50. John Wick
Climbing into the top 50, John Wick was a rare breath of fresh air for the action genre and its breakthrough to cultural significance is a testament to the power of trying to change the game… even when things aren’t quite perfect.
Brilliant world-building helped deliver the action along with unique characters, so much so that a spin-off series about the world itself is on the way.
Like John Wick, Kick-Ass came out of nowhere with a new approach to comics, superheroes, and coming-of-age. Dark, tragic, and filled with a wild love of cinematic action possibilities, Kick-Ass pulled apart the tropes and motifs of superheroes and superhero films all at once.
A wondrous roller-coaster with a cast able to deliver the charismatic punch needed to carry things along when the somewhat twisted spins kick in.
48. The Witch
I didn’t love The Lighthouse as much as I’d hoped from Robert Eggers‘ follow-up to this one, but I still appreciated his ability to create mood and pull fear in from just about anywhere and anything. It fell far short of The Witch though, a film that was nearly maddening in its ability to unnerve and unsettle while drawing its dread from a variety of sources.
It’s not simply a new effort in creating tone, or some fresh idea of scaring people, it’s a progression on the very idea of how films and stories can scare, and what they can talk about while they do it.
There arent’ many films on this list that need less introduction than Bridesmaids, perhaps far and away the most viewed entry. A throwback, in some sense at least, but one that took an earlier zaniness into darker alleyways, Bridesmaids helped solidify a lot of careers and sold fun for its own sake to a world all too eager for the chance to buy.
46. Edge of Tomorrow
Doug Liman took Groundhog Day on an action/adventure spin with Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt and the result is something better than anyone could have guessed. It’s a film that could have easily gone wrong in a million ways, and likely would have without Liman and Cruise carrying things.
It’s best feature is that it keeps switching gears, something Liman loves, and just when you think the effort is transporting you in one direction, it suddenly becomes much more about something else, without ever losing its status as a crazy action-adventure. It also, eventually, delivers on Cruise’s character transforming so effectively that it elevates everything around him.
45. Inside Llewyn Davis
True Grit and Hail, Caesar! were both solid films, but they were both a little too homage and not enough Coen to push them into serious contention for inclusion here. But, in Inside Llewyn Davis, not only is Oscar Isaac spellbinding, but the film is the very best of everything that makes Coen Brothers films great.
It’s painstakingly constructed, delivered with a brilliant eye for scene construction, and it tells the story of a man trying to make it without ever caring if he is likable per se, or if he makes it, as long as you recognize him.
44. Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola co-wrote this gem that is perhaps an overall lighter effort than most Anderson films, but is at the same time more decisively emotional than his other work. Anderson’s eccentricity is brought together with some of the same “gravitas of youth” that Coppola mastered way back in CQ.
Not really at all about what it’s about, it’s perhaps treacly as a result of aiming for pure charm, but it’s also one of the few films around that bothers to try to actually earn the upheaval of youth.
43. Wreck-It Ralph
Before Zootopia, Rich Moore took on the much smaller world inside video games and if not for the fact that it was the same year as Brave, it would have had the Academy Award pretty locked up.
Like a lot of animated efforts of the decade, this one takes a somewhat silly, almost random idea, and tries to see what it can make of it. Here, though we’re following a fairly standard blueprint, the characters get a chance to deliver rougher themes to younger audiences by having zany characters address their own feelings.
Adam McKay returns following The Big Short, and despite winning Best Actor (Christian Bale), Best Supporting Actress (Amy Adams), and Best Supporting Actor (Sam Rockwell) Academy Awards, there aren’t many movies in the last few years that were more underappreciated.
While obviously a film that is going to alienate many, it’s a daring, even purely vicious pseudo-reality biopic that is dissecting a mindset and perspective as much as a particular individual. It’s also hilarious and some of the best acting by an entire cast in years.
Winner of the Academy Award, Zootopia blends genres and weaves a rich mystery into a world that’s as engrossing as it is complex. This is really one that needs no introduction, but it deserves mention that this “little fish – big pond” story, while filled with fun and some decent laughs, is also richly layered with a variety of heart-filled moments that take the adventure into the whimsical to new heights.