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.
90. This is the End (2013)
The 2010s were not a great decade for comedies. The early to mid 2000s were dominated by directors such as Apatow, Phillips and McKay but once the Tens rolled around, they were nowhere to be seen. Comedy transitioned from the raunchy and outrageous, to the artful and sophisticated. Directors such as Taika Waititi, Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach were the new kings of comedy but there was at least one person trying to keep the old ways alive: Seth Rogen. He had already made a name for himself with his previous hits Superbad and Pineapple Express but This is the End marked his first foray into directing and it might be the craziest debut from any director. Almost every single thing in the film the studio wanted out. They hated the premise, they hated the demon with the erect dick, they hated the devil’s huge flaccid penis, they hated Tatum as a sex slave and I’m guessing they probably hated Michael Cera’s face. Rogen had to fight them every step of the way and thank god he won because without those elements, it would’ve been just another stoner comedy. This is the End is one of those comedies that you either loathe with a passion or consider one of the funniest ever made. I’m the latter.
89. I Saw the Devil (2010)
I Saw the Devil is a brutal and rip out your heart cat-and-mouse game between a sadistic serial killer and an unhinged secret agent hell-bent on revenge. A serial killer, Kyung-Chul, viciously slaughters the love of Kim’s life (and mother of his unborn child) so Kim sets out on an elaborate quest for vengeance. Kim would be there at every turn to thwart Kyung-Chul’s attempt to carry out his next sadistic deed. The film is relentless and grueling, and the roles of predator and prey are in a constant state of evolution as the two find new ways to inflict pain and sabotage one another’s life.
In his sixth film, Kim Jee-Woon proves himself a master of violence, setting the film in a slightly fantastical version of real-world where killers, cannibals, and rapists lie around every corner, and where a body can withstand an ungodly onslaught of violence, if only so that violence can continue. Gorgeously shot in a palette of red and cold blue with incredible acting, I Saw the Devil is an unwavering look at the darkest depths of the human heart.
88. Steve Jobs (2015)
Steve Jobs is not your typical biopic. This is not a cliched origin story or a paint by numbers retelling of the man’s life. It is a work of fiction that will leave history buffs or anyone looking for any amount of truth, utterly disappointed. This is a three act play that’s structured around the unveiling of three different iconic products: the Macintosh, the NeXT computer and the iMac. The characters and events are all real but every moment between or about them, have been heightened to enhance the drama. It’s an Aaron Sorkin written film, which means it’s very theatrical but in a good way. Nobody in real life talks like a Sorkin character because nobody in real life is that clever. The dialogue is so witty, so clever, it’s damn near poetry. It’s one of the best scripts ever written brought to life by an incredible cast at the top of their game.
87. The Guest (2014)
Usually when an actor leaves a hit show to make it in Hollywood, it backfires horribly, killing their career. It’s called “pulling a Caruso” and very few have ever successfully made the jump. Dan Stevens leaving Downton Abbey at the height of its popularity, is crazy all by itself but the fact that he left it to be in some weird ass horror/action film is amongst the craziest career moves any actor has ever made. But goddamn did that gamble ever pay off. Heavily inspired by the work of Carpenter, The Guest is Halloween if Michael Myers was replaced with Captain America. Stevens plays a soldier who weasels his way into the life of the family of his deceased old war buddy. Or so he says. What he wants from them or why he’s fucking with them is never made explicitly clear but none of that matters. The film is not concerned with answers or even questions. All it cares about is delivering a rock’n good time as stylish as possible, which it delivers on and then some.
86. Winter’s Bone (2010)
Although the tide has turned on her now, it’s impossible to deny how much of an impact Jennifer Lawrence has had on this decade. She was omnipresent, appearing in two huge franchises and multiple Oscar nominated films. But even after all that success, her first performance is still her best. Ree Dolly is one of the great heroines of the decade. Her character is forced to play amateur sleuth in order to find her missing father who put their house up for his bail bond before disappearing. She’s willing to risk it all, including her life, for the truth. Not because she necessarily cares about her father but because if she doesn’t find him, she loses the house, which makes her and her siblings homeless. It’s an emotionally powerful performance that slightly elevates what could’ve been a forgettable murder mystery. Don’t get me wrong, the film’s script is pretty good. It’s just nowhere near as good as J-Law’s performance.
