5. A Star is Born
There have been three previous versions of A Star is Born, but Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut stands out as a brilliant modern love epic with a great soundtrack. Cooper gives his best performance to date as Jackson Maine, a legendary country rock performer who wrestles with addiction issues, and Lady Gaga gives a breakout performance as Ally, a rising star who forms a relationship with Maine. The relationship develops naturally, and Cooper is able to capture the intimate moments that occur between the breathtaking musical numbers.
Of course, the soundtrack became iconic for a reason, but the film is more than just a collection of great songs. The music is well incorporated into the key story beats, with the “Shallow” sequence standing out as an incredible moment of an artist realizing their talents. With an incredibly emotional ending, A Star is Born is a brilliant debut from Bradley Cooper, and it will be exciting to see where his career goes next.
4. 21 Jump Street
Filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller have a unique ability of taking ideas that shouldn’t work and making them into satirical and exciting projects. 21 Jump Street is brilliant in how self-aware it is; the film completely identifies how ludicrous the premise of the original TV show is, and uses the story to explore the cynicism of modern Hollywood and how heavily it relies on redoing things from the past. While the film is highly satirical of clichés in cop movies, it does deliver a phenomenal buddy cop duo between Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum).
The visual gags are very inventive, and the film’s layered sight gags make it very rewarding upon rewatch. The relationship between Schmidt and Jenko is also very well written, as both actors are able to make fun of themselves and satire the stereotypical nature of their roles. Ice Cube is also great as the scene stealing Captain Dickson, as is Rob Riggle as the film’s main antagonist. Ending with one of the best cameos of the decade, 21 Jump Street is one of the most surprisingly great movies of the last ten years.
3. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
David Fincher is perhaps the greatest modern auteur of crime cinema, so it makes sense that he would want to take on one of the most popular modern fictional crime sagas. The 2009 Swedish trilogy starring Noomi Rapace did a great job establishing the character, but Fincher’s 2011 adaptation is the most layered approach to the text, as it explores the deeply rooted trauma of Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) and the intricate history of the Vanger family. Mara gives a transformative performance as Salander, and Daniel Craig also gives one of his best performances as Mikael Blomkvist.
Fincher’s film is long at 158 minutes, but the investigation is so compelling that it never overstays its welcome. Few filmmakers can create a sense of dread like Fincher, and the amazing score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross gives the film a permanently eerie feel. The brutality and shocking plot twists are often quite disturbing, and the gradual developments in the relationship between Lisbeth and Mikael helps to add humanity to this bleak story.
2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
John le Carre’s novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of the quintessential works of fiction about Cold War espionage, and it inspired an impressive miniseries adaptation in 1979. However, the 2011 film starring Gary Oldman as George Smiley proved to be a brilliant take on the genre that captures all the fear and paranoia of the era. The film doesn’t shy away from the complexity of the situation and throws many twists at the audience, but between the sharp writing and phenomenal ensemble, the story remains compelling.
Oldman gives one of the best performances of his career as a veteran spy tasked with investigating four potential double agents within British intelligence. Each suspect is given a nickname- Tinker (Toby Jones), Tailor (Colin Firth), Soldier (Ciaran Hinds), and Poorman (David Dencik). The film doesn’t need car chases or elaborate action sequences to become compelling, as the ensemble is able to express the gravity of the situation through their performances. One of the best spy movies of all-time, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a suitably thought provoking take on the espionage thriller.
1. True Grit
While 1969’s True Grit is a solid western, it features one of John Wayne’s more over the top performances and had many stereotypical villains and side characters. The Coen Brothers redefined the story by focusing on Mattie Ross (Haille Steinfeld), a young girl who hires the veteran U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to avenge the murder of her father by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). The remake mostly focuses on the dynamic between Mattie and Rooster as they track down the vicious criminal and also encounter the Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon).
There are perhaps no better screenwriters of the past couple decades than the Coen Brothers, and True Grit is filled with memorable side characters and witty exchanges. Bridges is perfectly cast as a grizzled lawman embarking on a last mission. The film is a loving tribute to the history of western stories, but it manages to reinvent the old stories of bounty hunters and law enforcement by focusing on the human lives that are left abandoned on the American frontier. Elevating the original’s over the top elements and turning them into a thrilling adventure, the Coen Brothers’ True Grit is one of the best examples of why returning to the same material a second time can be worthwhile.