Scott Hardie | November 21, 2019
Critics all over the Internet are publishing their best-films-of-the-decade lists, so I figured, why not us too?

I'm not going to build a whole system for voting, so it's limited to this TC discussion. But I'd like to know your choices! And if it helps you to figure them out, I can generate a list of titles that you've given a positive review in TMR; just ask. I'm choosing to write a few sentences about each of my choices, but please say as little or as much as you'd like.

For my own list, rather than try to figure out the ten "best" films, which would involve some degree of hair-splitting, I'm instead picking the ten movies that most affected me: They caused me to have strong emotional reactions, or changed how I think about the world, or made me think of them many times after seeing them. I'm quite fond of all of them.

10) The Lego Movie (2014)

It's the little movie that could: Who would have ever guessed that a non-narrative toy line about interchangeable bricks could turn into such a joyous, terrific entertainment? It's not just that the movie is crammed full of little jokes and looks great; it's that, in its third act, it demonstrates a masterful understanding of children and toys and imagination and why things like Lego matter. People continue to praise the similar Toy Story 3, but for my money, The Lego Movie had a better grasp on its ideas and used far less naked manipulation.

9) Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

I expected very little from this sequel in this age of soulless retro cash-ins and reboots and remakes, but what a great movie this is, challenging and bold and intense and precise in its effect. You go on quite a journey seeing this, mentally and emotionally. Whenever I revisit this movie, I find Joi to be the most sympathetic character, because (ironically) of the glimmers of humanity that she possesses, and the hope that she represents. The original Blade Runner was noirish in its absence of heroism, and the baby steps taken towards heroism in this sequel feel profound.

8) Upstream Color (2013)

A few years before Netflix's Jessica Jones won praise for its depiction of the after-effects of rape and subjugation, this little-seen sci-fi film trod similar ground and did it better. I felt such profound sympathy for its characters and their plight. It made me think about new ways to tell stories and connect with characters. It's an antidote to a lot of toxic thrillers and action movies out there that have such cynical views about humanity. I don't know if you can see this and not become a more compassionate person.

7) Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

There are several movies this decade that made me feel sheer joy, but the most perfect little bundle of happiness is this Wes Anderson comedy. I wanted to hug all (ok, most) of these characters, and to live in this world. It is as perfectly photographed and meticulously planned as all of Anderson's work. I think the key to the movie's success is that it takes the love between Sam and Suzy completely seriously; without that, it would have been a disaster. This is such a wonderful movie.

6) Cloud Atlas (2012)

I wanted to see this as soon as the jumbo-sized trailer came out, and it didn't disappoint: Six movies in six genres, all edited together and happening simultaneously, without the audience ever losing track of what's happening and why and when. It's awe-inspiring. I haven't read the equally complex book (or should I say books?) but the movies makes me want more. The cast is phenomenal and some of the specific moments are heartbreaking; this is the kind of movie that haunts you afterwards. It has become Kelly's favorite movie ever.

5) Interstellar (2014)

For everyone who accuses Christopher Nolan of being all brain and no heart, this felt like a rebuke. The best parts of this film were the ones that cut deeply, as the full weight of the character's sacrifices became felt. Even minor scenes in the overall plot were nail-biters; Nolan is a master of tension. I trust that the movie's science is sound thanks to Kip Thorne's influence, but some of it felt cheesy all the same, from the planetary calamity driving the plot to the cross-dimensional third act that felt like a deus ex machina. Still, I was moved deeply by this movie, and I continue to think often about the ways that it achieved its emotional effects and the things that it can teach us about life.

4) La La Land (2017)

No movie this decade affected me as emotionally as this one. That ending packs quite a punch, for similar reasons to 25th Hour and Together, two of my favorite movies from the previous decade. And I confess, part of why I love the movie is because I love Los Angeles; I still wish that I lived there in spite of its nightmarish catastrophes both natural and economic. La La Land is not for everybody, and I'm not disappointed in the least that Moonlight beat it for Best Picture. But for me, this was a huge emotional experience that I have kept revisiting in the years since. It will probably always mean a lot to me.

