First off, I need to start this with the obligatory “this list is subjective and if you have a problem with it you can shove that problem so far up your ass that…”
Anyways…this list is for fun. Its purpose is fun. I want you to have fun reading it. I want you to have fun agreeing and disagreeing with it. I know my taste isn’t your taste, but it’s fun to make a list and discuss how films have aged over the course of the decade. Now, without further ado, let’s get to the list.
51. Poetry (2010)
Director: Lee Chang-dong
The first entry on the list comes by the way of one of my favorite filmmakers I discovered this decade. Korean director Lee Chang-dong pushes the envelope in such provocative ways, and Poetry certainly does that framed in such a unique view. One of his best films too.
50. Into The Abyss (2011)
Director: Werner Herzog
The only documentary on the list is Herzog’s soul-crushing film of an inmate on death row and the chaos he caused not only to the victim’s families but the community. I’ve never cried harder watching a film in my life. Total devastation.
49. Shame (2011)
Director: Steve McQueen Steve McQueen is an immensely talented director. In my view, he’s possibly the best director working today and hasn’t made a bad film yet. Shame is McQueen at his most provocative with a whirlwind performance from Fassbender. This won’t be the last McQueen film on the list.
48. Lady Bird (2017)
Director: Greta GerwigGreta Gerwig is one of the decade-defining filmmakers and actresses and Lady Bird is her swan song. A film that spoke to me on such a personal level and Saoirse Ronan was so damn good that she will forever be known as Lady Bird to me. I saw so much of myself in that character. Gerwig is another extremely talented director and her follow up Little Women adaptation would likely be on the list too if I did this list again next year.
47. Manchester By The Sea (2016)
Director: Kenneth Lonergan One of the best ensembles and scripts of the decade. Casey Affleck is unreal in the lead role, but it’s Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, and Kyle Chandler that make this an overwhelmingly emotional experience. This film hurts unlike any other and leaves a lasting impact.
46. Queen of Earth (2015)
Director: Alex Ross PerryAlex Ross Perry is a director I’ve been massively intrigued by since seeing Her Smell earlier this year, and Queen of Earth operates on similar wavelengths. The slow loss of reality led by a tour de force performance by one of the best actresses on the planet Elisabeth Moss. It’s an anxiety-riddled showcase of her immense talent.
45. Room (2015)
Director: Lenny Abrahamson The First time I watched this film it quite literally stunned me in my tracks. The first act is pure magic that can only be accomplished through cinema. Brie Larson is never better, but Jacob Tremblay’s performance gets completely overlooked as one of the best of the decade. He captures the sheer wonder of the world in such a unique sense.
44. The Boy and The Beast (2015)
Director: Mamoru HosodaBeautiful tale of friendship with a great expansive universe and a number of endearing characters that I will always remember. The best-animated film of the decade. Gorgeous art style, but it’s the writing that carries this one.
43. mother! (2017)
Director: Darren Aronofsky Darren Aronofsky’s most fucked up film and that’s a monumental achievement. Jennifer Lawrence is fucking magnificent here and anyone saying this deserved a Razzie award deserves the guillotine.
42. Like Father, Like Son (2012)
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda Kore-eda is the most empathetic and humane director of this era and Like Father, Like Son is one of his most complex works. The premise creates a dialogue on parenthood that is incredibly insightful and shows what it takes to nurture a child. A fascinating piece of fiction that feels so authentic.
41. Blade of the Immortal (2017)
Director: Takashi MiikeAs a huge fan of the Blade of the Immortal manga, Takashi Miike’s adaptation absolutely hit every mark it needed to satisfy me. The fighting manages to emulate the brutality the manga had and the film pulls off the cartoonish nature of the characters so well. One of Miike’s best films in his great career.
40. Thoroughbreds (2018)
Director: Cory Finley
Thoroughbreds was one of the best genuine surprises of the decade. Small scale filmmaking from a first-time director firing on all cylinders. This film has such an edge to it aided along by two of the most neurotic performances of the decade from Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy. This one continues to grow on me over time and the performances will always stick with me.
39. Midsommar (2019)
Director: Ari Aster Unnerving cinema at its finest. Florence Pugh’s pulse-pounding, unsettling acting is one of my all-time favorite horror performances. Ari Aster is a force to be reckoned with.
37. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Director: Wes AndersonThe type of narrative tailor-made for Wes Anderson’s aesthetic style and endearing storytelling. It’s full of jive, love, and moves at its own pace. A grownup tale about children reminiscent of French New Wave cinema.
36. Holy Motors (2012)
Director: Leos Carax A spellbinding almost voyeuristic like experience through Denis Lavant inhabiting a number of diverse roles as an actor. There’s nothing I can say here to begin to describe Holy Motors, all I can say is see the film immediately.
36. Son of Saul (2015)
Director: Lazló NemesOne of the most impactful Holocaust films ever made, framed from an over-the-shoulder first-person perspective, the visuals produce an experience that is completely jaw-dropping unlike any other.
35. Train to Busan (2016)
Director: Yeon Sang-hoBasic premise that is told to great effect. I can’t believe how emotional this film made me feel, and it ends in the most heartbreaking way imaginable. The best zombie film ever made. Don’t fucking at me.
34. The End of the Tour (2015)
Director: James PonsoldtA conversational piece that I found to be completely enthralling and emotionally connecting. Jason Segal gives one of the best performances I’ve ever seen as David Foster Wallace. Bar none.
33. Incendies (2010)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
A sincere, poignant journey through one’s family history and the shocking revelations that follow. It changes these characters forever and Villeneuve’s story structure amplifies the impact to great effect. The craft here shows off the power of Villeneuve behind the camera.
32. Phantom Thread (2017)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson As a great admirer of both Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread was likely the film I anticipated most of any this decade and it didn’t disappoint in the slightest. An unsettling romance of intense passion with two monumental performances from Vicky Krieps and Daniel Day-Lewis. Johnny Greenwood’s original score is the best of the decade without question.
31. The Captain (2017)
Director: Robert Schwentke The most underseen film on the list and arguably the most underrated. The visuals are stunning and each scene builds on top of each other in such a memorable way. The images will always stick with me. Provocative film to say the least and it’s based on just a surreal true story.
30. Roma (2018)
Director: Alfonso Cuaron The most personal film of the decade. A memory piece of Mexico exploring life through the perspective of a maid, a perspective that most deem insignificant but in Roma, it speaks to the beauty of all walks of life. A gorgeously shot film with incredible meaning.
29. Frances Ha (2012)
Director: Noah Baumbach Awkwardness is a character trait I find so endearing (and unfortunately so relatable) and Greta Gerwig co-writing the script and starring in the lead role as Frances made me fall absolutely in love with that character. Her introverted personality trying to branch out into the world and the world not accepting her made me want to reach out and comfort her. I felt so much watching this. Noah Baumbach’s best.
28. The Social Network (2010)
Director: David FincherDavid Fincher making quite possibly the decade-defining film. Flawless from a filmmaking perspective featuring an all-timer screenplay from Aaron Sorkin.
27. The Skin I Live In (2011)
Director: Pedro Almodovar
The perfect narrative for a Pedro Almodovar horror film. The craft is so precise and clean that it could only be done by Almodovar. Antonio Banderas gives his second-best performance (only behind his role in Almodovar’s 2019 film Pain and Glory) of his career. Masterful work on a technical and storytelling level.
26. One Cut of the Dead (2017)
Director: Shinichiro UedaOne Cut of the Dead might be the most original film of the decade and takes the newfound idea of the one-shot film and twist it to great effect. I’ve never seen a film get a reaction where the audiences hate the first thirty minutes only to absolutely love it by the end and that’s by design. Brilliant film all the way around.
25. Moonlight (2016)
Director: Barry JenkinsArguably the film that will outlive the rest this decade terms of its importance and impact on the industry and world. For me, it’s a film that works on every conceivable level due to craftsmanship and vision of the one and only Barry Jenkins. It plays with every emotion so masterfully. Finished by Britell’s overwhelming original score.
24. Whiplash (2014)
Director: Damien Chazelle It’s imperative when talking about decade-defining directors that Damien Chazelle’s name is mentioned and specifically his true breakthrough film Whiplash. The pulse-pounding musical that goes to such unexpected places. JK Simmons and Miles Teller are unreal opposite each other. Unbending, unparalleled genius on display from Chazelle.
