For the second half of this list, read on!
75. The Cabin In The Woods (2012, dr. Drew Goddard, scr. Goddard and Joss Whedon)
I can’t think of any other movie, either from this decade or just in general, that was both a celebration and a critique of an entire genre of movies. Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon do both flawlessly, making a piece of blood-soaked entertainment. I think there is something a little bit deeper there too, that goes beyond just the horror genre. This was the decade of the fan. This was the decade of nostalgia overload. If we got a movie that was 95% good, we spent the rest of the year bitching about that 5%. If this crazy horror comedy teaches us anything, its that we need to be able to give a little more leeway to our artists. Stop worrying about the superficial nitpicks, and just focus on the art. Not what you’d expect from a horror movie that literally features every horror monster you can think of, eh?
74. The LEGO Movie (2014, dr./scr. Phil Lord and Chris Miller)
It’s over the top, yes. You probably never want to hear the song “Everything is Awesome” ever again, because its just too overwhelmingly cheesy. But I admit, that I love that over-the-top cheesiness. Especially when it lines up with how slyly Lord and Miller adhere to the conventions of an animated “family film” while also taking jabs at our culture. At its heart, its got the wisdom of a standard Pixar film, but the movie itself takes so much joy in being weird that its actually sort of lovable. That’s also the heart of the film too, be weird. It’s okay to be weird, because everything is awesome.
73. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013, dr./scr. Joel & Ethan Cohen)
We’ve seen countless movies of somebody working toward a particular goal and getting their dream-come-true scenario realized right as the credits begin to roll. Only the Cohen brothers could make a movie about the heartache of never realizing your dream and still make it kind of beautiful. Yes, even the hopeless schmucks need movies for them too and there is nobody capturing that better than the two greatest American filmmakers. Much like “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” the Cohens use music as a character, but in their world of folk music, it’s a much different animal. If you wondered how Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver may have got the “Star Wars” gig, look no further than here. Isaac proved he was ready for a bigger career here.
72. Ex Machina (2015, dr./scr. Alex Garland)
For too long, science fiction was mere window dressing for action films. Too bad, because when handled correctly, science fiction an be challenging, engaging and entertaining all in equal measure. So thank God Alex Garland came along and made science fiction science fiction again. You could look at “Ex Machina” and only see a clever riff on Willy Wonka. However, Garland made a movie about ideas. Not only is the movie thought provoking, but the special effects are absolutely gorgeous, some of the best of the whole decade. Alicia Vikander’s robot is amazing to look at. Also, remember what I said about Oscar Issac? Mhmm…you know it.
71. Attack The Block (2011, dr./scr. Joe Cornish)
I mentioned “Star Wars” and how Oscar Isaac slowly built his way into a household name. Well, some guys are also just born to be recognized, and find their way into the bigger pictures by sheer force of will. John Boyega’s first film was this British alien invasion comedy. What begins with a gang of hoodlums mugging a nurse coming home from work ends when lights begin to fall from the sky. Then the nurse and the hoodlums realize that they are going to have to work together if they want to survive the crazy aliens that have landed on Earth. Yes, there is a cliched message to not look at the surface to find trust in people, but when its wrapped in a piece of candy like this, the taste is hard to resist.
70. A Separation (2011, dr./scr. Asghar Farhadi)
Plenty of movies have focused on break-ups and divorce but I am not sure I have ever seen one this raw and wounded before. Any time a married couple separates, they not only affect each other, but everyone in their orbit. If they have children, they will feel it. If they have close friends and other family, they will feel it too. It’s a ripple that affects every loved one, no matter how much the splitting couple wishes it wasn’t so. Until “A Separation,” I hadn’t seen such a profound example of this. It also gives you a look at a culture that would have remained foreign for several years.
69. Before Midnight (2013, dr. Richard Linklater, scr. Linklater, Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy)
There is a couple Richard Linklater has been checking in on once a decade since 1995. In that year, we were introduced Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) in “Before Sunrise” a movie about budding love, a young person’s perspective on a young person’s love and optimism. In 2004, Linklater caught up with Jesse and Celine in “Before Sunset.” That movie is definitely a movie about the same people, but with more life experience and there is a much more tender restraint surrounding Jesse and Celine not seeing each other after nine years. By “Before Midnight” they are finally a couple with two girls. The thing is, life is still tough even when you’ve found your soulmate, and you need to be willing to fight for it. As Linklater checks in on Jesse and Celine, he really digs deep into how time and lifespan weigh in on our lives and how fragile love truly is. I can only hope Linklater continues to check in on this couple as long as he continues to deliver such innocent insight.
