Well, hey! We’ve made it to the end of a decade! Isn’t that neat? That makes this the perfect time to look back and honor our favorite movies from each of the past ten years, so Hugh and I put this below list together.
Academy Award for Best Picture: The King’s Speech
Highest-grossing: Toy Story 3
Andrew: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Honorable Mentions Toy Story 3, Inception, The Social Network
2010 was a great year for movies (and a shitty year for Best Picture). This might as well be a four-way tie. Toy Story 3 is a devastatingly emotional and satisfying epic of animation. The Social Network brings Aaron Sorkin’s lightning-fast dialogue to the Silicon Valley setting to bring a drama that remains astonishingly relevant. Inception brings its audience into a wondrous and complex world that has kept fans theorizing and debating about the ending, and manages to be some of Christopher Nolan’s best work.
But more than any of these, Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World feels like something entirely different. There are so many moments where it feels like Edgar Wright uses the medium of film in ways you don’t normally see, and that makes this movie incredibly refreshing. More than others, Scott Pilgrim feels like a world you can inhabit and explore. The premise – a nerdy guy starts dating a girl way out of his league and has to fight all of her super-powered ex-boyfriends – manages to be both compelling and hilarious. This movie has quite a few moments that manage to be funny in subtle ways, but just as many that will elicit substantial laughter.
Not to mention, the team behind the casting of this movie deserves so much praise for including people who would later become A-List stars; Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza, and Kieran Culkin all have relatively minor parts in this movie but still manage to give incredible performances.
To my knowledge, there is no movie quite like Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World – and that’s what makes it so special.
Hugh: The Social Network
What makes this movie works so well is that it isn’t about how Facebook was made, but rather about the relationship and end of the friendship between friends as they gain success. To me there is no scene I’ve watched more than Andrew Garfield asking Jesse Eisenberg “Please tell me this isn’t because I got into The Phoenix and you didn’t.” This is a movie about the end of a friendship, and Fincher knows that.
Jesse Eisenberg doing his socially alien schtick can be annoying, fortunately the script (mostly) holds him accountable for his actions, like the way he treats Rooney Mara, and he doesn’t get the redemption he seeks by the end of the movie.
Also, I know it’s trendy to hate Aaron Sorkin now, but his script is incredible. It fits the portrayal of Zuckerberg as being cold and socially oblivious. Of course this guy has the perfect dismissive remark, he has no clue how humans act.
The Social Network is a brilliant film that studies how the pursuit of success comes at the cost of our humanity, and that is why it holds up a decade later.
Best Picture: The Artist
Highest-grossing: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Honorable Mentions Catching Hell, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Keeping in the vein of movies that feel entirely unique, we have Rango. Standing out from other animated children’s movies, Rango is an animated Western parody directed by Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski, starring Johnny Depp as the anthropomorphic-lizard main character.
The movie is funny and weird as hell. There’s one incredibly surreal scene where Rango meets [Spoiler Redacted] and it’s pretty amazing. But everything else about this movie is amazing; the Hans Zimmer score is a loving homage to the classic Ennio Morricone Western scores and the beautiful animation.
God bless Gore Verbinski for taking a risk on a movie like this. Westerns haven’t been a particularly relevant movie since the 1970’s, so why on earth he thought a western parody was the right choice for a 2011 kids movie is beyond me, but I really appreciate it.
Hugh: A Separation
Honorable Mentions: Attack the Block, The Skin I Live In
2011 might be my favorite movie year this decade, because I can make equally compelling arguments for Attack the Block and The Skin I Live In. But, A Separation is the movie I want to talk about because I don’t normally get the chance.
The only thing I knew about this movie before I watched it was that it was about an Iranian couple going through a divorce, and I think that might be the best way to watch this movie. But beware, it is a 2 hour emotional gut punch.
What impresses me the most about this movie its humanity. Director Asghar Farhadi manages to give every character clear motivations, and allow the audience to empathize with every viewpoint. Getting through the film is difficult because you know that there’s no way there can be a satisfying conclusion for all of the characters, and that is the real tragedy of the whole situation.
The movie is currently out on Netflix. So if you have the time, I definitely recommend checking it out.
