So, here we are! As the final hours of the decade come to a close, the only correct way to truly celebrate the start of 2020’s is to recap some of our favorite films from the past few years! Not only that, the only right way to celebrate this event, is to invite our readers to participate in this momentous article! So the following is our picks for the Top 100 Films of the Decade, submitted by you guys! This time, we can’t necessarily take the blame for our hot takes… Let the event begin!
100. Mary Magdalene (2018)
Biblical movies seem hard to make. It can sometimes feel like everyone, whether or not they’re a believer knows the story already. Not to mention how one could argue that religious texts stand the test of time because they take chances. It makes sense that today’s filmmakers would have to take risks in their telling of Biblical stories in order to make them compelling. However, the question remains. How do you tell someone a story that the majority of audiences have already heard time and time again? If you go too far in one direction, you could end up offending audiences like 1988’s The Last Temptation of Christ.
Mary Magdalene, starring Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix as well as Chiwetel Ejiofor, takes chances from the start by telling the story of Jesus Christ from the perspective of Mary Magdalene. Does it offend? The argument could be made that the figure, Mary Magdalene is one of the biggest casualties of Biblical movies that don’t take chances. So, seeing her as an apostle above all else who builds relationships and challenges the others in meaningful ways is a powerful change of pace. What the movie Mary Magdalene does especially well is tell a familiar story in a familiar way, but from a new and important angle. It reminds the viewer that while we’ve come a long way, we still have ways to go. Yes, we’ve heard it this story before, but just not like this. – Michael O’Neill
99. joker (2019)
For me it was between Joker (2019) or the Harry Potter finale for my pick for my favorite film of the decade. When it comes to it’s message however, Joker wins easily, Why is that you ask? Following a deranged man from his cruel upbringings to his extremist actions, and witnessing what made him become the Joker, is honestly very intriguing. After every continuous scene, you are just hoping for Arthur to not go crazy and break out of his shell. When he eventually does become the supposed clown prince, you no longer feel bad for him because you can tell he enjoys it. He’s a vivid maniac. Joker (2019) is an emotionally investing film largely due to how the viewer get’s to see through the lens that made him into what he becomes, and the dangers of limiting urgent mental health services. -Slodenz
98. tHE trial (2017)
My favorite film of the decade is a four-hour long fictional murder trial. Initially aired as a miniseries, the work is now considered to be a film in its own right, and was even shown at the Museum of the Moving Image in November. Tim Heidecker reprises his same-named character from On Cinema, a comedy web-series that is about almost anything except cinema. The narrative is too complex for a brief summary, but the gist is that Tim is now on trial for murdering children with poisoned vape juice.
At the heart of the film is a paradox that seemingly contradicts the run-time: despite the two-hundred and eighty-seven minute length, it should take no longer than one-tenth of it to realize Tim is guilty. An account of every offense Tim commits in and out of the courtroom would need to be its own essay. But the reason the film works is by presenting two trials that are happening concurrently: one being the trial of Tim, and the other being the trial of contemporary American morality. The famous presumption of “innocent until proven guilty” is put to its very limit, and both the judge and the other lawyers grow increasingly frustrated with the total ineptitude of Tim’s defense strategies.