85. Life of Pi (2012)
It’s a miracle this film exists. Multiple directors tried and failed to crack this nut before Ang Lee came aboard. Terry Gilliam, M. Night Shyamalan, Alfonso Cuarón, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet were all attached at one point and each one walked away declaring the project “unfilmable”. And then came Ang Lee. He also said it was an impossible task but unlike the other directors, he wasn’t afraid of a little challenge. Armed with the best SFX team in the world, Lee set out to make the most visually striking film ever made and it’s hard to argue against the final product. Unlike other 3D spectaculars like Gravity and Avatar, Life of Pi was more than just a gimmick. It’s a deeply profound story about stories. The kind we tell to cover up horrific incidents or the ones we tell to make hard truths more palatable. The story about one man’s incredible life that’s more fantastical than any lie. It’s a spiritual journey that will make you laugh (or at least smile) and cry in equal measure. Life of Pi is a film about faith, the power of stories and how the two become indistinguishable from each other.
84. 13 Assassins (2010)
There’s been dozens upon dozens of Seven Samurai knock offs but leave it to the insane genius behind Audition and Ichi the Killer to make the best one. Technically a remake of a 1963 film of the same name, Miike’s hyper violent samurai action flick is clearly inspired by Kurosawa’s masterpiece. The first half is a deliberately paced drama that brings all the characters together and sets up the stakes but once all the talky talk is over, it’s a non-stop action thrill ride. The last 45 minutes of this film are about as good as action films get. The scope of the last battle is truly ambitious. The fight scenes are expertly choreographed and the pace is unrelenting. It’s a huge set piece made up of smaller set pieces that are all amazing. The fact that Miike directs at least 2 films a year is insane. For anyone else, this would be their crowning achievement but for Miike, its just another film.
83. Skyfall (2012)
Any fan of the series will tell you that, since there are no “bad” James Bond films, the only way to properly judge a James Bond film is through the set pieces, the villain, the Bond girl and the theme. If graded on that metric, Skyfall might be the best sequel in the franchise. The theme was so good it was the first to win an Oscar; the action, while never topping the amazing parkour sequence at the beginning of Casino Royale, is still top notch; Bérénice Marlohe is stunningly beautiful; and Javier Bardem is delightfully over-the-top as Silva, the ex-spy with a grudge to settle. And on top of that, it’s the best looking film in the franchise with gorgeous cinematography and impeccable direction by Sam Mendes. If you’re new to the series, this is the one to watch.
82. My Life as a Zucchini (2016)
After his mother’s death, Zucchini is sent to live at a foster home filled with other orphans his age. There, with the help of his newfound friends, Zucchini eventually learns to trust and love as he searches for a new family of his own. At only 70 minutes, It’s amazing how effectively this film depicts loss and loneliness without ever being overbearing, sweet and sincere without becoming overtly saccharine and hope and happiness without having a single formulaic cliche found in most animated films. I loved every second of this film and the only negative I can think of is that it ended.
81. The Lighthouse (2019)
Two lighthouse keepers (Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson) try to maintain their sanity while tending to a lighthouse on a remote island in the 1890s. Much like how Tarantino’s films are a cinematic patchwork of the director’s influences, The Lighthouse is everything Eggers has ever loved or was inspired by, thrown into one giant pot. The film feels like Kubrick doing Bergman doing H.P Lovecraft. Shots linger on images far too long, the pace is glacier, nothing is ever explained and the sound design and aspect ratio are designed to make you claustrophobic and annoyed, which is a good thing. This film’s idea of answering a riddle, is to provide the audience with an even crazier riddle. Since the meaning behind the events of the film are up for interpretation, I don’t believe it’s a spoiler to say that the film juggles at least five or so explanations. The main characters could both be dead and are now in purgatory or hell, they could be the same person, there could be a force within the lighthouse that’s driving them mad or it could just be a tale of insanity. There’s many ways to interpret this film and the fact that it supports them all, is just brilliant. This is a new master working at the top of his game.
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!