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🎬 Best of the decade: 30 movies I loved from 2010 to 2019

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Surprise! You get a bonus newsletter this week. I've seen a lot of people making lists of their top 1
 

ESJ's Movie Project

December 9 · Issue #43 · View online
I'm reviewing every movie I watch, and watching every movie I own. Settle in, this is going to take a while.

Surprise! You get a bonus newsletter this week. I’ve seen a lot of people making lists of their top 10 movies of the 2010s, and decided to take a crack at it.
I failed. So instead, you get a top 30 list. All of these movies are worth watching and rewatching; I decided that, to avoid a recency bias, I would list them in order of US release, from 2010 to 2019.
Getting it down to 30 was tough enough, and there are a ton of movies from this decade that I probably should have seen by now, but haven’t. But whaddya want, it’s a free newsletter.
Thoughts on what I picked? Outraged at something I left out? Reply to this email to let me know.
(Oh, also: Click on each image below to be taken to the Letterboxd page for that film and read more about it. Look on the left side of the page to see where to stream it/rent it/buy it.)

🎨 Exit Through the Gift Shop (April 10, 2010)
🤯 Inception (July 16, 2010)
🅕 The Social Network (October 1, 2010)
🚘 Drive (September 16, 2011)
⚾️ Moneyball (September 23, 2011)
💪 The Avengers (May 4, 2012)
What I wrote the last time I watched this movie, in 2018:
I’m still amazed that THE AVENGERS (2012) works so well. Compared to the recently released Infinity War, teaming up “only” six heroes sounds downright quaint, but at the time it seemed unlikely that this story could really coalesce. And it did! All the main characters, and several of the side ones, get memorable scenes, funny lines and awesome action shots, and the villain is unusually good — I had forgotten how scary Loki was here, since he became something of a fan-favorite neutered punchline in the later films. I couldn’t help but marvel (ha) at the way this film is written: With the debatable exception of Thor, none of the six heroes is introduced so as to suggest that their powers are cooler/more important than they are as people. It’s trite at this stage to point out that Marvel’s movie heroes are more believable as humans than their DC counterparts, but it’s the truth. Of course, when it’s time for things to blow up, The Avengers delivers — I’d argue the Battle of New York is the best action set-piece in the whole series, and that no one in superherodom (MCU or otherwise) has yet topped the 42-second unbroken shot that sweeps across the battlefield, giving everyone a moment in the spotlight.
🌚 Moonrise Kingdom (May 25, 2012)
🤖 Pacific Rim (July 12, 2013)
🦾 Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 4, 2014)
What I wrote the last time I saw this movie, in 2018:
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014) is my absolute favorite Marvel movie. And I’d go one step further and argue that the first 50 minutes, culminating in the elevator fight scene and escape, are among the most consistently entertaining 50 minutes in any superhero movie. Plotted like a government conspiracy thriller, Winter Soldier just works in almost every dimension. Thematically, it builds on the first Captain America by layering in modern questions about the cyber-military complex and the surveillance state; on a character level, Cap’s chemistry with both Black Widow and Falcon feels authentically comfortable; and while most MCU flicks struggle to offer a compelling villain, Winter Soldier offers up at least two, depending on how you count. The denouement of “what’s on the flash drive?” and “who is the Winter Soldier?” is my only real critique, as those revelations felt more unnaturally comic book-y than the rest of the story. But the movie recovers with a superb climactic showdown both inside the Triskelion and above it, a long sequence that I’d put up there with the Avengers’ battle of New York. It’s really that good.
💁‍♀️ Gone Girl (October 3, 2014)
🥁 Whiplash (October 10, 2014)
📘 Ex Machina (April 10, 2015)
🧠 Inside Out (June 19, 2015)
🏚 Room (October 16, 2015)
🗞 Spotlight (November 6, 2015)
🥊 Creed (November 25, 2015)
What I wrote the last time I saw this movie, in 2018:
It’s not just that CREED (2015) is good. By some miracle, it’s the best film in the Rocky franchise. Right from the start, this is a movie that understands how to make us care about a character’s arc without making clichéd narrative choices: Adonis Creed has the privilege of wealth, yet chooses to throw that away and fight. But it’s not really a choice; it’s in his DNA. Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson have some all-time great chemistry here. Visually, Creed is a feast for the eyes, full of long cuts, sometimes gruesome close-ups and distinct colors. And that MUSIC! My God. The “run to Rocky” scene belongs in some sort of Hall of Fame. Of course, I can’t get out of this review without talking about Sly Stallone’s moving return to the role of Rocky Balboa. All in all, this is one of the best sports movies ever made. Signed, someone who doesn’t like sports or sports movies.
🤭 10 Cloverfield Lane (March 11, 2016)
What I wrote the last time I saw this movie, in 2018:
10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (2016) is not merely the first movie in my collection alphabetically. It’s also a first-rate Twilight Zone-esque thriller that accomplishes SO MUCH with a tiny cast and limited sets. If any one of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr. and John Goodman had fumbled their roles, the entire movie would have fallen apart; luckily, they all shine, as do the direction and script. On this (3rd or 4th) rewatch, I especially appreciated the intense amount of detail crammed into every corner of the bunker; it’s believable as a place to ride out the (alleged) end of the world.
👽 Arrival (November 11, 2016)
What I wrote the last time I saw this movie, in 2018:
ARRIVAL (2016) is one of my favorite sci-fi movies to come out in my lifetime. Like so many great genre pictures, it hinges on a deceptively simple idea: What if, when the aliens arrive, we don’t start firing our guns right away? Even in 2016, this may have sounded implausible, but Arrival accepts that challenge with gusto. The geopolitical challenges are discussed frankly and constantly felt, balanced against the wonder and intimidating mystery of these visitors; the risk that humanity might shoot first and cooperate never makes for a far scarier villain than any creature. Amy Adams is so convincingly understated as linguist Louise Banks that, even knowing on this viewing how things turn out, I was able to surrender myself to the experience of her discovering the truth. If I had one big nit to pick with the film, it would be the section narrated by Jeremy Renner’s character Ian, which feels out of place and maybe inserted by writ of the studio, to speed up the story. But with the exception of that interruption, I enjoy Arrival so, so much and I hope it gets more attention in the years to come.
🌺 Moana (November 23, 2016)
😱 Get Out (February 24, 2017)
🇯🇵 Your Name (April 7, 2017)
🚗 Baby Driver (June 28, 2017)
👗 Lady Bird (November 3, 2017)
📱 Eighth Grade (July 13, 2018)
🚀 First Man (October 12, 2018)
🚔 If Beale Street Could Talk (December 14, 2018)
🎉 Booksmart (May 24, 2019)
👵🏼 The Farewell (July 12, 2019)
🍑 Parasite (October 11, 2019)
🔪 Knives Out (November 27, 2019)
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