The 25 Best Films of the Last 5 Years (2013-2017)

The past five years have been full of many great films, so I decided to give myself the task of picking out the top 25 and ranking them. So lets start out with the ones that just missed the list, here are the honorable mentions…

OBVIOUS DISCLAIMER: It’s obvious to say, but this list is only for the now and will for sure change with time.

Honorable Mentions (In Alphabetical Order)

  • 12 Years a Slave (2013)
  • Arrival (2016)
  • Columbus (2017)
  • Enemy (2014)
  • The Florida Project (2017)
  • Foxcatcher (2014)
  • Hard to Be a God (2015)
  • Locke (2014)
  • Nocturnal Animals (2016)
  • Paterson (2016)
  • Phoenix (2015)
  • Spotlight (2015)
  • Starred Up (2014)
  • Toni Erdmann (2016)
  • The Wailing (2016)

25.  Get Out (2017)
get out

Director: Jordan Peele

Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, & Lil Rel Howery

Jordan Peele with his directorial debut delivered a film that turned familiar thriller tropes on their head with rich provocative racial context. Peele’s screenplay features many allusions to racial stereotypes and slavery, while also delivering moments of leverage through the comedic scenes from Lil Rel Howery. It’s a film that asserts itself in reality, which is the largely focal characteristic of why this film is so unsettling. The lead performance from Daniel Kaluuya and the atmosphere that builds from it, is one of many reasons why Get Out is one of the finest and most timely films of recent years.

24. Ida (2014) Ida

Director: Pawel Pawlikowski

Cast: Agata Trzebuchowska, Agata Kulesza, Dawid Ogrodnik, & Adam Szyszkowski

The first foreign language entry to the list Ida is stark and powerful post-WWII drama. The film’s brief duration and narrow academy aspect ratio contain an everlasting feeling of guilt and mournful pain. The lead performance from Agata Trzebuchowska is so magnetic in its subtle complex consciousness. While Pawel Pawlikowski takes us on Ida’s both practical and existential journey, while also being a strong practice of spirituality in film, that’s glorious in its spare haunting beauty.

23. The Lobster (2015) lobster 2

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Cast: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Coleman, Léa Seydoux, John C. Reilly, & Angeliki Papoulia

Best described as a deranged thought experiment, Yorgos Lanthimos continued to bring his dry deadpan direction to this stealth love story. The witty dismantling that Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou tackle in their screenplay, is one that looks and succeeds in breaking barriers of separating man from beast. Colin Farrell turns in his best performance to date, as he thrives in the suffocating madness of Yorgos Lanthimos. Rachel Weisz as well delivers a strong performance, seemingly playing the only person in this world with desire or empathy. Ultimately this is a film of absurdist genius and bold imagination in its rabbit-hole of a plot.

22. Two Days, One Night (2014) two-days-one-night

Director: Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne

Cast: Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, & Catherine Salée

A film written with profound affection, Two Days, One Night is both simple, yet riveting. The Dardenne brothers continued this film with their clear-eyed compassion and pure honesty that’s grounded in humanism. While Marion Cotillard gives not only her most humane performance, but quite possibly her best work to date. Two Days, One Night is a small miracle of a film, that takes a damning look at how the modern economy affects the working class without ever overstating its case.

21. Inherent Vice (2014) inherent vice

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Kathrine Waterson, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Hong Chau, & Martin Short

One of the few entries of P.T. Anderson’s character-over-plot phase, Inherent Vice is an entry of Anderson’s filmography that could frustrate many, but engross many as well. A film that many misunderstand, as the film is purposely wandering with its narrative and purposely incoherent. It’s a kaleidoscope of a film, that drapes itself in haze, while also being one of the finest adaptations around. As it condenses the source material, but retains the novel’s sociopolitical tug.

20. The Immigrant (2014)

Director: James Gray

Cast: Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, & Jeremy Renner

Rich and beautifully rendered, The Immigrant captures a time both visually and emotionally. It’s impossible not to be swept away by James Gray’s direction here, as he distills multiple eras of filmmaking into a distinctly personal style. A film full of depth and purity of feeling, of which makes many films look timid and small by comparison. Its a film where it’s as if ghosts of an older, vanished New York have been freed from the cruel power of faded photographs and allowed to once again move, think, and feel.

