The 100 Greatest Movies Of The Last 15 Years
By Tyler Smyth
FAM, in all their infinite wisdom, has asked me to create a list of the best movies of the last 15 years for our readers. The films that will populate this list were not chosen simply because they are my favorites, they were chosen based on their cinematic merits. The fact that they happen to also be my personal favorites should only serve to further bolster my reputation as FAM’s de facto “critico cinematografico esperto”.
Let’s face it, most people have horrible taste in movies, and if you are unsure if you fall into this category, just swing by our message boards and tell me your favorite movies and I’ll tell you how bad they are. I don’t blame you though, it’s really not your fault. It has more to do with the fact that you don’t know about some of the greatest films ever made than it does with you actually thinking the fifth installment of The Avengers is a cinematic masterpiece.
I will countdown five movies at a time until we reach my number one film of the past 15 years. My guess is you’ve never heard of it.
If you need to catch up, you can. Right here:
Now, on to our main event…
35. Mother (2009)
S. Kor. Director Bong Joon-ho
Bong Joon-ho’s film “Mother” would have probably been a good film even with a different lead, but the performance by accomplished South Korean actress Kim Hye-ja turns it into a masterpiece. It’s one of the movies that are so lead dependent that anything but brilliance by the person playing “mother” would have really taken away from the film.
The story starts out like one we’ve seen before, a young man lacking in the intelligence department and who is completely dependent upon his mother is accused of murder. The police are easily able to coerce a confession from the son, so it’s up to the mother to take up for him when no one else will. That doesn’t seem like that unique of a plot, but there are twists and turns in this thriller that you just wouldn’t see in an American film of the same premise. The film has as a very Hitchcockian feel to it, and as has been said many times regarding this film, the mother-son relationship somewhat mirrors “Psycho”. If you are a Hitchcock fan, this a great ode to the best, at the same time with a uniqueness that makes it its own.
34. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
US. Director Michel Gondry
I understand that Gondry was the director of this film, but make no mistake this is screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s movie. He’s one of the more brilliant screenwriters out there and much like with Wes Anderson’s films, no matter what the story is, you know a Kaufman film when you see one. Coming off critically acclaimed films “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation”, Kaufman writes what I think is his most brilliant movie, one that earned him an Oscar.
The story is about Joel and Clementine played by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. Winslet is perfect and Gondry, in what is his greatest contribution to this film, manages to make Jim Carrey not act like Jim Carrey in every scene. They are in love but then the relationship goes south, Clementine goes to a company called Lucana to have all of her memories of ever knowing Joel erased forever. When Joel finds this out he himself decides he will have the same procedure done, but something happens to him when he does this. Joel realizes that his memories of Clementine, even the sadness they bring on, are apart of what makes him who he is and he tries to fight the procedure as it takes place. It is just a brilliant and original story idea, much like the movie “Primer” that was on this list earlier, but a more well rounded film.
I know a lot of lists have this film much higher and as much as I liked it, it feels cluttered at times and tries to get a little too cute.
33. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
US. Director Ang Lee
Ang Lee creates a visually stunning, equally beautiful love story between two cowboys who meet as ranch hands working a summer job herding sheep in Wyoming. The men are isolated and slowly their relationship evolves from strangers, to friends, and finally one night in a physically raw piece of film making, lovers.
The cowboys Ennis and Jack, played extremely well by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, are able to act on feelings in isolation that could have never taken place in that time anywhere else, and as good as their performances are the story is what carries the film. When the summer ends they go back to their lives, Ennis marries his sweetheart and starts a family and Jack goes back to the rodeo where he meets and marries his own wife. Their lives aren’t awful, per say, but there is a feeling of emptiness that they can’t seem to fill. Years go by until they reconnect and go on a “fishing trip”, all the feelings rushing back, trying to fill that void that has been there since that summer on Brokeback Mountain.
The performance of the movie, in my opinion, is given by Michelle Williams who plays Alma, the wife of Ennis and mother to his girls. She steals every single scene she is in, and is able to tell us everything at times without saying anything at all. The fact that the story ends tragically doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a beautiful story and one of the best American films of the last 25 years.
32. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)
US. Director Alejandro Inarritu
Inarritu teams up with arguably the best cinematographer in the world Emmanuel Lubezki, to create one of greatest technically shot films in a long time. The film, which mostly takes place in a Broadway theater, gives the appearance that the entire movie is shot in one continuous take.
It’s the story of Riggan Thompson, a has-been actor who starred as Birdman in a famous superhero movie series that has long since ended, who is trying to resurrect his career and reputation by writing, financing, directing, and starring in a Broadway play based on a Raymond Carver story. Riggan Thompson is played by Michael Keaton in a role that seems like it was written specifically for him and delivers the performance of his career. The parallels between Keaton’s own life and career and the character he plays are obvious, but Keaton in this film manages to show us a layer of his acting frankly I didn’t think existed. Ed Norton plays Mike Shiner, a brilliant but difficult actor to work with, anyone seeing a theme here? He and Keaton have great chemistry together and really feed off each other in the film. It was great to see Inarritu make a fun film for once and not one where you feel depressed walking out of theater, here’s hoping he continues to make lighter films going forward.
I think it was the best made American film of 2014, which will make it hard for me to explain one of my choices that come later in this countdown.
31. L’enfant (2005)
Bel. Directors Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne
The Dardenne brothers produce another gritty real life drama about loss, this one follows Sonia and Bruno, a young couple who have a baby . Bruno is played by Jeremie Renier who gives what I believe is his best performance, though that I’m sure is up for debate.
In this film he plays a small time petty thief who is indifferent to the fact that he has just become a father, when Sonia entrusts him with the task of watching their son Jimmy while she runs an errand, Bruno does the unthinkable and sells the baby to a black market adoption agency. Bruno comes back to Sonia excited to show her how much money he had received, when she breaks down he tells her they can always have another one, childishly thinking that will make everything all better. Sonia collapses and ends up in the hospital, Bruno more afraid of her turning him into the police than actually losing her, sets out to get Jimmy back. There are some heart wrenching and thrilling scenes shot in a minimalist way (that nobody does better than the Dardenne brothers) in Bruno’s pursuit to get his son back. I think my favorite thing about the Dardenne brothers are how they end their films, and L’Enfant is one of my favorites, they don’t try to surprise you with the ending they try to give you a real emotionally raw one.
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