60. Detroit (2017)
It’s hard to write about a movie like this. When you have a film based on true events, there’s a degree of difficulty added to the job of judging the film on it’s merits, strictly as a narrative. They say it right at the end, before the credits; they didn’t have a lot of hard evidence of what this movie depicts, so of course, things were dramatized or created to make a cohesive story. Whether or not the story they tell as a whole feels respectful or tasteful to either people who were somehow involved in these events, or people who are looking at it with a historical lens, is a whole other animal. Going in, I knew next to nothing about the Detroit riots, other than that they happened and they were historically significant. As I write this, I still don’t know much about them, and I don’t know how much and what parts of this film are true to life.
But how is Detroit as a movie? It’s very, very good! But difficult to watch. I’m aware that Kathryn Bigelow often tackles hard-hitting topics and real life events like the Iraq war and the Bin Laden manhunt. Shot in a largely documentary style, we spend a good 20 or 30 minutes being immersed in the world of Detroit during these infamous riots. From there on out, it focuses on an isolated incident at the Algiers Motel. The whole cast does a great job. John Boyega, Jacob Lattimore, and all are excellent. But the real standout here is Will Poulter, playing a clearly wrong-in-the-head police officer who pushes the victims in the Algiers too far, until it finally goes terribly wrong. Poulter gives what may be his finest performance yet, successfully being terrifying and despicable in the same vein as J.K. Simmons in Whiplash or Tom Hardy in The Revenant.
Sound and picture editing are key ingredients in this films ability to unsettle you to the point where you feel as though you are right there in the Motel as it happens. Noises stack on top of each other in tense moments, and they build and build and build to take it even further. This movie knows how to build tension extremely well. This is an extremely well made, well crafted film, but it sadly doesn’t seem to be what people are in the mood for right now, considering all that’s going on in the political world today. And I don’t blame them; this is a very hard hitting film that will leave you desperately wanting to see something happier afterwards. It’s not a popcorn film. By all means, check it out, but be warned, it’s a tough sit. –Jeffrey Patrick
59. T2: Trainspotting (2017)
Massively maligned for seemingly no reason, T2 marks a startlingly self aware turn in Boyle’s career. A rather somber reflection of the overwhelming stranglehold nostalgia has on culture, and the interpolation and juxtaposition of images. There’s heartache between the lines, and the digitality of the visuals soar. The finale looks like Skyfall, no exaggeration! And the way the cast comfortably slides in, but evolves each of the characters gives this movie weight. Even if you watch both in the series in a row, you can feel the 20 years of legacy T2 has on its shoulders. Plus the scene in the garage set to Relax by Frankie goes to Hollywood is nothing short of brilliant. -Evelyn Williams
58. THE MUPPETS (2011)
This decade has given rise to the massive popularity of endless reboots, sequels, and remakes, but none have done it better than the constantly hilarious and self-aware The Muppets. As Walter travels through the world of Kermit and Miss Piggy, learning how to reconcile his childlike mindset with the adult world he must soon enter, he acts as a stand-in for the audience member who may too be clinging too hard to young nostalgia to really grow. While many movies preach stifling that inner Muppet to grow up too fast, this movie gives a unique perspective on how to learn from your child self and become a Muppet of a man (or a very manly Muppet?). It’s both a ridiculously fun adventure for the children who want bright animals and a way for their parents to reflect on how to unlock that old innocent part of themselves and create a (rainbow?) connection between who they were and who they want to be. And if it has Emily Blunt reprising her Devil Wears Prada role and Amy Adams in a duet with Miss Piggy, how could it not be amazing? – Matt Gannon
57. Marriage Story (2019)
Marriage Story is another touching, emotionally battering, and undeniable masterpiece from the brilliantly humane mind of Noah Baumbach. My heart hurts, yet I cannot stop smiling thinking of the film. Its touching, raw, and a true tonal balance that makes you feel like a fly on a wall. There’s this touching — equally shattering — love and anger to the film that feels much more gentle and precise than Baumbach’s snarky – equally brilliant – divorce-debut The Squid and the Whale. The presentation of the film is so moving and adds so much as time is presented as chaotic as can be, but the tone is mostly bittersweet.
