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 are 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.
80. The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)
Dismissed by critics and audiences due to zombie burnout and just plain forgotten by those who hadn’t seen or heard of it, The Girl with All the Gifts became forgotten by virtually everyone, which is a shame considering it’s the freshest take on the zombie genre in years. Set in an apocalyptic society that’s visually reminiscent of the video game The Last of Us, the film is about a scientist (Glenn Close) and a teacher (Gemma Arterton) who embark on a journey of survival with a special young girl named Melanie. While the entire cast is top-notch, it’s newcomer Sennia Nanua as Melanie who steals the show. She shows a surprising amount of emotional depth for a child actor and holds her own against some true titans of cinema. If more people had seen this film, she’d be a star by now. The fact that The Walking Dead has two spin-offs, a couple of TV movies on the way and is going on its tenth season while this film remains obscure, truly saddens me.
79. Bad Black (2016)
Within the last decade, Nabwana I.G.G. has produced around 15 action films, which doesn’t sound impressive when compared to Takashi Miike or Johnnie To but the fact that he literally does everything (minus acting) on every film he makes, makes his accomplishments far more awe-inspiring. Especially considering his working conditions. He lives in such an impoverished part of Africa, that he’s forced to film in sewers and all of the props are made of wood. On paper, everything about his films screams terrible but what separates his work from other no-budget directors, is the passion. You can clearly tell that he and everyone involved, loves making movies.
Juggling about five different plots that surprisingly all get resolved (the best involving a mild-mannered doctor being trained in the art of ass-kicking commando vengeance by a no-nonsense ghetto kid named Wesley Snipes), Bad Black is far more ambitious than his previous effort Who Killed Captain Alex. He’s really stepped his game up and it shows. It has the same “hey, let’s put on a show” type energy that Rudy Ray Moore and early Robert Rodriguez’s filmography has. At the end of the day, the film is tons of fun and I hope I.G.G. continues to make films for a very long time.
78. Submission (2017)
A lot can be said about the power dynamic a teacher has over a student and how often the teacher takes advantage of that power for their own personal gain. But what if the roles were flipped and the student had the power? How could that end?
Submission explores that exact scenario. Stanley Tucci (who himself I consider a hidden gem) plays a tenured professor who works with one of his creative writing students in her novel. What starts as a professional relationship later turns sexual. The aftermath of this encounter muddies the line between victim and villain. Is the professor really the bad guy he’s framed to be or was he duped by his student into getting what she wanted? The film leaves you to find the answer for yourselves.
77. Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014)
Two former cops decide to reopen an old unsolved case that ended their careers and shamed them when identical murders begin again. One of the best neo-noirs in recent memory, Black Coal, Thin Ice is True Detective by way of Bong Joon Ho. Its plotting and long takes are similar to the show, while its framing and beautiful cinematography remind one of the director. While it’s not as good as either (it has major pacing issues that won’t gel with everyone), it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of the genre, the director, the show or just gorgeous looking films in general.
76. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
It’s hard to imagine a film with this cast could be considered a “hidden gem” but people don’t talk about Kevin as much as they should. Starring Tilda Swinton, John C Reilly, and Ezra Miller, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a wickedly uncomfortable story that follows Kevin (Miller) and his mother (Swinton) through their very complicated relationship. Brilliantly written and directed by Lynne Ramsay, We Need to Talk About Kevin holds the audience in the palm of its hand and never let’s go. This is the film that most definitely put Ezra Miller on the map. Miller is especially great in the dinner scene with Swinton where he goes toe-to-toe with a veteran actor as if he was one himself.
75. The Hunter (2011)
Sometimes you love a movie and that’s really all that needs to be said. You can’t really say why. Such is the case with Daniel Nettheim’s The Hunter. Sure, I could mention the gorgeous cinematography, the breathtaking Tasmanian setting, or the amazing performances by Willem Dafoe, Frances O’Connor, and Sam Neill, but what it really comes down to is that I connected with the film.
