It’s time again for another List v. List v. List v. List extravaganza here from your pals at Ghosts of the Stratosphere! This time around, we dip our wicks into an area we don’t traditionally address—non-super-hero movies! Specifically, we’ve been tasked with ranking our top 10 movies of the last decade!
This was really tough for me because of 3 reasons:
1) Hollywood stopped churning out original ideas shortly after 1999, and all they do at this point are super hero flicks, remakes, sequels, or other big budget fare. I’m not saying that Scorcese is right when he talks about super hero flicks not being ‘cinema,’ but I do think he has a valid point about what studios are willing to create these days. It seems like the real risks are being taken by tv shows any more.
2) My first kiddo was born in 2011, which basically put a stop to my semi-regular visits to see new and exciting movies. Prior to that, I was quite the cinema conessoiur, making sure to see the big award winners as well as the experimental Indy flicks. My local store had a ‘cult classics’ section that I would mine to try to figure out what made them awesome.
Post-kiddo, I get to see a lot of animated stuff. Over and over and over again. And superhero movies, but those don’t count here.
3) One of the things our podcast replaced was Andy’s weekly movie nights, and without Andy forcing me to watch classic or out-there movies, my movie-going has become pretty tame. The only movies I usually make the effort to see in theater are the super hero ones, and everything else has to wait for some kind of streaming availability AND sleeping kiddo availabilty. That means I’ve missed out on a lot of this decade’s best, saving them for another day. But one day, whew, I’ll get there.
With my excuses out of the way, I’ve seen more movies than the average bear, so hopefully this list reminds you of your faves and maybe gives you one or two to check out if you’re unfamiliar. For me, my favorite movies were the ones that transcended the current state of cinema, or exemplified what makes movies great. At this point in my life, giving 2-3 uninterrupted, not-on-my-cell-phone hours of my life towards something is a big deal. These all made that cut.
10. Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013)
Out of the gate, I’m going to hit you with the most obscure, most controversial movie on my list. If your haven’t heard of this one (and I hadn’t before Andy made me watch it), don’t panic. It’s available on YouTube in full if you’re interested. This movie is a documentary about an artists’ ar-teeest, setting out to make an unmakable movie with an incredible crazypants energy. Jodorowski’s batshit crazy vision of what Dune could become, complete with cameos from the world’s biggest movie stars like Marlon Brando, music from the world’s best musicians like Led Zepplin and Pink Floyd, character designs created by H.R. Geiger, and storyboard by Moebius himself, was ultimately too big and too risky for any studio to bite. However, because Jodorowsky had so enthusiastically and completely planned out his epic and shopped his story around, that doesn’t mean his ideas never came to fruition. They did, just in other people’s movies according to this doc.
If everything is to be believed, you can thank Jodorowsky for important parts of the movies Alien, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and many others that stole from his storyboards. Jodorowsky’s exuberance, enthusiasm and creativity are enough to make this entertaining, but the aftermath is one that’s shocking for movie fans. If you’re a fan of pop culture and consider yourself a movie afficianado, you owe it to yourself to check this doc out.
9. San Andreas (2015)
Sometimes you watch movies for the art of moviemaking or to learn something, and sometimes you want the opposite of that. Enter San Andreas, staring the Rock and Alexandra Daddario, directed by Brad Peyton. Don’t trust the sub 50% Metacritic or Rotten Tomato scores here. This movie barely makes sense if you think about it for too long, and in no way would I recommend doing that thing. Just sit back and enjoy the ridiculous spectacle of the special effects, the mindlessness of the story, and the charm of the actors involved. Sometimes that’s enough.
8. The Martian (2015)
Starring Matt Damon who’s mostly by himself, directed by Ridley Scott and based off of the Andy Weir novel, the Martian is all kinds of good for good reasons. This is the opposite side of San Andreas coin, as this movie boasted a great performance from a charismatic star, it had great and realistic effects, and I genuinely felt like I was learning things watching the lead character problem-solve all by himself as he was stranded on Mars. As more and more sci-fi becomes fixated on venturing into either fantasy or horror territory, it was a breath of fresh air to have a compelling, realistic take that could inspire more science adventures.
7. Frozen (2013)
Frozen just barely gets the nod over Disney’s Tangled, which in my heart of hearts I believe to be a better movie. But Frozen’s songs are so much better. Frozen’s sisterly love twist was a welcome change from decades of damsels-in-distress finding their prince kind of love stories. Frozen has legs the Little Mermaid can only dream of!
With that said, Frozen clearly had story elements shift mid-way through. There’s no way that guy who sings about finishing his new gf’s sandwiches was a bad guy when he sang that song. My wife tells me that teaches a valuable lesson about not falling for the first person you meet. It’s an argument, I guess.
The real reason Frozen goes over the top? It’s responsible for John Travolta trying to pronounce Idina Menzel’s name as Adele Dazeem, and thus birthing the John Travolta Name Generator! Plus, my 2 year old daughter has been singing Let It Go for the last three months and it’s really cute. Frozen’s songs are undeniably awesome.
6. The Social Network (2010)
Jessie Eisenberg headlines this Aaron Sorkin-written, David Fincher-directed movie about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Did I mention it’s based on a book by Ben Mezrich called The Accidental Billionaires? I’m a big fan of all the names involved there as they’ve all worked on projects that grant them notice in my book: Eisenberg-Zombieland, Sorkin-Sports Night, Fincher-Fight Club, Mezrich- Bringing Down the House (this one’s a book!). It’s no wonder with the quality crew assembled that this as an awesome movie. I didn’t even mention this movie has a Lone Ranger, a Spider-man, and JT in its cast! It’s scary to think of how far Facebook has come since its creation in 2003. In David Denby’s review in The New Yorker, he describes The Social Network as just like Fight Club. “Here, the violence is emotional, not physical.” Is it any wonder this is the company is the one selling out our political process to the highest bidders?
