80. Blade Runner 2049
The long-awaited sequel to everyone’s favorite 80’s cyberpunk noir did not disappoint. Ryan Gosling stars as the eponymous blade runner, K, hunting down his fellow replicants for the LAPD, until he discovers a secret that could spark a war between humans and synthetics. Blade Runner 2049 reappraises the original’s themes of memory and self-authenticity, accented by imaginative visuals and outstanding effects. Jared Leto’s more subdued sociopathy here stands as a stark contrast to his previous performance as a crazy person and makes it a hell of a lot creepier and more effective. But what truly elevates this movie is the production design; The dystopian future hellscape possesses a dirty, lived-out quality that screams of a wider world just beyond the edges of the frame. Here’s hoping for another sequel in another 30 years. (Hans Qu)
It’s easy for some people to dismiss 2018’s best film as being too obvious in its intentions and methods, but film being what it is — subjective — means we can safely ignore those people as dipshits with poor taste. But seriously, Blindspotting may wear its heart on its sleeve, but that sleeve is made from some of the most vibrant, sincere, and fresh fabric you’ve seen in years. It’s the story of two friends whose relationship feels lived in and real, and over the course of three days, we’re made privy to big laughs, bigger heart, smart and insightful commentary on the changing streets of Oakland, and sequences of real-world suspense capable of stopping your heart. It’s a film of the “now” while also being timeless in its prioritizing of people in ways that are raw, honest, and purely entertaining. It’s something special. (Rob Hunter)
78. Exit Through the Gift Shop
Is it a documentary or a mockumentary? It seems the more time that passes the more people wonder if Banksy’s directorial debut is an elaborately staged hoax. For my money, though, there’s really only one way to properly answer this question, and it’s very simple—who the fuck cares, it’s a damn good time. The tale of Thierry “Mr. Brainwash” Guetta, a street “artist” and the hackiest of hack jobs, becomes not just bearable but darkly hilarious through Banksy’s sardonic lens. In its commentary on the commodification of creativity and the soulless, self-perpetuating cycle of celebrity, the film feels even more relevant now than it did when it was first released in 2010. The crown jewel of the enigma that it Banksy, Exit Through the Gift Shop is a wildly entertaining ride that’s also food for thought. (Ciara Wardlow)
Life is only on earth. And not for long. Lars von Trier’s masterwork ends with destruction. That’s not a spoiler. Justine (Kirsten Dunst) — just like everyone else stuck on this rock — is obviously doomed from the start. Preceded by Antichrist and proceded by Nymphomaniac, Melancholia is the second film in von Trier’s unofficial ‘depression trilogy.’ It’s the meat in the sandwich if you will — and boy is it ever! The director’s most mature film chronicles the events in Justine’s life leading up to the day Melancholia, a rogue planet, collides with Earth. After her self-destructive tendencies end her marriage as soon as it begins, Justine attempts to find a pittance of solace in the home of her sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Von Trier utilizes their dynamic to explore the ways in which people respond to impending devastation, how they may spiral into stress or acquiesce to ruin.
Von Trier’s depiction of Justine’s depressive episode is as raw and harrowing as the film itself is hauntingly beautiful. Von Trier’s signature frenetic camerawork, particularly in the film’s first chapter, matches the mania of his protagonist. This is contrasted with his overture, a prologue of impeccably composed and still slow-motion shots imagining the characters’ experiences as Melancholia — the planet or the feeling, it’s all the same — rushes to meet them.
I’ve spent a lot of the last decade ruminating on the final shot of the two sisters being confronted with oblivion. Justine has long since come to terms with her fate and sits still as the planet under her is obliterated. Claire shakes and shutters, visibly racked with anxiety up to the end. I wonder who I would be: the one who accepts the end or the one who doesn’t. I don’t have an answer, but I imagine I’ll spend the next decade still trying to figure it out. That is if we make it long enough. (Anna Swanson)
When fancypants critics deride the idea of movies as thrill rides, they’re not actually thinking of something as visceral as Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. This space disaster movie is almost entirely about the experience that it puts you through, but then there’s a thoughtful story on the outskirts keeping it from being just a product of amusement. And Sandra Bullock keeps it going on her own as the Final Girl of a scary movie in which physics is the most terrifying slasher of all. Have I watched this movie since the one time in the theater? No, because Gravity is not only a theatrically necessary motion picture but it’s the kind that makes you wonder why we would bother watching anything on a small screen in a small room. (Christopher Campbell)
Spike Jonze only directed one film in the last decade, but we are all incredibly lucky that it happened to be Her. In what ultimately feels like his magnum opus (hopefully so far), this movie is the discerning director’s most poignant one yet. On the surface, Her just looks absolutely stunning – a crisp representation of an interconnected cosmopolitan world that somehow manages to be lush and distant at the same time. Her is all soft hues and picturesque skyscrapers until we enter one of its artful yet sometimes clinical spaces. Occupying these buildings are lovably quirky people living out polished, individualistic existences. They are yearning to reach out to one another, but many don’t know-how.