68. Mutafukaz (2017, dr. Shojiro Nishimi & Guillaume Renard, scr. Renard)
This movie I saw at the Chicago International Film Festival in 2017. After a rather long day of movies, I felt pretty wiped. I only hoped I could stay awake for my fifth movie of the day at around 10:45 at night. The thing is, “Mutafukaz” blew the roof off the theater. I never would have guessed Japanese-French anime was actually real, but of course it is, and it should be. Its such an astoundingly original film that discussing it seems futile. There is a fictional place called Dark Meat City, there is a guy who gains powers after an accident, and there is a conspiracy theory around his upbringing, need I say more? Anybody who is a fan of anime owes it to themselves to track this down ASAP.
67. Cheap Thrills (2013, dr. E.L. Katz, scr. Trent Hagaa & David Chirchirillo)
The Have’s are constantly pushing the Have-Not’s and until the Have-Not’s realize they aren’t completely powerless; it will remain that way. Craig Daniels is played by Pat Healy, who breaks out so big in his lead performance that I am amazed we saw so little of him in the rest of the decade. Craig meets an old friend at a bar and they begin to catch up, a guy with his girlfriend takes interest in the two guys, and begins to pay them money to do random things. As the night grows longer, they all keep hanging out, the tasks for money get stranger, the amount of money gets bigger. It’s a wild ride, and its fun and provoking throughout.
66. Hearts Beat Loud (2018, dr. Brett Haley, scr. Haley & Marc Basch)
Its been a whirlwind eighteen months for me in particular, because my first daughter is eighteen months currently. For any parents out there reading, you’ll know this well enough, there is something very special about watching your children take shape. Even though my daughter is still very young, there is a hunger for knowledge that is mesmerizing, and there is a special case of pride that comes with being a parent. “Hearts Beat Loud” is about Frank (Nick Offerman) an ex-musician who is now a single dad running a record store on its last fumes. Its also the last summer he has with his daughter Sam (Kersey Clemons) before she heads off to college. They make some music together, and a particular song becomes a low-level hit. You feel right away that parental pride Frank shares with his daughter. This is a joyous celebration of family and love, told through the filter of music. And yes, the music in the movie is every bit as amazing as you think. Offerman’s Frank is probably his greatest performance since Ron Swanson, a high watermark of an already impressive career.
65. I Saw The Devil (2010, dr. Kim-Jee woon, scr. Park Hoon-jung)
Shifting gears quite a bit from number sixty-six…how far would you be willing to go to make someone who wronged you in a horrifying way to pay for their crimes? I wonder how often it is we truly ask ourselves that. “I Saw The Devil” begins with a striking and terrifying bit of violence on a woman. When the woman’s husband comes to check the body, he is appalled. Turns out, the husband works for South Korea’s National Intelligence Service and he plans to make his wife’s killer pay. It’s a little bit “Silence of the Lambs” and a little bit “Skyfall.” It’s a also a character study about how violence slowly begins to tear us apart. If we spend so much time destroying a monster, does that in fact turn us into a monster in return? It features Lee Byung-hun who played Storm Shadow in the “G.I. Joe” films as the spy and Choi Min-sik, from the original “Oldboy” as the vicious killer, both of whom do astounding work.
64. Prometheus (2012, dr. Ridley Scott, scr. Damon Lindelof & Jon Spaihts)
This will most definitely become my most controversial pick on the entire list. I know this is a prequel, that was repeatedly not called a prequel, even though that’s exactly what it was. As with many movies that came out in the summer of 2012, it split viewers right down the middle. For my money, “Prometheus” is easily one of the most visually arresting experiences, and it was amazing to just sit back and let the movie wash over me. On another level, I think it’s got more on its mind than some people might give it credit for. Yes, it feels like a blockbuster and there is plenty of big moments in the film. But it does make you think, and discussing the questions brought up in this movie have lead to much fun. Michael Fassbender is unbelievable as David 8, and one of the reasons to see the film as well. I think future fans of the “Alien” franchise will discover this and wonder why it was so divisive upon release. But hey, Roger Ebert gave the movie a four-star review and it has appeared on ONE other decade list, so I don’t feel so bad putting on mine. (NOTE: I wouldn’t have felt bad anyway!)