23. Amour (2012)
Director: Michael HanekeGod, I love Michael Haneke. The way his mind works is so incredibly vicious. The work of a mad genius. Here, in Amour, it’s his most mature narrative, done in his old age. A story about the destructive resentment of growing old together. A bleak film that is brilliantly constructed and terribly troubling.
22. The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)
Director: Joe TalbotIn a decade marked by earth-shattering directorial debuts, Joe Talbot’s poetic fable-like story of gentrification in San Francisco might top them all. A beautiful story of a city losing itself and the people it’s forgetting. Unique in every sense of the word. Jimmie Fails and Jonathon Majors give two of the most authentic and empathetic performances of the decade.
21. Spotlight (2016)
Director: Tom McCarthy The best journalism film since All The Presidents Men with one of the best ensembles and scripts of the decade. An enthralling film that shows the true power of journalism without feeling artificial. This film hits on a level that most films don’t.
20. Burning (2018)
Director: Lee Chang-dong Lee Chang-dong’s Burning is a haunting vision of class and desire. A fever dream directed to explore resentment in such an underhanded way. Done subtlety through performance and aesthetics. Scored by Mowg that brings a strange sense of distrust and the hazy cinematography creates this evil atmosphere. A brilliant film with incredibly dark undertones.
19. The Favourite (2018)
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos The bratty, wicked, and devilishly funny Yorgos Lanthimos film The Favourite is equal parts weird, elegant, and dirty. A story showing the lengths people will go to gain the favor of the powerful with one of the absolute best ensembles of the decade. The best from the twisted mind of Yorgos Lanthimos and one that will have staying power long past this decade.
18. Cold War (2018)
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski In terms of great romance told through time and borders, Cold War sits alone. A film so masterfully crafted that every inch of production feels purposefully done. Absolutely one of the best-looking films of the decade. Heartbreaking in a unique sense hidden in the smoothness of the approach and the roughness of the reality. Splendid film.
17. Dunkirk (2017)
Director: Christopher NolanSeeing this in 70mm was what I imagine an actual orgasm to feel like done through cinema. It’s not only Nolan’s silent approach and nonlinear structure but the sheer scale of the film and undoubtedly some of the best cinematography ever from possibly the best of the decade in Hoyte van Hoytema. Certain shots left me stunned in my seat. One-of-a-kind war film and one of the best ever.
16. We Need to Talk about Kevin (2011)
Director: Lynne Ramsay Lynne Ramsay is one of the most brilliant minds in the industry over the last 30 years and We Need to Talk about Kevin is her at her most provocative. A film focused on an utterly destructive mother-son relationship, told through the perspective of the mother who is played alarmingly by Tilda Swinton. One of the most twisted films of the decade and one that sticks with you forever.
15. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Director: Wes Anderson The spirit embedded within this film is unmatched. It moves at a brisk pace with the most lovable characters and a protagonist in love with older women. Every piece of the filmmaking works and this is the peak of Wes Anderson’s symmetrical aesthetic. This film is bursting with creativity and I love spending time in this world.
14. Boyhood (2014)
Director: Richard Linklater 12 years of filming gives this film such an authentic feel to the drama and truly reminded me of growing up. It has moments that brought me back to points in my own life that feel so personable. It feels overwhelmingly meaningful and gets the small moment’s rights as well as the big moments. I fell in love with this experience.
13. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2011)
Director: Apichatpong WeerasethakulUncle Boonmee is unlike any film ever made and operates within a different plane of existence. It’s a ghost story, at its core, passing that experience onto the living that will soon live in the shadows. A mystical experience that’s unparalleled and completely awe-inspiring.
12. A Seperation (2012)
Director: Asghar Farhadi A Separation might be the best script of the decade. A towering achievement showing the destructive tendencies of divorce and the spiraling that comes out of huge life changes of this magnitude. The last scene left me breathless and the final shot is achingly beautiful.
11. Get Out (2017)
Director: Jordan PeeleGet Out is the film of our time presenting the issue of race in such a unique view that changes the perspective completely. It exposes the crossing of a white culture essentially stealing black culture. Incredibly well made and written and simply one of the most clever films of the decade. It was so smart that it created its own sub-genre of horror.
