Another decade gone, another great decade of films. I’ve, insanely, decided to write up my top 100 best films of the last ten years. That’s 2010 to 2019, when I watched 1,264 movies (thanks Letterboxd!), of which I considered about 200 for this list. The top 25 or so was easier to sort out than the bottom 25, with a number of films missing out that I wish I could have squeezed in.
This was a list built on re-watches, filmmaking excellence, nostalgia, gut feelings, and just sheer enjoyment. I’m a favorite = best kind of guy, so even if I found something to be technically exquisite, but it didn’t affect me, it’s not going to probably end up on this list. That doesn’t mean all of these films are pure popcorn entertainment, though you’ll find plenty of that on my list, I have arthouse entries, dramas, action, sci-fi, mostly english language films, and a lack of comedies. Which I think says a lot about that genre as of late.
If you’ve been subscribed to our podcast, you might have noticed a few episodes based on The Decade’s Best (found here). I did this for the last decade too, with three list entries, 100-66, 65-33, and 32-1, but as time passes, so do feelings, so I reorganized that list to more current moods (00-09 Revisited vs. 00-09 Original). Which brings me to the weird thing about these lists, what I feel today will probably be different in another decade. Which I think is really interesting! If you compare those two 00-09 lists you will see some wild disparities. Take my #1 film from that decade today (and my current #1 of all-time!), Fantastic Mr. Fox; I placed it at #54! How is that possible? In fact, 11 of the top 20 have been swapped out from the original list.
So why should you care about this list order? Well, you shouldn’t. But what I do think is that all 100 of these films are well worth your time! They are all GREAT in my book. Your book? Only one way to find out! So with that, on to the list!
#101 – #75
101. The MCU (The Decade)
There are a couple of Marvel Cinematic Universe films that I put on this list of top 100 films of the decade, but the MCU dominated this decade. All but two of the films in the MCU came out within this decade, and the worst score I’d give one of these films is 3 & 1/2 stars; a B- in my book. I’m a big fan of the MCU, I can’t wait to see what they do in their post-Avengers decade ahead, and I considered a number of MCU films for this list. Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Iron Man 3, Captain America: Civil War, and Black Panther. A few more to come.
Best Character: It’s Cap, or Baby Groot, or Korg.
100. The Nice Guys (2016)
Shane Black released 3 films this decade. His Marvel entry, Iron Man 3, was the best of those three films and almost made this list on its own. His Predator reboot was a disaster that the studio seemed to meddle with to hell. His original detective tale, The Nice Guys, was one of the funniest films of the decade and was a fun mystery film to boot. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe star as an unlikely pair of private eyes, who get all mixed up in a missing girl case, and it goes from there. Gosling gives a slapstick performance worthy of any decade, while Crowe’s brooding hard ass always find the brutal laugh. Angourie Rice is also excellent as the token Shane Black “kid” in his best film not called Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.
Best Bit: Gosling in the bathroom stall, desperately trying to keep the door open.
99. Haywire (2011)
Steven Soderbergh’s action flick has male star power for days, which the prolific director delightfully throws into the buzzsaw that is Gina Carano. As an elite operative that gets thrown under the bus, Carano has to fight her way to freedom as the government throws everything they have at her. Car chases, shoot outs, all out brawls, Haywire’s can go toe to toe with any other action film from the decade. Soderbergh directed 9 narrative feature films this decade, retired for a few of those years, shot and edited another one of the best films of the decade, and directed two of the decade’s best seasons of television in The Knick. Haywire kind of flew under the radar in his busy decade, don’t let it slip under yours.
Best Fight: Carano vs Fassbender, this brawl is brutal and is one of the best fights you can find in a movie, period.
