The number of films produced within a year, let alone a decade, is staggering and it’s only getting bigger. The podcast 80s All Over—which involved two critics watching and reviewing every major film of the decade, one month at a time—recently ended with about half of the decade getting reviewed. They had to pull the plug on it early because it was just too time consuming for them to track down and review every film on their watchlist. It was just too hard for them and they were doing the 80s, a decade with far fewer films than the 2010s. I only mention them and their podcast to illustrate my point: there are a shit ton of films out there which, for a cinephile, is hell because it’s impossible to see them all. There’s hundreds of thousands of movies and if you don’t know where to look, you’re bound to miss some good ones. This list was a collaborative effort to help shine a light on a select few you might not have seen that we think are worth your time.
This is The 100 Greatest Hidden Gems of the 2010s.
60. The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012)
A fusion of tragedy, bluegrass music, and marital breakdown. It probably shouldn’t work, but it does. Set in Belgium, we follow Didier (Johan Heldenbergh) and Elise (Veerle Baetens) as they fall in love through their passion for music. They go on to start a family and unfortunately tragedy strikes. We see the couple go from the highest highs to the lowest lows as they struggle to deal with the hand they’ve been dealt. It’s a harrowing watch that’s superbly acted, and I’m not afraid to admit I was in tears by the end.
59. I Am Not an Easy Man (2018)
I have great respect for films that go full-throttle into its wacky story. This French-language Netflix original film (don’t worry there are English subtitles available) focuses on a male chauvinist who ends up in a parallel universe where stereotypical gender roles are reversed. It’s a simple premise, but one that is executed to near perfection. In fact, my only complaints with the film were that it didn’t try harder in reversing stereotypes. For instance, pink is still seen as a feminine color, whereas I would have made it be the toughest color around. That small detail aside, the film knows what it is and has a lot of fun reversing stereotypes (particularly when it comes to relationships and sex). If you can get past the language barrier, you’re in for a treat.
58. Krisha (2015)
After being estranged from her family for a decade, Krisha returns for a Thanksgiving dinner but past demons threaten to ruin the festivities. Based on director Trey Edward Shults’s cousin and played by his aunt, Krisha is one of the most captivating characters to hit screens in a long time. Krisha Fairchild’s lead performance starts off as riveting and grows ever more compelling as the film unfolds. Her relentless downward spiral is as heartbreaking as it is terrifying. You don’t know what she’s going to do or say next but you know whatever it is, it won’t be pretty. Because of her addictions, she’s become a ghost the family tolerates.
She haunts their lives not out of malice or ill will but because she has no where else to go. It’s a performance too real for the Academy. They hardly ever nominate first time performances from non actors because they can’t tell how much of the performance is acting and how much is real. Which is bullshit because no matter what you call it, it’s still acting and I’m telling you right now, no actor alive could pull this performance off as well. She’s dynamite in the role and the film itself ain’t too shabby either.
57. Like Crazy (2011)
A deeply personal, intimate look at love, Like Crazy does not pull its punches. College students Anna and Jacob fall in love at school, leading Anna, a British exchange student, to overstay her visa after graduation in order to remain in the States. After flying home to London to see her parents, Anna tries to return to Los Angeles but is denied re-entry for her visa violation, and is deported home. From there, Anna and Jacob face difficulties trying to get the ban on Anna’s visa lifted.
They still love one another, but distance and personal frustrations begin to strain their relationship. It deals with the power of young love in such a realistic, yet devastating way. Despite the years and miles wedged between Jacob and Anna, can love truly conquer all? People change, feelings change. Like Crazy asks if it’s truly worth hanging onto the past because of a handful of idyllic months together. The movie was mostly improvised, and Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones give two incredibly authentic performances. At times Like Crazy is uncomfortable to watch, like we’re peering in on something we shouldn’t be, and yet, we can’t look away.
56. 99 Homes (2014)
Michael Shannon has been around for a while, but it wasn’t till this decade that he really blew up. He is one of those actors who seems like they never stop working by churning out multiple movies a year. Having a few movies get overlooked was bound to happen and he has several that could make this list.
99 Homes is set to the backdrop of the 2008 housing market crash where Shannon brilliantly plays a real estate shark who takes on a protégé in out of work handyman, Andrew Garfield. Shannon and Garfield both carry this heavy movie that deals with the real-life crisis. Their engaging performances pull you into this morality drama that isn’t preachy but simply shows you the way it was.
