I know, it’s nearly fall and I should have taken the chance to go in depth about my top 25 (and top 10 worst) movies of the 2010’s back when these lists were still relevant, but considering the fact that the current decade is off to a less than stellar start, maybe it’s best to dive back into a decade when I could go to the grocery store without needing to leave my last will and testament out on the kitchen counter. Reminder that this is MY personal top 25 movies, and not a definitive “Best of” list, so please keep your complaints about ______ not being there to under 3 paragraphs.
25. The Neon Demon (2016)-
The Neon Demon is a very surreal, sometimes bordering on darkly comedic thriller about fame and the fashion industry and how people are changed by the expectations of society and by their own success. And also, there’s lesbian cannibalism, but that’s just a very small part of the movie. Yes, the script isn’t the best and the themes it’s trying to portray aren’t exactly handled with subtlety, but it’s one of the most gorgeous movies I’ve ever seen and some of the visual story telling and symbolism is breathtaking. Nicholas Winding Refn has cemented himself as one of the best modern filmmakers in the industry, and while Neon Demon might be style over substance, I really enjoyed it. Also, the soundtrack… Holy fuck.
24. John Wick (2014)-
John Wick came out of nowhere to be one of the best action films of all time. Just watching the trailer for this, I went in with zero expectations of it being any good and ended up being blown away with how well made it was. It eschews the standard shaky cam, quickly edited modern action film techniques for the ability to actually see what the fuck is going on and having people really learn good fight choreography. The plot is a generic revenge plot, but it works for the story and Keanu is perfect as the titular hitman. While the sequels improved on the world building and upped the ante when it came to the big set pieces, I think the first one is still my favorite of the trilogy.
23. Uncut Gems (2019)-
A very late entry into the list, the Safdie brothers have crafted an incredible darkly comedic thriller about gambling and not knowing when to say enough is enough. Sandler gives one of, if not his best performance as Howard Ratner, a sleezy jewelry store owner who is constantly in gambling debt looking for the high of that next big jackpot. There are some great celebrity cameos here and newcomer Julia Fox holds her own in her debut. This movie assaults your senses with how scummy almost everyone is, yet you can’t help but feel bad for the main characters by the end of it all.
22. Dunkirk (2017)-
In the realm of war movies, World War II is essentially the most popular whore at the brothel, but Christopher Nolan has shaped a fantastic film by taking a raw and minimalist approach to the genre. I would be shocked if Dunkirk’s script had more than 40 lines of spoken dialogue. The characters aren’t really fleshed out or even important. Dunkirk isn’t about learning why a character is serving their country, or who they have waiting for them at home. It’s more about the basic human instinct of needing to survive, and immersing you in the battle. What really sets the film apart is how “un-Hollywood” the whole thing is. Airplanes don’t explode when being shot down, the characters don’t act heroic or patriotic. It’s just about surviving the war, and nothing complements this more than the incredible sound design that is so visceral and immersive it feels like you’re actually being shot at by passing war planes.
21. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)
Even though I have to admit I’m not the biggest fan of Tarantino’s post- Inglorious Basterds work, I think I would be negligent to not include at least one of his films on the list, and OUATIH is definitely my favorite of the bunch. This film is a love letter to old-Hollywood, while also making fun of Hollywood itself. It is really more of a straight up comedy than Tarantino’s other works, and I really think it complements the film. Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio have excellent chemistry, and while I find a lot of the historical revisionism to be in bad taste, and I’m sick of how self-derivative Tarantino has gotten recently, I have to admit that the ending is still fucking hilarious and entertaining.
20. Inherent Vice (2013)-
Inherent Vice is a psychedelic noir crime film set in the 70’s that is as funny as it is thematic and complex. Some would argue too complex for its own good as even I didn’t really get the plot fully until I viewed it twice, but ultimately it is a great noir film with some equally hilarious comedy and stoner elements put in alongside it. Just the idea of a movie centering around a Jewish man who wants to be a neo-Nazi is hilarious to me. I’ve heard it’s a great adaptation of the source material but I wouldn’t know because I’m not a book critic. The cast is amazing, especially Joaquin Phoenix who, as always gives another great performance. Paul Thomas Anderson has proven that he is a fantastic filmmaker time and time again, and Inherent Vice certainly won’t bet the last time he’s on this list.
