2019 is almost over and so comes to an end of what’s been a very strange decade for me. A lot has happened and changed in my life, and some of my favorite passions and past times were shelved while I was busy taking care of real-life business. This wasn’t my most ambitious decade of movie watching, but it was a pretty good decade in retrospect. So today I bring you my favorite movies of the decade.
50. Wind River (2017)
Directed By: Taylor Sheridan
Crime. Drama. Bad ass woman tracking down a raping murderer with Jeremy Renner as her back up. Well, there’s more to it than that, but it is one of the most entertaining and tight movies of the decade. Once again Jeremy Renner just shows up and is awesome, but this is an exciting, nail biting flick.
49. A Star is Born (2018)
Directed By: Bradley Cooper
I was reluctant to watch this because I knew exactly what it was about and was pretty sure it wasn’t going to be a happy ending. I knew the themes of addiction and depression were strong and frankly I have to prepare myself for that kind of viewing now. It was beautiful, brutal, and was wonderful. I don’t think I will ever watch it again, but everyone should watch it once.
48. Chronicle (2012)
Directed By: Josh Trank
This movie is fantastic, just amazing. It’s a completely different twist on the super hero, super natural, alien, science fiction genre and it features Michael B. Jordan who is amazing. This was original, exciting, and entertaining as hell.
47. It (2017)
Directed By: Andrés Muschietti
The score takes you on an eerie tour of Derry, the lovely East Coast town that looks about as pure and innocent as you can imagine. The horrors don’t always take place or in the dark, but in plain sight, in public even. There is no escaping “It”. With magnificent set designs, the score, and effects all working symbiotically you experience the full effect of what horror can do. This is a living nightmare and you are there experiencing it right with the kids.
46. The Raid: Redemption (2011)
Directed By: Gareth Evans
Easily one of the best action movies of the decade. For what it lacks in any real narrative after setting up the game-play (very similar to Dredd) it compensates by delivering some of the most awesome martial arts I’ve seen ever. It’s wildly entertaining and a ton of fun.
45. Room (2015)
Directed By: Lenny Abrahamson
One of the reasons I love streaming on Amazon Prime is because it has movies like this sitting there just asking me to watch them. I am not sure I will ever watch this again. I’m not sure I can. There are a lot of movies that are on this list because I loved them so much I can watch them an exponential amount of times and then there are movies like this that will impact me forever, and I’ll remember each scene as though it were just freshly watched but can’t watch it again. Lenny Abrahamson did an incredible job of creating the sense of being prisoner with Brie and Jacob, and showing the aftermath of something that traumatic.
44. Raw (2016)
Directed By: Julia Ducournau
Raw received some pretty extreme responses to what was advertised as extra grotesque business. This left me expecting shock and very little in the plot or character development department. I was delightfully ill-informed. I perversely embraced it as a darkly humorous coming of age allegory. This gets better on repeat viewings.
43. Hell or High Water (2016)
Directed By: David Mackenzie
This movie is powered by great performances. It’s essentially a heist film interrupted by Ben Foster playing a maniac. (Please, can we give this mad ginger more love?) Jeff Bridges is exceptional, and this reminds me why I WANT to like Chris Pine. All players are fantastic, and the direction of David Mackenzie does a sublime job of playing devils advocate. The screenplay is wonderful and written by Taylor Sheridon who wrote two of my other favorite movies of the decade. (Sicario and Wind River)
42. Horrible Bosses (2011)
Directed By: Seth Gordon
This gets funnier every time I watch it. I was skeptical, as I am of any movie people tend to claim is the funniest movie they’ve seen in whatever timeline. Comedies have been the biggest disappointment to me over the past few decades, but every now and again one gets it right and Horrible Bosses gets it absolutely right, because it’s absolutely wrong. Charlie Day and Colin Farrell steal the show for me, but this flick is littered with great performances.
41. Blue Ruin (2013)
Directed By: Jeremy Saulnier
This is an unsuspecting vengeance movie fully embracing the concept of vigilante justice. You recognize very quickly this isn’t your typical brand of movie and you aren’t going to have all the happy endings or closure you desire. It roots itself in a realm of realism and our protagonist plight is one we are rooting for. It’s a trip. Jeremy Saulnier makes movies worth watching.
40. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
This doesn’t stand out as one of my favorite Scorsese films, but even a lesser Scorsese is still better than….well most other films. This film is gorgeous to look at and the performances of DiCaprio, McConaughey (even though brief), and Margot Robbie are well worth the entertainment and this is effortlessly entertaining. Another film that benefits from re-watch even with the lengthy.
39. The Nice Guys (2016)
Directed By: Shane Black
I’m going to have to rectify my Ryan Gosling dislike and see more of his movies I’ve ignored over the last several years, because he is on my list more than any other actors. Can’t stand him, but he makes good movies. This is a wonderful mix of Shane Black’s off kilter humor with a gritty action palate featuring a magnificent Russell Crowe. I belly laughed multiple times.
38. The Martian (2015)
Directed By: Ridley Scott
I know a lot of people will have Interstellar or Gravity on their lists, but they aren’t on mine. I do have “The Martian” starring Matt Damon. Most of the movie is Matt Damon alone and stuck on Mars trying to survive and it is exceptionally entertaining and a wonderful reminder that Ridley Scott can still make utterly fantastic movies that are also gorgeous. I could watch this on repeat.
37. Ex Machina (2014)
Directed By: Alex Garland
There are a lot of movies that feature A.I. and almost all of them are cautionary tales. In that box Ex Machina fits, but it sets itself aside from other films of it’s kind. There actually aren’t any films like this. Screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later) makes his directorial debut here and makes his vision realized. It’s cerebral, visceral and also commands a dark sense of intimacy. The ending has it’s problems, but getting there is really the most enjoyable aspect anyway.
36. Atomic Blonde (2017)
Directed By: David Leitch
Not a ton of love for this, which baffles me. It doesn’t necessarily break any new ground and is mostly style over substance. It tries to be super clever, but it’s really not necessary. Charlize Theron and David Leitch’s incredible practical effects with an exciting 80’s inspired soundtrack in the background make this movie a ton of fun. Also, I had no idea James McAvoy was Tyler Durden, but unfortunately I can’t talk about it.
35. The Disaster Artist (2017)
Directed By: James Franco
This shouldn’t be on this list. In fact, it shouldn’t be a movie and yet it not only exists but it’s absolutely amazing. The strange phenomenon that is “The Room” and Tommy Wiseau has clearly interested more people than just me and a few other weirdo’s. My obsession with “The Room” goes deep and “The Disaster Artist” only furthers my curiosity.
34. Toy Story 4 (2019)
Directed By: Josh Cooley
Toy Story 3 might get more love and affection and in fairness Toy Story 4 only “just” came out, but I actually experienced real closure from this wonderful series. 3 was great and it aged with Andy, but 4 closed the chapter on “this story”. I saw it with my 3 boys ranging in ages 3-16 and all of us were in tears. Absolutely beautiful. Pixar still knows it’s business.
33. Spiderman Into The Spiderverse (2018)
Directed By: Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti, and Rodney Rothman
What a delightful escape from the rest of the “Spiderverse”. I watched this by myself and was shocked to find it so incredibly enjoyable. Easily one of the best animated gigs of the decade and certainly one of the best additions into the “super hero” verse.
32. Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Directed By: Justin Lin
This is not the best Star Trek film or most ground breaking, but it may be the most fun and it was needed after “Into The Darkness”, which was….well dark. Beyond was exciting, it was fun and it allowed all of our actors to shine and remind us why this reboot is so good, and it truly boils down to the casting. I’m ready for more Star Trek in this new decade, but it’s going to be hard to live up to this level of entertainment. Live long, and prosper.
31. Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
Directed By: Martin McDonagh
I will watch anything with Sam Rockwell in it and I will watch any movie made by Martin McDonagh. As a bonus we are rewarded with an absolutely stellar performance by Frances McDormand who is, as usual, incredible. I haven’t re-watched since my initial viewing, but just thinking about it want to again. It’s worthwhile and simultaneously entertaining.
