The 2010’s were a hell of a decade for film. Disney had a stranglehold on the box office. A24 cornered the market on low budget cinema. Blumhouse made horror great again. Moviegoers finally embraced foreign film (kinda) and critically acclaimed movies were being shot on cellphones. The age of the mega-blockbuster essentially destroyed moderately budgeted films. Streaming provided hundreds of hours of new content (some of which was provided by some heavy hitters, such as Scorsese and the Coen Bros). Weird independent filmmakers were allowed the opportunity to direct huge movies. And previously thought impossible to see films such as The Man Who Killed Don Quixote and The Other Side of the Wind were actually released.
It was a decade in which the Oscars finally got it right (for two years at least) and which everyone tried and failed to be Marvel (RIP Dark Universe). Blank checks were cut regularly, resulting in some amazing titles such as Blade Runner 2049, Mad Max: Fury Road and The Irishman and not so great titles like A Wrinkle in Time, The Last Airbender and Cats. Physical media started releasing every movie ever (right before it dies at the hands of digital) and a new generation of actors was getting ready to replace the movie stars of old. It was a controversial decade that had many highs and lows but at the end of the day, all that matters is that it provided a ton of great movies. This is what I consider to be, the best of the decade.
This is the 100 Greatest Movies of the 2010s.
10. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Much like how Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and The Irishman were the apex of their respected filmmaker’s careers, The Grand Budapest Hotel is the purest distillation of Wes Anderson’s talents. Everything he made up until this point, felt like it was leading to this film. Every shot, every stylistic flourish, every quirky sensibility he’s employed over the years, felt like a trial run for this film. The film, much like Inception, is built upon layers. It’s the story of a story of a story; a melancholic look at the past and how stories are the only thing that keep it alive. Which I guess means it’s about four stories but who’s keeping track. It’s about an old man (Tom Wilkinson) relaying the story of when he was a young man (Jude Law) interviewing an old man (F. Murray Abraham) about the time he was a young man (Tony Revolori) working for a legendary concierge (Ralph Fiennes) of the legendary Grand Budapest.
It sounds confusing but the film zips around with so much energy, you’ll never be confused. It’s a love story, a caper, a war flick and a whimsical, nostalgic look at a time and place that never existed. It’s a candy colored fantasy with heart, pathos, intelligence and genuine emotion brought to you by one of the true originals working today. There’s a reason this film made way more than any other Anderson film to date, even his detractors were won over by its charm. It’s just that delightful.
09. Under the Skin (2013)
I have no idea whether or not Glazer was inspired by the film The Man Who Fell to Earth or if its themes of loneliness and isolation and what it actually means to be human are merely coincidental or accidental but either way, the parallels between the two films is undeniable. And while the same could also be said about Species (due to the fact that both films involve incredibly good looking female aliens who lure men to their deaths with the promise of sex), it’s presented in such a wildly different manner, any similarities are incidental. There are ton of films about extraterrestrials and while this one feels similar to others (like a couple of the films previously mentioned), it’s unlike any other in history.
Mostly due to the fact that it feels like it was made by one. As much as Johansson’s character is inhabiting the skin of a human to blend in, Under the Skin is inhabiting the shape of celluloid to pass as a film. The film is an alien masquerading as a movie. And a weird as hell alien at that. It is a psychedelic mind fuck that baffles as much as it mesmerizes. With unforgettable imagery and a score that’ll stay with you forever, Under the Skin is film who’s title is earned, in more ways than one.
08. Whiplash (2014)
Some films need a digestive period, where you sit with them and the more you think about them, the more you like them and some films need to be watched multiple times to truly “get” them but some films, like Whiplash for example, you know are masterpieces the second they end. Once that final drum solo ends and the credits play, there’s no doubt in your mind that Whiplash is something special, a modern classic. A film about music that’s surprisingly unromantic about the subject, Chazelle is far more interested in depicting the obsession that goes into great works of art rather than someone’s passion and need to create.