19. Hell or High Water (2016)-
Hell or High Water is a sophisticated crime film about the shortcomings of the American economic system disguised as a modern update to the classic western formula. It is a slick neo-western that takes themes relevant to modern day America and turns them into a story about bank robbers vs lawmen. I think what really sold me on this film was the stunning cinematography and the script that creates a great character study on the classic western outlaw transported into modern times. The cast, especially Pine and Bridges are excellent and director David Mackenzie proves that westerns can be easily made to reflect modern principles and issues, just as they did for the period pieces they were created to emulate.
18. Under the Skin (2014)-
I really don’t know how to describe Under the Skin other than as a horror version of Borat. The movie mixes real life, unscripted street footage of actual people with a trippy and weird tale about an alien that abducts and absorbs human’s bodies, and is a genuinely creepy mindfuck. Some of the scenes, especially the one where the dude’s body slowly gets sucked out of him is… This movie fucked me up man… Johansson is great in this, and the score is one of the most incredible, eerie, beautiful and chaotic compilations of music ever made. The film is a very interesting and unique look on what it means to be human, on top of being a very strange and complex horror film.
17. The Lighthouse (2019)-
A very claustrophobic and gripping film about two men trapped in a cramped lighthouse together for months on end, this flick is really carried by the incredible performances and chemistry of the two leads; Willem Defoe and Robert Pattinson. While the movie is tense and oppressive, it’s not short of amazing comedic moments as well, and the cinematography and overall look and atmosphere of the movie never makes the small, enclosed sets feel boring. The score is basey and brash, which just adds to the palpable tension of the film as well.
16. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)-
It’s hard to expect anything but greatness from the Coen Brothers, and Inside Llewyn Davis is no exception. This beautifully shot drama is a deep and engaging tale about a troubled musician looking for the success he desperately feels he deserves, but is too arrogant to compromise his artistic vision to achieve. The score, especially the musical numbers are the highlight and the cast top to bottom is incredible, especially Oscar Isaac who really steals the show. The movie is equal parts funny, melancholy and profound, and really struck a chord with me (pun intended) as somebody who is a musician and understands the issues of sticking by your artistic vision.
15. It Follows (2015)-
Probably my favorite horror movie of the last decade, It Follows plays with the relevant (albeit, not so understated) theme of how information and rumors get around easily in the modern age, as well as the stigmas around mental health, as the main character is stalked by entities that only they can see. The movie is as incredibly smart, tense and genuinely creepy as it is beautifully shot. It avoids the mistake many of these types of horror films make by ensuring that the rules are clear from the very beginning, and the world building continues to get stronger as the film wears on. The ending is a bit messy, but even considering that, It Follows is a suspenseful and stylish masterclass in lo-fi horror.
14. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)-
The word “charming” goes hand in hand with the words “Director Wes Anderson” and that’s the only way to accurately describe Moonrise Kingdom. Wes Anderson films are like a shot of morphine, they make you warm and happy inside. Moonrise Kingdom is similarly funny as it is touching, and the incredible cast really makes the movie. Wes Anderson’s unique style brings a sincerity and romance to the film that very few directors could even hope to pull off. Grand Budapest Hotel and even Fantastic Mr. Fox both probably deserve to be on this list, but with only 25 spots, I wanted other directors and genres to get exposure as well, and Moonrise Kingdom is my favorite of them all.
13. The Nice Guys (2016)-
It’s honestly sad that a grounded, well written buddy cop comedy feels so quaint and antiquated in the age of 500 million-dollar CGI blockbusters, but I don’t think I’ve laughed as much at a comedy recently as The Nice Guys. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling have unbelievable chemistry, and the movie is nothing but non-stop quotable lines, dry humor and visual gags. Director Shane Black has given us one of the best comedies I’ve seen in years, despite the fact that even the climactic action set piece at the end wouldn’t even impress as the opening scene of most modern films.