Charlie – portrayed by the impeccable Adam Driver — is such a perfect deconstruction of the New York artist. His ambitions and faults and passion is put into this lovable and imperfect husband who is full of so much raw emotion. Nicole — who Scarlett Johannson rides a pitch-perfect mood throughout the whole film, building the experience to momentous heights – has these same actions, but the approach is so much more different. This touching experience wouldn’t be nearly as effective without these beautiful and dedicated performers. Laura Dern’s character Nora is really what elevates the film and transports the tone flawlessly. Her introduction – accompanied shortly before a heart wrenching uninterrupted one-take monologue by Johanson is so nuanced, though her intentions are so clear. This small ensemble and two unparalleled leads are what make Noah Baumbach’s wondrous script.
Though Marriage Story is a dialogue-heavy film it doesn’t make the technical aspects any less impressive. Jennifer Lame’s dance-esque editing – strangely reminiscent of her work on Ari Aster’s Hereditary — gives the already brisk pace even more momentum. Robbie Ryan displays once again — firstly shown to me through the stunning presentation within The Favourite — to be the master of lighting. These elements plus Noah Baumbach’s personal touch make Marriage Story not only a personal and intimate achievement but a technical one as well. – Hayden Welch
56. The FLORIDA PROJECT (2017)
No film this decade has quite captured the pure spirit of childhood as much as Sean Baker’s The Florida Project. Released in 2017, the film is shown through the eyes of a young girl named Moonee and details her day to day fun and heartbreak. The film highlighted the forgotten families and people around America who live paycheck to paycheck, day to day, just to keep shelter over their heads, on the brink of homelessness.
The children in these situations are what drives The Florida Project, to keep it joyous, exciting but also sad and dire. The balance of tone that Baker has put to the screen is truly incredible. He is able to balance happiness and sadness with ease, all through the difficult lens of childhood. The Florida Project is such an important and relevant piece of film making that encapsulates what it means to be a child and how the environment affects them at such a young age. The ending; although extremely divisive, in my opinion, wraps the whole movie up in the most perfect way. It doesn’t matter your possessions, where you live, who you were born to; you can go anywhere if you imagine and dream hard enough. There may seem to be barriers in your way, but with enough persistence, you will find a way. – Julian P
55. House of tolerance (2011)
House of Tolerance, set in the turn of the twentieth century, is a languorous film about the women who work in L’apollonide, a respectable Parisian brothel. The film operates in an observational mode. Director Bertrand Bonello is attentive to everything within his characters’ purview — the basic operation of the house, the interpersonal dynamics between one another, the procedures of their work, etc — and in doing so, communicates the distressing reality of their situations. A woman may leave the brothel only if they have paid their debts which are accumulated through extended stay and expenditure necessary to flourish.
