Friday, January 17, 2020

Best Films of the 2010s

Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin
The 2010s are well and truly over, so it's only right to take stock and try to figure our what cinema meant to me over the past ten years. During a decade that saw a lot of personal and professional disruption for me as I switched careers and continents, movies were a constant, even if my tastes shifted more than at any other time in my life. It's hard to imagine the me of 2010 being more excited about watching An Elephant Sitting Still, a four-hour Chinese drama, than the latest Star Wars movie, or earnestly insisting that one of most exhilarating things I saw all decade was a black-and-white Hungarian film about a horse, but here we are. We change, we grow, we become strangers to ourselves.

Which is not to say that the list below, which encompasses the 100 films from the past decade that I think are real neat, is all bleakness. There's some incredibly silly comedies buried in there, and I dearly love the blockbusters that made a real impression on me. But as Hollywood spectable became more homogenous and I got most of my comedy from television and podcasts, those two genres, which defined my taste in movies through my teens and early twenties, fell off precipitiously.

This is the final version of my list, not because it's in anyway definitive, but because I finally forced myself to stop tinkering with it. Having whittled it down from a longlist of about five hundred films, I've spent much of the last week going over it and moving things around, looking at other peoples' lists to see what I might have missed, or suddenly being reminded of a film I'd forgotten to include. (Case in point, mere minutes before writing this section, I suddenly realised that I had left off The Skin I Live In.) If I don't post this now, I might never get around to it, since there's always another great film to catch up on, or some unheralded masterpiece waiting to be discovered. As such, this is as good a list as any, though probably not as good as the list I would come up with if I revisited it ten years from now, when I've got an even better sense of what this whole decade looked like.

Not to fill this whole preamble with caveats, but this is a personal list shaped by my own taste, but also by my own myopia. Even though I watched a lot of films this decade and feel like this is a pretty good sample of What Was Good In Cinema over the past ten years, I have by no means seen everything, let alone everything good. I set some time aside in the past few months to try and catch up on films and filmmakers that I had heard being discussed in the Best of the Decade discussion, and seeing films by directors like Hong Sang-soo and Zhangke Jia, both of whom were pretty prolific over the past decade but whose work I only just started to dig into, was a nice reminder that there is always so much out there waiting to be discovered.

Before we get to the list itself, I feel the need to explain one notable omission: Twin Peaks: The Return. In the nearly three years since the continuation/conclusion(?) of David Lynch and Mark Frost's seminal funny/upsetting drama/nightmare aired on Showtime, the question of whether it can be considered a film, seeing as it's a pretty singular work from a visionary director and hews closer to the grammar and structure of avant-garde cinema than traditional television, has been litigated and re-litigated (and re-re-litigated) into absurdity. Ultimately, I come down on the side saying that it is a film in all the ways that count, and that future cinephiles and scholars should consider it as such within Lynch's oeuvre, but I also cannot divorce myself from the original context in which I and so many others watched it for the first time; broken up into eighteen episodes that aired week to week over the course of four months in the summer of 2017.

This is not merely a formal distinction, but one tied into the broader experience of watching television versus watching a film. You generally don't watch a couple of scenes from a film, stop, read a review of the scene that you just watched, talk to friends about how they feel the film is going, then wait a week to see what the next couple of scenes will be like. It's a fundamentally different way of experiencing art and relating to other people experiencing that art, and while I believe that Twin Peaks: The Return fits certain, nebulous criteria that make it a film, I fell in love with it as a TV show, so ultimately I don't feel like I can include it on this list. Though, for the record, if I were to include it, it would probably be my number one.

With that out of the way, here is my list of the 100 best films of the 2010s. I'm mostly happy with it.

