Top 20 Movies of the Decade
What did this decade, this new era of filmmaking bring us? Marvel superheroes came to life in epic proportions on the big screen. Independent films gained worldwide recognition during awards season. We saw a resurgence in the power that is Disney’s marketing through big box office blockbusters. CGI was taken to a completely different level offering audiences a much more visionary view of the silver screen. Political tensions and social issues were explored and foreshadowed in major motion pictures. A whole new era of successful films was delivered to us through streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and more.
The 2010s are the first decade in which audiences were no longer fleeing to their local theaters to watch movies but waiting an extra couple of months to watch their anticipated films from the comfort of their sofa. High-level acting is still regarded as crucial to many while others are waiting for the release of the next major Marvel Studios film so they can cheer as superheroes battle explosions and phenomenal visual effects.
The world of cinema is much different than it was ten years ago. As a new era of filmmaking is on the rise, it’s time to look back at the 20 films that left their mark on cinema. Some of the films listed are movies that maybe not everyone loved, but certainly made such an impact on audiences that these movies left an imprint on filmmaking that will lead a majority of them to be regarded as landmark films.
So, let’s take a look at the Top 20 films of the 2010s… Before I begin this list, here are a few honorable mentions:
The Artist (2011)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Manchester by the Sea (2016)
Lady Bird (2017)
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
The Disaster Artist (2017)
Knives Out (2019)
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
It is crucial to highlight Avengers: Endgame for bringing us quite possibly the greatest cinematic moment of the decade:
And here are the Top 20 Movies of the Decade:
In my opinion, 2016 was the greatest year for films since 1999. We saw several masterpieces distributed (many that you will see later in this list) and kicking off the playlist of 2016 hits is Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight. This film is about faces. The emotions these characters feel that read like a page jumping off the screen. Moonlight is a quintessential coming-of-age film.
A Star Is Born (2018)
This emotionally stirring modern musical piece is a story about fame. But more than just that, it is a story of two people whose connection plays out very much like a record. There is a fluidity in the storyline that fits just right. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s chemistry is undeniable and while the film does fall into “melodrama” territory toward the end, the music and incredible artistry that is Lady Gaga lifts this film up in its tearful climax.
Gone Girl (2014)
David Fincher is often regarded as one of the world’s most visionary directors. His previous works include Se7en (1995), Fight Club (1999), and Zodiac (2007). But this psychological thriller based on Gillian Flynn’s 2012 novel is one of his greatest works. A suspenseful exploration into a modern-day marriage, Gone Girl is a brilliant film and Rosamund Pike delivers one of the best performances of the decade, cementing herself as one of cinema’s greatest femme fatales.
Black Panther (2018)
Some might say that the decade was defined by the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And while several of these films could have made it in to my list for their own reasons, for me Black Panther carries the biggest impact for it acts not only as your expected Marvel film, filled with action, special effects, and brilliant one-liners, but Black Panther has a much deeper story that is very political and is one of the shining elements to this perfectly made film.
Name a song that is more identifiable with the 2010s than Elsa powerfully chanting “Let It Go?” … I’ll wait. Every couple of decades there is a Disney film that inspires a completely new era of Disney animation and rejuvenates the franchise. In the 50’s, it was Cinderella. In the 80’s it was The Little Mermaid. And in the 2010’s it was Frozen.
My second 2016 film entry is Denis Villeneuve’s science fiction masterpiece that follows Amy Adams who plays a Linguistics professor who is enlisted by the U.S. Army to find a way to communicate with extraterrestrial visitors who have arrived on earth. There are no intense action sequences, instead there is an emotional build up that keeps you wanting to understand more about who or what these lifeforms are.
Django Unchained (2012)
Director Quentin Tarantino loves westerns and martial arts and enjoys implementing doses of that inspiration into is films through phenomenally crafted gore and 2012’s Django Unchained does not stray from blood. But there is such a substance to this film that despite all the gruesome violence, it is the characters you invest in and Django Unchained is a nearly three-hour film that you can enjoy from start to finish.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
One of the most intelligently written films of the decade, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is an emotionally brutal movie that is filled with wit, humor, and a story arc that really says something. It’s a film about standing your ground no matter the cost and how sometimes giving punishment is justifiable. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is an intense moving-watching experience.
This female led comedy is the movie that put director Paul Feig on the map and also introduced the world to the immense raw talent that is Melissa McCarthy. Some may not remember this, but Melissa McCarthy was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in this film. What makes Bridesmaids the best comedy of the decade is that when it was released in 2011, audiences knew what a gem this film would be and while every hilarious moment in Bridesmaids still holds up today, you can ask anyone what their favorite scene in the film is and every one will have a different moment to pick from. That’s how you know you have brilliant comedy on your hands.
Marriage Story (2019)
No one ever said divorce was easy and this 2019 Netflix film is the most honest telling of the tribulations a couple endures as they attempt to separate on good terms and much like real life, does not pan out the way they anticipated as their divorce becomes an emotional battle of wills. Marriage Story is not your typical divorce drama film. There is such a brutal honesty to this film, and it is carried by what in my opinion are the two best performances of the decade from Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver.