The steady descent of these very strategies is hilarious and yet hauntingly bleak. It is impossible to not see Tim as a composite of Trump and Kavanaugh, and more largely a metaphor for a privileged alt-right adjacent group of men, who benefit from the unbalanced social system that keeps them from facing any sort of justice. The direction of Notarnicola depicts this allegory in its most banal and horrifying way possible; it is no coincidence the camera never leaves the side of the jury. We are meant to experience this film the same way we experience politics: on the sideline, hoping for the best, but fearing the worst. With all of this social context, it is almost a side-note that it is also one of the funniest films ever made. – Connor Karst
97. Alita: battle angel (2019)
The Alita Army is here. The online cult following Alita: Battle Angel has found has freaked out a lot of people, and made many others stay away from the film. But god, they’re missing out! Alita is a breath of fresh air, in an era of blockbusters that all look the same. Alita stands out. Rodriguez directs a quick paced action film, much like his Machete franchise — surprisingly closer to those levels of violence too. While breathtaking, those aren’t the highlights of this film. Alita is the first mainstream blockbuster about dysphoria since… maybe forever? It’s about feeling like you don’t belong to the body you were given, about finding the truest version of yourself, and that is extremely important! Films like Alita help give heroes to the people who never see themselves on the screen, and that is what makes cinema so important. – Gen GM
96. Tokyo vampire hotel (2017)
Tokyo Vampire Hotel is the most insane, violent, strange thing you will ever see! Between its colorful cast of screaming characters, its exhaustively expansive action, its giallo inspired decor, and the fact the entire series takes place inside a vagina seems like another walk in the park for subversive and esoteric auteur Sion Sono. But the scope of the story leads to its themes ringing alarmingly true. It’s a feminist epic, a tale of abused women reclaiming their strength to usurp systems of ancient power, through neon and blood, until the bitter end. The film and the extended miniseries is definitely worth a watch if you want your mind blown and your sensibilities altered! -Evelyn Williams
95. Guardians of the galaxy vol 2 (2017)
I know the MCU has become sort of a meme and joke on Film Twitter. But I think out of the films that have come out of the MCU throughout the years, the one that has struck the biggest core with me is Guardians of the Galaxy 2. God, I love this film at all accounts. It basically takes every issue the MCU is commonly known for and really makes it as a positive (like how visually stunning it is and Ego being a great villain; as well as the perfect balance of tone), and keeping everything that made the first film so great (like the soundtrack, character beats, and such) and expanding on it. But the most surprising element about the film is how real and deep it is, to where it’s basically an indie film that’s pretty much Magnolia meets Toy Story 2, disguised as a space opera.
That’s because how perfect the writing is by taking a look of the characters we love from the first film and examining on their flaws to show how they are real and flawed like us (which is saying something for a film that features a talking raccoon), and having deep themes about abuse, trauma, family, the act of selfishness and the importance of becoming a better person despite of your mistakes. Something you don’t often find these films. But it still keeps its fun, crazy, and over the top nature to its own advantage that makes the more emotional and dramatic moments feel more earned by the end. The film’s ending always makes me cry every time I watch it. Guardians Vol. 2 is a film that spoke to me on very personal levels), and it’s the only film in the MCU in my eyes that can truly stand its ground on what cinema can really be. – Haydn Elmore
94. The NIGHTINGALE (2018)
If The Babadook set new standards for horror films by using the power of fantasy to manifest real world terror, Jennifer Kent’s follow-up feature will do much the same through the shocking power of reality to expose the darker side of humanity in its truest, most unrestrained form. Set in 1825, Tasmania, 21-year-old convicted Irishwoman Clare Carroll (Aisling Franciosi) lives under the authority of a British settlement run by lieutenant Hawkins (Sam Claflin). Long overdue to be released from her sentence under the discretion of Hawkins, Clare’s husband Aidan (Michael Sheasby) begs for her release, which results in an unexpected, devastating event that leaves Clare no option but to seek pure, cold-hearted revenge. Guided through the wilderness by an Aboriginal tracker, Billy (Baykali Ganambarr), Claire embarks on her journey, and while worlds apart, the two form an unlikely bond fuelled by a relentless hunger for justice.
First and foremost, there is nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing in Kent’s vision that comes close to being exploitative or disrespectful. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. If one had the opportunity to examine Australia’s barbaric colonization period, Kent’s story would be considered a watered-down version of the events that actually took place. Every burst of brutality seen is nothing but necessary, forcing the viewer to endure heinous acts of evil against two groups of minorities; neighbors to those who invaded the land, and the original owners of the land itself. Kent carefully draws comparisons between the two, showing that the violence inflicted upon those wasn’t just limited to one’s gender or the color of a person’s skin; but from posing as a threat up against man’s desire to have control and climb to the top of the food chain.
No amount of on-screen bloodshed could ever depict the amount undocumented depravity that occurred in these times, and the bold choice to tell a story without censoring these acts only allows more room for empathy and understanding; ultimately highlighting the importance for compassion to move forward as a united, progressive society. On a technical scale, the film is crafted to perfection. The use of nature in Australian films hasn’t reached these eerie heights since the release of Peter Weir’s hypnotic mystery, Picnic At Hanging Rock; where nature played an integral role in conveying the mood and sometimes even the narrative force of the film.
Yet, where Weir’s film used the sun-bleached Victorian bushland as his backdrop, Kent’s is at the opposite end of the spectrum, employing a much colder color palette. Tasmania has never looked more enchanting; moss-laden forests and grey bark gumtrees wrapped in endless, icy horizons – all captured through a claustrophobic 4:3 aspect ratio, leaving less room to breathe visually and emotionally, as we journey with Clare and Billy into the ghostly wilderness.
