Top Sixty English Language Films of the Decade, Part 2: 40 – 21

60-41 | 40-21 | 20-1

Best English Language Films of the Decade
Part 2: 40 through 21

Continuing on…

Picking the best films of a decade is, let’s face it, mostly an impossible task. This is made all the more ridiculous when choosing among all genres. So to make it somewhat manageable, I’ve decided to break it up in to the Top Twenty Foreign Films, Top Twenty Docs, Top Sixty Television (coming soon), and of course, these, the Top Sixty Domestic/English Language Films (which, by necessity, I’ve chopped in to three parts). Now, listen, it’s just me here. I don’t have a team of writers. And, since this is not my profession, I only see about 100-125 films a year – so you will undoubtedly have films you would have chosen that I haven’t seen. I welcome the disagreements and hope in the comments you’ll tell me I’m an idiot for leaving off your faves, because there’s a good chance I haven’t seen it. Thus it might be a welcome introduction for me.

40. “Eighth Grade” (2018)
Directed by Bo Burnham

Image result for eighth grade posterHeartbreaking, realistic and, well, thank god, I didn’t have to grow up in the age of YouTube. One of the better films about adolescence this, or any, decade.

Trailer here, available on AmazonPrime.

39. “Anomalisa” (2015)
Directed by Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman

Image result for anomalisa posterThis film crushed me. Maybe it’s because I’ve been single all my life and have struggled to understand what it means to actually be successful…or maybe it’s just really well written and conceived. Probably a lot of both.

Trailer here, available only for rent.

38. “The Salvation” (2014)
Directed by Kristian Levring

Image result for the salvation posterA VERY different kind of Western compared to “Meek’s Cutoff”, this is as close to a modern Leone flick as came out this decade. and Mikkelson is the perfect Eastwood replacement. This is a film I go back to constantly.

Trailer here, available on Netflix

37. “Fruitvale Station” (2013)
Directed by Ryan Coogler

Image result for fruitvale posterNot the first to tackle the contentious relationship between African-Americans and police forces, but Coogler’s masterpiece is easily one of the best and most affecting. Plus there is the small matter of it featuring the breakout performance of Michael B. Jordan’s career.

Trailer here, currently available only for rent.

36. “Jackie” (2016)
Directed by Pablo Larraín

Related imageI know, I’m alone here. But Larraín, who is in total control of his craft here, is one of my favorite directors, the writing is top notch, Portman is brilliant, and Mica Levi’s score is sublime. But a lot of people disagree with me. Check out Larraín’s other films if you can, “The Club”, “Neruda” or “No”, the first two of which made my Top Foreign Films of the Decade.

Trailer here, currently available only for rent.

35. “Widows” (2018)
Directed by Steve McQueen

Image result for widows posterThe most underrated and overlooked film of last…or any…year this decade. McQueen’s damnation of familial betrayal and patriarchal dismissiveness of women, features the best ensemble of 2018. There is scene-work in this film that is simply otherworldly. Elizabeth Debicki…and Duvall…wow.

Trailer here, currently available on HBO.

34. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018)
Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey & Rodney Rothman`

Image result for spider-verse posterI don’t think I need to explain how revolutionary this film is in terms of how to SHOW a story in an animated landscape. But if I do…then I just did. Fantastic. And again, yet another score that belongs in the discussion…this one by Daniel Pemberton.

Trailer here, currently available on Netflix.

33. “BlacKKKlansman” (2018)
Directed by Spike Lee

Image result for blackkklansman posterThe best Spike Lee Joint in a very long time, everything about it is fascinating, entertaining, and thrilling (okay, maybe not Blanchard’s score). Plus the effectiveness of the minor characters, as in all Lee films, can’t be underestimated. And the actual story it tells is almost unbelievable…but…y’know…it’s based on a true story and all that.

Trailer here, currently available on HBO and Cinemax.

32. “Baby Driver” (2017)
Directed by Edgar Wright

Image result for baby driver posterHard to find a more fun movie in the last decade. The choreography, the music, and the understated performances of our leads…well…you’ve all seen it. Oh, and the best first ten minutes of any movie this decade…thanks to Jon Spencer and his Blues Explosion!

Trailer here, currently available on Showtime.

