Best Films of the Decade

It is what it is.

You’ve probably seen at least ten best of the decade lists by now and you think, Really? Another one?. Well we knew you’d say that so we thought we’d spice it up a bit. Instead of doing our usual “Best of …” format which usually includes ten to fifteen films ranked based on our individual lists, we are doing individual lists only. We felt that this way, we could present you with a more diverse list of films. We asked fourteen critics, academics and programmers to list their top twenty-films of the decade and write about their #1.But we still wondered if we made a big list, what would be our #1? What film was it that showed up on the list again and again? What film, to us, really captured the essence of this decade? The last ten years have been defined by loss, financial ruin, and anxiety about what world the next generation is going to inherit. But it’s also been a decade where seeds of revolution were planted, and the rise of social movements by people not afraid to fight the powers and systems that have become goliaths. Darkness rises, and light to meet it.

Much Ado About Cinema’s favourite film of the decade is Mad Max: Fury Road. Enjoy and happy new decade! revengeMary Beth McAndrews, Critic, (@mbmcandrews)

  1. Revenge (Coralie Fargeat, 2018)
  2. Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno, 2016)
  3. Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019)
  4. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
  5. You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay, 2017)
  6. Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018)
  7. The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2016)
  8. The Rider (Chloé Zhao, 2018)
  9. The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent, 2019)
  10. Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)
  11. M.F.A. (Natalia Leite, 2017)
  12. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, 2014)
  13. Mandy (Panos Cosmatos, 2018)
  14. The Wailing (Na Hong-jin, 2016)
  15. The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook, 2016)
  16. Raw (Julia Ducournau, 2016)
  17. Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2017)
  18. The Blackcoat’s Daughter (Oz Perkins, 2015)
  19. What We Do In The Shadows (Taika Waititi, 2014)
  20. Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham, 2018)
  21. Spring (Justin Benson & Aaron Moorehead, 2014)
  22. One Cut of The Dead (Shinichirou Ueda, 2019)
  23. The Killing Of A Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2017)
  24. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, 2013)
  25. Cam (Daniel Goldhaber, 2018)

Revenge

Coralie Fargeat’s directorial debut Revenge is a bloody knife to the eyeballs that wants us to question how we watch films and more specifically how we watch the female body. It is a rewriting of the rape-revenge genre, perfect for the #MeToo era where the female body is more than just a sex object. Jen, played by Matilda Lutz, must fight for her life after being raped by her boyfriend’s friend and pushed off a cliff by her boyfriend to cover up the crime. To them, she’s just another blonde slut that got what was coming for her. But, she’s more than just a short skirt. Jen undergoes a transformation where her body is broken down and resurrected into something violent and resilient. Revenge is an outlandish and fantastical tale, sure, but it serves as a fantasy for the survivors out there that wish to play out their own acts of revenge. Fargeat creates a new narrative that works to empower female viewers, male audiences be damned. 

princess

Kambole Campbell, Critic, (@kambolecampbell)

  1. The Tale of The Princess Kaguya (Isao Takahata, 2013)
  2. The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki, 2014)
  3. Under The Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2014)
  4. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016)
  5. It’s Such A Beautiful Day (Don Hertzfeldt, 2012)
  6. Burning (Lee Chang-dong, 2018)
  7. Minding The Gap (Bing Liu, 2018)
  8. The Grandmaster (Wong Kar-Wai, 2013)
  9. The Arbor (Clio Barnard, 2010)
  10. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
  11. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)
  12. Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)
  13. Liz and the Blue Bird (Naoko Yamada, 2018)
  14. Night is Short, Walk on Girl (Masaaki Yuasa, 2017)
  15. Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, 2010)
  16. High Life (Claire Denis, 2018)
  17. House of Hummingbird (Bora Kim, 2018)
  18. The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2014)
  19. Mirai (Mamoru Hosoda, 2018)
  20. The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook, 2016)
  21. Uncut Gems (Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie, 2019)
  22. Silence (Martin Scorsese, 2016)
  23. Spider-Man, Into The Spider-verse (Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman, 2018)
  24. The Farewell (Lulu Wang, 2019)
  25. Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019)

