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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

The 150 Best Movies of the 2010s – #90-81

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90. All Is Lost (2013, J.C. Chandor, Canada/USA)

Effortless virtue in simplicity. The way that J.C. Chandor and his crew are able to make a thrilling setpiece out of basically one location, a thriller out of basically one elongated and inevitable event happening slowly but surely, and while it may be easy to claim that something about being in danger in the vast emptiness of the sea is easy to make thrilling, Chandor is confident enough to create business out only the spare parts in a way I hardly see most of the genre attempt. On top of which, you have to be pretty confident to take one of the most recognizable movie stars in history and turn him into a desperate old Everyman without tapping into the charm we know him for, Robert Redford proving just as capable of just having raw and understandable emotions to every next step in this disaster. Chandor’s proven himself to be one of the 2010s’ best surprise debuts with all three of his films (Margin Call and A Most Violent Year being the other two), but this is the focused work of a master of the craft, not some newbie.

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89. Widows (2018, Steve McQueen, UK/USA)

It turns out that Steve McQueen – contemporary arthouse master of cinematic misery (eat shit, Lars von Trier) – can actually make a pretty great populist film when he gives it a try. At the surface, Widows is just a meat-and-potatoes genre picture based on a tv show McQueen evidently loved but – in the way that The Departed gets praised for and this movie absolutely deserves – his and Gillian Flynn’s transplanting the material to Chicago instead of London explores the new location with a richness (that sound design specifically is now less unnerving as any of the physical agonies McQueen had previously explored in his movies, this is a picture that needs to be watched LOUD) that also gives it a character of hostility for its outstanding ensemble cast, providing a core of four women looking out for each other with a humane prickliness towards their difference in privilege that doesn’t wander one inch away from the fact that this is mostly just supposed a work of pulp heist fiction. It is a very comforting fact that McQueen’s best movie is also the easiest one to recommend to others.

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88. Incredibles 2 (2018, Brad Bird, USA)

I know what kind of fight I’m fixing to get myself into when I state this, but Incredibles 2 is not just the only time since Inside Out that it felt like Pixar was wide awake. It’s also better than the first movie, beloved as it is by many (including me), in practically every way. Every setpiece stands up against any of the past decade’s live-action popcorn movies – whether for reasons of camera movement matching the zippiness and nimbleness, the lighting being outstanding whether cornering us in shadow or assaulting us with brightness, or just trying to be a hilarious bit of slapstick fun. Brad Bird’s return to animation has clearly given him an idea of how to stretch out visual principles he was already bringing to his live-action stuff for the sake of thrills and laughs and boy am I happy to see how much further he can push the envelope in his next project.

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87. Before Midnight (2013, Richard Linklater, USA)

We still have 2 more years to see if this is the last we will see of Celine and Jesse (for that reason, I refuse to call it a “trilogy” no matter how Criterion tries to sway me) but this is still such an effective ending beat to leave us until that question is answered that I wouldn’t be too disheartened. Certainly, it is the least of the three Before films, but a lot of those flaws come from its most fascinating elements: the way that the two characters have become frustrating the way that people who are in the middle of their biggest roadblock get to be, the way that sitting in between of an upsetting argument between your friends is going to be. But it’s not intolerable and I credit that to the way that Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (sharing a much-earned writing credit here with Richard Linklater) clearly understand their characters enough to find plausible areas that they’re going to get petulant and harsh about and still being able to guide their characters into an unexpectedly poignant note of hopefulness that leaves me happy to have seen them again rather than wondering if I should go and come back at a better time.

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86. The How to Train Your Dragon trilogy (2010-’19, Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders, USA/Japan)

THE major turning point for Dreamworks Animation as a studio, finally. Dean DeBlois (and solely for the first movie, Chris Sanders) put together a marvelously fussy world to embrace and explore alongside the very cat-like dragon Toothless, one of my favorite characters of the past decade, soaring and sweeping between broad conflicts that map out well on the development of his human partner Hiccup (and frankly our guide to the world while Toothless is a figure we admire and coo over) as a character. So basically two types of satisfying story types: character arc and high concept fantasy adventure. Watching the animation get better and better with each installment so that the lights and environments feel so rich as we spin through them is a great privilege, but the fact that DeBlois was also able to tie up the emotional path of Hiccup and Toothless as a pair in his final installment in a way that a lot of trilogies shit the bed on make me confident in my resolution to bring the trilogy together in one spot on this list rather than have to make a Sophie’s Choice as to my favorite one. There’s just too much I adore in it.

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85. Phoenix (2014, Christian Petzold, Germany)

It’s pretty hard not to just repeat the things I said about Petzold’s Transit earlier on this list for Phoenix, which does a lot of the same things just tigher and more effective for me. Instead I focus on the way that Phoenix represents the scars of post-Nazi Germany in a ghostly way that benefits from the neo-noir aesthetic around the rubble of the city the way that Transit represents the current immediacy of a Nazi return in a timeless but present way. Perhaps it’s how I respond more to that cynical nostalgic hue of Phoenix now applied to a particularly cruel tale of identity that also coaxes a thrillingly complex performance from Nina Hoss and how it provides a compulsive layer of guilt to the viewer. Whichever way it is, Petzold essentially went two different ways on the same concept of “assumed identity in the fact of authoritarian fascism” and pulled out two incredible distinct thrillers out of that hat, showcasing his atmospheric versatility.

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84. Oslo, August 31st (2011, Joachim Trier, Norway)

Frankly a movie that I did not expect to enjoy, let alone for it to haunt me for years the way it did after I first saw it. And to be sure, it IS exactly what I expected: a miserable and chilly arthouse character study on a matter that could not possibly end well for its character. But it’s a very well-made and paced character study of somebody who needs help but also really doesn’t think he deserves it and the humanity with which Joachim Trier, Anders Danielsen Lie, and the rest of the people involved in this movie give to that scenario indicates that the idea is more than just “watch somebody struggle to deal with his sickness”. In any case, it’s the sort of character piece that, by the end of the movie, I ended up wanting to reach out through the screen and hold on to him.

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83. The Lords of Salem (2012, Rob Zombie, USA/UK/Canada)

I understand that Rob Zombie’s white trash spookiness aesthetic is not to most people’s speed, but holy shit did this movie take a beating that it did not deserve from even his own fans. Zombie’s indulgence in his concept of arthouse horror doesn’t lose one bit of the exploitation vibe that we expect from him, just instead of pulling from the frequent sloppy viscera and violence we expect from him (still present but in significantly fewer portions) now we get it from the hallucinatory imagery and the lack of true coherence to what’s going on that the best horror cinema should be providing to keep us from grabbing our footing. All we get to know is that we are spiraling in a sonic nightmare of evil and the ride doesn’t stop until Rob says so.

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82. The Babadook (2014, Jennifer Kent, Australia)

Fortunately, some horror films were not so unfairly maligned as The Lords of Salem and it’s easy to see why The Babadook was one of the universal darlings of the genre in the past ten years. Jennifer Kent and company have put together a pretty unmissable metaphor for grief, trauma, and emotional exhaustion that Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman tap into for two very different kinds of broken people going downhill. But if it just had to rely on the excellent actors at hand, it would lack the bonechilling dark aesthetic of it all, punctuated by the alarming crimson of the central storybook and occasionally intercut by shadowy shapes that bring our eyes darting for a sign of the titular Babadook monster, whether a psychological manifestation or a physical beast of torment. An unexpectedly original movie for such a broad and often explored (if not to the success of Kent’s work here) concept.

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81. Apollo 11 (2018, Todd Douglas Miller, USA)

It’s a good thing this is the last time in this list series that I will invoke Apollo 11, because there’s only so many ways to repeat that this is a monumental accomplishment in film editing streamlining an exhaustive amount of material from one of the most publicized events of the 20th Century into a heart-pounding thriller. We are spared no fear in what could have been the fatal error for the astronauts and we are – for the most part – put in the seat of the technicians involved in such a direct way that makes me lament how I never had a legit IMAX theater near me to play the movie. Its focus on that kind of procedure also has the benefit of distinguishing it from the emotional and spiritual approach of other films on the same subject – such as First Man and For All Mankind (great movies that it surpasses). The hard-eyed blunt delivery of this mission to and back again makes it possibly the most propulsive and physically moving documentaries I have ever seen.

The 150 Best Movies of the 2010s – #100-91

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100. The Wailing (2016, Na Hong-jin, South Korea)

Especially in a decade of horror movies with ghastly runtimes (2019 was outright overflowing with them), it is hard not to appreciate the sort of work Na Hong-jin and company are in creating an epic tragedy of terror. The extended duration of the thing doesn’t waste a single frame while patiently drowning us in helplessness watching one man dealing with his daughter’s violent possession and running into walls trying to investigate and fight it, basically not just a crypto-remake of The Exorcist but one that I think surpasses it. Not to mention the phenomenal small-town photography capturing the way the mountain lines in the blue skies entrap the town to its ghostly doom (one of the things that endears me personally to the film, it reminds me of the looming Tell Atlas in my childhood in Blida) and the manner in which the editing (which I’ve formally recognized twice now in this list series) constantly makes us feel confused and put under subterfuge for the whole movie. Ambitious and pure horror.