The eroticism on display is almost never titillating, rather it borders on horrific or peculiar as we watch them engage in their clients’ varying paraphilia (a reference to Ernst Lubitsch’s “The Doll” is instigated through a human-doll fetish). The film possesses a tincture of warmth, however, sustained through the communal affection shared between one another. The sense of sisterhood among them is never lost. In a wonderful bit of anachronism, the women sway to The Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” mourning the loss of their friend. It’s an unexpected moment. Bonello’s choice to include a diegetic cue decades ahead of their time, but equally affecting nonetheless. House of Tolerance is a compassionate and beguiling piece of work; so if you’re unsure of what your next film will be, make it this one. -Ryan R
54. Sing street (2016)
A low income family in 1980s Dublin sends their youngest son to a new all boy school where he decides to handle all of his problems (bullies, divorce, girls) by writing music. Sing Street is full of rich and fun original songs inspired by the likes of Duran Duran, Hall and Oats, and The Cure, that I’m still listening to regularly years after my first viewing. The film’s cast have incredible chemistry together keeping me laughing, crying, or both throughout the entire run-time. While this is a coming of age story through and through, the real heart of this film is brotherhood and the support family gives you when you need it. The relationship between Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) and Brendan (Jack Reynor) is the real emotional force behind the film. The final moments leave me in tears every time. -Tyler DeSoto
53. the social network (2010)
The Social Network summed up the 2010’s perfectly. We live in a decade dictated by social media, the somewhat gray area that it influences our every day through the lens of Facebook and how it was born in Silicon Valley. David Fincher’s vision is immaculate! – Caless Davis
52. Manchester by the sea (2016)
A fair amount of adult, prestige dramas of the decade focus on the “big scene” or capital A Acting. They spend the entire time building up to explosive moments from talented artists, while still not feeling substantial at all – even some of the best movies of the decade fall victim to this (see Marriage Story’s hotly contested ‘big’ scene). All of this makes Manchester by the Sea more refreshing in a climate of sweeping dramas and operatic Oscar-winners. Kenneth Lonergan’s third film is anchored by Casey Affleck’s moving and minuscule performance as Lee Chandler, a broken man stuck taking care of his nephew in the repetitive, freezing environment of New England. Still, the best part is the script, balancing depressing tragedy and subtle comedy, often jumping between the two in the same scene. – Ethan Gordon
51. Weekend (2011)
I believe I was around 12 years old when I first watched Weekend. I remember it pretty perfectly. It was on Netflix and I watched it on my phone. I thought it was pretty great and decided to rate it a 9/10, but nowadays I feel like I only did that back then because I felt like that was what I was supposed to give it. I really enjoyed it, but I didn’t have an intensely personal connection with it. Flash-forward to my rewatch in September 2018 and this became one of my personal favorite films ever.
I related to the characters in a way that was so ridiculously personal, to the point that I’d call the main character the future version of myself. I realized how the intimacy these characters share as well as their struggles with identity will become mine and already are in some way. After so many life experiences and realizing my attraction to men, there’s something about this film that speaks to me like no other. Yes, I love Call Me by Your Name and would consider it the better film, but no other film has made me feel like I was looking into the future as much as this film has. There’s a coming-out scene in this movie that’s very different from what you’d typically expect, but it’s a moment so powerful in its emotional maturity that it almost makes me want to burst in tears; not sure if they are tears of joy or sadness.
Whereas in a movie like Blue Is the Warmest Color, the sex scenes would go on for an incredibly long period of time to the point of feeling pornographic; this one feels raw and intimate in its depiction of gay sex, which is partially also because we get a real emotional build-up to these scenes. There’s a reason why we don’t get to see the first sexual encounter between the characters; they didn’t connect with each other in a special way yet. This purposeful way of storytelling makes this film stand out so much from other movies in this vain, understanding what true intimacy means. When I see people saying this film doesn’t have anything special going on film-making wise, I feel like they completely looked past a detail like that. This movie isn’t show-offy, but there’s clear attention to color and shot composition, with the handheld camera work that actually adds to the raw intimacy of it all.
This movie isn’t quite perfect and has some scenes that feel a bit too unsubtle for me, and on a technical aspect Andrew Haigh has definitely improved in the meantime with 45 Years and Lean on Pete, but I love it as it is and wouldn’t want to change his vision. I can’t quite bring myself to call this one of the best films I’ve ever seen, but it is one of my favorites and I’m very excited to see it several more times. – Thomas Eremia
50. First Love (2019)
It’s just ridiculous how Miike is pushing 60 now, he’s made over 100 films and he’s still making films with that same joyful, youthful verve. He’s making the kind and variety of movies that Quentin Tarantino forgot how to do when he hit puberty. Ironically though, this does in a way feel like Miike’s Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood. For starters, it is a bit baggy (although not half as baggy as OUATIH) and it does also feel like we’re rattling through every beat we’ve seen Miike hit; tone wise in all his other movies individually, just in this really punchy, accessible, mainstream package.