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

The last film from Isao Takahata, the co-founder of Studio Ghibli, once again broke the animated form. Released closely following Hayao Miyazaki’s biopic and ‘final’ work The Wind Rises, Takahata once again showed himself to be the left brain to Miyazaki’s right, utilising more experimental and impressionistic imagery in this adaptation of traditional Japanese folklore. In almost direct contrast to Miyazaki’s penchant for painstaking attention to detail, Takahata builds Kaguya with a fascinating, minimalist aesthetic, the abundant surrounding white space focusing the events of this epic, decades-spanning, tale to what a character is feeling or just how they’re moving in any one moment. It looks unlike anything Ghibli had ever made and likely will ever make, with a fragile appearance more than befitting a film about life’s impermanence with a mix of delicate watercolours with rough but fine charcoal lines. In the film’s most jaw-dropping sequence, all of this artwork melts away entirely in a moment of pure, visceral emotional expression. It was intended as Takahata’s final film long before his passing in 2018, and how fitting a final entry it is, a work of immense, elegiac beauty encompassing all of his work before it – the deep, tragic emotion of Grave of the Fireflies, the charming experiments of My Neighbours the Yamadas, Only Yesterday’s melancholic reflections on past memories and mistakes. Despite its formal minimalism, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya truly does carry all the complexity, the joy, pain and sacrifice of an entire lifetime.

2days1night

Dilara Elbir, Critic & Academic, (@elbirdilara)

  1. Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2014)
  2. Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011)
  3. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
  4. A Quiet Passion (Terence Davis, 2016)
  5. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)
  6. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
  7. Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)
  8. The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland, 2014)
  9. National Gallery (Frederick Wiseman, 2014)
  10. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)
  11. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
  12. The Rider (Chloé Zhao, 2017)
  13. Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve, 2016)
  14. Post Tenebras Lux (Carlos Reygadas, 2012)
  15. We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)
  16. 20th Century Women (Mike Mills, 2016)
  17. Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)
  18. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013)
  19. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016)
  20. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011)
  21. The Immigrant (James Gray, 2013)
  22. Norte, the End of History (Lav Diaz, 2013)
  23. The Nightingale, (Jennifer Kent, 2019)
  24. Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011 ) & Almayer’s Folly (Chantal Akerman, 2011)
  25. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)

Two Days, One Night

Let’s say you walk into someone’s dorm room and realise there are some film posters on the wall. You say Well, that’s a cliche dorm decor, and think the person is lame until you realise that these posters aren’t your classic Pulp Fiction and V for Vendetta dorm room shit. She has a huge, and I mean huge, poster of Two Days, One Night up there! You say Ohhh she’s different! and decide to be her best friend. Congratulations, you’re now my best friend.

It is hard to write about Two Days, One Night unless I joke about it first. It is not only my favourite film of the decade but my favourite film of all time. I’ve always made sense of my life and who I am through books and films. There wasn’t a problem I faced that I didn’t immediately connect to a film. But it wasn’t until I saw Two Days, One Night that I truly had a film that captured how I felt as someone who suffered from major depression disorder. I didn’t think it was actually possible for someone (or a brother duo) to take everything I felt but didn’t have words to express and transfer it to big screen. And even better, they did it by saying “Fuck capitalism!” with my favourite actress of all time, queen of cinema, Academy Award winner and fashion icon Marion Cotillard. 

treeoflife

Jay Avila, Critic, (@pontdevarsovia)

  1. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
  2. In the Family (Patrick Wang, 2011)
  3. Mysteries of Lisbon (Raúl Ruiz, 2010)
  4. La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)
  5. Goodbye First Love (Mia Hansen-Løve, 2011)
  6. Our Time (Carlos Reygadas, 2018)
  7. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
  8. Bastards (Claire Denis, 2013)
  9. Almayer’s Folly (Chantal Akerman, 2011)
  10. Film Socialisme (Jean-Luc Godard, 2010)
  11. Cloud Atlas (Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski, & Tom Tykwer, 2012)
  12. Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke, 2015)
  13. Happy Hour (Ryūsuke Hamaguchi, 2015)
  14. Murderess (Philippe Grandrieux, 2015)
  15. The Other Side of the Wind (Orson Welles, 2018)
  16. House of Tolerance (Bertrand Bonello, 2011)
  17. Tempestad (Tatiana Huezo, 2016)
  18. Sunset Song (Terence Davies, 2015)
  19. Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)
  20. Post Tenebras Lux (Carlos Reygadas, 2012)
  21. Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)
  22. The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky, 2011)
  23. By the Sea (Angelina Jolie, 2015)
  24. We Make Couples (Mike Hoolboom, 2016)
  25. Devil’s Freedom (Everardo González, 2017)

The Tree of Life

I can’t remember the first movie I ever saw, but I can perfectly recall the first time I felt like movies mattered. That they were something more than shallow entertainment. I was scrolling through channels on TV, when I came across The Tree of Life. It was just as the creation montage was starting, and I immediately knew that what I was watching was like nothing I had seen before. With fear of sounding hyperbolic, that film quite literally changed my life. It awakened a love for cinema in me that goes beyond Hollywood fare. It made me seek the work of many visionary and experimental filmmakers in my search for more experiences like it. It’s one of the few films I can consider “helpful’, as it was crucial in coming to terms with my catholic guilt. Every rewatch makes me feel validated in a way no other movie is capable of.