Best Picture: Argo
Highest-grossing: The Avengers
Andrew: Django Unchained
Honorable Mentions: The Avengers, Moonrise Kingdom, Seven Psychopaths
And continuing with my love of westerns, my pick for 2012 is Quentin Tarantino’s revisionist spaghetti western Django Unchained, giving us the story of a bounty hunter who trains a freed slave, Django, to become a bounty hunter, with the long-term goal of rescuing Django’s wife from the worst plantation in the South. My love for this movie is well-documented; I wrote about it during my Personal Favorites series and in my Tarantino ranking. Opinions on the movie are varying, with many calling it problematic – and most of those claims are not without merit. But the film manages to capture Django’s arc from slave to an empowered bounty hunter in (what I have always thought to be) a compelling way. It has four tremendous performances from Jaime Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson, with Waltz even winning his second Oscar. Django Unchained tells a story we have seen in the classic Italian westerns such as its namesake, Django, but coupled with a freed slave’s story of revenge and Tarantino’s unique style of dialogue and action, Django Unchained manages to be a hell of a ride.
Hugh: The Perks of Being A Wallflower
When you’re no longer a teenager it’s hard to be interested in coming-of-age movies. But Perks of Being a Wallflower still holds up remarkably well. Logan Lerman and Emma Watson give some of the best performances in a teen movie this decade, but the real credit has to go to Ezra Miller who is an absolute star in the movie. The movie captures all of the depressing aspects of high school and the excitement of finding a friend group where you belong.
Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave
Snowpiercer is a truly unique concept. If you listen to the elevator pitch for it, you’d either think it was too esoteric to succeed, or too incredible to fail. A post-climate-disaster dystopia set on a train that holds what remains of humanity and perpetually circles the frozen Earth; the main characters are mounting a rebellion from the proletariat back of the train to the aristocratic front of the train. This setting makes for a wonderful
But the performances in Snowpiercer are deeper than you might expect. John Hurt does a tremendous job, as he always does. Song Kang-Ho is tremendous, Octavia Spencer is pretty excellent as a supporting role, Alison Pill is both delightfully weird and weirdly delightful, Tilda Swinton absolutely disappears into her role. Additionally, [SPOILER REDACTED] gives a spectacular if brief performance and makes for a great reveal as the final villain. but that being said, when I watch Snowpiercer, I find myself asking “How the hell did Chris Evans not get nominated for an Oscar for this?”
Hugh: Before Midnight
I’ve been a fan of Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy for a while, and Before Midnight delivers a satisfying conclusion(?) to these films. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are still in top form as Jesse and Celine, giving them each a sense of maturity while still holding on to the wisdom and thoughtfulness the characters have always had.
While the first half of the movie is a delightful retread of this series with philosophical discussions about life and the unknown. Until the last 30 minutes, where the movie is just a truck running over your heart.
Best Picture: Birdman; or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Highest-Grossing: Transformers: Age of Extinction
Andrew: The Grand Budapest Hotel*
Honorable Mentions: Birdman, Guardians of the Galaxy, What We Do in the Shadows
*Hugh and I both picked Grand Budapest Hotel for 2014, so I’m going to cover one of my honorable mentions, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).
As far as filmmaking techniques, I’m a sucker for continuous shots, and that’s something that this movie has a lot of. It’s one of the main elements of Alejandro Innaritu’s direction, and it’s definitely the main visual style. It’s similar to directors like Alfonso Cuaron or Paul Thomas Anderson, but in this case, the shots are more ingratiated in the narrative. This is one movie where the visual style feels less like a way of just showing us what’s happening and more like the focal point of the film.
It’s also worth mentioning that the performances in the film are all pretty spectacular; Emma Stone and Edward Norton both received oscar nominations and Zach Galifinakis shines in an atypically dramatic performance, but the real star is Michael Keaton. Keaton reaches a career high, in what can easily be read as a commentary on his career after Batman – he lost it to Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Stephen Hawking. Was that the right choice? Meh, I don’t know – but either way, Keaton has been on an upswing ever since. Rightfully so.
Hugh: The Grand Budapest Hotel
If you ask me, this is Wes Anderson’s best film yet. I love the decision to have each flashback/story told in a different aspect ratio/visual style. It does an excellent job of giving the nostalgia for the past a beauty despite the fact that it takes place prior to World War II. Plus, the comedy is on point with several hilarious scenes, such as the reading of the will or the scene at the monastery.
But the real credit needs to go to Ralph Fiennes, who has to give M. Gustave a level of high society, as well as paternal warmth. The emotional punch at the end of the film depends on how much you love his character, and if Fiennes performance wasn’t as strong, the film would not be anywhere near as memorable.
In the end, the film is about the joy of storytelling and how one story can inspire people throughout generations.
