The MoFo Top 100 of the 2010s Countdown

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277 points, 14 lists
The Tree of Life

Terrence Malick, 2011


Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken


The Tree of Life - Dissatisfied by the look of modern computer generated visual effects, director Terrence Malick approached veteran special effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull, who was responsible for the visual effects in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), to create the visual effects for the film using bygone optical and practical methods. This marks the first feature film Trumbull has provided the effects for in 29 years, his last being Blade Runner (1982).

The Tree of Life kicks off the Top Ten here and was #62 on both the MoFo Top 100 of the Millennium and the MoFo All-Time Top 100 Refresh.
"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra

MoFo Reviewers

The Tree of Life is the work of someone who is setting out to discover and explore, and only Malick could have created such a monumental piece of cinema. This is Terrence Malick at his very purest. A seemingly evanescent piece of filmmaking that truly had a lasting impression on me. It’s been weeks since I’ve seen it, yet the images still play out in my mind as if I had just finished watching it. The Tree of Life is a lasting piece of art, that won’t likely be forgotten any time soon. Malick, along with very few others, are pushing cinema to new heights, all the while creating something truly personal and special.
Read the full review here.

Well, I haven't seen Tree of Life, so no vote from me.

Of the near misses, Mandy was my #6 and The Babadook was my #8. Looking at my list again, I'm noting that a lot of these, especially toward the top of my list, are films I originally saw in the theater. It sort of makes me wonder if streaming, while a benefit in allowing me to see more movies, more easily, has diminished the experience too much. In any event, Mandy was probably my second favorite theater experience of the '10s (my favorite is coming up), and The Babadook pretty well captured a lot of my new parent fears (my son was 2 when I saw it).

I watched The Tree of Life for the 21st Hall of Fame. I found it really gorgeous but excruciatingly boring. The fact that I'm an atheist didn't exactly make its themes appealing to me either. I never considered watching it again, nevermind voting for it. I'm glad to see it appear today though, because it means the two of mine that will show in the top ten are at least one place higher.

Seen: 54/91
My Ballot:
6. The Skin I Live In (#127, Near Miss)
7. Joker (#60)
8. Django Unchained (#27)
9. The Wolf of Wall Street (#11)
10. You Were Never Really Here (#120, Near Miss)
11. The Man From Nowhere (#95)
14. Inside Out (#59)
20. Jojo Rabbit (#89)
24. Call Me By Your Name (#102, Near Miss)
25. Kitbull (One Pointer)

Reviews in My 2010s Countdown Preparation Thread

My Review For The Tree of Life:

The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)

Date Watched:01/29/2020
Cinema or Home: Home
Reason For Watching: 21st MoFo Hall of Fame, nominated by ahwell
Rewatch: No.

Although there's no denying that The Tree of Life is a visually beautiful movie, I spent nearly the entirety of the film being utterly bored by it.

Granted, my atheism doesn't exactly predispose me to enjoying a film that ruminates on the concepts of faith and the origins of humanity (though at some points I contemplated prayer - or rather I nearly prayed for the film to end) but the way it is constructed was just a huge turn-off for me. By the time the overly long Discovery Channel-esque footage of volcanic activity, the oceans, and dinosaurs finally ended, that tiny window of opportunity the film had to make me give a **** had closed and I had mentally checked out. Though I was at least thankful for the lack of people in monkey suits screeching and banging on rocks (a la 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I also found incredibly dull).

But the clash between the film's take on God and my own aside, when what passes for a story did begin to unfold I again found myself repelled and unable to connect. I found each of the film's primary characters to be unlikeable, but not even enough so for me to be invested in wanting to see their failures. I was completely apathetic to it and the only emotion The Tree of Life managed to stir in me was annoyance.

I still have one other first-time watch to get through, but I'd say that this is a pretty strong contender for my least favorite film of this Hall of Fame. Oh well, I suppose it could be worse. I mean, at least it's not a musical.


The Tree of Life is another film that I saw on a plane zzz.. zzz.. and therefore really needs a re-watch. However I can reveal that Malick's Days of Heaven is one of the latest additions to the new and improved version of my all time/all genres top 250.

Terry Malick's mighty masterpiece The Tree of Life was way up high on my ballot, my second overall choice, netting twenty-four of its 277 points. What more is there to say about this singular film that hasn't been said in the dozen years since its release? Malick was already the acknowledged Poet Laureate of cinema but Tree of Life was his most personal film, almost completely abandoning narrative and convention to gift us impressionistic moments of childhood memories turned to adult regret and loss interspersed with the magnificent beauty of the natural and the imagined universe. And he somehow magically made it all land with emotional resonance. Of course it is almost unspeakable beautiful, shot by master cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Talk about "every frame a painting". Yowza.

Thought it might land even higher here at MoFo, but tenth is certainly respectable.