The plot is simple: Martin (Dafoe), a professional hunter, has been commissioned by a shadowy military biotech company to track and bring back a sample of a supposedly extinct animal known as the Tasmanian Tiger for ambiguous but undoubtedly nefarious purposes. Martin is put up by a local family, and as he gets to know them and their struggles, and becomes familiar with the land itself, he comes to confront his own demons.
It’s a pretty straightforward tale of personal redemption, but The Hunter raises some pretty profound questions about the natural world – and man’s place in it – that has stuck with me since my first viewing nearly ten years ago.
74. Jungle (2017)
When the Harry Potter series finished in 2011, a lot of people wondered how the main trio would navigate a post-blockbuster career. Rupert Grint sort of vanished from mainstream Hollywood and now appears mostly in television; Emma Watson became Beauty and a Little Women; and Daniel Radcliffe, at first glance, looked like he accepted anything and everything that was thrown his way. However, it’s clear that Radcliffe wanted to diversify his portfolio, and shed the image of The Boy Who Lived. And, to be entirely honest, it worked,
Jungle (at least for me) proved that Radcliffe has the range and skills to keep him acting in Hollywood for a long time. He stars in this true story as Israeli adventurer Yossi Ghinsberg. Ghinsberg was separated during a journey into the Amazon rainforest in 1981. We see Radcliffe navigate the physical and mental turmoil that Ghinsberg battled with during his three weeks in the rainforest. His performance is so good that I have no problem saying that Radcliffe will be the first of the trio to win an Oscar. Mark my words.
73. Predestination (2014)
Predestination is a mind-bending time travel flick so twisty turvy, I don’t even know where to begin to even pitch it. Every element of the film is so intricately designed, that every scene, whether in the past, happening in the present or that hasn’t happened yet, fit so perfectly together, that the film feels like an expertly designed clock. Which is rather fitting considering both deal with time and in keeping with that analogy, although you can move the hands forwards or backwards on a clock, time stays the same. You can mess with the time of a clock all day but it ultimately only effects that clock, not time itself. Predestination, like most time travel films, shows that no amount of time traveling can fix the inevitable. Time is not more powerful than destiny. Even if you guess where the film is going, you’ll still marvel at how it manages to pull it all off. It’s a cerebral mind fuck with a surprising amount of heart and more twists than a Chubby Checker album.
72. Chi-Raq (2015)
To call this one niche may be an understatement, but it’s got too much style, too much passion to be ignored. Why? Because that’s what Spike Lee does. A unique brand of guerilla, urban creativity bursts from the screen to deliver societal and racial commentary. Chi-Raq is a daring re-imagining of the Ancient Greek play, Lysistrata, by Aristophones but you know…with Samuel L. Jackson serving as the Greek Chorus. Transcending conventional criticism or comment, this one simply cannot be defined by normal narrative standards. Truth be told, Spike Lee lives to unsettle but in grand, vibrant fashion. Chi-Raq is lyrically stunning and visually striking in a vacuum.
Wrap it all up in the tour de force performance from Teyonah Parris, and you have a 21st Century retelling of the age-old cautionary tale. Gang violence, race, and sexual desire are in the crosshairs as the passionate women of Chicago take back control in hopes of quelling senseless violence once and for all. If nothing else it’s basically an all-star squad of talent from Wesley Snipes to Angela Bassett to Jennifer Hudson to Dave Chappelle. Ultimately, when it’s Spike Lee doing the preaching, you’ll always get more than you bargained for–and that’s a good thing.
71. The Little Prince (2015)
I was adamant about seeing this film the moment I first laid eyes on the adorable fox. The fox alone sold me. Okay, the unique animation style certainly played a role in that too. Once I finally got around to watching it, I was taken away by all the film had to offer. Pixar may be known for being able to craft a comedic narrative around more adult films, but The Little Prince seems like it watched every Pixar film and said, “Hold my beer.”
The Little Prince addresses themes of loneliness, friendship, love, and loss all while keeping you engaged with its narrative. It’s a fun and adventurous tale that isn’t afraid to get philosophical, and we need that mindset in more children’s films (that aren’t Pixar).
90-81 | 70-61
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!