We get the burning Yakuza grit of the vintage Miike stuff; we get the comedy of Visitor Q, Terra Formars, or Yakuza Apocalypse; we get the tender teenage coming of age romance of something like For Love’s Sake; the thrilling action outrage of his Dead or Alive trilogy; and also you get hints of his classic samurai action from stuff like Hara-Kiri; and there is the visceral, haunting horror of Audition. Also tonally Happiness of the Katakuris, or Yakuza Apocalypse is not a bad comparison point to this, although First Love is much better.
What Miike has crafted for us is another blistering gangster epic with the kind of visceral thrill he hasn’t delivered since the first Dead or Alive. It’s really funny, looks gorgeous, is as outrageous as we’ve come to expect. It’s also got absolutely some of Miike’s sharpest characters and individual set pieces he’s ever put to screen. This film also shows off his knack for cinematic images that will burn their way into your perennial cinematic retina excellently. There is one sequence involving a taser gun, early on, that might just be my 2nd favourite Miike sequence, (nothing can quite top that hallucination in Audition for me).
My one piece of advice though is that this might not be the best starting point for Miike fans because going back to the rest of his cannon will probably feel like diminishing returns, because this does feel a bit like EVERY MIIKE FILM AT ONCE. You’ll have to work very hard to find another Miike film quite as cinematically punchy as this one. I just really, really love that in 2019, in this kind of Marvel-Star Wars-Joker-Fast and the Furious fueled blandification of cinema, and I can still go and see a BRAND NEW Takashi Miike film. It just, it makes me feel good about cinema. It makes me feel happy and proud to be a film fan that we have a talent like him, and that he’s still working. Especially after the slight misfire that was Blade of the Immortal, he really hasn’t lost his edge at all. If anything, he’s firing at the top of his game. – Saoirse Selway
49. first reformed (2018)
I haven’t stopped thinking of First Reformed since I saw it on a cold December night in 2018. Without pretense, it quietly articulates the universal sense of despair that festers in our bones while living in a news vacuum of terror, environmental devastation, injustice, and lack of compassion for so long. I never expected, nor even asked, for Paul Schrader to pick up all of my unfinished thoughts on faith & religion or the environment especially. But here we are. And knowing we all share this communal burden makes it feel a bit less heavy. It is a perfect classic and flawless portrayal of the fire dumpster that we now find ourselves within at the close of the decade. The more time that passes, the more urgent this film feels, and the more I think about it… somebody has to do something! – Horea AHA
48. Phantom Thread (2017)
The world presented in Phantom Thread is full of interesting and emotionally damaged characters, all trying to coupe with the reality around them. It’s a world that feels so entirely real, that it is, at times hard to believe that what you are watching is just fiction. Every character is so consistently and tightly written, that I just believe everything that is happening, is for a very deep reason. Not just the characters, but also the technical aspects are astonishing here, and further bring to life this bleak yet colorful world. I was absolutely enamored by this film on a second watch and I can foresee a third watch of it in the near future. Astounding! – August Hofmanis
I remember sitting in the theater and being absolutely amazed by the cinematography and the score of Phantom Thread. I ended up watching it a total amount of 4 times more in cinemas. The movie sucked me in and made me desperate to extend the viewing experience as much as I could. Phantom Thread emphasized all the aspects I love about cinema and made me fall in love with it all over again. – Valeria Torres
47. Lady Bird (2017)
Lady Bird is just so lovingly made & heartwarming! Saoirse Ronan is perfect here. Laurie Metcalf is astonishing! Their chemistry & dynamic is something so incredibly realistic that it transcends the film medium. Greta Gerwig delivered on all accounts as a writer & as a director. This is a film I’ll treasure for the rest of my life! – Cameron Kanachki
46. The handmaiden (2016)
The Handmaiden contains a devilish thread of events that get even crazier by the minute! Paired with one of the best soundtracks of the decade, The Handmaiden is a beautiful and twisted film that surprises at every turn. Park Chan-wook is a master at his craft! – Trevor Leavell
45. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Out of all the films I’ve seen throughout the decade, there is no other film that resonated with me more than Blade Runner 2049. It is not only a gorgeous-looking film but also a beautiful patient meditation on what it means to be human. As a sequel, 2049 has the advantage of taking what was left from the original and expanding on these ideas. Rather than doing a rehash of the original film, this sequel decides to dive even deeper with its themes and characters. Even with it’s gigantic 2 hour 44 minute run-time, I think every single minute of it is used well. The slow pacing for me not only makes the investment more satisfying, it also makes the payoff even more satisfying as well. I will do my very best to refrain from spoilers because I want everyone to see this film for themselves.