As time has passed and my film knowledge has grown, The Tree of Life remains an absolute favorite of mine, which is something I can’t say for many films I saw at 16. Long live the king, Terrence Malick.

The Social Network

Alejandra Salazar, Critic (@alejandramsc)

  1. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
  2. Inside Llewyn Davis (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, 2013)
  3. Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig, 2017) 
  4. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
  5. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016)
  6. Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019)
  7. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)
  8. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, 2013) 
  9. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti, Rodney Rothman, 2018)
  10. The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2018)
  11. Burning (Lee Chang-dong, 2018)
  12. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)
  13. Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)
  14. Roma (Alfonso Cuarón, 2018)
  15. Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)
  16. Minding The Gap (Bing Liu, 2018)
  17. American Honey (Andrea Arnold, 2016)
  18. You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay, 2017) 
  19. World of Tomorrow (Don Hertzfeldt, 2015)
  20. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)
  21. What We Do In The Shadows (Taika Waititi, 2014) 
  22. Coco (Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina, 2017)
  23. Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham, 2018)
  24. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer, 2016)
  25. Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy, 2010)

The Social Network

David Fincher’s The Social Network was a triumph in 2010; in 2019, it’s a goddamn revelation. This is a biographical drama, a black comedy, and a horror flick all in one, telling the story of how our deep, primal desire for human connection was manipulated and capitalized upon by an arrogant manchild incapable of fostering meaningful relationships of his own. Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin crafted a Faustian bargain fit for the 21st century: Mark Zuckerberg — played by Jesse Eisenberg in one of the decade’s truly great performances — might be CEO, bitch, but it’s a vast, lonely internet of his own making.

Don’t get it twisted, though, because this isn’t a tragic fall from grace. The Social Network is ultimately unsympathetic to its lead, recognizing instead how Facebook was the product of prolonged, calculated ruthlessness. Zuckerberg created one of the most important companies in the history of Western civilization, but his digital empire is not built on altruism or heart. The story of Facebook, and of The Social Network, is one of power, ego, and the twisted, sociopathic cruelty required to succeed in an elitist, capitalist oligarchy.

We know how the rest goes. Zuckerberg did his job well, growing Facebook from an online forum where you “poke” your homeroom crush into a Goliath capable of tumbling American democracy. The Social Network did its job well, too, as brilliant, exhilarating filmmaking loaded with the foresight to recognize that this was just the beginning.

insidellewyn

Tyler ‘Llewyn’ Taing, Critic, (@tylerllewtaing)

  1. Inside Llewyn Davis (Coen Brothers, 2013)
  2. You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay, 2017)
  3. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016)
  4. Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
  5. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, 2012)
  6. Her (Spike Jonze, 2013) 
  7. Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2017)
  8. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Rodney Rothman, Peter Ramsey, and Bob Persichetti, 2018)
  9. Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham, 2018)
  10. The Farewell (Lulu Wang, 2019)
  11. World of Tomorrow (Don Hertzfeldt, 2015)
  12. Weekend (Andrew Haigh, 2011)
  13. The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)
  14. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, 2013)
  15. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)
  16. Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, 2016)
  17. Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig, 2017)
  18. Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2018)
  19. The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro, 2017)
  20. Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)
  21. Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)
  22. First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2017)
  23. Short Term 12 (Destin Daniel Cretton, 2013)
  24. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson, 2017)
  25. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Morgan Neville, 2018)

Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis is the black sheep of the Coen Brothers’ filmography, but still finds dark comedy and whimsy in the most mundane places. Trading guns in the midwest for a six-string acoustic in New York, Llewyn Davis is the Coens’ love letter to the Greenwich Village folk-music scene of the 1960s; a snapshot of one of the most defining moments in modern pop culture. But mostly, the film is an intimate character piece about a deeply unhappy man during the worst week of his life.