30. Blue Valentine (2010)
Directed By: Derek Cianfrance
This movie is brutal. It is one of the most honest interpretations of a relationship I’ve seen in a film. Where Gone Girl takes it’s allegory into the land of hyperbole Blue Valentine does the opposite. It roots itself into a very average any American couple that’s crumbling apart. We see the why and how they fell in love and frankly how they were probably doomed from the start. It’s a hard watch, but it’s a good one. And another scenario where I overcome my dislike of Ryan Gosling.
29. The Handmaiden (2016)
Directed By: Park Chan-wook
Park Chan-wook did not let me down in this erotically charged thriller that was both beautiful and haunting. The story you are presented seems fascinating on it’s own, but you always have the sense that there is something more going on that you aren’t understanding. That’s a grave understatement. Each moment is worth basking in and when it concludes you realize you’ve just taken part in a well choreographed dance of perversion masked in something beautiful. It’s not as harsh as some of his other movies, but it’s impact is just as potent.
28. A Quiet Place (2018)
Directed By: John Krasinski
I do enjoy the horror genre, but not unlike comedy it tends to let you down in terms of original concepts and delivery. So much feels contrived, forced, and built for cheap thrills, but that is the opposite of “A Quiet Place”. The family that’s managed to survive in a monstrosity of a world. It doesn’t run too long, monster reveals come at the right time, and character development has you invested in this family, who also aren’t dumb. They have survived because they were smart enough, and tough enough to. But of course all things come with a price.
27. Seven Psychopaths (2012)
Directed By: Martin McDonagh
Martin McDonagh is one of my favorite current filmmakers. In Bruges was the first movie of his that I saw and I tuned into Seven Psychopaths for the cast alone. Sam Rockwell is out of his mind and delightful with a Chris Walken we all didn’t even know we needed. None of the characters are particularly likable and that’s part of what makes this so delicious. Bonus: We get some very over the top Woody Harrelson that I prefer over Tallahassee any day.
26. The Social Network (2010)
Directed By: David Fincher
There is a reason a movie about a well hated man’s tale to riches and power is so revered. David Fincher can make movies like no one else on the planet. The funny thing is it’s one of my least favorite Fincher movies and it still breaks this low on my list, because it’s that good. It’s a brilliantly orchestrated ballet of vision, music, and understanding that stillness sometimes says a lot more than dialogue. Fincher is a renowned perfectionist, but when these are the results who can argue with his methods?
25. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Directed By: Gareth Edwards
Rogue One is the only Star Wars movie on my list and in spite of really enjoying “The Last Jedi” and even “Solo”, but Rogue One stands on it’s own. Part of what makes it great is that essentially at it’s bare bones it’s a heist movie and everyone is “doomed”. It stands as a singular film and certainly remains utterly bleak, but it is also wildly entertaining and gains traction on repeat viewings, which is where I came to truly appreciate it’s vision. This is a great addition to not just the SW verse, but science fiction.
24. Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017)
Directed By: Jake Kasdan
I really, really wanted to hate this movie. Equally because my nostalgia for the first, but also my love of Robin Williams, BUT I was wrong. This was one of the best famiy movies of the decade. It was really a sequel, but built it’s own world and still kept the childhood spirit alive. AND IT’S HILARIOUS. I laughed more at this than most of the comedies I’ve seen this decade. Mix that with solid effects and “The Rock” and I even bought a physical copy of it to own.
23. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Directed By: David O. Russell
I suppose I have a penchant for David O. Russell’s affection for off balance characters who aren’t exactly the type you’d typically root for. Couple that with questionable scenario’s and a bizarre use of music to fuel his story telling engines and it somehow works. Silver Linings Playbook does it best with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in their awkward and slightly manic love affair. In spite of all of that, there’s something organically sweet about this movie, almost uplifting. Plus, funny.
22. Green Room (2015)
Directed By: Jeremy Saulnier
This is so good. So good. From start to finish Green Room is pure and simply brutal. Yes, there is some gore and graphic violence you can’t escape, but that’s the intention. This is not about glorifying it, it is using the violence as a tool. There are no heroes, only people trying desperately to survive. Anton Yelchin is just phenomenal in it as well. Unlike Blue Ruin where I’m so twisted at the end I’m not sure I can watch it again, Green Room is great upon re-watches.