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99. La La Land (2016, Damien Chazelle, USA)

Yeah yeah yeah, fuck you, I love it. Even without the sentimentality I have regarding it and how it represents an adjacent period in my life, the world of color and music that Damien Chazelle and his crew conjured together is helplessly appealing in all its swoony romanticism regarding the moment you get to share with somebody (delivered by one of the decade’s easiest to love screen couples at their ooziest), the sacrifices that artistry demands, the way that makes you grow as a person, and the loose and energizing sensation of film and music. That its representation of LA is as fake as a film set and that its major themes are lifted wholesale from Jacques Demy are complete non-issues to me as symptoms of a state of mind and that state of mind is “Isn’t movies fucking great?!”

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98. Pina (2011, Wim Wenders, Germany)

What started out as a hopeful collaboration with the famous dance choreographer Pina Bausch ended up having to be a tribute to a late friend’s genius (as well as one of the dancers featured in the film who also passed away prior to its completion). Wim Wenders and the dance company of Tanztheater Wuppertal present several stage performances of Bausch’s works with all the patience that a movie translating theater to cinema (Hamilton, take notes!) should have to retain that intimacy, save for one scene that actively uses the cut and with an added bonus for all of them: the 3-D cinematography. And if any choreographer’s work was going to be well suited for the depth of 3-D, it would have to be Bausch as the presentation allows us to feel more physically involved with the observation of the dancers’ bodies and how they are positioned and formed. If there was any better tribute to such an artist than to preserve and enhance her work in such a present way, I can’t think of it.

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97. Hard to Be a God (2013, Aleksei German, Russia/Czech Republic)

Aleksei German’s final picture is exactly the kind of movie that makes me need to go take a shower, aesthetically speaking with how muddy and gross the cinematography feels to complement the incredibly filthy fantasy world he throws the characters of Strugatsky’s book into. The fact that it accomplishes that physical hideousness while maintaining a fascinating sense of immediate place for something that’s otherwise explicitly science fiction is a major part of what kept this movie so stuck in my mind that I had to shove it into the Top 100 at the last second. It’s very tempting to compare this to the work of Tarr Béla and Hranitzky Ágnes and I refrain from doing so lest I run out of things to say when I get to THEIR movie on this list (y’all had to know it was coming, honestly) but suffice it to say it accomplishes that same sort of thematic density, textual challenge, and textural rawness.

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96. The Raid: RedemptionThe Raid 2: Berandal (2011-’14, Gareth Evans, Indonesia)

And we finally reach what will be the first of several “franchise” cheats in this list (as I stated would occur in my intro), but you’ll forgive for wanting to wax rhapsodic on how Gareth Evans’ duology is essentially two different movies both accomplishing the role of delivering exciting and eye-popping bodily movement in screen combat. I’ve been open about preferring the slim straightforward upward game of death that is the first Raid, but I also have to admit growing onto the expanded storyline of The Raid 2 as a musing on non-stop generational violence and the way that Iko Uwais’ supercop is thrown in the middle of it. In any case, that Evans and his cast and crew find room to deliver either a slender blunt-force ballet of the first movie or the gangster epic of the second movie on the bones of some really amazing action sequences that have the perfect synchronization between performer (or vehicle), camera, and editing is nothing to scoff about.

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95. Cloud Atlas (2012, Tom Tykwer & Lana and Lilly Wachowski, Germany/USA)

Resist as I might, even with its misconceived elements, I can’t bring myself to lose an ounce of love that have for this unwieldy and flawed work of Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski sisters. For one thing, it translated the already incredible narrative structure of David Mitchell’s book that feels so much more propulsive and momentum-based, its trust its actors to maintain a spiritual consistency of character through a varieties of periods and tones, it has a grab bag of ambition in both genre and physical production in and of itself, and all of it is the name of something deeply human and insistent that there is a connection and causality to everything, no matter how vast the timeframe is. It feels like not only the thematic predecessor to the similarly ambitious television series Sense8 (albeit I prefer this film based on how much more gonzo the visuals are), but also a culmination of all the sort of things that the Wachowskis and Tykwer truly love about telling stories and connecting to the audience deeply. And frankly, it’s one of the movies I’d credit with saving my life, but that’s a different story…

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94. Nostalgia for the Light (2010, Patricio Guzmán, France/Chile/Germany/Spain/USA)

Tell me, what do you think astronomy, geology, and the brutal regime of Augusto Pinochet all have in common? I’m not sure I could still tell you after having seen Patricio Guzmán’s first documentary in what I understand to be a trilogy (The Pearl Button was not as fascinating and I have not yet had the chance to see The Cordillera of Dreams) but that’s the pure magic of it: the persuasiveness with his able to conjure a thread between his childhood fascination with the stars and the emotional scars of survivors of Pinochet’s awful violence, landing somewhere between sober and hopeful in the ability to put together science and memory as a pair of weapons with which painful memories can be put to rest for fellow Chileans. Moving and transportive, Nostalgia for the Light is frankly associative cinema at its finest.

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93. Phantom Thread (2017, Paul Thomas Anderson, USA)

Much as I hate to admit, Paul Thomas Anderson’s style can finally click just right with me. And given that the two times where this has been strongest have been his two collaborations with Daniel Day-Lewis, now apparently retired for good, I would say I don’t plan on us clicking any longer. That said, Daniel Day-Lewis’ wonderfully petulantly tense control freak performance is not the only thing that makes me adore this picture – especially given that he doesn’t manage to steal the show from either of his co-stars, Vicky Krieps or Lesley Manville – but in fact the way that Anderson and his crew take the art of clothing design into something wholly erotic and exciting to experience via cinematic language of sound where we hear the fabric, the intimacy with which we watch it touched, the poise of its adoption by the wearer and such and such before allowing the premise to spiral into something unexpectedly twisted and fucking hilarious. I MEAN FUCKING HILARIOUS, like I’m full-on dying in the movie theater while everybody looks at me weird. Having the late opportunity to see it in 70mm (after that presentation missed my city in initial release for some reason) was a miracle of the decade for me.

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92. The Garden of Words (2013, Shinkai Makoto, Japan)

One of many movies on this list I had to grow out of my initial hostility for, probably because I still think the script’s third act is garbage if I can be generous (and if I cannot be generous, it is very misguided in a way I find morally questionable – I DID recognize the climax as one of the 2010s’ worst movie scenes.). But in case, it’s not clear, I don’t entirely engage with movies on the level of their narrative and after coming to recognize that The Garden of Words is probably the pinnacle of Shinkai Makoto’s famous working with the dance between rain and light in animation, I also found that it delivers something emotionally on rewatch that I didn’t expect: a serene state of mind, a mood and atmosphere that I find immensely relaxing and appealing for most of its runtime. That it’s satisfying to me beyond the qualities of its form doesn’t prevent me from trying to dissect how it gets there and I think I’ve landed on it being how it mostly plays in greens and light grays as a color palette that have a visual pensiveness to them and also the fine quality of the trees and greenery that give Shinjuku Gyo-en a real sense of place to sink into. In any case, it is the last movie I expected to enter this list when I first watched it and yet here I am, changing like the wind.

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91. Boyhood (2014, Richard Linklater, USA)

I love Red Letter Media deeply and wholly, but I also feel that the “IT TOOK TWELVE YEARS TO MAKE!!!!” mockery is one of the worst things to happen to modern film discourse. Like, yeah, it took 12 years to make. I don’t see how such patience and stamina is not an ambitious accomplishment in itself, but even beyond that: it’s what those 12 years of collecting material bring us. A sense of time capsules passing us through as we recognize background events and moods and music waving by, the observation of not only our central child character developing in ways expected and unexpected but even his parents have that sort of fragmentary change into certain or uncertain persons in the background, and the manner in which life is basically just a collection of formative things, some small and some big as arranged by Richard Linklater and his crew (especially editor Sandra Adair) and I expect it’s the sort of movie where different things are going to resonate with different people (or they aren’t which is a possibility). It’s not necessarily a simulation of that titular experience of boyhood, but just the experience of watching the world turn and change around you and finding out at the end how you changed with it. Probably a major part of why I feel Mason’s blankness as a protagonist works (though Ellar Coltrane – especially as a child – is an talented dramatic actor), but also the fact that at some point in his teenage years, I started seeing myself and my younger brother in the character.

The 150 Best Movies of the 2010s – #110-101

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110. Elena (2011, Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia)

Starting to feel like this list reflects something way the fuck up with me if so many movies I’ve listed thus far are potent examinations in human awfulness, but y’know what? Good drama is good drama and Zvyagintsev’s second picture is really great drama, shoveling characters that aren’t remotely likable into shots that visually represent the oppressive environment that sort of pushes them to be so for the sake of survival. At the center of it being Nadezhda Markina’s complex and performance transforming into just another one of her awful family, a performance I confess just missed my list of the decade’s best.

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109. The Deep Blue Sea (2011, Terence Davies, UK)

And on we move to another film with a powerhouse performance at the center of it: Where this time Davies lays his long-time visual nostalgia for post-war England as a means for Terence Rattigan’s stageplay to interrogate just how patriarchal that time and place truly was. And Rachel Weisz’ command of the intense central role that is Hester moves us all through the acute and severe feelings of a woman in sexual awakening during a time that looks down on it.

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108. Your Name. (2016, Shinkai Makoto, Japan)

It is frustratingly easy to recycle all the praise I had for Makoto’s Weathering with You lower on this list to Your Name. since it’s not like Shinkai did much differently than experiment with how light is represented in anime (and it will similarly be hard not to recycle praise for another Shinkai film higher up). But this is higher than Weathering with You for a reason: I find that the central comet initiating the premise is one of the masterworks of CGI entering the 2-dimensional world of film, a shimmering wonderful visual floating above in the bluest night sky and an unspoken representative of optimistic yearning that Shinkai seems to believe sunlight is best at illuminating the path for. On top of which, I find it fascinating how Shinkai treats light reflected off the skyscrapers of busy Tokyo and the giant lake of rural Japan in a way that still communicates the same emotions and ties our two protagonists closer together.

