Scarecrow Video’s Favorites of the 2010s!

 

Since 2010 a lot’s changed here at Scarecrow. We opened our screening room in 2013, became a non-profit in 2014, started our Silver Screeners, Outdoor Movies at Magnuson, and Children’s Hour series, and a lot more. But mostly what we did was add to our vast catalog. We don’t have the exact numbers, but we estimate that Scarecrow Video brought in roughly 40,000 new rental titles in the last decade, increasing our total catalog to over 135,000 individual titles. We figured that since we’re so obsessive about our movies, the best way to celebrate that was to make a list. We had some pretty simple criteria for what could go on that list. It could be anything that came out in the last decade that was a feature film or a long-form, contained story. So open-ended TV shows wouldn’t count (that’s a list for another time), but a mini-series might. Each of our staff members made a ranked top 25 list, and the titles were given a score based on their ranking, and their point totals determined their spots on our list. We think the breadth of this list matches the breadth of our catalog, with narrative films and documentaries from all over the world, in multiple languages, about all kinds of subjects, from filmmakers of all kinds. It’s not just a list of our favorites but a quick scan of what made movies so exciting in the last ten years. So with no more ado, we proudly present Scarecrow’s Favorites of the 2010s!

1. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015, George Miller)

George Miller, the visionary genius who brought us the Mad MaxBabe and Happy Feet movies, reinvented his post-apocalyptic “world of fire and blood” with this precise and elegant piece of storytelling wrapped in a ferocious juggernaut of groundbreaking stunts and special effects. Though pretty much structured as two spectacular vehicle chases – one out into the wasteland, and one back – Miller deeply invests us in the complexities of this world and the fate of its characters, especially Charlize Theron as the instant pop culture icon Imperator Furiosa. How often do you see a part 4 that’s unlike any movie you’ve ever seen before? (Bryan)

 

2. GET OUT (2017, Jordan Peele)

Is it body horror with a cerebral hook? Is it The Stepford Wives on mescaline? Is this Invasion of the Body Snatchers via Being John Malkovich? Yes, and so much more! Get Out is unnerving and hilarious, often at the same time, and completely unafraid to call people out on their racist horseshit. No room for that mess anymore. Time to start cleaning house! When was the last time a studio movie gave you tears of fright, tears of laughter and made you want to be a better person? Stellar. (Jensen)

 

3. THE FLORIDA PROJECT (2017, Sean Baker)

Surrounding the opulence of the Magic Kingdom, a thousand dramas play out in the numerous motels that serve as de facto residences for the working poor. Their struggle with poverty lies in stark contrast to the recreation mecca that can literally be seen by some, but never visited. It is at one of these motels that we follow the adventures of a six year old girl as her mother, fellow residents and the sympathetic motel custodian try their best to shield her, and the other children, from their economic reality. The Florida Project is a beautiful tragedy that plays out every day in the real world. (Rich)

 

4. INHERENT VICE (2014, Paul Thomas Anderson)

The best crime fiction posits a subtle undercurrent of the sinister, barely noticed, but operating in an infinitely complex web of an unknowable totality just below the sunny, observable surface of society. P.I. Doc Sportello, through his own intuition or drug-induced paranoia, glimpses a thread of this dark reality, and doggedly pursues the phantom through a pristinely rendered L.A. County of 1970, implicating pretty much everyone in a plot which is almost prohibitively complex (though probably still much simpler than its source material). The first viewing may be baffling, but the fifteenth is transcendent. (Krishanu)

 

5. ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (2019, Quentin Tarantino)

Driving around has never been cooler than in Q.T.’s mash letter to the L.A. he knew and really, really loved. This one has got it all, buddy movie camaraderie, amazingly charismatic performances, an all-timer soundtrack, tons of Tarantino meta-commentary, neon signs flickering on under a dusky sky, dirty feet, and a close-knit family who walk into the wrong house, big time! In many ways it feels like a career summation film, undoubtedly his most thoughtful and personal work since adapting Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch. Elegiac to an incredible degree, it really should’ve happened this way… (Jamie)

 

6. GREEN ROOM (2015, Jeremy Saulnier)

Stories of punk rockers prevailing over white-supremacist scumbags are, sadly, stories that we really need right now. Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier wrangles a whole lot of tension out of very limited real estate (most of the action takes place in a redneck club our heroes are trying to escape) and creates characters worth rooting for as they navigate a gauntlet of mayhem. Poor Anton Yelchin (RIP) is terrific as the lead. (John)

 

7. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2014, Wes Anderson)

Wes Anderson’s style is singular to the point of easy parody, but what he does is create worlds unto themselves. His particular mastery is on full display here. Every trope you’ve come to expect, done better and more ingeniously than those expectations prepared you for. A funny, touching, extremely cinematic adventure. (Wil)

 

8. THE MASTER (2012, Paul Thomas Anderson)

A towering 70mm battle of wills, evoking Welles at his most bombastic.  A bestial performance by Phoenix; by turns raging and distraught, breaks against the seawall of Hoffman. (Leo)

 

9. MOONLIGHT (2016, Barry Jenkins)

Told in three chapters, writer-director Barry Jenkins’ second film tells the story of one character, played by three actors at three ages, taking on three different names. It’s an exploration of identity, a coming of age story, and a romance, but it’s also a deeply sensual cinematic experience. Its feeling of time and place – the people, the clothes, the music, the heat, the sand – is so vivid as to be intoxicating. And Mahershala Ali is so charismatic and affecting as the unexpectedly empathetic crack dealer Juan that he won an Oscar and became an instant A-lister even though he’s only in the first third. (Bryan)