The titular Llewyn Davis, embodied by a wonderful, up and coming Oscar Isaac, is a folk singer with so many goddamn issues: he’s knocked up his friend’s wife, he has no home of his own, his career is struggling, and he’s still grieving the loss of his musical (and possibly, romantic?) partner, Mike Timlin. A general theme of the Coens’ body of work is the painful, randomness of life and the cycles that our complex protagonist finds himself stuck in, and those ideas are found in every nook and cranny of this film’s design— A melancholy state of mind is portrayed in the seemingly arbitrary plot structure, the curation of folk classics focused on grief and yearning, and the gorgeously muted colors of Bruno Delbonnel’s cinematography.

Inside Llewyn Davis is a unfortunate odyssey about an easily unlikeable guy experiencing a chain of stupid, bad luck… and yet, as a writer who experiences depression (that can identify with Llewyn and his cycles, unpleasantness and all), it’s one of the most comforting, hilarious, and strangely empathetic films I’ve ever seen. 

firstreformed

Lance St. Laurent, Academic, (@lancestlaurent)

  1. First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)
  2. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012) 
  3. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) 
  4. Silence (Martin Scorsese, 2016) 
  5. Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019)
  6. Elle (Paul Verhoeven, 2016) 
  7. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012) 
  8. The Immigrant (James Gray, 2013) 
  9. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 2013)
  10. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010) 
  11. Bridge of Spies (Steven Spielberg, 2015) 
  12. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013) 
  13. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014) 
  14. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (Don Hertzfeldt, 2012) 
  15. Magic Mike XXL (Gregory Jacobs, 2015) 
  16. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014) 
  17. The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017) 
  18. Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011) 
  19. Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011) 
  20. Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino, 2019) 
  21. The Lego Movie (Phil Lord and Chris Miller, 2014) 
  22. The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook, 2016)
  23. Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010)
  24. Enough Said (Nicole Holofcener, 2013)
  25. Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol (Brad Bird, 2011) 

First Reformed

“I know that nothing can change, and I know there is no hope.” Rev. Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) was quoting Thomas Merton here, but the sentiment has permeated more of my conversations this decade than I’d care to admit. The 2010s were a miserable time to be alive, as the promises of hope and change that marked the end of the last decade deflated under the weight of fervent opposition on one side, and unflappable pragmatism on the other, forcing those of us left to live through it to turn to nihilism, ironic detachment, or worst of all, active resentment. It was in this context that Paul Schrader dropped First Reformed, synthesizing his scholarly work on the films of Bresson and Dreyer, among others, and bringing his “God’s lonely man” archetype into one of the loneliest periods of human existence, one in which our multitudes of connection have only left us more isolated, and the only thing we seem to share is a real-time front-row seat of our own inexorable march toward oblivion. Under the weight of this existential dread, though, Schrader ends on a note of hope, reminding us that we might muddle through this god-forsaken stretch on this dying rock we call home through even just one genuine connection to another person, and in doing so we might find some semblance of peace, and even grace. There were perhaps better films released this decade, but none so vividly captured the struggle of living through it. 

beyond the lights

Sydney Bembry, Critic, (@SydneyBembry)

  1. Beyond the Lights (Gina Prince-Bythewood, 2014)
  2. Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance, 2010)
  3. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016)
  4. Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig, 2017)
  5. The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Marielle Heller, 2015)
  6. Okja (Bong Joon-ho, 2017)
  7. Young Adult (Jason Reitman, 2011)
  8. Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, 2015)
  9. If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins, 2018)
  10. God’s Own Country (Francis Lee, 2017)
  11. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti, Rodney Rothman, 2018)
  12. 20th Century Women (Mike Mills, 2016)
  13. Support the Girls (Andrew Bujalski, 2018)
  14. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Celine Sciamma, 2019)
  15. Spy (Paul Feig, 2015)
  16. Madeline’s Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018)
  17. Fast Color (Julia Hart, 2019) 
  18. The Tale (Jennifer Fox, 2018)
  19. Gone Girl (David Fincher, 2014)
  20. The Farewell (Lulu Wang, 2019)
  21. Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019)
  22. Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)
  23. Short Term 12 (Destin Daniel Cretton, 2013)
  24. Weekend (Andrew Haigh, 2011)
  25. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, 2012)

bealestreet

Shelley Farmer, Writer/Publicity Manager, Film at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, (@ShelleyBFarmer)

