(This article is part of our Best of the Decade series.)
So I had a list of like 50 favorite films of the 2010s. Maybe more than that. Probably more than that. But the shtick is ’10 Favorite Films,’ not 50 or 100 or whatever and so I agonized. Cut each year down by half or more. Worried that I needed more dramas, or comedies or whatever. Wondered if I should be picking ‘important’ films or films with a message.
And then I realized that I’m a guy who counts Shock Waves among my favorite films of all time and perhaps the ‘film student’ look wasn’t one that I could legit aspire to.
So instead I started looking just at the films I enjoyed the most. The movies I walked out of the theater still talking about or thinking about or emulating in the parking lot like I had superpowers (and was still 8 years old). The movies that made me lose myself in another world or setting or time for a few hours. The movies that made me fall in love, be afraid, punch the air with my fist and cry in the dark silently hoping no one would notice.
And it was still more than 10, dammit.
And this site has deadlines. And rabid weasels that tear your flesh if you miss them.
So I picked 10 films that jumped out at me, knowing that at any given time I’d pick another 10. I just like my flesh weasel free.
These are my 10 favorite films of the 2010’s at the time I had to have this list done, by year of release. Are they the same 10 favorite films I’d pick now? Probably not. But maybe tomorrow.
The Avengers (2012)
The first of 4 Marvel property films on my list (you may begin the hour of hate below) this one is riding purely on the feeling I got from seeing all of these characters together on screen. Characters I’d been reading about, dreaming about and trying to draw since I was like 7 years old were suddenly bigger than life and fighting to save the world at my local movie theater. It’s not the best Marvel film, it’s not even my favorite for any of the characters – but it made the dreams of my young self come true and for that alone I gotta give it a spot.
If I’m honest I was never that much of a Judge Dredd fan. I liked Brian Bolland, and it’s his run on the classic 2000 AD comic that I’m most familiar with. Pete Travis and Alex Garland’s film isn’t much like any of the Dredd stories I remember reading, and at the same time feels exactly like any of them – managing to somehow capture the feel of the comics without focusing on any particular plot-line. A character study in violence, Dredd cemented Karl Urban as a favorite genre actor. Okay, my favorite genre actor.
Pacific Rim (2013)
Look, I know, okay, I know it’s dumb. It’s big, loud, stupid and full of some of the most excruciating dialogue and hack character beats… but god help me, I love this film. It’s got giant mechs fighting giant monsters and there’s a mech with a nuclear reactor for a head and then this one mech hits a monster with an oil tanker and there’s a sword and kung fu and… and… It’s just fun. Get some cardboard tubes and beat the crap out of your friends in the backyard pretending to be mechs and monsters fun.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
If I had to pick one Marvel film to keep out of the… geez, how many were there this past decade? Anyway, if I could only pick one it would be this one. It’s not even the best film in the Marvel stable, but… I’m a sucker for the disparate group of losers get together trope, and this movie has the best bunch of lovable losers ever. If I was 7 when I saw this instead of… uh, not 7… then it would be my Star Wars. Instead it’s just my Guardians of the Galaxy, which is still pretty great.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Cap has never been my favorite character – that’s more my brother Jeff’s thing. I was always more into Iron Man and the Hulk, growing up. I did like Chris Evans as the character in First Avenger, but that film didn’t do much for me. Then came Winter Soldier and I suddenly remembered afternoons watching spy films like 3 Days of the Condor. It’s got great action, a good plot, and some of the best character moments in any of the Marvel films. I might pick Guardians as my film to keep, but Winter Soldier is my pick as the absolute best of them. If I’m showing a Marvel film to anyone who hasn’t seen any? This is the one I choose.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
I grew up watching Mad Max. In particular I’ve seen The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome dozens of times. And I could not imagine anyone playing Max Rockatansky but Mel Gibson. By the end of Fury Road I couldn’t imagine anyone but Tom Hardy. The most purely action Action movie I’ve ever seen, it also has characters that are perfectly rendered in the most economical of strokes. It’s a film that always comes to mind when people ask about a perfect movie. Fury Road is perfect. And where is that Furiosa movie?!
The Witch (2015)
I watch a lot of bad horror movies. There’s just something about the genre that lends itself to cheaply made dreck and so I tend to grade them on a curve. (And with the knowledge that it’s an acquired taste that leads to liking some things that other people will gag at. I’m looking at you, Dead Alive.) Every year brings us some good ones, though, and a few from the last decade that could have shown up in this list – Hereditary, The Babbadook, It Follows. None of them gave me the creeping sense of existential dread that Robert Eggers’ The Witch did, though. The ending let me down a tiny bit, but up until then I was leaning in, holding my breath, dreading and loving every moment.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
The one Star Wars film of the last decade – hell, the last 30 years – that I’m always happy to watch again. I don’t hate on the newer films like some folks I know (and I’m friends with people who absolutely detest them), but this is by far my favorite Star Wars film of the Disney era. I love the characters (K2SO being a standout), I love the action, the plot, the whole feel of it. I love that they had the guts to leave no one standing at the end. I love that Darth Vader is freaking scary as hell in this. The most recent Star Wars films seem to thrive on trying for an elegiac tone – but this is the only one to succeed at it.
I didn’t know anything about Arrival when I saw it, and that’s the best way to see it, so I’m not going to say much. Of course I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch it since the first time. Science fiction does not often bring me to tears (at least not in a good way), but Arrival managed it more than once. Smart and moving.
Third times the charm. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine and Patrick Stewart’s Professor X have always been two of the primary reasons to watch any X-Men film, but they never seemed to get the story or moments that they deserved. Jackman’s first two standalone Wolverine films missed the mark as well, though I do like parts of Jame’s Mangold’s 2013 The Wolverine. Logan finally got it right by making it smaller, more intimate – and foregoing (mostly) the high-powered action scenes for the moments when two excellent actors playing two of their signature characters finally got to say goodbye to each other – and us – on the big screen.
So. That’s my top 10 of the 2010’s – at least at the time I was writing the list. I’d probably pick a few different ones now. How is there no Christopher Nolan on this, for instance? What about you? What’s your list look like – at least right now?