One of the hardest things for me, even after blogging for close to 10 years, is listing things. Listing movies in a particular order, naming favourite TV shows, putting performances in a certain row – just any kind of list and I’m hyperventilating. So instead I’m deluding the pressure by creating a non-list list. In other words, I’m going to talk about 10 movies that shaped me in the past 10 years. It’s a tribute to the movies that left an impression on me. Not necessarily about listing the best movies nor even the absolute favourites. It’s about 10 movies that changed me or gave me something to think about. Movies that pushed me or challenged me, that shaped me into the person I am today. Movies that, for better or worse, will stay with me forever.
Before I jump in I want to tell you that there is a bonus entry in this list. It’s a movie that dates back to the 90’s but I wanted to include it because I saw it during this decade and it did shape me. So I just didn’t want to skip this one but I also did want to keep the main list contained in the years between 2010 and 2019.
BONUS: THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994)
I remember distinctly the moment I watched The Shawshank Redemption for the first time. It was during university, it was pretty late and I pressed play on my laptop, turned off the lights and just disappeared for two hours. I remember getting goosebumps during the scene were the warden discovers Frank’s escape. Then suddenly feeling elevated when we got to hear how Frank escaped. Funnily enough I felt both those things the next day, when I rewatched The Shawshank Redemption for the first time.
Now it’s been about 10 years and I’ve seen this movie countless of times. Sometimes I don’t even log it into Letterboxd because I just watch my favourite scenes. For some reason there’s something comforting about this movie and I can’t really tell you what. But the thing The Shawshank Redemption taught me is that I do have patience. Granted, most over two hour movies still annoy the hell out of me but if they are good, I will not complain and I will love them.
In a way it also shaped my love for scripts. The ability to tell a story within a story, adding a rhythm to it, adding a hint of mystery. Most importantly though, creating characters. I think it has taken me years to understand what kind of characters I love. Quite honestly, I think my preferences still shift a little here and there. But one is certain, I love characters that have layers upon layers and layers.
Over the past decade I have become a more minimalistic person. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t have close to 500 books or countless of bookish items collecting dust! I said “more minimalistic” not completely a minimalist. Anyway, I have started to narrow down my life. I’m not in anyway certain that Whiplash has something to do with it but it is an incredibly minimalistic movie!
With just a few characters, with a lot of focus simply on music, Whiplash compiles a complex story with very little (time, money, characters). And yet, the movie says so much and it gave us two very strong performances. The final 10 minutes of this movie, I’m not joking, could be my favourite 10 minutes of the past decade. But as I hate ranking things, we shall never know for sure.
Whiplash has stayed with me since I saw it. Sitting on the edge of that seat while watching it for the first time is a moment I still remember. I feel the goosebumps even now. And I know for a fact I’m not the only one – the final scene (sadly cut into two parts) has been watched on Youtube for more than 10 million times. This is special, I knew it the moment that scene ends and I was thrown into complete darkness. It also, for certain, made me appreciate music in movies a lot more. You can read my review HERE.
Another one of my favourites from 2014 that has a very dark undertone. In many ways, Nightcrawler and Whiplash are the same movie, except in the latter the protagonist and the villain are the same person. Jake Gyllenhaal portrays a malnourished Louis Bloom who wants to be the best at getting the most gruesome footage of accidents and murder scenes. He starts off failing and then suddenly he escalates into complete insanity.
This movie left an impression on me because I have a similar mind set at work. I try to do my best, I can’t do something and not succeed to some extent. It’s not a good quality to have, especially when you are prone to stress out easily. While I wasn’t as stressed out back in 2014, this movie has stayed with me over the years and I sometimes think back to it in fear. What if my need to succeed in everything I do eventually makes me lose it? It’s not a certain possibility but it does make me wonder. Especially since Gyllenhaal’s performances comes off so true to life and makes you believe that he too thrives on success.