2. The Tree of Life (#10)
4. Incendies (#30)
5. Take Shelter (#67)
6. The Artist (#87)
8. Silence (#43)
9. Birdman (#21)
10. The Revenant (#53)
11. The Favourite (#61)
13. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (DNP)
14. Nightcrawler (#55)
15. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (#72)
17. The Wolf of Wall Street (#11)
19. Silver Linings Playbook (#24)
21. Room (#97)
22. True Grit (#40)
24. Get Out (#19)

A system of cells interlinked
Not only have I not seen Tree of Life, having seen all of Malick's other previous work, but I didn't realize it was shot by El Chivo. This makes it a must watch for me. I won't get it in this month, as I am cramming 2022 pictures in preparation for the MoFo Oscar chat. Perhaps I get to it in March...
"There’s absolutely no doubt you can be slightly better tomorrow than you are today." - JBP

The Tree of Life was #1 on my ballot and is also my 4th favorite film of all time, making me perhaps the biggest fan of the film on this forum. I thought about what to say about the film when this countdown first started, because I've never written a formal review of it anywhere for some reason. I suppose the first thing I'd say about it is, for all those who may throw around the word pretentious in this thread, the opening five minutes with the book of Job quote and the nature v. grace monologue tell you all there is to know about what the film means. While I was concerned with being able to understand film intellectually in the past though, I'm more interested in understanding a film emotionally these days. Fortunately, this film excels in both ways. Whether you're referring to the gorgeous cinematography (particularly during the cosmos scenes, which were made with practical effects) or the editing of the film since so much of it feels like a big montage, it contains a lot to be blown away by. I think the best way to summarize this film's greatness though is that it's the kind of film which can only exist in one medium [film] and can't be properly recreated elsewhere. As Kubrick said, "A film is - or should be - more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what's behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later." For instance, while Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey is pretty good, it doesn't capture the operatic tone of Kubrick's masterpiece and is far less acclaimed than it as a result. The same could apply for this film. Many films have clear narrative progression which could easily be recreated in other formats, but while this film obviously follows a storyline, to say it's reliant on the story or plot would be completely reductive to the film. Terrence Malick is a visual poet and this film is easily his magnum opus which best represents his talents. The various montages, the framing of the shots, the various edits between scenes...this is the kind of film that's made for the screen. That the greatness of this film could not be recreated in a different medium is why it's a masterpiece.

1. The Tree of Life (#10)
2. Holy Motors (#51)
4. Moonlight (#62)
5. The Florida Project (#14)
6. Inside Llewyn Davis (#22)
8. Arrival (#12)
10. Burning (#35)
11. A Ghost Story (near miss #119)
12. Take Shelter (#67)
13. Certified Copy (#84)
14. Under the Skin (#54)
20. A Separation (#90)
21. It's Such a Beautiful Day (#16)
23. Hereditary (#96)

Tree of Life is a beautiful film, with an impactful story to tell. I certainly enjoyed it more than many of it's nature but have never been drawn to rewatch it in the decade since.
Yeah, there's no body mutilation in it

Subtle Slayer of Normies
Wait, it's only one at a time now? Come ooooon!!!

The Tree of Life was 18th on my list. It's one of the most divisive, love-it-or-hate-it films I can think of. Both cinephiles and Sunday movie watchers are equally prone to love it or hate it, making it an intriguing barometer of somebody's cinematic preferences. I first saw it on January 26, 2012, and didn't like it. However, something pushed me into rewatching it almost exactly one year later, on January 25, 2013, As far as flashy goes, I think Lubezki's work here is a fair contender for the "best flashy cinematography ever" award. But then again, he's got tough competition (I Am Cuba!!!). I loved every film Malick made after The Tree of Life. My mom loved them, too, and we watch them all together. I just realized it's been 10 years since I last watched it. Wow, time sure flies. Also, that may be why I placed it as only 18th. It gave way to some other masterful films I watched more recently. (Though in this case, 'more recently' means 'more recently than 10 years ago'!!!)

I don't think I ever wrote extensively on The Tree of Life, but here's a post from 2021 on Malick:

It's fine if you don't feel Terrence Malick's movies on a transcendental level, do not agree with his views on faith, or find his obsession with Heidegger annoying, but there are at least two reasons why Malick deserves to be considered a great director and an auteur even if one personally hates him:
  • Malick has an eye for visuals; does not matter if Lubezki is his DP or not, Malick's films are always visually pleasing and aesthetically fulfilled,
  • Malick has a singular vision of the kind of cinema he wants to make and follows this vision very well. It's fine to debate whether this vision produces good movies but it's hard not to notice his auteur style when watching his films in succession. This is especially true about The Tree of Life and everything that came after it up to A Hidden Life.
With The Tree of Life making it into the countdown, there's no way any other film on my list will make it. I could just post my list right now. But I will be a good Christian girl and wait until the countdown ends.
Love and purity are the most important things in life.

The Tree of Life was certainly an interesting watch. Very meditative and reflective with some really powerful visuals and scenes. I liked it quite a bit, but I don't think it resonated with me as much as other people.

Here's where I'm at, including the chances for the rest of my list...

Seen: 69/91

My ballot:  

Big percentage adjustment, lol
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No surprise to see it this high but the opening minutes of The Tree Of Life kinda kill it for me in terms of ever being able to say I like the fillum, which is a shame as what follows is decent enough. Those minutes also kill any desire I might ever have to rewatch it which means this is one opinion that will never change.

Oh yeah, forgot to say, it didn't make my ballot.


terrible, 0/5, not enough puppies.

For what it's worth, The Tree of Life has one of the 5 lowest IMDb scores of the countdown so far...

The Witch - 6.9
The Tree of Life - 6.8
It Follows - 6.8
Under the Skin - 6.3
Spring Breakers - 5.3

I had The Tree of Life on my list. I haven't watched it for a while but it's another one of those films that stays with you both on a visual level and emotional...or perhaps the experience of watching it? I don't know. But it's cinema!

3. The Act of Killing (2012)
4. Holy Motors (2012)
6. Shoplifters (2018)
8. Under the Skin (2014)
9. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
11. The Master (2012)
12. Joker (2019)
13. The Tree of Life (2011)
14. The Turin Horse (2011)
16. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
17. Birdman (2014)
18. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
19. It's Such a Beautiful Day (2012)
22. Moonlight (2016)
"Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."