12 Best of Christmas: Best Movies of the Decade


Getting down to twelve films on this list was a very difficult proposition. In fact, the bottom part of my list is completely out of my original order because I switched a few of them out so many times. Outside of the top four films, pretty much any of these movies could be interchangeable depending on what time it is in my life. Regardless, these are the movies that stayed with me most over the last decade and the movies that I genuinely believe will stand the test of time.

12. Interstellar

I’ll never forget seeing this movie with my father in an IMAX theater. He was nearing the end of his battle with cancer, but he wanted to experience this film I’d been raving about. As the credits rolled, he turned to me, with a tear in his eye and said, “Well, I’m glad I got to experience that before I died”. Me too dad. Me too.

11. Hugo

Martin Scorsese delivered several of my favorite films of the decade, but it was his love letter to cinema that has stuck with me throughout the decade. The way he took this brilliant children’s tale and made it a personal ode to the birth of filmmaking was like being invited into a master filmmakers dreams.

10. Inside Out

Not many films can have you in tears before you’ve even gotten to know the characters, but Pixar’s beautiful look at a child’s life and the essence of what makes us who we are, got me within moments. This is one of the funniest and most breathtaking animated adventures of all time.

9. Django Unchained

As I was developing this list, a theme kept coming up in my list. This past decade in film has been filled with an overarching narrative on the birth, death, and even the rebirth of black slavery. A fact that Ava Duvernay covers in her brilliant documentary ‘13th’. The most entertaining and escapist of these films was Quentin Tarantino’s slave revenge film ‘Django Unchained’. This film, unlike most of Tarantino’s work, is as much cinematic history as it is history, but the core of its narrative rings true. The brilliant dialogue is both painful and a darkly poetic look at our horrific past.

8. Boyhood

This project was one of the longest gestating in film history and what we ended up with was nothing short of a miracle in moviemaking. A snapshot of every year in a young boys life was conveyed by actually bringing together the same actors for over a decade. In the end, an unforgettable coming of age story was crafted and art imitated life in a way never seen before.

7. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

This is one of the most expertly crafted thrillers in the history of moviemaking. Many argued there was no need for this film after the exquisite Swedish original, but this film is an improvement in almost every way. The score is haunting, the editing is as close to perfect as it gets, the script flows with purpose, and the performances are uniformly fantastic. You could teach a film class on the marriage filmmaking elements by just simply watching the sequence where Henrik Vanger delivers the story of the day Harriet went missing. Not to mention the fact that Daniel Craig’s version of Blomkvist and Rooney Mara’s depiction of Lisbeth Salander are two of the embodiments of great characters in modern history.

6. 12 Years A Slave

Steve McQueen’s look at slavery is the most powerful, brutal, and realistic depiction of the great American sin that has ever been put on screen. And it’s narrative juxtaposition of the same free man in the north, and slave in the south, is the most clear look I’ve ever seen at the two worlds which existed in the United States. And why the sad fact of the impending Civil War was a necessary evil in order to reach legislative freedom for all.

5. 1917

The never ending shot that encompasses this film allows the intensity of war to build over time. Which makes the largest and smallest moments feel all the more important. When combined with all the other expertly crafted tools of the trade, this film delivers a series of moments that dig deep into the human consciousness. Even moments where the characters are walking slowly through no man’s land have impact. And while the story of two soldiers trying to save a battalion might be simple, it also conveys the essence of being a soldier more than any convoluted plot could ever do. War is hell, and soldiers fight it for their battle buddy. For this, and everything ‘1917’ does with perfection, it is the best war film of the 21st century.

4. The Revenant

DiCaprio delivered the performance of his life in this heart wrenching depiction of one mans fight back from the dead and across the unforgiving wilderness. This film is like ‘Apocalypse Now’ in the southern wilds of America and a literal trip into the heart of darkness. Moments of this film are horrific, others are almost spiritual, but the feeling of a time and place is ever abundant. You cannot help but walk away slightly altered by the unforgiving landscape that fills Emmanuel Lubezki’s lens.

3. Inception

The most unforgettably original film of the last decade has stuck with me for nearly ten years now. Director Christopher Nolan could have easily used computer generated effects for almost everything in this film, but instead opted to create a dream world that seems to morph realistically on top of itself. The narrative builds like a deck of cards, layer by layer on top of one another, and it is quite the experience to behold as it all comes crashing down. The final hour is a brilliant exercise in sustained tension, that somehow never substitutes adventurous intensity for emotional clarity. Instead, they become one in the same, and one of the greatest endings of all time leaves you dreaming about the future for the next decade.

2. The Social Network

If there is a more perfectly crafted film that has ever been made, then I have not seen it. The acting, writing, editing, sound, music, and every other aspect of filmmaking are succinctly blended together to create a film that expertly depicts the rise of what is now the most powerful platform on the planet. That it is filled with unforgettable sequences and almost Shakespearean themes seems almost beside the point. A marriage of a perfect script and a perfect director almost never happen. This film itself is truly a piece of history worth treasuring.

1. Lincoln

The best film of the decade is also the last step in the story of American slavery and its stain on our history. Everyone knows that Steven Spielberg can craft wondrous vistas and depict vivid acts of war. Yet, he understood that ending slavery truly came down to our governments capacity to change its own laws and a leader that was willing to fight for what he knew to be right. So, instead of delivering an epic story of the civil war, Spielberg chooses to fill his frames with the halls of our most sacred institutions. He chooses to let Tony Kushner’s magnificent dialogue and the history of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s masterful book fill the running time. In turn, the audience is treated to the most true depiction of our political system and how we can make it work to change the lives of our most vulnerable citizens. This film shows us exactly how freedom is crafted and how much more complicated it is then just two sides shooting at one another. With this film, Steven Spielberg cemented himself as the most comprehensive purveyor of film as the tool for history and this world is all the better for it.

The Best Film Series of the Decade

Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity Saga

I considered a handful of Marvel movies, Planet of the Apes movies, Star Wars movies, and How To Train Your Dragon movies for my best films of the decade, but I kept coming back to them as one cohesive narrative. After a while, it became clear to me that it was unfair to celebrate one without celebrating the whole. And the whole experience that Marvel crafted with their Infinity Saga is one of the most impressive things ever put together. If you watch the build up of these characters over more than twenty films and the phenomenal close they got with ‘Infinity War’ and ‘Endgame’, it’s impossible to deny the cinematic achievement.

 

Best of the Rest

If Beale Street Could Talk

Shutter Island

Let Me In

13th

Stories We Tell

Toy Story 3

Dunkirk

La La Land

Before Midnight

Gravity

Ready Player One

The Irishman

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Moonlight

A Star is Born

Super 8

Mission Impossible: Fallout

Roma

The Post

Wonder Woman

The Shape of Water

Blade Runner 2049

Logan

Planet of the Apes Trilogy

Arrival

A Monster Calls

Kubo and the Two Strings

Star Wars Trilogy

Sicario

Parasite

Steve Jobs

Bridge of Spies

War Horse

The Dark Knight Rises

Creed

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Mad Max: Fury Road

Manchester by the Sea

Lady Bird

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Whiplash

The Theory of Everything

Selma

The Wolf of Wall Street

Before Midnight

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Her

Short Term 12

Marriage Story

Blue Valentine

Silver Linings Playbook

Skyfall

Moonrise Kingdom

Looper

Little Women

Life of Pi

The Master

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Zero Dark Thirty

How To Train Your Dragon Trilogy

Nathan Ligon

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