Noah Brier | December 20, 2019

Why is this interesting? - Decade in Film Edition

On movies, the 2010s, and the advantages of time to reflect

Recommended Products

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

A movie that came out in 1994, known for its humor and quotability according to Jeff Hughes.

How to Survive a Plague

A documentary about the fight to overcome the AIDS epidemic through political activism.

The Last Rites of Joe May
The Last Rites of Joe May

A sad, Bukowski-esque Chicago story that showcases Dennis Farina’s career-best performance.


Expanded from an SNL sketch into a film, it is highlighted by Jeff Hughes for its humor.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Contains what the author considers the best scene of the decade, featuring Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant.

Hoop Dreams
Hoop Dreams

Declared as the best film of 1994, Hoop Dreams is celebrated for its considerable achievement though the author admits to not having revisited it frequently.

Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road

Praised for its requirement to be watched on the big screen, described as pure, unadulterated cinema.


Appreciated for its Hollywood storytelling quality that could belong to the mid-70s.

Margin Call
Margin Call

A financial crisis film that is smarter and subtler than its peers, focusing more on the people involved in the 2008 events.

Faces Places

Satire raised to the level of high art, this film is recommended for its profound impact, prompting viewers to feel a desire to dance in the streets after watching.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Described as satire raised to the level of high art and compared to This is Spinal Tap.

Jeff Hughes (JH) is a playwright, sports blogger, and film aficionado. What’s presented below is easily the most interesting best films of the decade list. If you like his film takes you can follow more of them at @HughesReviews. - Noah (NRB)

Jeff here. I have been making year-end top ten movie lists since I started writing for my hometown newspaper in Kearny, NJ at 12 years old. That December I declared Hoop Dreams the best film of 1994.

But in the 25 years since, how many times have I actually sat through Hoop Dreams? 3? 4, maybe? That doesn’t make the achievement of that film any less miraculous. But clearly, it does mean that while I appreciate the picture’s significance, I have not spent much time with it since.

You know what movie came out in 1994 that I’ve seen a hundred times? Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. I’m not arguing Ace is the better film, even though it would make for one hell of a position paper. What I am arguing is that time reveals to us what movies mean the most to us. Ace Ventura may never get a Criterion release, but I quote it on an almost daily basis. It knows exactly what it is and I can argue it’s 100% successful in being that thing.

Why is this interesting?

Making a films of the decade list allows for something the year-ends don’t: Time. I’ve seen every one of the films below multiple times. But I want to talk about the one that is almost definitely on no one else’s list: MacGruber.

I didn’t see MacGruber in theaters. I thought expanding the asinine SNL sketch into a feature-length film was an insane idea. Then a friend of mine texted me a year or so after the movie came and went. “Hey man, have you seen MacGruber?”

“No, I said. Should I?”

“You should watch it right now. And then text me.”

I did. (Working from home has this benefit.) And I texted him right after, “I’m about to watch it a second time.” It is quite frankly one of the funniest things ever made. And if all that comes from this is you giving it a chance, my job here is done.

Here are my favorite movies of the decade with a short explanation for each.

  1. How to Survive a Plague. A documentary about those who fought to overcome the AIDS epidemic with political activism. Every time I watch I get a little more angry, a little more sad, and a little more certain that human beings are a remarkable species. 

  2. Mad Max Fury Road. One of the reasons the death of movie theaters saddens me is a film like this—pure, unadulterated cinema—demands to be seen on the big screen. 

  3. MacGruber. The old celery trick. Once you’ve seen it, you’ll understand.

  4. Spotlight. Pitch perfect Hollywood storytelling that belongs in the mid-70s. 

  5. Margin Call. The Big Short got far more attention but this financial crisis film is smarter and subtler. It doesn’t seek to explain the events of 2008. It seeks to define the human beings who were in those rooms.

  6. Faces Places. I loved Glenn Kenny’s review of this for “You should see it, and then go dancing in the streets.” 

  7. The Hollywood Trilogies: Planet of Apes/John Wick. Big budget, big-ticket Hollywood fare that delivers at every single turn. They are reminders that popcorn movies don’t require superheroes. 

  8. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. Satire raised to the level of high art, this is the heir apparent to This is Spinal Tap.

  9. The Last Rites of Joe May. A sad, Bukowski-esque Chicago story that serves as the platform for Dennis Farina’s career-best performance.

  10. Can You Ever Forgive Me? In the best scene of the decade, Melissa McCarthy asks Richard E. Grant if he can keep a secret. “I have no one to tell,” Grant replies, “All my friends are dead.” It’s my favorite moment in my favorite scene of the decade.

Honorable Mentions: Stories We Tell, Life Itself, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Amour, A Separation, Melancholia, What We Do in Shadows, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Cameraperson, Cold War, Wolf of Wall Street, The Night Before, The Other Guys. (JH)

Chart of the Day:

US energy consumption by source and sector from the US Energy Information Association. “The chart below shows the types and amounts of primary energy sources consumed in the United States, the amounts of primary energy used by the electric power sector and the energy end-use sectors, and the sales of retail electricity by the electric power sector to the energy end-use sectors.” (NRB)

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Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)

PS - Noah here. I’ve started a new company and we are looking for a sr. backend engineer to join the team. If you are one of those or know anyone great, please share. Dinner’s on me at a restaurant of your choice if you help us find someone.

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