21. The Equalizer (2014)
Directed By: Antoine Fuqua
This movie was FUN. Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington have a fantastic working relationship and make great movies together, but this kind of came out of left field. It’s a pretty cut and dry plot, with Denzel killing a lot of badguys, particularly in fun ways at the end. Once again, the age of our action star isn’t brushed over. It’s acknowledged and worked into the plot. Another great “R” rated action movie. One of the great straight revenge flicks of the decade.
20. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow
It would be strange for me to have a list like this over the span of a decade without a Kathryn Bigelow movie. Zero Dark Thirty is tense, riveting, and driven by a lot of great performances, but mostly the power of Jessica Chastain. Bigelow fully understands when action and explosions are necessary and when it’s time to let the narrative develop itself. There are no cheap thrills or tricks. It’s gritty and the sense of voyeurism she creates in her movies is second to none. Even here, you know the ending and it still turns your insides.
“I’m the mother fucker that found this place. Sir.”
19. Looper (2012)
Directed By: Rian Johnson
This decade has solidified me as a fan of Rian Johnson. He’s not afraid to make bold and risky choices as a director and it worked to his advantage in Looper. We’re talking time paradoxes with Bruce Willis and JoGo. What’s not to love? This is a gem more people need to see. If you like time travel movies, even more so. One of the best Sci-Fi movies of the decade.
18. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Directed By: Dan Trachtenberg
This was not what I expected. It was a mini horror movie wrapped within another horror movie that begged the question about which monsters were really worse. Ultimately you can answer that question for yourself by the end of this film, but it’s terrifying in it’s own oppressive way. John Goodman is absolutely insane. He’s always good, but he’s at his best here. If you haven’t, it’s worth your time and no shaky found footage business.
17. The Hateful 8 (2015)
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Most Tarantino movies benefit from repeat viewings because there is so much going on and so much dialogue that you may miss. Little details of performances and nuances from the actors you didn’t catch the first or second viewing because you were so wrapped up in tension, violence or action. There is a constant friction he develops that has layers upon layers of story that exist strictly through dialogue and the work he allows his actors to do. Hateful 8 gets better each viewing. Walton Goggins is one of the reasons it’s worth watching over and over again. He’s incredible.
16. We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)
Directed By: Lynne Ramsey
I still don’t know how more people haven’t seen this movie, especially considering the current state of our nation in regards to mental illness and school shootings. Tilda Swinton gives what may be her best performance (of course you could say that about almost anything she’s done) as a mother of what seems to be an evil child. The burden she carries as a mother trying to love and connect to her child, while also facing the consequences of his vileness is difficult to watch, particularly as a mother. It’s not an enjoyable watch and left me feeling ill for days. Just shut up and watch this if you haven’t. And don’t wait another decade.
15. Christine (2016)
Directed By: Antonio Campos
Another movie that it’s difficult to understand why it hasn’t gained more momentum. Rebecca Hall’s performance as the aspiring newscaster “Christine” is one of the most incredible depictions of depression, anxiety, and social alienation I’ve seen in the form of fiction. Her ambition and the story itself are good, but this is worth watching for Rebecca Hall on it’s own. Riveting is a vast understatement.
14. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Directed By: James Gunn
Yes, Endgame was one of the most entertaining movies of the decade without question, but Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the most entertaining movies I’ve ever seen. It never stops to catch itself. It is a non-stop adventure of humor, action, and wonderful character interaction. The chemistry between everyone is so natural it had to be second nature to work together. The music was it’s own hero to the story, and for frigs sake it is just so much bloody fun.
13. Annihilation (2018)
Directed By: Alex Garland
Annihilation achieves so much. This film blends the themes of science fiction, action and horror while it simultaneously delves into relationships, love, and mental health. It ultimately begs a ton of existential questions through a series of stunning visuals, incredible performances, notably by Natalie Portman and a strong supporting cast. Annihilation is ultimately an experience. A unique one, that hopefully you walk away from with more questions than answers. I really dig Alex Garland.
