing other aspects) 30 fucking years to think about what he wants to bring next to the table and this is the result: a mythic monster of a movie that exceeds at delivering ostensibly shallow action cinema thrills while also allowing itself to dissected by a viewer so inclined to consider the broad attitudes it has regarding war and gender and collectivism within a world that feels so rich and detailed even as so much of its made of the hot orange sand and the punishing blue sky. Its successes are far beyond just how it is possibly the greatest action movie of all time (with The Terminator, Die Hard, and Hard Boiled challenging that call) but its qualities in amplifying every mechanical aspect of cinema so it charges us forward like we’re chained to the front of a car into a sandstorm like Max.


4. The Tree of Life (2011, Terrence Malick, USA)

30 years for George Miller to consider what he wanted to make with Mad Max: Fury Road? Well, Terrence Malick had 33 for The Tree of Life and that seems about the minimum amount of time that even a director as impressive as he is will need to attempt the sort of things that The Tree of Life tries to do, which is to try to put together answers to such scary questions that watching The Tree of Life for the first time was probably the closest I would come since to a religious experience with a movie (impressive given how I hardly have any true common ground with Malick outside of the fact that we’re both men and have siblings). In any case, much as the experimentation for the rest of the decade felt like Malick’s test run before A Hidden Life, everything Malick had explored thematically and aesthetically for his first four film feels in retrospect like a stretch out for the sort of cosmic and spiritual exploration that The Tree of Life takes us for its runtime and using Malick’s autobiographical tales as a manner of trying to make sense of pain and beauty in the world (and what beauty as possibly the best work of Emmanuel Lubezki’s entire career barring Children of Men) while entrusting Jessica Chastain and Brad Pitt to play the long-tired game of Mother and Father representing the contradictory temperaments of God with amazing human grounding and elegance. Does it posit its philosophical conclusions or profundities as THE answers? Not necessarily, not least because of the ephemeral communication of them – I’d probably be less inclined to adore it in that case – but it does grant them as a graceful solace for the filmmaker’s journey and that journey is so moving for me as a viewer that I find they comfort me as well when my feet reach the ground of the theater at the end of the movie. In consideration of how often I admire art that dares to grapple with our place in the universe, I find The Tree of Life to be the one that I feel most strongly gets to the answers I am most affected by and I’d like to credit that less to the message (though that is part of it) and more to cinematic persuasiveness that Malick has long maintained as a director.


3. The Eagleman Stag (2011, Mickey Please, UK)

Almost certainly the first instance where I personally saw myself and my anxieties in a movie and it all only lasted nine minutes. Still I have never shaken off the feeling of being seen inside of a short as much as I did here (and it was revisited again with the previously listed World of Tomorrow shorts and one final time in the movie at #1), the manner in which Mickey Please has been able to put a term to the recognition the accelerating speed with which time is passing us by and we need to reckon with that fact or face our own destruction without grace. It is a short that I think gave me a baseline to finally become a much calmer passenger in this ride of life than I was prior to the point where I first watched it (either 2014 or 2015) and so it felt like it was honestly potentially going to make my number one spot on this list up until 2018 happened. Still cinema is not simply the things that are said but how they say it, and the starkness with which its black-and-white maquette presentation of one man spiraling through this realization of time and our perception of it without even the things he truly finds filling to save him gives harder impact to the tragedy of the tale than if it had just settled with live-action or traditional animation styles (both of which I expect would have been easier). Eagleman’s folly is that he sees this threat as black-and-white and the moment where it gets to his violent response, we are hit with some incredibly creative and hypnotic imagery stress the psychological effect of it all. So yes, I do see myself in some prickish Biology graduate because he doesn’t know how to deal with something as simple as time.


2. Goodbye to Language (2014, Jean-Luc Godard, France/Switzerland)

In a decade of plenty of transformative pictures, no movie did more to succeed in changing the entire visual language contemporary cinema as Goodbye to Language did, not even the earlier Film Socialisme particularly for the unfair advantage of Goodbye to Language being so modern as to destroy 3D in its rampage. And I mean, DESTROY, constantly misusing the tool in a broken way without so much as a warning. But in that exploitation of the hard limits of even these things that are essentially meant to make the art of filmmaking more accessible to others, Godard – whether inadvertently or deliberately (and given how the turning of the medium on its head has been a major MO of his for 60+ years, I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt that it seems some people wouldn’t) – has invented a one-of-a-kind mode in which to deliver ideas and images to the viewer. That mode doesn’t necessarily circumvents the flaws of the form so much as dives into them with absolute aplomb and gusto while still elaborating on the same old socialist ideologies he delivers so casually that it’s almost like he doesn’t notice an audio channel is missing or he’s delivering two incompatible images to each eye. In any case, I find myself thinking of that one Dave Chappelle skit where he looks the camera in the eye and says “modern problems require modern solutions” and Goodbye to Language looks like it’s really trying to present its collision of visuals and sounds like the modern solution to where we go with language, verbal or cinematic. And I find the way in which we watch them collide to be a whole lot of fun, probably more than I have any right to but I’m perfectly satisfied in my little world.

And my number one favorite movie of the 2010s…






  1. Mandy (2018, Panos Cosmatos, USA/Belgium)

I just think it’s neat.

The 150 Best Movies of the 2010s – #20-11


20. High Life (2018, Claire Denis, France/Germany/Poland/UK/USA)

Any movie that is able to be straight up about how babies are equal parts disturbing and miraculous is going to get my respect rather than the simple optimism that most films treat them with. Under the pretense of being a science fiction picture, Claire Denis’ first dive into the English-language decides to translate not only her native French dialogue to chilly and distanced English but also the measure dark philosophies she’s had towards humanity to apparent genre conventions, as much as one can pull from the classically anti-genre masterpieces of that pool of influence. It works best though as an understanding that these characters are isolated in their own microcosm and acting as their own separate universe from ours, trying to make sense of their apparent nihilistic banishment from anything resembling civilization to the point that just a baby’s entrance happens to be a violation… only to turn out more optimistic than it has any right to be and arguably more humanistic than anything else Denis made.


19. Tabu (2012, Miguel Gomes, Portugal/Germany/Brazil/France)

Yet another instance where I’m not certain I commit to ranking this above Arabian Nights (and there’s still one more to come), but Tabu had a sense of surprise towards the way that Miguel Gomes tries to find a middle ground between the cinematic techniques of the past and of the present (for why else would this movie share the title of F.W. Murnau’s last masterpiece?) and the amiable humor with which he pulls off that experiment. Not only that but there’s something truly focused about its approach to criticizing Portuguese colonialism silently, almost through its switch ups in the cinematic form, that is appealingly more collected than the ambitious exploration of self that Arabian Nights happens to do. And all in the name of illustrating just how easy it is to distance people in one medium. So I guess perhaps that’s why I ranked Tabu higher: I think it more directly plays with the medium as opposed to the way that Arabian Nights is figuring things out.


18. Zama (2017, Lucrecia Martel, Argentina)

Lucrecia Martel’s triumphant return to cinema plays that same song of attacking the bourgeoisie in new ways that bite more viciously than she’s been before. Expanding her range now beyond the modern Argentine elite to the gross Spanish imperialism through which it has grown off of, Martel treats Daniel Giménez Cacho’s titular bureaucrat Don Diego de Zama as nothing less than a piñata for which to throw something like a Kafka-esque spiral down from esteem if it wasn’t for how boring his highest position already appears to be. There is no shortage of ways in which Zama brings its protagonist to showcase his complete lack of control over anything to our great comedy and the way that the rustic soundscape and animal extras against the constantly deteriorating set and costume design consistently undermine and mock this stonefaced clown while mapping out how much lower he can go makes for the most excellently modern period character study of the 2010s. Now, let’s hope Martel doesn’t make us wait too long before the next one.


17. A Separation (2011, Asghar Farhadi, Iran)

Probably the most on this list that is the best drama qua drama as Asghar Farhadi & Niloufar Banisaied pulled out of one apparently simple conflict all sorts of social issues in Iran regarding the legal system and gender and domesticity and religion and class and the privilege of all those (issues that I’d dare say could be related to in Western society outside of the element of being in an Islamic country, which is probably why A Separation was the most successful international breakout of the Iranian New Wave), escalating until it tangles up into another circle of conflict like handcuffs. And a lot of that has to be given credit to the six central performances thrown in the middle of it all – Peyman Moaadi, Sareh Bayat, Shahab Hosseini & Leila Hatami have certainly received more praise than you can shake a stick at but it feels like the child performances of Sarina Farhadi & Kimia Hosseini are underrated as fellow witnesses to watch several different relationships destruct. By the end of it all, Farhadi’s invisible precision in drawing out such melodrama provides us with a vision of the dynamics of life in Tehran in the midst of all the legal drama’s rubble.


