Welcome to Part 2 of The Decade’s Best: 2010-19 – #75-#51.
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!
#75 – #51
75. Gone Girl (2014)
David Fincher is on this list again, with another literary adaptation (Gillian Flynn also adapted her own book here), but he trades in the cold setting of Sweden for sweaty Missouri. A mystery film of sorts, a fucked up romance at its core, Fincher and Flynn weave a twisty tale that will surprise left and right if you aren’t familiar with the source material. Like all of Fincher’s work, the filmmaking and his team around him are impeccable, but I think he doesn’t get enough credit for the work his actors pump out for him. All three of his leads this decade would get nominated for Oscars for their work, and I don’t really know who I would pick as his best performance of the decade. The aforementioned Mara is incredible in Dragon Tattoo, but Rosamund Pike’s Amy in Gone Girl is a next level villain. She brings a humanity to the character, even as she does fucked up thing, after fucked up thing, and then you are almost rooting for her too. It’s an amazing performance, and Ben Affleck is excellent as her foil through all of this madness. It’s fucking crazy we haven’t had another film from Fincher since this. Mindhunter was great, but I would have easily traded that show in for 2-3 more Fincher films this past decade. Thankfully, he will be back with a feature to start off this new decade, I can’t wait.
Person You Shouldn’t Mess With: Amy, never mess with her, ever. She’s “Amazing” alright.
74. Sicario (2015)
Denis Villeneuve is also making his second appearance on this list, with this tense and thrilling drug war drama. This one grew on me, but I think it takes that second viewing to settle in to who the real leads of this film are, Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin. Emily Blunt is great in the film, is the screen time leader, but she is more or less an audience surrogate for this CIA spook tale. Brolin is a nihilistic comedic scene stealer, while del Toro is just quietly menacing until he is utterly terrifying. The ending of del Toro’s arc in this film might be one of the most shocking scenes in the decade. Villeneuve and Roger Deakins’ camera work is also a star here, while Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score will make you sad his career was cut short this decade. This one gets better everytime I pop it in, I could see this settling in as Villeneuve’s best work in another decade. Shame about that sequel, though, woof.
Most Unusual Torture Device: del Toro uses his manhood in quite a way to intimidate a dude in the middle of this, and he’s got the waterboarding materials sitting right there.
73. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
Yorgos Lanthimos is as an original as someone as Wes Anderson, though it isn’t his style that stands out, but his tonal approach to both drama and humor. Deadpan is an understatement, bizzare is a compliment, and all of his work from Dogtooth (a movie that a rewatch of could have found it on this list) through this film feel of a piece. That might not be for everyone. It is for me, though, and I love diving into the brain of Lanthimos and his collaborators. Deer feels like him tapping into Kubrick in style, while finding a pitch black comedy set around a mysterious illness, supposedly brought upon by a begrudging teenager, that begins to take hold of a successful surgeon’s family. Children trying to convince their father to kill their sibling has never been so funny. Colin Farrell and Lanthimos are a match made in heaven, but Barry Keoghan’s Martin is one of the most awkward and bizarre characters of the decade; those adjectives are a compliment when it comes to Lanthimos’ work. Criminally underseen and underrated, seek this one out.
Worst Way To Pick A Family Member: Whatever the hell Colin Farrell is doing as he spins around to a conclusion in this film.
72. Lady Macbeth (2017)
The next decade might become known as the decade of Florence Pugh, but her bid for dominance of the movie going world started in this modest costume drama that feels as modern and menacing as any film released this decade. What starts as an empathetic portrait of a young lady without any control in their 19th century life, devolves into a tale that will leave multiple bodies in the ground. Pugh is EXCELLENT as the young woman trying to blaze her own trail, you will be rooting for her right up until the moment you can’t anymore. William Oldroyd impressed me greatly in his feature debut, I hope we get so much more from him and Pugh in the decade ahead.
When You Know You’ve Crossed The Line: Small children, keep them away from her!