 

10. THE TREE OF LIFE (2011, Terrence Malick)

Terrence Malick’s masterpiece, THE TREE OF LIFE shows us no less than the creation of the universe, nestled within the context of human memories of grief, joy, anger, in a way both intimate and grandiose. With a wonderful understated performance from Brad Pitt and a luminous, star-making turn from Jessica Chastain, in a movie that seems to have always existed, rather than having been made. (Kevin C)

 

11. LADY BIRD (2017, Greta Gerwig)

A high school senior whose mom would rather call her Christine, Lady Bird is just as likely to rejoice over a thrifted dress as she is to bail out of a moving vehicle or comfort a friend in need, and by the time she leaves for college, she’s figured a few things out. Lady Bird certainly made me want to call my mom and ask her if she likes me, but it also got me thinking about my overblown adolescent ego, if I’ve really grown up all that much, and the ways in which I could let people I love know how much they mean to me. A strikingly real, tears-and-laughter-inducing story about getting over ourselves in order to find what’s true and what matters. (Sage)

 

12. SUSPIRIA (2018, Luca Guadagnino)

What if there were witches that ran a dance academy? What if they were forced underground during wartime, what if during that time they became politically activated, resentful, hostile? What if they cared deeply about their art, their matriarchal, anti-facist, confrontational art, the very source and tool of their power? Is there a right way now to exercise that power? Is there a right way to exercise any power? (Matt)

 

13. STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (2017, Rian Johnson)

Reminds you of what this sort of thing can be with an actual director behind it instead of merely a gang of well-meaning producers. A genuinely idiosyncratic, maybe even auteurist work. Johnson may be the first guy since 1977 to make a Star Wars movie feel like a personal one. At its very frequent best, it seems downright off-brand. (Matt)

 

14. HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE (2016, Taika Waititi)

Hunt for the Wilderpeople follows two misfits, 13-year old Ricky Baker, and middle-aged Hec, who end up on the run together in the New Zealand bush. While Sam Neill, who plays Hec, is an internationally known film actor, it is first-timer Julian Dennison, playing Ricky Baker, who steals every scene. The relationship between these two characters creates such a powerful center point that the film is able to achieve a perfect balance between light and dark moments. Written for the screen and directed by New Zealand’s Renaissance man of film, Taika Waititi – someone definitely worth watching in the next decade. (Kate)

 

15. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013, Martin Scorsese)

Scorsese points an accusing finger at American greed culture, and in the meantime makes a movie that makes you feel terrible about what you’re laughing at, which are some of the worst characters ever to be appealing until you remind yourself that they’re all awful. Featuring some of Scorsese’s most masterful direction and editing, as well as a razor sharp script from Sopranos writer Terence Winter, this fires on so many cylinders that it may feel like you took Quaaludes with DiCaprio by the time it’s over. Some people misjudged this one, possibly due to the fact that Americans like their morality tales spoonfed as crime dramas with a clear right vs. wrong delineation, not as underdog rags to riches stories. Murderers we can judge, just not greedy bastards. Remember, this is America. (Jamie)

 

16. DRIVE (2011, Nicolas Wending Refn)

Possibly the greatest work of pure cinema in the 2010s. A perfect blend of image and sound, with the merest hint of a plot. A pop art masterpiece. Ryan Gosling is an avatar of creepy cool as the otherwise unnamed “Driver” backed by a great Euro-electro soundtrack. In a loaded cast featuring no less than Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaacs, Ron Perlman and Bryan Cranston, the MVP by a mile is the chilling, yet still funny and charming turn from Albert Brooks as a vicious gangster.  (Kevin C)

 

17. UNDER THE SKIN (2013, Jonathan Glazer)

Under the Skin tells the story of an alien come to Earth in search of subjects–or victims–who turns from predator to acolyte the more she experiences human language and emotion. But her impression of humanity is affected by people’s friendly reactions to her appearance–Scarlett Johansson’s appearance–which also puts her in danger when she decides to embrace a human identity. I was impressed with this film’s exploration of not only what it means to be human, but what it means to be human in a woman’s body. (Megan)

 

18. INCEPTION (2012, Christopher Nolan)

This was the first of Nolan’s supreme time bending megadramas. Something he is pretty well known for these days. Part spy film, part dream world, all brain thrill. Filmmaking at the highest, *ahem*, level. (Jensen)

 

19. THE RAID: REDEMPTION (2011, Gareth Evans)

As graceless as it is beautiful, this relentless Indonesian martial-arts massacre is a nearly unending litany of broken limbs, sliced flesh, and flailing bodies, pure action from start to finish. (Matt)

 

20. WHIPLASH (2014, Damien Chazelle)

Not since Buddy Rich cursed out his band on his tour bus in 1982 have the drums felt so emotionally devastating. Damien Chazelle runs us through the gauntlet, allowing us to rise and fall with the every victory or defeat of an intensely committed Miles Teller, who is faced with the most increasingly cruel tutelage since Pei Mei, from a blistering and never better J.K. Simmons, who wields a teaching style just below waterboarding. Jazz purists can disagree, but the music is fantastic, there’s abundant technical brilliance, and it climaxes in a third act that should leave you breathless, yet satisfied with the knowledge that there are some people that will suffer through anything for their art. Definitely my tempo. (Jamie)

 

Click here for numbers 21 — 50!

Content Archives