10. The Wolf of Wall Street
Based on the memoir of criminal stockbroker Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street is a movie that appears to live up to the insanity lived by those who got themselves into the 1% on sheer testosterone. The film is a three-hour trip that never stops going further as Scorsese's energetic direction shows the horrors and addiction of unfathomable wealth.
9. The Double
Aesthetically, this might be my favorite movie ever. The world of The Double is so stylish that I didn't want the movie to end because I wanted to spend more time in it. Not "learn everything about it", mind you; this film gives almost no background info about its setting, and rightfully so. Its unnamed town is quietly loud and gorgeously dull, and questions about it are best left unanswered. Jesse Eisenberg brings his fast-talking, soft-spoken performance to a tale of someone who feels invisible, and everything about it is compelling.
8. Inside Out
Pixar's best film in a concerning decade for fans of the studio, Inside Out was a fresh taste of their patented tearjerker magic. The five emotions inside Riley's (and everyone's) head come out a pretty useful metaphor for the thought processes that make up our emotions. Inside Out ends up going places I did not expect Pixar to take us, rivaling Toy Story 3 for their most adult worldview to date.
7. Indie Game: The Movie
I would not watch Indie Game: The Movie and expect to come out with a representative picture of indie game development. I wouldn't even expect to get a representative picture of the people in the movie. Seven years later, some of the stuff in it is downright ironic. But the film remains a captivating look at the passionate developers at its center, with shades of drama and lots of earnestness. I can't say with any certainty that I wouldn't be where I am today without it, but it was very inspirational to me in seeing that software can be a personal way for one to express themselves. As Super Meat Boy developer Edmund McMillen imagines one of his fans thinking, "I know two guys made this. Maybe I could make something, too."
6. Mad Max: Fury Road
After I saw Fury Road with my family, my dad said "I liked it, but I don't know why." I think the reason he felt that way was because of all the things this movie doesn't do. Mad Max: Fury Road takes a minimalist filmmaking approach to maximalist action scenes to take you on an exciting ride through its desolate wasteland. With no time wasted, it's amazing how a movie about a bunch of dirt and nothingness can have so much enjoyable worldbuilding. They even made me interested in the action itself, creating the most essential theatergoing experience of the decade.
5. Eighth Grade
The first 78 minutes of Eighth Grade are excruciating. It is a painfully accurate representation of the awkwardness of adolescence, and the sorrow of friendlessness. It all builds to a perfect release, a heartfelt self-acceptance that will melt any heart over the age of, say, ten.
Room might be the best example I have ever seen of the basic story element of a protagonist overcoming an obstacle. Never have I rooted so hard for a character than during the climax of this movie, which for my money is easily the most gripping sequence in cinema this decade. By the time it was over, tears were rolling down my face, and I basically didn't stop crying for the rest of the movie, because its climactic scene isn't even what Room is about. Room's greatest accomplishment is its clear-eyed look at the aftermath, offering perspectives on its events from an incredibly brave mother and her child born in captivity, told beautifully through his own narration.
3. The Social Network
These days, the question on the top of people's minds when it comes to Facebook usually isn't "how was it created?" And while The Social Network gets across Mark Zuckerberg's god complex and lack of empathy, it doesn't touch on his more recently unveiled humanoid public persona. Regardless, it isn't a documentary, and it's probably best viewed as a work of fiction. And seen that way, it's basically a perfect movie. Sorkin and Fincher make a shockingly good team, giving the startup story a seductive and tragic energy. The founders and the people they pull in are all great characters. The acting is top-notch across the board. Whether you care about Facebook or not is irrelevant; watch this movie.
2. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
What better showcase could there be for Edgar Wright than a literal comic book? It is so fun seeing the movie he made given that playground and having to show zero restraint. There could not have been a better person to direct this movie, just like it feels like there could not have been better casting, music, or even special effects for that matter. In terms of adaptations of source material that is already great, it is the best I've ever seen. From start to finish, the film is packed to the gills with heart, easter eggs, and styyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyle.
My honorable mention goes to Citizenfour, the gripping documentary filmed in the hotel room where Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the NSA's surveillance to journalists. Seeing his sacrifices and motivations up close is amazing, and the tactics he and the journalists use to keep their communications private makes it feel like a real-life spy thriller.
A sci-fi thriller that's more Twilight Zone than Black Mirror, Coherence turns the simplest of lines into dramatic story beats. It was made with a tiny budget and lots of improvisation, and the result is an exceptionally well-sold puzzle box with plenty of metaphorical resonance. The whole cast is superb, with Emily Baldoni acting as a fantastic protagonist who gets across her motivations and intentions amazingly well. I feel about this movie the way Primer is regarded by its biggest fans: of course I'm impressed; more importantly, I'm in love with every second.