This is essential viewing for many reasons; the most important one being that there has been no other film in the history of Australian cinema that has come this close to capturing the sheer brutality that unfolded during this specific time in history – a time which has shaped the current status of our country’s moral and ethical viewpoints till this very day. The Nightingale will no doubt repel unsuspecting audiences with its gut-wrenching violence, but others will be spellbound by the beautifully gloomy, rage-fueled parable of revenge, serving as a timely reminder of why the unyielding pain of our country’s dark past will forever linger. – Marc Ricov
93. A Beautiful Day in the neighborhood (2019)
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a sweet, touching, sincere movie that carefully and brilliantly encapsulates just how much of a difference Mr. Rogers was capable of making in just one person’s life, and the choice to approach a movie about Rogers in that way makes all the difference. Yes, the film is about Mr. Rogers, but it’s not his story. Rather, it’s the true story of one cynical journalist who grows to completely reevaluate his way of thinking, for the better of himself and others, through realizing just how much more there was to Mr. Rogers than just being a children’s TV show host.
This approach being favored over a standard biopic about Rogers himself makes for something incredibly moving and enlightening. Tom Hanks may not look the part, and he does take a bit of time to really buy as Fred Rogers, but soon enough, he just disappears into the role and gives it 110%. You really do feel like you’re looking at Mr. Rogers as a character, not just a role being portrayed by such an icon like Hanks. It’s not just him that carries the movie, though. The real star of the film is Matthew Rhys as the man whose whole life is changed in discovering Rogers’s philosophy of kindness and forgiveness, among other things, and subsequently owning up to his ignorance and mistakes, and finding the heart to make amends. Rhys gives a heartfelt and moving performance that sells him as a broken man learning to put himself together the right way. Of course, tying the whole thing together is the way it’s structured as a film. Marielle Heller directs this with an incredible sincerity, gentleness, and love; the same amount of those things as you’d find in an episode of Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood. In fact, they literally commit to that idea in many ways, book-ending it as though it were Mr. Rogers teaching us about what Lloyd Vogel (Rhys), and by extension, us, can learn from his outlook on life. It’s a unique framing device that’s executed perfectly. Something tells me Mr. Rogers himself would be proud of this film. –Jeffrey Patrick
92. Your Name (2016)
Your name may just be one of the most beautiful stories I have ever witnessed on screen. I don’t even think it’s possible to describe such perfection in words. – Matthew Cooke
91. wHITE TIGER (2012)
A war film unlike any other. In a strange twist of events, a Soviet tank commander, Naydenov, manages to survive severe, typically lethal burns. Now a man “born from war,” he believes he has the ability to understand the tanks he works with, as if they can talk to him. When word gets around that there is a seemingly invincible German tank, nicknamed the “White Tiger,” Naydenov takes on the revenge-fueled, Ahabian task of destroying it.
White Tiger proves to be a meditative, ground-shaking war film. On one hand, its deliberate pacing, unique premise, and final 30 minutes make it out as a rumination on war. The prospect of a phoenix rising from the ashes of a decimated tank, and the obsession he has with finding this tank, wherever it may be, speaks to the heart of the horrors and the impact of war. On the other, it showcases some fascinating battles and a unique bombast when our titular menace emerges from the fog of the battlefield. Marked by the striking sound of Richard Wagner’s music and its pale exterior, it truly is a specter of war. The tank’s cold, calculating presence is a perfect match for the awkward yet determined Naydenov.