12. Nightcrawler (2014)-
Nightcrawler is without a doubt one of the most underrated films of the last decade. It is a spellbinding thriller about a journalist that pushes the line between morality and immorality. As somebody who understands how news is gathered and produced, the ethical and moral questions that this film brings up about journalism and the media in general are something that really hit home for me. Jake Gyllenhaal gives an Oscar-worthy performance and I think the dark aesthetic produced by D.P. Robert Elswit’s cinematography fits the subject matter perfectly.
11. The Raid: Redemption (2012)
As I talked about with John Wick, there are so many bland and generic action movies in this day and age that when a really good one releases, it sticks out like a sore thumb. The Raid: Redemption is in the same boat. This film (and its excellent sequel) are the best Kung Fu movies since John Woo’s Hong Kong masterpieces. Director Gareth Evans has constructed a movie that is non-stop raw ass kicking from beginning to end. There isn’t much to the characters here, but at its core there is still a good redemption story (as the title would suggest.) Again, I love how it does away with tons of shaky cam and chaotic editing to actually allow you to see the choreography happening. If you’re in the mood for a badass action film, The Raid: Redemption and its sequel are something I’d wholeheartedly recommend.
10. The Irishman (2019)-
Scorsese is a legendary filmmaker for a very good reason, and nothing has changed with his latest 3+ hour long epic, the Netflix exclusive The Irishman. The Irishman is markedly more contemplative than some of Scorsese’s other work, and because of this, it truly feels like the end of an era; the end to this generation of classic mob movies. Everyone is old and worn out in the conclusion and it just hammers home how we might never get a crop of actors like this again to represent the genre. Seeing Pacino, De Niro and Pesci on screen together again feels like watching an Avengers movie of mob greats. There are some fantastic bit parts like Ray Romano and while the digital de-aging is a bit distracting at times, it really is technically incredible work. When a 3+ hour movie flies by like it’s barely even feature length, you know you’ve created something special.
9. The Social Network (2011)-
At its core, The Social Network is a drama about fame and fortune and what it means to be propelled into riches, but what it really boils down to is a gripping relationship drama about two friends whose egos and greed destroy their connection to each other. This is Fincher’s best film hands down, and some of the scenes like the one where Spider-Man smashes Lex Luthor’s computer are so tense and gut-wrenching as the climax to the slow buildup of how much their relationship has deteriorated over money and business throughout the movie comes to fruition. The film is beautiful to look at and Trent Reznor’s score is literally perfect. The fact that this is all based on a true story makes it even more dramatic and interesting.
8. Parasite (2019)-
Director Bong Joon-ho has fashioned one of the finest films about the oft-touched upon topic of class warfare and the cultural divide between rich and poor. Parasite is correspondingly as tense, dramatic, weighty and funny as it is well crafted. A nerve-racking masterpiece of foreign cinema, my film of the year from last year is a masterclass in how to translate relevant political and societal issues into a film without it feeling overbearing or preachy. The last shot of this movie still sticks with me nearly 8 months after I first saw it. I hope that Parasite and Joon-ho’s speech at the Academy Awards really opens more people up to enjoying foreign films.
7. Phantom Thread (2017)-
At this point, I don’t need to tell you that Daniel-Day Lewis is a good actor, just as I don’t need to tell you that Paul Thomas Anderson is a fantastic director; the accolades speak for themselves. I think Lewis became a tailor for a year just to prepare for this role. In fact, I don’t even need to tell you why this movie is good, just fucking watch it. Phantom Thread is a stunning period drama about a tailor, something 99 percent of people wouldn’t be interested in, but the film is so finely crafted that it will leave almost anybody in admiration of it. The film is about tailoring, the fashion industry and haute culture in the 50’s, but it’s also a (pun intended again) deftly woven yarn about the mentality of an artist, the nature of romance and muses.
