A2P Cinema's
200 Favorite Films of the 2010s

In the 2010's decade, the further advancement of technology has opened up more and more opportunities to see films. Online streaming has emerged as one of the leaders in movie audiences and the challenge moving forward for theaters will be how they can keep audiences engaged or interested. For better r worse one of the ways became a mass production of the Marvel universe - in combination with Disney's routine assembly line of remakes/reboots/sequels. But movie streaming has allowed audiences to see films they might never have and it has given filmmakers a new venue to get films produced that otherwise never may have been made. It'll be interesting to see where the next decade goes with it.

Look over the list ... I would be very interested in you sending your choices or sharing feedback (did I miss anything?).

** Go here to share your picks for the Best Films of the 2010s **

Directed by: Terrence Malick (1st of 3 films on list)
United States

The Tree of Life is a spiritual experience. It is one that is less concerned with specific devotion or worship, but rather more on the universal wonderment that lies beyond human control. It is this vast scale that makes Terrence Malick's filmmaking so remarkable - and so fitting in that conventional narrative is typically driven by the very sense of human control which Malick is defying. The Tree of Life is a film that reflects upon the duration and the collective memories of a life - through birth, childhood, the radiance of joy, the reality of pain, the hatred of abuse, the destruction of bitterness, the beauty of forgiveness, and the peacefulness of death. The Tree of Life evokes a spiritual and hopeful awareness to the wonder and inspiration of life's experiences with a remarkably moving sense of mystery and appreciation. Ultimately The Tree of Life feels like a swan song of Malick's defining spiritual expression - finding and accepting love... all things... grace!


Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson (1st of 3 films on list)
United States

"For once, for once in life, I've finally felt, That someone needed me, Because, He needs me he needs me, He needs me he needs me". These lyrics from the great Paul Thomas Anderson's 2002 masterpiece Punch-Drunk Love (itself directly taken from Robert Altman's 1980 film Popeye) could easily fit in any of his films. While the tone is playful and fitting in Punch-Drunk Love the lyrics may be an even better fit in Phantom Thread, which flawlessly shapes Anderson's career-long emotions of loneliness and the need for someone else to provide purpose. This resonates in all his films but never more essentially then here, and never with such unusual empathy and hope. It has the touch of a mature master filmmaker in full understanding of his personal vision. For all that, Phantom Thread may be the defining masterpiece of Anderson's career and truly one of the significant films of the decade. The performances are perfect and will likely grow in depth over time. Anderson's dialogue is fantastic - finding poetry and mystery in silence between the characters, as Phantom Thread frequently defies our expectations with such quiet expertise which is incomparable mastery in contemporary cinema.


Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan (1st of 2 films on list)
United States

"This is not an opera!" Kenneth Lonergan shot this film back in 2005 but it was held back because he failed to keep the film under 150 minutes (as required in the contract). The film was finally released at 149 minutes (and also a different cut at 186 minutes - It's worth watching both cuts of this film as they are unique in approach and both brilliant in different ways!) and it's messy and wild and unraveled and a masterpiece! Margaret is a gripping film so full of ideas and imagination, all through the point-of-view of a self-absorbed teenage girl - incredibly performed by Anna Paquin. This is a remarkably genuine character so full of life and compound feelings, anxiety and emotions. Conflict, compromise, worry, hate, alienation arise in the face of tragedy and Margaret relentlessly and intelligently understands the nature of daily living, observing with a splendor that is transcendent cinema.


Directed by: David Fincher (1st of 2 films on list)
United States

The Social Network takes basic storytelling ideas from classic American films like The Treasure of Sierra Madre and Citizen Kane, blended with the fast and sharp dialogue rooted in the classic Hollywood screwball comedies, all within a concept and ideas that are incredibly relevant today. The result is a film that is certain to be widely celebrated as a modern American classic of it's own. The Social Network wins you over immediately with a pitch-perfect, tone setting opening sequence where Mark Zuckerberg (brilliantly played by Jesse Eisenberg) and his very soon-to-be ex-girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) engage in a His Girl Friday-esque fast-paced, out-of-synch conversation to which Erica at one point fittingly says "Sometimes, Mark, seriously, you say two things at once and I'm not sure which one I'm supposed to be aiming at.... It's exhausting. Going out with you is like dating a Stairmaster." After getting dumped the film follows Mark in a masterful title sequence as he walks through the campus to his dorm (reflecting both his emotional state but also that of his physical alienation to the social world that surrounds him. His reality is only when he returns home to his computer and codes.) These opening sequences establish the story, characterizations and tone of the entire film (which is essentially a concept created from a genius loner with a brokenheart), and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin smartly returns to Erica's character a few more times throughout the film.


Directed by: Abbas Kiarostami (1st of 2 films on list)
France / Italy / Iran

"Forget the original and get a good copy." After several experimental films that examined the very essence or importance of the filmmaker, Abbas Kiarostami's latest (his first film made outside his home country of Iran) may be one of his most conventional narratives to date - at least on the surface. With this film the master looks into ideas of artistic originality and imitation - centered around the story of an English writer (played by British opera singer William Shimell) who while promoting his book spends a day walking, talking and driving around Italy with a French woman (played by Juliette Binoche). There is much more going on then such a simple description would indicate, as the film is filled with such lush imagination and curiosity, as well as moments of lyrical beauty and humor. As suggested in the subtle title, Certified Copy is a reflection of the book the writer describes - which is itself of reflection and of performance and of love and or art. The setting is Tuscany and Kiarostami is specific in using it as a world that looks and feels both artificial and real, using space and time with a passing and metaphorical expression. Each frame and movement is skillfully composed within this world, heightening the rich layers at work. There is such magical skill to this film. Both in the masterful layers Kiarostami expresses with an effortless approach, as well as the naturalistic performance of Binoche, a legendary actress that might very well be at her career best here. Certified Copy is a marvelous film that I would consider in the class of The Wind Will Carry Us or Through the Olive Trees among Kiarostami's finest achievements. Thoughtful and tender, the film is one completely of its own.


Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson (2nd of 3 films on list)
United States

I have seen Inherent Vice many many times now and I find each viewing unique to another - where a moment is funny one viewing, it is suddenly touching another time or the other way around. The great Paul Thomas Anderson has made (with his 7th feature) a true film experience - one that takes you into its world. I absolutely adore the dreamlike rhythm of this film and I love how it grows with repeat viewings. Blurring the line between fantasy and reality, Anderson has masterfully adapted the complex depth of Thomas Pynchon's literature. Anderson is the first filmmaker to boldly attempt an adaptation of Pynchon's interweaving experimentation. Inherent Vice is a film that masterfully captures a time, a place, and a way of living with a force few filmmakers can achieve with the mastery Anderson does. The set design and visuals heighten the intimate expressions of guilt and fear and of loss - which Anderson ultimately makes the emotional core of this film. The entire cast is simply flawless and the desolate atmosphere is equally frightening and funny. The film will inevitably be compared to the masters that have helped shaped Anderson's cinematic form (Robert Altman and Stanley Kubrick), yet Anderson has accomplished something remarkable with this film, which I will never stop returning to watch!!


Directed by: Debra Granik (1st of 2 films on list)
United States

Debra Granik's Winter's Bone is that rare film that finds a spiritual sense of inspiration while being both brutal and sensitive. The films lyrical form is masterful, even indirectly echoing shades of the great Yasujiro Ozu or more distinctly the gritty masterpieces of the 1970s. It's great strength is the lack of self-awareness instead focused on it's poetic tone, realist humanism, and bleak landscapes (of which the culture and characters of the film are reflected upon). Of course the core of the film is that of it's inspirational heroine Ree Dolly - flawlessly performed by Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence delivers a complex truth in the way she balances Ree's vulnerability with moments of courage and at times brutality. She is self-sacrificing of personal desire and determined - as she follows her decisions against all pain or struggles with profound internal strength and resilience. Winter's Bone is a beautifully layered film that grows with repeat viewings.


Directed by: Jeff Nichols (1st of 3 films on list)
United States

With Take Shelter talented filmmaker Jeff Nichols (who's debut was the highly under-appreciated 2007 gem Shotgun Stories) subtly expresses the lingering sense of anxiety which is reflective of our current global economy. Of course this anxiety is also deeply internal and intimate and all this is beautifully and hauntingly expressed in this masterful film. The performances by the married couple at the core of the film (Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain) are nothing sort of incredible and each shot and sequence within this film are so perfectly and precisely constructed and detailed, all with an effortless touch. Nichols blends the visuals to match the building atmosphere to create a deeper sense of nightmarish doom (much like the building of a giant storm). The ending might be ambiguous but I think (especially in contrast to the films opening) it perfectly completes the film in that Curtis can "take shelter" with his family who are clearly with him in love and acceptance.


TRUE GRIT (2010)
Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Following up one of their most original and perhaps personal films to date (2009's brilliant dark comedy A Serious Man), the Coen brothers remake Henry Hathaway's 1969 film, which won John Wayne his first and only Academy Award. It is rather straightforward adaptation most notably because both films are adapted from a Charles Portis novel. The differences lie in the tone as film feels a bit grittier and most especially more effectively spiritual - and of course the Coens also do a fine job of adapting the dialogue with a witty flair for period. There are some striking images here, though visually the film is actually less atmospheric then the 1969 film in regards to expressing the exterior landscapes. Jeff Bridges wisely avoids imitating Wayne's iconic performance but the heart and soul of these films lies in the character that is essentially a reflection of Rooster Cogburn - 14-year-old Mattie Ross, who here is played by newcomer Hailee Steinfeld. Steinfeld really brings a great confidence and force to the role. Matt Damon is also very strong here, making a vast improvement over the 1969 La Boeuf (previously played by Glen Campbell). The Coen Brothers offer nothing new with this film but it is a remake that is at least as good with a more fitting ending which beautifully and lyrically connects the characters. On repeat viewings I would say both films stand on their own, bit the Coens film is superior for its brilliant dialogue and the lovely way in which it spiritually connects the three primary characters.


MUD (2013)
Directed by: Jeff Nichols (2nd of 3 films on list)
United States

Jeff Nichols is such a great filmmaker. He allows the story and characters to exist and to live without losing an audience and in fact only absorbing us more into it. Mud is beautifully reflective of this ability. It's effortless storytelling and repeat viewings of this film has revealed its more complex emotional and poetic depths. Mud is a film rich in its depth but I think ultimately centers around the way we communicate (or fail to correctly communicate) in our men-women relationships.

Directed by: Hou Hsiao-Hsien (1st of 1 films on list)
Taiwan / China / Hong Kong

Hou Hsiao-hsien may be the worlds greatest living filmmaker (at least to me in the conversation with Terrence Malick and Paul Thomas Anderson). Hou's 2015 film The Assassin is his first release since 2007 and it didn't disappoint. An inspiring achievement with the touch of a subtle master, The Assassin is a remarkably simple, even puzzling yet undeniably splendid film that carries you into its world. There is such detail and richness to this film visually and it lingers in a way you don't expect from a film within this "genre". The films beauty and innovation lies in the way Hou executes his emotions with subtle, unforced expression. Its quite a unique and even bold achievement.


TOMBOY (2011)
Directed by: Céline Sciamma (1st of 1 films on list)

Tomboy opens to an expressive shot of a girl being held up by her father as they drive. Seemingly free from the conformity of the world in this moment, as sounds of the wind are evident in the backdrop. The girl is quickly returned to society but this moments lingers throughout this remarkably touching and heartfelt masterpiece. Tomboy is that rare film that evokes layered human depth all with a seemingly effortless touch. So many thoughts and ideas are evoked but they seem to be raised through the simplicity and naturalism of the filmmaking here. Celine Sciamma's directs the film with a delicate compassion that transcends any direct messages it may provoke. This of course is heightened by the incredible performances, mostly notably from the two young girls Zoe Heran (playing Laura) and Malon Leavanna as her younger sister. The moments these two share together on screen are simply magical.