31. “The Revenant” (2015)
Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Image result for revenant posterThis film gets better and better as time passes. I kind of shrugged when I first saw it, but I kept coming back to Sakamoto’s score…which brought me back to the film..and upon second viewing…it’s exceptional in pretty much all areas (looking at you Tom Hardy). If you didn’t love it the first time…give it another watch…ideally in 4k on big screen TV.

Trailer here, currently available on FXNow.

30. “Phantom Thread” (2017)
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Image result for phantom thread posterLush, gorgeous and, until the last thee minutes of the film, a total work of genius, “Phantom Thread”, like Tom Ford’s “A Single Man”, is the epitome of high art on film. It may not pack the emotional wallop of that 2009 film, but everything else about it is comparable. And Lesley Manville’s performance alone would put it in my Top 60!

Trailer here, currently available on Cinemax.

29. “The Two Popes” (2019)
Directed by Fernando Meirelles

Image result for two popes posterThis film of ideas is so well acted, I watched it a second time just to hear the words tumble out of Price and Hopkins’ mouths. It’s also simply a really good movie that offers so much more than the talking heads I was expecting, including a horrifying history lesson about Videla’s dictatorship in Argentina.

Trailer here, currently in theaters.

28. “Martha Marcy May Maylene” (2011)
Directed by Sean Durkin

Image result for martha marcy may marlene posterAlmost forgot about this wonderful – and terrifying – film about post-cult PTSD. Not only did it establish Elizabeth Olson as an actor to be reckoned with, it was also Sarah Paulson’s breakout film performance. And, again, John Hawkes is, as ever, brilliant – and terrifying.

Trailer here, currently available only for rent.


27. “The Master” (2010)
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Related imageNot quite as high in my estimation as it is for many others who have written lists like this, it is, regardless, of the highest quality. Phoenix gives an Oscar-worthy performance and Hoffman is…well…Hoffman. Intense, slow-burning and highly effective, this tale of the power dynamics between those who are lost and those who claim to have the snake oil that will fix them, is as impactful and relevant today as it was ten yeas ago.

Trailer here, currently available on Vudu (free).

26. “The Trip” (2011)
Directed by Michael Winterbottom

Image result for the trip posterI know…you’re thinking, “really? ‘The Trip’ at 26?” Yup. It remains one of the most pleasant experiences of my cinema-going life (even if it is a greatest hits from the television show). But I can watch this scene, any time, and giggle, guffaw, and then snort whatever I’m drinking out my nose.

Trailer here, currently available only for rent.

25. “John Wick” (2014)
Directed by Chad Stahelski

Image result for john wick posterYes, it is revenge porn. Yes, it is UBER violent. Yes, it is Keanu. Yes, it is awesome.

Trailer here, currently available only for rent.

24. “JoJo Rabbit” (2019)
Directed by Taika Waititi

Related imageStop what you’re doing and go see it before it leaves the theaters. Original, engaging, delightful, and wholly irreverent (Hitler is an imaginary friend, fer crissakes), it proves that Waititi is a genius.

Trailer here, currently in theaters.

23. “The Lobster” (2015)
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

Image result for the lobster posterLanthimos’ bizarre, touching and heartbreaking look at the nature of relationship in a cold society, where an individual’s distractions and personal technology are more important than their ability to establish a real connection, is unlike anything that has come before. And incredibly difficult because of how much of ourselves we see in it.

Trailer here currently available Netflix and Kanopy.

22. “Warrior” (2011)
Directed by Gavin O’Connor

Image result for warrior posterWhat is an MMA film doing on this list? Well, it’s Hardy and Nolte…and the best work by Edgerton in his career. It’s exciting and is a excellent study on the nature of family dynamics and multi-generational emotional and substance issues. Lovely…if violent.

Trailer here, currently available only for rent.

21. “Brooklyn” (2015)
Directed by John Crowley

Image result for brooklyn movie posterBoth in the era it evokes and in the heartbreak it invokes, “Brooklyn” is an exceptional film and experience. And that’s before we even get to the performance of Ronan. From the script to the look, the acting to Michael Brook’s brilliant score, “Brooklyn” is a film to be savored (yes, I just stole this paragraph from my summation of “Carol”…it fit).

Trailer here, currently available only for rent.



60-41 | 40-21 | 20-1

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