30 – The One I Love (2014, Charlie McDowell)
We’re reached part 8 out of 10 and kicking off this next batch of 10 is yet another Mark Duplass mumble core film entitled The One I Love. Mark Duplass and Elizabeth Moss play Sophie and Ethan, a couple whose marriage is failing. They seek help from a marriage councillor, played by Ted Danson, who, one day, recommends them an extraordinary weekend getaway in which 100% of couples come back having fixed their marriage. The One I Love is an intriguing and surreal depiction of love, marriage and how our fantasies control our reality. With an ambitious script, confident direction and absorbing chemistry between Mark Duplass and Elizabeth Moss, The One I Love is an experience to say the least and one I implore you have.
29 – Lars and The Real Girl (2007, Craig Gillespie)
Coming in at number 29 is one of Ryan Gosling’s lesser known films, yet one of his best, Lars and the Real Girl. Gosling plays Lars Lindstrom a delusional introvert who surprises his brother and sister in law with the news that he has met someone on the internet. However, it is revealed that Lar’s mystery woman is an advanced sex doll that he truly believes is a real woman. With a premise like this, you may think you’re in for a tactless comedy that pokes fun at the mentally ill, fortunately, Lars and the Real isn’t a mean spirited movie. Instead of a lazy comedy, we are treated by writer, Nancy Oliver, and director, Craig Gillespie, to a respectful, unconventional and ultimately heart-warming drama that will help restore your faith in humanity.
28 – End Of Watch (2012, David Ayer)
At 28 comes one of the biggest cinematic surprises I’ve experienced this century, and that is David Ayer’s End of Watch. Shot in a found footage documentary style, End of Watch documents the daily life of two young police officers Brain Taylor, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, and Mike Zavala, played by Michael Pena. We follow the two buddy cops as they film an educational video about their job, whilst they also encounter criminal gangs more dangerous than they could ever imagine. Ayer’s authentic approach grounds the film perfectly, maintaining an engrossingly real sense of emotion aided greatly by the incredible chemistry and performances from its two leads, Gyllenhaal and Pena. End of Watch is a buddy cop that gets deep into the relationship of its police officers, and the film is all the more satisfying for it.
27 – Capernaum (2018, Nadine Labaki)
At number 27 is Lebanon’s 2018 Oscar nominated international film, Capernaum. The film tells the story of Zain, a 12 year old boy serving 5 years in prison for a violent crime. Whilst in prison Zain makes the bold decision to sue his parents for neglect and for ever giving birth to him. Co-writer, director, Nadine Labaki crafts a truly profound film that explores Lebanon’s poverty crisis in an educational, entertaining and ultimately heart breaking way. Capernaum hits hard thanks to its absorbing story, Labaki’s authentic direction and its debut performance from its non-acting lead, Zain Al Rafeea.
26 – It Follows (2014, David Robert Mitchell)
At number 26 comes the only film to have caused me to have a panic attack at the cinema. It Follows tells the story of Jay, a teenage girl who, after having sex with her boyfriend in his car, starts to notice strange figures walking directly towards her. The film features one of the greatest film scores ever composed, in my opinion, as score composer Disasterpeace puts his own frightening 8bit twist to a heavily John Carpenter inspired score. Writer director, David Robert Mitchell crafts a haunting and truly original modern horror classic. Additionally, Mitchell subverts teen horror conventions perfectly as he writes what can be interpreted as a cautionary tale of unsafe sex and STD’s. Blending homage and pastiche whilst maintaining his own unique talent for horror film making, Mitchell left a mark that fittingly lingers long after the credits have rolled.
25 – Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008, Guillermo Del Toro)
Now, you’re probably in disbelief that The Dark Knight was so low on my list, however you’ll be surprised to hear that number 25 on this list is another superhero film released in the same year, which is of course, Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. When an evil prince embarks on a quest to bring the fabled Golden Army to life, so to revolt against all of mankind, Hellboy and his team must put a stop to him and save the world. Hellboy 2 allowed Del Toro more freedom than the first Hellboy film and thank God studio executives did. Del Toro not only delivers a well told doomsday story, but he also expands on the world and its characters along the way. What sets Hellboy 2 apart from most other superhero films, including the Dark Knight, is the character development and arc at the core of its story, that being Hellboy’s complex relationship with parenthood. With a heartfelt core grounding the films fantastical action sequences, Hellboy 2 is a demonstration of a filmmaker at the height of his power and talents and it makes this list at number 25.
24 – Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004, Michael Moore)
At number 24 is yet another 9/11 film, however it’s also the first film to make me cry as an adult, yeah I’ll admit it. Michael Moore’s Palme D’Or winning documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 finds its outspoken filmmaker investigating into Bush’s connection, response and suspected cover up of the September 11th attacks. Fahrenheit 9/11 stands out above Moore’s broader catalogue of work because it finds Moore focusing on the evidence at hand, putting his ego to one side for a change. The film doesn’t lack the comedic personality of Moore’s persona, but it equally isn’t “The Michael Moore Show” which often adds obvious bias onto his argument and thus making them unreliable. As I stated, the film made me cry as an adult, this came curtsey of a profound letter reading by a deceased soldier’s grieving mother. This letter truly encapsulated the ongoing human cost of 9/11 and the subsequent pointlessness of the wars that followed. Fahrenheit 9/11 uses its head and its heart to inform people of the corruption that happens right under our very noses.
23 – Fruitvale Station (2013, Ryan Coogler)
At 23 is the filmmaking debut of Ryan Coogler with his heart breaking day-in-the-life biopic, Fruitvale Station. The film follows Oscar Grant, a young black man who was wrongfully shot dead by police on New Year’s Day 2009. Opening with real achieve footage taken that night, we are instantly made aware of how real this story is, not only for Oscar and his family, but for black people all across America. Coogler writes and directs from the heart as he crafts a profound look at African American life and the discrimination and fate they may suffer. One of the strongest debut features this century has to offer, Fruitvale Station introduced the world to one of cinemas fastest rising filmmakers and long may he rise.
22 – Free Solo (2019, Jimmy Chin & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi)
At 22 comes yet another documentary; however this one does something unprecedented, it captures history in the moment. Free Solo follows professional rock climber, Alex Honnold, an incredibly blunt and fearless man who begins training for the largest rock climb without climbing equipment. This film wouldn’t exist without the friendship between Honnold and co-director Jimmy Chin and thank God for it. The film not only documents a moment in history as it happens, it also perfectly builds anticipation to it, addressing everything that could possibly go wrong, including the film itself potentially causing Honnold to fall. As well as this, the film also benefits from its intriguing protagonist and the absorbing journey he goes through both literally and personally. Free Solo is simply one of a kind and its way up here at number 22.
21 – Million Dollar Baby (2004, Clint Eastwood)
Rounding off this set of 10 is another best picture winning film that I like to call, “the ultimate boxing film.” (Yes I think it’s better than Raging Bull, fight me!). Million Dollar Baby tells the story of Maggie Fitzgerald a determined young woman who is dead set on being trained by Frankie Dunn, a bitter old boxing trainer who is adamant he doesn’t train girls. With a perfectly subversive and ultimately heart-breaking script, Million Dollar Baby doesn’t pull any emotional punches and more importantly, it never misses. With an outstanding star studded cast containing Michael Pena, Margo Martindale, Anthony Mackie, as well as, an Oscar winning Morgan Freeman and Eastwood himself, Million Dollar Baby is ultimately Hilary Swank’s film as she steals the show with her endearing, committed and fittingly Oscar winning performance. Similar to Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood directs yet another perfect swan song to a beloved film genre and it sits happily at number 21 on my list.