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.
100. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
The cinematic equivalent of juggling chainsaws blindfolded while on a tight rope suspended above a shark infested pool, Avengers: Infinity War had the nigh impossible task of taking damn near all of their characters, putting them in a movie together and then making it work. And somehow, it does. Each character, while not all getting a scene stealing cameo ala Spider-Man in Civil War, get enough to do to not feel short changed. The film is long but you never feel it due to the energetic pace, and Thanos, the main baddie they’ve been building to for over a decade at that point, is given unexpected emotional pathos that depends his motivations and makes him a strong contender for the best villain in the MCU. Everything about this film works, which in turn, makes it even more incredible. It’s like a perpetual motion machine of awesome. It also has what is perhaps the most talked about scene of the decade. The snap will go down as one of the ballsiest moves in a big budget film since Hasbro decided to kill the childhood of an entire generation of kids when they killed off Optimus Prime in Transformers: The Movie.
99. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012)
Originally released as three separate shorts, It’s Such a Beautiful Day chronicles the life of a man named Bill and his struggles with mental illness. Everything Will Be Ok covers his life before the illness, I Am So Proud Of You is about him trying to figure out what is wrong once things become abnormal and It’s Such a Beautiful Day shows the inevitable end of the fight. The film is about how terrifyingly powerful the mind is and how badly it can damage us if it decides to turn against us. But it’s not all doom and gloom; this is from Don Hertzfeldt after all. The man behind the cult hit Rejected. His style may look crude but there’s real depth behind those stick figures. Every poorly drawn blob is a real person, with real personalities and problems. Hertzfeldt’s films may deal with nihilism and melancholy but he’s a humanist at his core. He never lets the weight of the piece get in the way of its humor. For every tear (and there are plenty), the film has at least two laughs. It’s Such a Beautiful Day is the most entertainingly depressing film ever made.
98. Midnight in Paris (2011)
After decades of making cinematic love letters for his beloved New York, Woody Allen turned his attention to Paris and in doing so, crafted what is arguably his best film to date. Much like how Tarantino is poured every ounce of his love and nostalgia for old timey Hollywood into Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Midnight in Paris unapologetically loves everything about Paris in the 20s. The film is madly in love with the writers, the artists, the culture and the idols of the time and makes you fall in love with them too, whether you know who they are or not. It’s a film built out of nostalgia and made up of cameos, each of which is better than the last. Even though he’s directed a movie a year since 1967 (many of which are masterpieces), this is the only Woody Allen comedy you can recommend to almost anyone.
97. Frank (2014)
While most films about musicians fall within one of these categories: quirky coming of age comedies (Sing Street, Bandslam) biopics (Bohemian Rhapsody, Straight Outta Compton) or documentaries (Amy, A Band Called Death), Frank walks a different path. While you’d assume a film about an eccentric singer wearing a giant fiberglass head would definitely qualify as “quirky”, it’s much more than that. The ridiculous head isn’t weird for the sake of being weird, it actually serves a narrative function. A talentless song writer (Domhnall Gleeson) who believes art is born from trauma, meets a broken singer (Michael Fassbender) who uses music to help heal himself. The head acts as a metaphor for multiple things and becomes extremely important once it comes off. The film investigates the relationship between trauma and art, and asks where creative inspiration comes from. It also deals with how art dies the second you try to commercialize it. It also includes a song so goddamn good, it’s been stuck in my head for 5 fucking years.
96. Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
The Mission Impossible franchise is not dissimilar from the ‘take a penny, leave a penny’ tray found at newsstands and gas stations. Each movie takes something good from the previous entry, while leaving something good behind. Some have tight plots at the cost of memorable stunts, while others are fun but have lame ass villains, and while Ghost Protocol might be the most guilty in that regard, it does everything else exceptionally well. The action is terrific, the missions are the most entertaining they’ve ever been, it has a fun tone the series has yet to go back to and has the best stunt in the series and maybe of all time. Although they ditched some of the cast for the sequels, the characters all play off of each other extremely well and no one is sidelined unlike other entries. Ghost Protocol takes the pennies out of the dish and replaces them all with quarters.