71. La La Land (2016)
Damien Chazelle is one of our great young filmmakers and La La Land cemented himself in the world of Hollywood. An ode to the studio musicals of the town’s past on its surface, a charming excuse to watch Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling charm the pants off everyone and themselves at its heart, the film sticks out as it puts together a beautiful and honest romance that never hits a false note. The musical structure lets Chazelle have it all, the sticky sweet ending romantics would have wanted plays out, but those final crushing looks between our former lovers is what makes the movie so memorable. Gah, my heart hurts thinking about that silent goodbye between Seb and Mia. Is it fair to say La La Land is now underrated? It might be.
Best Dance Number: The duet in the hills will never fail to charm me, head antenna and all.
70. The Favourite (2018)
Yorgos again, but this sees him branching out of his brand a bit and trying something a little different. That’s not to say he doesn’t find his sensibilities in this wicked power struggle among three royal figures of the 18th century, but he also finds more humanity working from a script that isn’t his own (shout out to Tony McNamara and Deborah Davis). Lanthimos experiments with his craft the most yet here, but it’s his trio of performances that he gets from his leads that take this movie to another level. Olivia Colman’s Queen Anne is a depressing and hilarious exercise in excess and ineptitude, Emma Stone is devilishly fun as the encroaching power grabber, and Rachel Weisz is perfect, as always. The Favourite is a film I haven’t seen since the theater, and I think in another decade this might be higher on this list. That said, I am not even sure we’ve even seen remotely the best work from Lanthimos yet, which is certainly saying something as he is already near the top of directors working today.
Strongest Dedication To A Dessert: The Queen really wants that cake…
69. Looper (2012)
Is Rian Johnson a director we are not giving enough credit too? The guy hasn’t made a bad movie yet, Knives Out is a film that feels like it isn’t on this list simply because it hasn’t had enough time to settle in, and he gave us the best Star Wars film of the new ear (more on that later!). Or is it that he just hasn’t hit a home run yet? I feel like his is a bit underrated at the moment (and not just by stupid Star Wars “fans”) and I might be doing that as well. Even though I love all of his movies. I think I might just be a bit too hard on him. What does this have to do with Looper? Well, when it first came out, I think I was too hard on it. The change of scenery half way through threw me off, Johnson shying away from the action at times felt odd, was I supposed to be happy about the kid surviving in the end? But rewatches have shown that I need to just give myself over to the film Johnson’s making, not the one I want out of the ideas he has presented. I think Johnson is really great at introducing some great ideas into movies, but then using them to their fullest effect and moving on to giving you something else in the end. Yeah, you might want more of what worked so well, but you might miss out on something equally as good just because it’s different. Johnson knows how to play with expectations, as good as anyone, and Looper taught me to give myself over to him, and other directors, and the direction he wants to take you, not where you want to go. Also, why doesn’t Bruce Willis make good movies anymore?
Best Description Of Time Travel: Trick question, don’t fucking worry about those straws and shit!
68. Ex Machina (2014)
Alex Garland had been when one of my favorite writers of the decade before stepping behind the camera for his feature debut, but with Ex Machina he shot up to one of my favorite sci-fi filmmakers, period. This three hander starts as a Turing Test experiment, before becoming a psycho-sexual drama with an AI, before becoming a conversation about AI autonomy in general. The three leads are brilliant bouncing off one another, Domhnall Gleeson is great as a techy dude who becomes the perfect foil to the other two players, Oscar Isaac is the tech bro god of your dreams, while Alicia Vikander plays the vulnerability beautifully until she doesn’t. The effects work on Vikander deserves a shout out too, as you never doubt her mechanical workings, even as she emotes like the human she dreams of being. This still feels a bit underseen, a shame Garland’s next film was seen even less so.
Never Trust A Robot Award: Seriously, don’t trust a robot if its being held against its will when it says it loves you.