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107. Atomic Blonde (2017, David Leitch, USA)

Pure punk rock Cold War attitude rendered in the cinematic language of color, style (especially the costumes), and action. Quietly tragic in a way that I think evaded even this movie’s few apologists, I still find myself feeling beaten and bruised alongside Charlize Theron’s cold-faced antihero as she runs around a mystery that will mean nothing in a few days, tries to survive potential deaths that will mean nothing automatically, and deliver hurt and pain in excellent dances of choreography, camera movement, and editing that is the only thing that means anything here in this music video fantasy version of Berlin.

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106. The Human Surge (2016, Eduardo Williams, Argentina/Brazil/Portugal)

At once a movie that delivers a sense of how connected everything is via the means of technology and how distanced everyone is because of that same technology without feeling contradictory about itself. I’m tempted to call it something like if an internet bot remade Koyaanisqatsi but I feel that is selling short the manner the fascination that is has with the few humans it focuses on and how their depression and personality feels just like it’s extended by the accessibility of the modern age. A movie I look forward to rewatch again once I have finished musing on all the things it left me to muse about.

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105. Private Life (2018, Tamara Jenkins, USA)

I know I said prior that Kenneth Lonergan has a habit of bringing out the career-best performances out of his actors, but that’s just the same to be said about Tamara Jenkins. Her third film (and I really hope she doesn’t keep taking as long as she has been between the three) takes its title as both literal in the way it frames and cuts around the spaces of Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn’s central couple, and as ironic in the manner that it has these two spilling out their desperate wish to have a child to affect practically every facet of their social lives. And yet Jenkins doesn’t necessarily judge the characters for the decisions they make despite using it as the basis for some really funny comedy and allows the things to be learned to be learned well even at their apparent age. The sort of generosity I think makes a director perfect for both atmosphere and for directing performances.

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104. 12 Years a Slave (2013, Steve McQueen, USA & UK)

Not necessarily par for the course on Steve McQueen to utilize his characteristic handle on human misery to make at least one “Important Film” since it is quite a tougher and more direct movie on the matter than you’d expect to be an Oscar darling. John Ridley’s script flies between an expectedly hard 12 years experiencing horrors that was the lifetime for many without giving us relief even in the final scenes while McQueen relegates that history to a sweating and immediate present. And our guide to this cruelty is the reliable Chiwetel Ejiofor battling an apparent losing battle for his dignity in a life he’s been thrown into after relative privilege.

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103. Blue Valentine (2010, Derek Cianfrance, USA)

A couple at conjuration and then disintegration, structured back in forth in a way that makes us truly recognize the intensity of falling in love and deciding where your life is going based on it and then having that love completely blow up and failing to know where you’re going to go from there. Maybe the most devastating movie on this entire on account of how true and crude the emotions feel thanks to Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams delivering the ideal form of method acting and playing off each other in a collaborative way that helps Cianfrance recognize the flow of the movie from the end results.

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102. First They Killed My Father (2017, Angelina Jolie, Cambodia/USA)

Another Important Film but one that didn’t receive any awards of attention basically, despite being the moment where Angelina Jolie finally cracked the code on making something with memory-based subjectivity and the eyes of child in delivering a wholly impactful and personal account on the cruelties of the Khmer Rouge. The sort of movie in which sparing us the direct vision of the atrocities and allowing the mind of its protagonist to return to an easier time just feels so much harsher and tragic.

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101. Suspiria (2018, Luca Guadagnino, Italy/USA)

You kind of have your work cut out for you when you decide to remake one of the best movies of all time which also happens to be possibly the best horror movie of all time. But Guadagnino gives his own vision of where the premise of “dance school run by witches in the 1970s” could go and it is an epic and fascinating piece about the repression of women and the psychic scars of WWII (also, holy shit, this is the second movie ON THIS POST that takes place in Cold War Berlin, I realized) relegated in uncharacteristically cold and hard greyscale concrete and restrained gloomy browns (uncharacteristic for both Guadagnino and what we associate the name of Suspiria with). All the better to give us a mood for the harsh associative presentation of it all with the sort of sound and editing and that makes our eyes dart in a manner that asks “what was that?”, the focus of dance as an expression of dark and primal elements, and the manner in which violence finally makes its appearance to the shock of the viewer including a climax that I am entirely in love with in its gonzo dive to gauche bloodiness.

The 150 Best Movies of the 2010s – #120-111

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120. Weekend (2011, Andrew Haigh, UK)

Andrew Haigh’s already showcased his mastery of the simple and stripped-down when it comes to romantic dramas. Over the course of the titular weekend, we watch two men meet, fall in love, and then separate in a manner that they already knew were the terms at the very beginning of the romance. It sounds like Brief Encounter, but that’s just reductive in so many ways: the focus isn’t nearly as much on the tragic knowledge that they will not being seeing each other again in sometime if ever (though it IS heartbreaking when that happens), but in how much you can learn about a person over the course of two days. Haigh’s direction gives that sort of equity in power towards the actors with his restrained two-hander compositions and his languid hangout pacing where the drama ebbs and flows that by the end of the movie, it is just as bittersweet to watch these men go on their part as it is on ours.

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119. Mudbound (2017, Dee Rees, USA)

If this movie had anywhere near the attention it deserved, it would be recognized as novelistic and epic in the same way as other great American films are. Except Dee Rees would earn it with the earthy way (alluded to by the title itself) that she directs the brilliant cast to push this far-spanning film as far as it goes. Also the way it picks up themes without dropping them like candy off the ground and let’s them all work together in some present examination of America as it was and how it still is. The grandiose ambition of this thing and the manner in which it succeeds is went practically unrecognized by the Academy and so on and yeah I’m still fucking mad about it.

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118. Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014, Diao Yinan, China)

I could be wrong (we’ll see later on as this list goes), but I think this is the one legit non-reflexive neo-noir I have on this list. Which I feel is a personal shame, but if there has to be one, best believe I’m happy to admire this colorfully expressionistic presentation of a dark and chaotic cold case being examined by one jaded and washed-up drunk of a detective, reeling me into all my favorite tropes of the classic style while taking advantage of the modern advances that couldn’t be used in the film noir era to give us something curdled for our day and age.

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117. Francofonia (2015, Aleksandr Sokurov, France/Germany/Netherlands)

I have never been to the Louvre and as an admirer of fine art and frequenter of any art museum I find near me, it’s on my bucket list. But I don’t imagine it will ever look anything like the way that Sokurov and Bruno Delbonnel have captured it in their exploration, both physical and historical regarding that most famous of art museums. The intimacy with the paintings, the fantasy of the re-enactments, the humorous frame narrative of Sokurov dealing with… a shipment of art? It’s all something that beggars to find a new way into some of the most popular and on display artworks of our time while also examining what art does for the culture, good or bad. And that is an approach that I’m always going to find admirable and engaging even with the faults that something as personal as Francofonia would have (it’s not Russian Ark but…).

(And isn’t it crazy that given how he’s one of my three favorite modern cinematographers and how often his work is showing up on this Best Movies list, nothing Delbonnel shot made my Best Cinematography list? Believe me, he was frequently in consideration there.)

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116. Rango (2011, Gore Verbinski, USA)

You can always count on the most playful directors to do wonders with animation when they get the chance and Gore Verbinski took the chance with Rango to deliver a wacky cod-Western that feels jerry-rigged from every other thing it grabs its hands on instead. Which could possibly be an extension of the sort of searching of self that its titular character is trying to pull off when he wanders into town, a dignity granted by mixing all of these weird and gangly animal character designs, all visual archetypes as much as genre archetypes, with beautiful photorealism (partly courtesy of the consulting of Roger Deakins) to tie as a smaller world right underneath our noses.

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115. Coda (2013, Alan Holly, Ireland)

Another movie that I absolutely did not hear of until Alternate Ending’s Top 100 of the 2010s came up and even if it’s just outside the reach of my 100, I still found it personally moving. Which may have come as a surprise since the opening took a minute, but eventually I was hit with a dense and expansive reflection of what the span of a life and the darkness of what comes after truly means in the moment. It is quite an experience-based short to be hit with all of a sudden in such a neutral presentation of tone – not tragic, not happy – and given that it’s 9 minutes and online, I recommend you all experience it too.

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114. The Loneliest Planet (2011, Julia Loktev, USA/Germany)

Still waiting for Loktev to follow up on this anytime soon. The manner in which this movie puts its central relationship and the trapped feelings therein against an expansive and lovely Georgia outdoors setting and lets us muse on the juxtaposition of this travelogue breakup movie is something only a filmmaker out of the box regarding how character and visual storytelling could work together. We need more of those and we need more of her, please.

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113. Neruda (2016, Pablo Larraín, Chile/Argentina/France/Spain/USA)

A film that definitely required that “non-reflexive” qualifier for Black Coal, Thin Ice‘s entry when I called it the only noir movie on this list. Neruda is a lot of things – a parody of fascist noir is only one of them. Utilizing the perspective of its titular leftist poet, it rejects the concept of trying to make a clean-cut biopic by using his eager self-mythologizing to romantify and make his stressful exile from Chile something more cinematically appealing – inventing events, characters, and images in the name of fluidity for a man who used that fluidity as the basis of both floral art, his messy personal life, and challenging an authoritarian government.