63. Get Him To The Greek (2010, dr./scr. Nicholas Stoller)
In the 2000’s, I felt like we got tidal wave of raunchy and fresh comedy’s, and I don’t think we saw enough of that carry into the 2010’s. In the 2000’s, we were blessed with stuff like “Anchorman,” “Superbad,” “Knocked Up,” “Tropic Thunder,” “The Pineapple Express,” “Orange County,” “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” “The Hangover,” and “Wet Hot American Summer.” There is probably many I am not naming off the top of my head. We just didn’t get that kind of rapid influx of comedies this decade. It seemed the funniest stuff this decade was on TV. So I hope it means something when I say I didn’t laugh harder in the theater this decade, nor did I have a more fun time quoting this one. The soundtrack is pretty hilarious too.
62. The Raid 2 (2014, dr./scr. Gareth Evans)
We were blessed with plenty of ass-kicking this decade, there was plenty of pure action that certainly hit the sweet spot. Sometimes, that’s exactly what I want to turn on. While the trilogies of “John Wick” and “The Expendables” were pretty awesome, “The Raid 2” was just about the best pure action movie of the decade (the first is later on in this list). There is simply nothing like the action in this movie, action so brutal that you will feel pain on your own body watching this movie. Gareth Evans acted like this was the only movie he was ever going to make, and he didn’t leave anything untried. This is a pulse-pounding, bone-breaking treat, from start to finish.
61. Short Term 12 (2013, dr./scr. Destin Daniel Cretton)
One of the smallest films of the entire decade is also one of the most sincere. Brie Larson plays Grace, a woman who is the lead supervisor of a group home for troubled teenagers. What would have been a fairly typical and mundane movie in the hands of a novice director is given much life, character, depth and emotion by Destin Daniel Cretton. He smart and careful enough to never look down on the kids, and he equally smart and clever enough to give real personality to the adults in the movie. This is just one of the many truly outstanding performances by Brie Larson, solidifying her seat at the Hollywood table here.
60. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014, dr. Matt Reeves, scr. Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver)
If you would have told me ten years ago that I would have been extremely emotionally invested in a prequel trilogy about “Planet of the Apes,” I wouldn’t have believed you. But 20th Century Fox did the unthinkable, they made a trilogy of summer blockbusters that still had its heart and soul intact after being pushed through that Hollywood system. The marketing and previews made “Dawn” look like a fairly typical action movie. What surprised me the most was how little action appeared in this “summer blockbuster.” This is a character piece, from start to finish. This is a movie where there really aren’t any villains, but it features a story how prejudice and hate eat from the inside out like a virus. The humans and apes get pretty close to peace here, it only gets fumbled by other humans and apes. When Jason Clarke’s human tells Andy Serkis’s Caesar “I thought we had a chance” then Caesar solemnly agrees “Me too” at the end of the movie, it hits like a sledgehammer, because we saw everything they lost. Not to mention the apes in this movie look real. So there’s that.
59. The Farewell (2019, dr./scr. Lulu Wang)
There is nothing more powerful than a true story. Usually in movies, we get true stories based on current or historical events. The thing is, we all have our stories, and maybe those stories could maybe make good movies. Lulu Wang took something very personal in her own life and turned it into movie, and not only was it one of the purest, greatest experiences of the year, but also the decade. Awkwafina plays Billie, a Chinese-American grad student who is close to her grandmother. When her parents find out that Billie’s grandmother has terminal lung cancer, they deceive her to believe she’s still okay, then unite with the rest of the family for a wedding, which to be expected the last few days for the grandmother. It’s the greatest lie ever told, that probably sounds oxymoronic, but there is so much raw emotion and even a few memorable laughs and because its based on a real experience, it has more depth than most.
58. We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011, dr. Lynn Ramsey, scr. Ramsey & Rory Stewart Kinnear)
There have already been plenty of movies about a kid shooting up their school. But “We Need To Talk About Kevin” takes a rather unique approach. The movie deals with the guilt and confusion of a mother (Tilda Swinton’s finest performance to date) dealing with a mass murder by her son. The movie charts the relationship of the mother and the son, and how they seemingly never quite connect. The boy is shown exercising strange, disturbing behaviors. Are the parents not doing enough to punish him? Are they doing too much? It’s all part of the debate on what would cause a young person to kill. The ending leaves us reeling for those questions even further. When the mother asks why his son did it and he merely says "I thought I knew, but now I’m not sure” it goes back to the instinct of love. We all need it, we all crave it, and we are potentially dangerous without. Jet black, with a small ray of light, “We Need To Talk About Kevin” is one of the decades most harrowing experiences.
