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.
40. The Raid 2 (2014)
Running almost an hour longer than the Raid: Redemption and with a budget 3× larger, the Raid 2 is an audacious sequel that puts most action movies to shame. Doing away with the claustrophobic single location of the previous film, the Raid 2 spreads its action all over the place, with each location change having multiple set pieces– some of which are the best choreographed and directed action scenes ever put to film. Almost non-stop action, the film’s only problem is that it’s too amazing. There’s a reason chefs don’t put all of their best ingredients into one dish, the human palette can only recognize a couple of tastes at a time. Which is exactly this films flaw: there’s just too much badassery on display for the human brain to handle.
39. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
One would assume that since they’re commonplace, sequels would have as much money and resources thrown at them as original IP (intellectual property) but as much as Hollywood loves making them, they sure don’t give a shit if they’re good. The logic makes sense – there’s no reason to spend oodles of dough if the fanbase is already there. It seems as though the only good sequels come from a place of passion, which is obviously a problem because who could get passionate about a cash grab? Which brings us to Blade Runner 2049. Nobody wanted it besides the director who wanted to make it. The studios weren’t hot on the idea, due to the first one being a notorious flop and audiences didn’t want it because the first one was a perfect film. But what everyone forgot or didn’t take into account, was the fact that Villeneuve is a goddamn genius.
Rolling the dice on a property doomed to fail, Villeneuve cashed in all of his goodwill chips in order to do his take on Ridley Scott’s world and it’s a hell of a take. Blade Runner is a pioneer in SFX and is declared by every critic in the world one of the best looking films of all time and Blade Runner 2049 might top it. With impeccable set design, eye popping colors and unreal cinematography by Roger Deakins as well as fantastic performance from all involved (yes, even Leto), Blade Runner 2049 might be the first anti-cash grab sequel in existence.
38. Coco (2017)
A celebration of traditions, Mexican iconography and cultural figures unknown to most Americans, Coco is an imaginative look at the multi-day holiday referred to as The Day of the Dead or Día de Muertos. In the film, Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voiced by Benjamin Bratt) but he can’t due to his family’s generations-old ban on music. Desperate to prove his talent in a local talent show, Miguel breaks into Cruz’s tomb to borrow his guitar and in doing so, curses himself to the land of the dead. While there, he meets a charming trickster named Hector (voiced by Gael García Bernal) and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to help Miguel get back home and along the way, they unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.
From its wonderfully imaginative depiction of the afterlife, to its absolutely gorgeous animation and unforgettable songs, Coco is a series of nothing but homeruns. It is an emotional tale about the importance of “familia” and going after your dreams, no matter the cost. It’s the last Pixar film to capture the magic of their older films and hopefully it’s not the last.
37. John Wick (2014)
The film’s plot — a mythical hitman coming out of retirement to get revenge on those responsible for killing his dog — could also be, in some way used to describe its star. Before this film came out, Keanu Reeves was primarily known as either the “I know kung fu” guy from The Matrix trilogy or as the lovable idiot from the two Bill and Ted movies but he was never thought of as a good actor and certainly was never considered a badass. But just like Wick himself, Reeves came out of nowhere to surprise everyone and to finally kill his haters once in for all.
John Wick is the definition of a surprise hit. There was absolutely no buzz going into this film and hardly anyone was excited. The trailer looked cool but the fact that it starred Reeves (who as previously established wasn’t a name anyone gave a shit about) and was directed by his stunt man, didn’t inspire that much confidence. But it far exceeded everyone’s expectations. The film, like Taken before it, hit at the exact right moment. The world needed another badass and the film delivered. It, along with its two follow ups, are pleasant surprises that rank among the best of the action genre.
36. Ex Machina (2014)
Chosen to participate in a ground-breaking experiment, a young programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) is tasked with evaluating the human qualities of a highly advanced humanoid A.I. to see if she can pass as human. Written and directed by the premier sci-fi filmmaker of the 2010’s, Alex Garland’s Ex Machina is a tense, pulpy sci-fi yarn that starts off as a simple Turing test but turns into something more. An examination of what it means to be human and how difficult it would be to prove you actually were, the film raises a lot of interesting questions and while it doesn’t answer them all, it never feels annoyingly cryptic. It gives the audience a series of difficult math problems and enough resources for them to solve them. It’s smart sci-fi done right.
35. Shoplifters (2018)
A morally complex film that ponders what means to be a family and how right and wrong can coexist in the same action, Shoplifters is a warm hug of a story that straight up sucker punches you in the heart. A family of thieves use their shoplifting skills to take care of a child they find abandoned outside in the cold. They kidnap her in order to give her a better life but as good intentioned as they are, they did steal her and they also immediately start teaching her to steal, so they’re on shaky moral ground, which plays into the themes of the film. When is thievery justified and does blood alone make you family?