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112. Tuesday, After Christmas (2010, Radu Muntean, Romania)

Well, if I go ahead and let out how it’s about the lead-up and aftermath of adultery, I expect I’m not surprising anyone when I state how chilly and distanced it is as a watch of these three people trying to navigate around and through that fact. But there is virtue in how it accomplishes that through three very talented actors and very long and exhausting takes of them trying to leaven their hurt by dishing out more hurt, overall delivering a raw (but sometimes amusing so that it’s not entirely a bad time) and matter-of-fact treatment of such a betrayal.

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111. Edge of Tomorrow (2014, Doug Liman, USA)

A question that had long plagued me in the 6 years between my first and second watches of this film: “Was Edge of Tomorrow really that good?” Well, I gave it a good ol’ try and turns out: it’s even better than I remembered. When I first watched Edge of Tomorrow, I was taken in by the editing and how it uses the video game logic and assumptions of the audience to build on the exhaustion of us trying over and over again to make it to the next step as well as maintain a sharp sense of humor about the situation. On second watch, I get to notice how the premise plays with the screen persona of Tom Cruise and develop him from the sycophantic weasel that Cr– uh, John Cage is to a confident and focused action star. It’s unexpectedly exciting storytelling, utilizing repetition and mood shifts to earn every single “Fuck Yeah!” we yell at the screen as we take the same frustrating journey with our characters.

In the long-awaited search for the Great Video Game Movie, I think Edge of Tomorrow puts up just as good a fight as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, if not better (spoiler alert: Pilgrim doesn’t make this list, though I do deeply love it). Still think the movie should have been named “Groundhog D-Day”.

The 150 Best Movies of the 2010s – #130-121

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130. The Witch (2015, Robert Eggers, USA/Canada)

For his first feature, Robert Eggers decided to go and deliver a period film that actively transports us into the period successfully by a combination of scripting, performance, design, and sound. I daresay it works magnificently with a central ensemble chamber drama that feels so dreadful in atmosphere that it doesn’t even need the witches to appear horrifying, but I’m glad it does deliver on the strong genre goods once it is time to collect. The tyrannical puritan treatment of the matter is more than enough to get us chilled until then.

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129. The Duke of Burgundy (2014, Peter Strickland, UK)

And in we go from one of the purest soundscapes in the past decade to another, utilizing that tool to express certain unseen elements of a sensual BDSM lesbian picture. The result is something much more psychologically potent in examining what each side is expecting and what they receive in a context that’s already complex and misrepresented in cinema. Strickland avoids that misrepresentation while still gladly taking hold of the pleasant luridness regarding the material and the examination of power dynamics within a very deep and doomed central romance.

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128. Ida (2013, Paweł Pawlikowski, Poland/Denmark/France/UK)

A dual character study that remains sobering no matter which side you decide to focus on. Naturally the title and premise favors the cold and confused examination of secrets and identity at the most important turn of your life that Agata Trezbuchowska’s Anna represents but then there’s still Agata Kulesza’s Wanda to look forward to in the future with a curdled bitterness regarding certain paths taken. That Pawlikowski could decide to basically ape from the go-to styles of European Art Cinema would possibly be considerably lazy if it didn’t add so much stateliness and focus to the two performances at the center, defining the universe those characters are facing while we watch their decisions being made from there.

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127. Two Days, One Night (2014, Jean-Luc & Pierre Dardenne, Belgium/France/Italy)

A movie about the hardships of capitalism pressing down against your mental well-being, your relationships with others, and your livelihood made as watchable as such a stressful scenario possibly can be. Part of that can be credited to the Dardennes’ treatment of the matter in such a movie-drama way with the titular timeframe playing as a deadline, but that also has to be credited to the outstanding cast they’ve put together supporting the familiar face of Marion Cotillard. That we recognize the movie star makes her immediately rootable even beyond her position but that we see an entire community of people that are torn and struggling and still mostly desiring to do the right thing is what makes this a rich and human story on top of its social observations.

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126. The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears (2013, Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani, Belgium/France/Luxembourg)

I personally find Cattet & Forzani to be relationship goals: a married couple who is courting each other by making their own homegrown giallo and spaghetti western pictures to watch, particularly the way they show obsession with the cut as literal and psychological in cinema. The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears is not the best feature they’ve made yet but it is the wildest and that kaleidoscopic and dizzying presentation of the titular colors while a man investigates a disappearance in circles maintains the sort of gleeful loss of control that I consider the best of giallo to have. The incomprehensibility, the nauseating showcase of violent close-ups, and the shallow psychosexual elements that are only there to combine the most ridiculous violence with visual pleasure. These are things that maintain a marriage clearly.

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125. Weathering with You (2019, Shinkai Makoto, Japan)

Shinkai Makoto essentially hedging his bets by writing a story that appeals to all his best strengths as an animator, but it works. Lovely work in the intersection between the beams of sunlight cutting through, the rain surrounding on command, and the shimmering speeding trains for yet another fantastical tale of young kids on the cusp of the adventure of life. If you’re in the bag for Shinkai as I was when I first saw it, he knows exactly what got you on-board and will gladly deliver.

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124. The Homesman (2014, Tommy Lee Jones, USA/France)

A movie that I at first rejected on impulse based on the way its late direction blindsided me when I first saw it at Cannes. Took me a few months to recognize what a successful structural gambit that happened to be and especially how it reinforced the way that this film posits itself as a dry account on how cruel and harsh the Old West truly was. Jones and Hilary Swank as co-leads do a particularly excellent job as opposite types trying to face that cruelty in each other’s own ways, but it wouldn’t be quite as well without Jones’ dry direction and the way that dryness seeps into the cinematography and Marco Beltrami’s incredible score.

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123. Cheatin’ (2013, Bill Plympton, USA)

Bill Plympton’s famous overexaggerated style with pencilsketch and watercolor are now utilized for an exaggerated and even fantastical story about the messiness of emotions and the worst possible scenarios for those emotions to come into place, bending and twisting for all the need expressiveness that such a heightened emotional state demands. Given how spare that Plympton’s story is, it expresses a trust in the audience to pull all of their knowledge from the warped imagery in itself and it pays off magnificently with a weepy and raw tale of basic heartbreak.

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122. Embrace of the Serpent (2016, Ciro Guerra, Colombia/Venezuela/Argentina)

The structure presents us with two very distant times, whether in orientation to us or to each other. But the form – the modern style of the cinematography, the modern style of the performances (particularly the two men who play Karamakate), the complete symmetry in those modernization thereof – are of the sort that make them blend together like a formless dream or memory. The unspoken ways in which Guerra manipulates the presentation so that we sift in and out of this story about two different generations of colonialism from the perspective of one indigenous witness, leavened by that witness’ sense of humor and intelligence over the white man he’s guiding along and the calm and present visuals of the Amazon-that-was as a long-gone ghost that still remains haunting.

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121. The Lego Movie (2014, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, USA/Denmark/Australia)

Remains the crown jewel of Lord & Miller’s irreverent and creative style of filmmaking, pulling out as many possible visual gags as would be appropriate to the movie’s ethos and aesthetic, indulging various camera movements and compositions that only the animated camera can allow, and overall building to the sort of story that encourages a limitlessness in imagination the same way that the titular toys this movie was nakedly meant to just be a commercial for brought out in us as a kid. It may be a corporate product, but Lord and Miller gave this a beating heart and a sprawling vision that no journeyman filmmaker could have.

The 150 Best Movies of the 2010s – #140-131

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140. In This Corner of the World (2016, Katabuchi Sunao, Japan)

There’s animated movies that want you to notice the style and there’s animated movies that moreso use its style as a pretext for more emotional work and Katabuchi Sunao’s falls absolutely into the latter. It’s not a coincidence to utilize watercolor backgrounds for a story about somebody learning to fall in love with painting and then having that potential life torn away from them in wartime is an excellent application of visually reminding us what’s left behind in this devastating tale.

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139. Rhino Season (2012, Bahman Ghobadi, Iran/Turkey)

One of many films introduced to me by following Tim Brayton on Alternate Ending. I believe he states the film is unavailable in the US and it certainly never got a formal release, but it IS fortunately available to rent on YouTube as I saw it. In any case, what you’d be walking into is the most angrily charged movie to be made by an Iranian filmmaker forced in one manner or another into a sort of exile from his punishing government, not only a brand of movie that is outrageously common but one you will see other examples of later on this list. The fact that it’s based in truth could easily be what makes Rhino Season feels so charged in its righteousness, but Ghobadi is somebody who wants to communicate to you through poetics (verbal and visual) and symbolism rather than take the easy self-assured way out. He leaves no stone unturned in the indictment of a country that has wronged him using an art that they have semi-criminalized as a tool of defiance.

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138. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013, Joel & Ethan Coen, France/USA)

Spoiler alert: I only had room for one Coen brothers movie on this list and it was truly a battle deciding between this, Hail Caesar!, and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. I’m not entirely convinced I’m satisfied with the selection (I was on another folk music kicker when I finalized this list), but I settled with Inside Llewyn Davis so I may as well take a moment to admire how unexpectedly low-key it is compared to their usual arch approach. It’s not invisible since it’s impossible to ignore the deep chilly blues of Bruno Delbonnel’s vision of Greenwich Village in wintertime and it’s not necessarily out-of-character work for them with the cynical attitudes of every character in it including Oscar Isaac’s titular prick himself. But it is something that doesn’t try so hard to because very sad and weary in itself and the way that weariness lands on me as a viewer feels so hard to shrug off after watching.