Directed by: George Miller (1st of 1 films on list)
Australia / United States

Imaginative filmmaker George Miller revises his own Mad Max franchise after a 30 year hiatus and the result is something marvelous and breathtaking! This splendid film that carries you into its world from the opening frame (a shot that immediately recaptures the feel of the old films). Here Miller's restoration is a captivating work of inventive and visionary filmmaking - flawlessly blending Hollywood extravaganza with the touch of a cinematic poet. This is pure heart-pounding fun full of such imagination and wonder. In a year and an era dominated by sequels, reboots, reimaginations, Mad Max: Fury Road emerged as the very best.

Directed by: James Gray (1st of 3 films on list)
United States

James Gray echoes the silent era with this masterfully crafted period piece, starring the profound Marion Cotillard as a Polish immigrant left to survive for herself in early 1920s New York after she's separated from her sister at Ellis Island. Rounded out by a terrific supporting cast with Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner, the performances perfectly express the emotional and spiritual depth of this sweeping film. Its design is beautiful and Gray brings a naturalism that transcends this film to a stunning level. With 2009's Two Lovers and The Immigrant, Gray has established himself among the very best filmmakers in current American cinema.


Directed by: Rob Zombie (1st of 1 films on list)
United States / United Kingdom / Canada

Like the great horror master Mario Bava, Rob Zombie has a superb understanding of visual composition and color design. There is some remarkable imagery to this film, but it's greatness is in the mature and subtle nature of Zombie's filmmaking. He is not solely concerned with cool shots or quick scares - instead like the best horror films, The Lords of Salem is chilling for the way in builds atmosphere, feeling, and tone through it's expressive visuals and sounds. Zombie respects his influences while creating his own distinct and original style. However where Zombie truly excels (and often does not get enough credit) is his understanding of melodrama. Don't be fooled by expectations of what Zombie's films are supposed to be - This film at it's core is a psychedelic melodrama on addiction, and Zombie at his filmmaking core is best with melodrama.


Directed by: Sofia Coppola (1st of 1 films on list)
United States / United Kingdom / Italy / Japan

With her last two features (Marie Antoinette and now Somewhere) Sofia Coppola has mastered minimalism and the art of expressionistic feeling - creating a mood of elegant reflection and the sense of loneliness and anxiety that lingers under the surface - all with a simplistic and leisurely touch. There is a truly rich depth and beauty to this film but it is more expressed then it is revealed. In a way Coppola has evolved into a filmmaker like Wong Kar-Wai, a master of cinematic feeling through poetically expressive images and sounds. She has done so without a deliberate intention but a unique artistic voice of her own. Opening with a significant shot of a lone car speeding around in circles (before a man steps out and stares forward) and closing with a car moving forward down a road before pulling over and having the man hopefully running ahead, Somewhere uses a familiar narrative evolution - yet its design and structure is completely original, and Coppola's use of sound, settings, compositions and music are trademark (and as with Coppola's previous film it is masterfully subtle in its expression). With minimal dialogue Stephen Dorff gives a excellent lead performance as a character who seems to echo the bored and tormented souls of Coppola's previous films. There are moments that really burst with touching warmth and beauty (notably those shared with Dorff and an equally wonderful Elle Fanning as his daughter). I love this film and look forward to revisiting it many more times!


Directed by: Debra Granik (2nd of 2 films on list)
United States

"Want or need?" Debra Granik's third feature film continues to prove she is among the very best filmmakers of contemporary cinema. Leave No Trace emotional core centers around the intimacy people share with one another - that finding true genuine connection is beyond material possessions or things. Like a perfect spiderweb the lead father-daughter characters (masterfully performed by Ben Foster and newcomer Thomasin McKenzie) share a bond that is both equally beautiful and delicate. Yet much like Granik's previous film (Winter's Bone), what makes this so heartfelt is the lack of self-awareness. The films lyrical and spiritual tone find just the right blend of harshness and compassion. Granik is a rare talent and this is another great film!


Directed by: Olivier Assayas (1st of 2 films on list)
France / Germany / Czech Republic / Belgium

After starring in Olivier Assayas 2014's Clouds of Sils Maria, Kristen Stewart follows it up with this "vehicle" of sorts. She gives a spellbinding performance here. Assayas stages scenes in dark open spaces to effectively work with conventions of suspense and horror, but this film is working on so many deeper layers beyond the surface of convention. The films haunting resonance and disconnection emerges from the joining of protagonist two worlds of spiritualism and the upscale model lifestyle. It is a film on grief and mourning but Personal Shopper is also a masterful meditation on disconnection.


Directed by: Myriam Aziza (1st of 1 films on list)

Myriam Aziza's The Evening Dress is a film about 12-year old Juliette (played with transcendent naturalism by Alba Gaia Bellugi), who is drawn to the beauty of her school teacher Madame Solenska (played by Portuguese singer Lio). It is easy to fall for her (as many of her students do) - she is a confident, seductive woman comfortable with her beauty and attention. She also encourages Juliette's adolescent sexual curiosities. The entire film is through the child's perspective and we painfully observe the longing turn to obsession and her dreams to nightmares. This film is a rare portrait that has an honest sadness of youth through emotional anxieties, pain and sexual confusion. The film is a coming-of-age story comparable to Francois Truffaut's beloved 1959 classic The 400 Blows (only here the film is from the female sensibility). Through it all stands an awe-inspiring performance from Alba Gaia Bellugi. The Evening Dress is a beautiful, instinctive, honest and truly remarkable film.


Directed by: Edgar Wright (1st of 3 films on list)
United States / United Kingdom / Canada / Japan

In filmmaker Edgar Wright's world, characters are fueled by their own pop culture influence and fantasy. Their reality is bound by it. Never is this more evident then in Wright's latest genre-homage/parody blender Scott Pilgrim vs the World, a film mix-mashing influences of video games, comic books, kung fu films, romantic comedies, musicals as well as some splashes of other cinematic roots. With his typically masterful skill of editing and comic timing, Wright creates a wonderfully eccentric dream-like film of energetic tricks. The beauty is how intelligently sentimental and unforced it all feels. The playful visuals and vibrant style of the film keep it incredibly lighthearted and fun, yet the film is rather insightful in its view of pop culture's impact on our everyday realities. It's playful and light nature also does not keep the film from being a rather sweet and humane film, metaphorically centered around a battling for and of love and finding oneself. I've adored Wright's previous features but this is his definitive achievement to date, from the clever video-game Universal logo opening to its anticipated showdown finale. Scott Pilgrim vs the World is a bright (both visually and intellectually) and lovely film to embrace and celebrate!


Directed by: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (1st of 2 films on list)

Intimate, gentle and wonderfully human, Ryusuke Hamaguchi's epic film is such a patient and understanding masterpiece that will understandably be compared with Yasujiro Ozu. There is relevance in the comparison but I was also reminded of the richness of another personal favorite, Robert Altman. Comparisons aside Happy Hour is film that both feels familiar yet is somehow deeply mysterious at once.


LADY BIRD (2017)
Directed by: Greta Gerwig (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Actress Greta Gerwig, who began as one of the early stars of the "mumblecore movement" co-wrote two films with Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha and Mistress America) which helped shape her feature debut as writer-director into the wonderful achievement it is. Gerwig brings such splendid empathy to this film and its world, which is full of so many wonderful ideas. Credit the cast for bring such humanism to this, led by Saoirse Ronan's unflinching portrayal of the complicated, sensitive title protagonist. Gerwig makes this as much about her home town of Sacramento- filling in as another character. Under Gerwig's seemingly casual direction Lady Bird emerges as a film of ordinary, everyday living: the complexities, desires, fears, depressions, joys, flaws, and philosophies of living. Then at the center of living the films finds details on relationships, sexuality, and religion.


Directed by: Jason Reitman (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Screenwriter Diablo Cody re-teams with director Jason Reitman (they previously made the enjoyable 2007 comedy Juno together). This seems to be deeply personal for Cody and on repeat viewings I found the film strangely comparable to Stephen King's The Shining. Mavis Gary is not exactly an axe-murderer but she is a writer and she could be something out of a horror film. Young Adult is bold, unflinching and even poetic in its single-minded ambition. Charlize Theron may have won an Oscar for her powerful portrayal in Monster, but this is without question her finest performance - a monster of a different kind, she is extraordinary here - bringing a depth that you can understand and even oddly relate with (and ability Cody has excelled at with her films). As is Patton Oswalt who gives a complex and heartbreaking performance. Cody and Reitman have proven to be a good match for each other and their understanding of contemporary culture and suburbia blends here to make a film that is an incredibly rich and unrelenting dark comedy. This film will earn greater appreciation over time.


US (2019)
Directed by: Jordan Peele (1st of 2 films on list)
United States / Japan

"Who are you people? We're Americans." Like the great Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu, Jordan Peele is a filmmaker for his time and his place. Am I saying Peele is Ozu or makes films like Ozu? Not at all - and Ozu is to me the greatest filmmaker to ever live so there is no comparison. What both filmmakers share is they (without any force or grandeur) are perfect for their time and their place and it is why I think Peele's first two features will be appreciated more over time - especially his second feature Us. Peele is speaking to a culture and generations here. Much like Stanley Kubrick's horror masterpiece The Shining, duality is heavily expressed in both theme and compositions (as is the brilliant use of steadicam). The duality is expressing not just the characters within the frame but also to a social American culture (and more specifically to African Americans). Following up his highly beloved debut Get Out, Peele's sophomore film is less satisfying but far more daring, layered and unsettling. Like Get Out, Us centers around the idea of a metaphor, but this metaphor is less straightforward and lingers more.


Directed by: Terrence Malick (2nd of 3 films on list)
Germany / United States

A Hidden Life is a remarkable story made by a remarkable filmmaker. Terrence Malick brings his trademark poetic style but avoids the experimentalist approach of his previous films (particularly the last three: Song To Song; Knight of Cups; To the Wonder) for a more narrative-based structure. Its one of his most universal works to date and yet it also feels deeply personal and is incredibly spiritual. It is also a story that powerfully resonates, not only as a reflection of its time but as a reflection of the beauty of humanity. A quiet and beautiful film that will grow over time.


Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson (3rd of 3 films on list)
United States

In all of the great Paul Thomas Anderson's films lies an idea of capturing the American dream and finding your place in the society (many times through family). But the past and memories can not escape and this comes to it's bleakest form in his sixth feature The Master. Featuring some of the most skillfully designed moving and still images of his masterful career, Anderson's 2012 film is a beautiful achievement. It's a fitting follow-up to his extraordinary 2007 film There Will Be Blood - notably in the way the film expresses dueling forces. Here those forces are much more internal and the film concludes with a sense of doom that makes this such an unforgettable and yet unnerving film. It is definitely Anderson's darkest and most challenging work.


Directed by: Lisa Cholodenko (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Those who saw Lisa Cholodenko's excellent 1998 debut feature (High Art) probably agree that she has terrific gifts in finding truth in the characters and the performances. With this film (Cholodenko's fourth feature), there is a particular beauty in the way the film truthfully handles the characters and the family dynamic as well as the ease in which this engrossing narrative flows. Bold, funny, messy but always honest, this is a film that develops narrative around the characters as opposed to the other way around. Aiding this are flawless performances and chemistry from the entire cast - with standouts being Julianne Moore (in pitch-perfect comedic timing mode) and Mia Wasikowska as the young daughter who is trying to find herself sexually, living in a gay family while also growing a relationship with her mothers sperm donor and preparing to leave home for college. Her beautifully compassionate, fragile and subtle performance seems to be the emotional core of the film - and as we leave her the film closes with a lovely final shot of hope.

Directed by: Mamoru Hosoda (1st of 1 films on list)

Mamoru Hosoda follows up his 2006 masterpiece The Girl Who Leapt Through Time with this equally energetic film full of imagination and ideas. There are moments of beauty and heartbreak and the film is wondrous throughout - be it in virtual world (Oz, an online network that has fully incorporated into society) or the real world (the lovely city of Ueda). While the film flawlessly blends the worlds of tradition and futuristic technology, ultimately this is a compassionate story of family and connection. Summer Wars is a film that finds value in community and human relations - not in the device but rather in connection itself. Full of visual detail, intelligence, heart, and hope, Summer Wars is a joyous filmmaking achievement.


