This is a post I have been trying to write for about six months. I kept putting it off knowing that it would be time consuming, mainly because trying to pick just ten movies out of the hundreds of good ones over the last ten years (that is 2006 - 2015) was really difficult. Five or so of these were very easy for me to put on this list. The others were fairly painful to strip down to only the group below, but I think it's a list that well represents every year and genre. I spend some time at the end talking about the last three that just missed the cut. Let me know what you think of the list: what did I miss? What was your top pick?
The Departed (2006)
The film that finally nabbed Marty Scorsese his Oscar kicks off our list. 2006's Best Picture and Best Director winner also saw the likes of Leo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, and Jack Nicholson at the top of their game. Set in the streets of Boston, The Departed is a gritty drama of undercover cops and crooks that is one of the finest cat and mouse thrillers you'll ever watch.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Paul Thomas Anderson directs what has often been referred to as the newer Citizen Kane in this epic of business and greed. Following an oil tycoon named Daniel Plainview, Blood examines the rise and fall brought on by unwavering and unapologetic ambition. Narrowly missing the Best Picture nod, Blood did garner two awards including Best Cinematography and Best Actor. Daniel Day-Lewis gives perhaps the finest performance of the last decade as Plainview.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Considered one of if not the finest super hero film ever made, Christopher Nolan's second installment in his Batman franchise was one of the highest money earning movies ever. Proving that caped heroes could have a darker side, Knight brought with it one of cinema's most memorable villains in Heath Ledger's Joker, which would go on to win him a posthumous Best Supporting Actor award at the Oscars. For a look at some of the deeper themes of the movie, checkout this article based around our Worldview Cinema discussion of the movie.
How does one top the highest grossing film of all time? By making a movie that stands as a revolution in movie technology. Avatar shattered the box office records set by Cameron's previous project (a smaller film called Titanic) and stands as the highest grossing movie of all time, both in the US and Worldwide. Telling the tale of a crippled soldier given a chance at a new life when he is sent on a mission to the distant planet of Avatar, Cameron's epic combined amazing visuals with a sort of re-telling of Dances with Wolves. It failed to win the Best Picture Oscar and some view it as all flash and no depth, but it's hard to argue with the numbers here. Three sequels have been planned, the first of which is due out for the holiday season of 2017.
Toy Story 3 (2010)
I remember being very skeptical about this one, given that the first two were so near and dear to my heart. Generally speaking, the more sequels you make, the worse the series gets. In the case of Toy Story, however, we have one of the finest trilogies ever made. It's third installment rounds out the series with a story that brings our toy heroes full circle and tests the strength of our own tear ducts. Toy Story 3 is one of several Pixar films that could have made this list (see Wall-E, Up), though I believe it to be some of the studio's best work to date.
The Tree of Life (2011)
Terrence Mallick is a filmmaker known for bold visuals, big themes, and not making movies very often. 2011's The Tree of Life explores the ideas of nature versus grace, following the life of a boy who grows up in suburban Waco, TX. The first time I saw this movie I genuinely hated it. After several years and reading numerous opinions who raved about the movie, I gave it another shot. A few months back we watched this film for our Worldview Cinema night. I can now say that this is one of my favorite movies. From the absolutely beautiful camera work from Emmanuel Lubezki (he's the guy who has won 3 straight cinematography Oscars for Gravity, Birdman, and The Revenant) to the subtlety powerful performances from Jessica Chastain and Brad Pitt, Life is a deeply moving film that deserves its spot on the list.
Les Miserables (2012)
A good movie musical does not come along very often. Fresh off his Oscar win with The King's Speech, director Tom Hooper took on the massive project of recreating one of Broadway's most beloved shows, and he did so in a pretty unique way. Hooper, realizing that his primary method of telling this story in this medium was visual, decided have all actors record their singing live in order to preserve the actions on screen and capture real-time emotion within each song. What we're offered, then, is one of the most moving and powerful epics brought to the big screen in some time. The story is moving enough as it is, but add in dynamite performances from Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway and you have one of my favorite movies in recent memory. Full review here.
12 Years a Slave (2013)
I went to see this movie (as has become a tradition for me) on Thanksgiving day of 2013, and remember leaving the theater with a unique sense of solemnity. 12 Years tells the story of Solomon Northup, an African American man living in New York state during the 1850's, who is unjustly expedited to the South and sold into slavery. The movie recounts the many terrifying events he lived through as he pursued freedom and justification. Led by an unbelievable performance from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Steve McQueens epic is one of the finest ever made on this topic, and it was no surprise to anyone when it nabbed the Best Picture Oscar.
Richard Linklater has quietly been one of Hollywood's most steady filmmakers. Perhaps none of his work has garnered as much attention as his 2014 coming of age drama, Boyhood. The film was shot a month at a time over the course of twelve years, using the same actors, to truly capture on screen what it looks like for a boy to grow up. With career-best performances from Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, Boyhood is a quietly epic movie that teaches us the best moments of our lives are the little ones, one after another, that slowly shape us into what we are today. For my full review of this film, click here.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
In the 1980's Mel Gibson's Mad Max character was a household name with three films in six years. Thirty years later, director George Miller returns with Fury Road and Tom Hardy (one of today's best working actors) in the title role. My favorite movie of 2015, Fury Road is a masterclass on how to make an action movie, complete with insane stunts, massively toned down CGI, and an inventive array of zany characters (Charlize Theron steals the show as the renegade Furiosa). Miller's futuristic vision of warlords, outlaws, and minions drug across a barren wasteland is one of the most unique films you'll see from the last hundred years, much less ten. Full review here
As I mentioned from the top, this was a very difficult list to make. Here are the top three others that just barely missed the list for me:
- No Country for Old Men | Generally considered the best Coen bros film, No Country follows an unsuspecting man who happens upon a large some of cash after a drug deal goes wrong. Javier Bardem gives the performance of his career as a dreadful villain, and Tommy Lee jones plays the law man trying to catch up to them both.
- Inglourious Bastards | Quentin Tarantino's smart and wild retelling of the end of World War II features a band of Nazi hunters lead by Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) and a conniving Nazi thug named Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz, who won his first Oscar for the role). This movie features one of the best opening scenes I can remember from any film.
- The Social Network | Recounting the origins of social media giant Facebook, Jesse Eisenberg plays the brilliant billionaire Mark Zuckerberg back in his days to Harvard. Network barely edged out for Best Picture that year, and many believe David Fincher should still have won Best Director. The movie is also laced together with a brilliant, popping script from Aaron Sorkin.
There are at least a dozen more movies I heavily considered for this list. Again - WHAT DO YOU THINK? Agree / Disagree? Leave a comment!