Structured like a 90 minute sports montage of shit that gets left out of montages, this film goes out of its way to deglamorize the hard work it takes to truly become great at something. It shows every callous, every gaping wound, every sleepless night that comes with practice. How being that driven will inevitably lead to isolation and the ultimate glory of achieving the thing you’ve worked so hard to get. The main character is tormented and humiliated throughout the film but at the end of the day, he does pull off that drum solo. Which almost paints his teacher (an on fire J.K. Simmons) in another light. Is he a villain or an necessary evil? Depending on how you perceive the ending, it could go either way but the Chazelle ain’t answering. The only thing he’s interested in providing is an exhilarated drama that’ll leave you with, well…whiplash.
07. Hereditary (2018)
Some horror films live and die by their premises. They ask an audience to believe a guy can kill you in your sleep or that a little boy can see ghosts. Some horror films live and die by their villains, others by how much sex and violence they promise and a select few live and die by the performances. While Aster crafted a horror film so head and shoulders above the majority of its respected genre, critics referred to it as “elevated horror,” the film, as good as it is, is only as strong as its performances. Hereditary would not have worked if the lead was weak. The character of Annie needed an actress who could run the full gamut of emotions, who could inspire sympathy and disgust in the audience. You needed to believe her but there also needed to be doubt. Is she crazy or is something malicious happening to her family? Hereditary is a perfect example of a film being completely dependant on the strength of the central character and Toni Collette knocks it out of the park. She turns what could’ve easily been a standard issue possession story into a meditation on grief, loss and mental health. Her performance adds layers of complexity to the film. It’s one of the best performances in any horror film to date. It just happens to also be one of the best horror films ever made.
06. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
If I only had one superhero film to show to Scorsese to convince them that the genre can produce “cinema”, it would be this one. Like he said, the genre is pretty much nothing but a cinematic theme park, cranking out new attractions but offering very little substance. As exciting as the best ones are, it’s hard to argue that many of them are more than just cotton candy but there are exceptions. While I think the Dark Knight is still the pinnacle, in order for Marty to truly appreciate it, he would have to see Batman Begins and he ain’t seeing two superhero films, so my pick would be the second greatest superhero film.
Acting as a much needed adrenaline shot to a stagnant genre, Into the Spider-Verse is the freshest superhero origin story in a long time. Miles Morales’ story isn’t built on tragedy (he isn’t an orphan), it isn’t dark and gritty and it super serious. He’s just a kid who happens to get super powers and then tries to deal with them. In the time of grimdark uber serious extreme reboots, It’s refreshing to see a film remember that this shit is supposed to be fun. It’s a film that reminds everyone why they tied capes around their necks when they were younger: because being a superhero is fun and everyone can be one.
05. Moonlight (2016)
Since almost no one saw his first film Medicine for Melancholy, everyone naturally assumed Moonlight was Barry Jenkins’ debut and while that’s certainly not the case, it might as well be. I can’t speak to the quality of Melancholy but since I hadn’t heard of it before Moonlight, I feel safe assuming that it’s not as good or at the very least, not as important. As loud an announcement of a new voice to cinema and as gamechanging as The Sixth Sense (another film people forget isn’t a debut), Moonlight is a profound, tender, sympathetic look at a man finally coming to terms with who he is.
It’s a film that accurately portrays as well as celebrates what it means to be African American and the hardships that come with being homosexual. The film follows the same character at three different points in his life by three different actors. Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes all give amazing performances but the true stand out is Mahershala Ali as his neighborhood drug dealer cum father figure. He doesn’t have much screen time but that Oscar was well earned. It introduced the world to several new acting talents and marked the arrival of an important voice in film.
04. Get Out (2017)
Get Out will go down as one of the most impressive debuts in history, not because it changed the cinematic landscape like Citizen Kane or Reservoir Dogs or because it’s technically impressive like the Shawshank Redemption or because it became instantly iconic like This is Spinal Tape but because it came out of fucking nowhere. Before it’s crazy as hell trailer dropped (that skeleton deer still haunts my dreams), Jordan Peele was best known as one half of the comedy duo Key & Peele, along with fellow comedian Keegan-Michael Key. Together the two worked on projects like Mad TV, Fargo, Keanu and obviously, Key & Peele. Based on those shows and movies, nobody on Earth could’ve predicted that he would become the modern-day Rod Serling but 2017 came around and Peele dropped an atomic bomb of a debut.
