Last week, AIPT contributor Alex Curtis and Movie Editor Nathaniel Muir looked at the best movies of the past decade. Not content with just one list, the two decided to discuss the most overlooked movies of the period. The movies below may not have made any best of lists, but they certainly deserve your time and attention.
2010: Get Him to the Greek
Nathaniel: Russel Brand has a very love it or leave it type of personality. Forgetting Sarah Marshall saw Brand introduce mainstream audiences to Aldous Snow, a hard living rock star. The character was popular enough to warrant his own movie. Get Him to the Greek is a raunchy good time. It has a great soundtrack, over the top comedy, and some great performances. Perfect fluff.
2010: And Everything Is Going Fine
Alex: Even if you know nothing of the deceased master storyteller, Spalding Grey, this Steven Soderbergh documentary is incredibly moving. By piecing together Grey’s monologues and behind the scenes footage, we get an active overview of who he was and how he impacted people’s lives as told by himself.
Nathaniel: Films about addiction are some of the toughest to watch. They tend to be grounded in reality and show just how low a person can sink. Steve McQueen’s Shame may not deal with drugs, but its story about a sex addict is just as powerful. Initiate without being erotic, the plot is impossible to turn away from. Michael Fassbender is amazing in one of the best performances of his career.
2011: Goodbye, First Love
Alex: Before this year’s The Souvenir portrayed a college girl being manipulated by a terrible boyfriend, Mia-Hansen Love did the very French version. Although her style is predicated on understatement, that allows Love’s films to feel more naturalistic and engagingly mundane. And that approach is essential to letting us into this troubled teen’s mind as she refuses to let go of her destructive first love.
2012: The Master
Nathaniel: Paul Thomas Anderson has given audiences some of the greatest movies of the modern era. The Master may be the best of them. A great score from Johnny Greenwood, strong performances from a cast that includes Joaquin Phoenix. and a deep story come together for a beautiful story.The question becomes is a story about love, religion, or change?
2012: End of Watch
Alex: Before David Ayer did the blockbuster likes of Suicide Squad (blech) and Bright (double blech), he made grimy, gruff stories about manly men awash in violence. Following Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as two beat cops in LA, the film builds up an all-too real camaraderie between these two men before the cartel attacks, culminating in tragedy. Think the dash-cam version of La Haine.
2013: This is the End
Nathaniel: A self deprecating passion project is a great palate cleanser. This is the End takes a group of celebrities and has them play themselves in an end of the world comedy. While the movie did great at release, it has become forgotten with time. It is a surprising a movie filled with great one liners and over the top musical numbers could be forgotten so quickly.
Alex: Danny Boyle does what Danny Boyle wants. And what he wanted in 2013 was to grab the awesome likes of James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, and Vincent Cassel (speaking of La Haine) for a classic mind-f--k thriller. It’s mean spirited, eye-scorchingly visual, and loaded with ridiculous twists. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore at the studios.
2014: It Follows
Nathaniel: A horror movie that has nothing to do with evil clowns. A cool take on the 80s slasher, It Follows is the story of a girl being hunted by a mysterious entity after she has sex. The soundtrack and setting pay homage to horror movies of the past but never take away from the movie. The story is open to interpretation, but many see it as an allegory about sexually transmitted diseases and the dangers of sex.
2014: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Alex: What a great year for films. I could mention Frank, Lost River, Predestination, Maniac, Fury, and so many more. But the real underrated gem lurking beneath the surface is Ana Lily Amirpour’s vampire feast. Set in Iran, AGWHAAN is sort-of an ensemble piece that follows the sordid, miserable townsfolk of Bad City. The best vampire tales lean into the sexual element of the lore, but Amirpour is able to warp sharp sensuality into touching young love. Also, this includes gorgeous black-and-white cinematography and incredible use of setting that evokes David Lynch’s Eraserhead.
2015: Crimson Peak
Nathaniel: How does a gothic horror directed by Guillermo del Toro become underrated? For one thing, the movie came out the same time as future Academy Award nominees The Martian and Bridge of Spies. Crimson Peak also gets lost in del Toro’s impressive library. This is a beautiful movie with an engaging mystery. Strong performances and perfect atmosphere make this a must see film.
