Eppler: Best movies of the decade
Where movies are concerned, the 2010s will likely be defined by the rise of streaming services and their original content. More audiences opted to stay in the comfort of their homes and just wait on some of the releases they didn't deem necessary for a visit to the theater. Director Martin Scorsese is right to complain about superhero movies taking up so many screens crowding out smaller titles, but I think it's because audiences just aren't seeing the value in the big screen experience for what Scorsese would call "cinema" anymore.
Some theater chains (including Cinemark and Premiere in Lubbock) have redesigned theater houses to replicate the living room experience with lounge seats trying to give audiences the best of both worlds. But make no mistake: it's because of pressure from Netflix and others.
The situation is complicated further by respected filmmakers like Scorsese, Cuaron, Soderbergh and others opting to make movies for these streaming services and bypassing the theater except for short runs to remain in Oscar contention. There are more positives than negatives - specifically, the ability for so many people to see something like "Marriage Story" and discuss it together, rather than having to wait for a tiered theater release.
The tide has turned.
But I still value the big screen experience whenever possible. It's better. You see more. All of the best movies I saw over the last 10 years were enjoyed in a theater except for one - which wasn't given a wide release. But if I could see "The Rider" in a theater, I'd buy a ticket.
It's interesting to look back and see which movies stick with you over the years. Some I thought were amazing at the time, I haven't felt the need to revisit ("12 Years a Slave," "Wild), and others that I enjoyed have grown richer and deeper ("Inside Llewyn Davis").
The movies listed below cover years 2010 to 2019. The only rule I made for myself: one movie per director (sorry, "Hugo" and "Phantom Thread"). But I note that a number of these movies contain the same actors. Chalk it up to their good taste in picking projects.
10. "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse"
In a decade where superhero movies dominated the box office, "Into the Spider-verse" came in late and changed the game for who heroes can be and the stories they can tell. It's the most visually striking animated movie of the decade, and the screenplay resonates deeply.
Available on Netflix, Amazon, Vudu
9. "The Social Network"
While "Into the Spider-verse" is the best superhero movie of the decade, "The Social Network" is perhaps the best super-villain origin story. Aaron Sorkin's screenplay about Mark Zuckerberg's creation of Facebook is the sharpest thing he's ever written and feels like it defines a generation where "Me First" will always come before "Me Too."
Available on Amazon, IMDb TV, STARZ
Martin Scorsese's best movie of the decade is his most personal and the one too few people saw. The story of missionaries doing dangerous work in 17th century Japan is an honest, challenging portrayal of faith being tested. Why churches did not embrace this movie, I'll never understand.
Available on Amazon, Google play
7. "The Rider"
A small miracle of a movie, writer and director Chloe Zhao tells a story set against the backdrop of the badlands of South Dakota about rodeo cowboy who's told he can't ride anymore after a severe head injury. It's based on a true story, and here's the kicker: the real people play themselves in the movie making it feel so much more personal. But beyond that, it's a stirring story of self-discovery and what happens when the key piece of your identity is taken away.
Available on STARZ, Amazon
6. "Inside Llewyn Davis"
Another story about identity, the Coen brothers' best movie of the decade stars Oscar Isaac in a breakout role as a folk singer in New York in the early 60s who can't get out of his own way to succeed. It plays like a version of "The Odyssey" and it's a movie that feels perfectly emblematic of a certain time and place in American culture.
Available on Amazon Prime
5. "Hell or High Water"
The best Western of the decade - and maybe longer - features a great supporting character: West Texas. Writer Taylor Sheridan elevates a traditional cops and robbers drama with a good understanding of our region, the land, its people and culture and how they come to bear on the story.
Available on Netflix
Probably the coolest movie of the decade and maybe my favorite love story. Director Nicolas Winding Refn's crime drama about a getaway driver features Ryan Gosling at his understated best as he falls for Carey Mulligan's would-be single mom. The movie's also a masterclass in using light, movement and sound to build tension.
Available on Netflix
3. "The Master"
Writer and Director Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the best of his generation, and "The Master" is a prime example why. His thinly veiled exploration of Scientology is more about the cult of celebrity and how it draws in the desperate. Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams and the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman all give peak performances.
Available on Vudu, Tubi
2. "Mad Max: Fury Road"
A new action classic, George Miller's continuation of his "Mad Max" series reset the template for post-apocalyptic storytelling and world building. Charlize Theron's Furiosa is a new action hero for the ages, and the movie is a visual stunner with its practical effects in a cinema landscape dominated by green screen trickery. I've seen "Fury Road" probably ten times, and it gets richer with each viewing.
Available on USA streaming, Amazon, Vudu
A landmark movie from director Barry Jenkins that plays like poetry. The three-part story of a boy growing up black and gay in the inner-city of Miami feels very of-the-moment, but also timeless. It's a perfectly-written screenplay where the emotional beats pack a wallop every time. Mahershala Ali is unforgettable as a drug dealer and father figure - rightly winning him his first Oscar. Hollywood just doesn't make movies about forgotten and overlooked people. "Moonlight" is a wake-up call.
Available on Netflix
Also receiving votes (alphabetically):
"12 Years a Slave"
"Everybody Wants Some"
"Guardians of the Galaxy"
"Minding the Gap"
"Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood"
"Only Lovers Left Alive"
"Professor Marsten and the Wonder Women"
"Toy Story 3 and 4"
"You Were Never Really Here"