Although often dominated by a stream of comic book films that may have taken the Box Office by storm, yet left something of a void when it comes to creativity and new ideas with their never-ending GCI battles, the 2010s have on the whole been a great decade for movies, offering fresh inspiration for tired genres.
It was also the decade that saw the rise of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, who’ve changed the movie game as we know it. Not just by how we consume our flicks, but by bringing indie films back to the fore and allowing directors and actors the type of creative freedom we don’t typically see within the risk-averse Hollywood system.
Close but no cigar on this particular list was fantastic horror, The Babadook, from 2014, and hilarious mockumentary take on the vampire film, What we do in the Shadows (2015). Other notable mentions that were a cigarette paper away from making our cut were the smart sci-fi of 2016’s Arrival and Alfonso Cuarón’s 2013 space odyssey Gravity, along with Christopher Nolan’s innovative Inception from the start of the decade.
There were also some seriously heated discussions about All is Lost (2013), Hell or High Water (2016) and two Netflix movies from the end of this year in The Irishman and Marriage Story. But, after much arguing in the office, we’ve come up with our totally subjective conclusion as to what we personally think are ten of the best movies of the decade.
With its achingly cool synth soundtrack by Cliff Martinez and a strong but silent leading man, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive is an ultra-stylish, violent tale that demands repeat viewings. It’s a story of a Hollywood stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) who also provides skilled getaway wheels for criminals, who falls in love with his neighbour (Carey Mulligan) and has to protect her and her young son when a heist goes badly wrong. It’s a perfect blend of arthouse and action.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
The Coen brothers have been making consistently great movies since the 80s. In 2010 they delivered their own fantastic take on the western True Grit, which could easily make it onto any best-of list, but we’ve gone for their smart, funny tale of a young folk singer’s (Oscar Isaac) misadventures while gigging around New York’s hip Greenwich Village. Without doubt one of the Coen’s very best and a no brainer for one of our movies of the decade.
For us, one of the key signs you’ve watched a good movie is how much it lingers in the mind after viewing. Nightcrawler is very much a film that stays with you long after the credits have rolled. It focuses on the sleazy underbelly of nighttime L.A., with Jake Gyllenhaal starring as a rather creepy chap who becomes a freelance cameraman, heading to deadly crashes, murders, and fires to cash in on people’s tragedy by filming footage for news channels. Nightcrawler is so sleazy it leaves you feeling the need for a shower, but it’s also a super-smart social commentary on the inhumane world we live in.
Force Majeure (2014)
The decade was packed full of great foreign-language films such as Roma (2018) and Leviathan (2014), but our particular favourite came in the form of this multi-award-winning black comedy. It tells the story of a Swedish family on a skiing holiday in the French Alps. While eating lunch at a mountainside restaurant things are turned upside down by the oncoming of an avalanche. Faced with death, the mother, Hebba, holds her two children, while dad, Tomas, disappears, leading to some charged emotional drama. It’s an often hilarious glimpse into how people react very differently during a crisis.
The Witch (2016)
Another fantastic horror from this decade was Robert Eggers’ directorial debut. It benefits from taking the less is more approach, making the audience submit to a slow sense of creeping dread rather than non-stop jump scares. Set in godfearing 1630s New England, it sees a religious family who upon threat of being banished by the church leave their plantation to set up home on a plot of land at the edge of an ominous forest in which evil resides. A series of strange events lead to a descent into madness and an unforgettable conclusion. Bleak, yet beautiful, The Witch is folk horror at its finest.
Captain Phillips (2013)
Tom Hanks is one of our favourite actors partly due to the fact he’s so incredibly versatile, whether making us laugh in his 80s comedy roles or taking on heavyweight material like this. Paul Greengrass’s film based on the real-life 2009 hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali pirates is a thriller of the highest order. Hanks deftly plays the resolutely brave commanding officer of the ship who gets taken by armed mercenaries. Filled with pulse-pounding tension and an incredible central performance, Captain Phillips is a perfect biopic.
Get Out (2017)
There aren’t many higher accolades for a film than to say that it’s changed the genre in which it resides, which is something that can be said for Jordan Peele’s Get Out. His Oscar-winning socio-political movie turned horror inside out tackling the subject of racism in America with the villain roles subverted, recast to be taken by middle-class white liberals. Brit actor Daniel Kaluuya plays a young black man who goes to meet meets his white girlfriend’s liberal parents only to find behind the painted smiles something rotten lurks in this suburban haven. Thought-provoking and unashamedly original, Get Out is a gem.
The Academy got one right in 2014 by giving Birdman the Best Picture Oscar. Alejandro González Iñárritu used one continuous shot (or at points cleverly cheated things to give that appearance) to follow Michael Keaton’s washed-up superhero movie star as he prepares for a role in a Broadway show. The whole thing is multi-layered, genuinely ambitious and features performances that can serve as acting masterclasses for future generations.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
For serious high octane action, few have come close to Tom Hardy’s incarnation of Mad Max in Fury Road. But what sets this film apart from most popcorn dumb but fun action flicks is it’s filled with and complex characters, but not the usual amount of CGI that makes it hard to connect or even care about what’s going on. Essentially it’s one long car chase with the fierce one-armed warrior Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) teaming up with Hardy’s Max to try to outrun a ruthless warlord so they can rescue a group of enslaved women and return them to their homeland. Gripping and gorgeously shot it’s the art movie of action films.
For our money, Hereditary wasn’t just the best horror movie of the last decade, it was the best movie period. It sees the grandmother of the Graham family pass away, only to slowly learn that with her death comes the inheritance of an inescapable fate. Toni Collette is incredible as the grieving daughter torn with the fact she both loved and loathed her cold occult obsessed mother. And as more tragedy strikes the family unit things begin to unravel leading to an unsettling realisation. A disturbing study in grief that’s emotionally complex and genuinely scary, Hereditary leaves you shaken to the core while at the same time fully aware you’ve just witnessed a significant event in film history.
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