100. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) – Quentin Tarantino is one of the most instinctive filmmakers of all-time. His films might be long, but they go by in a rapid-fire pace. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, his most recent film, is a wonderful love letter to Los Angeles in the 1960s. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt have a blast as actor Rick Dalton and his stunt double Cliff Booth while they learn about Charles Manson’s family. With Tarantino’s signature dark comedy, long scenes of amazing dialogue, and a killer cast, this movie will have everyone begging for more. The last act has divided audiences, but I couldn’t stop cheering. At the screening I went to, nobody saw it coming!
99. Love and Mercy (2015) – As a big fan of The Beach Boys, I barely knew the story behind the legendary band was so dark. In Bill Pohlad’s overlooked biopic of Brian Wilson, it follows the tensions while recording their greatest album Pet Sounds, as well as Wilson’s deteriorating mental health under the control of Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). Paul Dano and John Cusack could not be better choices to play the lead singer. Wilson thought the movie was so good, he felt the characters were actually the ones from his own life. Check it out.
98. Warrior (2011) – With a familiar narrative, Warrior is one of those rare dramas that made me weep as well as cheer for these two brothers (Tom Hardy and Joel Egerton) who reunite in Atlantic City for an MMA tournament. The film shifts back-and-forth between two settings–Pittsburgh and Philadelphia–until the big moment. Mostly filmed with a handheld camera, director/co-writer Gavin O’Connor pulls a lot of emotional punches as we root for Tommy and Brendan to earn the support they deserve. After watching this movie, I had to tell my older brother (who was in the Navy for a little while) that I loved him.
97. The Conjuring (2013)/The Conjuring 2 (2016) – I have been getting more into horror movies over the past ten years. It’s a rarity to find two that are inspired by true stories and don’t rely on blood or cheap scares. Known for the infamous 2004 torture-porn fantasy Saw and a substandard 2007 frightfest Dead Silence, director James Wan and writers Chad and Carey W. Hayes bring the stories of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren to life. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga give nuanced performances as the couple helping a family–either in Harrisville, Rhode Island, or London, England–to get rid of the supernatural entities once and for all. With an eerie atmosphere and plenty of frightening images to keep you up at night, these movies certainly deserve their R-ratings. I’m bummed Wan isn’t returning to direct the third Conjuring. Let’s hope it will be better than Annabelle, The Nun, and The Curse of La Llarona.
96. Coco (2017) – I have been waiting for a movie like this my entire life. For someone who is fond of the Spanish culture, Coco is a stunning and heartbreaking adventure to the underworld from the wonderful minds of Disney/PIXAR. It does contain some humor, it has a certain poignancy that I find all the more endearing. It has a wonderful message for kids and adults alike about accepting who you are and make your dreams a reality. Fantastic job, Lee Unkrich and crew!
95. The Big Sick (2017) – Kumail Nanjiani is one of the funniest comedic actors working today. Serving as the co-writer of this dramedy loosely based on his own life, he plays a fictional version of himself, a Pakistani-American living in Chicago who defies his customs to fall in love with Caucasian woman Emily (Zoe Kazan) who falls into a coma.
Not only is The Big Sick funny, it’s also raw and heartbreaking that you don’t see in comedies often. I love the scene where Kumail talks to Emily’s parents (terrifically played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter) about how it would be a terrible thing to joke about 9/11. Such class-A writing!
94. A Quiet Place (2018) – John Krasinski’s horror debut almost works as a silent film. Mostly told through American Sign Language, this movie does have a similar plot to Signs and Tremors. Krasinski leads a small cast including Emily Blunt and Wonderstruck‘s Millicent Simmonds as a father struggling to have his family survive during the aftermath of an apocalypse, where monsters highly sensitive to sound roam the Earth. Every bit is shocking and relatively fresh for this day and age.
93. Creed (2015) – The Rocky franchise has been going on for over 40 years. Despite the silliness in its sequels, generations have and will always root for the beloved “Italian Stallion”, either in the ring or through life. Now–Sylvester Stallone returns as an older and wiser Rocky Balboa in Ryan Coogler’s first blockbuster as he trains the son of his late rival Apollo Creed to face against Britain’s most dangerous boxer. Michael B. Jordan is a great addition to the franchise; bringing enough flair and charm reminiscent of a young Denzel Washington. None of Creed feels forced or manipulative. Coogler hits the tone perfectly with its exhilarating boxing matches (not to mention, one consisting of one unbroken shot) and its enthralling drama. I love the scene where Rocky and Adonis walk the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum to look at the view of the city and how much it has changed.
92. Sicario (2015) – Denis Villeneuve’s take on the never-ending “War on Drugs” is a nail-biting, heart-stopping thriller with great performances by Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio del Toro. One of the many reasons why this movie shines is Taylor Sheridan’s screenplay, which marks the beginning of a trilogy of films set in the American frontier. Sicario is brutal as it is stunning (thank God for Roger Deakins’ cinematography).
91. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010) – What a shame this movie didn’t receive enough attention in theaters. Edgar Wright adapts Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel of the same name with clever, deadpan sight gags, video games references galore, eye-popping visuals, and offbeat performances from its talented cast. Michael Cera couldn’t be a better choice to play the inept title character going on a quest to defeat his new girlfriend’s (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) seven evil ex-boyfriends (including one played by Chris Evans, and another played by Jason Schwartzman). From beginning to end, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a nonstop blast.