In a way it’s also a favourite of mine because it has a very compact plot and I have fallen in love with movies like that over the years. You can read my review HERE.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2011)
There have been 23 Marvel movies and it’s very easy for me to pick my favourite – it’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Thinking back to the time I saw it, I was in complete awe. Yes, there have been Marvel movies after this that have blown me away but The Winter Soldier will always have a special place in my heart. It’s not just because Captain America is my favourite superhero, it’s because for me this movie is the perfect balance between story and action.
This was directed by the Russo brothers, Marvel’s best duo behind the camera, and it shows well in this one. The sequel to the First Avenger works, it improves some of the kinks and it allows Chris Evans to be both funny and superhuman. Even though I was definitely changed by The First Avenger movie, it was The Winter Soldier where I realised this was going to be my favourite Marvel trilogy. It’s the strongest and I stand by that.
In ways, Marvel movies changed and shaped us all in the past decade. Most of us have seen at least one Marvel movie and well we’re getting more and more of them. To have a list without a Marvel movie would have been ridiculous in the first place. Plus, how could I not gush about Chris Evans!? Which is why you should look at these TEN iconic Chris Evans’ moments HERE.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)
George Miller brought back Mad Max and gave us Fury Road – the world went nuts! This movie is the only movie from the last decade that has made it to my top 4 favourite movies section on Letterboxd. It is, from start to finish, perfection. There is not a single moment during Fury Road where you think you can breathe. When you do, you are suddenly thrown into another amazing sequence and you just eat it up like crazy.
Mad Max: Fury Road showed me that CGI isn’t everything. Most of the stunts in this are actually done by people, the fire-breathing guitar was actually built and yes, it all looks crazy insane but that’s what makes it perfect! The last decade had some amazing achievements in the CGI world and we will continue to improve on everything digital, I’m sure, but Mad Max: Fury Road represents an art form all on its own: stunt work, set production and design.
And while nowadays it’s easy to CGI the shit out of everything, it’s also amazing to see everything come to life for real. And there aren’t many directors wanting this for their movies. Anyway, you can read my VERY long review HERE.
It would not be a list of decade’s favourites if Sam Rockwell wasn’t somehow in the list. Here he is in Laggies, playing a strange single dad who also happens to be a lawyer. Is this a good movie? Not really. Is it still my favourite, heck yeah! I have seen this movie quite a few times and I like it more every time I watch it. And, even though he’s a big part of the reason why I like this movie, it’s not all about Sam Rockwell when it comes to my love for Laggies.
The reason I love Laggies the most is because it has quite an unlikable main character. Keira Knightley portrays a flawed woman, someone who is very unsure of herself while everyone around her seems to be getting their lives together. This was, and still is, very much like how I feel. I’m lost and I connected with this character a lot. Do I hang around with teenagers? Well, when I watched this for the first time I worked with a lot of young adults who were basically teenagers. I got along with them just fine! I have a youthful spirit and I never plan to lose that silliness in myself either.
So it’s a lot about seeing myself in this movie. Now it’s just a matter of time until Sam Rockwell pulls me in for a kiss as well. Read my review HERE.
How could I make a list and not include one of the most influential director/writers of the past decade – Christopher Nolan. His movies have given me so much in the past years and while I didn’t love all of them and can never really rewatch The Dark Knight (for a reason some of you know), Nolan was and will remain one of my favourites. I could easily put David Fincher here as well but as it is, my favourite Fincher movie is from 2007.
But what did Inception give me? It gave me some much needed fangirling moments because this came out during the height of my Joseph Gordon-Levitt love. It also gave me Tom Hardy who has remained in my list of favourites as well. This movie also gave me something especially annoying: it made me seek for great storytelling. Now, yes, I was once a girl who liked movies for movies and didn’t think too much about them. But in the past decade, more so in the recent years, I want good scripts and I want solid plot points. Anything too light and I’m annoyed.
Inception never bored me. It had a very complicated plot point and it takes a while to even think about how everything came together. Plus, it has one of the most epic cliffhangers a movie has ever had. If you don’t agree with the rest, I’m 100% certain you agree with that – epic cliffhanger! Read my very rough Inception review HERE (this was my early days, like so early, that this is the 69th post on Mettel Ray – yikes).
