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.
60. Inside Llewyn Davies (2013)
Loosely based on an obscure folk singer, Inside Llewyn Davies is a tragicomic ballad about a 1960s troubadour going nowhere slow. The titular Davies is either suffering from the worst case of bad timing, bad luck or both. He’s a man who, through a series of terrible decisions, is forced to crash on friend’s couches when he needs some place to stay, has to bum cigarettes off of strangers and has to chase a cat all across New York because he can’t shut doors properly. He haunts the the snowy streets of Manhattan like a ghost without a home. His friends don’t want him, his family doesn’t want him and the scene he inhabits doesn’t want him. Much like the singer he’s based on, he’s doomed to die forgotten and irreverent.
Changing cultural tastes have made his talent all but irrelevant. His greatest sin? He was born too soon or too late. His contemporaries are changing with the times but the man at the end (it’s Bob Dylan) is about to change the world by playing the same shit. He was an asshole too but he never had to sleep on no couches. This is like the anti Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, it’s a love story about a man who could’ve and should’ve been bigger but is robbed a happy ending because Coen Bros have no interest in rewriting history. So instead they created a film that acts like a bad record that’s stuck replaying the same songs and same mistakes forever.
59. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Wes Anderson’s films have a signature style that’s so distinct, so precise, it almost becomes too much. He is among a handful of directors who’s films are so unmistakably their own, their names have become synonymous with a particular style. If I say something is Burton-esque or Cronenberg-ian, you know exactly what I’m talking about. But that stamp of ownership comes at a price: the price of alienating a large chunk of your audience and the risk of becoming an unintentional self parody. His style almost becomes a detriment to the films themselves. It’s hard to look past the symmetrical camera movements and hipster aesthetic, when it’s present in every one of his films. Even if you love his films, there will be at least one that feels like a bad imitation of his work and for me, that was Moonrise Kingdom.
The first time I saw it, all I saw was the superficial aspects that make up his work. The quirky characters, the sudden whip-pans, the distractingly omnipresent colors, the specific line delivery, things that never bothered me in his other films, suddenly became annoying. I couldn’t stand it. But then I watched it again and this time, I focused on all the things that really make up a Wes Anderson film (the delightful over confidence of youth, the painful regret that comes with age and how amazing new love feels like) and I liked it a lot more. Anderson is not an easy director to love but if you can look past his stylistic shtick, you’ll find an entire filmography of original films, with Moonrise Kingdom being one of his best and most heartfelt.
58. Burning (2019)
There have been many attempts at trying to craft a film who’s plot makes you question everything you see. Filmmakers will usually rely on twist heavy endings and/or surreal imagery to make the audience unsure of what they’re seeing. Burning doesn’t need to resort to such tricks to be effective. It seduces you with charm and then traps you with uncertainty. Jongsu (Yoo Ah In) is out on a job when he runs into Hae-mi (Jeon Jong Seo), a girl who he used to know and who he’s always had a crush on. She asks if he’d look after her cat while she’s away on a trip to Africa. On her return she introduces Jongsu to an enigmatic young man named Ben (Steven Yeun), who she met during her trip. One day, when Haemi isn’t around, Ben tells Jongsu that he’s a serial killer. Is the mysterious Ben really a serial killer or is he just fucking with Jongsu to get him out of the picture? Providing more questions than answers, Burning is a suspenseful mystery that lingers in the mind long after the credits have rolled.
57. Train to Busan (2016)
Zombies have been done to death especially over the past couple of decades, so it is tough to get excited over yet another film where a horde of undead attack a group of people. Well, until writer-director Sang-Ho Yeon brought us his glorious Train to Busan. Sometimes the best concepts are the simplest. The film is zombies on a train. That’s it. But that simple change of location makes all the difference in the world. The quickness of the undead combined with a confined location makes the horror unrelenting and the threat inescapable, which in turn makes all the action immediate and the tension unbearable. It also has the best set of characters found in a zombie movie since the original Dawn of the Dead, which raises the stakes even higher. You’re actively rooting for these characters to live but the film also has no problem killing people off, so knowing every decision they make could be life or death, turns every moment into a edge of your seat experience. It is a pulse-pounding thrill ride with a surprising amount of heart that barely gives you time to catch your breath.
56. Before Midnight (2013)
Before Midnight is a rarity among sequels, in that it’s a continuation of a love story. A love story that spans three decades. Jesse and Celine (played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, respectively) first crossed paths twenty years ago and fell madly in love but since both were young twentysomethings, they both decided to choose life over love. Ten years later, the two lovers cross paths again and now that they’re older and perhaps wiser, they finally decided to give their story the “happily ever after” it deserves. We catch up with them ten years after that to see where their love has taken them. A perfect end to a perfect trilogy, Before Midnight compliments the first two entries in a way few films have done before or since, in that it tells the entirety of a romance over the course of thirty years. Linklater knew that these films wouldn’t work unless actual time had passed and he was right.
