(This article is part of our Best of the Decade series.)
When I started compiling the list for my favorite movies of the decade I found myself concerned that perhaps my choices weren’t full of critically acclaimed Oscar winners, or underrated indie darlings that few had heard of. And then I realized this is a list of MY favorite movies of the decade, and the list then became much easier to complete. No regrets, no apologies.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
I don’t remember much about the original Mad Max movies, but I do know that none of them blew me away as much as Fury Road. On the surface, the movie seems like endless car chase through a post-apocalyptic wasteland. But Fury Road is so much more. It’s a ferocious feminist film that delivers thrills, suspense and breathtaking imagery fueled by fierce and poignant performances.
If there’s one movie this decade that completely blindsided me, it’s Arrival. Denis Villeneuve’s brilliant sci-fi drama teaches us that learning the language of the unknown is nowhere near as important as learning how to communicate with each other. With an Oscar-worthy performance from Amy Adams (I will forever be bitter that she didn’t even gain a nomination), Arrival is one of the most devastatingly beautiful movies I’ve ever seen.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
11 years. 21 movies. My expectations for End Game were impossibly high, especially after the shocking end to Infinity War and I was pretty sure that there was no way they could wrap up this saga without disappointing me on some level. But End Game came and delivered a knockout conclusion to a universe I had grown to love. After the bittersweet ending, I left the theater feeling a multitude of emotions, but overall, extremely satisfied. Frankly, I’m not sure anything will ever top the Infinity Saga.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011)
After years and years of midnight book releases followed by midnight movie premieres (mind you, this was well before theaters began their 7pm Thursday night showings), nothing could quite prepare me for saying goodbye to Harry, and Hogwarts. For me, the Harry Potter films grew consistently better with each release, even more so after David Yates took the helm with The Order of the Phoenix, and stayed there for the rest of the series. I watched Harry, Ron and Hermione grow up on screen, and honestly, I grew up with them. A satisfying adaptation with a beautiful score and some wonderful performances, The Deathly Hallows Part 2 gave Potterheads the epic finale we wanted and deserved.
The Big Sick (2017)
There have been plenty of romantic comedies released in the past decade. Some followed the tried and true rom-com playbook, and then there was a handful that surprised and breathed new life into the genre, The Big Sick is a perfect example of the latter. With a sharp and genuinely funny script written by real-life couple, Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick was not afraid to tackle race and religion head-on, imbuing the touchy subjects with edgy and heartfelt humor. Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan have incredible chemistry, but it’s Nanjiani’s moments with Ray Romano and Holly Hunter that are the most engaging.
The Conjuring (2013)
Based on the real-life cases of paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, The Conjuring delivered a thrilling haunted house film complete with perfectly executed jump scares, frightening imagery, and earnest performances from an extremely talented cast. It’s really no wonder to me that the movie’s success triggered a handful of spinoffs, essentially creating a movie universe of its own, but for me, very few of them have even come close to re-creating The Conjuring’s atmospheric tension.
Gone Girl (2014)
Was there a better movie to take your spouse to on Valentine’s Day in 2014 than Gone Girl? David Fincher took Gillian Flynn’s novel and brought every uncomfortable, batshit crazy twist and turn to life, creating an uneasy, cynical, and sometimes sick look at a doomed marriage and the loss of identity. Rosamund Pike kills it as the cunningly cold Amy Dunne, and Ben Affleck is perfectly cast as the unraveling, unlikeable husband suspected of her murder. Frankly, by the end of the film, you’re going to realize these two horrible people deserve each other. Pain, betrayal, resentment? “That’s marriage,” Amy says. She might not be entirely wrong either.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
It was hard to whittle down my favorite MCU films over the past decade, and I knew I had to stick to one or two because otherwise, my entire list would have been Marvel films. But looking back at the 20+ movies the MCU gave us, I realized it was easier than I thought it would be. The Winter Soldier is a fun, action-packed political thriller that even now feels increasingly relevant. We also get to dive deeper into Steve Rogers’s past while foreshadowing things to come. The Captain America trilogy is by far the best trilogy the MCU gave us, and The Winter Soldier is arguably the best film given to us from MCU.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
There was a lot of buzz for Bradley Cooper’s Oscar-worthy performance in A Star Is Born, but frankly, I think he should have won for Silver Linings Playbook. It’s not a perfect film, but it takes an honest look at mental illness, even if the message gets lost in the final act. Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are well-matched, and Robert DeNiro gives one of the best performances of his career, in my opinion. This is a movie I’ve watched multiple times, and I find something new to like about it every time. By far my favorite in David O. Russell’s filmography.
Even after the horrific and bloody opening scene, I still felt like there were times It played it safe, at least compared to King’s beloved yet disturbing novel. But for me, director Andy Muschietti succeeded in portraying the bond of friendship, which was at its core, the heart of the story. This was primarily thanks to the talent of the child cast and how familiar they felt with each other. I really enjoyed Bill Skarsgard’s physically intense performance as Pennywise as well. It could have easily been over the top and silly, but Skarsgard brings a menacing aura to the Dancing Clown and there was nothing more terrifying than watching a dull, vacant expression come over Pennywise’s face before the scene would take a monstrous turn. I am a sucker for coming of age films that trigger nostalgia, and It definitely satisfied me on that level.
What do you think of my favorite films from the last decade? Anything you think I missed?