BOYHOOD (2014)
Directed by: Richard Linklater (1st rd of 3 films on list)
United States

Boyhood seems to be the film Richard Linklater was born to make, and I guess in some ways its a film he's been working on since he started. Ok not quite but Boyhood has been periodically filming for over 11 years. Its a fiction film such an ambitious and passionate project from Linklater, who has tinkered with similar ideas before (notably in what he's done with the Before Sunrise series). At its core the films connects or parallels the relationships of the boys mother (beautifully performed by Patricia Arquette) and the boy himself. Quiet and highly insightful as one would expect from Linklater, Boyhood is a touching and enduring film.


Directed by: Mia Hansen-Løve (1st of 2 films on list)
France / Germany

The legendary actress Isabelle Huppert had a remarkable year with two of the finest performances. In this gentle, reflective film she seems the perfect fit to work with talented young filmmaker Mia Hansen Love. Completely absorbing, Things To Come is a delicate portrait of a woman set on discovering the world - even as the world seems resolved to move on from her.


Directed by: Asghar Farhadi (1st of 2 films on list)

A Separation deals on multiple levels and takes on many layered ideas and avoids taking easy predictable turns. There is as much an internal struggle as their is with Iranian society. I think this has mass audience appeal and American audiences unfamiliar with Iranian cinema would be pleasantly surprised with just how universal the film's characters and emotions are here. Looking past the countries government policies, Iranian cinema has for a long time proven the compassionate and complex beautiful of their people and culture. The performances are superb (notably by Peyman Maadi as the husband/father) and the film is as suspenseful as it is dramatic. Hopefully A Separation is a film that will reach wide audiences here in the United States, because this is a highly accessible and deeply profound film.


Directed by: Terrence Malick (3rd of 3 films on list)
United States

I realize and respect many may disagree with my appreciation of this film, but Terrence Malick is probably among my favorite living filmmaker. I think between The Tree of Life and To The Wonder, Malick has fully developed his approach to filmmaking - which is more about expressive rhythm then narrative. Malick has plenty of detractors, but to me he is visionary in the way he creates such limitless boundaries… and incredibly has managed to do so within relatively mainstream Hollywood filmmaking.


Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Kathryn Bigelow's 2009 film The Hurt Locker was among the best films of the previous decade and her follow-up Zero Dark Thirty is another brilliant achievement in filmmaking. Bigelow has such control of the film and its focus lies solely of it's craft - both in the technique and the honest characterization. With a phenomenal lead performance from Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty has a perfect narrative rhythm of character and action. This is what made The Hurt Locker so successful and here the lead performance is even more notable. Zero Dark Thirty is gripping without forcing the issue or telling its audience how to react and feel. This is old-fashioned filmmaking at its best.


Directed by: James Gray (2nd of 3 films on list)
United States

Terrific filmmaker James Gary creates his most vast film - based on the nonfiction book by David Grann. The Lost City of Z is a gripping historical epic follows English explorer Percy Fawcett on a quest to a mythical Amazonian city. There are duel conflicts happening here (with the exploration and also at home) and Gray seamlessly blends this in into the narrative flow. This is an epic for sure and a remarkably successful epic achievement but what I admire is how Gray is also focused on the actual environment itself, just as much as it is with the characters of the environment. It is the environment that is a reflection of the characters and the emotional significance is an expression of the psychological state of mind of the characters. This has become one of his great skills as a filmmaker and it is again evident here in such a larger scale film.


THE WITCH (2015)
Directed by: Robert Eggers (1st of 1 films on list)
United States / United Kingdom / Canada / Brazil

Atmospheric in every way, The Witch is a masterful achievement in quiet yet deeply moody horror filmmaking. There is a dual-layered richness to this film that makes it so engrossing. For his feature filmmaking debut writer-director Robert Eggers did incredible research in capturing the historic dialogue which further heightens the atmosphere of the film. The film makes perfect use of its woodland location and it expressively uses colors and sounds. Introduced as a "New England folk tale", The Witch is a film that lingers with you long after watching.


Directed by: Guillermo del Toro (1st of 1 films on list)
United States / Canada

Crimson Peak's towering strength lies in its breathtaking production design which recalls imagery throughout film history (as vast ranging as Stanley Kubrick's The Shining and Mario Bava's Kill Baby Kill). The film is directed by Guillermo del Toro who returns to the gothic art filmmaking style that made him among the most acclaimed and beloved directors of the generation (specifically Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone). In many ways Crimson Peak is the essential Del Toro film. One he seems born to have made.


Directed by: Claire Denis (1st of 2 films on list)
France / Germany

Claire Denis has such a way with filmmaking. It's difficult to describe but it's profound to experience. Like her influence Yasujiro Ozu (to me the greatest director of all-time) Denis has a unique way of bringing you into the world of her film. Bastards is no exception - it's a moody noirish film that withholds much from its audience yet lingers with such a powerful imagery and haunting tone long afterwards. It's a film you quickly want to revisit and another example of the mastery of it's filmmaker - truly one of the premier's artists of her generation!

Directed by: Ti West (1st of 2 films on list)
United States

Ti West has such a masterful command of the camera movement, framing and spacing in this brilliantly absorbing horror film. As evidence by his brilliant 2009 film The House of the Devil, West (alongside Mike Flanagan) understands the horror genre perhaps better then any other young filmmaker in contemporary cinema. The Innkeepers is evidence of that and another great achievement of masterful genre filmmaking.


Directed by: Mike Flanagan (1st of 4 films on list)
United States

Absentia is a low-budget independent horror film that is truly an engrossing experience. Writer-director Mike Flanagan flawlessly builds tension and mystery as the film is concerned with that which is hidden of which includes psychological emotions (in this case lingering sadness of grief and loss). There is a depth to this film, heightened by both the atmospheric visuals as well as the engaging sister dynamic (beautifully performed by Katie Parker and Courtney Bell).

Directed by: Wes Anderson (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

The concept of this fairy-tale period piece reminded me of an adolescent version of Ingmar Bergman's Summer with Monika - though (as evidence by the trademark production design and visual details) there is no mistaken Moonrise Kingdom is a definitive Wes Anderson film. This is just an adorable film and it works on a deeper level then anything else Anderson has done before or after because its style and imagination are effortlessly grown from the characters. Nothing ever feels forced here. As such Moonrise Kingdom is probably Wes Anderson's most touching, precious, heartfelt and ultimately in my opinion his best film.


GET OUT (2017)
Directed by: Jordan Peele (2nd of 2 films on list)
United States

Jordan Peele's directorial debut borrows heavily from classic genre influences yet still manages to be a landmark of its own sorts for its social relevance and ideas. The film has such a great tone right from its engrossing opening scene and title sequence to its hopeful (maybe even heroic) ending. Get Out blends comedy and horror and Daniel Kaluuya gives a stellar lead performance.

Directed by: Marielle Heller (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

What a surprise this film was!! Beautifully blending melodrama and sentimentality in such a skillfully crafted and completely unforced manner, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood emerges as a cinematic inspiration. It is crafted in ways you don't expect (mixing both narrative and dreamlike storylines both in and out of the Mister Rogers Neighborhood universe). Director Marielle Heller is wisely less interested in making this a biopic instead the film cleverly touches on themes expressed in the original television program. This is not easy to explain but its just a film that I love. I love the feeling it leaves me with and I will love rewatching this many times!


Directed by: Jennifer Kent (1st of 1 films on list)
Australia / Canada

Not a perfect film but The Babadook is a film that I absolutely adore. Its stunning visuals are filled with influences early cinema and classic fairy tales. You are never really sure what is real here and the film never gives direct answers. Like the greatest horror films, The Babadook is carried by its chilling atmosphere but there are also some terrific psychological performances by the mother and son protagonists (played by Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman.


GRAVITY (2013)
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón (1st of 1 films on list)
United Kingdom / United States

Gravity is a dazzling cinematic experience. One that seamlessly blends its special effects into its artistry in a way that is poetic and masterful. Alfonso Cuarón is a master filmmaker and Gravity puts all his vast talents on full display. The film is best experienced in its intended 3D format. Are there narrative problems here? Perhaps but this is such an engaging achievement on a cinematic level. The film pulls you into its world and you feel its world. It offers some touching spiritual and hopeful expressions.


Directed by: Mike Leigh (1st of 1 films on list)
United Kingdom

The great British filmmaker Mike Leigh follows up what I think may be his best film (2008's Happy-Go-Lucky) with Another Year, which examines similar ideas of contrasting two different kinds of lives - those who are lonely and those who are at peace and are graced with a long and loving relationship. As typical of Leigh's films Another Year naturally brings us into the world of these characters with a realism that is void of any plot devices. The ensemble performances terrifically capture this realism as Leigh again features many of his regulars - lead by Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen who play a warm and loving couple that welcome their home to emotionally troubled longtime friends played by Lesley Manville and Peter Wight. Leigh's recent films seem to reflect an idea that happiness is not something you obtain, but rather it is an understanding from within. Another Year is a painfully touching yet beautifully compassionate film from a great filmmaker.


Directed by: James Wan (1st of 2 films on list)
United States / Canada

James Wan is clearly a film historian and fan of classic horror. Its extremely high-praise to call him a modern day Val Lewton or Jacques Tourneur, but much like those masters, Wan understands design and details of horror visuals and atmosphere. Insidious nails the small details and Wan seems to have made an art out of the usually ineffective "jump scares". Here they are finely crafted and effective. The film pulls you in from its opening moments and never lets up in its dreamy conclusion. Insidious is pure joy for horror buffs. Its got the touches of a classic throwback yet it is done so with such an inventive and modernist style from a filmmaker with a vision.


Directed by: David Robert Mitchell (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

There is very little doubt writer-director David Robert Mitchell is channeling the great John Carpenter with his 2015 throwback film It Follows. But is that really so bad? Especially when the result is as impressively controlled as this. Mitchell is far more self conscious then Carpenter but It Follows has a great vibe to it, heightened by its wide-screen compositions, minimalist score, and genuine suburban American locations. It is not ground breaking by any means and it will divide audiences (even horror buffs for its obvious homages or some might say ripoffs), yet I still love the ideas this has to offer and even on its own the film is so much fun to watch!


Directed by: Mia Hansen-Løve (2nd of 2 films on list)
France / Germany

Like all of the films I've seen from Mia Hansen-Løve, there is a richness to this that is difficult to fully express in words but you just know you are watching something great. Here detailing the loss of innocence through a romance of teenage lovers, Goodbye First Love is a sensitive and gentile film that will grow stronger over time and with continued repeat viewings.


Directed by: Alexander Payne (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

"What about me? I wanna camp" This touching but quiet moment seems to express the emotional layers this film is working on. Grief absorbs every frame of the film and the films title seems to subtly reflect the rich family dynamics - of which are so perfectly portrayed by this incredible cast. George Clooney gives a career performance and the film finds a beautiful parental tone in his relationship with his two daughters (excellently played by Amara Miller and Shailene Woodley- especially great). This is Alexander Payne at his most restrained and mature and for me The Descendants is his best work.


Directed by: Sean Durkin (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Martha Marcy May Marlene is a film that is surrounded by a sense of dread and its shifting narrative in time slowly builds the overall looming doom, which reaches it's internal peak in the films ambiguous final shot - one that seems to suggest Martha's psychological pain and paranoia is incurable in "normal" society. I was reminded of the best of Brian DePalma the way the film concludes on the lingering (and haunting) memory. This debut feature from Sean Durkin shows the potential of a gifted filmmaker as well as a strong performance from Elizabeth Olsen. There are some incredible moments (John Hawke's singing 'Marcy's Song' certainly stands out!) and Jody Lee Lipes cinematography is typically brilliant.


Directed by: David Fincher (2nd of 2 films on list)
United States

David Fincher's adaptation of the beloved international novel is (to me) vastly superior to the mediocre Swedish adaptations. Both films are held down by the source material's heavy plot, but Fincher masterfully crafts the film into something that fittingly looks and feels like his films (which in many ways works as a nice companion piece to his previous film The Social Network). Fincher gives this film more humor and a much more alluring atmosphere overall - starting as early the awesome opening title sequence! Rooney Mara (a scene stealer in The Social Network) is given a juicy role here, and she delivers with a powerful performance that is both fragile and tough. The films master touch, is its ending, and Mara deserves much of the credit... It is a heartbreaking ending and a defining emotional portrayal of Lisbeth Salander.


Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn (1st of 2 films on list)
Denmark / France / United States / United Kingdom

Danish-born filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn has always made "interesting" films and for me The Neon Demon is his best. This colorful, stylish, darkly funny and even campy horror journey into beauty and the LA fashion world is one that lingers with its profound imagery, colors, and sounds. Like beauty itself, you can't look away.


Directed by: Celine Sciamma (1st of 1 films on list)

Lead by a gripping performance from Léa Seydoux, Dear Prudence quietly observes a lonely soul dealing with the pain and confusion of loss and adolescence. First time writer/director Rebecca Zlotowski brings a raw and subtly expressive style which leaves a powerful and lingering tone.


BURNING (2018)
Directed by: Lee Chang-dong (1st of 2 films on list)
South Korea

Lee Chang-dong seems more interested in bringing greater social realism to the film while still incorporating his gifted sense of mood and atmosphere. Burning is a powerful and layered film with phenomenal performances - especially from Steven Yuen and Jun Jong-seo. This is probably Lee's best film since 2007's Secret Sunshine (which is to me his best film).


Directed by: Paul Feig (1st of 2 films on list)
United States

Bridesmaids offers a depth, understanding and even a dark complexity that is truly rare. I wouldn't exactly consider this definitive or ground-breaking "feminist cinema", but there is a freethinking-spirit that makes it refreshing, and the real joy is that there is some rather insightful and complex humanity to the characterizations underneath the surface of the films routine (and very effective) screwball and gross-out humor… further proof that the Judd Apatow (who serves as the films producer) formula is universal of genders. The entire cast is superb, but the standout is Melissa McCarthy - who as Megan is hilarious but also genuine and compassionate. Director Paul Feig understands the comic strengths of each of these actresses (particularily McCarthy) and he allows them each to shine here. An instant classic comedy!


GOOD TIME (2017)
Directed by: Benny and Josh Safdie (1st of 2 films on list)
United States

I love the rhythm of this film. Heightened by fast-paced camerawork, jump cut editing, and haunting electronic score Good Time has an absorbing atmosphere and rhythm that never lets up. The film takes place mostly over the course of one night and Robert Pattinson gives a career-defining performance. For this film to be so engaging is a credit to Pattinson and writer-directors Josh and Benny Safdie.


DRUG WAR (2012)
Directed by: Johnnie To (1st of 1 films on list)
China / Hong Kong

Hong Kong director Johnnie To is a master action-movie plots and this crime film is beautifully at orchestrated. It's highly entertaining but also incredibly rich in its visual details, camera movements, and multiple characters; and of course flawlessly choreographed action sequences.


Directed by: Ann Hui (1st of 1 films on list)
Hong Kong

A Simple Life is a film to experience and it is one that absorbs you into its detailed world and characters. There is a subtly to it yet there is also deeply emotional. Complex feelings suggested in restrained gestures and movements. In this its easy to compare to something from Yasujiro Ozu and that is a worthy comparison which is all you can possibly say to praise a film.


Directed by: Hirokazu Koreeda (1st of 2 films on list)

Hirokazu Koreeda is one of the worlds best living filmmakers. Recalling themes from earlier films (most notably his heartbreaking 2004 film Nobody Knows), Shoplifters is a film as simple as it is mysterious and intelligent as it is delicate. The film offers some wondrously delicate moments as is expected from Koreeda a master of delicate details.


CREED (2015)
Directed by: Ryan Coogler (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

I am a fan of all of the Rocky films and think each one stands on its own and is successful on some level. Creed (directed by talented young filmmaker Ryan Coogler) is a reminagination or restoration of the franchise here with the lead character of Rocky in the secondary role. To my surprise this film is beautiful, poetic, heartfelt, touching and perhaps the greatest achievement in the entire series. In many ways this is the spiritual soul of the entire Rocky franchise, as it perfectly reflects on the history of the previous characters while introducing us to its new lead, Adonis Johnson, the son of Rocky's late friend and former rival Apollo Creed - brilliantly performed with absolute star-making appeal by Michael B. Jordan. Not to be forgotten Sylvester Stallone gives the most heartfelt and powerful performance of his career. Truly a joyous and touching film full of care Creed is a winner!


Directed by: Amy Seimetz (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Amy Seimetz's eerie feature debut, Sun Don't Shine is excellent in the way it absorbs through it's mood and tone. There are moments both menacing and tender. Most of the emotional tension and panic is bottled and building. The central performances deserve much of the credit for how effective this is, with Kate Lyn Sheil especially terrific - in both her quiet expressions and emotional rage.


Directed by: William Friedkin (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

William Friedkin is mostly known for his beloved films of the visionary period of 1970s American cinema (The French Connection, The Exorcist). Here Friedkin teams with writer Tracy Letts who adapts his own play. Killer Joe is a highly disturbing work centered around characters filled questionable morality. Its intense expression of sex and violence, is unsettling but the film is a challenging and highly engrossing work. Friedkin makes great use of mise-en-scene here. Killer Joe truly is unique. Its a challenging film and very memorable film.


Directed by: Jeff Nichols (3rd of 3 films on list)
United States

With his latest film Jeff Nichols is clearing echoing visual and emotional cues from classic 1970s/80s sci-fi films of John Carpenter (Starman) or Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters of the Third Kind). Nichols has such a terrific naturalistic style and he wisely layers the film with a gifted blend of intrigue and tension. It's not a flawless film but its filled with such grandeur and many recurring ideas that have become trademarks of Nichols work.


Directed by: Paul Schrader (1st of 1 films on list)
United States / United Kingdom / Australia

I never really bought into the praise of Paul Schrader as a filmmaker, though I greatly admire the filmmakers he admires (and has written books about). For me First Reformed is the first film I've seen from Schrader that I love. It's influences are blatantly obvious (in some ways you could see this as a remake of Ingmar Bergman's Winter Light), but it is such an absorbing achievement and it definitely lingers and will likely improve with repeat viewings.


Directed by: Karyn Kusama (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Beautifully paced and building The Invitation is an intelligent and layered character ensemble. Karyn Kusama did well with Diablo Cody's script in the underrated genre-piece Jennifer's Body. Here she's working on another level and establishes herself as a significant artist. There is such an intensely building atmosphere of dread and its a thought provoking film that lingers.


SUMMER OF 1993 (2018)
Directed by: Carla Simón (1st of 1 films on list)

Summer 1993 is the feature filmmaking debut from Carla Simón and it's a loose autobiography about an orphan who lives with her uncle after her mothers death. The films strength (besides a phenomenal breakout performance from Laia Artigas) is how unsentimental and gentle it is made.


Directed by: Mike Flanagan (2nd of 4 films on list)
United States

In the hands of gifted filmmaker Mike Flanagan, Before I Wake takes what could easily be forgotten as a standard fantasy horror. Flanagan is a great horror filmmaker but his interests are less on scare tactics then they are on the character psychology. Flanagan makes skillful use of the films space and composition to express the psychological state and anxieties of the child, and the film especially succeeds in its depiction of the parent-child dynamics and internal insecurities.


RAW (2017)
Directed by: Julia Ducournau (1st of 1 films on list)
France / Belgium / Italy

What elevates Raw is the unique manner it brings up so many ideas (be it socially, sexually, or psychologically). French filmmaker Julia Ducournau clearly is using this character and film as an erotic meditation on primal hungers. It is a gruesome work made with a stylish almost exploitative approach, Raw also has some wonderful richness and narrative surprises that make it a memorable and chilling film.


ASAKO I & II (2019)
Directed by: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (2nd of 2 films on list)

I just love the feeling Ryusuke Hamaguchi creates with this film which brilliantly is both melodramatic and realistic at once. The film subtly plays with the emotional connection of the film in the way it shifts tonally and narratively. This approach creates a complex mystery to the film that transcends it beyond what could be a gimmicky achievement.


Directed by: Andrew Bujalski (1st of 3 films on list)
United States

Andrew Bujalski's Computer Chess is an engaging comedy is both hilarious and unsettling. It is a terrific period film of the 1980s (shot in black and white on oldschool video cameras) it seems to be almost documentary-like at times, yet still has all the typical awkwardness you'd expect from a Bujalski film. A truly original film achievement!


FROZEN (2010)
Directed by: Adam Green (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Adam Green has already made a name for himself in the indie horror scene with his 2006 film Hatchet (a good though overrated cult film). To me it is this film that is his very best to date. Telling the story of three friends left stranded on a ski lift in freezing temperatures, Frozen is a simple premise of desperation taken to gripping heights. The film is clever and often riveting but what transcends this is how emotionally resonant it is and even more remarkable is that the film keeps you absorb in its layered emotions throughout the entire 93 minute running time. Nothing is really forced or rushed here. Shawn Ashmore, Emma Bell and Kevin Zegers each bring an honesty and compassion to their performances.


Directed by: Matt Spicer (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Challenging ideas and emotions expressed in dark comedies like Cable Guy or The King of Comedy, Ingrid Goes West is a modern view of loneliness in the digital social media universe. Aubrey Plaza is outstanding as the obsessive lead character. This film sadly came and went with little acclaim but I think time will prove it to be an underrated gem of 2010's American cinema.


BIRDSHOT! (2016)
Directed by: Mikhail Red (1st of 1 films on list)
Philippines / Qatar

A mystery in both theme and approach, Birdshot is a cinematic poem of sorts. It's not a perfect film but it is one I greatly admire for the ideas it imagines and for the experimental approach in using sound and imagery. A very interesting film from the Philippines.


Directed by: Pablo Giorgelli (1st of 1 films on list)
Argentina / Spain

Simplistic filmmaking! Las Acacias has little action, plot or even dialogue. You react and grow with these characters in the unforceful manner of which they move. Its an eloquent film that seems to move along in real time as if you are living with these characters right up to its incredibly moving and heartfelt finale.


Directed by: Claire Denis (2nd of 2 films on list)
Fance / Belgium

Claire Denis remarkable filmmaking gifts lift this film to greater depths in the way she skillfully composes each shot with careful detail. Juliette Binoche's excellent lead performance propels the film to another depth.


Directed by: Maren Ade (1st of 1 films on list)

Everyone Else is a remarkable film for the way it lingers and observes. The film manages to be both uncomfortably upsetting and humorous at once. The film is an incredible achievement of realist filmmaking as Maren Ade carefully and intelligently develops a precise moment in the lives of a young couple (played by Lars Eidinger and Birgit Minichmayr, who is phenomenal here as the film central emotional core). The film is shot effectively using space and framing, but it's real subtle beauty comes in its playfulness, further heightened in the performances of Minichmayr and Eidinger, which is as much in their expressive moments of silence as is it is dialogue.


LE HAVRE (2011)
Directed by: Aki Kaurismäki (1st of 1 films on list)
Finland / France / Germany

Le Havre is the first French film from Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki since 1992's acclaimedThe Bohemian Life. Kaurismaki clearly roots the film on French influences notably those of the Poetic Realism of the 1930s. This film shares the visual look and feeling of those film with a distinctively Kaurismaki touch. His signature style and effortless gifts with camera framing and deadpan humor are a joy, but the films greatest strength lies in its loving compassion and hopefulness. A wonderous and beautiful film!


Directed by: Tony Scott (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

While he has made some duds (Domino, Man on Fire), when Tony Scott he is on, he can be a master genre filmmaker who's films are both incredibly entertaining and socially relevant. Unstoppable may be his most fully engrossing film since his greatest achievement 1993's True Romance. In order to heighten some of the tension and suspense there is certainly some improbability thrown into this 'based on a true story' about a a runaway train carrying a cargo of toxic chemicals. However it is skillfully crafted as Scott tones down the over-stylized techniques that has effected some of his recent films. This is Scott's third straight film (and fifth overall) with Denzel Washington in the lead role and he shares excellent chemistry and charm with Chris Pine as both actors capture the heroic spirit of the film. The film has intelligent details both in characters and in the jobs and surroundings, but its greatest strength is its flawless pacing.