  1. If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins, 2018)
  2. Let the Sunshine In (Claire Denis, 2017)
  3. Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra, 2016)
  4. Wuthering Heights (Andrea Arnold, 2012) 
  5. Faces Places (Agnès Varda, 2017)
  6. A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhangke, 2013)
  7. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2012)
  8. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)
  9. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010)
  10. So Pretty (Jessie Jeffrey Dunn Rovinelli, 2019)
  11. Gueros  (Alonso Ruizpalacios, 2014)
  12. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2011)
  13. An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (Terence Nance, 2013)
  14. The Immigrant (James Gray, 2014)
  15. The Irishman (Martin Scorsese, 2019)
  16. Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2013)
  17. The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki, 2014)
  18. Peterloo (Mike Leigh, 2019)
  19. We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)
  20. Mustang (Deniz Gamze Erguven, 2015)
  21. No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman, 2016)
  22. Phoenix (Christian Petzold, 2014)
  23. First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)
  24. Rangoon (Vishal Bhardwaj, 2017)
  25. Shirkers (Sandi Tan, 2018)

If Beale Street Could Talk

I find the idea of ranking art to be slightly ridiculous. How can one qualitatively compare works as diverse as Agnes Varda’s luminous collage of memories, Ruizpalacios’ stylish, self-aware road movie, Bhardwaj’s color-drenched postcolonial musical drama? Any of these films could rank first on this list, so I have assigned the number one spot to the film of the past decade that most made me feel the ecstatic potential of cinema as a medium. If Beale Street Could Talk may be less tight than Jenkin’s previous film, Moonlight– there are occasional jarring moments, like Dave Franco’s unexpected turn as a landlord. But Jenkins and cinematographer James Laxton exhibit full control over the expressive capabilities of their medium, aided by Nicholas Brittell’s sumptuous score. It’s a film that is nearly operatic in its bold use of color and movement and the sweeping emotions that pulse through the story. It’s a film with a lot on its mind that goes straight for the heart.

portrait

Lucy May, Video Editor, (@letterboxdlucy)

  1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma, 2019)
  2. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
  3. American Honey (Andrea Arnold, 2016)
  4. Columbus (Kogonada, 2017)
  5. It Follows (David Robert Mitchell, 2014)
  6. You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay, 2017) 
  7. Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2014)
  8. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016)
  9. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, 2014)
  10. Thelma (Joachim Trier, 2017)
  11. Mommy (Xavier Dolan, 2014)
  12. Stoker (Park Chan-wook, 2013)
  13. Gone Girl (David Fincher, 2014)
  14. The Bling Ring (Sofia Coppola, 2013)
  15. Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011)
  16. The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)
  17. Breathe (Mélanie Laurent, 2014)
  18. Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-ho, 2013)
  19. Incendies (Denis Villeneuve, 2010)
  20. The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018)
  21. Her (Spike Jonze, 2013)
  22. The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland, 2014)
  23. Don’t Breathe (Fede Alvarez, 2016)
  24. Short Term 12 (Destin Daniel Cretton, 2013)
  25. Cold War (Paweł Pawlikowski, 2018)

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

With enough nuance to move mountains, Portrait of a Lady on Fire proves that sometimes less truly is more. Rarely has a film brought out such an intense emotional reaction in me with just the slightest glances, the smallest movements. The crashing of waves and the crackling of fires set the tone, and it’s here that the two women fall in love. Lesbian love stories in film are rarely treated with such care, and it’s even harder to find one so impeccably made. Trust me, I’ve endured too many bad lesbian movies in the past decade to even count. Many of them made me feel empty and alone, especially during the years of coming to terms with my own lesbianism. But as the decade comes to a close, I’m so thankful to have this: a beautiful, tender and sweeping piece of fiction that quietly comforts me and leaves me breathless. It feels almost like a gift, something I don’t really deserve but will gratefully accept. The ending especially feels like a miracle, a melancholy conclusion to an epic love. The first time I experienced it was like being submerged underwater, choking out sobs and struggling to breathe. But I would gladly experience that feeling a thousand times more because of how much it means to me. This is a film that feels like home.

phantom thread

Charlie Mangan, Critic, (@neverrcursed)

  1. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)
  2. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
  3. Her (Spike Jonse, 2013)
  4. Inside Llewyn Davis (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, 2013)
  5. Weekend (Andrew Haigh, 2011)
  6. Climax (Gaspar Noé, 2018)
  7. Green Room (Jeremy Saulnier, 2015)
  8. Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019)
  9. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016)
  10. Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig, 2017)
  11. Birdman (Alejandro G. Iñárritu, 2014)
  12. Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodóvar, 2011)
  13. Heaven Knows What (Ben Safdie and Joshua Safdie, 2014)
  14. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)
  15. You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay, 2017)
  16. God’s Own Country (Francis Lee, 2017)
  17. Cold War (Paweł Pawlikowski, 2018)
  18. The Nice Guys (Shane Black, 2016)
  19. What We Do In the Shadows (Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi, 2014)
  20. Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)
  21. Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017)
  22. Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance, 2010)
  23. The Big Short (Adam McKay, 2015)
  24. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Edgar Wright, 2010)
  25. Pacific Rim (Guillermo del Toro, 2013)

leviathan

C.J. Prince, Critic & Programmer, (@cj_prin)