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137. Point de Gaze (2012, Jodie Mack, USA)

A benefit of having delayed this list for so long: I was first introduced to Jodie Mack’s work within the past few months and found much of it fascinating. Including this short which observes the titular needle lace in a variety of colors and designs in the same keen awareness of texture and depth that she’s showcased since she started her avant-gardery. But it’s really the late turn to rapid succession of opposite tones that made my jaw drop and almost blinded me with its awareness of dynamics in color and shades to turn into something unexpectedly aggressive all the same.

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136. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015, Christopher McQuarrie, USA)

Maybe it’s just that my last rewatch was on a binge of the franchise and it was exciting to see how much better Rogue Nation was from where the movie series originally started, but I think what really pushes this movie so high on the list is how it feels at once the logical next step in both of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol‘s best elements: it structures its action setpieces so that it doesn’t lose steam and it adopts the television series’ wonderful teamwork oriented spy thrills to the best that it has ever been, with actual arcs for characters that are not Tom Cruise! Satisfying on both a spectacle and storytelling level for any long-time fans of the tv series, making good on Ghost Protocol‘s righting the ship.

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135. Margaret (2011, Kenneth Lonergan, USA)

I will let you all speculate as to whether or not it’s right to disqualify The Other Side of the Wind and not this (I think the fact that this was not unfinished, that Lonergan was alive to give his approval of the cut released and then still make another cut qualifies this), but this is the kind of storytelling where the flaws are the benefits just the same. Lonergan’s allowance for his characters to have sloppy concepts of life and to make mistakes and to still remain wholly consistent in this messy adolescent opera proved to be – like all of Lonergan’s other works, but especially in this film – the best possible arena for actors to dive into their characters and give their best performances, particularly Anna Paquin’s teenage wreck of a human being.

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134. The Bling Ring (2013, Sofia Coppola, USA/UK/France/Germany/Japan)

Sofia Coppola comes from this Los Angeles celebrity-obsessed culture – it’s right there in her name – so it only makes sense that she can infiltrate with the same sharp ruthlessness that any other outsider tries to satirize this without nearly as much depth and teeth. Her recruiting of the late great Harris Savides and Christopher Blauvelt to capture the superficiality in the lens and Stacey Battat to capture it in the fabric resulted in a one-of-a-kind super team to show us just how unattractive this culture of status and obsession could be through unexpected channels.

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133. Heli (2013, Amat Escalante, Mexico)

A movie that it would be way too easy to call miserable and be done with it and indeed it is a hard movie to watch with all the wall-to-wall brutality that makes up the second half with uncomfortable patience in letting it all get worse and worse. But it doesn’t get most of its power without having real flesh-and-blood characters at the center of it all established with a relaxed version of that same patience in the first half, then trying to navigate a very hostile situation and coming out of the other side in some thankfully preserved state if not perfect. Angry precision at delivering exhausting thriller conceits and also depicting just how harsh the real world can be.

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132. Love & Friendship (2016, Whit Stillman, Ireland/France/Netherland/UK)

I said it before when I praised its screenplay on the Motors post but I’ll just say it again here: Whit Stillman & Jane Austen go together like peanut butter and jelly, even if you’re able to recognize how ably Stillman was able to fill in the blanks of an unfinished work to further fit his manner of verbal wit and style in some approximation of Austen’s dialogue and arc work on top of being a lavishly appealing movie to look at. What I may also add is how it feels like an opportunity to get Kate Beckinsale make in the same snippy and cutting mode that she was in her last Stillman collaboration, The Last Days of Disco, without breaking a sweat at the change of language giving us a character that is a jerk but totally fun to listen to nevertheless.

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131. No (2012, Pablo Larraín, Chile/France/USA)

The type of movie that can recognize the fun and creativity in activism while also being willing to self-examine at what point do we lose sight of the endgoal and what is truly motivating one in certain capacities for this work. Even with that clear-eyedness, it’s not usual that political cinema gets so bright and cheerful in its delivery (I know I noted Sorry to Bother You earlier in this list, but it doesn’t anywhere near the smiling optimism that this has) and the way that Larraín makes us aware of No‘s status as such a piece of consumable agitprop in itself from the Betacam shooting to the usage of Gael García Bernal as a familiar face is a big part of No ability to deliver leftist ideals while also being self-reflexive as a work of art. A work of comedy art, mind you, celebrating the time that art actively took a dictator out of power.

The 150 Best Movies of the 2010s: #150-141

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150. Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010, Panos Cosmatos, Canada)

Panos Cosmatos’ first swing into the same field as his father is the sort of debut feature that – despite how late I got to seeing it – made me intent on watching whatever came next. A hallucinatory cosmic nightmare all too put off by its extremely clean aesthetic – given how much of the film takes place in cold and alien feeling facility with an aesthetic somewhere between formlessness and period. Much of the movie is like that – opaque in its sense of narrative or theme and only able to pull a slight sense of time and place outside of ours without stability – and it plays me like an absolute fiddle to appeal to several things I love in 1970s psychedelic horror with a modern approach. And the centerpiece 1966 flashback where the colors and high-contrast black and whites are firing on all cylinders is the sort of scene that would definitely shape me further as a horror fanatic if I saw it as a kid (I’m very ashamed I didn’t even remember to consider it for the Best Scenes List). Speaking of formative experiences as a kid, I found out after the fact that Cosmatos based the movie on the sort of concepts he’d think up looking at the horror movie section covers of his local video store and I must say I feel a kinship with that approach.

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149. Song of the Sea (2014, Tomm Moore, Ireland/Belgium/Denmark/France/Luxembourg)

It is definitely the case that the line drawing design approach of things here does not fit like a glove the way that it did with Tomm Moore and Cartoon Saloon’s first feature The Secret of Kells (and frankly it gets less suitable in Cartoon Saloon’s following feature, the otherwise lovely Breadwinner). But it’s still absolutely beautiful to look at, with a control over the dynamics of lighting and gradations of blue to make it all so visually magical and frequent cutesy figures put on screen amplified by their round and bright feature whether the sheepdog Cú, the central seals, or the tiny adorable human form of Saoirse. Besides which just as its stablemates at Cartoon Saloon function as musings on what storytelling – visual and verbal – bring to the soul, Song of the Sea is a brisk and direct little fairytale that filled me up very quickly when I saw it and it’s beauty never left my mind from there.

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148. Blade of the Immortal (2017, Miike Takashi, Japan)

Building up from Miike Takashi’s last big jidaigeki picture 13 Assassins, his 100th feature Blade of the Immortal takes a source material that invites both of the following elements and lets them dance around each other in episodic scenes: Miike’s penchant for overt violence and stylization, the jidaigeki genre’s archetypes and heightened drama. And it all builds for a while since this is a very long movie and one of the reasons that I resisted putting this on the list was how much the structure of killing tragic foe after tragic foe seems to complicate that journey by still having big fights peppered in throughout. But I think the climax cracks the code somehow: delivering a mythic quality to the personal stakes of its characters and their satisfaction thereof. It’s a movie that I’m still stuck thinking about: as genre pastiche, as period film, as musing on violence and morality’s place in a period of the former’s reign, and just as showcase of the kind of unrestrained style we’ve expected from Miike as a filmmaker.

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147. First Reformed (2017, Paul Schrader, USA)

Another film I tried to resist adding to this list: it is nakedly copying from Bresson and Bergman’s playbook and I’ve personally had trouble cottoning to Paul Schrader as a filmmaker. But I can’t lie and say that First Reformed didn’t break through my armor a little bit: for the way the cinematography makes the environment loom over us and the characters for an extra bit of mood, for the agitating power of Hawke’s shaken performance where he just can’t come out with the chaotic terms contradicting the idea of God’s mercy towards a world that he thinks isn’t earning it, and for the fact that even if it’s wearing other movies clothes, it is at the end of the day a product of a Calvinist who deeply feels some level of this emotional crisis and that manner of personal core Schrader lets bare in the film is done so in a visually and tonally powerful manner that hits me even though it involves a perspective I have virtually no alignment with.

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146. Toy Story 3 (2010, Lee Unkrich, USA)

I would love to be able to just say it’s the obvious scenes that make this list and be done with it. And sure, the amount of emotional work the third act is doing is disproportionate to the rest of this movie (which feels a bit repetitive from previous Toy Story movies in a way that knocked it this low) but y’know what? It’s a really great third act: bringing an operatic climax to all the time spent with these characters and the sort of crisis they’ve embodied in that hot red incinerator scene before several scenes later planting us in a warm character-loving curtain call in the context of passing on to a new adventure. Everybody else has already said it, but I’ll say it again: I don’t know why Pixar thought they needed to untie the perfect bow they wrapped this series with (or abandoned the wonderful bold cartoon designs of this world with photorealism for the fourth one).

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145. Transit (2018, Christian Petzold, Germany)

Sure, you COULD claim that presenting a Third Reich-era story in an undisguised present setting is tacky, but I’d reject that on the merit of what’s actively going on in the world right now and how Christian Petzold’s adaptation of a book he’s long wanted to put to film brings about a casual sense of urgency with that decision. An urgency which mixes incredibly well with the dizzying dead-end beaucratic path Franz Rogowski’s character runs around while waiting for the opportunity for safe haven while the fuses underneath him burn. That Petzold has found himself confidently able to apply his perfect sense of pacing and tension and cramped entrapment to a story that straddles that line between now and then with a sense of cynicism that keeps the heartpounding long after the movie ends just goes to show his masterful hand. And I know it’s cheap to love a movie specifically for its end credits song, but it is an all-timer choice.