A perfect blend of comedy, horror, race issues and satire, Peele threw The Stepford Wives and The Mephisto Waltz into a blender, added a dash of Rosemary’s Baby and Carpenter’s trademark genre subversion, hit frappe and then served with a sledgehammer. I believe my number 1 is the best overall film of the decade, my number 3 is the best written but this is the most important. In many ways, this film defined the 2010s to me.
03. The Social Network (2010)
David Fincher works so sparingly, that every film of his feels like a gift to be savored, a treasure to revere. As the heir apparent to Kubrick, Fincher has maintained an almost equally as impressive filmography as his idol and while any one of them (well, maybe not Benjamin Button) could be considered his all time best, I think the strongest contender is The Social Network. A film about Facebook shouldn’t be this good. A film about nerds click clacking away at their keyboards shouldn’t be this compelling. A film of relative unknowns and Justin Timberlake shouldn’t be this well acted. This film shouldn’t work but Fincher, along with an exceptional script by Sorkin, turned tech speak and nerd talk into a Shakespearean level tale of betrayal and revenge.
02. World of Tomorrow (2015)
The most controversial entry on the list, World of Tomorrow, while not adhering to the quote unquote definition of a film owing to the fact that it’s only fifteen minutes long, definitely earns a spot on this list for a number reasons. Namely that it’s as funny, imaginative, and heartbreaking as anything released within the decade and that it will eventually become feature length. After Hertzfeldt releases the 3rd entry (which he is working on now), he’s going to edit the entire trilogy into one feature length film. So it’s breaking the rules up till a certain point.
A heady mixture of sci-fi tropes and philosophical concepts, World of Tomorrow is Hertzfeldt’s most ambitious project yet; which is saying a lot considering he made an entire short examining the meaning of life. Emily is an infant from the present day who meets an adult clone of herself from the future. The malfunctioning third generation clone time traveled for two reasons: 1) To tell the extremely disinterested child what life will be like in about 100 years and 2) To retrieve a memory from the child the clone can no longer remember. Hertzfeldt’s vision of a world made up of scientifically created orphans, human life cycle as an art exhibit and romantic entanglements with a rock, is the most cerebral and profoundly moving depiction of the future I’ve ever seen.
01. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Redefining the term “epic”, Fury Road is George Miller’s third sequel in his Mad Max series and boy howdy is it a doozy. Mirroring Max’s slow decent into madness in the first one, the series gets progressively more out there with each installment until it hit its autogeddon apex with this movie. As close as any film as come to non-stop action; it’s essentially a two hour car chase but bigger and more bombastic than any before or since. In addition to the balls to the wall excitement, there’s the cast that’s as hot as the desert they’re filming in.
Tom Hardy does a magnificent job of replacing Mel Gibson and Hugh Keays-Byrne is fucking great as the villain but the real MVP is Charlize Theron. With just one movie, she made Furiosa a character as iconic as Max himself. You immediately understand her motivations and without knowing anything about her, you root for her to succeed. Unlike Max who’s character arc ended after the first movie, Furiosa has an actual goal you care about. She’s a badass warrior who’s fighting for more than just revenge or survival, she’s a savior who’ll risk her life to save others. In addition to being the best thing in the movie (which is saying a lot), she’s the best character in the franchise.
A rarity in Hollywood in that it’s a dream project with a a blank check that doesn’t suffer from producer meddling and isn’t a colossal misfire (See: Lady in the Water, Jupiter Ascending, The Razor’s Edge, Toys, Etc.), Fury Road is 100% Miller’s vision, which is both great due to the movie being an absolute astonishing piece of art but depressing because there will never be another film like it. There’s no other director like Miller and a studio will never bankroll something this audacious ever again. Fury Road is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that can never be duplicated and I doubt any action film will ever come close to topping.
20-11 | Rewatch?
What did you think of the Top 10? Were there any movies that you thought were snubbed? What would you have as the #1 movie of the decade?