I realize that I’m a few months late in posting this list, but I put it off trying to catch up on some films and then I felt it was too late. Three weeks into quarantine, and I’ve finally found the time and motivation to put together my list.
Part 1. Honorable Mentions 101-150 (in alphabetical order)
Part 2. 100 – 91
Part 3. 90 – 81 (below)
Part 4. 80 – 71
Part 5. 70 – 61
Part 6. 60 – 51
Part 7. 50 – 41
Part 8. 40 – 31 (coming soon)
Part 9. 30 – 21 (coming soon)
Part 10. 20 – 11 (coming soon)
Part 11. 10 – 1 (coming soon)
- Leave No Trace (dir. Debra Granik, 2018)
A movie that I really enjoyed this decade but didn’t quite make the list was Matt Ross’s Captain Fantastic (2016). That film was a comedic take on father who raised his children completely off the grid. Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace cuts the comedic scenarios to tell something more realistic and heart wrenching. Will (Ben Foster) is incapable of living in anything resembling a society, and has raised his daughter Tom (Tomasin McKenzie) similarly. After getting caught, Tom and Will are temporarily forced into a community. From that point, the film focuses on Tom as she struggles with choosing the life she’s always known, and the only life her father can life, or belonging to a community.
- You Were Never Really Here (dir. Lynne Ramsay, 2018)
The first of Lynne Ramsay’s two films of the decade to make the list, what her production lacks in frequency she makes up by packing each film with an emotional depth that almost require her films be spaced so far apart. In You Were Never Really Here, Joaquin Phoenix continues to prove that he is one of the best actors working today as he disappears into the role traumatized veteran Joe. Though Phoenix rarely speaks throughout the film, the terror of his life is palpable thanks to his visual acting and Ramsay’s immaculate direction. Essentially what Joker (2019) would be if it was any good.
- Burning (dir. Lee Chang-dong, 2018)
2018’s Burning is aptly named as it’s an extremely slow burn. What appears to be a simple slice of life film slowly evolves into a thriller. Steven Yeun plays the would-be antagonist perfectly ambiguously leaving much of the thriller components in the lead’s (Ah-in Yoo) head. Director Le Chang-dong uses atmosphere to further enhance the uncertainty in the film. Ah-in Yoo is frequently shot enshrouded by fog further emphasizing his confusion. The entire film is shrouded in mystery visually, narratively, and emotionally.
- Honeyland (dir. Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov, 2019)
Honeyland is a devastating documentary following Hatidze Muratova, a Macedonian beekeeper whose livelihood is threatened by greedy practices. The tragedy of the tale is that it’s not her greed that threatens her life, but that of her neighbor whom she befriended and taught her business. Honeyland is immersive in its portrayal of Muratova’s pastoral life. Her seemingly banal existence lends beauty to her circumstance but proves all the more heartbreaking when capitalism’s evil takes it all away from her.
- Krisha (dir. Trey Edward Shults, 2016)
The opening long shot perfectly sets the tone for Trey Edward Shults’s debut feature Krisha. Krisha (Krisha Fairchild) is disheveled as she walks back and forth struggling to navigate the suburban streets of near identical mini mansions. This is not her world, and she is not ready for what’s to come. Meeting with family, many for the first time, after a long absence for a Thanksgiving feast is a shock that she is not ready for, and the memories that are dredged up only make things worse. Through long cuts an eerie score, and perfect sound mixing, Krisha recontextualizes a family drama and terns it into the horror movie that it can be.
- The Kid with a Bike (dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2011)
The Dardenne brother’s are masters at making stories of the working class. The Kid with a Bike continues that trend, but expands upon the brother’s motifs by introducing a 12-year-old boy who is a victim of a working class life. Cyril (Thomas Doret) was abandoned by his working class, drunk father and lives in a children’s home. The abandonment has resulted in him acting out and becoming all together difficult. Only through a chance meeting with Samantha (Cécile de France) is he able to find someone to emotionally support him. Strong acting from both leads mixed with the Dardenne’s sentiment resulted in an excellent film.
- Moonrise Kingdom (dir. Wes Anderson, 2012)
Wes Anderson is at his best when he’s working with children. His precision and whimsy can sometimes verge into the uncanny, but when the audience surrogate is a child, the style is more reminiscent of a storybook. Both child leads, Kara Hayward as Suzy and Jared Gilman as Sam, adapt to Anderson’s heightened dialogue and create an amazing love story. Their story fits perfectly into the storybook that is a Wes Anderson film world.
- The Babadook (dir. Jennifer Kent, 2014)
Queer icon and grief monster Mr. Babadook got his start from the Jennifer Kent film titled for him. Horror wearing it’s allegory on it’s sleeve can be a good thing when done well, and Kent is able to effectively create a terrifying experience while still being heavy handed with said allegory. Essie Davis as Amelia perfectly captures the mindset of a woman tortured with unprocessed grief. Noah Wiseman plays her son Samuel and is the perfect creepy child in a horror film. These performances combined with a terrifying monster and immaculate horror direction create one of the best horror films of the decade.
- Paddington 2 (dir. Paul King, 2018)
In these trying times, I think it’s important to remember what the philosopher bear Aunt Lucy said, “If we’re kind and polite, the world will be right.” Paddington 2 is the quintessential nicecore film. The CGI bear, voiced by Ben Whishaw, is pure hearted to a fault, and even when that gets him in trouble, he reflects on his aunt’s words and solves his problems by continuing to be nice. The supporting human casts of Sally Hawkings and Hugh Bonneville as Paddington’s adoptive parents, and Hugh Grant as the high camp antagonist, further enhance the charm that oozes out of Paul King’s film. While the first Paddington (2015) is also a delight, Paddington 2 builds on the strong foundation and creates a perfect family film.
- We Need to Talk About Kevin (dir. Lynne Ramsay, 2011)
For much of the decade, Tilda Swinton played idiosyncratic characters in heightened films. She became a staple of well-regarded indie comedies becoming a staple of both Wes Anderson and Jim Jarmusch. A decided outlier from the very beginning of the decade is her leading role in Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. In it she plays the mother of the titular Kevin (Rock Duer, Jasper Newell, and Ezra Miller depending on the time period) who is all alone and is trying to recover from an unknown event. As she goes about her day receiving endless abuse, she reminisces on her experiences raising Kevin whom she saw as evil when no one else did. A dreary film that shows off Swinton’s dramatic prowess.