55. Bellflower (2011)
Evan Glodell (who also wrote and directed the film) and Tyler Dawson play Woodrow and Aiden, two best friends who spend their days building flame throwers and preparing for a Mad Max post-apocalyptic future. Then one day Woodrow meets a girl (Jessie Wiseman), they start dating, something happens and then Woodrow’s delicate fantasy world starts coming undone. Bellflower is essentially a mumblecore romance with a revenge twist. While not as good as the equally underseen Super Dark Times, it’s still an impressive debut made all the more impressive due to its extremely low budget. It’s the type of film I love recommending because it shows what you can accomplish with no money but be forewarned, this is a grim film. There ain’t no rainbows and unicorns in this universe—It’s just jealousy, revenge and murder.
54. Skate Kitchen (2018)
An unfortunate victim of bad timing, Skate Kitchen, while receiving solid reviews by critics, was quickly overshadowed by the similar Mid90s. Usually when two films with near identical plots come out, there’s usually a fight to see which one will do better. Armageddon went up against Deep Impact, Leviathan took on Deep Star Six and A Bug’s Life battled Antz but when it came to these two films, there was no fight. There was a massacre.
Jonah Hill’s directorial debut didn’t just beat this film at the box office, it demolished it. As of this writing, Mid90s has about 16x the amount of views (or votes or stars or whatever the fuck their rating system is) over Skate Kitchen and while I understand why Mid90s is more popular (Jonah Hill has more name recognition than Crystal Moselle), what I don’t understand is why Skate Kitchen isn’t at least somewhat known. It does everything that film does but better. The characters are more likable, the plot is more believable and it’s arguably more entertaining. It’s a feel good hang out movie for a lazy afternoon.
53. Macbeth (2015)
Baffling how a herculean achievement to this degree could go so unnoticed. Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard anchoring a bold, visceral feast of The Bard’s landmark tragedy. That ought to be enough, right?
This ranks among the most visually stunning achievements of recent memory. The unsettling colors envelop the players in a way that demands attention but never perverts the focus. Thrusting battle sequences and elaborate scenic design to the narrative’s spotlight while inherently personal is a touch that’s easy to claim bit difficult to capture.
Capitalizing with Fassbender and Cotillard delivering fresh, guttural iterations of characters of infamous deceit bring MacBeth to an immersive experience that feels a bit like stealthy suffocation. And the selective,
humanity they wield at just the right moments leave us intoxicated. This film is courageous in scope and delivers to a rare, heightened degree. Shakespeare would be proud, and we should be too. This is a slowly sip your favorite drink in the dark while relishing in the delectable darkness of flawed, finer things sort of title. And if that’s your bag, you’re in for a treat.
52. A Monster Calls (2016)
Maybe the most low-key inspirational and visually sweeping movie of the decade. J.A. Bayona’s best work to date treats its source material with incredible candor and detailed intentionality while casting a scope of grandeur that transports us in the best way that only cinema can. Simply calling it fantasy seems a primitive moniker as the narrative is as much about coping with the tragic, unfair nature of life. But it doesn’t necessarily belong in the “rooted-in-realism” camp either–at least, not in the way stripped-down character studies.
More akin to Pan’s Labyrinth than say Tomorrowland or Hugo, but still expensive in vision-casting, A Monster Calls feels every bit as massively wondrous as it does lived-in. Simply artistic. The complexity of human emotion and wrestling with staggering loss is a hell of a thing. A Monster Calls captures these sentiments in delicate fashion while curating an other-worldly experience of imagination and advocacy. One that deserves better recognition as it serves a surprisingly cross-generational appeal.
51. Cold in July (2014)
One of the main reasons I skew more towards the independent, foreign and obscure when picking a movie to watch, is the fact that I’m constantly in search of a film to surprise me. When you’ve seen as many films as I have, it’s hard to be taken by surprise by a film. Even when the film is great, odds are I’m going to know what’s going to happen and how it’s going to end. So when a film as unpredictable as Cold in July comes around, you savor it.
A hardened ex-con starts stalking and tormenting the man who killed his son during a failed home invasion. Now, based on that plot synopsis, you can pretty much guess where this film is going. You’ve seen that story a million times and you probably already played the entire film or at least a close approximation of what you’ll think the film will be in your head while reading that but whatever imagined film just popped into your head, is wrong. There is absolutely no way to predict where this film ends up. It zigzags all over the place, with the only thing connecting its wildly different acts is violence and bloodshed. It’s a stellar crime thriller with a killer cast that’ll leave you reeling.
What do you think of the selection so far? What are some films from the 2010s that you think are hidden gems? Maybe they will show up further on the list!