5. Won’t You Be My Neighbor (2018)
Morgan Neville directs this documentary about everyone’s favorite children’s show host, Fred Rodgers. Mr. Rodgers is revered worldwide, but especially here in his hometown of PIttsburgh, so it’s nice to be reminded of the greatness of the man. In times of crisis, Mr. Rodgers famously instructed children to “look for the helpers” while living his life as the consulate helper. He was a man with an agenda, but his agenda was in no way self serving. He was an advocate of peace, civility, progress, and helping each other to navigate the troubled waters life occasionally provides. His show helped kids develop positive routines, to cope with fear or sadness, and to treat all people humanely. And how to make crayons! His compassion, his civility, his empathy for his fellow man served as guideposts for a world that needs those ideals now more than ever. This doc, unlike the current Tom Hanks movie, showcases the magic that is Mr. Rogers without filters, actor embellishment, or special effects—just clips of shows, interviews, and senate hearings to highlight how wonderful one man could possibly be. In a world that’s intent on exposing the cracks and failings of our heroes, Fred Rogers proved to be one man who lived what he preached and somehow managed to surpass all expectations. If you need an emotional pick me up, seek out Won’t You Be My Neighbor on HBO and have your faith in humanity restored for a little while.
4. Edge of Tomorrow. A.K.A. Live. Die. Repeat. (2014)
Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt headline this sci-fi Groundhog Day circa Starship Troopers directed by Doug Liman. I feel like this movie needed a better advertising campaign because it never really got the exposure it deserved. It even somehow made me enjoy a Tom Cruise movie again, just in time for him to re-invigorate the Mission Impossible franchise. I’ll get around to seeing those one day!
Back to the Edge of Tomorrow, one of my favorite tropes involves examining how the world would change with variations to the time-stream. Here that’s factored into an intriguing enough militaristic plot and really charming chemistry between Cruise and Blunt. I think I liked this movie so much because I had zero expectations going in, and it surprised on every level. If you haven’t seen this one, definitely check it out. If you have seen it, watch it again. There’s enough here to reward multiple viewings. To paraphrase the tag line (that confusingly branded the dvd release instead of the movie title): Watch, Enjoy, Repeat.
3. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy headline George Miller’s post-apocalyptic gonzo art project. Mad Max is the best approximation for what I can hope for from Hollywood moving forward. Yes, it’s part of a franchise. Yes, it’s a sequel/reboot/whatever with big name Hollywood stars. But also, yes, it’s an artful exploration of the awesomeness that can happen on the movie screen. It’s got an immersive world that keeps you entertained and so many small details—the guy who plays the guitar that shoots fire—on top of all the high speed action and crazy stunts. It’s a big screen experience, something you’re unlikely to find outside of the scope of a big budget Hollywood movie. The soundrack, the costumes, the practical effects and stunts as well as the video fx—they’re all stunning. Miller even manipulates time by speeding up and slowing frame rate speeds throughout the movie. You can look to it for themes and deeper meanings or you can look to it for all out spectacle, and either way, you’ll be rewarded.
2. Paddington 2 (2017)
Remember all that stuff I just wrote about Mad Max: Fury Road? Apply that level of praise to a family friendly movie that explores the other half of what makes Hollywood great: musical numbers, heartwarming moments, and an incredibly charming cast. Plus a CGI bear. Basically, Paddington 2 trades crazy action spectacle for heart, humor, and hopefulness. It’s still just as good, and has the added benefit of being fun for the whole family. Have family in town for Thanksgiving and need something to keep the kids and the drunk aunts and uncles entertained? Throw on Paddington 2 and relax, that marmalade-loving bear and Hugh Grant have gotcha covered. There’s a reason Paddington 2 had a 100% approval score on Rotten Tomatoes! Save Mad Max for after the kids go to bed, maybe.
1. Get Out (2017)
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is a solid movie all around. Some have charged it with being heavy-handed with its messaging or dialogue. Some could argue that they saw the big twist coming ahead of time. Those people are not totally off base, even if I personally disagree. So why do I have Get Out as my top movie of the last decade? Simple: Get Out got in my head and wouldn’t leave for weeks, maybe even months. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but I might get real close here, so be warned. The small-town environment really through me because I grew up in a small town, I work in a tight-knit community, and I generally live my life feeling like I’m always on the outside of something that most other folks are in on. Part of that is my socially awkward sensibilities, and part of it is just my flat out paranoia. Just because you’re paranoid everyone is out to get you doesn’t mean they’re not, kids :-). Get Out does a great job of capturing that feeling of everything being just a little bit off. After I walked out of the theater, sufficiently freaked out, I saw the world around me differently. Maybe this person is actually a pawn of that person; maybe so-and-so is a part of a system that’s actively suppressing others. Maybe so and so has that far away look in their eye because they’ve had everything taken away and can only silence others watch as it happens. It’s scary stuff. When you think of the ills of the world, Get Out gives a glimpse (albeit a far-fetched metaphorical one) into how it can happen. While Get Out may not be a traditional horror movie, the themes are scary enough that it more than qualifies.
So there you have it!
Let me know if you agree or if you’re wrong :-). Don’t forget to head to twitter and vote in the poll of whose list you agree with more.
Until next time, I’ll probably still be catching up on my long list of movies I need to watch.