57. The Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016, dr./scr. Taika Waititi)
56. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018, dr. Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey & Rodney Rothman, scr. Rothman and Phil Lord)
Every time I watch this, I sit back and can’t even believe this is real movie. I love that we are now at the point in superhero filmmaking where we can finally go off the rails. But that’s not why its not the list. It’s not the unique set-up, it isn’t the wildly fun concept, it’s not the wicked soundtrack or the eye-popping animation. Sure, it all helps, but its certainly not all. I’ve been soaking up plenty of pop culture growing up, and much of it for a long time all looked pretty much the same. Mainstream was just that mainstream, and mainstream pop culture is very, very white. It was ingrained in many brains that it THAT type of popular culture that matters. That’s obviously a load of crap, and the real reason this movie is so special is that it plays by the typical rules of mainstream pop culture while also shattering them. This may rub some people the wrong way, and they may claim that we are getting agendas fed to us, but that’s not true. Not all of my heroes look exactly like me, so I don’t expect my pop culture heroes to look exactly like me. Slowly but surely voices from many different corners and cultures of the world are making their way into the mainstream, and it can only make our pop culture richer as a result.
55. La La Land (2016, dr./ scr. Damien Chazelle)
Whimsical and delightfully delirious, I never would have guessed “La La Land” would have been for me. Usually movies where Hollywood kisses its own ass kinda comes off self-indulgent if not handled correctly. Thankfully, writer and director Damien Chazelle breath’s some real life into this movie that makes all the difference. Hundreds of people come to Los Angeles to be the next great musician or the next big actor or the next top model, and it just doesn’t happen for all of them. How many people who have won “The Voice” have moved onto fame? We see it happen all the time. This is very much a movie about two artists who are fighting an uphill battle, and how that battle begins to complicate their relationship. It is a movie about love, but also about loss. There is a old Hollywood feel mixed with a modern anesthetic that really love.
54. Black Swan (2010, dr. Darren Aronofsky, scr. Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, & John McLaughlin)
I’ve watched this movie a lot, and I am still not sure what its even about. I hope that sentence alone proves just how well the movie can provoke. Sometimes I think it’s a movie about we fall under the weight of the pressure we put on ourselves. Other times, I think it’s the death of innocence inside a girl. Then sometimes, maybe, just maybe, something wildly supernatural is going on. I can’t admit I have it figured out, but every time I see it, I get sucked right in again. The film’s atmosphere, even when its dark, is addicting in a real way. Yes, it’s a deeply uncomfortable film at times, but that doesn’t mean its merits don’t hold up. This had some of the most unforgettable moments in any movie this decade. And it was lead by one of the greatest performances of the decade as well.
53. Selma (2014, dr. Ava DuVernay, scr. Paul Webb)
It’s a sad thing to admit that, particularly at the end of this decade, this is a movie we absolutely need right now. It is a defiantly hopeful movie. It’s also a wonderful example of how an individual can inspire not just one person but an entire community to build any sort of revolution. I am glad that DuVernay chose to make a movie about a certain time in Martin Luther King Jr.’s life instead of making the typical greatest hits movie of his life and I doubly love how she chose to make a movie about how a huge group of people can drawn to any idea, which is why ideas are so powerful.
52. Arrival (2016, dr. Denis Villeneuve, scr. Eric Heisserer)
Another movie that was marketed in a way that the viewers had no idea what was coming. The previews for this movie made it look like another alien invasion movie, but “Arrival” is anything but. The movie takes a different approach as the humans are proactive about communicating with the aliens instead of starting a war. What’s even crazier is that the aliens are there to teach a certain human a lesson. What would have been insanely dumb in the hands of a different director turns into a sucker-punch of emotion and the movie left me pretty raw as a result.
51. The Artist (2011, dr./scr. Michel Hazanavicius)
It’s really cool to see somebody try making a silent black-and-white movie in the 21st Century. It’s so lost in the old customs that it gives you the feeling that you can’t believe your watching it. What’s even better is that there is a story in the middle of all the music and dancing. There is something sorrowful and wounded and something bold and true beneath the light and the shadow. That’s what I gravitate most to. Anybody can imitate old Hollywood, its something else to really make something out of it. Michel Hazanavicius was a fun director before this, but I can’t believe that he didn’t really become a household name because of this movie. Its an amazing experience.