16. The Red Turtle (2016, Michaël Dudok de Wit, France/Japan)

At the time, a movie that I had unnecessary expectations of for being the apparent last Studio Ghibli (except now it looks like Ghibli will move on even after Miyazaki completes How Do You Live? and not particularly in ways that seem promising). I wonder if a large part of my initial hostility is the extreme difference between Michaël Dudok de Wit’s European sensibility to Takahata Isao’s usual Japanese sensibility or if it was just how its lack of ambition didn’t match up with my hopes for a big finale in the same manner as The Tale of the Princess Kaguya was. In any case, once I let go, I discovered how The Red Turtle feels like an effective illustration of how less is more: the simplicity of its designs and its storytelling invert to deliver bigger and heightened emotions than it can take, the straightforward arc and development of it feeling inevitable in where they will go but still ending up hitting powerfully all the same. Having one of the premiere animation studios in the world behind him evidently gave Dudok de Wit the potential to expand on the themes of his Oscar winning short Father and Daughter in entirely diverging ways that I feel totally mad for finding particularly weaker on my first watch. In the end, with the sophistication Dudok de Wit shows and the spare and modest manner in which Dudok de Wit builds this isolated life… I would dare to say he is the only animated filmmaker to have completely invented a folk tale out of cinema itself, something The Tale of the Princess Kaguya and The Girl Without Hands had to pull from previously existent sources to do. And that’s quite a feat to accomplish in my eyes.


15. World of Tomorrow World of Tomorrow Episode 2: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts (2015-’17, Don Hertzfeldt, USA)

If you’re gonna make Don Hertzfeldt have to play with technology, sure, he’ll play with it and then some. And I frankly don’t know which element of the World of Tomorrow films should feel the most impressive upon me. Should it be how he’s been able to replicate the same sort of minimalistic principles of his prior work with this digital animation now but with more color and sharpness and apparently the ability to dynamically shift the chilliness as the moment prescribes (just as aided by Julia Pott’s robotic performance as the various clones of our young protagonist Emily)? Should it be the manner in which twice in a row he’s managed to construct narratives around the adorable aimless recordings of his niece Winona Mae between the ages of 4 and 5? Should if be how those narratives have found ways to explore every possible existential fear and anxiety and question over the course of each short film’s duration to the manner in which Episode 2 just surprises us with further well of questions it conjures? Should it be in the manner by which Episode 2 satisfies us with a comforting non-answer to everything that culminates in the most ridiculous yet joyful creation of Hertzfeldt’s yet and also the single most impressive piece of movement animation he’s been able to produce while maintaining the visual flatness of it all? Should it be that it’s very fucking funny? Should it be that it is very emotionally engaging? It’s probably just all of those things. The virtues of World of Tomorrow and World of Tomorrow Episode 2: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts and its complexities are things I’m just never going to let go of.


14. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014, Wes Anderson, USA/Germany)

I do indeed recall saying that everything Moonrise Kingdom does, The Grand Budapest Hotel does better so I better back it up now that we’re at this point. Like the previous film, Wes Anderson is essentially using cinema to pull a personal nostalgia once again for a time and place in which he’s never lived in (and which never existed, given the fictional Republic of Zubowka, but we know what historical point it’s meant to represent). But it’s three of the approaches that hooks me in most: first, he particularly invokes the cinematic language and sense of humor as Ernst Lubitsch, maybe one of the funniest filmmakers ever and whose work is almost exclusively dated prior to WWII (I’ve heard the attitude that Moonrise Kingdom is meant to elicit the French New Wave, but I hardly see it). Second, he has his characteristic fussy style – never anymore delectable than it’s ever been here, where it feels like the design’s main MO is to make everything look like a bright desert – to translate to the prim and flawed dignity of its characters, particularly M. Gustave performed by a career-best Ralph Fiennes. And third but most important, he implicates the characters in this doomed nostalgia largely (not exclusively) through its utilisation of frame narratives (complete with aspect ratio shifts to get us feeling the changes in time) and through the tender performance of F. Murray Abraham juxtaposed against the green of Tony Revolori playing the same character. This is – above anything else – a story of long-dead people deeply remembering a long-dead time and trying to preserve some spirit of it in the way they carry their own lives even as they are aware that things are about to change for the worst. Which makes it sound significantly less zany and gutbusting than it actually is and I am always tearing up from the hijinks that ensue over the length of this film, but those three elements also work gangbusters in making tear up the other way by the very end… like learning that a dear old friend has passed after not having spoken to him in a while. It never fails to hit me like a cannonball despite possibly being the most-watched movie on this list and that last part is probably because by the time it’s over, I want to replay the movie just to see them all alive one last time.


13. Glistening Thrills (2013, Jodie Mack, USA)

Maybe the closest I can get to avant-garde on this list before deciding to disqualify it (apologies again to PROTOTYPE and ) but that’s probably because Mack is pretty clear on the point of this short: pure sensory delight (on top of being as malleable to read off of than any other avant-garde film). I honestly don’t know how much further to discuss or describe this film without being weirdly prescriptive, so I will only opt to link it to vimeo here and suffice it to say that it brought an unexpected sense of visual splendor with its endless light reflections and colors aided by its no less glistening musical score. It is exquisite pleasure to the eyes and ears delivered in just a few minutes of your times.


12. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012, Don Hertzfeldt, USA)

The third and final instance of wondering if maybe I should have switched around the ranking on certain directors’ films here. It is probably the case that It’s Such a Beautiful Day doesn’t have as much to explicitly say as Don Hertzfeldt’s following short films. But as Hertzfeldt’s final stand in the hand-drawn sector before working with digital animation, revisiting it 8 years later has found me to experience more textures and sensory elements in its minimal tangible basis interrupted by varities of heart-stopping superimpositions. Which is only the best for a movie attempting to explore the journey of a mentally ill man without diagnosing or exploiting him, a generosity to a stick figure that we probably would do to grant to everyone else in our lives. And the end of it all, It’s Such a Beautiful Day felt something like a reboot from the exciting places where Hertzfeldt was going from here – an final exercise in taking just a couple of lines that make up a character and his world and discovering beauty in that world that could easily be perceived as hostile from his shoes and a decision to find a peace of mind even in the unfairness of his life.


11. Holy Motors (2012, Leos Carax, France/Germany)

If you asked me to pick a movie that more purely defines cinema than anything else on this list, I can’t possibly entertain any other answer. In fact, even while I am pretty damn satisfied with the final Top Ten to come, I do find myself trying to amuse the concept of pulling a “These Go to Eleven!” and fitting this last movie in there… it belongs just as close to the highest seat of movies in the 2010s as any of the others I placed above it. But let’s stop meta-blogging about my regrets on this list and discuss how Leos Carax and his muse Denis Lavant have left next to no stone unturned in exploring all the possibilities of the camera eye and the screen performance. Lavant’s gameness with any new scenario thrown his way is outstanding (Imagine being placed in number two of my Best Screen Performances of the 2010s list and I still feel I underrated you) and Carax shows absolutely no exhaustion regarding the cinematic techniques he wants to dance around Lavant with. It’s not necessarily a movie that lacks chronology or consistency since Carax is able to maintain an underrated psychological arc in the way that Lavant’s M. Oscar journeys in and out of each part, but it’s clear where their minds were truly at every day that they made this picture and the manner in which their playfulness translates from them to us battily infectious that I wonder why I haven’t rewatched it yet. Shit, I might do that tonight.

The 150 Best Movies of the 2010s – #30-21


30. Night Is Short, Walk on Girl (2017, Yuasa Masaaki, Japan)

It’s hard not to see Yuasa Masaaki’s first film of his banner year of 2017 (or third work of 2018 if you’re American and also want to count Devilman Crybaby in the conversation) as the ultimate culmination of all his fascinations with the wobbly rubbery mutability of the human body in a post Tex Avery-animation world, bright and glowing solid colors, and young people just on the culmination of beginning an adventurous life. And yet there’s just so much more that man has explored in the 3 years alone in animation and storytelling that I can truly believe he can navigate past this ceiling yet. However, he hasn’t surpassed this one yet and I think the secret weapon is its whirlwind sense of incident and pacing matched against the wild shifts in style every scene or character brings. The visuals rapidly keep up with not only the twisting dance around our two protagonists journey, but the episodic branching of everything going on from guerilla musical numbers to a pervert’s convention to an actual tornado all to fill one very wild night.


29. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018, Christopher McQuarrie, USA)

There’s only so many ways I can repeat the same point that Tom Cruise is a fucking maniac, so allow me to avoid pulling from that well by pointing out just how epic and huge this particular entry in the Mission: Impossible franchise is compared to where it comes from. With Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Christopher McQuarrie and company have embraced the virtue of pure breathtaking spectacle for 2 1/2 hours… the kind of force that popcorn cinema has got to be, where every single action scene has a powerful “wow” factor and every single twist leaves our jaws dropped. I’m feeling pretty bold so I’m going to go ahead and claim this: the scale of its thrilling fight and chase sequences, the swerve of its spy hunt storytelling, and the hilarious deflection of “darkness” that this movie constantly teases and rejects so that it could just have fun with itself is reminiscent of Hitchcockian elements in such an underrated way to me that I’d probably call this the closest contemporary popcorn cinema got to remaking North by Northwest with all of the money we can today. Except you don’t see Cary Grant flying helicopters up in here.