98. Melancholia (2011)
Lars von Trier isn’t for everyone, obviously, but this might be his most accessible film of the last decade? Just what you’d expect from an apocalyptic meditation on depression, right? What starts as a celebration of marriage, quickly breaks a part as a rogue planet is set to run into our precious Earth. This sets off a series of conversations between two sisters and their family around them, as they all deal with the impending chaos hurtling towards them. A film hard to describe why it’s so appealing, but its a film that sucks you in when you are watching, both in its thesis and its beauty, and will knock your socks off by the end. If I would have rewatched this one, it could have ended up much higher, I imagine.
Best Images: The slow motion sections of the film are some of the most gorgeous images put on screen this decade.
97. Girl Walk // All Day (2011)
This feature length music video is pure joy bottled up into 77 minutes. Set to the album All Day by Girl Talk, Anne Marsen and Jacob Krupnick take us on a tour of New York City, as Marsen dances everywhere, on everything, with everyone. It has to be seen to believe, as Marsen’s energy is just impossible to resist. Infectious is an understatement. They do such a fantastic job of mashing up Girl Talk’s mash-up into a travelogue/music video, you kind of wonder why nobody else has tried to pull off something like this in other major cities. Hell, somebody should send Marsen and Krupnick around the world to do it. Give me the sequel!
Best Dance Moves: Marsen’s, seemingly, mostly improvisational steps are a sight to behold, their slightly unpolished nature lending heaps of charm that carry this through to the end.
96. Lincoln (2012)
Steven Spielberg is one of my favorite directors (hell, he’s one of everybody’s favorites) and he is no stranger to historical pieces. So, when he enlists one our greatest actors, in Daniel Day Lewis, to play Lincoln I was excited. The film we got was a bit unexpected, centering around the passage of the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery and the political machinations needed to do so, but with a cast full of “that guys” and up and comers revolving around a towering lead performance from Lewis, what we got was nothing short of exceptional. Funny, fast paced, and charming, it leaves one wishing the political process could be as possible as it was in the heart of the Civil War; shakes head endlessly. Lincoln is Spielberg effortlessly delivering a pop biopic, with a flawless performance sitting at the center of it all. Lewis’ performance is why I keep coming back to this though, as his understated work and charm never fails to wow.
Best “That Guy”: Ok, so he’s not really a “That Guy”, but Tommy Lee Jones is just so fucking great in this as Thaddeus Stevens, followed closely by a bumbling James Spader and a hilarious Michael Stuhlbarg.
95. Arrival (2016)
Denis Villeneuve might not of had as prolific a decade as Soderbergh, but the guy created a number of great movies, each in completely different genres. The first time I watched this Amy Adams led encounter of the third kind, I was left a little cold. I appreciated the score, the filmmaking and the core performance, but the structure and extra sci-fi twist that is revealed at the end needed more parsing. A second viewing cemented the heptapod language structure, while also settling in to the message of communication vs. war, wrapped around a moralistic quandary on a marital level. Why isn’t this film higher on this list? There is so much going on in this film, it might take a few more viewings to sort out. Check back in a decade, this could be Villeneuve’s best by then.
Best Design: The Heptapods, and the ships they fly in, are unlike anything I’ve seen in an alien film, giving the film a fresh sci-fi sheen, while also being appropriately functional and minimalist as to not draw viewers focus away from the heart(s) of the story.
94. Shutter Island (2010)
Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese have been quite the duo this century, with all of their films earning high marks from me and putting one film high up on each respective decade’s list. Shutter Island is a horror tale of sorts, it’s even got a twist, but for most of the film we watch as a detective story unfolds and a man is racked by the guilt that has destroyed his life. DiCaprio is great in detective mode, while Scorsese routinely disorientates you whenever possible with filmmaking and editing tricks up his sleeve. This was quickly deemed lesser Scorsese, but I always seem to appreciate his dips into genre faire, and it is fun to see DiCaprio is something so pulpy as well.
Best Twist?: I believe I had this film spoiled for me, a bit, before seeing it, but I wonder how this would have played pure, going in and knowing nothing.