Directed by: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (1st of 2 films on list)
Belgium / France / Italy

Perhaps the best (or my favorite film) from French filmmakers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne. The Kid With a Bike is such a simplistic film and yet might also be the Dardenne quintessential work in the way it internally reflects thoughts and emotions.


THE GIFT (2015)
Directed by: Joel Edgerton (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

The brilliance of this film is the ways it reveals different layers and effectively plays with the audiences expectations, particularly in the way it turns against the standard conventions. This is the feature filmmaking debut from actor Joel Edgerton, and it shows he has natural understanding of rhythm and tone.


Directed by: Scott Derrickson (1st of 1 films on list)
United States / United Kingdom

Sinister film uses light (and darkness) to great effect in creating the atmosphere and enhancing the overall low budget horror look and feel its intended to. Director and co-writer Scott Derrickson makes terrific use of space and cleverly blends in the use of 8mm film reels. Sinister is one of the most gripping and strange horror films from Hollywood in recent years.


YOU'RE NEXT (2013)
Directed by: Adam Wingard (1st of 2 films on list)
United States

You're Next is an intelligent and fun mix of home-invasion horror, slashers, and dysfunctional family drama. Director Adam Wingard casts many of his mumblecore friends and fellow filmmakers. There are some terrific set sequences as well as some narrative surprises. The film is especially fun for horror buffs, as there are some playful nods to classic slasher and exploitation films.


Directed by: Christopher Nolan (1st of 1 films on list)
United States / United Kingdom / Canada

While I've enjoyed and respected nearly all Christopher Nolan's films, Interstellar is to date the only film I have loved - and has remained as effective on repeat viewings. Nolan's films can sometimes overexplain its ideas, but this one of full of such intelligent thought. It all works powerfully in this setting and Nolan's success as a filmmaker has allowed him some financial freedoms few filmmakers in mainstream cinema get. As such Interstellar is filled with such splendid imagery and details. This is terrific sci-fi filmmaking.


Directed by: Breck Eisner (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Now THIS is a great remake! Dennis Iliadis surprised with a decent (though inferior) Hollywood remake of Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left. Now Breck Eisner does even better with a remake of George Romero's 1973 film The Crazies by actually making a superior film to the original. Granted the 1973 film is not among Romero's notable classics but this film does what great remakes should - respect the original source by creating a new vision, one that is relevant and reflective of current American society. Here they use the irony of Romero's original concept but also giving a greater understanding of the intimate human impact as well as a more effective style. This film is very skillfully made, fully embracing conventional genre filmmaking as a pitch-perfect form of terrifying horror, thrilling suspense and even emotion sympathy. This may not be a groundbreaking achievement of innovation or imagination, but it certainly is top-notch atmospheric and apocalyptic filmmaking worth admiring and applauding.


Directed by: James DeMonaco (1st of 1 films on list)
United States / France

2013's The Purge was a smart and effective low budget horror film that was weighed down by it's plot and focus on home invasion horror. James DeMonaco's sequel is superior as this film broadens the scale and takes the terror to the streets. The result is a far more tense film and also a bleaker tone with its depiction of class in a futuristic United States.


Directed by: Claudia Llosa (1st of 1 films on list)
Spain / Peru

The Milk of Sorrow was my favorite film among 2010s Best Foreign Language Film nominees (which include solid films The White Ribbon, A Prophet, and the winner The Secret in Their Eyes). Claudia Llosa's distant filmmaking approach help create the films subtle feeling. This film is so carefully composed and despite the subject matter (the story centers around the personal suffering of a young woman who keeps a potato inside her vagina in response to a history of sexual violence) the film is never exploiting either the emotions or the characters. The film is beautiful in its simplicity and has the filmmaking touch of a lyrical poet.


Directed by: Olivier Assayas (2nd of 2 films on list)
France / Germany / Switzerland

The great Olivier Assayas 2014 film Clouds of Sils Maria is a deeply layered and meaningful film. Absorbing from its masterful opening train sequence which immediately establishes Assayas' subtle expressions and the films dialogue and performances are simply remarkable from beginning to end.


Directed by: Osgood Perkins (1st of 1 films on list)

Great horror plays with tone and builds in atmosphere - something that filmmaker Osgood Perkins understands with this underrated gem. There is a masterful rhythm and atmosphere to this film which centers on misery and despair over gore.


Directed by: Kôji Fukada (1st of 1 films on list)
Japan / France

Harmonium is a universally engrossing film. It could easily fall into heavy drama traps but the films visual style and approach give it a subtly that really transcend any cliches and the film offers some incredibly rewarding and engaging narrative surprises. The film allows you to genuinely reflect on its themes and characters.


Directed by: John Krasinski (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Not groundbreaking but a bold feature film from John Krasinski who also stars with real-life wife Emily Blunt (especially terrific here as always). The success of this film is that it could have been gimmicky but instead is incredibly tense and there is a kind of spiritual beauty underlying the emotional and moral compass of the film.


FLIGHT (2012)
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis (1st of 2 films on list)
United States / United Arab Emirates

Robert Zemeckis's film Flight is a highly engaging film that takes a pretty straight forward narrative structure yet really packs deep emotional punches. Ultimately it uses it hero pilot story to chronicle the slow and depressing pain of an addict. Zemeckis film is a melodrama but only in disguise and Denzel Washington carries the charm of the character and the film.


Directed by: Kelly Fremon Craig (1st of 1 films on list)
United States / China

In her debut film as writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig gives a relatively recycled narrative a fresh, insightful, authentic and fully heartfelt edge. Credit star Hailee Steinfeld for carrying the film as an awkward teenager who's unpopularity has all to do with her own bitterness.


Directed by: Robert Greene (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

There is a visual and editing style to this documentary that gives it a very lyrical sense of beauty and the intimacy of the subject along with the slow building tension really make this an involving film. It follows a young girl from her last day of school to graduation as she prepares to leave for college alongside her older boyfriend. The feeling of uncertainly fittingly lingers throughout the film. Kati with an I is the best documentary of 2011!


MOTHER! (2017)
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Mother! is strange and crazy and not always coherent but it is a film that is never not captivating. There is a sense of this being deeply personal for Darren Aronofsky and to me this might be his best film to date. The film takes concepts from other films and pairs it with a daring performance from Jennifer Lawrence.


Directed by: Edgar Wright (2nd of 3 films on list)
United Kingdom / United States

Such fun film from the great Edgar Wright. While it losses a little steam towards the final act this film is so engrossing. Wright has probably made better film but this one does seem to beautifully capture all he is about as a filmmaker and it is such an easy film for repeat viewings.


Directed by: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (2nd of 2 films on list)
Belgium / France / Italy

A simple narrative structure and a deeply humanist story Two Days, One Night is a trademark film from the Dardenne brothers and to me its among their very best films. Marion Cotillard is (as always) excellent in the lead role as an emotionally troubled factory worker who is fighting to get her job back.


Directed by: John Crowley (1st of 1 films on list)
United Kingdom / Canada / Ireland

Brooklyn is an inspiring film full of wonder and emotion Brooklyn. Set in the early 1950s, this immigrant drama follows a young Irishwoman (played by the outstanding Saoirse Ronan) as she leaves her family to settle in New York. There is a soul to this film that you genuinely feel its emotions.


MISS BALA (2011)
Directed by: Gerardo Naranjo (1st of 1 films on list)

Through its expressive camera movement (of which includes precise, long takes) Miss Bala emerges as an artistic mood piece that is equally thrilling as a action genre exercise as well as a serious reflection of a society's drug violence. Following up his 2008 feature I'm Going to Explode, Gerardo Naranjo has grown into a more artistically mature filmmaker here, channeling the style of a master like Michelangelo Antonioni. Stephanie Sigman is put through alot in this film and she delivers a remarkable performance. Miss Bala is mostly about its style and in that the film is an astonishing achievement.


ROOM 237 (2012)
Directed by: Rodney Ascher (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Conspiracy theory fun, Room 237 is such an entertaining film to watch for all its ideas (some supported by little evidence yet are fascinating and wild to think about). Most interesting is not whether these ideas are true or not, but more the impact Stanley Kubrick had as a filmmaker to his many diehard fans. I love Kubrick and love The Shining and find this documentary a whole lot of fun.


Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Sure its campy, but the film wisely embraces what it is and the result is one of the most fun and nailbiting films of 2016. Packed with effective scares, a solid psychical performance from Blake Lively, fine special effects, and stunning underwater and aerial photography.


Directed by: Whit Stillman (1st of 2 films on list)
Ireland / France / Netherlands

Whit Stillman has always seemed to echo some ideas from Jane Austen and here he takes on his first Austen adaptation. Not the typical Austen adaptation you'll see or even expect to see. As to be expected of Stillman (or even Austen for that matter), its full of wit and humor.


LUCY (2014)
Directed by: Luc Besson (1st of 1 films on list)
France / Germany / United States / Taiwan

Luc Besson wrote and directed this scifi action thriller, and like all his projects it definitely has his stamp on it (i.e. a rail-thin heroine with a single-minded vision of rebellious revenge). Lucy offers some really fun and exciting B-movie pleasure as well as some thoughtful scifi ideas and action. The real surprise is that it packs emotional punch thanks mostly to the fiery performance of Scarlet Johansson.


Directed by: Joe Cornish (1st of 1 films on list)
United KIngdom / France / United States

This film is definitely one of the most enjoyable films of 2011! Attack the Block works as sort of a modern genre throwback to the 80s but without falling into overly nostalgic traps. Its very simplistic in approach and makes great use of its location as well as its alien designs. Besides being fun and adventurous, the film has compassion that is worth embracing, plus its hero (Moses) is a beautifully constructed character (aided by a fine performance from John Boyega).


WIDOWS (2018)
Directed by: Steve McQueen (1st of 1 films on list)
United KIngdom / United States

This fourth feature from Steve McQueen is easily his most genre-based film yet it also might be one of his most personal to date, particularly in its visual perfection within each frame. Following up his Oscar winning 12 Years a Slave, McQueen was given freedom with this. Masterful compositions express the depth and McQueen brings such detail in all the surrounding setup.


Directed by: Alex Garland (1st of 1 films on list)
United Kingdom / United States

Top notch scifi filmmaking! Alex Garland follows his acclaimed debut feature Ex Machina with this visually stunning and mysterious film. The visual compositions and score leave an unsettling tone and the film thrives as it moves closer to its uncertainties. The film blends generes and leaves thought-provoking ideas that linger.


Directed by: Isao Takahata (1st of 1 films on list)

This latest from Studio Ghibli master Isao Takahata was under production for seven years. It completed when Takahata (who co-founded Ghibli with beloved filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki) was 79 years old. It is no surprise The Tale of Princess Kaguya is filled with such beautiful artistry and animation. Takahata has such eye for detail and this is classic storytelling based off the beloved Japanese "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter" tale. Sadly this will be the last film of Takahata's career but it stands as a beautiful work from a legendary filmmmaker.


AD ASTRA (2019)
Directed by: James Gray (3rd of 3 films on list)
United States / China

While James Gray's seventh feature film, Ad Astra presents everything you'd expect from a conventional big budget sci-fi epic (and it delivers on much of this), it's brilliance lies in how emotionally intimate it is - not just in the internal weight of a father-son relationship but also the deep emotional uncertainties and contrasts of the two - all built into a masterfully crafted reunion of disconnection. Above Ad Astra is aiming less for grand spectacle then it is human relations.


HUSH (2016)
Directed by: Mike Flanagan (3rd of 4 films on list)
United States

Smart horror filmmaking, convincing characters and a strong lead performance as well as an effective home invasion setup. Mike Flanagan is establishing himself as one of the great horror filmmakers.


THE GUEST (2014)
Directed by: Adam Wingard (2nd of 2 films on list)
United States / United Kingdom

Not a film for everyone but those that like The Guest, will most likely love it. As he has with previous films, Adam Wingard brings all kinds of references and film homages to this low-budget horror comedy. The Guest is simply a cool film experience and features some truly remarkable visual and sound filmmaking.


