Skip to main content

Cottonwood Heights Journal

The Best and Worst Films of the Decade

Dec 26, 2019 04:20PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Reflection has a way of rearranging priorities and clouding your memories. The same can be said whenever you compile lists that span content over a particular span of time. This principle also increases when you increase the span of time. For instance, whenever I assemble my yearly lists of the best and worst films, they are judged not only on how I feel about them at the moment of my initial review, but also on how much they hold up over time. As I look back on my favorite (and least favorite) films of the past 10 years, some movies hold up better than others as time goes by. Take a look and think about your favorite movies released over the past ten years.

 My favorite films (2010-2019):

1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)– This animated feature film remains my absolute favorite movie of the past decade, and I’m pretty sure it will hold up when I look back ten years from now. Making the famed web-slinging superhero accessible to all, while allowing for imaginative variations on Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Spider-Man is one of the most brilliant decisions ever made about a character thought to be overcooked by now.

 2. True Grit (2010) – I know, I know…there are legions who consider the Coen Brother’s adaptation of Charles Portis’ novel about a grisly lawman hired by a teenage girl to track her father’s killers as an affront and abomination when compared to the 1968 John Wayne feature (which garnered the iconic star’s only Oscar). When you consider that the 2010 version was more accurately attached to the novel – and look at the Coen version objectively, you see an almost perfect film with a brilliant script and powerful performances from Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld. I still watch it on a regular basis, nine years removed from its release.

3. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) – Another Coen Brothers masterpiece about a long quest, Inside Llewyn Davis is reinforced by a great cast, led by the talented Oscar Isaac. The odyssey of a depressed folk singer in search of fame and meaning is also bolstered by great music.

4. Mad Max Fury Road (2015) – Few films can maintain break-neck action for a few segments, but Mad Max Fury Road is somehow able to accomplish this for the entirety of the movie. One of the most intriguing aspects of the movie is the melding of real stunts with computer-generated effects. It’s a visually stunning thrill ride from start to finish.

5. Coco (2017) – Pixar movies are known for inducing a lot of emotion, but Coco prompts a strong dose of “the feels” by demonstrating the power of families connected by members living and dead. Coupled with some great music and stunning visual animated effects, Coco is a movie that will continue to strengthen the bonds of families for generations to come.

6. Inside Out (2015) – Another Pixar masterpiece that explores new territory, but this time the odyssey takes place inside the psyche of a young girl coping with the radical changes in her life while dealing with complex emotions. It’s another film that gets better every time you see it.

7. Hell or High Water (2015)/Wind River (2017) – I’m giving Taylor Sheridan dual honors for two movies that create layered characters with some incredible dialogue and storytelling. Both movies are also great opportunities to showcase some great performances. In Hell or High Water, we witness players on both sides of the law during a tense and thrilling crime spree in the southwest. In Wind River, we’re able to contemplate what justice means as the main characters deal with some ghosts of their own. Sheridan’s talents are a welcome addition to a movie industry that seems intent on regurgitating simplistic themes.

8. OJ: Made in America (2016) – Whether OJ Simpson really did or did not kill two people in the early 1990s is secondary to the climate of racial discord his trial exposed. The eight-episode ESPN documentary is one of the most compelling and thought-provoking films of the decade, detailing the intricacies and flaws of the justice system, coupled with the insatiable dependence on media for salacious and sensationalist information. By the way, OJ did it.

9. La La Land (2016)– Musicals have always been a vehicle for fantasy and romance, but Damien Chazelle’s La La Land goes much further. It’s a movie that explores the idea that dreams can be the motivation for building a better life, without the necessity of a “Hollywood ending.” Great songs, production numbers and performances from Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling make it one of my favorite movies of the past ten years.

10. Zero Dark Thirty (2012) – Perhaps forgotten in a sea of political upheaval that followed in the years after 9/11, Zero Dark Thirty is still an incredible film about the manhunt for the most notorious villain of our time, Osama bin Laden. Katheryn Bigelow’s tense pace of direction and Jessica Chastain’s powerful performance makes it a movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat, even though you know how it ends for the bad guys.

Honorable Mentions: Toy Story 3, 1917, Dunkirk, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Rango, The Dark Knight Rises, Avengers, Silver Linings Playbook, Les Misérables, The Impossible, Gravity, About Time, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Birdman, The Lego Movie, Citizen Four, Roma, Won’t you be my Neighbor?, Free Solo, The Social Network, Lady Bird, Brooklyn, Kubo and the Two Strings, The Greatest Showman.

The worst films of the decade:

This was a difficult list to generate since most of the movies are so bad, I know I tried to forget them as much as possible. Jogging my memory was a bit problematic as I reminisced on just how cringe-worthy some movies can be. Please think of me and the damage done to my brain cells from this trip to the sewers of cinematic failure.

