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The Decades 30 Best Long Tail Films

Posted on Feb 1, 2010 by | 7 comments

Pretty much every movie related website on the Internet has come up with some sort of Best of the Decade list over the past month. But while the majority of them focused on straight up “Best of” lists featuring relatively well known films, I figured in the spirit of this website that I would instead focus on the lesser known films that have been made over the past ten years.

But one question I had to figure out was just how should I whittle down films as “Long Tail” films. Plenty of films started out as smaller films that eventually found their audience, while there is certainly a fair share of films that were initially given a wide release. So I decided I would use two different determining factors to help figure out which films would be considered part of the long tail.

The first is the amount of screens the film was released on during its theatrical run here in the US. I decided to go with a relatively small number of screens as the ceiling (100 at the films widest release) and that any film that broke that would simply be dismissed. This number essentially acts as the films initial chance to gain potential viewers. Films eliminated by this include The Proposition (158 screens), City of God (242 screens) and The Triplets of Bellville (463 screens).

Secondly I went off of reviews on Once again I selected a fairly small number of reviews as the ceiling (no more than 10K). This number reflects the film’s total audience, as the films that are more popular with mainstream audiences, or those that have rabid fan followings, typically break that number quite easily. Film eliminated by this number include such seemingly smaller films like Oldboy (28 screens, 87016 votes), Dead Man’s Shoes (2 screens, 16286 votes) and Let the Right One In (53 screens, 45413 votes).

While still far from a perfect system, this seemed to work pretty well in eliminating a fairly large chunk of lesser known films, making it a far more manageable task for me to select some of my favorites from what remained. One interesting note, this process seemed to favor documentaries as twelve ended up making the list. So while the quality of documentaries has grown throughout the decade, it still seems like the form still has a ways to go to capture the public’s attention.

And without further ado, I give you this decades 30 Best Long Tail Films.

30 – Grace (2 screens, 2091 votes, 2009)

29 – Ink (0 screens, 4465 votes, 2009)

28 – Shuttle (3 screens, 1231 votes, 2008)

27 – Noí (7 screens, 4281 votes, 2003)

26 – Outpost (0 screens, 5430 votes, 2008)

25 – Take Out (5 screens, 139 votes, 2004)

24 – Lost in La Mancha (24 screens, 5246 votes, 2002)


23 – The Dying Gaul (20 screens, 1595 votes, 2005)

22 – Bronson (4 screens, 4986 votes, 2008)

21 – Brand Upon the Brain (7 screens, 1190 votes, 2006)

20 – Duck Season (24 screens, 1939 votes, 2004)

19 – The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (63 screens, 1860 votes, 2003)

18 – The Hole Story (0 screens, 112 votes, 2005)

17 – House of the Devil (7 screens, 1854 votes, 2009)

16 – Not Quite Hollywood (6 screens, 1006 votes, 2008)

15 – Deliver Us From Evil (24 screens, 2627 votes, 2006)

14 – The Devil and Daniel Johnston (17 screens, 2814 votes, 2005)


13 – Sweet Land (47 screens, 1763 votes, 2005)

12 – Shotgun Stories (4 screens, 1591 votes, 2007)

11 – My Date With Drew (58 screens, 2822 votes, 2004)

10 – Murderball (97 screens, 5471 votes, 2005)

9 – The Baxter (47 screens, 2742 votes, 2005)

8 – Jesus Camp (52 screens, 8836 votes, 2006)

7 – Pontypool (1 screen, 2493 votes, 2008)

6 – The Cove (56 screens, 3197 votes, 2009)

5 – Lake of Fire (7 screens, 921 votes, 2006)

4 – Capturing the Friedmans (78 screens, 8870 votes, 2003)

3 – The Memory of a Killer (27 screens, 4618 votes, 2003)

2 – Red Road (11 screens, 4033 votes, 2006)

1 – 49 Up (18 screens, 983 votes, 2005)

Matt Gamble
I review movies. I run a movie theatre. I annoy people. I let my dogs lick my face whenever they want. Sometimes I'm even a halfway decent human.
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  1. Great idea for a list, no matter the math behind it. I’ve only seen nine of these and had never heard of four, leaving a solid 17 that I was aware of but either did not have access to or decided not to see. Those this is a great reminder to try and catch up with those (Red Road having sat in my Netflix queue for too long now). Funny how surprised I am that some of these are considered limited releases. I bet half of Sweet Land’s 47 screens were in Minnesota.

  2. Red Road really is an exceptional film and one not enough people have seen. I’d even say my entire top 5 are must see.

    I’m fairly certain Sweet Land didn’t play all that wide in MN. I know we consistently had people driving hundreds of miles throughout our run to see it.

    Glad you liked it Daniel. The idea had been bouncing around in my brain for a bit and I’m glad I finally got around to finishing it.

  3. What an awesomely unique list. I’m bookmarking this for reference. It should keep me occupied with movies to watch for a while.

  4. Glad you liked it Jon. Luckily most of the movies are relatively easy to track down, so hopefully you’ll be able to let me know what you think of them sooner rather than later.

  5. Hmmmm…being European, it’s hard for me to judge on the list properly, because I can’t really be fully aware of what could actually have been in it…but even at first (superficial) look, I am missing some of the films that were my favorites of the decade almost over (it’s not actually over yet :)), such as the Dardenne brothers’ ‘Le Fils’ (easily the most beautiful film I’ve ever seen) or Carlos Reygadas’ ‘Japon’, which I believe would fit your imposed criteria to be included on the list…moreover, some films, while I find them great, would have been replaced by another work of the same director in my book – ‘Bronson’ in particular is good, but not nearly as good as Refn’s previous piece of work, ‘Pusher II: With Blood on my Hands’, which is just stunning…
    However, some of the films are gems indeed, such as the ‘Red Road’ (I loved Arnold’s ‘Fish Tank’, but the performance by Tony Curran in this one still makes it somewhat closer to my heart, even tho it is an overall inferior film) or ‘Noi Albinoi’; There’s also quite a bit of those I haven’t seen before, and I will definitely be on the lookout for them 🙂

  6. Outstanding comment xavierkat!

    You’ve squarely hit on the biggest limitation of the list, as it relies on movies which I have actually seen. And being in America, it is simply far easier for me to track down US festival circuit films than it is to find smaller foreign films. Plus there are simply some films that didn’t make the cut because I just haven’t gotten around to them, The Pusher Trilogy being a perfect example.

    And while I make the claim these are “the best” of the decade, the true goal of this list was to just get people interested in some fairly obscure films that I love, and hopefully getting some people to list off some of their own favorite little gems that I might not have known about yet, which you’ve done in spades.

  7. Glad if I managed to inspire you as much as you did me 🙂 I am not much of a fan of lists, but am always on a lookout for those ‘out of the ordinary’, telling me something I don’t yet know…and you gave me a lot of work to do with this one 🙂

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