95. True Grit (2010)
Few filmmakers would have the balls to tackle the only western that earned the Duke an Oscar but the Coen Bros give no fucks. Adhering closer to the Charles Portis novel than the original film, the remake puts more emphasis on character than just focusing on Rooster. While the original is good, it’s little more than a platform for Wayne to finally win an Academy award and while Bridges lost, he was far more deserving of that trophy. His Rooster actually feels like a real person instead of a caricature of an irascible old cuss. Wayne brought too much movie star bravado to make the character work. He’s a broken man who’s a million miles away from the legend he’s supposed to be and Bridges nails every one of eccentricities. He’s rude, cantankerous, a terrible drunk and he can’t aim for shit but he’s a man of honor. He’s a man of his word and in the West, that’s all you need to be to be a hero. With sharp dialogue, a stacked cast and star making role for Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit is the last great western.
94. Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)
With each new film, S. Craig Zahler moves higher and higher on my list of favorite directors. His first, Bone Tomahawk was a character driven western that turns into a hardcore horror in the third act and his follow up goes even further. He, like Tarantino before him, has fully embraced the gritty hard edged dramas of the late 60’s—early 70’s. When films weren’t afraid to spend time developing characters and not every scene had to be crucial to the plot. Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a film Hollywood stopped making decades ago. It’s far too long to be considered an action movie and far too extreme to market to the older crowd. Vince Vaughn is a revelation as a gigantic skinhead who’s forced to beat the shit out of specific targets in multiple prisons out of fear that his old drug courier bosses will kill his wife. This is an unpleasant film about unlikable people doing unsavory and illegal things for justifiable reasons, and I loved every second of it. It’s the trashiest Elmore Leonard story Elmore Leonard never wrote.
93. Take Shelter (2011)
Playing it 100% straight (unlike whatever the hell Aronofsky was doing with Noah), Take Shelter is a reinterpretation of the Noah story from the Bible set in modern times. Or is it? Jeff Nichols’ sophomore effort is an ambiguous psychological thriller that keeps you guessing till the last frame. Is Michael Shannon’s character in the throes of early onset schizophrenia or is he suffering from prophetic visions of an apocalyptic storm? Watching him slip further into madness, either justifiable or not, is heartbreaking. The film does a masterful job of putting you in the shoes of both Shannon and his wife (played by Jessica Chastain). Since he never stops being a good husband or father, you never lose sympathy for him, no matter how unpredictable he becomes but you also feel for her because she’s losing her husband to insanity and doesn’t know if she should stay and help or take her child and run. It’s a brilliantly acted family drama that slowly devolves into a horror film that has a killer third act.
92. Snowpiercer (2013)
From writer-director Bong Joon-ho, Snowpiercer takes place in a dystopian future aboard the eponymous train that travels around the globe with the Earth’s last remaining inhabitants, some of whom look for revolution from the class-divided cars. For his english-language debut, Bong decided to throw everything against the wall and somehow, everything stuck. It’s a dystopian movie that doesn’t ripoff any other that came before, it’s a comic book movie that improves upon the source material, it’s an action movie with a brain and a social commentary that, while not subtle in the slightest, is never overbearing. There are about a gazillion films about the 99% fighting back against the evil 1% but this is the only one that does it with hatchets.
91. They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)
Peter Jackson’s latest project, a commission from the Imperial War Museum to mark the centenary of the First World War’s conclusion, is archival footage from the Western Front but with color, dubbing and rendered in 3D. It has been attacked by many as an egotistical ruining of historic records for the sake of pointless technological “achievements.” Jackson, like Ted Turner before him, has a brand new set of crayons and is intent on coloring the old to make it more palatable for a newer generation and while I can see why some would take offense to Jackson’s endeavor, I think his objectors are missing the point. He’s not improving the past with fancy tools but bringing it alive through color. There’s a mental disconnect we have when looking at something in black in white. Our brains immediately register it as old. What Jackson does is remove the disconnect so that you can see these men as men, not just ghosts of the past. I think it’s the perfect marriage of technology and art coming together to bring history alive.
What do you think of the selection so far? What are some of the best movies from the 2010s? Maybe they will show up further on the list!