1. Movie 43 (2013) – By the time you see Hugh Jackman with testicles growing from his chin in a scene with Kate Winslet, you can almost forgive another vignette involving a Chris Pratt and his (now former) wife Anna Faris trying to spice up their sex life with the assistance of an explosive case of diarrhea. That’s not even the worst thing in this terrible movie that seemingly closed before it opened. If I were one of the handfuls of people who actually bought a ticket to this pile of excrement, I’d sue to get my money back and demand additional compensation for pain and suffering.

2. Mother! (2017) – The climactic and pivotal scene of Darren Aronofsky’s pretentious allegory for God and religion involves the massacre and cannibalism of an infant. Seriously, that should be enough to convince any sane person from ever seeing this conceited view of humanity.

3. Fantastic Four (2015) – Ever since Marvel Studios struck gold by creating a cinematic universe revolving around a group of central superhero or supernatural characters, many others have tried (and failed) to duplicate their success. Some failures are greater than others, and none more apparent than Fantastic Four, a movie based on Marvel Characters not attached to the MCU (it’s complicated, but Marvel comic book characters’ movie rights are owned different studios). It’s a movie that seems to be created by committee, an experience that makes no sense other than feeling like a blatant and lame attempt to duplicate the MCU’s success.

4. Cats (2019) – How a musical like Cats could get such a long stint on Broadway (18 years) may be a mystery for those (like me) who saw the 2019 film adaptation before the stage version. The musical is basically an exercise in several humans adorned with cat fur, whiskers, tails, and ears – introducing their weird names and then proceeding to explain their personality traits. When you consider that the fur, tails, whiskers, etc. are all produced by computer-generated effects over the real bodies of acclaimed actors like Judi Dench, James Corden, Idris Elba, Ian McKellen, and others…it’s a cringe-worthy affair that is hard to “un-see.”

5. Act of Valor (2012)/The 15:17 to Paris (2018) – I’m putting these two films together due to their distinction of using “real” people instead of trained actors to portray the roles of heroes who have battled against terrorists in one way or another. Act of Valor showcases real Navy S.E.A.L.s going on a string of contrived missions. In The 15:17 to Paris, (directed by Clint Eastwood) we get to see the actual heroes who thwarted a terrorist attack on a train ride. Besides the lack of any kind of interesting story in either one of these awful movies, we are reminded that film acting ought to be left for the professionals, and leave it at that.  

6. Every Single Transformers Movie (with the possible exception of Bumblebee) – Truth be told, I could fill up half of this “worst” list with what seems like an endless supply of really bad Michael Bay movies, but the Transformers franchise has become so tedious and repetitive, it isn’t worth going into any details about this endless series of movies involving alien beings disguised as vehicles that are supposed to save Earth from extraterrestrial threats (or something). If you are one of the people who keep perpetuating this series by continuing to buy tickets, please…for the sake of humanity…stop.

7. Pixels (2015) – It’s hit and miss for Adam Sandler, who, for some unknown reason continues to convince movie studios to greenlight his projects, including Pixels, a movie about a group of gamers who fight against huge incarnations of video game characters, including Pac-Man (starring the usual cadre of Sandler's buddy-actors who would not have any acting gigs if not for their association with Sandler). If you were able to get to the end of this crap-fest without falling asleep, I’d ask for your quarters back.

8. Serenity (2019) – Speaking of video games, here’s a movie about a video game that I love to spoil the “big surprise” for, in the hope that it will inspire avoidance, at all costs. Disguised as a murder-mystery film noir, Serenity is really an imaginary existence inside a video game created by an abused child. I don’t know what inspired Oscar-winners Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway to star in this awful concept of a movie, but whatever it was, I hope they can recover and get back to movies that actually entertain.  

9. A Wrinkle in Time (2018) – Besides the self-aggrandizing of Oprah Winfrey, A Wrinkle in Time is troubling for so many other reasons. Adapted to the screen by Ana Duvernay from the beloved children’s book, the movie’s annoying tendency to force-feed completely obvious truisms to kids using a disjointed and hackneyed script is a complete waste of time.

10. The Last Airbender (2010) – To say most audiences were disappointed in this adaptation of the beloved children’s animated TV series would be an understatement unless you consider that M. Night Shyamalan was the person entrusted with the project. Let’s just say that when you consider the other terrible films he’s produced over the past 15 years, what else did you expect?  

(Dis)Honorable Mention: Spring Breakers, Nocturnal Animals, Tomorrowland, Your Highness, After Earth, Getaway, Transcendence, The Other Woman, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Need for Speed, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Frozen (not the Disney one), Unfinished Business, Vacation, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Independence Day: Resurgence,  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (both of them), Zoolander 2, Gods of Egypt, Olympus/London/Angel has Fallen, Suicide Squad, Mother’s Day, Geostorm, The Snowman, Mile 22, The Happytime Murders, Life Itself, Snatched.