28. A Hidden Life (2019, Terrence Malick, USA/Germany)

Absolutely everybody who has called this a return to form for Terrence Malick does not deserve this masterpiece. Indeed, perhaps it is less radical than his last two movies (which brings me to still wonder if this movie and Knight of Cups should have switched spots on this list) but it’s still no less radical in its associative treatment of the thoughts of its characters and the way it looks at this beautiful world past the evil inhabiting it with the same philosophical density and dizzying editing styles (and even the fish-eye cinematography feels like it had to come from the GoPro work of Knight of Cups). It just happens to be that Malick has allowed the theme to be less inscrutable and more direct, but no less impactful as it carries with it a clear message against Nazism that feels so relevant today that I would wonder if it wasn’t specifically didactic for that reason if it wasn’t for the fact that the movie was shot in the summer of 2016. Still, A Hidden Life feels like a resolution of all the formal experiments that Malick spent the past ten years poking at and the spiritual explorations that have always been present in his movies standing in defiance against growing forces of fascism and suffering. It is an Important film and that’s probably what warmed Malick’s critics towards it, but it still gets to that Importance by asking cosmic queries while maintaining a deference to the land of the Earth itself and the incredibly wonder of it all.


27. Faces Places (2017, Agnès Varda & JR, France)

I was just talking not too long ago with a friend about how I don’t much respond to “documentaries about artists at work” with few exception: Faces Places was named as one of them. And perhaps it is a game that was already won by Agnès Varda – one of the most adorable screen personalities in a long time – won long before this film even existed in the manner that her last several documentaries have been musings on the imminent end of her life and Faces Places ended up transforming into a memoir specifically on that matter while bringing about the revelation that continuing with her art is the way that she is able to maintain her youthful spirit despite her body being unable to keep up. But also particularly the way that Varda in turn introduces me to JR and his work with a core that art immortalizes people and frankly everyone deserves that immortalization. And JR’s style not only turns out to be an answer to the existential question hanging over Varda in this picture but he also turns out to have remarkable chemistry with her to the point that when the dramatic third act occurs, it feels like they’re both intuitively steering the tale together to their own satisfaction… in turn bringing their film to restore their place as much as the pasting artwork restores others’ place to themselves. A wonderful document to a friendship beyond artistic collaboration and souls attached to spaces beyond the visible.


26. Boy and the World (2013, Alê Abreau, Brazil)

If you think it’s wild to consider a movie about stick figures to be so vibrant and dense, well… wait until you see a few movie animated pictures that’ll be higher on this list. Alê Abreau has no interest in disguising the crude visual primitivism of Boy and the World but he makes that go a long way in defining the colors and shapes of the world with the enthusiasm of a young child’s eyes. That it is pretext for the wrestling between such a brilliant natural state for the world with the dark and glooming threat of industrialization and what inevitably grows out of it doesn’t bring it to lose one beat in its enjoyable musical exploration of this vision up until it has to be most unsubtle about it near the end. Still up until that trip up, we have ourselves a glorious simplicity in how Abreau and his crew have communicated the true purity of youth and nature and something so messily buoyant is always going to be a more effective delivery of environmentalist attitudes than pessimism. It has no illusions about the state of things but retains the optimism of restoration to the best of abilities in its soul.


25. The Forbidden Room (2015, Guy Maddin & Evan Johnson, Canada)

Like dealing with ghosts of cinema past, Guy Maddin & Evan Johnson have tried to meld together all these old-timey specters of the art into something like a surrealist dream somebody had while playing 1930s romantic adventure serials. There’s no real anchor to what’s going on as pastiches interrupt each other structurally or physically, giving it the impression that lost movies are just melting in pot together into one overwhelming concoction. That’s probably the biggest reason that I’m having a hard time summarizing what The Forbidden Room actually is besides a love letter to movies that don’t exist anymore and its filmmakers probably never got a chance to see, maintaining the sense of translated memory to false personal memory that Maddin has already exercised throughout his career up until this point but now gets to have it reflect off the artform he most works with. And I think the fact that he basically just lets that all spill out here results in a thrilling and amusing time as long as you’re on the level. I like to think I’ve been on the level.


24. The Last of the Unjust (2013, Claude Lanzmann, France/Austria)

You probably could easily guess this based on my adoration of Varda’s entry up above, but I’m already halfway in the bag for documentaries in which the filmmaker is perfectly willing to acknowledge the fact that the audience knows this is strictly attached to their perspective and especially if they are confident enough to insert themselves into the narrative. Claude Lanzmann has basically been working with the overwhelming material that makes up Shoah, his massive magnum opus document of the Holocaust, all of his life by revisiting the remaining material and cutting it over decades into further appendices of that global event. Here we arrive at the final appendix and by this point Lanzmann is much much older (though I don’t recall if the movie is aware that he was 5 years away from his death) and in between his dedicated investigation of Benjamin Murmelstein and the complex grapppling that had to be made of rabbi’s situation, Lanzmann comes to muse upon how much he has spent on this huge tragedy and what revelations it has brought about himself. Thereby we have two different stories of present visiting the past paralleling each other in a dramatic and exhausting way (it would have to be in a four-hour runtime), but nevertheless feels as essential a work as the giant Shoah before it.


23. Day & Night (2010, Teddy Newton, USA)

The biggest argument for the regrettably forsaken 3D home theater setup is the chance to get to play this over and over again with that extra layer to this Pixar short film’s visual representation of conflict and difference. In the 2nd dimension, Teddy Newton has already provided us a playful juxtaposition between lighting and character design and shape, but with the 3rd dimension and that added depth… you suddenly get to register two different windows to two different worlds at the same time and watching them wrestle and dance around each feels so much more dazzling and stimulating than anything else. I suppose I probably sounded like a maniac being the one dude who walked out of Toy Story 3 claiming that I loved the short more (this is not necessarily an infrequent thing for me though: it happened back in 1998 with Geri’s Game preceding A Bug’s Life and happened again 6 years after this with Piper and Finding Dory) but it was an amazingly transformative thing that now in retrospect feels like a herald for all the sort of experimenting that I feel has taken up much of the 2010s’ best cinema.


22. Arabian Nights (2015, Miguel Gomes, Portugal/France/Germany/Switzerland)

Miguel Gomes’ three-part megalith of a picture clearly takes great glee in totally throwing our expectations from that particular title out to dry: while he still ostensibly maintains that famous frame narrative, it is left told instead of seen for the knowing dismissive nature of such a move in cinema so that we are instead hit with the meta and the modern. Gomes and the crew concoct their own fables to fill in the demands of the audience and the filmmakers themselves and virtually all of them are playfully funny while also being pointedly political and didactic regarding the state of Portugal circa 2015. And in the three-way structure, we are never particularly given a chance to accommodate to the fluid structure of the tales’ presentation nor the way that they alternate between the realism-based visual grounding and the moments where elements are most exaggerated in content and color. But of course this inconsistency is only of a result of Arabian Nights being just as much Gomes’ journey as it is ours, walking with him as he tries to make sense of his place as storyteller, as filmmaker, as Portuguese man, and connects with the history and habitats of his country and identity through the schematics of a foreign and foundational story.


21. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018, Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, & Rodney Rothman, USA)

Sorry, Batman Ninja. You’re very close but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not only the greatest superhero movie… it’s the most visually ambitious one to date. In a decade – nay, century! – where superhero movies have become such indistinguishable white noise with the mechanical manner that they’ve been shot out, it has been wholly disarming to watch Bob Perischetti, Peter Ramsey, & Rodney Rothman (as well as producers Christopher Miller & co-writer Phil Lord, two of the most ingenuitive people in studio filmmaking today) not only deliver a superhero movie that feels genuine in its love for what being a superhero is all about but also willing to share that excitement and thrill with the audience in such a potent and humorous way. Rather than just paying lip service to the concept that “anyone can wear the mask”, the team brings to life several different approaches to the core character in a variety of animation styles that never feel non-complimentary to each other but also never feel like two spaces in one frame are the same. It’s a film that recognizes how boundless creativity is a brilliant way to communicate diversity and individuality and every cheerful declaration in the film hard won through the story of Miles Morales. In 1978, Superman made people believe a man could fly and 40 years later… Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse makes people believe THEY can fly.