67. Spring Breakers (2013)
Spriiiiing Breaaaak… Harmony Korine’s neon odyssey into the world of 4 girls’ spring break adventures is gorgeous, hilarious and exhilarating. Korine lets these girls break bad and we watch the fallout. Moral quandaries, can’t hack it attitudes, and gunshot wounds hold some of these girls back, but the second half turn around the “we can do anything boys can do better” ambition is a sight to behold. Korine’s casting subverts expectations by casting a bunch of “teen stars” who all turn in fantastic performances. Selena Gomez is excellent as the good girl who is trying to break free, Ashley Benson is a cool and collected leader, while Vanessa Hudgens is a true wild card in the story. Oh, and lets not forget about Alien, a truly original and alive drug dealing rapper, played by James Franco, who leads these girls down a possibly criminal path. Not for everyone, definitely for me.
Most Unlikely Epic Ballad: The use of Britney Spears’ “Everytime” is one the best needle drops of the decade.
66. Django Unchained (2012)
Walking out of Quentin Tarantino’s slave rebelling reimagination, I thought it was great. I also thought it might be my least favorite film by the director, who only makes great movies. So I had a weird mindset around this film as I thought it was both great and disappointing at the same time. How can I find an A- movie dissapointing? Well, when a master puts out a new movie you are always kind of hoping for a master work. Upon subsequent viewings, I’ve settled into my straight appreciation for Django, even if I rank it in my bottom tier of Tarantino. Jamie Foxx is quietly brilliant, Christoph Waltz proves he and Quentin are a match made in heaven, while Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio are having an absolute blast playing absolute deplorables. The action filmmaking is on par with Kill Bill, as is the violence, and the script is as funny as anything Tarantino’s done. The film is endlessly rewatchable too, It probably should be higher on this list. These things are weird.
Can’t Underrate Them: DiCaprio and Jackson are really incredible in this movie, it takes a couple viewings to get past the nastiness to see just how special their work is here.
65. Waves (2019)
Trey Edward Shults keeps getting better, and at three films in under 30 he is primed to be potentially one of our great filmmakers of the next decade. This decade he put out two films I considered for this list (It Comes at Night just missed, a rewatch could have changed that), and his debut feature was one of the best of the decade in Krisha. So why Waves? Waves is an empathy machine. A two parter, the first half focuses on the brother of our family in focus as he spirals towards potential tragic events, the second half focuses on his sister as she finds first love and learns about forgiveness. I cried, like, 5 times watching this movie. It’s so sad, so hopeful, so honest. Shults’ lets you understand how his characters get to where they are going, making you see how people act the way they do without giving in to caricature impulses. How so many little acts add up to the big one. It really is marvelous, and that Radiohead needle drop in the finale, yowzer! Both of the kids here are excellent (Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Taylor Russell), same for the parents (Sterling K. Brown and Renée Elise Goldsberry), and let’s just put Lucas Hedges in everything, shall we? Oh, he already is? Great!
Biggest Takeaway: When your doctor tells you your shoulder is going to be destroyed if you keep wrestling, maybe stop? That’s where it all started here.
64. You Were Never Really Here (2017)
Lynne Ramsay’s taught and brutal descent into a PTSD character study is wrapped up in a crooked crime tale and features Joaquin Phoenix being incredible. Weird, violent and shocking, Ramsay’s film pulls no punches, even as it obfisgates much of the actual brutality on display. This movie gets up and gets going rather quickly, and for how few of you saw this I think it’s best to talk little more about this one, but Phoenix’s work is some of his absolute best here, which is saying something. You Were Never Really Here should be as seen and celebrated as his most lauded work, why don’t you help change that.
Most Melancholic & Bizarre Moment: Laying next to the guy you just murdered to share a song is beautifully realized during one of the later setpieces.
63. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Edgar Wright is one of my favorite filmmakers, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series was one I loved, so I was hotly anticipating this one. I enjoyed the hell out of it the first time I saw it, but kept comparing it to how it was different from the source material. As the rewatches piled up I began to appreciate Wright’s take on the material and the work he got out of the amazing cast he compiled together. Michael Cera’s Scott is the tip of the iceberg, he lets the film’s amazing ensemble spin and ram into him as he stumbles towards possible love, while Wright’s direction and filmmaking never lets up in the way we’ve come to expect from the master filmmaker. The Threshold sequence is one of my favorite scenes in any movie, ever.
Best WTF I Wish I Could Of Had: I wish I could have watched this movie cold and been able to have the same WTF look on my face as Stacey Pilgrim has early on when someone enters the fray.
62. The House That Jack Built (2018)
Lars von Trier, ever the “provocateur”, spent years hyping up his follow up to Nymphomaniac (a two part epic that almost made this list) about a serial killer and what someone like him might do with a subject matter like this, and it turns out he made one of the funniest films of the decade? I’m sort of on an island with this one, but the black and deadpan humor on display here, as Matt Dillon recounts a series of the most important murders in his many years at work, never misses a chance to find the humor in the absurdity it takes to have a human being act this way. There isn’t an ounce of sympathy or empathy on display for the titular Jack, and there isn’t really much for his victims either. von Trier keeps you at just enough arms length to never be truly horrified (most of the time), while letting Dillon turn in his best performance of his career? Please don’t judge me for loving this movie…
Most Inappropriate Thing I Laughed At: A body being drug behind a car for miles on end has to rank up there, yet here we are.
61. The Revenant (2015)
Alejandro González Iñárritu has been a director I’ve always appreciated, but this was his film that I loved the most. Everyone else seemed to be getting burnt out on the guy by The Revenant’s release, which, I guess I could see how you could find the guy pretentious and grating; but when you are talented enough to back it up it is hard to get all that upset. I don’t know? The Revenant is a gorgeous survival tale, full of a great cast of actors and characters, and featuring some of Emmanuel Lubezki’s best work this side of his Malick run. DiCaprio is arresting as Hugh Glass, you can’t look away, and while I think he’s been better (in multiple films on this list), I think he was more than deserving of all the accolades he received for this film. Tom Hardy steals the show here from the acting troupe, while Iñárritu’s camera work asks them all to be on for some impressive long takes that you sit back and wonder, “How’d they do that?” Yes, it’s a big “macho” filmmaking showcase, but it’s also a job damn well done. I think time will be kind to this one.
Biggest Life Lesson: Don’t fuck with bears, don’t fuck with bears.
60. Midsommar (2019)
Another film from the last year eligible, Midsommar, from Ari Aster, announces him as another major player to watch going forward into this next decade. Another film I, surprisingly (though, maybe not so), laughed at almost throughout its entire runtime, is a break up movie from hell. The incredible Florence Pugh serves as our eyes and ears as we learn the ways of this remote Swedish community, which, honestly, I think they would appreciate the way they are depicted. Aster shoots the film with a loving camera of the festivities at hand, even if some of the things that begin to unfold are utterly horrific and shocking. Aster doesn’t flinch, like the people of Hårga, as their tradition unfolds, making the manic nature of the way Pugh and her American counterparts navigate it all the more terrifying and hilarious. Also, don’t miss Aster’s debut, Hereditary, one of the best first features of the decade.
Would I Be Able To Perform ättestupa?: Nope, don’t think so!
59. 20th Century Women (2016)
Mike Mills gave us two autobiographical tales this decade, both well worth your time (see Beginners), but his work inspired by his relationship with his mother and the other women in his life was my favorite. Annette Bening is incredible as the matriarch of this unlikely family unit, only one of which is her biological relation. Lucas Jade Zumann is solid as Bening’s son in the film, and our entry point into this world, but the film is more about Bening and how she interacts with the world around her, and how Zumann should learn to listen and understand women. It’s a film we should show all young boys and men, they could learn a lot. And they will laugh along the way, and cry a little too. Billy Crudup taps into his Almost Famous mustache and charm, welcome back, while Greta Gerwig delivers her best performance of her career? Maybe? A later film on this list will challenge that statement. This film just came and went, I don’t know why, it’s amazing, and one I think future rewatches will propel it higher up on this list.