12. Arrival (2016)
Directed By: Denis Villeneuve
I made the mistake of watching this right after my third son was born. I thought it was nothing but an alien science fiction movie and I was wrong. Amy Adam’s is so quiet and so subtle and so strong in this. Jeremy Renner displays all the reasons we love him. This is a cerebral story, but it isn’t just about the nature of man, communicating with an alien race, it’s about the love of a mother. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard watching a movie in my life. Denis Villeneuve makes beautiful movies with heart and depth.
11. Shame (2011)
Directed By: Steve McQueen
I have to believe the reason this hasn’t gained more traction is because the subject matter and it’s vulnerability makes people uncomfortable. It’s supposed to. Fassbender plays it pretty low key at first until we see his addiction start to unravel. People don’t want to talk about sex and porn addiction. Mostly people don’t want to see it, but it’s everywhere we turn. “Shame” shoves the dirty little secret no one is keeping right in your face. It’s absolutely brilliant.
10. Deadpool (2016)
Directed By: Tim Miller
You aren’t going to find a ton of Marvel, DC or super hero movies in general on my list. This was the decade of Marvel. I acknowledge that, but only a few of their movies made my favorite list. Deadpool broke away from what everyone else was doing in this genre and became a force all of it’s own. As much as the comedy works and Ryan Reynold’s is at his best here, the action, the story and all the other goodies are on point too. It’s totally bizarre and yet a genuinely solid movie. Also, it’s the hardest I have laughed at a movie since probably Grandma’s Boy.
9. Jack Reacher (2012)
Directed By: Christopher McQuarrie
Jack Reacher was based on the novel “One Shot” by Lee Child and his entire series featuring Reacher. Tom Cruise was cast in the lead role. At about a foot too short, and far too generically handsome he’s still absolutely perfect. This movie hits all the right action beats, but also fully embraces the mystery and crime aspects and gives much needed comic relief with the many one-liners that Cruise delivers as though he were born to. The physicality of each action sequence is some of the most fun to watch since the first few Bourne movies. All of Reacher’s moves feel absolutely plausible for a guy capable and Cruise’s age. Add to all of that a fantastic cast, most notably Werner Herzog and Rosamund Pike.
8. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Yes. I assure you I was skeptical about this venture and delighted to be horridly wrong. If you didn’t see it in theatre you missed out on a lot. The sound is incredible and the visuals range from gritty to ethereal. This is everything I didn’t know I wanted or needed to take the next step of Blade Runner. And once again Ryan Gosling didn’t bother me with his dazed and blank looking stares. It worked here. Harrison Ford showing up much later in the story was the right choice. Even if you figure out the reveal at the end, it doesn’t change the distance this beautiful story travels.
7. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Not a big shock to see two Tarantino movies in my top 20. I’m biased and unapologetic about it. I dig him and his style and Once Upon A Time is all about style. It’s about dialogue and it takes it’s time embracing and chewing on the scenery which immediately connects you as an audience. There were a lot of yelps that some of the scenes ran long because of this, but that’s what I dug about it. There’s less action, violence, and page turning events than most of his other films, but that also kept you on edge waiting for an inevitable moment of shock and awe. Time will tell how it ages, but as it sits now it’s utterly phenomenal and easily one of the best of the decade.
6. Dredd (2012)
Directed By: Pete Travis
Karl Urban is the man. Some of us have known it since he was Eomer is LOTR, but as Dredd and wearing the mask and not his ego was just another example of why we all love him. Even his brilliant performance as Dredd is secondary to the most explosive visual experience of the decade, combined with a sound that violates your ears in the most incredible way. It came out the same year as “Raid” a movie that also deserves a spot on this list featuring some of the best martial arts I’ve seen in a movie, maybe ever. They are similar in structure, but nothing alike in style. Also, Lena Headey is a bad guy. A really fun, wicked bad guy. Non-stop tension from start to finish.