The 150 Best Movies of the 2010s – #40-31


40. Gravity (2013, Alfonso Cuarón, USA/UK)

Cinema hardly gets more experiential than Gravity outside of being shot in the first-person (and what a deflated gimmick that approach would be, eh?). From the second that the movie opens in a black screen with the sound effect of oxygen being vaccuumed out, Alfonso Cuarón and Emmanuel Lubezki got to marshall all the powers of cinematic technology circa 2013 (I know I called Knight of Cups a toybox for Lubezki but this is an entirely different kind of toybox with more money behind it) to get us floating and spinning with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, largely in how the two of them facilitate the same filmmaking style they perform on a set as they do in a CGI environment. That it is all in service to the broadest melodramatic scenario possible rather than something complex doesn’t register to me as a flaw at all: cinema could do with more movies purely dedicated to being thrill rides and I only wish IMAX did re-releases so that I could at some point experience this movie the same overwhelming way that I did the first time.


39. Cameraperson (2016, Kirsten Johnson, USA)

Every time I think about Kirsten Johnson’s debut feature after being cinematographer to some of the most important advocacy documentaries of the 21st Century, I think particularly of the Pauline Kael quote in For Keeps referring to her film writing: “I’m frequently asked why I don’t write my memoirs. I think I have”. Cameraperson feels like Johnson’s answer to that that question regarding memoirs and, like Kael, she’s opted to create hers own of pieces of her professional work. The result is a collected vision of the world in varying levels of urgency that is constantly gorgeous (as we could probably guess than Johnson was REALLY fucking good at her job) and aware that the subject is more the perspective rather than what we’re facing. Nevertheless it takes the space to deliver – without a word from the director herself – the sort of issues that the world still needs to surmount and propose the major changes that we should push for to surmount those issues. All with the sort of personal resolution that could only come from inviting us to look through the person’s eye literally for a few hours.


38. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013, Takahata Isao, Japan)

Feel like I may as well open up this entry by saying that from here on forth, there is going to be a lot of animation and they are all going to be on some level of unorthodox and fresh because that’s the way I fucking roll. And Takahata Isao’s final picture (something that I intellectually should have already accepted but for some reason couldn’t do so until he passed away four years after I had seen it) gets to that familiar level for the most experimental director in Studio Ghibli particularly by using the digital tools of the present to dig into the artistic principles of the past, thereby bringing us an aesthetic that is able to match the emotional Japanese folktale upon which this movie is based on by giving the old-time watercolor animation a sense of lucidity and having some visual dance between the past and future techniques that translate to the suddenness with which this tragic tale develops and how it represents humanity and life on Earth in a bittersweet way. Which is only the most obvious thing to make as your farewell to a medium you have affected so deeply, except maybe it wasn’t too obvious to me until it was too late to respond goodbye back.


37. Film Socialisme (2010, Jean-Luc Godard, France)

There’s a movie higher up on this list that accomplishes the same visual and audial things that Jean-Luc Godard’s first collaboration with cinematographer Fabrice Aragno in more exciting fashions – namely the nonstop experimentation with prosumer cameras and their video qualities – but it absolutely does pay to be the first sometimes. But this also feels like Godard’s most quietly humane film to date, satisfied to put a diverse globe of people on a boat and watch how they interact in the freeing lack of nationalism that makes up the open seas followed by a playful mock trial of children that doubles as deep parenting and a fascinating travelogue of international icons. I mean, it’s as humane as Godard CAN be, which means there still cynicism there but the lack of urgency to a lot of what we’re watching when it makes up the world in a microcosm does a lot to make me wonder who such a quietly radical picture is easily hated by the public. Does it have to be in 3D for y’all?!


36. The Girl Without Hands (2016, Sébastien Laudenbach, France)

Just as Takahata’s final film mixed the new technology with old animation approaches, Sébastien Laudenbach’s first feature – a work of almost entirely one man’s hand – does this as well. And since Laudenbach’s career has only so much to look forward to now, I’m personally excited as to where this timelessness and awareness of how animation and visual art has changed between years and cultures can go next. Until that sophomore feature, we still have this incredibly slim fable told in the form of kinetic Chinese inkwash with sharp digital control and floating illusoriness to the imagery and how it uses blank spaces (again, kind of like Takahata perfected to the point that I wonder if interviews asked Laudenbach about him). That it might be more visual abstraction than most people can emotionally connect with is understandable, but I don’t find the story remotely all that chilly and given how efficiently it gets us through this European tale told through Asian technique there is a universal potency to it that ends up just as engaging as if they were actual flesh-and-blood characters.


35. Batman Ninja (2018, Mizusaki Junpei, Japan/USA)

That’s right, bitches. The direct-to-video (if you live in America; from what I understand Japan had a theatrical release) weeaboo Batman movie is on my top 40 movies of the 2010s. I expect if there’s movie on this list that demands more explanation than this one, but I can’t think of a way that makes me sound any less maniacal than the Joker. The evident result of Warner Bros. throwing their money and most popular character to Kamikaze Douga to do what they want with it, the result is a radical exploration of various Japanese art styles with untethered animated camerawork that only that big studio money could bring about, thereby taking full advantage of the texture and linework of an apparently flat style to transform it into something 3-dimensional and visually gripping and also finding ways to switch the song at least 3 different times so suddenly we are looking at a different visual that is still of a kind with Japanese art history . The tragedy that most of the world probably won’t get a chance to see this extraordinarily radical thing in a movie theater proper feels akin with all the gorgeous Netflix movies that won’t get a theatrical release. And while it feels easy to write off the admittedly ridiculous story as a culmination of outrageous cliché nerd concepts mutating between Japanese culture and Batman characters, personally I feel like it is the perfect foil to the visuals being explored: just as Batman discovers he must embrace and respect Japanese period culture in order to win the fight and get back to his own time, Batman Ninja embraces and respects the history of Japanese visual art – whether scroll art or giant robots and monsters – to deliver possibly the most ambitious superhero movie of all time, only dethroned later that year…


34. Moonrise Kingdom (2012, Wes Anderson, USA)

Almost certainly the movie where Wes Anderson finally perfected his fussy visual style, although it took me quite a minute to recognize that and indeed I still believe a movie higher up on this list bettered it. Still it’s hard to ignore how every color and line and even the familiar horizontal camera movements are of a part in giving this film its nostalgic summertime feel even despite coming from a place of invention rather than the memory of its filmmaker (as opposed to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood). So if that approach isn’t for the personal satisfaction of the storyteller, it still does marvels as a backdrop to characters who are unexpectedly more grounded emotionally than I think any Anderson film besides The Royal Tenenbaums have been, even the precocious child protagonists have a plausibility in the way they see and respond to the world. And that Anderson interrupts this delicate little paradise not just with the drama and disappointment of its characters but with something as cosmic as an approaching devastating storm is an element of emotional brutality for filmmaker and viewer that I would not have expected him to be capable of prior to 2014.


33. The Turin Horse (2011, Tarr Béla & Hranitsky Ágnes, Hungary)

Barring the idea that Tarr Béla or Hranitsky Ágnes change their mind (of which they have given practically no indication they would over the past nine years), here we are met with another beloved arthouse master saying goodbye to the cinematic medium with something much less comforting than The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. As is the couple’s wont, The Turin Horse instead takes a real life moment of upsetting circumstances and allows its context to drown the entire film with apocalyptic misery over the course of its length 2 1/2 hours. In a way, it reminds me of Andrei Tarkovsky’s own final feature The Sacrifice having the same hopeless approach to it but The Turin Horse frankly makes that movie look like it’s for children. That it doesn’t really allow us any attempt to head up to the surface from relief in this dive down to visual and sonic darkness is a part of why it’s not particularly my favorite work of the two as opposed to the occasional humanity of Sátátangó or Werckmeister Harmonies, but of course that lack of relief remains the very point of this final treatise regarding how cruel the universe can be for no apparent logical reason. And if we must barrel down this lengthy journey that appears to have no bottom, there are few directors who have proven the ability to make that journey as rewarding and impressively textured as Tarr and Hranitsky.


32. At Berkeley (2013, Frederick Wiseman, USA)

The first Frederick Wiseman movie I had ever watched, thereby opening the door to me on a future of unexpectedly rich and patient observation and so far still remaining at the top my rankings for him. Which one may attribute to it having the virtue of surprise that the rest of them can’t have for me, but I think it’s more than that. You wouldn’t expect to have multiple opportunities to see a 4-hour fly-on-the-wall documentary over 10 years, but wildly enough that’s exactly what I had a chance to do and each viewing was marked as happening after reaching the end of each of my two durations in higher education (in fact the movie premiered around my senior undergraduate year). And it’s truly amazing to me how much of the movie was able to shift in my perspective towards a system that I had definitely had THOUGHTS on after first getting my Bachelor’s degrees and then the second viewing brought out further musings on with a Master’s degree under my belt even when they all came from universities significantly different from University of California, Berkeley (and indeed the movie is called At Berkeley and not Higher Education with the understanding that while we’ll use this as synecdoche for the latter institution, this is one college being explored). Different elements of the educational system stood out to me, different responses to the events depicted within the film – including in a moment of serendipity for the film, the 2011 protests occurring on the campus feeling like a late climax to all the machinations we witness in the film. What’s probably most magical about this to me is how I expect the experience of anyone to color this documentary’s material in a different way than I see it and of course the fact that Wiseman evidently left no stone unturned in his look towards the bureaucracy, the student life, the landscape, and all the rest of it is what’s going to make this an engaging 4 hours for anyone who will walk in ready.