19. Nightcrawler (2014) nightcrawler

Director: Dan Gilroy

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, & Bill Paxton

A tour de force showcase for the wiry and wired performance of Jake Gyllenhaal, as he brings the amoral anti-hero, Louis Bloom to life. Nightcrawler is an unnerving film, that brings a Network meets Taxi Driver narrative for a mesmerizing cipher. Dan Gilroy’s execution in both his directing and screenwriting, grip you nearly instantaneously with its sleek visuals (with much help from Robert Elswit’s cinematography) and clammy atmosphere, as you are transported to the mind of a sociopath.

18. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) [2014] birdman

Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Cast: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Amy Ryan & Zach Galifianakis

Michael Keaton nabbed the role of a lifetime in Birdman, from which gave him the license from the movie gods, to have his cake and devour it too. Birdman as well gave us Alejandro Iñárritu at his finest form still to date, as he and Keaton bring this film to soaring heights, as they take leap after leap into the unknown. This film as well is a magical showcase for Emmanuel Lubezki, as his cinematography brings this film into what looks to be one continuous shot. As we prowl through the streets of New York and tight halls of Broadway, we as well see a blistering look at how the industry rat race can decimate a man’s self-worth.

17. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) wolf_of_wall_street

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, & Margot Robbie

A three hour epic of lunacy, that continuously operates at a ridiculous comedic pitch throughout, The Wolf of Wall Street showcases Scorsese at his most fascinating. Scorsese energizes this film with fluid Steadicam shots and fourth wall breaks. DiCaprio gives his most physical and reptilian performance, as he spits outs lines with disgusting glee. It’s a showcase of his physical comedic moments, as his energy here is not just fun, it’s discovery. Though The Wolf of Wall Street is endlessly entertaining and full of interesting characters, this film isn’t a celebration of debauchery and bad behavior: it’s a condemnation.

16. Sicario (2015) sicario

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, & Daniel Kaluuya

A film that takes a descent into moral chaos, Sicario is one of the finest thrillers of recent years. Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins together created an aesthetic that blended arthouse with grimy unnerving tension. While Villeneuve handles each of the films action sequences with such visual flair and showed masterclass work of controlling a slow build. While Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro turn in quite possibly their best performances to date, as they display each side of the films morality. With the film being so tightly wound up throughout the runtime, it finally unleashes a finale of visceral horror that reveals the pungent smell of social failure, as the drug war slowly turns each side into monsters.

15. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)blade-runner-2049 visual

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Jared Leto, Sylvia Hoeks, & Mackenzie Davis

Yet another Denis Villeneuve entry, Blade Runner 2049 is flat out one of the most gorgeous films I’ve ever seen. Roger Deakins Oscar-winning cinematography brought forth a staggering vison of the future with an incredible rich cinematic experience. It’s film that joins the ranks as one of the greatest sequels of all time, and quite possibly surpasses the masterpiece that is the original. While the ensemble we have here is phenomenal, as Ryan Gosling brings a masterful restrained performance and Harrison Ford turns in one of his finest performances in his storied career. It’s one of the brainiest big-budget films to ever be released in the last decade, and it’s a shame that it didn’t do that well at the box office.

14. Phantom Thread (2017) phantomthread

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, & Lesley Manville

A film tightly woven together, in the vein of the finest dresses from the House of Woodcock, Phantom Thread is a look at an intoxicating relationship through the spellbinding eye of P.T. Anderson. Phantom Thread is a film that is vibrantly lush and chic, as is wraps around you and slowly constricts you into a place of beauty with a dark uncompromising center. This is the film that introduced many to the fantastic Vicky Krieps, but it as well sent out the legendary Daniel Day-Lewis, who retired shortly after production wrapped. If this ends up truly being his swan song, I’d say he went out with a subtle bang, but we can always hope he’ll return one more time.