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144. Wolf Children (2012, Hosoda Mamoru, Japan)

I’ll go ahead and admit that it took me a long time to get on the boat with Hosoda Mamoru. I still find his storytelling to be pulling from one single bag with a delivery that doesn’t necessarily hit me. I don’t know what it is about the SECOND watch I had with his long-acclaimed Wolf Children that finally hit me (especially since I still find moments that fall flat for me emotionally) but it did. Since I do have to explain each placing on this list, I would suppose it is the way that it structures itself effectively to have the children’s struggles with identity and Hana’s struggles with single motherhood intertwine so well together to understand how this family drama could be so complex and still come to a conclusion of emotional clarity that I could not fight it any longer as an epic tale of motherhood’s hardships and successes. Plus, I don’t have to say it here but Hosoda’s visuals here are tearjerkingly beautiful.

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143. Shoplifters (2018, Kore-eda Hirokazu, Japan)

Another filmmaker that I just was not in the bag for, but when a filmmaker does it right, they do it right. Kore-eda Hirokazu’s 2018 Palme d’Or winner earns that award with his quietly rich humanity and ability to deliver warmth even through a complex and hard premise… the kind of storytelling that makes you fully aware of the ramifications of it and how close they are to creeping up on our characters. And we don’t want them to happen to character so wonderfully embodied by a cast with the effortless chemistry that make a family reject the “found” qualifier. In any case, that same cast and Kore-eda’s assured directing make it so that dread is nowhere to be found in such a teetering drama and that’s the sort of relaxed and confident social observation drama without any dismissal that I like to see.

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142. Sorry to Bother You (2018, Boots Riley, USA)

A more experienced filmmaker probably would not have had the inconsistent pacing that Sorry to Bother You has, but I’m so glad Boots wasn’t an experienced filmmaker. More than anything else, that stop and go and stop and go gives the wonky mindset of this roller coaster of fearless visual ambitions and thematic bluntness in the form of overlapping metaphors and literalism. It is a movie so full of stuff anyway, all of it exciting and hilarious and energizing to boot, that I wouldn’t know what I would want him to re-arrange to get this shit to a more orthodox structure and besides which Lakeith Stanfield is an excellent enough straight man to all the cartoonery that I think he can hold our hand to keep us from vomiting and besides besides which we need more leftist cinema willing to break the rules like this.

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141. Li’l Quinquin (2014, Bruno Dumont, France)

Having it reported to me that Bruno Dumont is not known for making comedies is wild to me. I don’t think this European small-town tale inhabited with weirdos would work anywhere near as well for me if it didn’t a good-humored treatment of them all and understand that even at their worst, they’re all just people. Strange people but people nonetheless. It’s not even something applied to the characters, but to the setting itself as character… the ugly concrete is given the same visual softness as the skies above and the beaches surrounding and spending somewhere around 4 hours in this place with these folks begins to have a comforting languidness even while basically following a police investigator waiting for something to happen. I deeply wonder if Dumont has the same sense of generosity in his other films (this is my very first and so far only one). I would hope that Dumont got this far as an arthouse name by the sake of that same humanity.

The 150 Best Movies of the 2010s – A Brief Intro

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Well, here we are… Ready to dig into the main event itself.

It may have something to do with more of the volume and quantity of the movies I watched, but even if the 2010s haven’t turned out to be pound-for-pound the greatest decade in filmmaking (a matter I consider up for debate), it happens to be the decade I’ve lived in where I’ve seen more movies re-examine facets of themselves and trying to break and reshape the medium. I think that more than anything is what energized me about the art over that time span and kept me an enthusiastic filmgoer (and someone who dreams one day of giving filmmaking another try with what these movies taught me). I think it’s that enthusiasm that made me so erratic in making this list that when I at first aimed for the much more reasonable Top 100, I found so many honorable mentions busting through my head that I eventually decided to expand my list range. Not to mention how much you’ll find me cheating and attaching sequels I love to their also lovely predecessors and fit in two entire trilogies in their own slots. AND STILL I found myself arranging and rearranging the order until this very moment.

No more. It’s set, it’s done, I also think the selections have a particularly nice shape to their order here, and since my tastes and responses to film as they always will be… I hope I encourage others to use whatever they like from this list as a launchpad for their own personal exploration of the medium.

Thank you all for going along with me on this retrospective journey for my most adventurous decade as a filmgoer yet.

Anyway, since any post in this series feels naked without a list attached, I’ll throw in below the movies that were disqualified from the list for a variety of reasons.

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DISQUALIFIED ON ACCOUNT OF EXTREME AVANT-GARDERY:

  • ★ (2017, Johann Lurf, Austria) – How does one quantify a movie that is basically an archiving of starry footage? There IS at least one movie made entirely out of pre-existing footage, but it’s also more conventional than this movie and also isn’t as frequently amended.
  • Hommage à Éric Rohmer (2010, Jean-Luc Godard, France & Switzerland) – A way too dense 3 1/2 minutes that I still don’t think I’ve entirely grappled with.
  • PROTOTYPE (2017, Blake Williams, Cananda) – Something about this movie makes it at once more and less accessible than Goodbye to Language, if that makes sense. It doesn’t, I know.

DISQUALIFIED ON ACCOUNT OF BEING BEING 2009 FILMS THAT CAME STATESIDE IN 2010:

  • Amer (2009, Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani, Belgium & France) – Fortunately watched soon enough to catch on to Cattet & Forzani’s brand of genre pastiche. I’m all ’bout it now.
  • Fish Tank (2009, Andrea Arnold, UK) – Got me on board with Arnold’s style of social observation.
  • I Am Love (2009, Luca Guadagnino, Italy) – Introduced me to Guadagnino’s wonderful sense of lavish style.
  • Last Train Home (2009, Lixin Fan, Canada) – Would have absolutely made the top 50.
  • Mother (2009, Bong Joon-ho, South Korea) – I’d be willing to say this was the best Bong movie released stateside in the 2010s.
  • A Prophet (2009, Jacques Audiard, France) – The single greatest movie in Audiard’s entire career and also personally one of the major instances I’ve encountered an Algerian protagonist in Western cinema.
  • The Secret of Kells (2009, Tomm Moore, France Belgium & Ireland) – Introduced me to Cartoon Saloon’s style of shapes and lines.
  • Sweetgrass (2009, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, USA) – Same as Last Train Home, would have been on the top 50 for sure.
  • White Material (2009, Claire Denis, France) – Just to remind folks that Isabelle Huppert was always the dopest and Denis as well.

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DISQUALIFIED ON ACCOUNT OF BEING LONG FUCKING DELAYED MOVIES RELEASED STATESIDE IN 2010:

  • About Elly (2009, Asghar Farhadi, Iran) – An absolute shame that this movie had to wait on the acclaim of A Separation for people to finally get to see it 6 years later.
  • The Other Side of the Wind (2018, Orson Welles, USA Iran & France) – Would probably be in my top five of the decade if it wasn’t the combined fact of its lack of time to it and the knowledge that we will never see a version of the film that Welles signed off on.

DISQUALIFIED ON ACCOUNT OF BEING A MUSIC VIDEO:

  • “Alejandro” (2010, Steven Klein, USA) – Lady Gaga’s actual best movie of the past 10 years, eat it A Star Is Born.

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DISQUALIFIED ON ACCOUNT OF NOT BEING A MOVIE – TV EDITION:

  • Devilman Crybaby (2018, Yuasa Masaaki, Japan) – If Neon Genesis Evangelion doesn’t get considered a movie, neither does this.
  • Over the Garden Wall (2014, Patrick McHale, USA) – Maybe the toughest one to disqualify but I stand by it. A miniseries that did not premiere at the cinema is television, not film, and if you put a knife to my throat and told me to denounce Scenes from a Marriage and Dekalog as cinema, I’d do that too. Still wonderful animation that I rewatch every Halloween season.
  • Primal (2019, Genndy Tartakovsky, USA) – Nice try, Cartoon Network, submitting this to the Oscars. This was literally renewed for a second season before it was submit to the Academy. Anyway, it wipes the floor with Samurai Jack season 5 on a level of pure visceral violence and emotional storytelling from blocky visuals and Samurai Jack season 5 is still among my favorite things I’ve watched in the past 4 years.
  • Sense8 (2015-’18, The Wachowskis & J Michael Straczynski et al., USA) – ‘Cause obviously I need to recognize the brilliantly pure work of two of my favorite storytellers and the extended family with which they created this.
  • The Tatami Galaxy (2010, Yuasa Masaaki, Japan) – If a certain Yuasa movie is gonna show up on the list proper, it only makes sense to acknowledge
  • Twin Peaks: The Return (2017, David Lynch, USA) – It’s a tv show, y’all. Accept it. It’s one of the best pieces of media released in the last 10 years (it would make my top 10 if I were so wrong-headed), but it’s a tv show.

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DISQUALIFIED ON ACCOUNT NOT BEING A MOVIE – VIDEO GAME EDITION:

  • Celeste (2018)
  • Cuphead (2017)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)
  • Mario Kart 8 (2018)
  • Super Mario Odyssey (2017)
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (2018)

In which I out myself as basic bitch for Nintendo, but y’know what they have shown some eye-watering bright animation and storytelling on a level that I just respond too purely for.