31. Southwest (2011, Eduardo Nunes, Brazil)

The third – and I believe the last – movie on this list that I would absolutely not have heard of if it wasn’t for Tim Brayton’s review on it (and indeed, I’m not sure I would have even been able to see it if not for somebody providing the vimeo link to the movie on one of his comments section, but I’m also not sure I didn’t just google it to look for it). Which would be a shame because it is also yet another movie on this list that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen: certainly the approach to hallucinatory black-and-white and associative cutting is not particularly inventive but the watery environment’s South American folksiness and particularly the manner of its aspect ratio being a whopping 3.66:1 so that it practically looks like a horizon-like window rather than a cinematic image is mind-blowing to me (and indeed, I’d like to take an opportunity soon to watch this on a big screen proper as opposed to via a Roku on my tv because I expect it becomes much more affective in that large-format). Indeed for a movie about experiencing time in a closed and finite span, that aesthetic decision feels like it adds to the desperation of the tale for me to gather everything that you can in each image before it’s all done but the most movie’s abstract and ambiguous approach to the story leaves it impossible to capture everything in a linear sense of figure that you’ve understood exactly what is going on when. Which I like to imagine is a coaxing to eventually just recognize that this is all a  dream in cinematic form and sometimes you’re not going to collect everything going on in a dream and at the end it’s best to just let it roll on elegantly until you wake up.

The 150 Best Movies of the 2010s – #50-41


50. You Were Never Really Here (2017, Lynne Ramsay, UK/USA/France)

Impressive that for a movie as guarded about its lead character and what he is thinking or feeling, Lynne Ramsay and Joaquin Phoenix make sure we feel it without being told. More than anything else You Were Never Really Here is an assaultive experience as reflected by the headspace of a man who quietly carries trauma the slips out in audible slivers and visual jolts without feeling particularly triggering even in spite of the content of his investigative A-plot that belongs sooner in a grindhouse picture than an arthouse picture. It is probably much more personally affective of a movie than I probably should allow it to be, but when it hits the buttons I most respond – using sound as a weapon, watching New York City rendered into a glowing abyss of streetlight and wet pavement, empty interiorized central performance (and definitely Phoenix’s most physical, look at how burly he is) – in delivering apparently pretty commonly served (for this decade) themes of masculinity and trauma… it’s not surprise that I find Ramsay has succeeded in delivering those observations best.


49. Starless Dreams (2016, Mehrdad Oskouei, Iran)

Mehrdad Oskouei apparently applies the same lack of editorialism in his documentaries as the previously listed Frederick Wiseman does in his, except this time it is given to human subjects rather than institutions. I find the approach in itself extremely generous to giving the teenage girls institutionalized in the prison this movie documents a chance to tell their stories uninhibited, but the results are far more humane and emotional than I would have expected with such a distanced approach. Which is not the same as calling this an easy watch with every second of its 76 minutes being the emotional labor that you’d expect it to be, but in allowing these women to find the spaces to confess their tales, there is also the space for them to bond with the honesty with which they’ve entrusted the audience, each other, and themselves. More complex than the straightforward dive into institutionalized misery the subject matter would imply.


48. The Favourite (2018, Yorgos Lanthimos, UK/Ireland/USA)

Like Parasite lower on this list, it is much amusing that Yorgos Lanthimos eventually delivered a movie that is very respectable by his standards to the point of being an Oscar darling (Olivia Colman’s Best Actress win being one of the Academy’s best surprises of the decade alongside Parasite‘s sweep) and still feels massively twisted and grotesque. Credit to writers Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara for finding a new approach to characters showing their ugliest and most vicious side via unexpectedly hilarious dialogue while giving enough humanity to allow the pitch perfect cast to let those traits come as a response to wounded souls bruised enough to coagulate in their blackness. In the meantime, Lanthimos and his army of designers and cameramen do not allow that humanity to show in their visuals, dressing the scenario in the gaudiest of costumes and rooms while showcasing his characteristic wont to shoot from unflattering angles that stress the warping and the entrapment. And yet… again… this is Lanthimos’ most “respectable”.


47. Annihilation (2018, Alex Garland, UK/USA)

And as we come from You Were Never Really Here‘s arthouse thriller, now we find ourselves entering the dazzling and deathly world of Alex Garland’s arthouse body horror. From what I’ve been told, it resembles Jeffrey Vandermeer’s novel as much as Hungry Hungry Hippos resembles Jeffrey Vandermeer’s novel but I can’t find myself to care (even if I am interested in reading the novel eventually). Garland is more concerned with having us sink into a wondrous shimmering world that distracts us from the horrible abnormality it represents (and for its credit, features at least one moment of sheer terror that I still haven’t removed from my head in the 2 years since I saw it) with five hopeless individuals searching for characters whom we have already abandoned all hope for. When a movie is going to silently explore the concept of death being a beautiful occurrence, I’m already in the door: when it does with the sort of patient sophistication and imaginative effects design as this one does, I’m wondering what’s holding me up from pushing it up higher on this list.


46. 24 Frames (2017, Abbas Kiarostami, Iran)

Par for the course for Abbas Kiarostami’s final feature: a movie that directly lets us consider how we look at images and parse meaning out of them and between them. I’m sure that there are more than a few viewers that would not be interested in having to be given a brain exercise for a movie (although I don’t think those are the viewers who are likely to go to a Kiarostami movie, in that case), but for that reason there is more to admire than just the concept of it. There is beautiful sharpness of the images Kiarostami has chosen to portray, the relaxing soundscapes in which we can vibe with for the duration of each “frame”, and of course the playful sense of dramatics and humor which Kiarostami has imbued so that there is at least something of a story with a beginning and end in each shot if you want to just have that. You’re shit out of luck if you go to movies for dialogue, though.


45. The Lobster (2015, Yorgos Lanthimos, Ireland/UK/Greece/France/Netherlands)

And now we get to Yorgos Lanthimos’ unrespectable masterpiece: where he and his frequent co-writer Efthimis Fillipou are not interested in the slightest in leavening any of the cruelties within this story of people willingly losing their individuality for the sake of the most Draconian treatment of human relationships to the point that eventually it’s hard to tell if the characters’ lack of emotional inflection in their line deliveries is based on survival or just the way that they’re truly programmed. What most especially made me fall in love with The Lobster wasn’t just this building of a cold cold prescriptive world, but how the design and cinematography reflected that coldness: taking a landscape as gorgeous as the Irish coastline and sucking out any color or texture or detail in its visuals so that it’s just some place with woods and water, I guess, or the manner in which there is no distinguishment between costuming for even the rebellious characters that posture to antagonize this system. It is a movie that is only made up of targets for Lanthimos to pick on in this institutionalized concept of intimacy and romance.


44. The Illusionist (2010, Sylvain Chomet, France/UK)

Whomever the late legendary Jacques Tati intended for this story to be about, Sylvain Chomet went and amplified all the feelings of regret and the lost ability to change the past (themes that I feel could apply to both of Tati’s daughters at once) in his follow-up to the masterpiece Triplets of Belleville while still maintaining tribute to one of the great cinematic comedians with the character designs and the physical comedy. In the most obvious way, The Illusionist reminds me of A.I.: Artificial Intelligence – a filmmaker taking the roots of another filmmaker’s concept and building out of it something that speaks to the sensibilities of both artists as Chomet’s bittersweet comic arc melds with the watercolors and crude lines of Chomet’s style resulting in a movie that is visually weepy as well as being thematically weepy, a pure dose of melancholy for an age goneby with the perspectives of the old and the modern melding into one.


43. Toni Erdmann (2016, Maren Ade, Germany/Austria)

Hold the melancholy but keep the weepiness and the comedy and you have Maren Ade’s best picture to date, accomplishing the feat of being one of the most hilarious I’ve seen in the past ten years in spite of the fact that it is a 3-hour German film about the ideally unfunny results of the business world hammering on the soul of anybody who enters it (and the dynamics getting worse for women in that world) and the generational gap that quietly alienates a father and daughter from two different viewpoints of how to live in the world. And yet here it is earning a soulfulness in the shot that I selected to post here by the manner in which that all develops to a satisfying conclusion simply based on the excellent chemistry between Sandra Hüller’s chilly straight man to Peter Simonischek’s charming clown and the outrageous manner in which their interactions erupt, sometimes in a manner that gets right to the core of their conflict without being amusing but often enough finding relief in this struggle to find common ground by the most unexpectedly giggle-inducing ways.