T-Shirt I Wish I Owned: I need that Talking Heads: 77 shirt, stat.
58. Dunkirk (2017)
I kind of hated Dunkirk the first time I saw it. Nolan has been pretty flawless for me before this film, but I just didn’t care or connect to anything. I hated the choice to edit the film the way it did. I just was baffled in the theater. I did lay out the chance that a rewatch would change my tune, and I was absolutely right. Knowing the structure on a second viewing allowed me to step back and appreciate what Nolan was doing, crafting a tight and relentless barrage of our nerves and senses. I could focus on the characters, follow their arcs, and appreciate the way Nolan plays with time to make things more and more relevant. It really is some incredible filmmaking. I know I’m not alone in this growing assessment on the film, and I will be very curious where this lands in my Nolan rankings after another go or two with it. If Dunkirk worked for you on the first go, more power to you, I hope you liked it even more the second time, I sure did. Probably the biggest jump in rating I’ve ever given a film on a second viewing. I proudly admit I got this one wrong, and am glad there isn’t a giant essay on the internet where I argue the opposite. (Wait, there is, oh boy…)
A Big Mea Culpa To Christopher Nolan: I was wrong sir, so very, very wrong about Dunkirk.
57. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
I rewatched the first half hour of this the other day, and it’s perfect? Denis Villeneuve is back with his third film on this list and I wonder how high Blade Runner 2049 can go in the future. Gorgeous, thoughtful and wonderfully acted, the more you step back from the mystery of the film, and just appreciate the world building and character development at play, the more I appreciate this movie. Long and deliberately paced, I’m surprised it’s found as supportive an audience as it has. Villeneuve has his fans, but his filmmaking reminds me of Iñárritu in how big and bold they set out to be, every time out. So it’s odd that people are happy to roll with one, but not the other. Harrison Ford comes back to another character from his past and pretty much nails the evolution of that character at an advanced age, three for three, it’s almost like he’s one of our great actors. Ryan Gosling also turns back the charm, but never presents as self-serious, and his work with Ana de Armas surrounding what is love, especially among two artificial beings, was a wild development I did not expect to get in this movie, but loved every minute of. I’ll go wherever Villeneuve goes, the guy could have an incredible decade ahead of him, after already having one of the best runs this past one.
Ana de Armas or Scarlett Johansson As Your AI Lover?: Don’t make me choose…
56. Manchester by the Sea (2017)
Kenneth Lonergan has only made three films, technically only one was produced this decade (Margaret was released in 2011, is excellent, and could have made this list, but that film was shot well before 2011), and that is a damn shame. I know he is a playwright, but that work isn’t as accessible to everyone and there are very few people out there who can write with as much empathy and humanity as he can. This story of an uncle, unwittingly forced into possible fatherhood starts as one thing, but as his history is revealed becomes something else entirely. Lucas Hedges is great here, as is Michelle Williams, but Casey Affleck really is on another level. Sweet, heartbreaking, funny, devastating, the film delicately looks at everyday life in a way that we rarely see on film. Lonergan needs to make more movies, dammit, but I will relish the ones we got, even if they can be soul crushing endeavors that still find a way to uplift.
Most Devastating Scene: It’s not the obvious one, but the on the street reunion between Affleck and Williams can make me tear up just thinking about it.
55. Little Women (2019)
Greta Gerwig! Gerwig’s steps to being on her own behind the camera has been developing all decade. Her work is well represented on this list, with the three films she has the most authorship over appearing quite high. Starting with Little Women, the most recent entry on this list, my appreciation has only grown since I first saw it in the theater, and I haven’t even had a chance for a second go with it. I love this adaptation of the classic tale. Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh standout among the film’s talented ensemble, Timothée Chalamet not far behind them, but Gerwig’s script and direction is what keeps me reassessing this film every time I think about it. The restructuring of the film is essential, the new spin on the ending is brilliant, and Gerwig carries over her energy and forward momentum found in her earlier work into this period picture. I expect to watch this film many more times in the years ahead, it feels like a film you can just wrap yourself up in, sad bits and all.