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FILMS I WISH I HAD SEEN IN TIME FOR THIS:

  • Ace Attorney (2012, Miike Takashi, Japan) – Could this be the fabled first unconditionally good video game movie (if you’re a basic motherfucker who doesn’t like Resident Evil: Retribution)?
  • Aniara (2019, Pella Kagerman & Hugo Lilja, Sweden & Denmark) – Hoped that this way more High Life than Ad Astra, but unfortunately the closest theater near me to play it did so at times I couldn’t go.
  • The Arbor (2010, Clio Barnard, UK) – Seems dense in a very understated way. I’d like to be prepared for it.
  • Doggiewoggiez, Poochiewoochiez!! (2012, Everything Is Terrible, USA) – I sound like an absolute monster when I say that I just couldn’t find time to watch this version of The Holy Mountain made up of dog videos. Maybe I can watch it with my dog – assuming none are hurt because I don’t expose my baby to that.
  • High Flying Bird (2019, Steven Soderbergh, USA) – Soderbergh hurt me hard with Unsane and I need to prep myself for another shitty looking iPhone shot movie from a director I once trusted.
  • Like Someone in Love (2012, Abbas Kiarostami, France & Japan) – The one Kiarostami feature of the decade I missed and given my affinity for tales of isolation in Japan, I don’t know how I missed this.
  • Love 3D (2015, Gaspar Noé, France & Belgium) – I stand by the fact that Noé makes movies unlike anybody else, but y’know watching a dick ejaculate in your face in 3D is something you gotta be in the mood for and I just wasn’t when it played near me.
  • Office 3D (2015, Johnnie To, Hong Kong & China) – My white whale 3D picture. I moved to Queens just after this movie played in the Metrograph and a 3D office-based Chinese musical by one of the 21st Century’s best names in action sounds like absolutely my jam. Hope I can encounter it in the wild someday.
  • Mysteries of Lisbon (2010, Raúl Ruiz, Portugal) – Told that this is something to admire and I do love me a good costume drama and especially by experimental filmmakers.
  • Le Quattro Volte (2010, Michelangelo Frammartino, Italy) – A weird ass spiritual movie that’s less than 90 minutes? How haven’t I seen this yet?!
  • Under the Silver Lake (2018, David Robert Mitchell, USA) – More like movie I wish I had finished as I had started it but life got in the way. I’m not convinced it would have made the Top 150 but I’m sure it would have stuck deep in my head.
  • Victoria (2015, Sebastian Schipper, Germany) – The trailer alone is one of the best visual things I’ve watched this past decade. I have deep hope the feature lives up to it, please.

DISQUALIFIED ON ACCOUNT OF MY LACK OF BIG BALLS:

  • Cats (2019, Tom Hooper, USA) – I’m nothing but a coward.

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The Worst Movies of the 2010s

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We all know that movies are great. What this list presupposed… maybe they aren’t? I’ve seen just as much shit as I have seen great works to the degree that I think they deserve their own collated list at this point with all that same TLC that the Great Movies do to recognize my pain and tragedy in watching this crap. And I think you can all take a quick guess as to how many of these movies are from a certain country, which dishes ’em out like no other.

Anyway, given the amount of stuff I’m going through, the low enthusiasm for it all, and the energy I’m trying to conserve for the big event starting tomorrow, I would be forgiven for just using this opportunity to talk shit and snark more than anything. Let’s get this wallow into the circles of Hell that are movies over with…

The 50 Worst Movies of the 2010s

50. Pixels (2015, Chris Columbus, USA & China)

Gets as high as it does on the basis of some magnificent Visual Effects – it was definitely not too far from making the Motors in that category – but the rest of it remains the same sort of obnoxious Sandler and Friends style comedy that I outgrew ’round age… 10.

49. Serenity (2019, Steven Knight, USA)

I’ve grown to feel it’s unfair to call this film bet-hedging against criticisms with how much it doesn’t resemble any human being. It absolutely believes in the core themes of itself and that’s what damns it even more.

48. 47 Ronin (2013, Carl Rinsch, USA)

Treats Japanese culture like some Epcot pavilion except Disney World is supposed to be the happiest place on Earth and Rinsch’s direction is absolutely not.

47. Alice in Wonderland (2010, Tim Burton, USA)

In a long line of movies that are almost exclusively not good (you’re safe, The Jungle Book ’16 and Pete’s Dragon), I’d say that Burton’s Alice in Wonderland edges out as the absolute nadir of Disney’s Live-Action Remakes of Animated Classics phase. Never indulge Tim Burton that much.

46. The Emoji Movie (2017, Tony Leondis, USA)

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45. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (2010, Mike Mitchell, USA)

If I was stuck on a boat with these characters for 15 minutes, I’d kill myself. Stuck on an island, I’d kill them all and then myself.

44. Tom & Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (2017, Spike Brandt, USA)

Algorithmic cinema at its most painful, particularly since Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is at the bottom rung of my Roald Dahl rankings, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is a movie which I’m not very warm on, I have next to no love for Tom & Jerry, and I have absolutely none for cheap animation.

43. Skin (2018, Guy Nattiv, USA)

Quite possibly the worst Oscar winner that I have ever seen, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves: this is the level of wrongheaded “what the fuck is going on?!”-ness that accomplishes me hating a movie on a level of principle. This movie’s treatment of race is grotesque.

42. Hop (2011, Tim Hill, USA)

Spent way too many summer nights as a water park lifeguard during undergrad suffering this replaying over and over and over on the giant screen. Y’know, for the kids. Don’t get why movie studios treat them like braindead zombies with releases like this.

40. Friend Request (2016, Simon Verhoeven, Germany)

Made by a guy who comes from a background knowing how to make movies but not knowing a single way that humans work, let alone social media and horror.

40. I Melt with You (2011, Mark Pellington, USA)

It’s like if The Virgin Suicides were performed by deadbeat toxic assholes. It’s like the version of Knight of Cups that could have been with a storyteller that understands no nuance and had cinematography that looks like the result of a concussion. The only thing that satisfied me for the entire two hours was occasionally thinking about that joke of bros trying to find a place to pee, one of them being like “just pee on the world”, and the other peeing on his friend’s mouth because “you’re my entire world, bro”.

39. Sabotage (2014, David Ayer, USA)

The Ayeriest of all of David Ayer’s movies: lionizing garbage people, having an absolute lack of commitment in its genre and tone, overlong as all hell, and visually ugly as shit.

38. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018, David Yates, UK & USA)

Don’t know how we got here from a reliable machine line of product that the exact same people involved shot out for a decade for 14 years but I guess it had to break down sometime and I guess JK Rowling’s inability to serve all the different masters of the screenplay had a domino effect on anybody being able to deliver a consistent and fun time. Every time I realize the past year of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have indicated an unprecedented dip in quality after having a reliable but uninteresting house style, I look at this movie and realize no… things could get worse for cinematic universes.

37. Remember Me (2010, Allen Coulter, USA)

Several movies on this list have twists that make me jaw drop in their awfulness but this one truly takes the cake. I don’t know how somebody thinks of doing that to spice up and give their shitty teen angst drama depth.

36. Yogi Bear (2010, Eric Brevig, USA)

Hey, I can hate 3D movies too. You think I want to share space with the worst fucking cartoon from when I was a kid?

35. Mile 22 (2018, Peter Berg, USA)

Wasting the martial arts talents of Iko Uwais should be considered a hate crime and also remember when this movie ended trying to be a fucking multimedia franchise? The worst summer movie of the decade, Michael Bay aspires to be this bad.

34. 2016: Obama’s America (2012, Dinesh D’Souza, USA)

Less a Republican political screed and more D’Souza’s deep and desperate attempt to paint himself and Obama as long-time nemesis just because they both happen to be non-white Americans who are the same age. It’s kind of laughably pathetic how badly D’Souza wants to matter in the same breath as the at-the-time president here.

33. Vampires Suck (2010, Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer, USA)

The question is not how badly a Friedberg & Seltzer movie sucked. The question is why did it take me as long as the year of our Lord 2010 to realize I don’t have to keep doing this to myself.

32. Shaft (2019, Tim Story, USA)

I can’t dig it.

31. Polar (2019, Jonas Åkerlund, USA & Germany)

You give a European art director some Mountain Dew Code Red while telling them to watch John Wick and this is what you’ll get.

30. The Expendables 3 (2014, Patrick Hughes, USA)

In which Sylvester Stallone realizes he has run out of friends to drag into his hang-out comedy and so has brought in new blood that make the action icons’ acting look like Shakespeare.

29. The Last Airbender (2010, M. Night Shyamalan, USA)

I don’t particularly consider it the crime against the rich storytelling of the original tv series that most of this movie’s haters consider it to be. It’s a crime against the sacred art of moviemaking.

28. Gotti (2018, Kevin Connolly, USA)

I feel personally attacked when I see my stock of New Yawk Italian impressions weaponized for this. Why they break-a mah balls?

27. The Legend of Hercules (2014, Renny Harlin, USA)

Thinking my backyard make-believe when I was child had more physical presence than the CGI of this movie and us kids were probably more convincing and restrained performers too. But that’s quite ok because more than any other film on this list, The Legend of Hercules gives me legit giddy so-bad-it’s-good joy to the degree that I wondered if I needed to put it on here.

26. The Amityville Playhouse (2015, John R. Walker, USA)

One reliable discovery when I was following along the Alternate Ending Summer of Amityville marathon… realizing that thanks to the public domain of the name, there’s so many different ways that the Amityville brand has been run to the ground and so there’s always some new way regardless of how we get the same result: people fucking around in a house on camera to get an IMDb credit.

