11-25 are listed alphabetically
10. Marriage Story
Acted with gusto, crafted with precision, and so heartbreakingly honest that all pretense of cinema begins to fade within a few scenes, Marriage Story is not only Noah Baumbach’s finest film to date, it’s also the cream of the massively growing crop of Netflix original films. Driver and Johansson give career-best performances as two New York artists going through a cross-country divorce that gets nastier and nastier as time goes on, and the film’s uses of empathy, humor, and reflection turn what could have been the bleakest film of the year into a statement of basic human desires, flaws, and decencies.
Perfect Sense is the scariest horror movie of the decade. A sci-fi love story about two thirty-somethings whose relationship begins alongside a disease that slowly rids people of their various senses, the film utilizes its apocalyptic ticking clock and rushes of emotion to paint a melodramatic sledgehammer of loss and identity. It’s the farthest a film can be from subtle, but it remains haunting, introspective, and sweeping. I still get a small wave of panic even now thinking about this film years after first seeing it.
As a lover of theater, one of the most thrilling things a movie can do in my eyes is put two people in a room and let them go, all the while trying to make the film work in the medium it’s in. Director Charlie McDowell and writer Justin Lader’s The One I Love, a genre twist on an isolated couples retreat, is my go-to movie to show people when they ask for something weird. Sinister, cynical, and fresh, the mumblecore aesthetic crashing into the darker ramifications of the plot creates a sensation of the boring reality being invaded and infected by the symbolism and structure of cinema itself. If none of that sells you, Elisabeth Moss gives what I consider to be the best female performance of the decade, so that’s something.
Can you tell I just graduated from film school? Despite a reputation for being another twee indie in a decade filled to burst with twee indies, Spike Jonze’s Her uses the mechanics and tropes of the sub-genre to tackle loneliness, love, sex, and the human experience in such a profound way that less than six years later did we get a crappy Adam Devine-starring knock-off of it. Her is a film that doesn’t know judgment and disgust the way so many stories about technology do, an empathetic and embracing film that truly believes in the human spirit. It’s like a great episode of Black Mirror without the moral being “humans are awful and deserve to die”.
I know his overwritten style isn’t for everyone, but there’s something about Xavier Dolan’s films that always hit me square in the chest (at least his French films, I haven’t seen John F. Donovan and am afraid of it). The Canadian enfant terrible paints his films with a misguided, youthful rage that so rarely comes across in cinema without being annoying and pandering, every scene transporting you to your college dorm where everyone ranted for hours about the injustices of the world without ever seeing them firsthand. Mommy is easily the film of his that tackles these concepts the most, and in all its brash, manic glory…it’s nothing short of dazzling.
5. Mr. Nobody
Languishing around for a few years internationally before a US release in 2013, Jaco Van Dormael’s Mr. Nobody is a sprawling, concaving mess pulsing so furiously with the questions of the universe that watching the film is more akin to a game of philosophical chicken than entertainment, where be it the audience or the film, somebody will fall. The genius of the film, then, comes when the balancing act is held. The highest of intellectual high-wires, Mr. Nobody is a movie whose morals I’m still wrestling with, but what I can’t argue is the emotional punches that help everything stay above board. It’s exceptionally ambitious and odd, and I’m still in awe that it not only works, but works as strongly and smoothly as it does.
4. About Elly
It’s like if L’Avventura was as good as people make it out to be! The growing international success of Asghar Farhadi with his Best Foreign Language Film winners A Separation and The Salesman is one of the best cinematic wins of the decade, because he is a filmmaker seemingly incapable of making films that don’t inspire countless hours of contemplation and focus. His notoriety finally got About Elly to the states in 2015, and it is such an absorbing work of art that it’s hard to properly reckon with. Bleak, tense, and twice as harrowed as it is harrowing, About Elly is a rock that sits in your stomach. It never leaves you.
I really really love Edgar Wright, and I’ll be honest, when The World’s End released in 2013, I don’t think I could have disliked it. What I didn’t expect, though, was Wright’s most mature film, building off the love and affection people had for the previous two films in his unofficial trilogy, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, to tell a story about the impermanence of youth. The World’s End is terrifying to a kid who thinks he’ll live forever, and the betrayal of the flightier prior films only hammered that home for me. It’s a risky, unsatisfying move that gives the audience just enough slack to find some hope at the end of the ever-shrinking tunnel.
Considering I spent the majority of 2018 tweeting about Blindspotting non-stop, and the film actually got me to start listening to an entire genre of music I had previously written off as “just not for me”, it’s no surprise that it’s here. Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal’s performances and screenplay are unparalleled in their articulation and craft. It’s a film with so much energy you need to rehydrate afterwards because your soul has just run a marathon. Hopeful, furious, and dedicated, Blindspotting is not just masterful, it’s necessary, and should be required viewing for all.
At the beginning of the decade, I was 12, and my dad took me to see a midnight showing of this weird comic book movie I’d been bugging him about for months because it looked so cool. Since that night, I’ve seen Scott Pilgrim vs. the World maybe 40 times. It became an intrinsic part of my identity for a few years in the middle, and sometimes I want my favorite movie to be a more dignified affair, but every time I put it on, I just find more and more things to love. This movie defined and carried the decade for me, and it would be wrong to pretend anything else was my favorite film of the decade.
The Best of the Decade 20th century women a separation about elly adam devine adam driver anomalisa asghar farhadi blindspotting carlos lopez estrada cavalry charlie mcdowell cold war columbus daveed diggs david mackenzie edgar wright elizabeth moss hot fuzz jaco van dormael john f donovan justin lader la la land lavventura little women madelines madeline marriage story mommy mr nobody noah baumbach parasite perfect sense rafael casal scarlett johansson scott pilgrim vs the world shaun of the dead spike jonze the babadook the perks of being a wallflower the salesman the social network the worlds end whiplash xavier dolan your name