2049 is one of many reasons why movies mean so much to me. It doesn’t just work because the cinematography was beautiful or the acting was great. It’s great because every aspect of film-making works together to help tell this beautiful, thematic story of a regular person searching meaning within themselves. That to me, is not only great film-making but even more powerful cinema. – Louise
44. Paddington 2 (2017)
Paddington 2 is a beautiful, charming, heart-warming film, that’s easily one of the best of the decade. When I say that, the reaction is usually ‘really?’ from people who haven’t seen it, or ‘oh yeah absolutely!’ from people who have. It’s a decisively positive reaction, but it’s still not quite what Paddington deserves. The ‘absolutely’ is all too often accompanied by a laugh and a tonal shift to hyperbole. It’s a widely acknowledged fact that Paddington 2 is a great film, but that’s rarely embraced without the footnote of ‘for the kids’ movie.
Firstly, this is a reductive way of looking at cinema that’s debunked by any ‘classic’ suitable for children. Secondly, it’s an explicit discredit to Paddington 2 which is, quite simply, a perfect film. It’s hilarious, smart and entertaining, with a wonderful cast (who actually look like they want to be there), and a minute attention to detail both in the script and production. In a rare move from a sequel, Paddington 2 not only does justice to the previous film, but completely transcends it – using the groundwork of its predecessor to launch into an altogether more ambitious, sleek, and emotionally moving affair. It also has a post-credits sequence which should have swept the Oscars, so there’s that.
The parallels with Wes Anderson’s work are hard to ignore, but the comparison doesn’t really get to the core of what makes the Paddington films so special. Of course, sharp scripts, ensemble casts and stylized prison breaks tie them together, but focusing on those things neglects the defining trait of the Paddington films. Kindness. Paddington 2 is filled from top to bottom with this simple generosity – a love for its world, characters, themes, and most importantly, for its audience. – Lucy Palmer
43. Divines (2016)
Divines is one of those films that —despite having won the Camera D’Or at Cannes, several Cesar awards and being nominated for a Golden Globe— somehow has flew under the radar of most people. Divines is a film of many ideas, themes and emotions, all put into a mere 105 minutes and somehow it explores everything it touches on perfectly. Divines is essentially a character study of the complex Dounia and her friendship with Maimouna, but there’s so much more to it. It’s a film about politics, fueled by rage, capitalism, power, poverty, friendship, family, love, wanting to belong, and so much more.
