Everyone always wants a ranking of the best movies (even myself), but movies are a far too expansive and all-encompassing topic to narrow down into one specific ranking. Which is why a Rushmore (which isn’t necessarily defined as the proverbial best of the best – but is instead viewed as a combination of a multitude of different factors) serves as the perfect medium to “rank” a particular group of movies. I’ve been catching up on a number of relatively recent movies of late, so I felt it best to look back at everything since 2010 to see if I could find the four movies most worthy of a spot.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Fury Road is the only movie (excluding re-releases) that I’ve ever seen on three separate occasions. And that’s because it’s not really a movie at all…it’s truly an experience. I’d be curious to know how much acid George Miller dropped when he finally settled on the concept (or lack thereof) for this – because the iconic visuals, set pieces, and costumes found in here (a large number of which were manufactured/performed without the aid of traditional CGI) are absolutely bananas. The major concern touched on by most for this one has always been (as I mentioned) the seeming lack of any substantial plot. But you know what? This thrill ride doesn’t need a plot, and I’d go so far as to say it’s because of this missing portion that the other outstanding aspects are allowed to flourish the way they do. Also, Tom Hardy. He kiiiiind of really embodies the essence of badassery despite having ~four lines during the entirety of his screen time.
I didn’t particularly love the original trilogy (probably worth noting that this is associated in name only), but I’m pretty comfortable in saying that this is one of my all-time favorites. By far my easiest choice of the group.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Wes Anderson’s overwhelming amounts of quirk can often be a bit too much – but he crafts it to flawless effect in the finest movie of 2014. I found virtually every second of this a treat, from the misleadingly lighthearted tone to the endless lines of deadpan humor (“I suppose you would call that a draw…”) to Ralph Fiennes’ role of his career (yes, I’m completely serious). This is easily Anderson’s deepest, most precisely enriched universe of anything in his filmography, and it’s obvious that’s where the root of the movie’s best asset (it’s over-arcing charm) flows from. Tony Revolori and Saoirse Ronan are both revelations alongside Fiennes (who is still the clear star of the show) and the faction of wacky cameos (that’s become another Anderson staple) are enjoyable as hell, as always.
Ultimately a relatively simple tale that’s wildly energetic and crisply paced (and packs a fairly unexpected emotional punch), Grand Budapest is a load of fun that’s a nice little reminder of why we go to the movies.
Denis Villeneuve is now one of the hottest working directors in Hollywood after churning out films like Bladerunner: 2049, Arrival, Sicario, and Enemy over the last four years, with a Dune remake due out in 2019 (I’ve certainly been partial to him myself as he seems to be a master of a very effective, darker brand of suspense). But he first burst onto the scene with the unforgettable Prisoners. Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman might be two of the most underrated actors you’ll find, and their collective performances here only further reinforce that notion (Paul Dano and Melissa Leo aren’t too shabby themselves). This puppy has an especially creepy feel and is filmed in a grim manner that leaves us very ominous clues of what’s to come. I also love how it skillfully navigates the heavy amounts of moral ambiguity as a father is pushed to (past?) his limits while deftly keeping you on your toes right up until the conclusion.
Not without flaws (some instances of exaggerated acting and indecisive themes in the final third chief among them), but it still resonates rather hard with me even after having watched it upwards of 10 times. That’s certainly worthy of a slot in my mind.
Take Shelter (2011)
Probably the least distinguished choice of the quartet, though arguably the most powerful. Jeff Nichols has a flair for southern-rooted dramas that typically focus on different familial dynamics of lower class characters, with Take Shelter being undoubtedly his best. This particular entry centers on a man (portrayed by the always-reliable Michael Shannon) whose family has a history of mental illness and follows his harrowing journey to break the mold…without breaking his family (and himself). I was captivated from the opening moments, as early on I realized what an incredibly and thoroughly detailed, sympathetic depiction of someone struggling with internal conflict to this degree Nichols had constructed. It’s hard to describe the feelings this masterpiece evokes without seeing the movie, but the serenity that’s so often on display really is a thing of beauty. Jessica Chastain gives an unbelievable supporting effort in her chemistry with Shannon, which plays such an integral part edging up to the sweat-inducing climax.
This is one of the rare movies I’ve come across that actually improves with every rewatch. I imagine this may be one that a number of people haven’t seen but I can’t recommend it highly enough.