50. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
The “Mission Impossible” franchise has really grown on me over the years. Each entry since “MI:3” has been better than the last. In “Ghost Protocol,” the IMF is disavowed upon implications of it having been involved in a global terrorist bombing. Ethan Hunt and his rogue team must use their own wits and resources to clear their own names and that of their organization. Directed by Brad Bird (who also did “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille,”), the film is vibrant, intense, and high-stakes. Tom Cruise outdoes himself with a stunt on the Burj Khalifa that no matter how many times I watch it, has me gripping the edge of my seat. The only real flaw with the film is its lack of a major villain, and at some point you might be struggling to remember who Hunt is fighting against and what the whole mission is for.
49. Avengers: Endgame
“Endgame” is the culmination of over a decade of hard work; a unique artistic vision that thrived thanks to a pool of talented writers, producers, actors, and an incredibly loyal fanbase. You either got attached to these characters or you didn’t growing up, and I guess “Iron Man” just came out at the right time during my youth to get me invested in the franchise. “Endgame” is specifically a movie for the fans of the MCU, rewarding their loyalty and adoration at every step of its meticulously crafted and emotionally writhing screenplay. “Endgame” feels like as much of a poignant end to ambition on behalf of its studio as it does to an end of an era for its characters. I immensely enjoyed it, and I cried twice. Yes, I cried, and that doesn’t happen often.
48. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Two Marvel films one after the other? In my Top 50? Clearly I’m just a superhero hack! Give me a break. The last 10 years have been the decade of Marvel and superhero movies, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to really enjoying a few of them. “Winter Soldier” was a step in a new direction for Marvel. The most mature of all the entries, it is a rousing mix of a political thriller and action spectacular. “Winter Soldier” is really the one MCU film where I don’t think you need to be a fan to enjoy it. While “Iron Man” piqued my interest in the series (I was more attached to Tony Stark than anything else), this was the MCU film that really made me pay attention and got me invested in the series.
47. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
The 2010s saw several major franchises end their run, and Yates and Co. finished off their “Harry Potter” run with possibly the best in the whole series. I actually watched all of the movies before I read the books, and I will admit, after having read them, the movies just aren’t quite the same. “The Half Blood Prince” fell from being one of my favorites in the series to one of my least favorites, and I realized that the end of “Part 2” is missing what could have been a great “Henry V” moment for Radcliffe. A lot of interesting dialogue in the book is left out in the film; I guess they just thought it wouldn’t be cinematic enough. Still, “Part 2” rounds out the franchise in stellar fashion with a washed out color palette to fit the mood, some high stakes action to get the adrenaline pumping, and many emotional moments that had me on the verge of tears.
46. Ex Machina
“Ex Machina” is a bit predictable, but it is still a smart and engaging science fiction film from Alex Garland. For a directorial debut, it’s pretty genius. The production design is instantly memorable and for a budget of $15 million, the visual effects are outstanding. The story is about as bare bones as its funding, meaning anyone with half-a-brain will be about an hour ahead of the main characters, but that doesn’t take away from just how well executed everything is and the stellar performances from Driver, Vikander, and Gleeson. Fans of the genre should find a lot to like in “Ex Machina.”
45. Phantom Thread
“Phantom Thread” had me completely engrossed in its tight weave until the final few shots when things turn dark. I was left feeling a bit conflicted and removed from the story. “Phantom Thread” examines what happens to infatuation as it turns into a toxic relationship, and then extends into a malicious power struggle. It’s meticulously shot, features one of Day-Lewis’s finest performances, and has a lot of nuance that detail-oriented viewers will really appreciate. The supporting cast members are exceptional, and the film has one of the best soundtracks of the decade. The costumers are brilliant and the sound design is quite remarkable – toast, anyone? If you think you might enjoy a patient character study and can pick out the more subtle aspects of a picture, then give this one a go. It’s certainly Paul Thomas Anderson’s best of the decade.
Atmospherically bleak and grim, “Prisoners” stands alongside “Se7en” as one of the most intense and disturbing thrillers I’ve seen. It draws on our most primal fears and creates a sense of dread and anguish that I care not to experience again. Unfortunately, the narrative isn’t quite as tight as the film deserves, and much of the effectiveness of the film lies in its cinematography, score, direction, and phenomenal performances. Had the third act not left plot holes large enough to drive an RV through, this could have made my top ten.
“Annihilation” takes some risks, and has a lot of interesting ideas revolving around evolution, mutation, life, and death. Cerebral, suspenseful, and chilling – those are the three words that I would use to describe “Annihilation.” It’s cerebral in its writing, though a lot of credit must go to its source material. It leaves its themes up to interpretation in a way that I thought only Stanley Kubrick could achieve. It’s as suspenseful as any Hitchcock film. I felt constantly on edge throughout the entire runtime. The metaphorical aspects succeed whereas in many other movies they fail. The performances are fantastic, and the film leaves you wanting to immediately break into discussion with a friend. “Annihilation” is smarter and creepier than any horror film released in recent years, but interestingly towards its conclusion proposes that it really wasn’t meant to be horrifying at all.
“Snowpiercer” was Bong Joon-ho’s English language debut, and was a South Korean-Czech co-production based on a French graphic novel. That’s a lot of nationalities already mixed together in just one production, but that pales in comparison to the range of futuristic hoarders and set pieces you will find in the film. Intense, visionary, gritty, and featuring Chris Evans’ finest performance, “Snowpiercer” moves as fast as the train it is about and has quite a few twists and turns along the way. Some of the themes feel a bit heavy-handed, but that’s excusable because of just how exquisite everything else is in the production.
41. Little Women
“Little Women” is a masterclass in adaptation. It surprised me with how deep it touched me emotionally. I haven’t read the book, and after watching Gerwig’s version, I feel like I almost don’t need to. She makes me want to, though. The source material is very close to Gerwig’s heart, and “Little Women” is clearly one of those great stories that transcends time. Though this is the fifth cinematic adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic story, it should be considered the definitive one. The work in front of and behind the camera is spectacular – everyone involved in this production made a genuinely wonderful and timeless film. I enjoyed it far more than I expected to.