Directed by: Julia Murat (1st of 1 films on list)
Brazil / Argentina / France

In her first feature-length film, director Julia Murat's Found Memories is elegant and well crafted. It is a slow film for sure put it perfectly expresses the atmosphere and setting, finding beauty in the routines of life.


Directed by: Hong Sang-soo (1st of 4 films on list)
South Korea

A prolific filmmaker, Hong Sang-soo transcends the gimmicky conceptual structure of this film. A deeply observant film, this has many of Hong's familiar trademarks.


THE WE AND I (2012)
Directed by: Michel Gondry (1st of 1 films on list)
United Kingdom / United States / France

Set almost entirely on a bus trip after the last day of school, this magical Michel Gondry film is experimental and very simple. As you'd expect from Gondry its full of life and ideas and kind of plays out like performance art using all nonprofessional actors in a single real-time setting.


Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos (1st of 2 films on list)

I have seen some films from Greece before but never one quite like this. In the vein of something from the great Luis Bunuel, Dogtooth is surreal, haunting and darkly comical. From the very opening sequence (three siblings starring at each other as they listen to tape-recorded vocabulary lessons with strange definitions) the film leaves an atmospheric sense of discomfort. The film is a creepy yet often humorous look into a dysfunctional family that gradually unfolds and reveals itself as it progresses. This further heightens the engaging yet unsettling atmosphere of the film, which is also expressed in the films distinct visual style.


Directed by: Simon Rumley (1st of 1 films on list)
United KIngdom / United States

A late night. An open bar. A young woman enters. Orders a drink. Scopes the place. Sees a group of guys playing pool. Makes eye contact. Joins them. Goes late night clubbing. Takes a cab to their home. Has sex with them (all three of them) - all this taking place with only the repetitive use of sound (a minimal piano-score). And so begins Red White & Blue, a gripping low-budget film from writer/director Simon Rumley. The film effectively creates an atmosphere and a boiling sense of doom through its bare landscapes and unique editing approach. Red White & Blue follows two different stories (both of which are connected from the sexual encounter in opening montage of the film) and it gradually builds to an intense and violent conclusion. Lead by a strong cast of performances, the film is sharp in the way it expresses the characters sad moments of pain and regret as well as vengeful rage that sets in as they all slowly collapse.


Directed by: Edgar Wright (3rd of 3 films on list)
United Kingdom

The World's End is very much the conclusion of writers Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's loose trilogy. Much like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz were an embracing spoof elements of Hollywood buddy/action/zombie flicks, The World's End concludes these ideas in perhaps the most finely crafted and mature film of the "trilogy". The film is very clever and Wright has a sharp and clever visual eye as well as comic timing with editing, making this a great comedy for both it's witty dialogue and visuals (notably the subtle mastery of the mise-en-scene direction). Wright has a terrific eye for visual comedy and this is evident in the way he frames and edits a shot sequence. The cast is lead by Shaun of the Dead leads Pegg and Nick Frost, and also features some acclaimed British actors as well as clever cameo performances. What elevates this (and really this teams previous two films) is that they are intelligent, funny and genuinely sincere.


Directed by: Josephine Decker (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

“What you are experiencing is just a metaphor.” This line is told early in the film and its told to both the character Madeline (a star shining performance from Helena Howard) as well as to us the audience. Madeline's Madeline is an experimental, indie film that will certainly divide audiences opinions but to me there is much to admire about the filmmaking and performances here.


Directed by: Xavier Dolan (1st of 1 films on list)
Canada / France

Laurence Anyways is a bold and heartbreaking romantic melodrama that echoes cinematic styles of many masters - most notably Douglas Sirk and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.


Directed by: Kogonada (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Quiet and visually stunning, Columbus is a unique and reflective film experience. Architecture is at the forefront of this intelligent debut feature from the Korean-American film critic Kogonada.


Directed by: Benh Zeitlin (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Beasts of the Southern Wild is a poetic filmmaking achievement that seemed to have grown right out from the ground. This is a rare and unique film with deeply universal feelings and expressions.


Directed by: Amat Escalante (1st of 1 films on list)

This stylish Mexican horror movie slowly deepens into an poetic expression about the damaging influence of lust. Its a physiological achievement and a film that accomplishes alot with a minimal budget.


Directed by: Doug Liman (1st of 1 films on list)
United States / Canada

The Edge of Tomorrow is not groundbreaking. It's also pretty predictable. All that said, how the film gets from beginning to end is totally thrilling and gripping and you deeply care for these characters. Its a a beautiful film, perfectly blending scifi with action, black comedy and romance. A terrific Hollywood summer film!


Directed by: Asghar Farhadi (2nd of 2 films on list)
Iran / France

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi follows up his massively acclaimed Oscar winning The Separation with this gripping melodrama. Like his previous film this is direct and focused with powerful performances and a very controlled filmmaking approach.

SICARIO (2015)
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve (1st of 1 films on list)
United States / Mexico

Sicario is a top notch genre film. An action crime film that recalls the brillance of Michael Mann, Sicario is tough and honest. It's honest to its world and to its charcters, all of whom are equally flawed and human.


Directed by: Noah Baumbach (1st of 4 films on list)
United States

Noah Baumbach's film is a careful mixture of melodrama and comedy. Where it soars most is in the way the film fairly treats both characters. The film does not take sides and even finds some beautiful details in the quiet gestures and movements that suggest their connection. It is this approach that allows this film to take on a depth that is both fair and honest to its characters and also emotionally complex and complicated.


Directed by: Ti West (2nd of 2 films on list)
United States

This story of a vengeance seeking drifter passing through a small town in nothing inventive. Ti West is known for his masterful work within horror genre but here he proves his signature as a master working within and ultimately beyond genre conventions.

ROOM (2015)
Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson (1st of 1 films on list)
Ireland / Canada / United Kingdom / United States

Room is a bleak yet inspiringly hopeful film. Lenny Abrahamson effectively allows the story to be seen through five-year-old son, but the revaluation here is the phenomenal performance of Brie Larson.


MANIAC (2012)
Directed by: Franck Khalfoun (1st of 1 films on list)
France / United States

A remake of the 1980 slasher film, this Maniac is even more shocking and brutal as it takes place nearly entirely through the point of view of the killer - a terrifically casted Elijah Wood.


Directed by: Hong Sang-soo (2nd of 4 films on list)
South Korea

There is a naturalism to this Hong Sang-soo film that makes it incredibly relatable and enjoyable. Hong suggests a depth in the simple gestures and movements of the characters and this film depicts a loneliness that is among the prolific filmmakers best of the decade.


TRANSIT (2019)
Directed by: Christian Petzold (1st of 1 films on list)
Germany / France

Transit is a hallucinating film that works like a dream in its terrifying haze of the past and present. Its a a period drama/thriller set in 1940s France but German filmmaker Christian Petzold brings a surrealist approach that leaves the audience with a lingering sense of longing and reflection.


Directed by: Bi Gan (1st of 1 films on list)
China / France

Long Day's Journey Into Night does not hide from its many filmmaking influences from all over the world. Film comparisons are very valid here but it's a beautiful film with a very dreamlike atmosphere.


Directed by: Patrice Chéreau (1st of 1 films on list)
France / Germany

Having only seen two of his previous films (Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train, and Queen Margot) I am relatively new to the work of Patrice Chereau. His fifteenth film (Persecution) is a masterfully complex film on the details of human connection and relations. Through Chereau's intimate filmmaking the film observes characters over plot and from the brilliant opening sequence to the mysterious conclusion Persecution is fully engaging. The great Charlotte Gainsbourg is superb alongside Romain Duris in this film, which explores the very idea and psychology of human relationships.

Directed by: James Wan (2nd of 2 films on list)
United States

Director James Wan follows up 2011's Insidious with this great haunted house horror. Wan brings more camera movement here but his skill and understanding as well as his unique ability to create effective jump scares is admirable.


OSLO, AUGUST 31 (2011)
Directed by: Joachim Trier (1st of 1 films on list)

Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier received international acclaim with his feature debut Reprise. His sophomore feature proves he is a filmmaker to watch. Oslo, August 31 is a lyrical film - both haunting and quiet despite its energetic structure.


Directed by: Banksy (1st of 1 films on list)
United Kingdom

"I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don't do that so much anymore." A superb "documentary", Exit Through the Gift Shop takes on multiple layers. What begins a story of Thierry Guetta a Frenchman who's obsession with filming turns him to spending eight years tapping the underground street artists (famously known as (Banksy, Invader, and Shepard Fairey). Guetta wants to gives these artists a voice with a documentary film called called Life Remote Control. However the film is a disaster so Banksy advises Guetta to try his own street art while in turn Banksy (who 's identity remains hidden throughout the film) finishes the film which centers around Guetta, who soon transforms into a the street artist called called Mr. Brainwash. The film has plenty of irony and ultimately what emerges is a deeply layered satirical examination of art and hype.


Directed by: Mike Mills (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Mike Mills follows up his debut feature (2005's Thumbsucker) with this deeply personal film loosely based on his own life. As reflective of the title this is a coming-of-age film but one that works on various levels. From the opening scene (a man going through and trashing old "stuff"), past holds a significant weight on the film, and Mills beautifully reflects this with an intertwining narrative structure of separate time periods. Christopher Plummer gives a standout performance and Melanie Laurent brings more depth to the standard "dream-girl" role. Beginners is an intimate and sensitive film full of genuine tenderness.


Directed by: Jonathan Demme (1st of 2 films on list)
Netherlands / United States / Canada

Proving the artistry and diversity of the "musical performance or concert" genre, Jonathan Demme follows up his wonderful 2006 film Neil Young: Heart of Gold with this distinctly different work. The difference lies mostly in the tone, as compared to the life-reflective and even spiritual 2006 film, this is more subtle and isolated solely on Neil Young who performs lesser known and even a couple unreleased songs (there are also some well known hits like "Cinnamon Girl" and "Cowgirl in the Sand"). Visually the film has a different feel as well. Shot in Pennsylvania's Tower Theater, Neil Young Trunk Show finds the rocker mostly alone on a dark stage (as opposed to the colorful and energetic ensemble featured in the previous film). Neil Young Trunk Show is not the same personal and emotional experience of Heart of Gold, yet it seems the perfect followup (especially for die-hard Young fans). Demme and Young completed the trilogy in 2011 with Journeys.


Directed by: Quentin Tarantino (1st of 1 films on list)
United States / United Kingdom / China

This is a fitting from Quentin Tarantino and it finds the director in familiar and comfortable territory - a love letter to filmmaking (specifically 1969 Hollywood). Terrific performances, set designs and visual style, its full of period details and this also continues Tarantino's recent revisionist history theme with a conclusion that seems to speak as much about how his legacy is viewed as it does about 1969 Hollywood or Sharon Tate. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is packed with self-conscious reflection but also manages to find Tarantino at his sunniest.


Directed by: Jafar Panahi (1st of 1 films on list)

A reflection of the process of filmmaking itself, Jafar Panahi's 2015 film Taxi Tehran blends the line between documentary and fiction. Panahi has dealt with some of these topics before but not quite as thoughtful as this film, which gives American audiences a unique trip into a world rarely seen - yet one that universally human.


Directed by: Steven Soderbergh (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Steven Soderbergh talked about taking a hiatus from filmmaking after 2013's Side Effects. Fortunately he returned with this 2017 film - a charming, skillful and highly entertaining heist comedy, Logan Lucky is simply just a great genre film without ever forcing anything or ever taking itself too serious.


Directed by: Noah Baumbach (2nd of 4 films on list)
United States / Greece

"Are you going to let me in". Noah Baumbach's sixth feature opens with this line which sets the emotional expression of the entire film. It does share Baumbach's trademark blend of awkward humor and narcissistic characters. The casting would suggest an experimental blend of mumblecore and mainstream filmmaking, with big-budget star Ben Stiller alongside mumblecore goddess Greta Gerwig (as well as a supporting turn from Mark Duplass). It is Gerwig that really shines here and the films only negative is that perhaps it wrongly shifts focus from her toward the end. That said the film is strong in it's charcterization and Baumbach finds a comfort level with his filmmaking style. This film for me has improved over time and with repeat viewings.