Best Picture: Spotlight
Highest-grossing: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Andrew: Ex Machina
Honorable Mentions: Band of Robbers, Creed, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Hateful Eight
All right, I’ll be honest, I only picked this movie because it gave us the Oscar Isaac Dancing Meme… Well, that and I absolutely adore this movie.
I’ll do my best to say as little about Ex Machina as possible, because in many ways I feel like the less you know about it the better it can be. In fact, I did my very best to find a trailer for this movie that barely spoiled anything, and I couldn’t find a single trailer that didn’t spoil some element of the movie. So I think it’s just easier to say this; Oscar Isaac plays a CEO of a company that is on the cusp of creating Artificial Intelligence, and he invites his employee played by Domnhall Gleason to test his most recent AI development – robotic Alicia Vikander – with him on his private estate. The movie is set in one location, and is all about the actors giving great performances.
This movie makes me think back to Westworld Season 2; if you liked the AI-related elements of that, you’ll like this. It’s smaller-scale but big-idea sci-fi. If you’re not concerned about AI before watching this movie, you certainly will be after.
Hugh: Mad Max: Fury Road
The movie that inspired a million video essays. Yeah, I really love Mad Max: Fury Road. From the spectacle of the sandstorm/effects, to the fight/stunt choreography along the rig, and the performances by Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult.
But what stands out the most about this film is how little dialogue it needs. Nearly all of the exposition of the film is done visually. You could watch this movie with the sound off, and still come away enjoying the movie just the same.
Best Picture: La La Land Moonlight
Highest-grossing: Captain America: Civil War
Andrew: Kubo and the Two Strings
Honorable Mentions: 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Nice Guys
If you said that stop motion animation was a dead art form, I would probably be inclined to agree with you… that is, before I saw the Laika Studios triumph that was Kubo and the Two Strings. Kubo throws you into a world that feels like a fairytale come alive. It’s an epic and thrilling Hero’s Journey with samurai, monsters, talking animals… “The Works,” as Joseph Campbell called them. The voice acting ranges from adequate to excellent, with Ralph Fiennes’ performance standing out.
The animation is staggeringly beautiful, making the movie a true feast for the eyes. What you end up with is a memorable and incredible children’s movie that seeks to teach its audience about grief.
In my book this movie was undeniably the best of the year. Barry Jenkins manages to take 3 distinct stories and turn them into one cohesive narrative. The way Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes manage to portray one man at different stages of his life, and have each version feel natural is incredible. Plus, Mahersala Ali and Andre Holland give such warm/sympathetic performances that they stick with you the most despite only appearing in one segment.
Plus, every emotional beat in lands so well. Whether its Chiron finally having the closure he needs with his mother, or the ‘Hello Stranger’ scene at the restaurant (Which is one of my favorite uses of a popular song in a movie in recent years.) The hype about this movie is real, and if you haven’t seen it yet, I definitely recommend it.
Best Picture: The Shape of Water
Highest-grossing: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Andrew: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Honorable Mentions: Lady Bird, Logan, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Baby Driver
Listen, I’m sick of talking about this series, you’re sick of hearing about it. There’s very little that I can say about this movie that I or someone else haven’t said yet. So I’ll (try to) keep this brief.
I don’t know if I would love this movie as much if people didn’t absolutely hate it for reasons that range from fair to – pardon my french – fucking stupid. That disdain only enriches my love for Last Jedi; “Darkness rises, and light to meet it.”
People dislike this movie for a variety of reasons, the most reasonable being issues of pacing and plotting, but the most frequent probably being “I don’t like the version of Luke Skywalker we see in this movie.” Like Logan, one of my other favorite movies of 2017, The Last Jedi tells the story about a younger hero doing her best to bring the aged mentor out of their apathy and into a conflict which they have previously stayed out of. For me, Luke’s struggle with the Dark Side
In November and December, I started writing about all of my favorite scenes from the previous movies, and I found that many of the scenes I highlighted tied back into what I loved about The Last Jedi. Some people think that Last Jedi hates the overarching mythology of Star Wars, but I think that Luke’s arc in the movie ultimately reaffirms the story that we’re told. It’s a compelling story about accepting and overcoming failure.