What I personally love the most about the screenplay, aside from its complexity, is that you can tell that it’s written by someone who’s clearly very passionate about a lot of these subjects and really KNOWS their protagonist, unlike with some other coming of age stories. There are tons of astonishing scenes and countless frames filled with emotion, which makes it hard to believe that this is only Houda Benyamina’s first feature. The directing is very unique and it’s unlikely that one has experienced anything like Divines before. The film stars the director’s sister, Oulaya Amamra, in what may be one of the most outstanding performances of the decade. There are multiple times when you can really feel her character transforming, but incredibly smoothly. Her performance requires a lot of range, going from extremely intense to sensible and subtle, and she nails every part of it like no other could have. – Julian D
42. Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (2013)
Sion Sono is one of the most prolific directors of the 21st century, dropping several daring, ambitious, violent, bonkers films throughout the 2000s and 2010s. In the earlier half of the decade, he dropped one of his craziest and best films, Why Don’t You Play in Hell? A group of renegade filmmakers called the Fuck Bombers, trying desperately to get funding for their next movie, an actress and stowaway on the run from her yakuza boss father, and a rival yakuza gang all clash with hilarious, violent results.
Sono mixes his love of blood and guts, perversion, and characters with a drive for artistry with commentary on an abusive film industry and on directors who toe the line between being optimistic artists and those who are willing to let things go too far for the sake of “the art”. This is easily one of the best action films of the decade, as Sono and cinematographer Hideo Yamamoto shoot with clarity and focus. It’s also easily one of the best comedy films of the decade, as every actor drops a funny line or has amazing comic timing, and the graphic violence stops being unsettling and becomes funny due to its cartoonish nature. This is easily Sono’s masterpiece of the 2010s, and one that shows that he has no intent of slowing down. – Jakob Sanchez
41. The INFINITE MAN (2014)
My favourite sub-genre that has emerged from the 2010s has easily been “Australian low-budget cerebral science fiction”. Witnessing how the restrictions of such shoestring budgets have unleashed a staggering well of insane creativity in these up-and-coming Aussie genre filmmakers has been truly inspiring for me as a film student. No film better exemplifies this more than Hugh Sullivan’s criminally under-seen time travel romance, The Infinite Man.
Neurotic, OCD-crazed computer nerd, Dean (Josh McConville) has the perfect anniversary weekend planned for his girlfriend, Lana (Hannah Marshall). But things go very wrong very quickly. Their motel has been closed down and Lana’s ex-boyfriend, Terry (Alex Dimitriades) shows up in an attempt to win back her heart. One year after his perfect weekend was ruined and Lana left him, Dean builds a time machine out of old computer parts and convinces Lana to go back in time with him to save their perfect weekend and their relationship. Unfortunately, they get themselves stuck in a complex temporal loop in the process.
Film Scholar, John McCallum once described Australian cinema as being deeply rooted in self-deprecation and the comedy of inadequacy and it is this very pessimistic notion that really shines through in Dean’s characterization. He is not the archetypal über-macho, fun loving larrikin often presented as protagonist in Australian films. He’s is a very uptight, nebbish man with a tangible nervous energy who is desperate to make the one he loves happy, but his clumsiness constantly causes him to stumble. Sullivan strikes the perfect balance of making Dean a truly empathetic character that you want to succeed, but also makes you laugh off the sheer incompetence of his actions that hold him back.
While the plot goes into some very strange and head-scratchingly confusing directions, the production and visual style are effectively minimalist and leans hard into its low budget. There are very few visual effects, the props and production design are very junky and low-fi and the film is contained to the singular location of the dilapidated motel in the middle of the outback. Sullivan injects his script with so much creativity and complexity to not just time travel and science fiction elements, but also in his presentation of the central relationship between Dean and Lana as it is constantly tested.
The best films are ones that are specific, yet also universally resonant. This is what The Infinite Man does so effortlessly. Sullivan presents an unconventional and nuanced look at love through the even more unconventional lens of the sci-fi genre, all whilst having this deeply ingrained, true Australian ethos, mentality and sense of humor that makes it so incredibly distinct from anything that has come before it, from Australia or elsewhere. The Infinite Man is micro-budget Sci-Fi done to perfection. A grand tale of one man’s love and affection and the lengths he will go for the one he cares about told on such a small and intimate scale. This is easily one of the most under-appreciated and overlooked films of the 2010s. -Sean Coates