42. The Assassin (2015, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Taiwan/China/Hong Kong)

I believe I praised The Witch earlier on this list for transporting us into another time period and the state of mind that period would represent, but that’s small potatoes compared to Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s costume drama here to the degree in which it alienates us and gives us no real narrative anchor outside of identifying Shu Qi’s protagonist to calibrate with that manner of storytelling. Indeed, in spite of the action that the title would imply, Hou allows most of the narrative to occur in ellipses as it’s all the better focus on the place and time that we are now spending within the movie with its visual beauty and audible surroundings. A wuxia tale unlike any wuxia I can recall, making even the 1960s Shaw Brothers productions look contemporary and impatient in its wake.


41. The Lighthouse (2019, Robert Eggers, USA/Canada)

And speaking of transporting cinema… except this is a place and time that makes no fucking sense. There is no logical center to the aesthetic decisions of this movie – its watery black and white, its period designs, its aspect ratio, or even the heightened manner of speaking – that applies to one specific timeframe, which should be expectedly for something as gleefully confusing as Robert Eggers’ spiral into madness is. It’s certainly a picture designed and created for a specific sensibility, but I obviously am right there in the thick of that niche and had a ball of a time knowing that there’s no ostensible point to it all than just to watch Robert Pattinson lose himself to the shadow of Willem Dafoe’s parody of a grotty human being and watch things get more and more deranged to match with Pattinson’s loss of comprehension in the boredom of his time stuck on a rock doing ambling chores. Certainly there is room for application towards such known classics as the Promethean legend or “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and all that but when you’re making a movie about two guys going crazy in the isolation of having nothing to do, it just makes perfect sense to have nothing really going in that movie and just let that duration be filled up by maddening elements for the viewer.

The 150 Best Movies of the 2010s – #60-51


60. Mr. Turner (2014, Mike Leigh, UK/France/Germany)

Mike Leigh’s period pictures are my flavor of both Mike Leigh and period pictures specifically because of how they have no time to entertain the idea that said period is deserving of great affinity and respect on default. In fact, our past is just as vulgar and coarse as our own time with no small hypocrisy. In Timothy Spall’s performance of the great painter J.M.W. Turner, we are provided a representative of all that aggressive repulsive of the 1800s in the way he carries himself and treats his fellow humans. And yet there is fruit out of such irritation that we tolerate from this fascinating character, the visual recognition of his artistic talent and how he is able to see a more pleasant world beyond what we are trapped with here (and how Dick Pope’s cinematography tries to match up with that captivated wonder). A painterly picture that also lets us know exactly where that painterliness comes from.


59. The Missing Picture (2013, Rithy Panh, Cambodia/France)

I may or may not have mentioned in this blog that one of my favorite effects of cinema’s form is to represent memory in a variety of ways and frankly it is one thing to have that representation to apply to fiction or even auto-fiction, but another for it to be performed on a real person’s memory. And then it is another thing further for the process of reconstructing and recollecting those memories to be captured and communicated, as done for Rithy Panh’s time under the rule of the Khmer Rouge. The utilization of figures and dioramas to recreate events is anything but playful, being an extension of Panh’s ashamed confession towards forgetting the pieces lost between the documentary footage and trying to struggle in reclaiming traumatic memories that he now feels are necessary to maintain. Cinema of the healing sort, even if it takes a lot of on-screen pain to do so.


58. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey/Bosnia and Herzegovina)

I don’t know what happened to Nuri Bilge Ceylan that made him lose such an excellent grasp on duration as a storytelling tool after Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (although given that his very next film won the Palme d’Or, it’s safe to say the film community disagrees with me), but at least we have this one masterpiece to admire with enough to chew on for multiple rewatches. For its long 157 minutes, we grow tired and weary with the characters that barely have names, which open us up to learn more and more about their philosophies towards morality and life in nicely winding dialogues, and then we watch how that applies to the procedural case they are frustratingly forced to spend the night tethered to and how the case in fact shakes their principles all around. All the better to surprise us with how much we are reconsidering what the characters have done or said, leaving us to muse if there’s any true rhyme or logic towards humans in the world.


57. Under the Skin (2013, Jonathan Glazer, UK/USA/Switzerland)

My last rewatch of this movie two months ago had me overspilling my ideas on letterboxd so hopefully I can keep it concise this time: this is a movie where Jonathan Glazer really let loose on all the expectations that the science fiction (and horror) genre bring out of a viewer. Whether it is the manner by which most of the movie feels like a travelogue of Scotland as we watch our nameless protagonist on the hunt, the manner in which the gender and sexuality they use as a disguise makes us reconsider the role between predator and prey, the complete refusal to give us any clear and direct answers as to what its alien characters are doing and why, and how this all culminates in a tone poem (with many actual tones defined by Mica Levi’s incredible debut as a film composer) to muse upon what it is to be human and act accordingly while witnessing the world and its beauties and cruelties.


56. Parasite (2019, Bong Joon-ho, South Korea)

Yes, resentful as I am to admit it, Parasite IS a superior movie to Snowpiercer in nearly every regard. But I’m not too resentful of that fact, because there is an undeniable pleasure in watching a filmmaker you’ve admired and loved for over a decade now finally flex every muscle he’s developed in his career to this point: the wonderful mixing of tones and genres, the excellent visual representation of class via the geometry of its production design and cinematography, and the thrilling tension within every new corner through which this story of deceit twists. On top of all that, it is an effortless crowdpleaser (I’m confident that its landmark win of the Best Picture Oscar reinforces this fact), one in which I haven’t heard anybody feel strongly negative towards, so what better gateway drug to get everyone hooked on the Bong?


55. Personal Shopper (2016, Olivier Assayas, France/Germany/Czech Republic/Belgium)

It’s pretty evident at this point – given the appearance of Under the Skin and Haywire on this list and others I’m probably forgetting – that I’m fascinated by anti-genre stuff and Olivier Assayas’ ostensible ghost story is exactly the kind of impish holding-back from the generic raison d’etre that I am tickled by. For one thing, that plays extremely well with Kristen Stewart’s performance style as her emotional muteness now gets to be another layer of this movie’s deflections, which overall culminate in a character study about somebody surrounded by death trying to find ways to deal with it – whether she does so by chasing text messages apparently from a ghost, distracting herself in the lavish attire she purchases for her boss, or talking to an apparently empty room.


54. The John Wick trilogy (2014-’19, Chad Stahelski & David Leitch, USA)

Oh fuck yeah, you knew this was coming. And you especially knew that I wasn’t just going to be able to pick just one. Something tells me that David Leitch is mostly responsible for the unexpected psychological richness of the first John Wick represented in the black and blue visuals that also gave root to Keanu Reeves’ career best performance (which just gets better and better with each installment), because once he left the second film to instead work on Atomic Blonde… all that was left was ambitious cod-arthouse sleekness for Chapter 2. The way that the bloody violence just feels like a reflective and shallow dance for us to admire simply because it is entertainment. And then Chad Stahelski – returning for the third time – goes and removes the training wheels to give us this globe-spanning extended chase where everybody wants a piece of Reeves’ exhausted hitman and he’s just getting more and more pissed off with each combatant to our pleasure. Consistently inventive in its fight scenes (whether a pounding nightclub shootout, a non-stop tumble down a flight of stairs, or a bunch of men realizing they’re surrounded by knives and trying to chuck whatever they can grab), a loving window to the art film affinities of its directors, and constantly humorous and fun without undermining the toll this is taking on one man who just wanted some peace and quiet with which to mourn his wife, I cannot wait to see what Stahelski and company come up with in the next chapter. Every time I feel like they’ve hit the bar’s limit, they bust that ceiling wide open.


53. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019, Quentin Tarantino, USA/UK/China)

Man oh man, how far this movie has come – from being one of the most releases I was most apprehensive about to being something that confirmed that apprehension in quiet ways to being something I was willing to return to and found a lot of the way I remember my nostalgia and see my friends. It is uncharacteristically amicable of Quentin Tarantino (in fact, a friend of mine who I didn’t expect to like this movie at all stated their surprise that it was so different when we saw it), relaxed and willing to just hang around a time period he barely got to experience as a child. And while he is willing to betray the flaws of 1969 as an era (and inadvertently betrays his own flaws as a person, I feel, in how he handles certain material), it all just feels of the same human portrait of what made Tarantino fall in love with movies and Los Angeles to begin with and in turn reflects the comforts we look for and find in our favorite art, people, or places if we’re just willing to stop being in a rush.


