This is part three 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 earlier stuff, too. Thanks!
60. Paddington 1 & 2 (2014, 2017)
Director: Paul King
Cast: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Jim Broadbent, Brendan Gleeson, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant
Do you know ANYBODY who dislikes the Paddington movies? No, really, do you? Because if you do know somebody who scoffs at these movies and their undeniable, full-throated sweetness and joy, cut them from your life. The marmalade-obsessed bear isn’t the most obvious literary character to win over the hearts and minds of a cynical world, but with these two excellent hybrid films all we can do is keeping the next one is even better. And then the next one, and then the next one.
59. Beasts of No Nation (2015)
Director: Cary Fukunaga
Cast: Idris Elba, Abraham Attah
Cary Fukunaga’s devastating war film would be too tough to watch if it wasn’t so beautiful. To see children losing their innocence in a shower of blood and bullets is unbearable but that’s the point; to make you think about the real costs of armed conflict around the world. On a side note: Idris Elba is so damned charismatic here I woul probably follow him into certain doom.
58. The Kings of Summer (2013)
Director: Jordan Vogt Roberts
Cast: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Erin Moriarty, Nick Offerman, Megan Mulally
Jordan Vogt-Robert’s impressive directorial debut The Kings of Summer may take some of its cues from 1980s childhood classics The Goonies and Stand By Me, but it quickly becomes apparent this quirky, funny little gem is doing its own thing. This timeless and slightly surreal comedy stars a handful of unknowns in Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, and the goofy Moises Arias, as friends eager to get out from under their parents’ shadows (including the gruff and hilarious Nick Offerman) by building their own home in the woods and living off the land. Subverting the genre and shattering preconceived notions all the way, the adults and kids are given equal consideration without a hint of irony, taking us on a journey that is both funny and poignant. But more than that, it’s refreshing to see a comedy that doesn’t take the cinematography for granted, and The Kings of Summer is a genuinely beautiful movie with big, sweeping sun-kissed images that will burn into your memory.
57. X-Men: First Class (2011)
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult
Oh, my precious X-Men. That it takes this long to get to the first X-Men movie should tell you something about the future of the franchise from this point on, but First Class was one they definitely got right. A reboot that got the taste of The Last Stand out of our mouths, the film roots the never-ending conflict between mutants and humans to the Cuban Missile Crisis, giving these films a historical context we never knew it needed. With an A-list cast that brought fresh life to the mutant superteam’s origin, not to mention the debate between Xavier and Magneto, this laid the groundwork for what would eventually be the franchise’s zenith in a few years.
56. Spring Breakers (2013)
Director: Harmony Korine
Cast: Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens, James Franco, Rachel Korine
James Franco gives head to a gun at one point in Harmony Korine’s wild, neon spectacle Spring Breakers. Reason enough for me to put it in my Top 10, along with Franco’s unforgettable drawl “Spring break forever, ya’ll!” that is unquestionably the quote of the year. Some have been quick to write off the film as just another look at teen rebellion and excess, and while those are indeed factors there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface. Looking like it was set on fire by candles made of Starbursts, the film and its army of half-naked starlets tosses aside any notions of normalcy and rips away at the facade of American culture. There’s nowhere safe from the corrupting influence of sex, drugs, and violence; and while these are familiar ideas for Korine we’ve never seen them presented quite like this.
55. Columbus (2017)
Cast: Haley Lu Richardson, John Cho, Michelle Forbes, Parker Posey, Rory Culkin
I haven’t had a movie come out of nowhere and floor me the way Columbus did in a very long time. Going into it with little expectations, actually, zero expectations since I heard it was boring, this small-town drama set in the architecturally-rich town of Columbus, Indiana is anything but. Another coming-of-age story following a female lead, it stars Haley Lu Richardson as a brilliant young woman, obsessed with architecture, who longs for an escape to a more exciting place. She connects with a Korean man, played by John Cho, who is stuck in town caring for his ailing father. This is a love story, but not like you would think. The romance here is purely intellectual, not physical, as the two relate to one another as equals, learning from each other and becoming better people as a result of their friendship. It may not sound exciting, and trust me I know this film isn’t for everybody, but Kogonda’s gorgeous directorial debut proves as unique and priceless as the buildings he so lovingly captures.