93. Marriage Story (2019)
Noah Baumbach has become one of my favorite writer/directors over this last decade. Of his 4 narrative feature films that missed this decade’s best list, one might have jumped on to it with a re-watch (Meyerowtiz Stories), one gets better with every re-watch (Mistress America), one had possibly the most laughs I’ve had in the first 2/3rds of a movie before a finale that threw me (While We’re Young), and one introduced me to Greta Gerwig (Greenberg). His latest, and first 2019 film on this list, features a pair of dazzling performances at its core, in Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, as we watch their marriage’s final days as they work through a divorce. Sad, funny, beautifully written and impressively characterized subjects at the center, there isn’t much more you can ask for in a film. Again, a re-watch will probably only send this one higher on this list, but it leaves a great impression nonetheless first time out.
Best Lawyer Performance: Laura Dern is getting all of the buzz, but Alan Alda and Ray Liotta are actually better than her? I mean, who doesn’t love Laura Dern?, but Alda and Liotta deliver some of the best comedy of the year.
92. Holy Motors (2012)
Leos Carax’s film opens with a dream, well, he himself dreaming, and he somehow stumbles into a movie theater. What follows is a mostly one man show, Denis Lavant, as he carries out a series of acting jobs all around Paris, inserting himself into “real life” as he changes characters in the limo that drives him around. The film is impossible to pitch in a paragraph, but it features one of the best performances of the decade in Lavant, as he gets to show an incredible breadth of range from one job to the next. The film is also weird as hell, you never know what will happen next, what is real, what is part of the act, and features two musical interludes. It’s arguably the most unique film on this list as it can be whatever it wants from one scene to the next.
Best Use Of An Accordion Ensemble: The group cover of Let My Baby Ride is a delightful break from the madness and confusion, only to throw you right back into the waters for the back half of the film.
91. Steve Jobs (2015)
This Danny Boyle directed, Aaron Sorkin written, and Michael Fassbender staring biopic about Steve Jobs was so quickly dismissed when it came out, but I found to work wonderfully from start to finish. Fassbender is, unsurprisingly, excellent as Jobs and he is surrounded by a supporting cast that steps up to his level. Kate Winslet and Seth Rogen in particular shine brightest, with Rogen deserving of an Oscar nom for his work as Woz. Jonah Hill got two noms this decade, why not his buddy Seth? Boyle’s direction is sharp, fast and can keep up with Sorkin’s blazing script work. This got lost in the prestige game, and what it turned out to be was a poppy and accessible twist on the genre that gets to what makes it’s protagonist tic without showing us every page in his story.
Most Brutal Takedown: They don’t pull any punches showing Jobs at his most dickish, and Fassbender’s takedown of Michael Stuhlbarg as he sends him onto an elevator early on was equally devastating and hilarious.
90. Coco (2017)
Pixar’s journey into Mexican heritage and the world of Día de Muertos is a beautiful piece of computer animation and a testament to the power of family and music. Miguel’s journey to the Land of the Dead is pressed forward by a journey to discover who his banished great-great-grandfather truly is, driven by his love of music and a soundtrack that can go toe to toe with any musical of the last decade. Miguel’s spirit is infectious, the film is full of Pixar’s signature laughs and pathos, and the animation is arguably the best ever committed to film? That said, while Coco is a great Pixar entry (though not quite top tier), it is on this list because it sticks the ending about a great as any entry on this list. Miguel’s serenade of his ailing great-grandmother Coco destroys you, all while pulling together all the themes, plots and relationships that came before it. The ending is perfect.
Best Song: It’s Remember Me, no contest, and it might be the best original song for a film this century.
89. The Post (2017)
Steven Spielberg, again on this list (for the last time, sorry Ready Player One heads!), is another historical entry as he dives into The Washington Post’s handling of the Pentagon Papers. Bouncing between Post owner Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep), executive editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), and his team of reporters breaking the case, the film is a newspaper drama with the polish of Spielberg behind it all. His camera weaves through the newsroom, in and out of offices, and his cast is top-notch from top to bottom. Spielberg makes it all look so easy this decade, and I think that is a big reason why his trio of historical pictures might fly under the estimation of his greatest films. No one is arguing anything Spielberg put out this decade is as good as his very best, but nobody’s movies are? And even though he might have his elite days behind him, his stuff is still better than most movies in any given year. Respect the Bearded one.
