60. Inherent Vice
It’s Sauncho Smilax, maritime lawyer (wearing a captain’s hat), waltzing into the police station, ready to defend hippie detective extraordinaire Doc Sportello from the dark force that is the LAPD. It’s Shasta Fay Hepworth leaving Doc a postcard; she’s sorry, she misses him, and she remembers that day in the rain (the one with the ouija board). It’s Lt. Detective “Bigfoot” Bjornsen kicking down Doc’s door, eating all the unground marijuana that’s strewn across his coffee table while Doc looks him in the eye through tears, and then wordlessly walking out with dark green crumbs all over his face. It’s Can on the soundtrack (“Vitamin C”) and Joanna Newsom narrating (the ethereal Sortilège). It’s Coy reuniting with Hope and little Amethyst Harlingen after too much time apart. It’s Martin Short as a dentist who won’t stop doing lines off of the desk in his office (name: Dr. Rudy Blatnoyd, D.D.S.).
It’s the only movie that can be all of these things at once; the absurdity, the genuine heartbreak, the how-on-earth-did-they-make-that-joke-work comedy, and the conversations that will bring tears to your eyes for reasons unknown. It’s a neo-noir that respects its predecessors (the plot is impenetrable. Who cares?). It is the beauty of hearing Thomas Pynchon character names said (and yelled, and screamed, and whispered) aloud by brilliant actors. It’s knowing that if Paul Thomas Anderson can adapt Pynchon, he can do anything. It demands –and deserves– to be watched, rewatched, and discussed endlessly. It is, in a maritime insurance policy, “anything that you can’t avoid. Eggs break, chocolate melts, glass shatters.” It is Inherent Vice, and it is one of the finest films of the decade. (Madison Brek)
59. You Were Never Really Here
Get in and get out. 90 minutes. I love it when a filmmaker treats a narrative like a bank heist. You Were Never Really Here does not feature a frame of fat. Every second is essential. Lynne Ramsey doesn’t waste any time trying to catch you up to speed with the narrative or the emotions. The viewer needs to prick up their ears, splay their eyes wide open, and concentrate. There is no escape from the screen. Get on it or get out.
You Were Never Really Here is not a mean movie, but it features a lot of meanness. Joaquin Phoenix plays a man shaped by violence. He has known nothing else. He can be nothing else. When a sliver of righteousness enters his person, it tears the world around him apart. Woe to anyone who stands in his way. Hammer time. (Brad Gullickson)
58. Swiss Army Man
If you wrote off Swiss Army Man because of its gross-out humor, I feel sorry for you. I really do.
Does Paul Dano escape from a desert island riding the flatulence-propelled corpse of Daniel Radcliffe like a jet ski? You bet your ass he does. Does the farting gag ever stop happening? I think you know the answer to that. But it does become a metaphor for something much greater: confidence, happiness, love, etc. There is nothing quite like Swiss Army Man. Smearing the lines between life and death, real and imagined, buddy movie and romance, and ending with a series of bizarre and unexpected blows that throw the entire film into harsh relief, it’s an absolutely madcap and uplifting slice of insanity that may never be emulated again. I’m not ashamed to say that it’s my number one pick of the decade, but I’m happy to rep it at whatever much higher number it’s wound up at here. (Liz Baessler)
57. Force Majeure
Not long ago, a scene from Ruben Östlund’s dark family vacation comedy Force Majeure became an internet sensation. If you’ve spent time on Film Twitter, you know the one — a family is sitting on the patio of a beautiful mountain resort enjoying brunch when, all of the sudden, an avalanche comes rolling down the mountain toward them. What begins as a serene and beautiful moment quickly turns into chaos and before we know it, the intensity of the moment reveals something about the Tomas, the father, that creates all kinds of conflict going forward. For a moment, the internet thought it was a real video. And while they were wrong about that, the Internet did ultimately get to talking about Force Majeure on a level that feels more commiserate with the film’s quality.
Beautifully shot and constantly biting with its wit, Force Majeure is the exact kind of film that comes to mind when someone asks me to name something underrated — something they maybe haven’t seen yet. I tell them that it’s on Hulu and that they should get their life in order by watching it. (Neil Miller)
56. Under the Skin
Like a shot of adrenaline to the heart of contemporary sci-fi, Under the Skin unleashed an undeniably new technical vision that shaped the genre afterwards (Annihilation, Blade Runner 2049 and even sequences of Get Out have this film pulsing through their blood) while expanding audiences’ minds with its questions of who we are as a species. Told through a series of documentary-like vignettes and loud abstract interludes set in a dark void, the film follows an alien who assumes the body of a woman in modern-day Scotland, where she preys on local men to use their bodies as fuel. Scarlett Johansson, already best known for roles that render her detached in some form, is in full Kubrickian mode here, using her expressions and physical movements to communicate worlds of difference between the disillusioned alien she is playing and the hypersexualized, noisy dystopia she has come to visit. Jonathan Glazer’s efficient and breathtaking visual inventions here come as close to 2001 levels of newness as sci-fi will probably be getting any time soon, while Mica Levi begins her composing career with one of the great film scores of our time. (Fernando Andrés)
55. Only Lovers Left Alive
Jim Jarmusch’s wonderful idiosyncrasies pop in what is essentially the filmic equivalent of his dating profile. Somehow always managing to avoid a pretentious tone, he showcases his depth of affection for 18th & 19th century romanticism (especially William Blake), the underworld of grungey noise rock (Detroit a perfect choice for dark, dingy clubs in all of its dilapidation, and his noise band Squrl an apt choice to score the film), and Moroccan design and culture. Of course, he does it all through the dry, comical, and dreadful lens of vampires in the modern age. Although, this isn’t vampires as we typically experience them on screen. This is Jarmusch’s brand of vampirism: depressed, lonely, well-read, meditative, art-obsessed, beautiful, reclusive, and natural, their very essence often aligned with the plants and creatures around them, which they mourn the destruction of at the hands of selfish, senseless humans with no care for how the Earth will remain once they’re gone.
Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston bring a raw energy to their lover characters that illuminates the poetic conundrum of vampires in the modern age—lying low across oceans from one another (after all, maybe some space is necessary after spending a few centuries in each other’s arms), striking deals with doctors in order to get blood without resorting to violence, and weighing the significance and value of humanity across time after a life that’s ranged from the middle ages to the present. It might just be Jarmusch’s masterpiece. (Luke Hicks)
54. Oslo, August 31st
There are sad films and movies that make you cry, and then there is the absolutely and utterly devastating Oslo, August 31st. Joachim Trier’s mesmerizing tragedy unfolds over a single day as a troubled young man gets a day pass away from his treatment center for a job interview, and as he uses the time to visit family and old friends we watch his internal struggle clash against the hope for a better tomorrow. Anders Danielsen Lie’s performance creates a character — a human being — who we quickly come to love and fear for, and while the film is a drama it’s an immensely suspenseful one. I won’t spoil the end for you, but I have to insist you give it a watch. This is a film that taps into your innate empathy and reminds you that any of us could be one day away from our last day. (Rob Hunter)
53. Wonder Woman
With Wonder Woman, trailblazing director Patty Jenkins reminds us that Diana Prince is the hero we need right now, even if, as her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) remarks, she may not be the one this world deserves. Anchored by Gal Gadot in a breakout performance, the film gives superhero fans – especially women – an origin story worth waiting for, one that finally invests in the mythology of a landmark hero, and one that is unburdened by the male gaze.
Indeed, one of the most exciting things about Wonder Woman is the way in which Jenkins honors Diana with her camera; she never uses it to linger or objectify, instead profiling her as the powerful warrior that she is. This foundation of respect builds to some of the most triumphant action sequences of the decade – where were you when you first saw Robin Wright leading that cavalry charge of Amazon warriors? And how much did you cry when Diana first stepped over the boundary into No Man’s Land? Witnessing these scenes in the theater for the first time, I couldn’t help but become overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all. It felt like an arrival, a tribute, acceptance. It felt like history being made.
Most importantly, Wonder Woman presents us with a hero who leads with compassion, who fights with love and truth at her center. Her journey hinges on learning of what mankind is capable of at its worst, yet still believing in what it can be at its best. Diana is, in short, universal, and remains the first and most enduring beacon of hope in an otherwise bleak extended universe. In times like these, may we all be so lucky to have her on our side. (Christina Smith)
52. Black Panther
It’s far easier to just lump every superhero in together and say, “Look at all that money-chasing CGI nonsense!” But that’s not an intellectually honest place to be, is it? No matter how many Cinematic Universes are spawned in Capitalism’s quest to occupy 100% of your time with binge-watching, so long as there are directors with unique visions and producers who will let them do their thing, there will always be a few interesting ones in the mix. Black Panther is one of the interesting ones not just because of its overwhelming financial and cultural success, but also because of what it had to say. Because for all the criticism Marvel Studios and Disney deserve for waiting so long to introduce us to a film with a primarily black cast, they also deserve some credit for allowing Ryan Coogler to make something audacious and unapologetic. A superhero movie that isn’t pandering, but speaking to an audience that had been left on the sidelines of tentpole cinema for far too long.
Their trust in Coogler and the creatives he was surrounded with led to a film that doesn’t just feel like the next in a long line of spandex-and-CGI ‘splosions. It’s a film that wears history and futurism on its sleeve. It’s also a billion-dollar-grossing Disney movie that ends with a profoundly moving reflection on slavery. It was also nominated for Best Picture. And some weirdo website called it the movie of its year. In short, Wakanda Forever. (Neil Miller)
51. The Cabin in the Woods
It became trendy sometime in the past decade to hate on Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods instead of recognizing it as the genre-bending motherfucking masterpiece that it is, but we’re not having any of that bullshit here. From the horror trope of its title — a concept the film pokes fun at while still delivering one hell of a terrific “cabin in the woods” movie — to the genius behind its meta-commentary on the genre itself, the film is horror/comedy perfection. Co-written by Joss Whedon (the probable reason for such gleefully misguided attempts at taking the film down), the film offers up an intricately designed box of genre delights that hold up on multiple re-watches. We get a terrific blend of characters brought to life by talented and charismatic performers, a workplace comedy every bit as observant and witty as Office Space, and a glorious menagerie of creatures and carnage. It all builds to an ending that subverts expectation and formula to deliver the finale this world of ours deserves. (Rob Hunter)