Directed by: Hong Sang-soo (3rd of 4 films on list)
South Korea / Germany

The prolific Hong Sang-soo brings a typically trademark visual style to this film - little to no camera movement and extended takes. It's simple and allows itself to closely examine the characters on a complex emotional depth. On the Beach at Night Alone is both serious and playful. It's a film that finds a unique psychological tension.


Directed by: Richard Linklater (3rd of 3 films on list)
United States / Greece

Before Midnight has a scene midway through where Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) - now married with twin girls - watch the sunset saying "Not yet. Not yet" until it disappears under the hillside. Has the sun set on their relationship? As the title suggests, Before Midnight offers the darkest of this romance trilogy. These films are very genuine and the 18-year investment we've shared with these characters is rich and connects with us on a deeply human level.


WAR HORSE (2011)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg (1st of 1 films on list)
United States / India

There are plenty of Steven Spielberg type moments within this film and his influence from John Ford is as evident as ever. However, War Horse is a film unlike anything Spielberg has ever done before, as here the narrative drive is less on plot, instead it is an episodic structure which uses a non-human protagonist as a reflection of a larger human epic scale. This is one of Spielberg's most reflective films, alongside A.I. Artificial Intelligence (to me his greatest film).


CREEPY (2016)
Directed by: Kiyoshi Kurosawa (1st of 1 films on list)

For a filmmaker responsible for some of the greatest horror films of his generation Creepy would seem a fitting title for his latest film, a return to the genre after a short hiatus. This film is surreal and suspenseful with a fittingly satisfying conclusion.


FENCES (2016)
Directed by: Denzel Washington (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Denzel Washington faithfully adapts August Wilson acclaimed 1983 play with a soft touch, avoiding getting in the way as a director - instead relying on the films theater-influenced settings, masterfully poetic dialogue and incredible performances (including by Washington himself as well as Viola Davis who is remarkable as the soul of the film).


Directed by: S. Craig Zahler (1st of 1 films on list)
Canada / United States

Violent and bitter, Dragged Across Concrete is a tough noirish crime film, made with confidence from director S Craig Zahler. Zahler allows this to e a slow builder relying on long takes to heighten the films atmospheric focus.


Directed by: Cristian Mungiu (1st of 2 films on list)
Romania / France / Belgium

Beyond the Hills is a fitting companion film to his acclaimed abortion drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Both films are layered in repressed feelings and powerful performances.


Directed by: Christopher Landon (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

A charming and heartfelt horror film, Happy Death Day is an engaging take on the Groundhog Day theme - here in a horror setting at a college campus. It's a whole lot of fun because it doesn't take itself too serious and it is also thoughtful about its characters.


Directed by: Noah Baumbach (3rd of 4 films on list)
United States

Noah Baumbach has gotten closer and closer to the "mumblecore" movement and here he co-writes with one of the defining faces of the movement Greta Gerwig. The result is a terrific blend and one of the most charming Baumbach films to date. The style, energy and black and white photography channel that of the French New Wave. This is a terrific star vehicle for Gerwig who brings her trademark sense of charm and awkwardness.


Directed by: Jia Zhangke (1st of 1 films on list)
China / Japan / France

With A Touch of Sin, Acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhang-ke tells four stories about individuals driven to violence. Though under the surface Jia's film is a deeply social conscious film, to the great filmmakers credit nothing is forced here and it becomes powerfully universal.


Directed by: Mike Flanagan (4th of 4 films on list)
United States

What a difference a director can make. This sequel to the horrible 2014 film, Mike Flanagan gives this film an intelligence and craft that was lacking both in the first film and in many films of this subgenre.


Directed by: Apichatpong Weerasethakul (1st of 2 films on list)
Thailand / UK / France / Germany / Spain / Netherlands

Those familiar with the films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Tropical Malady, Syndromes and a Century, Blissfully Yours). will know what to expect here, and he delivers his trademark style with a film that may be even more reflective and hypnotic then anything he's done in the past. This also is probably his most experimental film and the dreamy strangeness of it all becomes a rather wondrous and even exciting cinematic experience. This is definitely not one for all audiences and while I wasn't as enthralled as some of Weerasethakul's previous films, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a groundbreaking film worth respecting.


Directed by: Noah Baumbach (4th of 4 films on list)
United States

Noah Baumbach reteams with co-writer/star Greta Gerwig, this feels a little like a darker sequel to their previous collaboration (2012's Frances Ha). Lola Kirke emerges as the surprise here.


Directed by: Richard Linklater (2nd of 3 films on list)
United States

This sort of spiritual follow-up to Linklater's Dazed and Confused is a sweeping and poetic work that further confirms Linklater as one of American cinemas truly great filmmakers.


Directed by: Tsai Ming-liang (1st of 1 films on list)
Taiwan / France

It had been awhile since last seeing a great film from Tsai Ming-liang (to me 200'3 Goodbye Dragon Inn). The film is a very much in the mode of a silent comedy though it is also very bleak and as typical of Tsai is concerned with loneliness.


Directed by: Steven Quale (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Final Destination 5 is pretty much the same formula as the previous entries into the franchise but this may be the very best of the bunch in terms of execution. Not only is the use of 3D technology fully accomplished, Final Destination 5 best exploits our own fears and it is also effectively develops the characters on a level you can invest into the paranoia and fears of our vulnerabilities. Ultimately the film is alot of fun.


FISH TANK (2010)
Directed by: Andrea Arnold (1st of 1 films on list)
/ United Kingdom

British filmmaker Andrea Arnold follows up her film festival hit Red Road with this film, Fish Tank, a visually moody more energetic and far more controlled achievement by the director. I found Red Road to be interesting visually but the flaws were in the uneven tone of the film. Here Arnold seems more in control as a filmmaker and you get a greater feeling for the film and it's energy, aided by a very strong lead performance from Katie Jarvis as well as from the always terrific Michael Fassbender as the boyfriend of the young girls mother.


Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Very loosely connected to 2008's Cloverfield (though perhaps only in spirit, if at all?), 10 Cloverfield Lane is a film that starts as one thing, then becomes something else by its conclusion. That may not work for everyone but I was fully engaged by this all the way through.


HUGO (2011)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese (1st of 1 films on list)
United Kingdom / United States / France

The story is indeed one aspect of this film but at its core Hugo is rooted in its love and appreciation of film and the pure magic of filmmaking. This is why the film seems so suited for its director Martin Scorsese, who at first glance would seem an odd choice to adapt a family film in 3D. However one could argue this is essential Scorsese and indeed a very personal achievement (dealing with one of his trademark themes of the legacy we leave behind). Terrific 3D artistry - as early as the films dazzling and elaborate opening dolly shot through the train station (which itself embodies another character of the film).


Directed by: Tze Chun (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Telling the story of an illegal immigrant divorcee mother who leaves her two children alone, Children of Invention certainly recalls the touching 2008 film Treeless Mountain. Both are sad (and even conventional) films that rely on small intimate emotional moments and this is where I think this film becomes superior. Children of Invention flows with ease under the seemingly effortless direction of Tze Chun. The depressing tone of the film is lifted by dreamlike wonder of it. The bond of the children lies at the emotional core and this is expressed with such charming and subtle performances and intimate details. The film seems to deeply understand the struggle and desperation of these young children and the performances (by Michael Chen and adorable Crystal Chiu) capture this. Watching this film I couldn't help think of the final lines from one of the all-time greatest film masterpieces The Night of the Hunter - "Lord, save little children. The wind blows and the rain's a-cold. Yet they abide...They abide and they endure."


Directed by: David Mackenzie (1st of 2 films on list)
United KIngdom / Sweden / Denmark / Ireland

The skill of this film lies in its execution as director David Mackenzie takes what typically would be an epic scaled film and instead centers around its two main characters. The result is an intimate film full of powerful small details. Perfect Sense is a very bleak film but there is a hope in the way people adapt. Mackenzie has made some very good films and this might his very best.


Directed by: David F. Sandberg (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Yet another recent horror sequel (or in this case prequel) that far surpasses its original - itself a spinoff of The Conjuring series. While the 2014 film Annabelle was dull and uninspired, this sequel surprisingly emerges as a film of its own world or as the title suggestions, its own creation. Still challenging many of the gothic imagery that has defined the universe of James Wan's Conjuring, this film takes a more suspenseful approach that the jump scares common in Wan films. It also blends other genres including some dark humor.


Directed by: Sean Byrne (1st of 1 films on list)

Genre films will enjoy this film - a prom/revenge/torture horror. It's not groundbreaking but it is a refreshing horror film that effectively builds. Its violent but its creative and horror films will be very pleased with this one!


Directed by: Johannes Roberts (1st of 1 films on list)
United KIngdom / United States

This sequel made 10 years after The Strangers is a superior film. The Strangers had some terrific moments but ultimately lost steam as it was trapped in its subgenre limitations (the home invasion horror films flooded the scene in the early 00's). This film feels more free to openly embrace its influences and the result is far more engaging with some truly impressive slasher film moments.


CAROL (2015)
Directed by: Todd Haynes (1st of 1 films on list)
United KIngdom / United States

While not at the level of Todd Haynes greatest work (to me that would be Safe and Far From Heaven). Carol works in some ways as a fine companion piece to Far From Heaven though this takes on a much less Douglas Sirk visual approach but the uneasily anticipated individuality still lies at the emotional core.


Directed by: Joseph Kosinski (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Really strong filmmaking carries this standard based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. There is nothing really flashy here. The film has an old-fashioned, straight forward approach to its filmmaking and it really pulled me in.


Directed by: Travis Knight (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

With its fourth feature, Laika Animation Studio continues to rise as the potential leader in innovative American animation filmmaking (particularly with the seemingly continued obession of Pixar to produce sequels). Full of dazzling color this is a poetic coming of age story.


Directed by: Hirokazu Koreeda (2nd of 2 films on list)

The great Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda brings his trademark tender, humanist approach and it touches on themes that have been explored in his other works. The film was shot in and around where Koreeda grew up and you get the feeling of a deeply personal film. After the Storm is not at the level of Koreeda's greatest achievements but it is another terrific film, one that is honest and true to the emotional struggles and adversity of the human spirit.


Directed by: Ruben Östlund (1st of 1 films on list)
Sweden / France / Norway / Denmark

Force Majeure is an unsettling and bold film of terrific technical care, dazzling visuals, building tension, and as well as situational humor all blended into simple dysfunctional family drama.


THE HOLE (2010)
Directed by: Joe Dante (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Joe Dante has made a career of family-friendly horror films. The Hole is not as clever as some of his greatest films but it shows his ability with the genre as well as his understanding of his own forte (along with an understanding the old-fashion horror films that have shaped his career.


PIRANHA 3D (2010)
Directed by: Alexandre Aja (1st of 1 films on list)
United States / Japan

Piranha is a surprisingly very fun (even if mindless) B-Movie popcorn thriller. The film has a funny tongue-in-cheek humor to it notably in the idea of watching a bunch of MTV and Girls-Gone-Wild creators die gruesome deaths. The film success is the way it embraces its exploitative campiness in the most extreme possible way. There is nothing thought-provoking or groundbreaking here as the film seems more rooted in horror slasher films then it does its 1978 original (directed by the underrated Joe Dante) or even Steven Spielberg's classic Jaws (which this film does cleverly pay homage in its opening sequence starring Richard Dreyfuss). Piranha will be enjoyed by genre fans.


Directed by: David Mackenzie (2nd of 2 films on list)
United States

David Mackenzie can sometimes be heavy handed with his metaphors but it all works well here in this film that effectively uses time and landscapes to its advantage.


WARRIOR (2011)
Directed by: Gavin O'Connor (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Having already succeeded with the American sports drama (2004's Miracle) Gavin Hood has seemingly found his trademark with his latest film Warrior, based on two brothers that enter an MMA competition. There is plenty of melodrama here but its expertly constructed and performed by the leads (Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy). This is an inspiring film that has mass audience appeal because it themes and emotions are so universal.