Best Double Feature: This film is by no means hiding it’s declaration for the freedom of the press in a time where that is under assault, but it also serves as a great double feature with All the President’s Men; the final shot literally taking us into that story with the break in at the Watergate Hotel.
88. Gravity (2013)
Alfonso Cuarón is one of our most masterful directors and in Gravity he gave us one our great thrill rides in a theater this decade. Following an astronaut (Sandra Bullock) in a fight for survival after a disaster in space, the visceral thrills of this film when at it’s best are some of the most exhilarating set pieces of the decade. Every camera move, every action beat, every sound effect, it is all perfectly assembled here and might have been higher if I could have seen this in a theater again. Gravity might be the theater going experience of the decade, an experience made for the big screen and big sound. Bullock carries the film easily, but her character’s emotional arc never quite settled in with me. Still, this barely holds the film back, it just could have elevated the film to the top of this list had the emotional stakes matched the physical ones.
Best Use Of George Clooney?: Clooney sort of faded away this decade after Gravity, but he capped off a great start to the last ten years with an incredibly charming turn as one of Bullock’s fellow astronauts caught up in the middle of this disaster. He’s the perfect antidote to the terror unfolding in outer space and Cuarón uses that energy perfectly.
87. Cloud Atlas (2012)
The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer’s adaptation of Cloud Atlas takes place over hundreds of years, interweaves multiple characters and plot lines, reuses the same actors in ethnically diverse rolls and shouldn’t work at all. But it does! And what we get is a twisting and impressively edited dance about what makes a person, what makes a soul, and how stories can shape us throughout history. The score, Tykwer with Johnny Klimek, and Reinhold Heil, propels the film forward, but the storytelling and editing wrapping all of this together makes this film a unique experience. Not all of the acting works in every timeline, but the film is taking so many chances and trying so hard, mostly successfully, to deliver something we’ve never seen before, I can easily forgive a couple of “eh” performances. Man, I need to watch this movie again ASAP, it was such a singular experience. Let the Wachowskis be weird!
Most Surprising Transformation: Hugh Grant as the Kona Chief, hunting down enemy tribes people in full face tattoos and ceremonial arm, who knew!
86. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)
A David Fincher adaptation of a pop novel will find its way on to this list more than once, but this detective story around a decade’s old disappearance of a young girl from a powerful Swedish family made waves because of it lead protagonist Lisbeth Salander. Rooney Mara stars as the introverted Salander and is paired with an incredibly charming Daniel Craig, who is a down on his luck publisher that gets pulled into the film’s greater mystery by the aforementioned family’s patriarch. The detective work is slickly assembled by Fincher, but it is Mara’s performance and arc that makes the film as great as it is. She’s incredible and her story is full of tough turns and brutal revenge. I can’t believe Sony didn’t flip the bill for Fincher to adapt the whole trilogy, but as it is, the final beat of this movie stands as one of the most downbeat endings of the decade. Hell of an Enya needle drop in there too.
Most Badass Performance: Mara’s Salander is vulnerable and soft spoken, closed off and unapproachable, loving and loyal, but get the fuck out of the way when her wrath and revenge streak come out. One of my favorite performances of the decade.
85. The Handmaiden (2016)
Park Chan-wook never lets me down, and The Handmaiden’s twisty romance feels right at home with the filmmaker’s filmography. The unlikely courtships at play are never what they seem, the period setting is gorgeous, and the weird factor just never lets up. Park handles broken narrative structures as well as anyone out there, and it is often a device he uses in his work. The Handmaiden is no different and I was genuinely caught off guard by a number of developments that Park reveals through these narrative twists. Kim Min-hee and Kim Tae-ri are wonderful in the lead roles, with an incredible chemistry and a power you can believe as the flip the tables on the worlds they’ve been forced to live in.