Beautifully shot with an eye for the pastoral in the midst of conflict, and directed with a firm hand by Karen Shakhnazarov, best remembered for his Soviet comedies in the 1980s, White Tiger is a film so unique and arresting it is unbelievable. It may not prove to be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is the war film in one of its freshest, most fantastical forms. –Jacob Calta
90. lu over the wall (2017)
One of the more accessible films in Masaaki Yuasa’s filmography, Lu Over the Wall is a somewhat surreal exploration of themes like adolescence, identity, tradition and the power of music. It has Yuasa’s signature vibrant animation, an amazing score, a beautiful color palette and a powerful message on acceptance that’s all the more important in our current social-political climate. Sure, it’s an animated feature and wasn’t much of a hit when it first came out. But if I had to pick one film from this decade that’s guaranteed to leave anybody craving a second viewing, then it’s got to be this one! – Roi Ziora
89. spring (2014)
A genre-bending cosmic horror(?)- romance(?)- comedy(?) creation that is both grounded in a euphoric Linklater fashion to the fascinating interplay of both Evan and Louise, and is also deathly focused on its otherworldly mystique. Spring is un-categorical in every fashion, the roller-coaster of emotions (up until one of the best final shots of all time) and subversive screenplay will constantly make you wonder why most directors aren’t trying as hard as they could. The scenery and style are also pleasant too; heavenly by design and sun-soaked in execution. -Evelyn Williams
88. The BEACH BUM (2019)
Harmony Korine’s latest employs his trademark disregard for just about everything and nonchalant attitude towards incredibly taboo subjects (including but not limited to murder and elder abuse) that caused quite a few of my fellow theatergoers to up and leave before the halfway point. One of them said, and I quote, “I just expected more from a movie with Jimmy Buffett in it,” which I believe is massively unfair, because the only things Buffett’s presence promise are drugs and alcohol, both of which are present in copious amounts.
I was disappointed, personally, that so many locals failed to derive enjoyment from Matthew McConaughey peeing off a dock while holding a stray cat and sipping beer. But while there are plenty of downright insane moments like this one to enjoy and/or be offended by, The Beach Bum’s power lies in its simultaneously cynical and loving view on the act of creation. Korine’s film kills off every romantic idea of writing, and instead gives us two statements on its nature: first claiming that writing is a job where, like other jobs, the incentive is cash.
Of course, he also seems to feel just the opposite: there’s a certain love of the process present, the filtering of emotions, the distillation of experience into something you can share with others. Instead of suggesting these exist in conflict, Korine sees them two sides of the same coin, inseparable from one another. Or maybe he doesn’t. Whatever the meaning, wherever the power lies, whatever the driving force is, it’s overshadowed by the un-containable chaos of the artist that is Korine. I don’t care what The Beach Bum is actually about. I’m sure I’m not far off, I’m at least close to the themes. At the end of the day, I really just think it’s a crime for us not to recognize a movie where Martin Lawrence has a drug addicted parrot and Zac Efron vapes a lot, and then Snoop Dogg and Isla Fisher are there, too. The Beach Bum isn’t what I would call “profound” or “moving,” but I love it all the same. – Chance F
87. Eternity (2011)
Winner of the Tiger Award at the 40th Rotterdam International Flim Festival in 2011, Eternity (a.k.a TEE RAK, ที่รัก) follows a man who returns to his childhood home in the Thai countryside as he retraces and relives moments during his youth where he fell in love. As a story about love, longing, and reincarnation, Eternity excels in minimalist efforts in achieving a naturalistic yet almost dream-like quality which helps to create its own universe where time seems endless and where love is eternal. With very little action and activity, the film captures memories and moments of longing between lovers in the beautiful warm backdrop of the Thai countryside/rural area.
Although similar to to the films of his fellow counterpart Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Sivaroj Kongsakul, the director of the film, takes a different route by telling a story through a more simplistic and elliptical manner by using long shots, including characters walking and talking, and capturing gorgeous moments often accompanied with tranquil sounds such as a motorcycle ride, all of which work around the idea of reincarnation and reliving moments from the past. In a way, Eternity shows that the moments and environments during our youth where we were happy and found happiness will almost always remain with us. Eternity induces a calming and relaxing feeling. It’s a slow, quiet, and meditative film where patience is required. However, the beauty and subtlety of the film lie in the ability to discuss and showcase memories, love, and environments all of which shape who we are and our experiences; which is why it should be recognized as one of the one best (hidden gems) of this decade. – Kenneth R.