52. Meek’s Cutoff (2010, Kelly Reichardt, USA)

A western all about just how inglorious and frustrating it is to actually live out in a western, particularly for women and cursorily for the indigenous as well but definitively for everyone unlucky to be alive at that time. Reichardt does her trademark thing of keeping us stranded in a place and letting all of the sounds and textures of it (considerably giving us possibly the most tangible Western representation in cinema since Once Upon a Time in the West) just surround us until the apparent lack of destination drives us crazy. And I know I make it sound like an unappealing chore of a movie – indeed it took me some time to warm up to it – but at some point I just find myself really impressed by the pure transportive quality of the film on the merit of its consuming and comprehensive atmosphere and its bone-dry narrative.


51. Roma (2018, Alfonso Cuarón, Mexico/USA)

It is fascinating to me that something can effectively represent a personal memory to its author as Roma does to Cuarón and still be as distanced and chilly as Roma feels (largely thanks to its gorgeous cinematography). And it pretty much works for me, despite that contradiction. I think the credit is to how Cuarón recognizes that there is more to the moment than just what it means to him as a person, but also what its place is in history and in terms of family and community and society. And that’s what necessitates the way that these tableaux-esque wide-shot pans provide a third-person perspective to what is otherwise a first-person story. This is also clearly something that also rubs off on Yalitza Aparicio’s magnificent performance – fitting into the schematic of what Cleo is observing but also recognizing its affect on her personally and how her feelings towards the family that she lives with are shaped. Probably the biggest non-generosity I gave to Roma when I first saw it (and still loved it!) can be fixed here: it is definitely at the end of the day aware of the sociopolitical elements of its character’s relationships and how they don’t mix with their personal feelings towards each other, which makes it all the more impressive that the climax can feel so sincere with that awareness and reconciliation.

The 150 Best Movies of the 2010s – #70-61


70. Cold War (2018, Paweł Pawelikowski, Poland/France/UK)

Feels like the summary of a romance instead of the actual work of it, but that’s kind of the point (and I do credit the detractors for knowing that and recognizing that it doesn’t work for them). These two characters are in an environment – represented especially well by the movie’s confined boxy visuals and arrangement of vertical thirds – where they just can’t express themselves as often as we expect of this sort of character study and it’s to the credit of Paweł Pawelikoski’s direction and the lead actors Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot that they are still able to intensify that ordeal between their chemistry and let the political history (I mean, you expected it with that title, right?) inform the spaces in between. A rich cold tragedy that fits so much in 88 minutes. Also the movie is 88 minutes, which huzzah! Movies that know how to be short!


69. This Is Not a Film (2011, Jafar Panahi & Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, Iran)

I’ll admit that I was at all fond of Closed Curtain as I am the rest of Jafar Panahi’s miraculous works after being sentenced to not make movies by his government, I’d probably cheat by looping all four post-band movies together in one spot. As it is, This Is Not a Film gets to have its individual moment in the spotlight: the beginning of a period of defiance for Panahi (and his co-director Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, who in fact also suffered an unrelated but still film-relevant arrest shortly after this movie was made) as he fluidly documents his physical confines in the form of his house arrest, lets that inform the imprisonment of his artistic sensibilities in tragic ways, and then finds a way to let that escape out and formulate. It’s not just that the movie is brave on the merit of its creation and release, but clearly something Panahi had to put together to figure things out because moving on to more creative runarounds, one of which will be appearing shortly.


68. Inside Out (2015, Pete Docter & Ronnie del Carmen, USA)

Pixar’s movies are mostly four-quadrant products, but I feel like there’s constant pushback against the fact that the primary target audience is children (and of course their family). Pete Docter – who had already by this point showed his hand as one of the great emotional directors of a company whose every movie should already included a warning that your tears will create your own splash zone – ingeniously created with his designers a broad and abstract world of color and shapes (and that wonderfully fuzzy texture of its characters) that communicates to that target audience the complex nature of emotions and memories without watering it down. I already found that to be an incredible storytelling accomplishment in addition to being so visually satisfying and a rewatch only informed me on much richer it was as an internal story of a young girl dealing with change that I didn’t realize I underrated.


67. Jackie (2016, Pablo Larraín, USA/Chile/France/Germany)

The one major breakaway from Pablo Larraín’s leftist streak and I still find myself wondering what attracted him to a story about the former United States First Lady over the course of one awful week. But it’s clearly what interested him within the story itself: Larraín and his crew (particularly cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine) have turned lushness into something oppressive to surround Natalie Portman’s career-best performance with. This essentially gives way to deepen the film as a depiction of grief – given particular psychological complexity by Mica Levi’s excellent score – in a situation where the entire world is watching you grieve and keeping you confined to the spaces of one of the most recognizable homes in the world. A waking nightmare of a headspace without being particularly aggressive in its aesthetic, just trusting the flow of things to keep us aback.


66. Snowpiercer (2013, Bong Joon-ho, South Korea/Czech Republic)

On the one hand, I get how Parasite has become everyone’s favorite Bong Joon-ho movie (spoiler: it will be showing up later on this list) but on the other hand, I kind of wish it wasn’t when I look at Snowpiercer. Whereas Parasite is controlled and composed to the finest detail, Snowpiercer is sloppy and balls out in a way that I wish more genre cinema and agitprop could be. There’s no subtlety in the premise of the world’s lowest-class citizens organizing and busting heads to get to the front and that gives Bong and the rest of the team an energy that gives the film more momentum than the powerful locomotive in itself. But that’s burying the lede: the truth is that the premise also allows that every new setpiece is a surprise of design and visual tone in itself that has practically no limits in its ambitions and maintains the same comic book heights as Tilda Swinton’s authoritarian caricature. If it’s not Bong’s best, it’s still his biggest and his wildest and the latter quality is particularly what I go to Bong’s movies for in the first place.


65. Democrats (2014, Camilla Nielsson, Denmark)

Sure, it’s about the Zimbabwean 2008 election and the subsequent constitutional referendum, but what Democrats is really about is the general matter of democracy and how susceptible it is to people who are just working very hard to look like change is happening while keeping things staying the same. Camilla Nielsson captures the flop sweat and the frustration of the process with grueling swiftness – particularly in regards to the conflict between the two very human subjects, Paul Mangwana & Douglas Mwonzora. At once, Nielsson’s film ends up providing a fascination with the procedure at hand while matching with Mwonzora’s disillusion about what it’s going to result with. If there’s one movie on this list that I hope gets boosted in views, it’s this document of a country learning the hard way how slow democracy is as a process and how little the returns are… something that frankly certain countries still haven’t learned in the middle of their experiments with the system.


64. Taxi (2015, Jafar Panahi, Iran)

It’s one thing to have to work with what you can when you’re not allowed to make art anymore, but it’s another thing to make so blatantly enjoyable above all else. Jafar Panahi’s return to this list is marked with a film 3 years after This Is Not a Film that ended up being his most pleasant work since Offside, even in the knowledge of the restrictions that define it. Still there’s truly a freeing feel behind the wheel of a car (at least in my personal experience which may be why I respond so; also possibly the fact that my dad was a taxi driver for most of my childhood and even wore the same hat as Panahi) and that Panahi was able to sketch an intimate portrait of Tehran simply from the driver’s seat of the titular taxi and an array of characters getting to sit in and converse and give their stories is a wonderful conceit. Who would have thought that the backseat of a Taxi could give way to such socially observative sprawl?


63. Timbuktu (2014, Abderrahmane Sissako, Mauritania/France)

A movie about human suffering first and making us recognize what’s going on in the fundamentalist regimes of small cities with the sort of fiery anger that indicates how personal this matter is to Abderrahmane Sissako. If it was just that realist approach to a such a moral ordeal, it would certainly be an Important Film that feels hard to recommend to others. Instead, Sissako also uses a simultaneous rustic narrative not too far away from the city to depict what a life before could be in quiet poetry and then introduces the human flaws that slide its characters into clashing with that situation before its upsetting climax. It’s a message movie that has a sense of inevitability to it so that its final moments are all the more crushing and the fact that Sissako brought a lot of European art film tricks to what is firmly an African story told in an African setting brings to the table a more immediate way to appeal to the film’s most likely audience.


62. Knight of Cups (2015, Terrence Malick, USA)

The beginning of that point where everyone was convinced Terrence Malick had lost his marbles as a filmmaker. Sucks to be those people, because this was one of the most exciting things I’ve seen the whole decade and I’m still jazzed by the things it tries out in terms of structure and visuals – Emmanuel Lubezki is basically just given fair game to pull out whatever idea he has to shift up what is otherwise just a reheated version of the “depressed rich guy fucks away his malaise” story type so that it feels like the camera is throwing us in a whirl and keeping us as unfamiliar with streets and walls as Christian Bale’s aimless protagonist feels. Malick meanwhile approaches the character and his urban and bourgeois environments with the same philosophical density that he gave to people in the throws of nature, twisting it further by adding a spiritual element simply by the arrangement of the people Bale encounters in the runtime. I don’t know that I’ve entirely parsed it out in the one time that I’ve watched the movie – I am constantly on the edge of rewatch and maybe it’ll even boost this movie’s placement on the list for me – but I can think of few movies in the past ten years that accomplish the same sort of radical experimentation that Knight of Cups did.


61. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016, Travis Knight, USA)

Laika’s best work in the history of its existence. Hopefully it sticks around so that it can end on a similarly great note (as opposed to Missing Link), but if not, this is quite a height to be proud of: the best of Laika’s fussy detail-obsessed work in stop-motion animation in service to an epic Japanese-inspired adventure with a core about how storytelling through music or origami or just plain speech helps us find our way through life. It doesn’t completely sink into the folklore framing successfully – a matter I think would be accomplished by not having a white cast, honestly – but the broad strokes with which it appeals to the hero’s journey archetypes with modern awareness of those tropes being indulged in on top of the incredible ambition with which it indulges in exciting action setpieces make me comfortable calling this a masterpiece in any case.

The 150 Best Movies of the 2010s – #80-71


80. Lincoln (2012, Steven Spielberg, USA/India)

Picking basically the most classical New Hollywood filmmaker surviving for the most classical possible history premise feels like it would lend itself to something stuffy and boring. Expect we forget that Steven Spielberg was the most exciting filmmaker around once upon a time for a reason and he’s still plenty exciting in how he tries to accommodate the expected visually handsome totally talky Oscarbait period film aesthetic for the sake of something really critical of the act of policy making and how cynical it is about the people behind it – considering the necessity of actively convincing these people to abolish slavery as something that should have been taken for granted and not a playing chip to trade in between political concessions. It gets truly into the thick of negotiating as a draggy and tiresome process with clipping interest by Tony Kushner’s writing, all the more aided by a career-best performance of Daniel Day-Lewis taking a winking approach to the Myth of Abraham Lincoln as more something manipulated as a tool rather than something actually noble, in the end playing as a piece of historical storytelling that refuses to fall into the trappings of hero worship.


79. National Gallery (2014, Frederick Wiseman, France/UK/USA)

The movie that made me a believer in the things that Frederick Wiseman was doing with the documentary form. The patience with which he lets us wander through the halls of the titular art museum, the offices of the administration, watch patrons and guides and employees do their thing, while often taking a glimpse and glance at what’s on the walls altogether present a cinematic environment with which we can just sit and ponder on what art’s place is in a community even beyond the building in which it is displayed. And that the man just has an intuitive sense of structure that can get us sitting for the 3 hours without any interjection or apparent hand-holding on what we should consider or think of next is the swift flex of a fly-on-the-wall documentarian who just knows entirely what he’s doing.


78. Monos (2019, Alejandro Landes, Colombia/USA)

I’m sure I can grow fonder of the movie on later rewatch, but for right now it’s enough just to consider how experiential the film is on the level of visuals and sound: every single thing about it exists to put us in the headspace of its characters at a very aggressive and harsh time to be them. That it doesn’t care to contextualize these child soldiers and the conflict they’re in the middle of is part of the point: these are kids who don’t really have an identity besides being there to fight and probably die and so what we feel is what they feel in the present: a heightened textural vibe of the trees and water and the shortness of the air in the mountains. The sort of movie that engages with every possible sense that the medium has access to and blasts it at 11.


77. Atlantics (2019, Mati Diop, France/Senegal/Belgium)

Still in awe that Mati Diop – in her feature debut – was daring enough to attempt to juggle so many different genres and tones (that I don’t dare spoil) without having them crash on the floor once. Presenting a vision of Dakar that indulges in both realism and fantasy with the aid of cinematographer Claire Mathon, Atlantics is a urgent social observation and a hazy dream of a thing that does not want for surprises or uniqueness. I don’t know what else to say about it while I dance over revealing what it has in store for the unknowing viewer, except to point out Mame Bineta Sane’s unforgettable presence as a protagonist lost in this sea of melancholy and what is beyond that feeling.


76. El Mar La Mar (2017, Joshua Bonnetta & J.P. Sniadecki, USA)

Much like Monos before this, El Mar La Mar takes hold of the cinematic toolkit but not to try to put the viewer into the shoes of the real-life immigrants trying to make it through the Sonoran, but instead to have us consider the harsh textures of such a journey: the heart, the roughness, the darkness and all, capturing it and presenting those visuals and sounds with avant-garde abstractness that has the moral core of reminding us that these are the natural hostilities that immigrants have to face in their struggles. That filmmakers Joshua Bonnetta & J.P. Sniadecki particularly take the care to allow space for those people to tell their own stories and remove any visual distraction from their words is the element that most makes to me how Bonnetta & Sniadecki want us to appreciate the survivors of this path and condemn the system that tries to push them for it, even while their visuals do all of that immediate business without the slightest aestheticizing.


75. 45 Years (2015, Andrew Haigh, UK)

It’s like watching a drop fall in a pool and the ripples never stop. One single piece of information that Andrew Haigh puts in the hands of these clearly well-lived characters – performed outstandingly by Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay – and all we need to do now is watch over a brief period time as they process or refuse to process it accordingly. And suddenly all those seams of their relationship that we could tell from as quickly as one scene were so snugly established begin to come undone. I do wonder if Andrew Haigh can perform professional homewreckings since the drama he’s created here is so effortlessly and trusting of his performers to just lean into the natural silences and bitter looks that maybe he’s just really good at knowing people better than they know themselves.


74. Haywire (2011, Steven Soderbergh, USA/Ireland)

All of Steven Soderbergh’s greatest hits as a filmmaker provided in a nicely pseudo-popcorn movie package for me: a deconstruction of the action movie genre in the form of how Soderbergh’s editing treats conversation scenes with the intense punchiness that the casually cut action scenes lack, a deconstruction of screen persona in the treatment of Gina Carano as a non-actor whose notability as an athlete and martial artist affects our expectations of her character while surrounding her with nothing but A-list faces. That most of the people I personally know who saw this movie were hostile towards it makes me hesitate to consider it the “one for them” movie (particularly with that same year seeing the also wonderful crowdpleaser Magic Mike) but given that Soderbergh is always at his most fun where he gets to experiment and turn a relatively straightforward premise on its head, I guess it’s more for me.


73. Ride Your Wave (2019, Yuasa Masaaki, Japan)

Spoiling my Best Films of 2020 list a bit by including this, but it premiered in 2019 so it’s eligible and anyway movies are cancelled this year so why not acknowledge this wonderful bright work as soon as possible? Building on exactly the sort of principles of bright color, flowing water animation, and thematic musical centers, Yuasa Masaaki’s ode to the ways that surfing can lift the spirit of its characters just as much as any other person’s passion can is a vibrant and poppy thing. That it accomplishes this while being rooted in a particularly sobering bit of tragedy – delivering some pretty honest and brutal truths about dealing with it – only endears me more to the ways that it balances the human with the fantastical and reminds me of how deft Yuasa has proven to be as an emotional storyteller just as much as an animation director


72. Carol (2015, Todd Haynes, UK/USA)

Quite frankly it’s so aesthetically chilly that I’m surprised people love it as much as they do, but I’m glad they do anyway because it’s an enthusiasm I share. Todd Haynes collects on that same of classicalism as the above Lincoln for something that indulgently transforms lesbian romance into a neo-noir picture, aided particularly by Edward Lachman’s usage of film grain and the dark coloring. And that’s quite the perfect atmosphere for Cate Blanchett and the (usually distant for me, but very in her element here) Rooney Mara to do their thing – delivering brittle emotions that match the wintry environments and prevent this movie from becoming distant or anything but devastating when the shoe we’re expecting to drop drops. The fact that it couldn’t make it into the horribly underwhelming Best Picture slate of 2015 (especially considering how overall great that movie year was) is one of the biggest shames of the Academy in the past 10 years.


71. Hugo (2011, Martin Scorsese, USA)

I don’t dislike Martin Scorsese, but I do find myself quite distant from anything he’s made since The Age of Innocence. It feels like no surprise that the one exception to that is the movie where he just got to spill out all of his open enthusiasm towards cinema as a medium (lest we forgot that Scorsese is one of the foremost filmmakers that is also a film scholar!) into a story of a child watching the art develop before his very eyes, gladly homaging the very magical roots of it from that great name Méliès! That it’s not all that convincing overall in its creation of this gigantic environment – the dream of 1900s Paris, the endlessness of the train station, the nostalgic gloom of the clock towers – doesn’t bother me one bit: it’s all about the artifice of cinema and how it can amuse and suck us in by the merit of its own logic, something Scorsese and production designer Dante Ferretti do marvelously and the loving manner in which the 3D pushes us all around this expansive world makes me just giddier. Maybe that bleeding that bleeding heart sentiment about the medium doesn’t appeal to most, but you’re either in or out and I’m fucking in.