These aren’t the same characters we met in the previous films. They’ve lived an entire lifetime since the last time we saw them and they came out the other side changed but the only thing that remained was the love they had for each other. The Sunrise Trilogy is more than just a story of two people in love, it’s a thorough examination of love itself. Why we can’t choose who we love, why time is unfortunately more important than compatibility and how amazing it feels to be loved and in love. The thirty year saga of Jesse and Celine is the ultimate love story, with Before Midnight being it’s most emotionally powerful chapter.
Read Romona Comet’s review here.
55. Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010)
Although it’s based on a series of graphic novels, Scott Pilgrim vs the World is the closest we have to a live action video game. And it’s not just the copious amounts of game related references, easter eggs or in-jokes either. The film has the structure and style of a game. Filled with non-stop energy and with more edits than a Michael Bay film, Scott Pilgrim might be the fastest film in existence. Directed as though Wright was being chased, this puppy starts at 100 mph and never slows down for a second. It’s visually inventive, rip-roaringly funny and loaded with first class performances. It’s a near perfect adaptation in that it changes somethings from the books, omits others (poor Kim got the shaft) and moves things around, to provide an equally as good experience for fans of the comic. And sweet baby Jesus, does that soundtrack slap.
54. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
After almost two decades of making weird ass independent films, David O. Russell finally hit his stride in the 2010’s. The five films he released that decade amassed a staggering 25 Oscar noms, which, by itself is an impressive feat but the fact that one of those films only earned one nom and the other was a notorious bomb, is all the more awe-inspiring. While American Hustle received the bulk of those noms (some would say undeservedly), Silver Linings Playbook nabbed a respectable six, with Lawrence being the only one to go home with the gold. I’m not saying the Academy fucked up, nor am I saying it should’ve gotten as many noms as American Hustle. All I’m saying is Silver Linings Playbook is Russell’s best film and is far better than Lincoln or Les Misérables or whatever bullshit won that year. The performances are all superb, the writing is exceptional and it doesn’t reek of Oscar bait. It’s a charming love story that gets heavy when it needs to but never gets sappy. Wait, Argo won and The Master wasn’t even nominated? Goddamn it Academy. You had one job.
53. La La Land (2016)
An unfortunate case of life imitating art, the incident at the Oscars (in which a presenter read the wrong envelope and mistakenly gave La La Land the Best Picture Oscar) turned this film’s ending into a self fulfilling prophecy. Damien Chazelle’s follow up to Whiplash is a loving homage to the song and dance love stories of old. Where Hollywood was magical, everyone was beautiful and the world was lit in Technicolor. His primary influences were The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and New York New York, which is evident in its look and bittersweet tone. Make no mistake, this film is a love story but it’s also a story about unhappiness. The film builds to a finale in which everyone gets the happy ending that they want but just like La La Land in real life, maybe things would’ve turned out better if the right thing was said at the right time.
52. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Amongst the more underrated of the MCU films, Captain America: The First Avenger was a consistently entertaining origin film that took inspiration from WWII adventure films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Rocketeer and Force 10 from Navarone. It’s setting, as well as its aforementioned influences, helped set it apart from the rest of the MCU. But as removed from the typical superhero film as it is, it doesn’t hold a candle to how different Winter Soldier feels from its Marvel brethren. Mixing a political espionage thriller with a big budget action movie, Winter Soldier is one part Three Days of the Condor, two parts Mission Impossible and three parts fun. This was the first and last time a film in the MCU felt more substantial than a piece of bubblegum. It has an intriguing plot that didn’t feel like a lead in to another MCU property, has some of the best action in the entire franchise and gives Evans enough material to turn him into the second most important character within the Marvel movies. The back-end of the MCU would look a hell of a lot different if it wasn’t for this film.
51. Dunkirk (2017)
After fifteen years of genre fare, Nolan went back to his roots and delivered another anxiety inducing drama he originally became famous for but this one would be a bit different. Dunkirk is a huge departure from his previous films in that it’s the first film in his oeuvre that isn’t actively trying to impress the audience with gimmicks or spectacle. It doesn’t have a complicated plot, it doesn’t deal with heady sci-fi themes and there’s no mind blowing CGI. It’s a war film that utilizes similar tricks found in his previous films (the narrative is split into three different timelines and three different locations: land, sea, air), which never feel like they’re at the expense of the story. Nolan broke the film up into different interlocking chapters for a reason. It broadens the scope of the event, paints the volunteers as heroic as the soldiers and grants the audience new perspectives on the war. Since war is a shared experience, the film is too. There is no main character or main story thread. Everyone is connected, whether they know it or not. It’s a meticulously crafted ticking clock of suspense that also happens to be one of the most inspirational films ever made.
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!