3) Inception (2010)

It inspired some lame clichés, but this was one of the most unique cinematic accomplishments of the decade. I cannot imagine anyone but Christopher Nolan pulling it off. Few movies give you as much of a mental workout while being this thrilling and entertaining. I keep thinking about its metaphors and how its characters' choices reflect some of my own, for better or worse. And I keep appreciating its commitment to practical effects in this era of CGI; it has a timeless quality to it. I'm going to continue to appreciate this for years to come.

2) The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

I underrated this when it came out, ranking it 7th on my ballot of 2012 films. But it has fundamentally changed my thinking about storytelling and communication, and about ethics and society. I have an English degree and I feel like I learned as much about literature from this movie as any professor ever taught me. I'm a different person because of this movie, and only a few films in a lifetime can make you say that.

I'm making it sound like a boring homework assignment, and it's not: It's funny, thrilling, and absolutely worth seeing without having any deep thoughts. But like Scream, it begs for a reconsideration of the horror genre, and in my case, its affect went well beyond even its considerable ambition. I can't praise this enough.

1) The Avengers (2012), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola recently dissed the Marvel movies as "not cinema" and "despicable." I'm sympathetic to their point of view (I could write a whole essay), but what I bet both men failed to grasp about Marvel's output is that it's good -- as in, shockingly good. Superhero movies were so bad for so long, and there have been so many of them, that it's kind of a triumph that Marvel has managed to make such excellent movies so consistently. The movies are not popular because they're colorful and fun and there's a massive marketing campaign behind them (although those help); they're popular because they're good.

And the Avengers films have been Marvel's chief creative achievement. The first proved the wisdom of a shared cinematic universe and exuberantly felt like a new era of possibility was upon us. The third staged an enormous epic with dozens of important characters without ever becoming confusing and without any moments feeling like wasted time. The fourth and best was a culmination of a decade's hard work, paying off long storylines with immense confidence and unexpected emotion. (I liked the second film better than most viewers, but I concede that it's the weakest of the series.) There hasn't been an accomplishment quite like this in cinematic history, and though studios will try to replicate it, I don't know if they can. It's a grand and singular achievement.

The Avengers dominated my imagination this decade, as with millions of other filmgoers, and I'm immensely grateful for the ride. I cannot name any other film as being as essential to my movie decade as these.

The Next Twenty: Other movies that I loved this decade include Aloha, Baby Driver, Boyhood, Cake, Gravity, Escape from Tomorrow, Flight, Isle of Dogs, Kon-Tiki, Life of Pi, Mad Max: Fury Road, Robot & Frank, Shutter Island, The Dark Knight Rises, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (the Swedish original), The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Joneses, What Happened Miss Simone?, When Marnie Was There, and Young Adult.

What titles would you pick?

Samir Mehta | November 23, 2019
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Scott Hardie | November 29, 2019
Yes. I remember how much you liked Coco and Fruitvale Station. Possibly the Hunger Games series as one entry?

Evie Totty | December 9, 2019
List please!

Scott Hardie | December 9, 2019
D'oh, I completely misunderstood your comment, Samir, until I saw Evie's. :-( I'll get both of you lists via private message.

Samir Mehta | December 11, 2019
[hidden by request]

Erik Bates | December 12, 2019
The more I look at my list, the more I realize I have no idea how to rank my favorites. My memory, to put it bluntly, is shit. I have an uncanny ability to not be able to recall plot lines of television shows or movies after I've seen them, unless they truly made a deep impression on me.

On the flip-side of that, though, I can recall emotions I got from seeing various movies. By that metric, I might be able to cobble together a list, but it would be difficult. I may or may not be able to finish this assignment :)

Let's face it - I'd never make it as a movie critic.

Samir Mehta | December 12, 2019
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