ALLIED (2016)
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis (2nd of 2 films on list)
United Kingdom / United States

Robert Zemeckis echoes some old Hollywood with this effective World War II spy thriller. The concept is setup as camp yet Zemeckis directs this script with a seriousness. The cast is perfect as Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard (one of my favorites!) are two of the biggest and best Hollywood stars. Certainly not as important or masterful as Zemeckis best films, but I really enjoyed this.


DRIVE (2011)
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn (2nd of 2 films on list)
United States

Drive feels a bit like an action film from the 1970s or perhaps something from Jean-Pierre Melville. Gifted filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn (Valhalla Rising) delivers an exciting, carefully composed and subtly performed film. The cast is strong (nice to see Albert Brooks given such a juicy role to work with) but this is mostly all about Ryan Gosling in a pitch-perfect emotionless performance that really works. The film is not without flaws but is has such a wonderfully absorbing mood to it.


Directed by: Jacques Audiard (1st of 1 films on list)
France / Belgium / Singapore

Writer-director Jacques Audiard wisely takes this extremely heavy plot and strips it bare. Its raw and intimate avoiding overly uplifting sentiment. The great Marion Cotillard is superb as always here.


ONDINE (2010)
Directed by: Neil Jordan (1st of 1 films on list)
Ireland / United States

"I've been telling my daughter a story. A fairy-tale." Ondine opens to a fisherman (in a potential career-best performance by Colin Farrell) pulling in his net to find a mysterious woman (Polish singer (Alicja Bachleda), who asks him to keep her hidden. His paraplegic daughter tells him it must be a selkie which is a magical creature that takes the form of a singing seal in water and a human on land. Neil Jordan's films have been defined by their parallels of caring fantasy and brutal reality, and never is this more evident then Ondine. This is a beautiful film in the way it believes and embraces the world of fairy-tale while making the myth of these worlds honest and heartfelt both emotionally and psychologically. This is a universally truthful film. The highlight may be its great cinematographer Christopher Doyle, who here captures its rich magic with gloomy tones. Ondine is a lovely film full of rich details, sympathy and expressionistic tone.


Directed by: Nimród Antal (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

After a horrible sequel (in 1990) and some laughable spinoffs (Alien vs. Predator), John McTiernan's 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger/Jesse Ventura vehicle Predator gets respectful treatment with this film - which is more of a replacement sequel then a reboot of the franchise. Right from it's superb opening sequence (a heavily armed solider free-falling from the sky) this Predators film establishes it's brilliant visual world and style. As a contrast to the old-school action filmmaker of McTiernan, director Nimrod Antal brings a fresh modern vision with a more self-aware cinematic style (aided of course by the presence of producer Robert Rodriguez). Those familiar with Antal's previous three features are not surprised by the brilliant atmosphere and impressive compositions he brings to this film. He seems to be a perfect fit for Rodriguez and for this material.


Directed by: Hiroshi Ishikawa (1st of 1 films on list)

Eight years after the terrific Su-ki-da, Japanese filmmaker Hiroshi Ishikawa's Petal Dance recalls the poetic approach, structure and style of his previous films (particularly his first film Tokyo.Sora). This does not soar the way Su-ki-da does but Petal Dance has such a beautiful and delicate approach to its characters (four young women on a road trip in search of meaning) and the actresses (including the always terrific Aoi Miyazaki who shined in Ishikawa's previous film) bring heartfelt performances.


Directed by: Apichatpong Weerasethakul (2nd of 2 films on list)
Thailand / UK / France / Malaysia / South Korea / Mexico

Quiet and mysterious as most of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's best films. If you've seen Weerasethakul's films you know what to expect and you will not be disappointed.


Directed by: Andrew Bujalski (2nd of 3 films on list)
United States

Andrew Bujalski is slightly out of his comfort zone with the material here but his fifth feature film remains yet another terrific film from the great filmmaker. It is very funny and a heartfelt film.


Directed by: Leo Gabriadze (1st of 1 films on list)
United States / Russia

Since the groundbreaking 1999 horror film Blair Witch, the found footage films have become a popular horror subgenre. Unfriended takes the subgenre a little further as here the entire film takes place on computer screens (via facetime, skype, text, etc). It's a clever concept and the film is effective in its approach.


Directed by: Bong Joon-ho (1st of 2 films on list)
South Korea

This to me is probably South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho's best film to date. A satire with building suspense, the film is often heavy in its commentary yet conversely is incredibly subtle in its brilliant visual design (which helps to further express information and details).


THE RIDER (2017)
Directed by: Chloé Zhao (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Writer-director Chloé Zhao's sophomore feature film effortlessly blends fact and fiction to create an authentic portrait of life in South Dakota's Sioux community. The Rider has a very personal and documentary feel to it.


ST. NICK (2010)
Directed by: David Lowery (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

I respect the way St. Nick, the debut feature from writer/director David Lowery finds the perfect balance between poetic fairy-tale and heartfelt emotional drama. The film creates this lyrical sense of an isolated childhood world and the environment they wander through is as effectively expressive as the terrific performances from the young real-life siblings Tucker Sears, Savanna Sears.


Directed by: Hong Sang-soo (4th of 4 films on list)
South Korea

Shot in an intentionally dull black-and-white, The Day After He Arrives is one of Hong Sang-soo's darkest films. It's very typical of his style, which is often been compared to Eric Rohmer. This film centers on the mistakes we make everyday but above all it is a film about relationships.


Directed by: Ted Geoghegan (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

We Are Still Here does not hide that its a throwback to old school haunted house horrors - particularly of the 1970s. The tone is established from the brilliant opening set piece and the films offers some nice tone changes all of which embrace the influences. This film certainly offers nothing new but you have to admire the respect this has for horror influences and you especially have to admire its confident execution.


Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan (2nd of 2 films on list)
United States

The theme of grief has been evident in Kenneth Lonergan's previous two films (his touching debit You Can Count on Me, and his lyrical masterpiece Margaret), but its clearly stated here in this film - even if its from characters who have difficulty expressing that grief outwardly. A difficult film to watch/rewatch becuase of how heartbreaking it is.


LA LA LAND (2016)
Directed by: Damien Chazelle (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Damien Chazelle has attempted the movie musical before but with the success of his Oscar-winning drama Whiplash, he had a budget and freedom to make this. Its a film of some spectacular moments and I was particularly engrossed in the moments shared with Emma Stone.


Directed by: Whit Stillman (2nd of 2 films on list)
United States

Damsels in Distress is Whit Stillman first film since 1998's The Last Days of Disco. Sharing many of the same snobby with that defined his previous work, this is an over-the-top and rather crazy throwback to 1930s cinema.


MOTHER (2009)
Directed by: Bong Joon-ho (2nd of 2 films on list)
South Korea

Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho brought some nostalgic fun and excitement to the monster-movie with his 2006 International hit The Host. With his latest feature Bong gives us a thriller that is very plot-centered and focused - telling the story of an ageing mother (superbly played by Kim Hye-ja) who goes on a determined journey for justice after her mentally challenged son (played by Won Bin) is put on trail for murder. While there is some twisted stylistic expressions here, Bong wisely avoids falling into the typical shock-cinema tactics he could have exploited with this film - instead keeping focus on a strong structure and deeply human emotional connection. The mothers quest for justice ultimately becomes a desperate one and the result is a film that fully engages with narrative surprises as well as some dark humor and in-depth ideas of memories and culture. Mother is very reminiscent of a Hitchcock or DePalma film, and I imagine this film will improve over time and with more viewings.


Directed by: Jonathan Demme (2nd of 2 films on list)
United States

What easily could have been a standard cliché film, Ricki and the Flash emerges as a real treat thanks in large part to its great director Jonathan Demme. Demme (here paired with Diablo Cody's spirited screenplay) brings a trademark humanity and soul in the way he allows the rather standard storyline really linger. Demme spends time on little moments with the characters to allow you to feel their emotions in a completely quiet and unforceful manner. This is not in the class of Demme's greatest films but it is also a far better film in his hands and it proves what a unique and talented filmmaker he is.


TANGLED (2010)
Directed by: Nathan Greno and Byron Howard (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Tangled is a joyous throwback to the classic Disney animation. When this formula is done correctly it can easily win you over and such is the case with Tangled (which echoes the the structure of some of Disney's most memorable Princess tales - Beauty and the Beast and Little Mermaid come to mind recently, but Cinderella and especially Sleeping Beauty mastered this in the 1950s). Tangled is a re-imagining of the classic tale of Rapunzel. The animators blend traditional hand-drawn with the modern depth of 3D to create a dazzling visual world of beautiful depth and color. The storytelling is magical, the characters are rich and the musical numbers are wonderful. I would put this only behind Beauty and the Beast and Lilo & Stitch as the best animated feature from Disney in the last 30 years.


Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos (2nd of 2 films on list)
Ireland / United Kingdom / United States

Not typical of filmmaker Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite is a18th Century British costume film. Much like Lanthimos' work it is crazy, wild but also a thorough blend of comedy and drama. It is a magnificent showcase for Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone and Olivia Colman, who are all excellent.


Directed by: Tanya Hamilton (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

"You're living in the past Patricia. This house, the neighborhood. You're all fighting imaginary enemies." This line is said halfway through the film and it is significant in that it seems to reflect the subtle expressions of the film and the characters, which are continuing haunted or reminded of the past even as their life has changed and new generations develop. Night Catches Us takes on a very serious tone telling the story of a Philadelphia community still dealing with a past police killing by a local Black Panther. Writer-director Tanya Hamilton (making her feature debut) lets the characters and history reveal itself slowly. Animated by a skillful score from The Roots, the film is a highly original work that resonates. The performances are superb with lead stands by Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington. As the title would suggest, Night Catches Us is a poetic and reflective film.


GEMINI (2017)
Directed by: Aaron Katz (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

This Los Angeles-set murder mystery is great modern noir throwback. Aaron Katz brings layers to this film and the LA setting is vital in both the films genre expectations as well as its exploration of living.


Directed by: Anna Biller (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

A throwback/homage to horror and exploitation films of the 1960s and 70s, The Love Witch is full of wonderful details and visuals while also being a highly intelligent work.


Directed by: Katie Aselton (1st of 1 films on list)
United States

Black Rock is a simple blend of genres and while not innovative, it's an excellent film for the way it absorbs and builds with intelligent ideas. Katie Aselton created the story and directed the screenplay (from husband Mark Duplass). She also stars alongside Lake Bell and Kate Bosworth in a highly engaging mix of exploitation and survival drama.


Directed by: Mati Diop (1st of 1 films on list)
France / Senegal / Belgium

With her feature film directorial debut, Mati Diop brings a beautifully complex blend of cinematic genres and expressions. Its bold and its haunting in a way that must be admired.


Directed by: Shawn Levy (1st of 1 films on list)
United States / India

Real Steel is one of the really great surprise films of 2011 to me. It follows a typical formula we've seen before but it does so with such inspiring success that you can not help but enjoy it - wholeheartedly in fact! The film blends concepts of fantasy with some heartfelt father-son dynamics (aided by the energetic performances of Hugh Jackman and newcomer Dakota Goyo). Real Steel is highly entertaining crowd-pleaser!

Breakdown of countries on the list (note some films are produced through multiple countries)....
United States - 125 France - 39 United Kingdom - 32
Japan - 15 Canada - 13 Germany - 13
South Korea - 8 Belgium - 7 Ireland - 6
Italy - 5 Iran - 4 China - 4
Taiwan - 4 Australia - 4 Netherlands - 4
Spain - 4 Sweden - 3 Mexico - 3
Hong Kong - 3 Denmark - 3 Brazil - 3
Thailand - 2 India - 2 Argentina - 2
Greece - 2 Norway - 2 Philippines - 2
Thirteen other countries with 1


See other current A2P Cinema Lists:

A2P Cinema's 200 Favorite Films of 1990s
A2P Cinema's 200 Favorite Films of 1980s
A2P Cinema's 200 Favorite Films of 1970s

A2P Cinema's 200 Favorite Films of 1960s
A2P Cinema's Horror Films of History