86. nothing really happens (2017)
It’s as if Napoleon Dynamite was written by Charlie Kaufman. A pure passion project made from people who care and love film. Something so unbelievably bizarre and outside the box that it needs to be seen by any movie fan, even if they end up not appreciating it. I guess Justin Petty knows my tastes and I cannot wait for his upcoming horror offering, even if it’s going to take another 4 years to complete like Nothing Really Happens. – Will Polnaszek
Perks of Being a Wallflower is a top tier coming of age teen drama; the best of the decade in my eyes. This movie encapsulates the true anxieties and joy of adolescence with such poignancy and heart that most indie coming of age dramas don’t even rival. Despite its corny moments, you feel this true sense of sincerity with this film. The performances are also top notch. Ezra miller honestly gives one of his top performances as Patrick and Logan Lerman truly kills it as charlie. You feel every bit of longing in his acting. You don’t just see him as awkward, you see all the nuances within the character that make him the way he is; which all compiles together with Charlie’s breakdown at the end as Logan just rips out in a panic attack. Its heart wrenching. The movie ends perfectly with the proclamation of feeling infinite in this moment, truly encompassing the essence of being young. I love this movie. It might suffer from being tumblr-ish at times, but its just so full of heart and sadness, that I just can’t help but love it. – Jordan F
84. The KING’S SPEECH (2010)
For whatever reason, the more pretentious side of “Film Twitter” loves to hate on this Best Picture winner. Call this drama clichéd and formulaic all you want, but it matters to me. The King’s Speech tells the story of King George VI (Colin Firth), who was considered unfit to be king due to his speech impediment. As a stutterer myself, I found this movie beautiful. To see someone like myself on screen, with my condition, fully formed as a character and not a punchline, really helped me out as a kid. It’s true – representation matters. – Elazar Abrahams
83. The Love Witch (2016)
A sumptuous and kitschy feminist throwback film that’s both equally erotic and inflammatory in its critique; sets in eyes of deconstruction modern gender politics through the comical lens of noir cinema. The technicolor visuals will set your eyes on fire, and the dialogue about tampons and sex will set your ears on fire. Samantha Robinson gives possibly one of the most controlled performances I’ve seen in a while, expertly keeping herself from being self-parodical. The Love Witch is a must-watch for genre fans! -Evelyn Williams
82. Manta ray (2018)
Every once in a while, I watch a film that puts me in a trance and I don’t know what film to start watching for the next few days. Manta Ray was emotionally affecting even at face value. I went in blind without knowing about the Myanmar events and the human tragedy which happened there. After I finished watching the film, I researched a little, and even though there are still details in the film that I don’t know what they reference , a lot of things still clicked and a lot of the more surrealist scenes made sense, in retrospect. I had a couple “oh wow” moments that gave the film a wider and devastating perspective.
The film has a calming, almost mesmerizing quality to it; especially in the first half where there’s minimal dialogue. It’s visually enthralling! The themes and humanistic values that are presented have a soothing effect, and there’s a melancholic score that becomes progressively haunting as the story develops.
It’s a deeply tragic tale, especially in the context of the real life situation that inspired it. But the usage of the cinematic medium is so effective, relying mostly on metaphorical storytelling, that even with the heart-rending backstory, it never gets too hard to watch or experience. Manta Ray is a saddening, but beautiful film that makes us look at a humanitarian crisis that is more and more present in many parts of the world today. – Vlad P
81. I Do Not Care If We Go Down In History As Barbarians (2018)
Seen by virtually no one due to a poor release strategy and to the sheer un-marketability of its length and style, Radu Jude’s postmodern epic I Do Not Care If We Go Down In History As Barbarians is one of the most criminally unseen and underrated films of the decade. We get introduced to the actress Ioana Iacob, who explains that she will be playing the character Mariana, a theatre director aiming to stage an historical reproduction of the events in 1941 Odessa, where the Romanian Nazi-collaborator Ion Antonescu ordered the massacre of tens of thousands of the city’s Jews.
Mariana’s ambitions for historical accuracy and inclusion of the victim’s voices are met with hostility and verbal abuse by extras, accusations of anti-Romanian sympathies by actors and censorship by a city official. But despite the sexism throw at her, Mariana perseveres, hopelessly countering phrases like “but what is truth even?” with thoroughly researched arguments. The result is a film proud of its intellectualism, unafraid to engage its audience in conversations about comparative trivialization and Hannah Arendt’s philosophy. Seeing that it primarily consists of debates between Mariana and a long parade of patronizing men, it may be too slowly paced for some. But those who sit with it will appreciate its wonderfully curious cinematography, riveting script and nuanced acting; and the viewer will be rewarded with an absolute bang of an ending. I Do Not Care If We Go Down In History As Barbarians’ central thesis is one us cinema lovers will not be keen to hear, but which cannot be ignored; even powerful art is sometimes powerless against ignorance and hatred. – Jons Klaessens