Jonze had the intricate task of making AI lovers and so-called “artificial” confidantes feel not only real but also logical and understandable. At first, this made me wary. As someone who has made long-lasting relationships online – not to mention found spaces like this very website that act as an outlet for self-expression – I was afraid that the film wouldn’t manage to capture the multifaceted potential of technologically driven relationships.
But Jonze is an empathetic filmmaker. We’ve long been aware of his fascinating, heartfelt takes on the human psyche, be it in Being John Malkovich or Where the Wild Things Are. So, although Jonze levels a certain amount of criticism at the prospect of technological over-reliance in Her, he is careful to be caring for the lonely. He affirms that virtual relationships can be potent, visceral, and totally tangible… but that there must also be balance. After all, it is through our interactions with others that we learn grace, humility, and compassion. The sheer beauty of Her – and the humble reason this film makes our “best of” list – is that, be it IRL or online, nothing means more to humanity than personal connection. (Sheryl Oh)
There were superhero movies before 2010, but these past ten years will still go down as the decade of spandex as both Marvel and DC turned superheroes into regular residents atop the box-office. Why am I talking comic book flicks in reference to this Norwegian genre-bender? Because it’s one of the best “origin stories” to ever meet your eyeballs, that’s why. A young woman from an oppressive family comes into her own and discovers truths about herself and abilities her parents never wanted to be revealed, and it’s set against a backdrop of young love and Oslo’s gorgeously monochromatic landscape. It’s a film that turns and shifts before your eyes leading to an ending that, depending on your perspective, is either celebratory or terrifying. Hell, maybe it’s a little bit of both. (Rob Hunter)
73. The Raid: Redemption
Americans play it safe. All you need to do is look at two minutes of The Raid: Redemption to understand the coddled reality of Hollywood. Gareth Evans and the mad stuntmen of his film throw their souls into the fight and watching such epic brawls from the comfort of a theater or television set felt revelatory in 2011. We had seen a lot of good fight movies, but we had never seen anything like this tornado of bloodshed.
The premise is bare bones. A squad of cops enters a building to take down a gang of thugs. The thugs don’t come willingly. The cops die quickly. The few left standing must shed all decency to survive the onslaught. You cannot possibly watch The Raid: Redemption in silence. You’re forced to exhale great gasps of “JEEEZZZZZUUUSSS!” and “OH DAAAAMMMMNN.” Your heart rate elevates with those before you. It’s an exercise, and it rejuvenates. (Brad Gullickson)
72. Blue Valentine
In a decade full of hype and noise, you might not remember the fervor with which Blue Valentine crashed into the world, lighting a fire under the ass of American indie cinema and catapulting Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams to the most incredible heights of their acting capabilities for all the world to see. It assumes a free-flowing, time-bending shape that shuffles the memories of a married couple that learn the hard way that love requires emotional balance and that new life changes everything. Its brutal emotional lows and unflinching intimacy made for a strange mix that gutted viewers and introduced us all to the maximalist strivings of Derek Cianfrance. While he may have been continuing what John Cassavettes and Vincent Gallo started, he infuses each scene with a visual and sonic overload that range from vibrant blue hues to overpowering dialogue and music mixing that were just the beginning of the technical bravery that would mark this decade in indie filmmaking. (Fernando Andrés).
71. Attack the Block
That teenage hooligan you cross the street to avoid for fear of your wallet is just a kid who sleeps every night beneath a Spider-Man blanket. Attack the Block is a badass goonies vs. aliens sci-fi actioner, but it’s also a heartfelt celebration of community and a challenge against cheap societal labels. Writer/director Joe Cornish has seen the judgemental stares that the fearful direct toward the unchecked youth of the street, and he’s felt the anger such disapproval ignites from those on the receiving end. We cannot ignore those around us. They are the champions we need to save our future. Trust. (Brad Gullickson)