I knew a few things when forming this list, it would be very biased against both Asian and animated Cinema and I could not include anything by Terrence “I can’t write” Malick or “Pretentious” Thomas Anderson (I really hate those guys and I’m not wasting any more time or money on either).
I really need to watch more Asian Cinema, especially from Korea. Train to Busan is probably the most underrated Zombie film of all time.
I also knew that I didn’t care all that much about the order, except for Warrior (it’s my all time favorite film). I’ve been obsessing over films for 15 films (and actually wrote professionally about them for a year) and what I’ve learned is that a great film has no one definition. Entertainment value over time is probably the best indicator of a really great film, which makes Nacho Libre shockingly perfect. But in my old age (I’m about to turn 35) I’ve learned to care less and less about perceived quality and more about what I genuinely enjoy. These are all films I truly enjoy and appreciate for the various skills it took to make them.
Film isn’t “art” and the auteur theory is false. It’s not really even possible to intellectually defend auteurism and never has been. Anything that originated in France should be suspect by definition (Neo-Palamism included). Auteurism is just a writing convention we all use because it’s easy. But Film is a collaborative venture that no one really has control of. The final product gets blamed on the director but as David Mamet points out in Bambi versus Godzilla the real professionalism of cinema comes from the gaffers, grips, etc. They’re the people who really make movies and we never know their names. The stars whine and cast a big shadow because they never know how long a career will last, but the little guys, the Hollywood workin’ stiffs, they can keep working so long as they are the opposite of a Star in every way.
Directors don’t Author films, they just manage the chaos that is a film production. So I have no time for the Malicks and Andersons, Wes included. These guys aren’t artists. They just preside over movies that no one watches and produce virtually no profit. They make films that make film people feel good about themselves. But the truth is there’s nothing going on in Tree of Life or The Master. PTA’s films at least give actors some interesting things to do, but Malick is like a Filmic anti-Christ in everyway. His work is basically just nonsense, and I think it’s because his Episcopalianism is probably nonsense. Malick can’t tell stories so he does “meditations” and a certain kind of cinephile goes “whoa, that was like meditative or something”. Someone with his resources and alleged Christianity should be doing things like adapting unadaptable novels like CS Lewis’ Till We Have Faces or Arthur Machen’s The White People. He should not be spending millions of dollars on a shot of the universe exploding in nihilistic glory. Boring, stupid, and pointless.
It’s bad form to be too precious about anything, especially something as complicated as film. I’ve come to a point where I like what I like and I don’t like what I don’t like. I turned Scorcese’s awful The Irishman off after an hour and a half of horrible acting and pathetic self indulgence from the most overrated filmmaker of all time. That film (what I managed to sit through) actually made me realize Robert De Niro & Pacino have never been that great, when cast well they’re good but when they’re given nothing to do they’re boring…like every other actor. How anyone had the time to sit through that piece of trash will never make sense to me. Life is valuable and the few films I watch these days need to be a good use of time. I would rather rewatch a popular masterpiece like The Wrath of Kahn than waste another second on a useless piece of trash that no one will care about next year or next decade. I would rather watch every glorious black and white minute of Seven Samurai than waste my time on an alleged contemporary “auteur”.
There should be more animation on my list, but I also don’t watch a lot of that anymore. But for my money the best animated features of the last decade were The Pirates! and Early Man by Aardman. I didn’t include them but you should go watch them. Those guys are not only at the top of their game they’re actually getting better, and they make Wes Anderson’s forays into stop motion look like the boring trash they are. Also DC keeps churning out great animated films in the direct to digital sphere. For all Disney and Pixar’s current annoyances they’re still churning out mostly good stuff, and I’m certain whatever the Asian studios are doing with animation is very compelling as well.
Here’s to another great decade of film.
1. Warrior (my all time favorite film)
2. The Social Network
3. I, Tonya (does old Scorsese way better than Old Scorsese is doing Scorsese)
4. Black Swan
5. The Witch
6. Sicario (written by the amazing Taylor Sheridan)
7. 1917 (should probably be higher, this might be the most perfect film ever made. The Sam Mendes, Roger Deakins, and Thomas Newman combo is pretty great)
8. Get Out (This film could’ve easily been my number one…it’s like Hitchcock reincarnated. A Truly amazing piece of film making that cannot be over praised.)
9. Silver Linings Playbook
10. The Highwaymen (instant classic, critics can be very dull)
14. Bone Tomahawk (this movie could’ve been my number 1, the fact that no one talks about it is absurd. I think I placed it here because this is when it occurred to me that it needed to be on this list. This is top five westerns all time.)
15. Cabin in the Woods
16. Interstellar (this film is very very good but mostly it’s riding on its score, but when your score is the greatest film score since Batman (89) and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly…Hans Zimmer turned space into a Cathedral…it’s amazing)
17. The World’s End
18. Wind River (another amazing western that probably should be higher…Taylor Sheridan is one of the best things going on in contemporary cinema and almost no one talks about him because his main contribution has been writing, honestly this also could have been my number one, don’t pay too much attention to the rankings).