  1. Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Véréna Paravel, 2012)
  2. Oslo, August 31st (Joachim Trier, 2011)
  3. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012)
  4. Hard to be a God (Aleksei German, 2014)
  5. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, 2014)
  6. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013)
  7. The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr, 2011)
  8. Cloud Atlas (Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski, & Tom Tykwer, 2012)
  9. Detention (Joseph Kahn, 2011)
  10. Stray Dogs (Tsai Ming-liang, 2013)
  11. Romancing in Thin Air (Johnnie To, 2012)
  12. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010)
  13. Living Stars (Gastón Duprat & Mariano Cohn, 2014)
  14. Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt, 2016)
  15. The Raid: Redemption (Gareth Evans, 2011)
  16. The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin, 2015)
  17. Elle (Paul Verhoeven, 2016)
  18. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)
  19. Green Room (Jeremy Saulnier, 2015)
  20. A Spell to Ward off the Darkness (Ben Russell & Ben Rivers, 2013)
  21. The Comedy (Rick Alverson, 2012)
  22. The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland, 2014)
  23. BPM (Beats Per Minute) (Robin Campillo, 2017)
  24. The Fool (Yuri Bykov, 2014)
  25. Dusty Stacks of Mom (Jodie Mack, 2013)

Leviathan

The first time I saw Leviathan, co-director Verena Paravel had one message for the audience during her introduction: “Good luck.” Shot on a fishing boat as it travels the Atlantic Ocean, Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor communicate the visceral, all-encompassing terror of the sea with the radical decision to let nature itself take over directing duties. Throwing GoPro cameras into protective cases and attaching them to sticks, the directors tossed their equipment into the waters, the bowels of the vessel, and pretty much anywhere else they could think of. 

The results are so disorienting it took me a minute to gather my bearings when the film ended. Paravel and Castaing-Taylor have essentially created a portrait of hell on earth, a place where chaos reigns and everything acts as a constant reminder of the immense forces controlling you at all times. The natural world is made alien, literally turned on its head and made menacing through its sheer indifference to everything within it. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and should go down as one of the great achievements of experimental film from this century.   

lobster

Mia Vicino, Critic/Screenwriter, (@BRATPlTT)

  1. The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)
  2. Stoker (Park Chan-wook, 2013)
  3. Raw (Julia Ducornau, 2017)
  4. The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018)
  5. Gone Girl (David Fincher, 2014)
  6. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)
  7. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)
  8. Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2014)
  9. Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)
  10. Her (Spike Jonze, 2013) 
  11. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2010)
  12. La La Land (Damien Chazelle, 2016)
  13. Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2014)
  14. Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)
  15. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, 2014)
  16. Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino, 2017)
  17. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013)
  18. Tully (Jason Reitman, 2017)
  19. Paddington 2 (Paul King, 2018)
  20. Mistress America (Noah Baumbach, 2015)
  21. Submarine (Richard Ayoade, 2010)
  22. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2017)
  23. Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson, 2016)
  24. Columbus (Kogonada, 2017)
  25. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Oliver Parker, 2018)

The Lobster

The first time I saw The Lobster, I wasn’t sure if I even liked it. Yorgos Lanthimos’s polarizing endings tend to have that effect. I left the theater in a daze, head empty of thoughts except “Colin Farrell Hot.” You see, in addition to this being my first Lanthimos film, it was also my first Farrell film. And I fell hard.

Farrell plays David, a canonically bisexual (!) man whose wife has just left him, and in this dystopian diegetic world, that means he must go stay at a hotel for the next 30 days to search for a partner. If he fails to find one, he will be turned into an animal of his choosing. David selects a lobster, “because lobsters live for over one hundred years, are blue-blooded like aristocrats, and stay fertile all their lives. I also like the sea very much,” he explains. (Side note: I would be a bat because they can fly but are not idiots like birds, plus I love blood and fruit.)