6. Mad Max Fury Road (2015)-
I’m sincerely surprised this film even got made if I’m being honest. They literally had to build these moving vehicles that are basically pieces of art, use stuntmen to vault off them and then blow them up using practical effects which in this day and age probably makes film executives cower under their desks, but director George Miller made one of the greatest action movies of all time. What really impresses me about Mad Max: Fury Road is that it could easily have just wallowed in the nostalgia of the classic films as so many later-day sequels do, and been essentially the old films but worse. Instead, it chooses to take the foundation of its predecessors and actually build on it to create a sequel that fits right into the franchises’ world. Fury Road is visually stunning and the cast, especially Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy steal the spotlight.
5. Scott Pilgrim Vs the World (2010)-
Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World is one of my favorite romantic comedies. Edgar Wright has proven himself to be an incredible comedy writer and director. There’s so much style in this movie, and so many Easter eggs and jokes and references to video games and graphic novels where the story originates from. The cast is brilliant and there are so many memorable scenes and characters. This movie is also visually incredible as it literally looks like a comic book brought to life in film form at some points. The score is also on point with some fantastic original indie and alternative rock tracks and covers.
4. The Favorite (2018)-
Yorgos Lanthimos has made some of my favorite films of the decade including The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Dear, but The Favorite is in a league of its own. This melancholy comedy is funny, but it also has amazing characters and an engrossing plot that constantly makes you switch alliances between the protagonists, which is rare in comedies. The film is almost a parody of monarchy and period pieces while itself being a great period piece. I actually love the look of this film and the set design and costume work is impeccable. Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz give some of the best performances of their careers and Lanthimos shows that he is a master of a genre I’ve now deemed “Melanchomedy.”
3. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)-
Blade Runner 2049 is one of those movies that reminds me why I love cinema. Besides the fact that this is one of, if not the best-looking movie ever, it really jumps off the original and adds to the world that the franchise takes place in without relying too heavily on nostalgia. Yes, it’s a very flawed movie, the pacing isn’t great and it feels as if it could have been about 10-15 minutes shorter without losing anything, but it’s impossible to ignore how immersive and transportive this movie is. Ryan Gosling gives another stellar performance as K, a synth who is sent to discover the secrets of synths being able to reproduce biologically. At its core, Blade Runner 2049 is a noir film, and the mystery, as well as K and his AI partner Joi’s characters are surprisingly engaging. Denis Villeneuve has released a cyberpunk masterpiece that will inspire generations of young filmmakers to come, just as Ridley Scott’s original did.
2. The Master (2012)-
I’m continually in awe of The Master as a movie every time I think about it. Not only is it one of the most gorgeous looking films ever made, it’s also one of the most well-acted movies ever to grace the big screen. The Master is a profound look at the human psyche as it deals with tons of heavy themes like PTSD, our purpose in life and how humans by nature need to feel like they belong; everyone needs a “master” so to speak. Phillip Seymour Hoffman gives an incredible performance as a charismatic cult leader that preys on people who are lost like Joaquin Phoenix’s Freddie Quell. The interview scene and the scene where Hoffman sings “Slow Boat to China” are some of the most incredible scenes in cinema history, the singing scene in particular is so haunting and oddly beautiful, I find myself reminiscing about it more than I should.
1. Drive (2011)-
Drive is my film of the decade for many different reasons, including the performances from Gosling, Cranston, Pearlman and Mulligan, the story, the action, the overall look of the film. But Drive reminds me that even genres that are overburdened with lazy garbage can be innovated upon. Nicholas Winding Refn has become one of my all-time favorite filmmakers, not just because of his unique and often drop dead gorgeous visual filmmaking and storytelling, but also because of his creative takes on different genres. Drive seems like it’s a movie that would appeal to a wide audience, but it turns the clichés of the genre on its head by taking an almost feminine approach to the action flick, which is usually seen as a very masculine affair. The color palate is very soft, with lots of pinks and light blues, the soundtrack is a bit quieter and less raucous, and it basically tells an almost modern-day fairytale like love story set in Los Angeles. All of this doesn’t change the fact that it’s also an incredibly well made and slick action movie in its own right.