5. John Wick (2014)
Directed By: Chad Stahelski
I stumbled on this when it was streaming based on my love for action movies and Keanu Reeves. I didn’t really have any expectations, and I was blown away by what I’d seen. This was one of the best straight revenge/action flicks I’d ever had the pleasure of enjoying. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one who felt this way as the sequels have been fantastic as well (either Chapter 2 or 3 rightfully have a place on this list as well, but I am picking 1 as the representative). The martial arts and fight sequences are pure joy for me as an action fan. The reloading of guns, using whatever is lying around as a weapon, and the basic physicality of the fights was so much fun. The soundtrack is great and the hues make you feel like you’ve stepped into a slightly different dimension of New York. Absolutely outstanding.
4. Captain Fantastic (2016)
Directed By: Matt Ross
This is a movie everyone should watch. EVERYONE. There isn’t a single person that couldn’t benefit from this story or enjoy it in some form or another. It begins as a bittersweet story about a family that’s confronted by a modern society they’ve had the fortunate upbringing of avoiding after the loss of their mother. As they explore what they’ve “missed” it becomes clear that everyone could learn a little from each other. If the end doesn’t leave you with a sincere smile then you have no soul and should go swim in lava. Now. Go.
3. Bone Tomahawk (2015)
Directed By: S. Craig Zahler
I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced as much tension in a film as I have in Bone Tomahawk. We watched it because we love Kurt Russell and had no idea what we were getting into. You think you’re getting into a typical western, but it’s really a horror movie disguised as a western. The violence and gore aren’t present consistently throughout, but when it hits, it hits hard. S. Craig Zahler followed up with two more films that were almost in equal measure in terms of tension and brutality. Most exciting filmmaker since Tarantino started making his own movies, but definitely the most exciting “newb” of the decade.
2. Gone Girl (2014)
Directed By: David Fincher
It’s no secret that David Fincher is my favorite director, but I was not enthused about Ben Affleck starring in one of his movies. I was so completely wrong. From the way this film is shot, to the subtle ways Fincher allows a mystery to unfold with this cast that just nails everything they are given, this movie will likely live in my favorites of all time. As uncomfortable as it may make people (that’s kind of the point) it’s a social commentary on how dysfunctional the modern-day marriage and relationships are is ever-present. I read the book two times over after watching the movie and am completely obsessed with it. Rosamund Pike is titillating and one of our most underrated actresses of not just this decade, but of any.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Directed By: George Miller
Easily one of the most impressive movies I’ve seen. Ever. Straight action, minimal dialogue, passionate, dystopian world, and utter madness. All shiny and chrome. Few movies look this incredible and are equally as entertaining. The entire movie is an extended chase sequence and you are guaranteed to be on the edge of your seat. It’s absolutely everything I’ve dreamed and desired out of this brand of movie. And Charlize Theron as Furyosa is everything. This is my favorite movie of the decade.
Honorable Mentions Of The Decade: Mary Poppins Returns, Toy Story 3, 13 Hours, Side Effects, 21 Jump Street, Sicario, Get Out, Overlord, and Detroit.
God Fury Road was such an incredible experience and I rememember seeing it on opening night and realising about halfway through that my jaw was killing me from just smiling so much!
The real downside to making these lists is realising that Wikipedia cuts out all the foreign cinema from thier movie years unless it made a major impact so you potentially forget about titles like “The Night Comes For Us”. This is a great list though especially as not having to wade through a ton of arthouse movies that I have zero intention of watching 🙂
“The Night Comes For Us” was so good!
You are absolutely right though. There’s going to be a lot I’m going to realize I forgot, missed (some I haven’t seen), and I always question putting movies on a list like this that have only been out a year or so. Time is the ultimate test of any movie, and while I can be confident in my affection for movies like “Once Upon A Time” it still might be “better” or “worse” in 5-10 years.
I don’t have anything personal against arthouse flicks. I enjoy watching them from time to time, but it’s not my bag and they are typically movies I force myself to watch because I feel like I have to. Sometimes I’m happy I did, but usually I walk away going………so that was just fine. That’s also why I made this a favorite list and not best. But Mad Max would still be #1!
Thank you for taking the time to read and your feedback! 🙂
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You’ve reminded me to watch Bone Tomahawk. I liked Zahler’s two other films. We Need To Talk About Kevin, Wolf of Wall Street , and a few of the others would be on my own best of the 2010s list
Zahler is absolutely amazing!