We’re finally here. The 2010s are officially over (and have been for almost two weeks now) and what a decade it was. When the decade began, I was in my final semester of film school at DePaul University in Chicago. Now, ten years later, I run my own website as a movie critic. Did I see myself in this position when the decade started? Absolutely not. I still can’t believe this is something I get to do and something I will continue to do for the unforeseeable future.
When it came to making this list and what movies made the list, I looked at a number of factors. I looked at the movies I’ve revisited the most over the years. I looked at the movies that had the biggest emotional impact on me. I looked at the movies that I felt were important to cinema and movies that were important to me. I looked at movies that made me go, “wow”, and movies that I simply love. Like all of the “Best of the Decade” lists, this was incredibly hard to make and this is a list that if you asked me rank these movies again in a month, it would probably change. But for now, here are my picks for the best movies of 2010s.
25. AVENGERS: ENDGAME (Anthony and Joe Russo, 2019)
- After eleven years and over twenty movies, the Russo Brothers gave us a fitting conclusion that is as big and epic as movies get.
24. WARRIOR (Gavin O’Connor, 2011)
- A deeply emotional spots drama about family and forgiveness coupled with realistic, crushing MMA scenes.
23. TOY STORY 3 (Lee Unkrich)
- Even with a fourth installment, Toy Story 3 still manages to be a sweet and touching end to Andy’s journey with Woody, Buzz, and the gang.
22. POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING (Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone, 2016)
- The funniest movie of the decade also features base-shattering, smartly written rap songs.
21. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT (Christopher McQuarrie, 2018)
- The best action movie of the decade and the peak of Tom Cruise’s insanity.
20. BLACK SWAN (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)
- Darren Aronofsky’s psychological horror film features career-best work from Natalie Portman.
19. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013)
- Another Coen classic, this time about a struggling folk singer who just can’t catch a break.
18. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (Wes Anderson, 2014)
- Wes Anderson’s masterpiece is one of the most gorgeous movies of the decade.
17. A STAR IS BORN (Bradley Cooper, 2018)
- Bradley Cooper was a one man wrecking crew as he produced, co-wrote, starred, and directed this remake of a Hollywood classic that he made his own.
16. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (George Miller, 2015)
- An insane, non-stop thrill ride from the great visionary George Miller.
15. SPOTLIGHT (Tom McCarthy, 2015)
- A riveting, disturbing procedural.
14. LA LA LAND (Damien Chazelle, 2016)
- Chazelle won a well-deserved Oscar for his lovely L.A. musical.
13. SPRING BREAKERS (Harmony Korine, 2013)
- Harmony Korine’s spring break nightmare featuring a legendary performance by James Franco.
12. THE IRISHMAN (Martin Scorsese, 2019)
- Martin Scorsese’s three-and-a-half-hour crime epic is a somber look at loyalty and regret as we get old.
11. INCEPTION (Christopher Nolan, 2010)
- A mind-blowing crime thriller with the best final shot of the decade.
And now, the top ten movies of the 2010s.
10. THE AVENGERS (Joss Whedon, 2012)
- The 2010s will forever be remembered for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and though Endgame ended it with a bang, it was 2012’s The Avengers that made this universe what it ended up being. Five movies came together into one in a seamless fashion thanks to writer/director Joss Whedon, who effortlessly blends humor and action within the stellar cast. The Avengers changed the game forever.
9. HEREDITARY (Ari Aster, 2018)
- No movie this decade haunted me more than Ari Aster’s debut, Hereditary. The best horror film of the decade is more than just scares and is really a look at a grief-stricken family drama about dealing with a horrific tragedy. Toni Collette is masterful as the mother of the family who slowly begins to crumble as she dives further into the life of her recently deceased mother, giving one of the best performances of her career and the decade. Aster made a movie that will crush your heart and scare the hell out of you.
8. LINCOLN (Steven Spielberg, 2012)
- The 2010s were a great decade for Steve Spielberg. This was a decade where Spielberg focused a lot on political stories, making a series of films I like to call his Amendment Trilogy. This trilogy kicked off with 2012’s Lincoln and what a way to start it off. This is stately look at Abraham Lincoln trying to emancipate slaves and end the Civil War is a gorgeous and captivating film. Led by an Oscar-winning performance by Daniel Day-Lewis, who embodies the sixteenth president in a way no one else could, Lincoln is stunning work for Spielberg and ushered in a new stage in his career.
7. GET OUT (Jordan Peele, 2017)
- The best original screenplay of the decade belongs to Jordan Peele’s Get Out. This darkly funny horror satire about black life in white America is a startling eye opener, as Peele looks at a black man (Daniel Kaluuya, giving an acting class in nuance) spends the weekend at his white girlfriend’s house until things go awry. There are scenes that will have you laughing and scenes that will shock you and Peele balances the tones like a true pro. This is the best debut film of the decade and film that only gets better the more I watch it.
6. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (Martin Scorsese, 2013)
- The Wolf of Wall Street is balls-to-the-walls chaos. A film of non-stop drugs, sex, money, and debauchery, and it all came from a 72-year-old Martin Scorsese. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a career-best performance as Jordan Belfort, a stock-broker who rose to the top of the game, only to lose everything in a heap of drugs and crime. Much like another Scorsese masterpiece, Goodfellas, Scorsese paints a portrait of the worst kind of people. Mean people who are only in love with money, greed, and doing whatever the hell they want. Yet we love every single one of them and want to join Belfort’s firm. Scorsese had one hell of a decade, but The Wolf of Wall Street was his best.
5. CREED (Ryan Coogler, 2015)
- How do you reinvent a historic franchise? That’s what Ryan Coogler did with Creed, a continuation of the Rocky franchise that also launched a new film series and made Michael B. Jordan a star. What Coogler does best with Creed is find heart of the story and the heart of the Rocky franchise. This has always been a franchise about friendship, family, never giving up, and finding yourself and that’s what he made here, as we watch Adonis Creed (Jordan) try to make a name for himself in the shadow of his father and Rocky (Sylvester Stallone, who hasn’t been this good since the original Rocky). Coogler added a great visual style, a killer soundtrack, and tons of emotion to make Creed endlessly rewatchable and the biggest surprise of the decade.
4. MONEYBALL (Bennett Miller, 2011)
- Brad Pitt gives the best performance of his illustrious career in Bennett Miller’s Moneyball. He plays Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane, a man who builds his team around the idea of buying runs not players, something completely different from every other baseball team. But more than that, Moneyball is a movie about man who loves baseball with all his heart, yet anytime he gets close to a field, things go wrong for him. This is a movie about taking chances and accepting your failures. This is one of the best baseball movies ever made and there is barely any baseball action. This is all about what happens inside the dugout and what goes on in the back office and thanks for stellar directing and a smart screenplay, it’s more exciting than any baseball action would be.
3. DUNKIRK (Christopher Nolan, 2017)
- If there was a director who owned the 2010s, that man was probably Christopher Nolan, who kept pushing the boundaries of cinema with every movie he made, whether it was how it was written or the scale of the film. In under two hours, Nolan showed us how masterful he is at understanding space and scale while also making a film that transcends convention to make Dunkirk, one of the greatest war movies ever made. This is a relentless movie about a group of soldiers trying to survive the attacks at Dunkirk during World War II. Nolan does this by showing us happenings on land, the sea, and the air, all being shown in different time frames, while never showing us the enemy once. My heart was racing the entire film and I was in complete awe of Nolan’s technical brilliance here, while also making us care for these soldiers and their survival. Dunkirk is Nolan’s crowning achievement as a director.
2. WHIPLASH (Damien Chazelle, 2014)
- I remember the first time I saw Whiplash. It was an early morning screening on the second day of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. From the opening shot of Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller, in a breakout performance) practicing on his drum-kit to the epic, earth-shattering finale, I knew Whiplash was a truly special movie. Damien Chazelle’s sophomore effort is a war film is a music room. A blistering, brutal look at what it takes to be perfect and asking the question of how far is too far? JK Simmons gives the best supporting actor performance of the decade as Fletcher, the tyrant music teacher to Andrew who pushes him to his limit. In an era of participation trophies and effort medals, Whiplash comes along and tells you to shove it. To be the best, you myst be willing to push yourself to beyond what you can think. You must give every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears to get what you want and failure is not an option. This is a movie that will kick your ass and have your heart racing and palms sweating from minute one. Chazelle made an exhilarating masterpiece on his second try.
1. THE SOCIAL NETWORK (David Fincher, 2010)
- The Social Network is not only the best movie of the decade, but it is the most important one as well. David Fincher’s account of the invention of Facebook and the controversy that followed is a movie that has not only held up, but improved over the years, as our dependency on technology has increased throughout the decade This is a movie that captures everything about today’s society. Aaron Sorkin’s rapid-fire, impeccable screenplay about one man’s rise to the top by losing everything around him, including his closest friends, is an all-timer. Sorkin’s words are a spark off the page and are more exciting than most action movies. Fincher’s work behind the camera has never been better. This is the best work of Fincher’s career. A culmination of everything he has done in his career, both visually and narratively, giving us striking images while utilizing the quick editing and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score (the best of the decade) perfectly in the film. The cast, led by Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, and Justin Timberlake, is perfect, giving life to Sorkin’s words in their own creative, genius way. There is no film that represents our current time in history like The Social Network. It is a film that years from now, even decades, people will look back and see what America was at this time. It is the best film of the decade.
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