Top 10 Worst Films of the Decade
10. Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010)
One of the absolute worst movies ever put to film, Birdemic is terrible in every conceivable way… But goddamnit if it isn’t also one of the greatest films of all time. This movie is up there with The Room and Troll 2 at the top tier of “So bad it’s good” movies. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed harder than I did when the protagonists are fighting off the Jpeg looking bird effects with clothes hangers. I can’t put this much lower on the list because unlike some of these other films, it’s bad because the people involved in making it have much greater ambition than they do talent to match said ambition, and I’ll take that over a movie being bad because all the corporations are ass raping it any day.
9. Unfriended: The Dark Web (2018)-
I frankly don’t know what they were trying to achieve with this film. The script is straight up trash tier, the concept is fucking stupid and most importantly, it’s not at all scary, which you would think would be a pretty big red flag for something trying to sell itself as a horror film. Yes, it is impressive that they were able to make a motion picture entirely on a web browser, but that’s like watching somebody drink an entire gallon of bleach in one sitting; I’m more impressed with the technical ability than I am with the logistics of it.
8. Fifty Shades Freed (2018)-
These Fifty Shades movies seem like low hanging fruit… Because they are, but they still deserve to be here for being goddamn boring. I didn’t go in with expectations seeing as this is based off Twilight fanfiction, which isn’t so much scraping the bottom of the barrel as it is drilling through the bottom of it until you hit bedrock, but I just can’t get over how the film’s major selling point, the kinky sex isn’t even well done. The films aren’t really risqué, they just tie their hands up and lightly spank each other a bit. I know this might seem like hardcore taboo sex to bored middle-aged housewives, but it’s R rated and I seriously doubt they couldn’t get away with a PG-13 rating if I’m being honest. What really makes my stomach churn is that the “romance” story in this series is so creepy and unsettling because if Gray wasn’t an attractive millionaire, then it would just be an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
7. Chips (2017)-
I’m seriously convinced Dax Shepard is only allowed to make movies in Hollywood because his wife is a good actress and he has friends in the business. That’s the only reason I can explain why this garbage was made. The idea of digging up an established franchise like CHiPs as a backdrop to an original buddy cop action/comedy is perfectly fine, but my god is this movie painfully unfunny. There’s seriously a 5-minute scene where the two protagonists talk about eating ass and it feel like it goes on for fucking eternity. The film is so lazily and cheaply made that I find it practically impossible that it had a much bigger budget than John Wick, both the Raid movies and Drive which are all some of the greatest action films ever made. Michael Pena is horribly miscast as the suave ladies’ man and him and Shepard have zero chemistry. When the baseline level of effort you’re putting into your movie is coming up with the tagline “Chip happens” then you know your movie is going to suck.
6. Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
This says Age of Extinction, but really it means every fucking Transformers movie Michael Bay has made this decade, this one is just the worst. This film is overblown, stupid pandering to China that gives so little of a shit that it’s actively removing shit from the universe. The humor is off-putting and usually racist, the explosions are over the top to the point I wonder if Bay has actually become self-aware, then the next scene starts with a low angle shot of a hot girl getting out of a sports car so obviously not. It’s paced like an ant pushing a brick through a desert, except that would be more interesting, and I’d probably actually be invested in the ant’s struggle. But whatever, it made a shit ton of money, so what do I know? I mean, where do I get off expecting actual art in my artistic mediums?
5. Jack and Jill (2011)-
There are so many bad Adam Sandler “Films” to put on this list, but Jack and Jill is the worst in my mind. Indolent, loud, abhorrently unfunny and just another fucking big budget money laundering scheme to give Sandler’s old SNL buddies paychecks on studio’s dime, literally half this movie feels like a Dunkin’ Doughnuts ad. Sandler gives one of the most obnoxious performances in film history as he plays both Jack and his twin sister Jill. The first time I saw an ad for this in the theater, I genuinely thought it was one of those jokey fake movie trailers they play before movies like Tropic Thunder or Funny People because that’s what it looks like, but no, trust me, it’s very real and it’s very shit.