Alex: Gah! Should I pick Steve Jobs or Victoria? Since I’ve already talked up Danny Boyle, I’ll go with the latter. With a remarkably executed one-take, Sebastian Schipper takes us across Berlin as a young girl is swept into a group of young, charming, but in-over-their-head thieves. The cinematography allows us, like the main character, to become captivated by the city and the characters, sucking us into crime and punishment before we know it. Beyond that, Victoria is about young hedonism: how short-sighted adolescence cab lead to immense consequences, which a lot of people have misinterpreted as “stupid character writing.”
2016: The Nice Guys
Nathaniel: Audiences should have flocked to see this movie. The Nice Guys is the type of film that makes a lot of money in theaters before being shown ad nauseum on cable television. A buddy cop movie that follows the fun 80’s formula but still manages to be modern. One of Russell Crowe’s finest performances while Ryan Gosling does another great job. The plot is reminiscent of Lethal Weapon in the best ways possible.
Alex: In a year full of looked-over films (especially at the Oscars), Jackie has had the most sustained impact. Natalie Portman is radiant as Jackie Kennedy in this time-shifting biopic. Spanning time, Jackie lets us observe this towering yet vulnerable woman as she picks herself up from one of America’s greatest tragedies that left her adrift—mentally and spiritually. A beautiful film about a country’s lost innocence.
Nathaniel: I agree with Alex that more people need to go out and see Raw ASAP. My pick is another movie that belies what it looks like. There may be giant monsters duking it out, but Colossal more than just another kaiju movie. It is a touching movie that shows even after the most harrowing times, people have trouble changing. A funny script with great performances that manages to be realistic despite is fantastic premise.
Alex: The only reason most people knew about this was because of ridiculous articles saying: five people fainted at a screening! And, sure, there are gross horror-tastic moments, but Julia Decournau’s coming-of-age cannibal movie is more than skin-deep. Framing burgeoning sexuality around a lust for nibbling flesh allows endless moments of visual euphoria. The film rides on Grance Marillier, and her evolution from vegetarian introvert to ravenous predator is remarkable. If you need even more convincing, listen to UK critic Mark Kermode wax poetically about it. Other similar films from 2017 you should see are Lady Macbeth and Thelma.
2018: The Death of Stalin
Nathaniel: For most of 2018, I thought this was the best movie of the year. It took two amazing movies in December to change my mind. A great ensemble cast, comedy that alternates between slapstick and biting wit, and an interesting story that audiences will be unable to turn away combine in a great film. A politically charged movie that does not require an understanding of politics to appreciate.
2018: The Rider
Alex: Chloe Zhao is moving onto the big leagues with The Eternals. So before that crashes into multiplexes, visit her moving, intimate film about an injured horse rider in America’s heartland. You wanna talk about meta films? Brady Jandreau, the star of this film, was actually a horse rider who had a horrific head injury. So he’s essentially playing himself—and it’s uncanny. Not only are his acting instincts better than most Hollywood stars, but we’re able to watch him actually break a horse before our eyes, and that goes beyond any acting artifice. Ultimately, The Rider is about masculinity. What is your purpose when your perceived worth in society is taken from you? Should you just give up your dreams? An understated masterwork.
2019: Blinded by the Light
Nathaniel: A British film about a Pakistani teen moved by the power of Bruce Springsteen in the 1980s sounds too niche. Instead, it is a touching coming of age story anyone can relate to. Great musical numbers and excellent direction from Gurinder Chada make this the best movie of the first half of 2019. It’s a shame no one saw it.
2019: The Cat and the Moon
Alex: Remember Alex Wolff? He played Peter in Hereditary—but just this year he came out with his directorial debut about a troubled Detroit teen who stays in NYC with a jazz musician. Listen. There are problems with it. The love triangle here isn’t the best. And Wolff wrote his character to be as damaged as possible, leading to overwrought fighting and sex scenes. But—BUT—the acting and directing is superb, reminding critics and myself of Cassavetes. As far as coming-of-age or teen movies go, The Cat and the Moon is a soulful, energetic effort more should take note of.