Before the last decade I was a huge rom-com fan. I’ve seen them all, I’ve seen the good and the bad, I’ve rewatched the good ones and still enjoy the bad ones. Everything new on the other hand can rub me the wrong way. Romance it seems, has become something I need and yet want a lot more from than a basic rom-com can provide. So, if the decade before this had Pride and Prejudice (2005), the past decade had Brooklyn.
Set in a time where things were simpler, Brooklyn tells a story of an Irish immigrant in Brooklyn. Just as things feel rough and lonely, she falls for an Italian guy. Just thinking about this makes my heart warm and fuzzy. It is such a simple story with so much emotion and heart, and Saoirse Ronan is perfect for the role! And I guess the reason it’s in this list is because I needed romance. While Laggies provided me with some steamy moments and was definitely romantic as well, Brooklyn oozes romance in a different form.
It’s a movie that comforts me and, just like Pride and Prejudice, it will continue to do so for many years to come. Read my gushy review HERE.
IT FOLLOWS (2014)
Your girl was not a fan of horror movies before this decade. Heck, I don’t think I was a fan of them in the beginning of this decade either. But somewhere in the middle, the horror genre started to change a little and now I can’t get enough. I would say that the shift in me happened with It Follows which I saw a few years after it came out. The story, the cinematography, all of it just excited me and while I was scared, I could not stop staring at the screen.
Horror has had a very subtle change towards the thriller genre in recent years. It’s not just about jump scares anymore, it’s about the built up tension, the very close to home storylines and mindfuckery that happens. I can list five or more horror movies that I loved in the last decade while before I could have listed maybe 4 I’ve actually seen.
So It Follows marks a change in me I didn’t see coming. A change where I started to enjoy horror because it’s become one hell of a genre! Read my review HERE.
FREE SOLO (2018)
With Free Solo I fell in love with documentaries again. I don’t watch enough of them to be an avid documentary fanatic but I do enjoy them a lot. I’ve seen Free Solo for about five times now. It never gets boring, the final 15 minutes are still awfully stressful and it just sort of calms me. Strange thing to say about a very stressful movie but it calms me because it shows me how powerful humans can be.
Free Solo if any of you still don’t know, is about Alex Honnold who climbs without any safety gear. He free solos mountains higher than you can imagine and if you think it’s reckless, watch this documentary. Because in this you’ll see that it’s far from reckless and it’s actually quite a powerful working ethic that goes into this process. This movie came to me surprisingly and went on to win the Oscar for Best Documentary. I think it’s the first time I’ve seen a documentary before it won something. Isn’t that amazing.
Anyway, it really left a mark on me during the last decade – even if only for two years. To read more of my thoughts, you can go HERE.
TRUTH AND JUSTICE (2019)
Last but not least I’m including an Estonian movie and I can’t be any happier about this. Truth and Justice blew me away and made me so proud! It’s not common for me to love an Estonian movie. I often find them too empty, light on words and lacking something special. Truth and Justice, a story about a family in the 19th century Estonia, living in a farm and surviving the everyday struggles, has so much going for it. It stands out among Estonian movies. Not just because it is the most expensive movie we have ever made but because, in my humble opinion, it’s the greatest movie Estonia has made.
Tanel Toom (the director and screenwriter) managed to put a lot of story in one movie. The actors managed to bring characters alive and Priit Loog who plays the main character Andres is brilliantly cast in this. I can’t fault the movie on anything. Even if I did say it has some tiny and weak CGI moments that take you out of the movie a little, I like them because they show you how much effort was put in to make this movie.
I can’t for the life of me summarise my thoughts about this movie and how it has changed my decade. I guess it just.. made me proud. It made me so darn proud. It was also shortlisted for an international Oscar this year but it did not get nominated. To read more, check out my review HERE.
Stay tuned for a brand new Across the Universe Podcast episode where Sofia, Nik and I discuss our Top 5 favourite movies from the past decade. And see, which of these made it to my honourable mentions and which five did I pick as my favourites! PS: I made tiny changes!3