I, Tonya (2017)
This biographical comedy tells the life story of figure skater Tonya Harding. If you think a film about figure skating is not your thing, don’t let that stop you from watching this brilliantly directed movie that feels like a Martin Scorsese film, going in and out of sequences and teetering on the beams of drama vs. comedy. There are also many fourth wall breaks in I, Tonya that add to the vitality of the script. Of all the films in this list, I, Tonya is one of the movies I watch the most as at it’s core, this film is pure entertainment in the highest regard.
Richard Linklater’s Boyhood was filmed from 2001 to 2013 and follows the life of Mason as he grows from an adolescent to an adult. Described as a “Moving 12 Year Epic,” Boyhood is an emotional investment that no film has done before. At nearly three hours, the film does lag a bit at times but the way Mason’s character evolves through the years, dealing with his parent’s divorce, the abuse his mother faces as he grows older, and the emotional struggles of growing into an adult is so powerfully captured on film that you become emotionally invested in Linklater’s cinematic achievement.
Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood (2019)
The second 2019 film in this list is Quentin Tarantino’s cinematic homage to 1960’s Hollywood and his “unique” retelling of the Manson murders. While the film does not have the high-octane level of gore and action that we have grown accustom to in Quentin Tarantino’s directing style, Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood has Tarantino’s stamp all over it. The quintessential story arc of multiple stories happening at one time, the use of western influence combined with martial arts cinema that Tarantino loves to implement into his films, and of course, a visionary setting that practically is the leading character of Tarantino’s love letter to the golden age of Hollywood.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest directors of all time, that’s a fact. The Wolf of Wall Street stars Leonardo DiCaprio in one of his greatest roles as real life stockbroker Jordan Belfort. This biographical comedy film follows the formula we have always admired in a Scorsese film and leaves it’s mark as one of Martin Scorsese’s greatest works which is saying something.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
This David O. Russell film has the elements that make it appealing to audiences across the board. It’s a drama, it’s a comedy, and it’s a romance story. The film follows Bradley Cooper’s character who struggles with bipolar disorder and tries to get a grip back on his life while developing and unexpected friendship with Jennifer Lawrence’s character. Silver Linings Playbook has one of the best ensemble casts of the decade with a list of phenomenal actors like Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence who won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as Tiffany.
Eighth Grade (2018)
If Richard Linklater’s Boyhood explored the emotional complexities of transitioning from child to adult, Director Bo Burnham focused on the awkwardness and insecurity a teenager faces in the world of social media in 2018’s Eighth Grade. This movie feels like it was shot scene by scene with no script and no acting, because it feels that real. This film captures the idea of what adolescence is like in and out of school so honestly that throughout this movie, you identify with its lead character Kayla.
Nocturnal Animals (2016)
This dark thriller directed and written by fashion designer Tom Ford seemed to come and go in theaters when it was released in 2016, probably because the subject matter of the film is so grim that it left audiences feeling uncomfortable. But this modern-day neo-noir film is a visual masterpiece. Followed by brilliant performances from Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals is a psychological thriller that is filmed in a style that harkens back to a different era of Hollywood and makes it seem like this film could have been made in the 1940’s.
La La Land (2016)
This modern musical has the charm of the golden age of Hollywood cinema and pays such a beautiful homage to Tinseltown through incredible writing, singing, and acting. La La Land is an event of a film and one that has joined such musicals as Singin’ in the Rain and An American in Paris as a standard musical classic.
Black Swan (2010)
As the 2010s began, we were already beginning to see a significant change in cinema. James Cameron’s sci-fi epic Avatar became the highest grossing film of all time, proving that audiences were craving action and visual effects (a record that would eventually be broken by Avengers: Endgame, another action-packed film that was an honorable mention in this list). But at the end of 2010 it was Darren Aronofsky’s visually stunning psychological horror film Black Swan that would set the tone for what it means to make the audience question what reality on the big screen is. The film is a metaphor for the battle between good and evil as Natalie Portman’s character Nina is a ballerina who becomes psychologically unbalanced as she pays the ultimate price for the one thing, she wants to be… perfect.
Get Out (2017)
What Comedian Jordan Peele achieved in his directorial debut is a cinematic landmark in filmmaking. This satirical horror film is a psychological experience through a suspenseful plot wrapped up in a context that will leave you white knuckled by the major turning point of the film. Through Peele’s writing of Get Out, he hits several emotional chords, including how people view race. Get Out introduced us to many modern elements of cinematic horror and the genius that is Jordan Peele’s visionary mind in filmmaking. With that said, Get Out is far more than a horror film. There is a level of brutal intelligence that propels this film forward and makes the viewer think. This is a movie that regardless of your stance on it, will stay with you and that is why Get Out is the best film of the decade.
What are some of your favorite movies of the decade? Comment Below!