Well, the current environment isn’t suited to a lot of our favorite activities, but it does give us all some time to catch up on some indoor activities that perhaps we’ve been putting off for quite some time. It might be catching up on that book you’ve had on your mind for months, learning a new subject, teaching yourself a new piece of music, or as I suspect most people are doing, catching up on some movies and TV shows. I’ve been meaning to sit down and write these articles for a couple of months now, but simply wasn’t able to find the time until now.
I was originally just going to do a top 25 of the decade list, but once I actually started making my list, I decided there there were more than just 25 movies from this decade that I thought were worth watching. I ended my list at 70 because…well that’s just where it fortunately ended. So pop some popcorn, pour yourself a coke, and put some good use to those six or seven different streaming services you probably now have.
Honorable Mention: First Man
Out of all of Damien Chazelle’s work this decade, “First Man” is the least likely to please general movie-goers. It’s slow, brooding, and plays like more of a documentary than a cinematic experience. It’s a stunning technical achievement and has a heartfelt performance from Ryan Gosling at its lead. If you enjoy stories about real space travel and are interested in learning more about Neil Armstrong as a man, then check this one out. All of the engineering and space travel scenes are remarkably realistic.
“Fury” is a solid war film with engaging performances, most notably from Brad Pitt and Logan Lerman. It’s filmed with a ferocity that makes it a particularly visceral and sometimes grisly experience. It raises all kinds of ugly moral questions, which are then quickly shoved aside for some crazy visual effects that look like they came straight out of a “Star Wars” film. It has an interesting concept and vantage point (coming from a tank much of the time), and it’s just emotional enough to land it the bottom spot on my list. It’s probably a bit lucky that I have a soft spot for World War II films.
69. Incredibles 2
On the surface, “The Incredibles” was a family-friendly spoof on superhero comics. The adult themes of uniformity, its satirical take on the modern workplace, and its critique on the human ego gave it depth and is what really made it great. Similarly, “Incredibles 2” has themes of labor-intensive parenthood, technology overreliance, dependency, and celebrity idolization. It took 14 years to get what was ultimately an incredibly fun and worthy sequel that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.
68. Manchester by the Sea
An emotionally devastating story, the first 30 minutes of “Manchester” had me completely floored in grief. Casey Affleck gives one of the best performances of the decade as Lee Chandler, who is entrusted with caring for his teenage nephew when his brother dies. It’s an incredibly intimate film about family and loss with a powerful script and exceptional performances. We don’t get many films that feel this personal with such introspective characters and multitudes of emotions. Should I say any more about it, I’d have to ask you to first sit down. If the editing was on par with all of the other elements of the film, this would rank much higher. Most people won’t be distracted by that though.
67. Under the Skin
“Under the Skin” is about an otherworldly creature in the guise of Scarlett Johansson that preys on the weaknesses of men. Its themes about beauty, appearance, superficiality, and sexuality are intertwined beautifully into the narrative, and the film makes for an interesting analysis piece after viewing. It also has some unique camerawork and direction – some of the scenes involving Johansson seducing men into her van were actually shot with hidden cameras. It’s a must-see for anyone craving for some intellectual science fiction.
66. Black Panther
I never thought that “Black Panther” was the groundbreaking cultural phenomenon that many others thought it was, but I did think it was one of the best superhero films of the decade with some exceptional talent in front of and behind the camera. It’s got some outstanding production design, costumes, acting from Boseman and Jordan, and a unique soundtrack. Ryan Coogler had a pretty good decade in his own right, proving himself with “Fruitvale Station,” “Creed,” and then “Black Panther.” I personally can’t wait to revisit Wakanda in the sequel.
65. Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Yeah, I pretty much had the same thought you probably have now when looking at this picture. I put off watching this Best Picture winner for as long as possible, but it actually turned out to be quite good. Innaritu’s films are pretty polarizing for audiences, but I’d suggest giving this one a go based on its interesting themes and commentary on the film industry. It’s far more enjoyable than “The Revenant.” “Birdman” was filmed to look like it is all one take, and combine that with the exceptional performances and skill in direction, there’s a certain amount of ferocity and unpredictability to its narrative. The experimental elements might be lost on some though.
64. Toy Story 3
What was initially thought to be a heartwarming sendoff to our favorite characters turned out to be just another stellar “Toy Story” movie from Pixar. It’s amazing how all four films have been so consistent in quality over the years, and “Toy Story 3” is without a doubt the most emotional of them all. It’s a beautiful farewell to Andy and is without a doubt the best animated film of the decade.
63. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
I’ll admit, I grade on a bit of a curve when it comes to “Star Wars.” “The Force Awakens” may have had some parallel story beats to “A New Hope,” but I never found that they detracted from the film’s enjoyment. The film still very much had its own identity. Abrams introduced some exciting new characters and set up the new elements of this Star Wars universe extraordinarily well. Its a very fun entry to the series, even if it does rely pretty heavily on nostalgia. Too bad it just all went downhill from here.
“Boyhood” is a remarkable technical achievement, having taken over 12 years to make. The film depicts the adolescence of Mason from ages six to eighteen as he grows up with divorced parents and a toxic family life. Production began in 2001 without a finished script. Each year’s portion of the script was finished after Linklater rewatched the previous year’s footage. He incorporated changes he saw in each actor as they aged into the script, and what he was left with was a very touching and realistic portrayal of growing up. That’s pretty much all it is though, and its unconventional structure can make it drag at times. It’s definitely worth checking out at least once.
This taut psychological thriller features one of the best performances of the decade from Jake Gyllenhaal. He portrays Louis Bloom, a stringer who records violent events late at night in L.A. and sells the footage to local news stations. Lou is a bit of a shifty and disturbed character, which makes for an interesting exploration into the mind of an unethical sociopath. The themes of unemployment, consumer demand, and journalism ethics are almost more attune to today’s world than they were in 2014. The story is also a bit of a satire that plays on the slogan, “If it bleeds, it leads.” If you especially like films about loner sociopaths like “Drive” or “Taxi Driver,” this is a must-see.