I’m starting off by breaking the rules a bit and listing 26 instead of the 25 we agreed each of these lists would be because rather than continuing to switch two of them every few hours to try and get the best version of this list, I figured I’m the editor-in-chief here and that’s gotta be enough to let me change the rules sometimes.
These first 16 are listed alphabetically. The top 10 are ranked.
10. Loving Vincent
Watching this, I felt what I imagine people felt when they first saw Toy Story. It’s an animated film, yes, but the medium was changed to be something entirely new (though in this case it was also something very old) and to challenge conceptions of what an animated film can be. As someone who is quite fond of Vincent van Gogh’s works, this was an absolute treat.
Shane Carruth is about the closest to pure auteur theory that it gets and, whether it’s a theory you subscribe to or not, his film about lives intertwined by parasites, pigs, and flowers is a brand of strange that certainly no one else could have come up with. Upstream Color is a film so strange and nonsensical that perhaps nothing else has ever made any more sense than it does.
Few films have ever attempted the scale The Tree of Life encompasses, spanning the beginning of the universe to modern times, yet fewer still have had the intimate emotional impact of The Tree of Life. Scenes of children realizing their parents are not infallible and of adults facing mortality unfold alongside scenes of CGI dinosaurs and make even the smallest moments in life seem as important as the universe changing events.
Is a copy of art valuable? Is the original being copied simply a copy of reality? Is reality simply a copy of another reality? Does anything have value other than what we choose to ascribe to it? These are a few of the questions this film attempts to answer on the streets of cities I used to live in.
6. La La Land
The best musical this side of Singin’ in the Rain. Maybe the best musical, period. It’s such fun to watch as it captures the joy and despair of following your dreams. Somehow it gets more rewarding every single time I watch it and it started off exceedingly strong.
5. Life Itself
This site wouldn’t exist without Roger Ebert and neither would most like it or the reviews and essays they contain. This documentary is a confronting look at his life and how he changed film criticism and film. It has many moments that are absolutely devastating to experience but is also one of the most uplifting films I have ever seen. In one of my favorite of his writings, Ebert talked about the concept of elevation and, as this film caused me to experience it and I can never hope to be as exemplary a writer as he was, I’ll go on and share what he had to say here.
Abstract and hypnotic to the extreme, the 2010 Palme d’Or winner is a meditative look at mortality and reincarnation that truly challenged my conceptions about what comes next and what came before in a way few other works of art have.
A plethora of genres and ideas all come together to make a film that mostly forgoes plot for a series of somewhat interconnected vignettes about male strippers and the people they encounter all looking for redemption and a last hurrah while performing amazingly choreographed dances to songs I’ll never hear the same way again. Simply the most fun a movie can be.
Any film set in Rome seems to get a bump in my ratings (La Dolce Vita is my all time favorite after all) but this is certainly among the best. It’s a very free-form tonal mood piece about the excesses of the wealthy in Rome and the search for the great beauty which allows it to seamlessly transition between depressingly melancholic and philosophical and unbounded joy in the same scenes. Sometimes a film feels like it was made just for me and this is one of those times. One of the rare instances where I would feel comfortable calling something a perfect film.
To those of you who have encountered me in any way recently, whether online or in person, it should come as no surprise that I’m naming Portrait of a Lady on Fire the best film of the decade (especially because I initially said I would do that more than three months ago and have repeated it regularly ever since). It is a rare and astounding thing for a film to come into your life at the perfect time and tell you exactly what you need to hear but when I first saw it at Cannes, it certainly did that. As I have continued to go on with my life and situations have changed somewhat, each of my three subsequent rewatches of the film have continued to provide the perfect catharsis and further solidified its place in my mind as one of the greatest films I have ever seen. It would initially seem like a simple doomed love story but it is made with such precision from all involved that it truly transcends any label that could be put on it and becomes a work of art and beauty to rival any masterpiece in any medium. A masterpiece in every sense of the word.
The Best of the Decade abbas kiarostami ad astra amour apichatpong weerasethakul birdman celine sciamma certified copy crazy stupid love damien chazelle dorota kobiela gregory jacobs holy motors hugh welchman interstellar la dolce vita la la land life itself loving vincent magic mike xxl marriage story paddington 2 paolo sorrentino portrait of a lady on fire roger ebert roma shane carruth shoplifters singin in the rain son of saul spring breakers steve james terrence malick the great beauty the handmaiden the irishman the martian the tree of life toy story uncle boonmee who can recall his past lives uncut gems upstream color