54. Ford v Ferrari (2019)
Director: James Mangold
Cast: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Noah Jupe, Tracy Letts, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Josh Lucas
In my favorite scene of James Mangold’s incredible, action-packed Ford v Ferrari, Tracy Letts’ Henry Ford III gets taken on the ride of his life in the GT40 MK. Thinking he’s man enough to handle it, Ford is shaken, rattled, and rolled into tears, not of terror but of pure joy. That’s how I felt, having been reminded that big-budget studio can be both wildly thrilling popcorn entertainment and well-crafted human drama. Sometimes we overstate that Hollywood doesn’t make movies like this anymore, but it’s really true in this case. Studios just aren’t willing to take a gamble, even with stars the caliber of Damon and Bale, but it paid off and I hope this is a sign of things to come.
53. I Saw the Devil (2011)
Director: Kim Jee-woon
Cast: Choi Min-sik, Lee Byung-hun
The revenge genre has been around since cinema’s beginning but it has found a special place with South Korean filmmakers. We have Park Chan-wok’s Vengeance Trilogy (including the classic Oldboy) as an example, but it’s Kim Jee-woon who subverted the drama with his sadistic thriller, I Saw the Devil. In the story of a man seeking bloody vengeance against the psychopath who murdered his fiancée, and thus becomes even more of a psychopath in the process, no other film goes to such twisted, perverted lengths to show how meaningless revenge truly is. This is one seriously fucked up movie and that’s why I love it.
52. Moonlight (2016)
Director: Barry Jenkins
Cast: Trevonte Rhodes, Ashton Sanders, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monae, Andre Holland
Moonlight tells a story rarely seen, that of a gay black man’s coming to grips with his sexuality, with all of the care and sensitivity it deserves. As we’ve begun to see the black cultural community embrace its queer side, I think we have Barry Jenkins to thank for opening up the pathway to acceptance.
51. Before Midnight (2012)
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
What comes next after you get the storybook ending? A true collaborative effort between Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy, Before Midnight is the finale (?) to their beloved trilogy that began with 1995’s Before Sunrise. In that story, we see Hawke’s Jesse and Delpy’s Celine capture the magic that comes with finding that perfect someone, the sheer energy and excitement of recognizing a kindred spirit. That feeling was rekindled a decade later with Before Sunset, but Before Midnight is what happens when “Happily Ever After” is met with the harsh reality of marriage, kids, boredom, and miscommunication. It’s not always easy to watch, but what this film shows better than most is the work that goes into keeping that magical feeling alive. There will inevitably be bumps in the road, but the payoff is always worth it.
50. Attack the Block (2011)
Director: Joe Cornish
Cast: John Boyega, Jodie Whitaker, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Luke Treadaway, Nick Frost
That movie where Finn and Doctor Who team up to battle space aliens, Attack the Block crossed the pond and hit like a laser blast. Leaning hard on nostalgia from the Amblin era, this hyper-kinetic sci-fi invasion film nevertheless was a brand new experience, following a South London street gang (and their thick accents!) as they try to protect their rundown ‘hood. With fantastic shadowy creatures, inventive chase sequences, and tons of one-liners, this was a huge statement film for Joe Cornish. Unfortunately, he vanished from the spotlight until very recently, but we can thank him for giving us this movie and for launching John Boyega’s career.
49. Black Swan (2010)
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder, Barbara Hershey
A stark, bracing melodrama, paranoid thriller, and Cronenberg-ian body horror all rolled into one, Black Swan is Darren Aronofsky at his most untamed. Returning to his pet theme of pathological obsession, Aronofsky twists the Swan Lake narrative into a twisted horror of Freudian proportions, with Natalie Portman offering a career-best performance as a ballerina whose need to be the best causes a break from reality.
48. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Directors: Joe & Anthony Russo
Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, the entire MCU basically
Sometimes I just need a movie that feeds my hungry fanboy soul. I could care less about the whole superhuman registration subplot. Just more punching, more heroes punching! More Black Panther! More Spider-Man! More more more! Civil War is one of those films that just gets how cool it is to be making superhero movies, and brings the fun of the printed page onto the screen. The plot is big and unnecessarily unwieldy, as if needs to justify the ridiculousness of a dozen Avengers beating up one another for ten minutes. Of course, nothing makes that fight make any sense at all, but who cares when it’s so damn cool?
47. La La Land (2016)
Director: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling
Damien Chazelle marries his obvious love for the past with respect for the present in this classic tale of Hollywood dreamers looking to make it big. From the brilliantly choreographed opening number to the bittersweet finale, La La Land takes you on a heart-swelling romantic journey, made all the better for starring the irresistible Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.
46. Sicario (2015)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro
The most stinging rebuke of the failed war on drugs is also one of the decade’s most white-knuckle experiences. As Emily Blunt’s naive young agent falls down the rabbit hole of violent government excess and corruption, exemplified by an overconfident handler (Josh Brolin) and mysterious “bird dog” (scariest Benicio Del Toro ever, and he was The Wolfman!) we can’t help but feel the same futility she must have felt. No other film captures the governmental corruption and failure of the decade better.
45. Drive (2011)
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, Bryan Cranston
How badly did you want one of those cool silk scorpion jackets after seeing Ryan Gosling rock it in Drive? Shit yeah I wanted one. This movie is just a straight-up jazz, stylish and brazenly masculine as fuck because that’s all Nicolas Winding Refn knows how to be. Sure, it’s not a true action movie like some thought it would be, but the raw emotional core there as we see this troubled loner grasp for a lasting human connection is powerful stuff.
44. Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
Director: Benh Zeitlin
Cast: Quvenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry
I’ll never forget the year Beasts of the Southern Wild premiered at Sundance. It had emerged out of nowhere, this vibrant and magical New Orleans fairy tale with no big names and an unfamiliar director, and it just took Park City by storm. You simply couldn’t get a ticket after that first screening. I had to damn near fight to see it, and that fight was absolutely worth it. Benh Zeitlin set himself as a future star, creating modern-day mythology out of the disasters of Hurricane Katrina. Zeitlin is only just now returning to the fold, and I don’t know if I can forgive him for making us wait so long. Hmph.
43. John Wick (2014)
Director: Chad Stahelski
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Ian McShane, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, Lance Reddick
I know, I’ve cheated with franchises elsewhere but in the case of John Wick, none of the sequels have come close to the bullet-riddled flick that started them all. Who would’ve thought that the murder of a beloved puppy would kickoff such a symphony of violence, with Keanu Reeves twirling and blasting Russian baddies with the grace of a ballet dancer. If it weren’t for The Raid, these would be the best action films of the decade, but I feel pretty good about Reeves as the action star of the decade.
42. Gravity (2013)
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
A true technical marvel, it can’t be overstated what Alfonso Cuaron accomplished with Gravity, a film that endured a troubling production process to become one of the year’s biggest hits, and an experience I think defines what going to the movies is all about. If movies are designed to take us into a world we can never hope to experience ourselves, then Gravity is the closest any of us will ever get to being in space. Cuaron captures the terrifying beauty of space in all its glory, fully immersing us into the impossible journey home of two stranded astronauts, played Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. What Cuaron accomplishes is so far-reaching that it’s easy to overlook the contributions the actors make, but Clooney’s reservoir of charm is the perfect balance to Bullock’s desperation.
41. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Director: Taika Waititi
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston, Karl Urban, Taika Waititi
I can’t tell you what happened in the first two Thor movies they were so damned dull, but Thor: Ragnarok gets it that Asgardian super gods are kinda silly. So why not have fun with it? Long live The Revengers! Fans love this movie so much Marvel did something they’ve never done and gave one of their solo Avengers a fourth movie, and I hope this was just a taste of how weird it’s going to get.