Who’s Your March Sister Avatar: I think I’m a Jo/Meg combo, I should let my Amy weigh in.
54. The World’s End (2013)
Edgar Wright’s most mature work, his most rewarding work, and his most finely crafted film, also features Simon Pegg’s best performance to date. This sci-fi homage filled ode to nostalgia seems like an excuse to get the old band together, before becoming so much more. A reflection on addiction, filled with laughs and sad sighs, all punctuated by brilliant action setpieces, it’s a film no one else could make. Did I mention the “blanks”? Maybe I shouldn’t, but the villains of this piece also speak to the idea that you should never grow up and how dangerous that can be. Wright and Pegg’s script is so rich and layered, while never forgetting to be entertaining and fun. I think I still rank Shaun of the Dead as my favorite from Wright, but this film only gets better with every re-watch. But so does Shaun. I hope Pegg and Wright team up again someday, but if they don’t, their Cornetto Trilogy would have been tough to beat anyways.
Best Fighter: Nick Frost is also brilliant in this movie, as he is fueled by alcohol to kick the living shit out of the hordes of Blanks that get thrown at him.
53. World of Tomorrow (2015)
Don Hertzfeldt’s short film is one of the best things you could watch if you have twenty minutes. He backs so many ideas, imagery and emotion into this 17 minute short about a clone teleporting back into the past to tell her “Prime” version all about the future that is in front of her. Sad, lonely, and hilarious, World of Tomorrow has it all. You will not only be entertained, but your thoughts will be provoked about our station in life and the world that is in front of us. Just watch it, and don’t sleep on the sequel either; World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden of Other People’s Thoughts.
Do We Need An Episode Three?: I’ll take one, more time with Emily Prime is just too irresistible.
52. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
Taika Waititi has made his name this decade for his superhero fare (Thor: Ragnarok, great!) and high concept comedies (What We Do In The Shadows, also good & JoJo Rabbit, it’s ok), but for my money, it’s this look at what makes a family that is his best and most effective. Julian Dennison is wonderful as a foster child who finds an unlikely father figure in a grumpy New Zealand farmer, played by Sam Neill. Silly in all the right ways, emotional at all the right moments, absurd when it needs to be, Waititi’s command of tone and pacing is at it’s best in Wilderpeople. All of Waititi’s work grows on me in subsequent viewings, but I find it hard to believe any of this decade’s films will jump this for me any time soon.
Best Use Of Rhys Darby?: It’s a tough call, but I think Waititi’s use of him in What We Do In The Shadows might take the cake here.
51. Inside Out (2015)
I am a Pixar fanboy, but I think it will surprise most that only 3 of their films made this list. It surprised me! That said, Inside Out is firmly in Pixar’s second tier, as the ingenious look inside a child’s head is a great dissection of how our emotions affect our feelings and how we act in the real world. Yes, it’s a bit simplistic to narrow it down to five core emotions, but it’s a great base to work from when you are focusing on a story that children can also understand. The film’s animation is gorgeous, as colorful as anything Pixar has done, and gets great voice performances out of everyone involved. Amy Poehler’s Joy is a great evolution of how we develop and grow, there is a youth and vibrancy to her performance that becomes a more nuanced take on what it means to be happy and what brings us to that feeling. The adventure through Riley’s mind is also full of ingenious visual representations of how the brain works, as Pete Docter’s imagination never seems to be short on creativity.
What Emotions Would Sit At My Control Station?: Grumpy, Calm, Stubborn, Charm and Patience. Grumpy is played by Larry David.
Come Back For More Soon…