4. Suicide Squad (2016)-
When I first saw this in theaters, I left thinking it was ok, but Suicide Squad is one of those movies that you grow to hate the more you think about it. The whole plot only exists because Viola Davis thinks she needs to put together a group of villains to shoot things… As if the military couldn’t do that. This film squanders its great cast, especially Leto as the Joker who honestly could have been completely removed from the film and it wouldn’t have made a difference. The music sounds like it was curated by giving an ADHD teenager an iPod shuffle and my god is this one of the ugliest movies I’ve ever seen. It looks like it was shot through a filter of somebody’s piss. It’s a bad Guardians of the Galaxy rip-off with none of the good writing, style, heart or charm that film had. I don’t get why they felt the need to make the antagonist a world ending threat when this type of movie would be better served with a more grounded villain, and David Ayer is the perfect director to make a gritty crime/action film about a black ops unit. Some of the worst lines in this film are still oft used internet memes. Just thinking about this horribly edited train wreck makes my blood boil. Time to move on.
3. Avatar: The Last Airbender (2010)-
Dear viewer, I would like you to read this next part in a totally non-patronizing voice. “Duhhh, I have an idea. Let’s make a live action adaptation of one of the generations’ most beloved cartoon series, hire actors based on one martial arts tape they sent in, fill it with godawful CGI, white wash all the diverse characters and never once pronounce the main protagonist’s name right.” Avatar: The Last Airbender is a disgrace to everyone who has ever seen the fantastic cartoon. Some of the worst acting ever put onto the big screen, some of the worst visual effects, and so many overstuffed elements that don’t need to be in the movie. The only good thing about this film is that Nicola Peltz grew up to be a very attractive woman.
2. Vampires Suck (2012)-
Again, this says Vampire’s suck, but it really means every one of these bad spoof “movies” including ones from the Wayans bros and Seltzerberg. A parody film comes from a place of genuine love for the movies your parodying. A good spoof movie pokes fun at the tropes of the genre and films its satirizing while also being a good movie in its own right. A spoof movie is something like Hot Fuzz, Airplane, Spaceballs etc. It is NOT spouting off 200 immediately dated pop culture references with no clever punchline or even a joke, just pointing to a thing in public cannon and reminding people that it exists. The fact that these abominations are even considered the same artistic medium as timeless masterpieces like The Godfather and Citizen Kane is an insult to everyone who will ever pick up a camera, professional or otherwise.
1. The Bye Bye Man (2017)-
I’ve seen some shit in my day. I’ve voluntarily watched Batman and Robin, Leprechaun in Da Hood, Catwoman even Battlefield Earth and I’ve NEVER in my life seen a widely released film as bad as The Bye Bye Man. You wanna know how long it took me to realize this film was going to be garbage? One second in when the opening shot of the movie was over exposed. I mean honestly, what do you want me to say? They called their horror film “The Bye Bye Man” and actually expected people to take it seriously. The movie is horribly acted, horribly written, horribly shot and the plot makes absolutely no sense. The idea is similar to It Follows (Sorry It Follows) in that the titular horror needs to be spread by word of mouth and human contact, but he kills everyone who knows he exists, which is completely counterintuitive to his whole existence. On top of everything, the film just isn’t scary, creepy or tense at all, which for a horror film isn’t so much an issue as it is a live hornet’s nest at Thanksgiving dinner. I know why films like this get made, because they can be produced for a shoestring budget and they’ll make their money back in one day from stupid teens seeing it with their friends but It Follows, one of the best horror films in years was made with 2 million dollars. It can be done so much better than this. I hate this movie and I hate that it takes up space in my memory that could be used for actual important information, like Russian Instagram Thots.