This is part two of my Top 100 Movies of the 2010s! The process of coming up with this list damn near broke me, so do me a solid and check out the first part, as well!
80. 13 Assassins (2011)
Director: Takashi Miike
Cast:Kōji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yūsuke Iseya
The prolific Takashi Miike could’ve filled this list up all by himself given his workrate, but the one entry to make the cut is his grandiose samurai epic, 13 Assassins. Showing a maturity that has often eluded him of late, Miike crafts what I think is the definitive samurai movie of the period, with an incredible 45-minute final battle that needs to be seen to be believed.
79. A Most Violent Year (2014)
Director: JC Chandor
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo, Albert Brooks
The third film from the wildly diverse JC Chandor, A Most Violent Year is nothing like what its title implies. Set in 1981 during the most violent year in New York City history, the story follows a level-headed heating oil magnate played by Oscar Isaac, who tries to walk the righteous path while internal and external pressures edge him towards criminality. This methodical slow-burn drama shows explores the rot at the heart of the American Dream because of the corrupt things one must do to attain it. Compelling and with a noticeable grit underneath its nails, the film also boasts remarkable cinematography by Bradford Young, whose work is all over this list.
78. Shoplifters (2018)
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Cast: Lily Franky, Kirin Kiki, Sakura Ando
Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda’s Shoplifters finds him once again exploring the idea of family, and whether the bonds we choose to forge are stronger than those we are born into. The close-knit group of struggling thieves live in the shadows (they are very similar to the family in Parasite), but step into the light to bring in a troubled young girl and make her a part of their family. The experience changes them all in profound ways, but the open-hearted example they set has the potential of changing us, as well. Koreeda has long been my favorite filmmaker, telling these human dramas with a depth and sincerity that is unmatched. He’ll appear again later on this list, but he was very close to have a much larger presence.
77. Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
Cast: Banksy, Mr. Brainwash, Shepard Fairey
Is Exit Through the Gift Shop truly a documentary? Or just another chance for the mysterious street artist Banksy to mock the art world? It doesn’t truly matter, because either way this is a wildly entertaining, audacious look at the art scene from the lens of its most cherished outsider, who watches as eccentric copycat Thierry Guetta transforms overnight into the ridiculously commercial Mr. Brainwash persona.
76. A Separation (2011)
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Cast:Leila Hatami,Peyman Moādi, Shahab Hosseini, Babak Kirimi, Sareh Bayat, Sarina Farhadi
I seriously weighed whether to include this or Marriage Story as the “divorce entry” on this list. Ultimately, A Separation just has so much more going on. The dissolution of a marriage in Iran comes with concerns and consequences that we simply can’t fathom here in America, restrictions that Farhadi gently criticizes by effortlessly weaving them into the narrative. It’s an amazing movie deserving of the accolades showered upon it, including an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film, an award Farhadi would win again five years later for The Salesman.
75. A Quiet Place (2018)
Director: John Krasinski
Cast: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmonds
I’ve never had a theatrical experience quite like when I saw John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place. Me and the crowd around me were terrified and into a silent bond of fear right along with the film’s terrorized family. If there’s ever a movie that demands to be seen in a crowded multiplex, this was it.
74. The Farewell (2019)
Director: Lulu Wang
Cast: Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Zhao Shuzhen
A fake wedding and cultural misunderstandings make for a funny and deeply intimate gem from writer/director Lulu Wang. Starring Awkwafina in a breakthrough dramatic performance, this biographical drama is as personal as it is universal in exploring familial reconciliation, mortality, and even gentrification, all done with a sense of humor that connects when you need it most.
73. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Director: Lee Unkrich
Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen
I don’t normally bond with my fellow film critics, but we were locked in a grip of sheer terror during the searing finale of Toy Story 3. The darkest, most heartbreaking Pixar movie yet (albeit diminished somewhat by Toy Story 4), it combined humor with decidedly adult concerns while maintaining its sense of adventure. Pixar has made a lot of great movies but they’ve yet to top this one and I’m not sure they ever will.
72. Birdman (2014)
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Cast: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Naomi Watts
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s kinetic, virtuoso meta-comedy Birdman reminded us, because we had clearly forgotten, just how great Michael Keaton really is. As Riggan Thompson, a former superhero actor looking to become a respected thespian he shows us levels of sadness, desperation, and rage we haven’t seen from him in awhile. While his performance alone would be worthy of putting Birdman on anybody’s list, one can’t overlook the flawless cinematic contribution of DP Emmanuelle Lubezki who literally doesn’t give us a moment to blink; his camera always moving. The supporting ensemble is equally great with Emma Stone and Edward Norton, the latter playing a manic, heightened version of himself. But what’s most startling to me is the total change of gears this was for Inarritu. There is almost no connecting tissue between Birdman and the multi-tiered, heavy moral dramas of his past, and certainly not with the film he would do next, which is also on this list.
71. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Cast: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman
I know, others will point to Eighth Grade but for me no other movie captured school-aged angst and loneliness better than The Perks of Being a Wallflower. In an absolutely packed year of teen-centric films, this one boasted a trio of emotionally raw performances and took on the issues of depression and abuse with heart and no small amount of hope. It manages to be profound without being flashy, keeping it contained until all of that boundless optimism bursts forth with the words, “And in this moment, I swear we are infinite.” Yeah, it’s corny as shit but it also feels just right, like an old friend you want to stay in touch with forever.
70. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pts. 1&2 (2010, 2011)
Director: David Yates
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman, Michael Gambon
I didn’t actually read the Harry Potter books until last year, so for the longest time my only exposure was through these movies. Simply put, I was not prepared for how dark this would get. I was not prepared for the hardships that would test The Boy Who Lived, making him a greater hero in my eyes for rising above them. Admittedly, the first half of this two-part story is a slog, virtually all slow-moving setup, but part two is pure, magical exhilaration with epic battle (the courtyard apocalypse!!) after epic battle, shocking deaths, and a final showdown between Harry and Voldemort that actually paid off. I was a bigger Harry Potter fan after these movies, and isn’t that the point of what these adaptations are for?
69. Green Room (2016)
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Patrick Stewart, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner, Joe Cole
Charles Xavier’s baddest crew is a bunch of Hitler youths who use German attack dogs rather than superpowers. The second entry on this list from director Jeremy Saulnier still makes me nervous for the punk band that walked into the wrong green room at just the wrong time. Every single time I watch it, it makes me want to curl up until a ball with terror, afraid for the violence I know is coming but dare not look away from. The suspense Saulnier builds is incredible, the feeling of being trapped with no hope of escape is pervasive. I want to watch it right now, tucked under a bunch of blankets and peeking from behind a pillow.
68. Calvary (2014)
Director: John Michael McDonagh
Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly, Chris O’Dowd, Aidan Gillen, Isaach de Bankole
Part existential comedy, film noir, and commentary on the scandalous Catholic Church, John Michael McDonagh’s ability to balance three competing tones is a thing of pure beauty. In a rare spotlight role, Brendan Gleeson plays the weary Father James, who refuses to let go of his faith while belief in the Church crumbles around him. Over the course of a trying week, with his life literally at stake, James continues to shepherd his flock while grappling with mortality and the place for religion in an increasingly dark and cynical world.
67. Get Out (2017)
Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Lakeith Stanfield
Who can forget it? The first time Catherine Keener banishes a tearful Daniel Kaluuya into the “Sunken Place”? It’s an image that has been seared into our brains and became shorthand for the systemic racism African-Americans still face on a daily basis. Shit, we have a racist in the damn White House, yo. Get Out is not only painfully relevant and timely but hilarious and downright scary. If this is what Jordan Peele has to offer in his directorial debut I can’t wait to see the path his career takes.
66. Bridesmaids (2011)
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Chris O’Dowd
Remember how Paul Feig kept getting asked, for a few years, whether he’d do a Bridesmaids sequel? There was never any need to, the female-led comedy’s influence ran far and deep enough already. Emerging at a time when most female comedies treated women like scornful witches who sabotage one another, Bridesmaids broke through it with a story about true friendship that was as raunchy and silly as anything with a bunch of dudes. Feig would go on to bigger (not necessarily better) things, and the film served as a launching pad for a host of future stars including Rebel Wilson, Ellie Kemper, and Oscar-nominee Melissa McCarthy. How many straight-up comedies have boasted an Oscar nomination this decade? Not too damn many, but this is one.
65. Annihilation (2018)
Director: Alex Garland
Cast: Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tuva Novotny
I still can’t tell you what the Hell is really going on in Alex Garland’s weird, beautiful, surreal sci-fi film, but I think that’s kind of the point? As Natalie Portman and her team venture beyond the veil to explore a strange phenomenon, the experience is wholly sensory and defies easy explanation.
64. Haywire (2012)
Director: Stephen Soderbergh
Cast: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxon, Michael Douglas
Gina Carano punched and kicked her way into my heart forever (Cara Dune 4 Life!!) with Haywire, the unexpectedly awesome action flick from Steven Soderbergh. Stylish and undeniably cool, the film gives Carano the chance to show her sexy side as well as put her MMA background to brutally good use against a bunch of dickish A-list dudes. It’s terrific fun, but also expertly crafted by Soderbergh, who helped guide Carano through her first movie role. She knocked it out of the park, and the film became a cult favorite. I’ve long hoped for a sequel, and if I ever get a chance to speak with Soderbergh it’ll be the first question he gets.
63. Arrival (2016)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
A thinking person’s sci-fi film, touching on everything from language to time travel, Arrival is director Denis Villeneuve showing his cinematic dexterity once again. How is this the same guy who directed Prisoners, Sicario, and Enemy? Villeneuve will pop up multiple times on this list, and each movie is vastly different from the last.
62. The Act of Killing/The Look of Silence (2013, 2014)
Director: Joshua Oppenheimer
Like horror movies? Great, then you need to check out Joshua Oppenheimer’s chilling documentaries The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence. You won’t see Hollywood celebrating this “movie about movies”, which offers probably the clearest look at the impact of our violent movie culture. Oppenheimer, who had gone to Indonesia for totally different reasons, ended up meeting Anwar Congo and a number of other movie-loving gangsters who had committed wholesale genocide of Communists and other enemies of state back in the 1960s, and have been living for decades as heroes, unabashedly boastful of their murderous actions. In the first movie, we see these heinous killers re-enacting the slaughter in the style of their favorite movies, which is as unsettling as it sounds. In the sequel, those same killers are confronted anonymously by someone impacted by their violence, and what’s truly horrific is how the passage of time has not given them the benefit of remorse. I’ve never seen true evil captured on screen as it is in these films and hope to never see it again.
61. Baby Driver (2017)
Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzalez
A true stylistic achievement, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver is a musical opus, a killer heist flick, and a damn sweet love story. How many movies could pull that off? How many directors would dare to try? Impeccable editing and a killer soundtrack combine to drive the narrative in a way that I’ve not seen in any other film. And to think, if Wright had stayed on Ant-Man we probably wouldn’t have this movie at all.