Though I admit that the pacing falters a bit once the midpoint hits and David flees the hotel, somehow it’s still a perfect movie, and I can’t believe I ever had any doubts that I loved it. The blistering originality of the script, Farrell’s Oscar-worthy performance, and Lanthimos’s deadpan direction all combine to create a genre-bending rom-com tailor-made for the unconventional. Plus, Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman are there, prophesying their reunion for another Lanthimos film in my Top 5, The Favourite (2018).  

moonlight2

Valerie Complex, Critic, (@valeriecomplex)

  1. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016)
  2. Pariah (Dee Rees, 2011)
  3. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma, 2019)
  4. Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)
  5. The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook, 2016)
  6. Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)
  7. Luce (Julius Onah, 2019)
  8. I am Not Your Negro (Raoul Peck, 2017)
  9. The Farewell (Lulu Wang, 2019)
  10. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
  11. The Favorite (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018)
  12. Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, 2016)
  13. Little Woods (Nia DaCosta, 2018)
  14. TONI Morrison: The Pieces I am (Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, 2019)
  15. Atlantics (Mati Diop, 2019)
  16. Black Panther (Ryan Coogler, 2018)
  17. Coco (Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, 2017)
  18. Thelma (Joachim Trier, 2017)
  19. Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011)
  20. Night Comes On (Jordana Spiro, 2018)
  21. I Saw The Devil (Kim Jee-woon, 2011)
  22. Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010)
  23. Roma (Alfonso Cuarón, 2018)
  24. The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2016)
  25. Captain America: Winter Soldier (Joe Russo, 2014) 

springbreakers

Cassidy Olsen, Critic, (@olsencassidy)

  1. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)
  2. Roma (Alfonso Cuarón, 2018)
  3. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016)
  4. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012) 
  5. Diane (Kent Jones, 2019)
  6. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma, 2019)
  7. Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino, 2017) 
  8. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
  9. The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)
  10. The Beach Bum (Harmony Korine, 2019)
  11. Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig, 2017)
  12. Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011)
  13. Burning (Lee Chang-dong, 2018)
  14. Shame (Steve McQueen, 2011)
  15. Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance, 2010)
  16. First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2017)
  17. Gloria Bell (Sebastián Lelio, 2019)
  18. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)
  19. Magic Mike XXL (Gregory Jacobs, 2015)
  20. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012)
  21. Inside Llewyn Davis (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, 2013)
  22. The Act Of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2013)
  23. Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse (Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti, and Rodney Rodman, 2018)
  24. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, 2012)
  25. Beginners (Mike Mills, 2010)

Spring Breakers

It’s impossible to change the fact that Harmony Korine’s magnum opus Spring Breakers is a complete bait-and-switch. It lures you in with the promise of a sleazy-more-than-sexy crime drama, all neon lights and Disney stars and male bravado, and then delivers a slow, sensory, feminist art film unlike anything that’s been done before. Engaging with the film on this level requires patience, a specific sense of humor and an open mind, and even then, one can only take so many cyclic musings on the spirituality of Florida. But by turning audience expectations on their head, Spring Breakers creates a space for its questions about power, sexuality, and white American youth culture, alternating between exhilarating debauchery and meditation as if they were one and the same. Spring break forever, y’all.

certifiedcopy

Kareem Baholzer, Critic, (@notokaydotmp3)

  1. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
  2. Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick, 2015)
  3. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016)
  4. Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)
  5. 88:88 (Isiah Medina, 2015)
  6. Transit (Christian Petzold, 2018)
  7. Burning (Lee Chang-dong, 2018)
  8. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)
  9. Certain Women (Kelly Reichhardt, 2016)
  10. Mommy (Xavier Dolan, 2014)
  11. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010)
  12. On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong Sang-soo, 2017)
  13. American Honey (Andrea Arnold, 2016)
  14. Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)
  15. Western (Valeska Grisebach, 2017)
  16. Unfriended: Dark Web (Stephen Susco, 2018)
  17. The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr, 2011)
  18. The Human Surge (Eduardo Williams, 2016)
  19. Eden (Mia Hansen-Løve, 2014)
  20. Good Time (Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie 2017)
  21. Ash is Purest White (Jia Zhangke, 2018)
  22. House of Tolerance (Bertrand Bonello, 2011)
  23. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
  24. Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski, 2013)
  25. Bastards (Claire Denis, 2013)

Certified Copy

There is little doubt that Abbas Kiarostami was one of the greatest filmmakers of our time, so it’s bittersweet to look back at the decade we lost him. His films dramatize the things people grapple with every single day, carve out how meaningful they are, and how strongly our lives are shaped by them. His form is slick and controlled, but it never feels anything less than organic and lively. Certified Copy shows him in complete control of his art. It’s a passionate conversation about why and how we reflect, but it never becomes a dry lecture. Instead (and with the help of an all-time great Juliette Binoche), the film is an astounding journey through the inward and outward landscapes of emotion. I’ve never really been the same ever since seeing it.