13. Before Midnight (2013) before mid

Director: Richard Linklater

Cast: Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy

It capped off the greatest trilogy of all time (not a typo), Before Midnight built on the two previous installments with an intelligent look at long-term relationships and messy love. Linklater’s, Delpy’s, and Hawke’s screenplay is mind-blowing in how natural all of the dialogue feels. It’s a film that’s so organic and insightful as we slowly watch our two lead characters, Jesse and Celine, simply interact in such a fascinating manner. Not only Before Midnight, but the entire Before Trilogy brought us one of the great film romances of the modern era as its riveting authenticity takes us deeper through each chapter, with Before Midnight maybe being the deepest.

12. Call Me by Your Name (2017) call me by your name cinematography

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg Amira Casar, & Esther Garrel

Nothing can be so purely affecting as first love, which Call Me by Your Name captures in an melancholic profound manner. It’s a film boasted in erotic tension, but it as well captures the feeling of summer better than any film I’ve ever seen, as its meandering quality only raises the content. The beautiful naturalistic cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom and engrossing long takes from Luca Guadagnino seamlessly transport you to 1980s Italy. Then the performances from Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer work off each other beautifully, as they are then capped off by the brilliant Michael Stuhlbarg, who delivers a monologue that will surely go down in cinematic history. But as the two hour-plus runtime steadily passes on, we begin to feel the simmering uncertainty turn to a gut-wrenching portrait of two people trying to find themselves before it’s too late.

11. Son of Saul (2015) son of saul

Director: László Nemes

Cast: Géza Röhrig, Levente Molnár, & Urs Rechn

A grime, intense, unforgettable viewing experience, Son of Saul is an extremely tight practically first person look inside of Auschwitz. This is a film that is an incredibly unyielding Holocaust drama that brings visuals impossible to unsee. Throughout the film as the camera is literally focused on our title character through practically every shot. Which could easily turn into a gimmick and become tiring to the audience. Yet cinematographer Mátyás Erdély and director László Nemes find the way to make it central to our characters journey. But it’s the way Nemes injects such a cinematic energy into a concentration camp that makes this film such a harrowing vision built on an intense purpose that’s found in your final hours.

10. Boyhood (2014) boyhood

Director: Richard Linklater

Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, & Lorelei Linklater

One of the biggest cinematic achievements of all time, Boyhood is epic in a technical scale alone. The narrative scope alone will take your breath away, as we watch our performers age right before our eyes. Linklater continued to show how unconcerned he is about being flashy, but concerned about giving an compassionate, intimate look at a wide assortment of characters. Boyhood is a quiet stunner of a film that runs nearly at three hours long, yet it is captivating for every second of it. It’s a film that expands what movies can express and will undoubtedly be talked about for decades to come.

9. Anomalisa (2015) ANOMALISA

Directors: Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson

Cast: David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, & Tom Noonan

One of the most distinct visons in cinema today come from the mind of Charlie Kaufman, and Anomalisa is yet another distinct piece into Kaufman’s filmography. This is a film that is wholeheartedly thought-provoking and a highlight of introspective cinema. Anomalisa is a brilliant example of showing how stop-motion animation is not a genre, but purely a medium. As the film takes advantage of it beautifully and brings such a natural sensibility. Kaufman’s screenplay is one that slowly takes apart the brain and shows us the gears of the human emotion. Anomalisa is a film that puts us in the mind of our lead character Michael Stone, as he is a victim of the Fregoli delusion. A real rare disorder, where a person holds the belief that everyone else is in fact the same person in disguise. Which Kaufman takes ahold masterfully and uses as a metaphor for persons inept ability to connect with people.

8. Manchester By the Sea (2016) MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, from left, Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, 2016. ph: Claire Folger. © Roadside

Director: Kenneth Lonergan

Cast: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams, & Kyle Chandler

With Manchester By the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan showed yet again how much he has his finger on the pulse of humanity. Lonergan’s screenplay is a tour de force of a rich enveloping drama that shows the impacts of confronting past tragedy. Lonergan’s use of flashbacks alone is incredible and helps build the characters so subtly. Casey Affleck delivers one of the finest performances of recent years, his restrained gut-wrenching performance is astounding as he quietly owns this film. It’s a film that gave us Lucas Hedges and gave us Michelle Williams quietly sneaking into the film to deliver a powerhouse scene. But Manchester By the Sea at a story level seems so simple, but it’s the aching complex emotions of it’s characters that pushes it to triumph.

7. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) fury road

Director: George Miller

Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Zoë Kravitz, & Riley Keough

The film that brought the franchise back to life, Mad Max: Fury Road is a non-stop exhilarating ride that’s constantly kinetic. George Miller continued to show in this film how great of an action filmmaker he is, as this film is practically a chase throughout. This bold, ferocious, primal film is one that truly changed the action genre. But through all that, this is ultimately a feminist film that powers through an eye-boggling color palette to continue to grow the wasteland.

6. A Touch of Sin (2013) a touch of sin

Director: Jia Zhangke

Cast: Jiang Wu, Zhao Tao, Meng Li, Luo Lanshan, & Wang Baoqiang

Devoured in violence and despair, A Touch of Sin is a film that melds style with strong substance. Delivered in four chapters, that were all inspired by a series of real widely reported acts of violence in China, and together they come to form a portrait of contemporary China. This film takes its characters to a place of solitary suffering, to help paint its portrait, and as it does you come to open your eyes to its startling violence. As the violence progresses though, you see the effects of capitalism, greed, and the overall economy of the country has on its people.

5. Her (2013) her

Director: Spike Jonze

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, & Chris Pratt

A comedic and melancholic fable about the here and now, Her is a film that is engrossingly genuine and engaging. This could be a film where so many scenes could come across satiric or even smarmy, yet its Spike Jonze’s direction that brings it together with such grace, and overall makes this film so deeply resonant. Then there is the performances from our two leads, Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson, who both turn in some of their best work. As Jonze graces this film along, with Phoenix and Johansson shining, this sublimely original film will continue to make a haunting statement about connections in society.

4. Whiplash (2014) Whiplash-5547.cr2

Director: Damien Chazelle

Cast: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist, & Paul Reiser

Boasted by its two lead performances, Whiplash is a revealing look at the dangers and payoffs of artistic ambition. This is the film that displayed Damien Chazelle as a directorial force, from which he has since shown even more. But with this film Chazelle brought an intense physicality that is always looming over the presence of J.K. Simmons’, Fletcher. Then there is Tom Cross’ editing that takes the Jazz rhythms of the film to its soul, all the way through the climactic solo finale. Yet the film lives up to its title, as it throws you around with impunity, but its at the same time, that Chazelle brings a tight, exacting control through the obsessive life of Andrew.

3. Under the Skin (2014) under-the-skin

Director: Jonathan Glazer

Cast: Scarlett Johansson

Haunting yet absorbing, Under the Skin is one of the most essential sci-fi films of the last decade. With Under the Skin Jonathan Glazer brought a vision of enigmatic storytelling and nightmarish imagery, that forgoes exposition in favor of total sensory immersion. And when you mix that with the mesmerizing performance given by Scarlett Johansson, you are given a film of distressing beauty. Under the Skin in the end is a film that you’ll find yourself pondering for days after, as you are revealed the films look at mankind’s superficial view on beauty.

2. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) Inside-Llewyn-Davis..

Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen

Cast: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, & Adam Driver

Darkly funny and profoundly melancholic, Inside Llewyn Davis is the finest work in the Coen brothers filmography to date. This is a film with sly circularity in its story, and as well contains one of the great film soundtracks, as all the music is performed live. It’s a film that brings a phenomenal performance from Oscar Isaac, whose sad eyes and elegant finger-picking carry this film along. It’s a film that doesn’t really carry a plot, but instead carries a piercing, reminiscent sense of time and place and all the characters it contains.

1. Moonlight (2016) chiron

Director: Barry Jenkins

Cast: Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, André Holland, & Janelle Monáe

A look in the lives of the too rarely seen, Moonlight is the best film of the last five years. This is a film that is engrossingly personal, poetic, and as well an urgent social document. A hard look into the American reality that isn’t shown enough. It’s a poem written in the gorgeous saturated cinematography from James Laxton, the hauntingly mournful score from Nicholas Britell, and the vivid closeups from Barry Jenkins. Moonlight in its quietly radical grace, is a cultural watershed, it’s a series of intimate truths and a look at a life lived in the shadows.


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