19. What we do in the shadows
20. Logan (best super hero film since The Dark Knight, and one of the best westerns of the decade)
21. Django Unchained
22. The Great Gatsby (I never had to read the Novel in school and I have decided that I never will because too many people have told me it’s a bad adaptation. I love everything about this film and I won’t let a Novel written by a decadent Socialist ruin it for me. This is Luhrmann’s masterwork and the film he should be remembered for if he’s remembered at all)
23. Mad Max: Fury Road
24. You’re Next
25. Hush (all of Mike Flanagan’s films are great but this is still his best, an absolute classic)
26. Green Room
27. Batman and Bill
28. Skyfall (Sam Mendes, Roger Deakins, and Thomas Newman are a hard combo to beat)
29. First Man (this is on here purely because of one scene…I have a hard time seeing myself repeat viewing but the daughter subplot is maybe the most moving thing I’ve personally ever seen in a film)
30. Spider-Man: Enter the Spider-Verse and Teen Titans Go to the Movies (because Nicholas Cage played Spider-Man in one and Superman in the other and both films are awesome, plus I had to have some animation on here)
Honorable mentions and the state of things
Marvel’s Infinity Saga, for all its faults, is easily one of the most amazing things Cinema has ever produced. This next decade Marvel will struggle, and they will struggle a lot, to create compelling films. DC via Warner Bros is on a powerful rise. But just the fact that the Infinity Saga even happened is an amazing feat in itself. I thought about just making this my number 2 entry. Twenty Two films, spanning 11 years and none of them are bad. Some of them aren’t great but none of them are genuinely bad. Captain Marvel is a crappy character played by an annoying actress but even her film is mostly watchable. Then there’s the money: over $20 billion. Yes over $4 million was spent but that’s still Billions and Billions of dollars in returns. The Infinity Saga was not a vapid commercial enterprise either. The high points were definitely The Winter Soldier and Civil War, the later probably has the finest film script…since…honestly it’s one of the greatest film scripts ever. But those are very high, high points. The Infinity Saga was a very special moment in cinematic history. It’s the apotheosis of those crappy Saturday matinee serials that inspired the flanneled one to create Star Wars. It’s an amazing era of pop culture history, and I’m glad I was able to live through it.
Star Wars is back in a big way. This isn’t news to anybody but it still needs to be said. The Mandalorian and Rogue One were the clear high points, but none of the new stuff is bad. Rise of Skywalker had an objectively terrible script but that was mostly because Abrams & Co were trying to end something that shouldn’t end, its still a highly enjoyable watchable adventure film. Return of the Jedi is a crappy film for the same reason, this is why the best trilogy ender was Revenge of the Sith. Star Wars is an ongoing story. That’s the point. And it will go on.
Star Trek is back in a big way too, and there is more to come. The first three new Trek films were awesome, better than the new Star Wars films in most ways. Star Trek Discovery is pretty awesome as well.
Rian Johnson is slowly building himself a very fine film career. He’s a fantastic writer and director. He made one of the best Star Wars films ever and he’s the first one since Georgie in 77 to write and direct an entry alone. Looper is great, Knives Out was amazing.
If the Auteur theory were true Nolan and Aronofsky would be the best current auteurs. They’re consistently creating excellent films that challenge and improve cinema. Even Mother! is an amazing piece of film making, yes its gross and bizarre but it took a lot of guts to make that movie which is becoming extremely rare.
Also it should be noted that while I didn’t include Ford vs Ferrari that film has cemented James Mangold as the Howard Hawks of his generation. Hawks is the guy usually credited with inspiring the French to invent the silly auteur theory because his films had so many of the same elements repeated, especially the Hawksian woman. But what Hawks really did well (and probably the most important job of a filmmaker) was choosing good manly projects to work on. Writing good films or choosing good scripts is the most important part of a great filmmaker. Ford vs Ferrari was an amazing story well told. It could’ve been a transplant from the Hawksian era, just a pure classic through and through. From Copland to Logan that’s what Mangold does: make unpretentious classics.
Horror cinema is generally doing very well. I could’ve included most of Mike Flanagan’s films on this list as well as the Netflix show he’s a big part of. The first two films from Ari Aster were amazing. A Quiet Place and It Comes at Night were masterworks at thematic odds with each other. There’s been some great Lovecraftian stuff like The Void and Black Mountain Side. The new Halloween was wonderful. One of the best and most interesting films of recent years was the very underrated Unfriended: Dark Web. And of course there’s Jordan Peele who will eventually be a legendary filmmaker, even if his revamp of the Twilight Zone was a bit underwhelming.
Harry Potter is still here but it’s not going well…it’s going okay.
Television keeps getting better. Breaking Bad, The Americans, and The Crown are probably the pinnacle thus far. But stuff like Stranger Things, Chernobyl, and The Terror are a great sign of what’s to come. Downtown Abbey was a wonderful smaltzy soap opera. Television is really where the future of “cinema” lays. Even Jack Ryan finally has a great TV show that’s outshining his previous cinematic outings, and that’s saying something cause Harrison Ford was Jack Ryan twice!
Films you should watch if you missed them that didn’t make my final list or my extensive comments:
The Ballad of Buster Scrugs
A Beautiful day in the neighborhood
The Big Short
Black Mirror Anthology
The Blackcoat’s daughter
The Girl with the dragon tattoo
Hell or High Water (written by Taylor Sheridan)
The Hunger Games Franchise
I don’t feel at home in this world anymore
The Ip Man franchise
The John Wick Trilogy
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Justice League: The Fatal Five
Justice League: Gods and Monsters
Kong: Skull Island
Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary
Out of the furnace
Pitch Perfect 1 & 2
The Planet of the Apes Trilogy
A Walk among the tombstones
(There are others I can’t remember, but just don’t waste your time with stupid movies that no one really likes, watch good films, scary films and wonderful films…life is too short for crappy films)