moonlight1

Sharmane Tan, Critic, (@jenvoievaiser)

  1. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016)
  2. The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook, 2016)
  3. Weekend (Andrew Haigh, 2011)
  4. Pariah (Dee Rees, 2011)
  5. Tangerine (Sean Baker, 2015)
  6. Thelma (Joachim Trier, 2017)
  7. End of the Century (Lucio Castro, 2019)
  8. The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Desiree Akhavan, 2018)
  9. Taxi Tehran (Jafar Panahi, 2015)
  10. Shirkers (Sandi Tan, 2018)
  11. Tomboy (Céline Sciamma, 2011)
  12. The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)
  13. American Honey (Andrea Arnold, 2016)
  14. Behemoth/Bei Xi Mo Shou (Zhao Liang, 2015)
  15. This is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi, 2011)
  16. Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve, 2016)
  17. Hard Paint (Marcio Reolon & Filipe Matzembacher, 2018)
  18. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (Angela Robinson, 2017)
  19. Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)
  20. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
  21. Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2014)
  22. Short Term 12 (Destin Daniel Cretton, 2013)
  23. Gone Girl (David Fincher, 2014)
  24. Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010)
  25. A Most Violent Year (J.C Chandor, 2014)

Moonlight

Moonlight was the first gay film that I have ever watched in the cinema. Due to strict censorship laws in Singapore, it continues to be the only gay film I have ever watched in theatres. I was 18 back then, and was still struggling to find my place in a country where homosexuality continues to be punishable by a custodial sentence. Going to watch the film felt dangerous in all the ways that I could possibly be outed, but it turned out to be an experience which affirmed that I have a place in this world, even if this world doesn’t have one for me. Moonlight never lets us forget the tenderness of gay black love even admist homophobic cruelty and systemic racism. While elucidating all the ways such tenderness can be crushed by a society all too indifferent, pieces of tenderness still survives — when Chiron longingly gazes at Kevin at the diner, when Juan teaches Chiron how to swim, and when Chiron and Kevin lovingly embrace each other towards the end of the film. Watching all that play out on the big screen, for me, was something indescribable. To see the that gay love could possibly endure, heal, and survive was exactly what I needed. Moonlight accomplishes just that — perfectly and miraculously. 

Brianna Zigler, Critic, (@briannazigs)

  1. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
  2. Inside Llewyn Davis (Coen Brothers, 2013)
  3. 20th Century Women (Mike Mills, 2016)
  4. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)
  5. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013)
  6. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)
  7. Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019)
  8. Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan, 2017)
  9. The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino, 2015)
  10. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (Noah Baumbach, 2017)
  11. The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2015)
  12. Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)
  13. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer, 2016)
  14. Young Adult (Jason Reitman, 2011)
  15. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, 2014)
  16. The World’s End (Edgar Wright, 2013)
  17. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014)
  18. The Nice Guys (Shane Black, 2016)
  19. Call Me by Your Name (Luca Guadagnino, 2017)
  20. Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, 2018)
  21. Swiss Army Man (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, 2016)
  22. Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018)
  23. Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy, 2014)
  24. Prisoners (Denis Villeneuve, 2013)
  25. What We Do in the Shadows (Taika Waititi, 2014)

The Social Network

What else is there to say about The Social Network? No, really, I’m not sure what else there is to say – I already wrote a blurb about this movie for another “Best of the Decade” list. But I think that, for me, The Social Network reaches number 1 status as opposed to my oft-championed Swiss Army Man, or Under the Silver Lake or even What We Do in the Shadows is because, frankly, I believe that The Social Network is a perfect film. It’s a great film for me, Brianna, and it’s a great film for society as a whole. It’s an expertly written, masterfully paced mix of thriller, comedy, bio-drama; the perfect synthesis of David Fincher’s unique direction and Aaron Sorkin’s precise dialogue and character work. The film is an uncomfortable look at the lengths one will go and the personal relationships cost at the sake of success that still manages to move like a rollercoaster ride. And though people love to claim that this movie paints Mark Zuckerberg in too flattering a stroke (though, have we not heard of the term “anti-hero” before?), I believe it’s an incredibly damning portrait of narcissism and self-interest that is a triumph in the way it still gets you to empathize with its horrid lead. I can revisit this film over and over and it’s like watching it for the first time. 

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