25. Paranormal Activity 4 (2012, Ariel Schulman & Henry Joost, USA)

Dear god, they stretched this so fucking thin. I like to imagine the producers realized how mileage had run out of this that they decided the next step was to add different gimmicks like 3D or Hispanic culture.

24. A Talking Cat!?! (2013, David DeCoteau, USA)

As bad as the visuals are – raw and unrendered with a fixation on one house’s wide shots to the degree that I wonder if this was a covert real estate ad – the worst thing is watching a superimposed abyss form on a kitten’s mouth to mimic visual speech. And as bad as the noisy air conditioning-level sound design is, the worst part of it is thinking a kitten would sound like Eric Roberts.

23. Amityville: Vanishing Point (2016, Dylan Greenberg, USA)

Now this is a movie that I’m not going to say much about because I have mutual friend between the director (though I think they have better things to do than read this list) and because it was directed by a 17-year-old and that’s just no fun to shit on. But… it IS on this list. For a reason.

22. Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013, James Wan, USA)

I guess before James Wan could finally complete his dramatic evolution to good popcorn filmmaker, he had to make one more piece of shit just to know that he could do it. Takes the terrible fiery crash of the first movie’s third act and dugs further under the ground.

21. The Bye Bye Man (2017, Stacy Title, USA)

It is a movie very deserving of its title – not only because it is unintimidating as hell, but because the misery and incompetence of its delivery gets to a point where saying “bye bye” out the door feels like the only sane solution.

20. Annabelle (2014, John R. Leonetti, USA)

Same as James Wan’s career, I guess the Conjuring universe had to bottom the fuck out before becoming the reliable source of spooks that I knew they could be. The tedious manner in which this movie doesn’t figure out how to construct scares is akin to a comedian who gives away the punchline fumbling and says “I fucked up, start over!” or a magician whose cards spill onto the dove cage and accidentally loosens them when he still hasn’t completed the trick. Glad this franchise and Wan got their shit together.

19. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (2015, Andy Fickman, USA)

When the deepest loathing towards your ostensible protagonist for the crime of just fucking existing goes way too far and somehow you find it possible to monetize into a Vegas hotel commercial.

18. FDR: American Badass! (2012, Garrett Brawith, USA)

I’m not sure but I think the last time I ever saw a certain group of friends I had in my college years was when we watched this movie after a brief pool party together. And they’re perfectly fine people so I’m not sure if it was just life that pulled me away from them or if it was unconsciously how much sitting through this thing felt like a waste of my soul.

17. The Roommate (2011, Christian E. Christensen, USA)

Nothing like sitting through the world’s most boring possible thriller, ain’t it?

16. Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party (2016, Dinesh D’Souza, USA)

Now that Obama was no longer going to be in the White House, D’Souza instead spends time on writing his own prison diary about how much scarier black people are to him in there and then occasionally remembers he’s trying to stop Hillary Clinton’s election so he intersperses it with some good ol’ Drunk History level reenactments of history, except the asshole is being annoying while sober.

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15. Amityville Exorcism (2017, Mark Polonia, USA)

That screencap was how I felt. I know that there was practically no money spent on this movie but it looks even cheaper than that.

14. God’s Not Dead God’s Not Dead 2 (2014-’16, Harold Cronk, USA)

Congratulations to God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness, which manages to have a different director and co-lead and therefore is not good but not bad enough to make this list. In the meantime, Cronk has given us plenty enough to muse over and laugh at, between the cod-Magnolia structure of the first movie giving a window to all the racism and sadism with a smile that the makers believe about non-believers or the fantasy treatment of the legal and educational system in the second movie as something out of the nightmares of an animated character with guilt over something done.

13. Leprechaun: Origins (2014, Zach Lipovsky, USA)

I’d rather take Warwick Davis’ annoying little prick over this indistinct grey blob of a monster, even if the inconsistent digital cinematography and underlighting will not change in any way.

12. Norm of the North (2016, Trevor Wall, USA India & Ireland)

The secret to solving global warming is obviously in the memeification of a badly animated polar bear dancing to “Shut Up and Dance”. That’s why most of this movie’s scene are made up of it, shoveling that exact movement pattern as often as possible.

11. Marmaduke (2010, Tom Dey, USA)

If any movie is destined to remain a time capsule of all of cinema’s worst habits for the 2000s AND the 2010s, it’s gonna be that talking animal movie based on a comic strip of which I don’t know a single person who finds enjoyment out of it. I like my baby dog to have actual good role models instead, so I’ll sooner show him Cujo and The Thing.

10. Point Break (2015, Ericson Core, USA)

Remember when I called Polar “Mountain Dew Code Red” up above. This is regular Mountain Dew but like way past its expiration date to the point where mold is forming onto the soda itself, but you drink it anyway because you’re so extreme and your shithead buddies in the form of this movie’s lead characters goad you into doing it and somehow all of the landscapes you’re looking at now seem mottled and green like through the eyes of Shrek’s digital tears. I swear this makes more sense if you watch it. We are a very far way from charm of Bigelow, Swayze, and even Reeves in the original.

9. Life Itself (2018, Dan Fogelman, USA)

Out of the four major “Does Not Know How Humans” work movies of this past decade – This, Serenity above, The Book of Henry, and Collateral Beauty – this one stands out specifically on how there practically no fun in watching it. It is a joyless thing of frequent and globe-trotting miserablism thinking it can pep it up with irony and meta-observations and what not. It’s not it.

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8. The Devil Inside (2012, William Brent Bell, USA)

This is a movie that opts not to finish itself but give you a now-defunct url at the end to watch the rest. Shit was going so wrong on all levels that they just fucking gave up.

7. The Atlas Shrugged trilogy (2011-’14, Paul Johansson/John Putch/J. James Manera, USA)

It only figures that such an unwieldy book with little satisfying returns would make for such an unwieldy set of films with absolutely no satisfying return, besides watching actors try to navigate through inscrutable character names and even more inscrutable philosophies. I have a friend (J.D., if you read this) who is absolutely gung-ho about making me write about these movies at feature review length later on, but the experience of going through them with the thankful breathers between release dates was already body-numbing that I need to mentally prep myself for watching the three of them in immediate succession.

6. Proud Mary (2017, Babak Najafi, USA)

Honestly lucky it’s only this low and not lower. This is legitimately poor filmmaking on the level of competency: sound design is unrefined, shots are not process fully, and the editing doesn’t follow eyelines. This is as bad as my student film. And it’s a studio production. Why do they keep doing this to Taraji P. Henson?

5. Detainment (2018, Vincent Lambe, Ireland)

The worst Oscar nominee I have ever seen. It already comes from extremely shameful and exploitative origins, but on top of that, there is not a single thing redeeming about it as work of art from the confused editing to the child performances to the most miserable gradations of grey and blue I’ve ever seen.

4. Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010, James Nguyen, USA)

Listen, I don’t want to be the one that points out that the midnight movie crowd latched on to the wrong fucking movie but… there is no active joy I get from watching something this blandly low-energy. I don’t know if it’s the repetitiveness of the effects that desensitize me from ironic enjoyment, if it’s the constant chest-thumping effort placed in preaching to us about environmentalism and global warming, or the feeling that I’m being blinded in various different ways by the cheapest DV visuals one could get from RadioShack. It most likely to be how every sequence lasts far beyond its welcome to us, even after we get the point of how bad it is. I just am not laughing with you guys, I want to change the channel instead.

3. Movie 43 (2013, Peter Farrelly et al., USA)

Somebody – probably Farrelly since he was producing this with long-timer Charles Wessler (both of whom we gave a Best Picture Oscar to so look’s like we’re the clowns) – had good blackmail material on so many fucking people. It’s one thing to deal with unfucking comedies, but an endless anthology of unfunny comedies is just unfucking bearable and watching esteemed A-listers go through with it feels like both sides are being punished as a result. Part of me not listing every single director here is just because the list is long, but I also want to extend mercy to those who deeply felt they had no other option.

2. Loqueesha (2019, Jeremy Saville, USA)

The product of a man who definitely likes the sound of his own voice like Saville, where 0 TLC is given to anything else than leaving open windows for him to elaborate on his personal thoughts and philosophies regarding how the world works or should work. Much of which is delivered as an attempt to justify him imitating a loud black woman stereotype for nearly 100 minutes because he thinks it’ll make his wisdom more digestible.

  1. Foodfight! (2012, Lawrence Kasanoff, USA)

A movie where the only thing about that feels like the product of humans is the fact that it was allegedly the subject of a false-burglary embezzlement scam. In any case, its bottomless attempts at trying to make the plot of Casablanca fit grocery items product placement is an evergreen testament of how soulless movies can be if you put work into that son of a bitch. And that’s just what’s wrongheaded about the narrative: look at that fucking clip. Tell me it looks different from what what was shown to Miyazaki Hayao and he called “an insult to life itself”. The proportions of the characters, the textures of the hallway, the movements of even the characters who aren’t supposed to be broke in the membrane, all of that is just so goddamn wrong and the movie is full up of animation on that level (apparently as a result of two different approaches that are incompatible: the animators wanted cartoon squash and stretch, Kasanoff’s fucking foolish ass wanted motion-capture. Motion capture of fucking what?! Thin air?!). I’ve seen too many Italian animated Titanic movies to call this the worst animation I’ve ever seen, but it is absolutely close-up there and it is fucking painful how fascinating an incorrect object this movie ended up being.