  1. Under the Skin (dir. Jonathan Glazer, 2013)
  2. The Wind Rises (dir. Hayao Miyazaki, 2013)
  3. Mad Max: Fury Road (dir. George Miller, 2015)
  4. No Home Movie (dir. Chantal Akerman, 2015)
  5. Inside Llewyn Davis (dirs. Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013)
  6. Holy Motors (dir. Leos Carax, 2012)
  7. Inherent Vice (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014)
  8. The Act of Killing (dirs. Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn and Anonymous, 2012)
  9. Phantom Thread (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)
  10. Uncut Gems (dirs. Josh and Benny Safdie, 2019)
  11. American Honey (dir. Andrea Arnold, 2016)
  12. Silence (dir. Martin Scorsese, 2016)
  13. Lenny Cooke (dirs. Josh and Benny Safdie, 2013)
  14. Shin Godzilla (dirs. Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi)
  15. The Tale of Princess Kaguya (dir. Isao Takahata, 2013)
  16. Moonlight (dir. Barry Jenkins, 2016)
  17. The Arbor (dir. Clio Barnard, 2010)
  18. Logan Lucky (dir. Steven Soderbergh, 2017)
  19. Enough Said (dir. Nicole Holofcenor, 2013)
  20. Ash is Purest White (dir. Zhangke Jia, 2018)
  21. Oslo, August 31st (dir. Joachim Trier, 2011)
  22. On the Beach Alone at Night (dir. Hong Sang-Soo, 2017)
  23. Tangerine (dir. Sean Baker, 2015)
  24. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Live (dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010)
  25. Margaret (dir. Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)
  26. A Hidden Life (dir. Terrence Malick, 2019)
  27. First Reformed (dir. Paul Schrader, 2017)
  28. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011)
  29. The Irishman (dir. Martin Scorsese, 2019)
  30. Minding the Gap (dir. Bing Liu, 2018)
  31. Shirkers (dir. Sandi Tan, 2018)
  32. The Handmaiden (dir. Park Chan-wook, 2016)
  33. Stray Dogs (dir. Tsai Ming-liang, 2013)
  34. Mistress America (dir. Noah Baumbach, 2015)
  35. Once Upon a Hollywood (dir. Quentin Tarantino, 2019)
  36. The Skin I Live In (dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 2011)
  37. Support the Girls (dir. Andrew Bujalski, 2018)
  38. Good Time (dirs. Josh and Benny Safdie, 2017)
  39. A Separation (dir. Asghar Farhadi, 2011)
  40. Elle (dir. Paul Verhoeven, 2016)
  41. The Babadook (dir. Jennifer Kent, 2014)
  42. A Ghost Story (dir. David Lowery, 2017)
  43. Dawson City: Frozen Time (dir. Bill Morrison, 2016)
  44. Let the Sunshine In (dir. Claire Denis, 2017)
  45. Parasite (dir. Bong Joon-ho, 2019)
  46. The Wolf of Wall Street (dir. Martin Scorsese, 2013)
  47. Things to Come (dir. Mia Hansen-Løve, 2016)
  48. Columbus (dir. Kogonada, 2017)
  49. A Quiet Passion (dir. Terence Davies, 2016)
  50. This is Not a Film (dir. Jafar Panahi, 2011)
  51. Song to Song (dir. Terence Malick, 2017)
  52. Bombay Beach (dir. Alma Har'el, 2011)
  53. 22 Jump Street (dirs. Chris Miller and Phil Lord, 2014)
  54. Madeline’s Madeline (dir. Josephine Decker, 2018)
  55. Meek’s Cutoff (dir. Kelly Reichardt, 2010)
  56. Spider-Man: Enter the Spider-Verse (dirs. Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman, 2018)
  57. Another Year (dir. Mike Leigh, 2010)
  58. God’s Own Country (dir. Francis Lee, 2017)
  59. Night Moves (dir. Kelly Reichardt, 2013)
  60. The Bob Emergency (dir. Jon Bois, 2019)
  61. A Silent Voice: The Movie (dir. Naoko Yamada, 2016)
  62. Revenge (dir. Coralie Fargeat, 2017)
  63. The Fits (dir. Anna Rose Holmer, 2015)
  64. Obvious Child (dir. Gillian Robespierre, 2014)
  65. Raw (dir. Julia Ducournau, 2016)
  66. The Turin Horse (dirs. Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky, 2011)
  67. Love and Friendship (dir. Whit Stillman, 2016)
  68. Cameraperson (dir. Kirsten Johnson, 2016)
  69. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (dirs. Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, 2016)
  70. Certain Women (dir. Kelly Reichardt, 2016)
  71. Mission Impossible: Fallout (dir. Christopher McQuarrie, 2018)
  72. Your Name. (dir. Makoto Shinkai, 2016)
  73. Leave No Trace (dir. Debra Granik, 2018)
  74. Zama (dir. Lucrecia Martel, 2017)
  75. Strong Island (dir. Yance Ford, 2017)
  76. Hale County This Morning, This Evening (dir. RaMell Ross, 2018)
  77. Edge of Tomorrow (dir. Doug Liman, 2014)
  78. Frances Ha (dir. Noah Baumbach, 2012)
  79. The Grand Budapest Hotel (dir. Wes Anderson, 2014)
  80. Exit Through the Gift Shop (dir. Banksy, 2010)
  81. The Comedy (dir. Rick Alverson, 2012)
  82. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (dir. Christopher McQuarrie, 2015)
  83. In This Corner of the World (dir. Sunao Katabuchi, 2016)
  84. Weekend (dir. Andrew Haigh, 2011)
  85. Spring Breakers (dir. Harmony Korine, 2012)
  86. The Breadwinner (dir. Nora Twomey, 2017)
  87. Blue Ruin (dir. Jeremy Saulnier, 2013)
  88. Burning (dir. Lee Chang-dong, 2018)
  89. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (dir. Rian Johnson, 2017)
  90. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (dir. Edgar Wright, 2010)
  91. Paterson (dir. Jim Jarmusch, 2016)
  92. Paddington (dir. Matt King, 2014)
  93. Moneyball (dir. Bennett Miller, 2011)
  94. Certified Copy (dir. Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
  95. High Life (dir. Claire Denis, 2018)
  96. The Clouds of Sils Maria (dir. Olivier Assayas, 2014)
  97. Samsara (dir. Ron Fricke, 2011)
  98. Hard to be a God (dir. Aleksey German, 2013)
  99. Upstream Color (dir. Shane Carruth, 2013)
  100. Stoker (dir. Park Chan-wook, 2013)