Hugh: Call Me By Your Name
If you were to ask me what my favorite film of the decade was, it was probably Call Me By Your Name, but I feel like I would just be repeating a lot of what I’ve written about for Before Midnight, Moonlight, and Perks of Being A Wallflower and I wouldn’t do it justice so…
Hugh: Phantom Thread
This film is incredible and can be classified as another Paul Thomas Anderson masterpiece. Daniel Day-Lewis is once again phenomenal as Reynolds Woodcock, a high society artist that is slowly becoming out of touch as the times around him are changing. Woodcock’s controlling personality and obsessive quirks make him a difficult person to love. (“The tray is leaving, the distraction is staying in the room!”) As his girlfriend discovers a way to love him, you uncover an almost grotesque, but kind of beautiful way for a relationship to work, and for Woodcock to be loved.
But, a special shoutout needs to go to Lesley Manville who holds her own equally against Day-Lewis. “Don’t pick a fight with me, you won’t come out alive. I’ll go right through and you’ll end up on the floor.”
Best Picture: Green Book
Highest-grossing: Black Panther
Andrew: Avengers: Infinity War
Honorable Mentions: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, Mission Impossible: Fallout
So, as a huge fan of Marvel’s overarching cinematic universe, I’ve done my best not to make this list an entirely Marvel-focused list. And that wasn’t too hard – each of the years in this decade had a Marvel movie that corresponded with it. While it might not have been among the best (however, both Guardians of the Galaxy movies and The Avengers certainly were), they were consistently among the most fun. On the other hand, Infinity War felt like something else entirely. In 2012, The Avengers felt like such a spectacular crossover in bringing characters from four* different movies together. Six years later, we saw the same thing after an exponential increase in Infinity War. This movie feels like the payoff of a tremendous cinematic experiment these past ten years. In particular, Infinity War impresses because of the scope and magnitude of its story – in many ways, it feels like a grandiose epic.
This movie was originally announced as Infinity War Part 1, with Endgame originally titled Infinity War Part 2. But by making the ostensible villain the main character, Infinity War tells a complete story without feeling like it has too deliberately set up its second part. Empire Strikes Back wasn’t above this, it basically ends on a “To be continued…” At the end of Infinity War, we know that the Avengers will find a way to defeat Thanos and make everything right, but it is incredibly bold of the movie to present Thanos as the main character, and to end on the scene of Thanos sitting on his porch, looking contentedly at the world he’s created.
I know that there’s a debate around whether or not these movies qualify as cinema, and perhaps the fact that you have to watch almost 20 movies to get to Infinity War to truly appreciate everything about it. But this movie’s high points – “I don’t feel so good,” Thor’s arrival in Wakanda, and much of the action related to Thanos – feel like genuine cinematic experiences.
Hugh: First Reformed
I wrote a little bit about my favorite 2018 movies on this blog before. And to be quite honest, I can make an argument for any of the movies on that list as my favorite of the year, but today is First Reformed.
I’m really blown away by how well the film captures the pure existential dread of modern life, as well as the brief joys that can make it all worth it. I think the final scene of this film might be one of my favorite scenes this decade.
But all the credit has to go to Ethan Hawke (2 movies on my end of decade list. Congrats Mr. Hawke!) who gives a tour de force performance. His character has to serve as a calming voice of reason, while we know how much he is struggling with alcoholism, the death of his son, and an existential crisis of faith. It’s one of the best character studies I’ve seen in recent years.
Best Picture: Idk, probably Detective Pikachu
Highest-grossing: Avengers: Endgame
I saw and loved: Avengers: Endgame, The King, Us, Booksmart, Shazam
I still need to see: Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, Parasite, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Lighthouse Toy Story 4…
Until then, I don’t know if I could possibly settle on a particular favorite.
Hugh: Booksmart (For Now)
Look, I usually see all the big Awards-worthy movies in the following January because that is when their wide release happen. So for right now, Booksmart was the best movie I saw this year. To put things in perspective, I saw this movie because it was the next showtime when I went to a theater. I ended up in a small, but full, screening where I and the rest of the audience laughed at every joke in the movie, and had a great time. I went and rewatched the movie with a friend the following week, and thought ‘eh, I won’t enjoy this movie as much a second time because I already know all the jokes’. I and the rest of the audience ended up laughing at every joke in the movie and having a great time. A few weeks ago when I was scrolling through Hulu, I decided to throw on the movie and thought “I probably won’t like this movie as much because there’s not the laughter of the crowd with me” And I ended up laughing at all of the jokes in the movie.
Your mileage may vary on this movie, and I know there’s a ton of gaps in what I’ve seen this year, but for right now the best movie-going experience I had this year was Booksmart.