The family at the center of Shoplifters has a stronger bond than almost any I’ve ever seen in film and yet they’re not technically a family by the strict definition of the word and the little girl’s “real” family are garbage human beings but they did birth her, so does that make them more of a “family” or less? The questions the film raises aren’t exactly new but the film succeeds because it is so clearly passionate about what matters most: the characters. The characters are so well written and likable, you don’t care if they’re right or wrong, you just want to see them together. Which creates a sense of overwhelming dread that something terrible will happen to tear them apart. By the end, you realize the film was an emotional assassin who’s only target was your heart.
34. It Follows (2014)
Over the years, we’ve seen many a filmmaker try and fail to take over the mantle of their idols. The late 90’s was littered with Tarantino wannabes, this last couple of years has been plagued by 80’s inspired nostalgia porn by Spielberg worshippers and god knows we have enough Hitchcock devotees but David Robert Mitchell is the first director in a long time that’s come close to not only matching his inspiration but one upping him. It Follows perfectly captures the style and tone of a John Carpenter film. While every other director was focused mainly on the more action-y aspects of his work like Robert Rodriguez or merely ripping him to make another Halloween knockoff, Mitchell was the first to tap into the feel of his films.
Every element is designed to invoke the unmistakable feeling of a Carpenter film. From the unforgettably haunting score, which sticks with you long after the film has ended. It’s unrelenting tension – every scene seems to be created to cultivate as much dread as humanly possible. The cinematography, everything shot is designed to put the viewer on edge and it’s unique, bone chilling premise that weaponizes sex and will make you afraid of anyone slowly walking towards you in the same direction. The film bottles the magic of Carpenter while also surpassing him in many ways. The gauntlet has been passed.
33. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Marvel’s biggest gamble since Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy was a huge risk that paid off in spades. No other studio on planet Earth would’ve bank rolled this project. The property was as obscure as it gets, the director was coming off of two near bombs nobody saw, the lead was a nobody and the entire thing was set in space – which meant the budget was going to be huge. The only two things they had to sell anyone on, were Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel and they were cast as a raccoon and a tree. If this was a flop, the MCU would’ve recovered but their gambling days would’ve been over. In order for them (and possibly Sony and DC) to branch out to the more fringe areas of the comics, this film had to be a success. A lot was riding on it and against all odds, Gunn delivered. And then some.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a rollicking space romp who’s greatest achievement is its ability to mix heart with humor. Besides a couple of story elements that would eventually payoff in subsequent MCU entries, the film is focused more on fun than plot. It never weighs itself down in convoluted mythologies or space opera melodrama. It’s just a quintet of lovable a-holes who have to band together to defeat a baddie. That’s all it is but because the cast is so strong and the writing is so good, that’s enough.
32. Gone Girl (2014)
Much like its central characters, Gone Girl is a film that defies expectation. Fincher has crafted a film that at first glance looks like a pulpy whodunit thriller but is, in fact, a complex examination of marriage, and a darkly satirical one at that. It’s a film that is superficially trashy– with its preposterous twists, Machiavellian plots and extreme violence that keep the audience guessing and squirming but those are all just mini Trojan horses for the film to sneak in what it’s truly about. This is not merely a film concerned with finding clues and culprits, it is a film that leads the viewer down a path that explores the nature of identity, the manipulative power of the media, marriage and the different masks we wear for others.
The one we wear for our co-workers and bosses, for our friends and family and more importantly, the ones we wear in a relationship. How we each subtly disguise ourselves with different relationships and how easily those masks can be distorted by the media or the public during a witch hunt. Gone Girl is a fierce condemnation of modern ‘journalism’ and the recent phenomenon of trial by social media and black-hearted deconstruction of marriage revealing the festering resentment that lies at its heart. It’s also a fantastic PSA for anyone interested in dating a crazy bitch.
31. Nightcrawler (2014)
Deeply satirical and wickedly funny, Nightcrawler ranks among the best directorial debuts ever. Dan Gilroy’s takedown on journalism, self-help culture and the job market, is executed flawlessly, with each of its targets getting bullseyed. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a con man who weasels his way into the world of crime journalism and because of the nature of his stories and the amoral tactics he uses to procure them, he slowly starts to blur the line between observer and participant, to eventually become the star of his own story. Gyllenhaal has never been better as the self centered ghoul who’s at the center of the film. Everything about his performance and the character itself, is uncomfortable to look at. Every time he’s on camera, a red flag goes up in your mind telling you to get out of the room immediately. He’s an ambitious human skinned shark who’s ambition will devour everyone around. While the supporting cast is all great and the satire is on point, it’s Gyllenhaal’s performance that keeps the film afloat and because it’s so good, it doesn’t just float, it soars.
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!