Biggest WTF: What The Fuck was that creature in that basement torture chamber!?!
84. The Guest (2014)
Adam Wingard has had a roller coaster of a decade. He came out of the mumblecore scene with Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz, and also the anthology horror scene, culminating in the polished home invasion flick You’re Next (check it out!). He then peaked with The Guest before being sucked into IP properties ever since. This and You’re Next are his only films I’ve seen so far, but the idea behind The Guest came out of a double feature of Halloween and The Terminator, and you can tell! Not that The Guest isn’t it’s own thing, it very much is, but that DNA was a great template for Wingard and crew to work with. Casting a “looking to prove himself” Dan Stevens (right off Downton Abbey) and the up and coming Maika Monroe as his leads was a great start, but the script is just so damn fun and twisty as things just get more and more complicated. Carpenter and Cameron’s influences are felt from the action to the soundtrack, but Wingard’s originality in this indie action showcase is the reason he has gotten scooped up by the big studios to end his decade.
Best Downton Abbey Castaway: Lady Mary has my heart, but Dan Stevens has quickly made the most after getting off that show. Still, it’s a shame that he wasn’t in the Downton Abbey movie last year, which was great!
83. Stoker (2013)
Park Chan-wook is here again, this time in his only English language feature, with a twisted southern gothic, coming of age drama that fits right into his depravity filled filmography. Mia Wasikowska stars as India, and when a long lost uncle (Matthew “fucking” Goode) pops back into town after India’s dad passes away, weird shit starts happening. India and her mother, Nicole Kidman, try to navigate the bizarre happenings, but Matthew Goode seems guilty as shit, but he’s just so damn handsome. That’s only the half of it, as the coming of age part of the story does not go the way you think it will. Wasikowska is excellent as the odd duck India, whose urges take her on a path that her family has tried to keep her from her whole life. Also, Kidman is amazing, per usual.
Best Piano Duet: Yeah, it’s fucked up, but Park shoots the hell out of it. And Philip Glass’ composition is full of an energy that makes this one of the best scenes from that year.
82. 13 Assassins (2011)
This film from Takashi Miike made my top 5 of 2011, but I haven’t rewatched it since the theater. The reason it was so high was because the finale of this film is possibly the best action set piece of the decade; if memory serves me correct. A long, giant fight as the titular assassins fight off hordes of enemies. Seven Samurai on steroids, Miike’s direction is incredible as he deliberately gets us invested in the 13 samurai and the villian they are supposed to stop. A 45 minute action finale keeps finding new ways to impress, while Miike isn’t afraid to kill his heroes among the many that fall in this showdown. I really need to see this again, I wonder where it would have ended up if I just reaffirmed my feelings from a decade ago.
Best Part Of The Showdown: I distinctly remember the stakes of the final fighters squaring off, as the bad guy is almost about to succeed. Put me on the edge of my seat even after Miike just never let up for the forty minutes prior.
81. Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010)
Banksy’s “documentary” (?) about Mr. Brainwash and the street art scene of the 2000’s is always up to something. What starts as a documentary by Mr. Brainwash, before he became Mr. Brainwash, following around artists and trying to find Banksy, flips at some point halfway through as the documentarians flip places; one now watching the other. Was this always the plan, did Banksy really just take over, is this all just another elaborate hoax? You never really know, but that’s all part of the fun, right. The film also finds some great observations on the value of art and what art is, but Banksy’s deadpan delivery and the eccentric nature of Mr. Brainwash will keep your attention till the credits.
Who Is Banksy?: No, seriously, how have we not figured this out yet?
80. Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)
Sean Durkin’s paranoid character study of what happens when you leave a Manson like cult, only to be unable to re-enter polite society gave us Elizabeth Olsen and announced Durkin as a director to watch. And we are still waiting. The guy made this nearly impeachable film, but we will just now be getting a follow up later this year. But what makes this great? The writing and editing of this story is just perfect throughout, flipping us back and forth between Olsen’s past life and current attempt to reconnect with her sister, and the results are often electrifying in how it puts you on the edge of your seat. Olsen is also just incredible; reserved and on edge, you feel for her struggle, believe it at every turn, with the ending just being devastating as you realize how much work she still has to do.
Hope For A Better Decade: Durkin and Olsen really were a match made in heaven, I wish they would have made three more films this decade. I hope Olsen gets a role like this again (I enjoy her MCU work) in the next decade and Drukin gets a bit more prolific.
79. First Man (2018)
Damien Chazelle has a pretty great decade. He released three films, all great (2 of which are on this list), and the finale of Whiplash is up there as one of the best final scenes of the decade. But it’s his work with Ryan Gosling that most resonates with me and this biopic of Neil Armstrong really hit me in my sweet spots. I love space, and the space program, with this right in the driver’s seat re-telling of Armstrong’s journey towards those first steps on the moon is an intense and thrilling adventure. Chazelle won an Oscar for direction with his previous film, but this was even more incredible work, all fueled by a performance from Gosling that sucks out all of his charisma and replaces it with a restrained sadness and control that made him the ideal pilot for this mission to the moon. Underappreciated and underseen, First Man will hopefully be more appreciated over the next decade, away from the awards rat race. That final shot is all the more effective when you find out Armstrong and his wife never patched it up.
Saddest Moon Visit: When Neil walks up to that crater, and does what he does, gah… (This after the exhilarating landing sequence, and accompanying music cue, make the final thirty minutes of this movie quite the ride for your heart.)
78. It Follows (2015)
This horror film plays with the horror trope of having sex will kill you (Thanks, Scream!) by making it only terrifying instead of being just a bit of skin between the bloodletting in the genre. The premise, a creature that can look like anyone stalks you till it kills you, slowly walking towards you in a straight line, no matter where you go; unless you sleep with someone, passing it on to them. Until it kills that person and then comes back after you. You don’t want this thing to have your number. Director David Robert Mitchell taps into 80’s horror tropes and makes them his own, giving us a great group of young people to root for (Maika Monroe!) and letting the moral quandary of getting rid of this thing play out. One of my favorite horror films of the decade and one I recommend whenever prompted about the genre.
Not The Best Use Of A Swimming Pool: The finale is centered around a trap in a community swimming pool, and things don’t go quite as planned, to brilliant effect!
77. Sorry To Bother You (2018)
Boots Riley’s anti-capitalist comedy is anarchist and surreal, hilarious and fast paced, and full of a cast that goes toe to toe with the best ensembles of the decade. Lakeith Stanfield is great as aspiring telemarketer, using his A+ “white voice” to dupe people into signing their lives away into servitude or selling that slave labor to nation states around the world. The comedy in this film is delightfully absurd and bizarre, with everyone coming in and just delivering their A game. Armie Hammer is particularly incredible as a tech bro startup king, whose darkest plans delivered one of the biggest “What The Fucks” of the decade; maybe ever?
Biggest WTF: The reveal in question gives The Handmaiden’s basement creature a run for its money.
76. Paddington 2 (2018)
The first Paddington film was delightful, Paddington 2 took things to another level. The message of kindness Paddington passes around should be heard by all, and if we were all as good as him the world would be a better place. Everything in the prison (yes, Paddington gets sent to jail!) is beautiful, hilarious and pink, while the score from Dario Marianelli dances us along gleefully through the end. Add in an incredible performance by Hugh Grant as this entries villain, and well, you got a recipe for something truly marvelous. Paul King plots out everything beautifully to culminate perfectly in the finale, your heart will swell so large it will hurt. And then Aunt Lucy shows up…gah!
How Dare They: The death fake out with Paddington at the end is almost too much to bare (he), how could they do that to us! Protect, Paddington!
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