10. Whiplash (2014) – Damien Chazelle’s film about aspiring drummer Andrew (Miles Teller), who goes to a New York music school, under the instruction of Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons, who won an Oscar for his role), a music teacher with an appalling temper is nail-biting as it is darkly comedic. This is a movie about the hardships of following your dreams. The jazz music, the brisk-paced editing, and the performances are all top-notch. The ending will have you cheering. And remember: “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’.”
9. Dunkirk (2017) – After seeing Christopher Nolan’s WWII epic for the first time in theaters, I knew I had to see it again…and again. Its nonlinear narrative might throw audiences off a little, but Dunkirk is a movie that demands repeated viewings. There is so much going on throughout its 106-minute runtime that there is always something you catch up on in repeated viewings. Everything that is shown on the screen is real–the Spitfire planes, warships, and sailboats. The performances from the massive cast are all strong, and the suspense is on a level that Alfred Hitchcock would probably appreciate.
8. Call Me by Your Name (2017) – I have never seen a more beautiful romance than what director Luca Guadagnino and screenwriter James Ivory bring in Call Me by Your Name. One of many reasons why it works is the chemistry between Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer. This slow-burning film takes its time getting to know our two protagonists–Elio and Oliver. They spend time teasing one another until they express their feelings while spending an Italian summer (gorgeous cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom) they will never forget. Their friendship takes a more subtle approach than your average romance (not to mention allowing the two having freedom to improvise). It’s fascinating to find out these characters happen to be Jewish (take note of the Star of David pendant necklace Oliver wears). While struggling to come to terms with his own identity, Elio explains that he and his parents are only “Jews of discretion.”
As Elio’s father, it stuns me Michael Stuhlbarg did not get nominated at all. Particularly his powerful monologue near the end is something every dad should give to their children. Call Me by Your Name is more of a coming-of-age story than anything else. Honest, lovely, stunning, and miraculous on every level.
7. Moonlight (2016) – Not only is this the first Best Picture winner with a shoestring budget ($1.5 million), but it’s also the first to feature an all-black cast. Barry Jenkins adapts Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue with stunning results. Everything about this movie is flawless: the powerful story about a black boy named Chiron struggling to come to terms with his own sexuality, the marvelous performances by Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Trevante Rhodes, Andre Holland, and Janelle Monae among others, the gorgeous cinematography by James Laxton, and Nicholas Brittel’s score. The scenarios–including having a proper father figure–all feel authentic and relatable.
6. BlacKkKlansman (2018) – After a series of box-office misfires, Spike Lee returns with his most successful film about the true story of Colorado Springs police detective Ron Stallworth infiltrating the local Ku Klux Klan. It has been a while since I’ve seen a movie that will make you laugh one minute and would give you goosebumps the next. Who cares if BlacKkKlansman is dramatized (*ahem* Boots Riley)? With a terrific cast and soundtrack, this is a risky yet captivating wake-up call to where this country is at right now, in terms of racial relations. The last few minutes will make you speechless.
5. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – Easily one of the best action movies of all-time, George Miller’s return to Mad Max is set mostly on the road. This is the only film in the series ever to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. As straightforward as the narrative might be, it has themes of redemption. To complement the impressive, wall-to-wall action, most of the stunts are practical. With memorable characters and beautiful cinematography, Mad Max: Fury Road will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout its two-hour runtime.
4. Little Women (2019)/Parasite (2019) – After the success with the directorial debut Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig enters the mainstream with her second feature Little Women. Although Louisa May Alcott’s book has been adapted so many times since the 1900s, there has never been a version as charming and honest as this one. It’s perfect on every level. Gerwig keeps it traditional while modernizing it for today’s audiences, kudos to her wonderful screenplay and directing. Yorick Le Saux’s cinematography beautifully contrasts the present-day scenes with the flashbacks (they feel like something out of a scrapbook). The stellar cast including Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Bob Odenkirk, and Meryl Streep is absolutely stellar. Yes, Saoirse Ronan is fantastic as Jo, the tomboy of the March sisters aspiring to become a writer. However, I had more of a connection with Amy (played with such panache by Florence Pugh), the aspiring painter. And also, I couldn’t anyone to play Laurie more perfectly than Timothée Chalamet!
With Parasite, writer-director Bong Joon-ho returns to his native Korea after making two movies in America with this brilliant film (which won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival) about two families from two different class structures–the Kims, the lower-class family living in a basement struggling to earn cash, and the Parks, the upper-class family with a dark secret. Filled with dark humor, stunning imagery, big surprises, and nonstop suspense, there is not a single moment in Parasite that feels wasted. As the movie begins to take off, it will never let you go. This future classic in world cinema is required viewing for movie buffs everywhere.
3. Toy Story 3 (2010) – More than a decade after Toy Story 2, Lee Unkrich and the wonderful people of PIXAR bring the wonderful characters back for a third installment in the beloved Toy Story franchise. There is so much to like about this movie: the gorgeous-as-ever animation, its introduction to new characters, its sense of humor (particularly Spanish Buzz Lightyear), and subtle references to sci-fi films (i.e. Jurassic Park). Toy Story 3 has probably the most intense climax in any film PIXAR has ever made. The movie couldn’t have ended on a better note.
2. The Social Network (2010) – Believe it or not, The Social Network served as my introduction to director David Fincher. This movie following Mark Zuckerberg’s (Jesse Eisenberg) creating of Facebook and the consequences that followed is an emotionally intense biopic sprinkled with the director’s signature dark humor, brilliant editing, an excellent techno score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and Aaron Sorkin’s fantastic script. Also, I have never seen a poster tagline as honest as the one for this movie: “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.”
1. Her (2013) – Who knew a romantic drama about a lonely man falling in love with his operating system would be so heartbreaking? Nobody can direct this type of movie like Spike Jonze can. Joaquin Phoenix should have got nominated for his performance as Theodore, a man who works at a business where he writes letters for people who are unable to write them. He is going through a rough divorce until he updates his operating system with a virtual assistant named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Almost right away, they build a connection unlike anything Theodore has experienced before.
With an amazing cast including Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, and Rooney Mara, their performances add to the experience. Through Jonze’s excellent writing and directing, the beautiful cinematography and music, Her will make you laugh, cry, think, and be flat-out amazed.
There you have it! I would like to thank everyone of you for following my blog over the past five years. It’s been my extreme pleasure to share my love of movies this past decade; either on YouTube, Letterboxd, or on WordPress. I’ll definitely be back to give you more movie reviews in the coming years. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment on what your favorite movies of the decade are. See you in 2020!