10. The Wailing (2016)
Director: Na Hong-jinThe Wailing shook me to my core. A brutal and haunting horror film that is deeply disturbing to a degree that extends into the depths of hell. It’s a full-on nightmare of an experience. The vision behind it all is entirely unsettling in the same vein as Possession, the highest praise I can give to a horror film.
The next nine films are what I consider to be the masterpieces of the decade. Stories told so effectively through beautiful writing, direction, performances, and have certain control over every aspect of production.
9. Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Director: Luca Guadagnino Call Me By Your Name is the romance of the decade, a ravishing film of two men who find each other completely irresistible. Few films disappear into the setting as much as this one and all of life’s issues seem to fade away when they are together. It’s a pure romance set in the glowing Italian countryside making it so easy to get swept away by it. And to top it off, Timothee Chalamet gives one of the best performances of the decade.
8. Certified Copy (2011)
Director: Abbas Kiarostami Certified Copy is a marvel, a writing achievement so grand that almost nothing compares. Abbas Kiarostami is one of the great artists of our time, and his incredibly nuanced and telling script creates such grappling tension out of seemingly nowhere. A film where nothing is as it seems done through brilliant acting and a genius script.
7. Prisoners (2013)
Director: Denis Villeneuve Denis Villeneuve’s masterclass in dark, abrupt atmosphere that throws these characters into a total nightmare with no light shining through. The performances are incredibly powerful and the film constantly bares down on their psyche pushing them deeper and deeper. Villeneuve’s best film in a decade where he delivered hit after hit.
6. Shoplifters (2018)
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Kore-eda’s Shoplifters is the wonderful mix of life’s complexities wrapped up in the love of a family. A film bursting with humanity and what happens when that’s stripped from someone. Truly the best ensemble of the decade and a masterpiece from the great Japanese director Kore-eda.
5. Silence (2016)
Director: Martin ScorseseMartin Scorsese’s magnum opus. A deeply philosophical religious film on the silence of God. A gorgeous journey of discovery towards the true meaning of life and our purpose. The oppression is felt wholeheartedly as is the silence. Scorsese at his most cerebral. It’s a powerhouse filmmaking that hits on every level.
4. 12 Years A Slave (2013)
Director: Steve McQueen
A towering achievement and the best film regarding slavery ever made. It’s the most difficult of watches and is only amplified through the framing of a free man sold into slavery. The direction from McQueen is flawless and this is epic style storytelling that is often forgotten. It’s a magnificent work of art.
3. Parasite (2019)
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Parasite is pure cinema bliss. A masterfully crafted film that is so precise, so ingenious, and so damn entertaining. It’s the edge of the seat pacing. The deceptive production design that feels like something is hiding behind every corner. The sharp wit of the writing and the unbelievable performances from the entire ensemble. One of those films that hits every high note and holds your attention there throughout. It’s essentially everything I want out of a film. A Bong Joon-ho masterpiece.
2. The Handmaiden (2016)
Director: Park Chan-wook
Park Chan-wook is a master craftsman of provocation and The Handmaiden is his masterpiece. From a technical and performance perspective, it’s simply perfect. The narrative is constructed flawlessly to play brilliantly off these diverse, underhanded characters. It’s a beautiful film based on the symmetrical and clean aesthetic and a dirty one when it comes to character and the writing. The way Park uses this to tell this incredibly impacting narratively. The ambition displayed here is unparalleled. An incredible experience.
1. The Master (2012)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
The technical mastery from Paul Thomas Anderson in The Master is unmatched this decade. The writing is incredibly strange but also extremely sharp while allowing two of the greatest actors ever to become fully invested in these characters. Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are otherworldly and I’ve never seen two actors play off each other so effectively. The best film of the decade and one of the all-time greats.
Thanks to anyone who read up to this point. It was a fascinating decade of film with plenty of experiences for every type of fan. It was the birth of the Marvel blockbuster and the rise of Disney, but hidden behind that thick layer of droll entertainment are beautiful, intellectual, and challenging films that push us as human beings and make us question the very aspects of life that we hold dear. Here’s to hoping we get more masterpieces in the next decade!