This is a very subjective topic, and almost certainly no one will agree with me, but let’s go anyway. When the decade began, I was 12, so it’s safe to say this is definitely the decade where my love for film has developed. I very specifically remember a day in 2009 when me and my dad were going to go to the cinema, and he wanted to see The Blind Side, a great film, and a good compromise between what he wanted (a good film) and what I was interested in (sport), but we didn’t go because he thought I’d find it too slow. He was probably right at the time, and we probably went to Transformers or something like that. A decade later and he won’t really watch my recommendations because he thinks they’ll be too boring for him. How times have changed. So without further ado, here are my top 20 films of the decade. I’ve weighed up my favourites with what I thought were the best, and found a compromise here. This was very, very hard.
Creed – Doing a reboot perfectly. The one-take fight sequence was one of my favourite scenes of the decade
The Big Sick – Not usually a fan of rom-coms, but this was a class above. And introduced me to Bo Burnham
Inside Out – Amazing concept, amazing cast, amazing execution
Arrival – Anything by Villeneuve is worth watching and this was a fascinating exploration in what it means to be a human
Boyhood – One of the most remarkable feats of filmmaking ever, not for everyone but delivers touching moments that few films can. Definitely a classic
Coco – Some of the most stunning animation, well-written songs and gut-wrenching emotions. I’ve written a university essay on this film, that’s how much I liked it
19. Avengers: Endgame
It’s hard to talk about the 2010s without at least one Marvel film. This was the decade of the MCU, and Endgame delivered a satisfying climax to years of build up. Stellar performances, comedy and some film moments that will be talked about many, many years from now.
Okay, two Marvel films. But this doesn’t really count. Similar to Endgame, this delivered a satisfying conclusion to Hugh Jackman’s tenure as Wolverine. This was more than a superhero film, it was about a man coming to terms with who he is, who he has been, and who he wants to be. It’s about family, destiny and pain. And the action isn’t half bad too. Dafne Keen has a big career ahead of her.
The film that introduced the world to Damien Chazelle. It’s an intense story about genius and what true dedication looks like when it becomes obsession. The music is great, and Miles Teller delivers a superbly tortured, unlikeable but sympathetic performance. A film that I think will age very well.
16. The Martian
I love Matt Damon, and I love Donald Glover, so to be honest that’s probably enough for me, but this was a great, great film. Damon did really well by himself to give such a funny performance, but it’s so hard to convey humour that hides fear, and he does it to perfection here. All the side characters are great, and the story is about human triumph. Entertaining, and supposedly the science is pretty accurate.
Only one director has two films on this list and it’s Jordan Peele, who’s only made two films. Following his near-perfect first film, Peele did the impossible and lived up to the hype. Us was more of a horror than his first offering, but still delivered the depths we expected. There’s an iconic performance here from Lupita, and although I hate the term “elevated genre”, I guess this film helped get horror on the mainstream spectrum in 2019.
As with Whiplash, I think this will age very well, and I think it’s a proper classic. I’ve watched this a lot of times and it never gets boring. The lack of a proper villain, the depths of the narrative and the incredible set-pieces make this a 21st Century essential. I wish Nolan had done more in showing us what it means to dream, and I wish he’d let us figure it all out, rather than Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivering clunky exposition, but that’s nitpicking, this is fantastic.
13. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
I’m ashamed to say I didn’t watch this in the cinema, I watched it online, and I am gutted. It’s visually stunning, has a fantastic story and is well acted. It’s meta, funny and the action is superb. There’s a lot of depth to this film too, and I’m absolutely buzzing for the sequel, I think possibilities are endless. By far the best Spider-Man film ever made.
12. Lady Bird
This film is intense, and the ending is heartbreaking, but it’s brilliant. The script is nuanced and funny, Ronan cements herself as a superstar, and Chalamet and Hedges also help this film that delivers us the new generation of Hollywood stars. I feel like this might get forgotten quickly unfortunately but it shouldn’t. Greta Gerwig is a genius, and I can’t wait to see Little Women.
11. Baby Driver
It was hard to not put this in my top 10, as I spent my first year at uni with a poster of it in my room. I also own the vinyl to the soundtrack. Edgar Wright is a genius of physical comedy and music, and uses everything at his disposal to make this film incredible. It reminds me slightly of an old-fashioned Western, and I really could watch it over and over again.
The second driving film in a row. This is definitely like a Noir-Western, and was the film that made me love Ryan Gosling and see the hype. The narrative is exciting, the acting is amazing and I’ve rarely been so on edge. Weirdly, for a film with a no-named protagonist, I’ve rarely rooted for a character more.
9. The Place Beyond the Pines
The third driving film in a row?? The second Ryan Gosling film in a row?? I watched this by myself in my room, and I felt like I’d been through a lot after I’d seen it. It’s an epic, and it’s a lot. It deals with the themes of destiny, class and morality, and it’s just fantastic. It’s a long watch, but so worth it. Ryan Gosling is magnetic, and all the performances are top-drawer.
8. Inside Llewyn Davis
I was wrong, there are two directors with two films on this list. The Coen Brothers give us a very different film to the other on my list, but they both have the same theme: bleakness. Oscar Isaac is just superb, and the film is intruiging. The music is beautiful, and there’s just so much here if you want to see it. It’s slow, but it has about 50 mini-movies inside it. The narrative is confusing, I don’t really know what really happens, but I guess that’s the point. It’s about loss, perseverance and failure, and definitely worth seeing.
Best Scene: Recording with Adam Driver
Best Character: Llewyn
Best Actor/Actress: Carey Mulligan
Best Quote: “What’s the “N” stand for? Lou N. Davis?” – Roland
7. Manchester by the Sea
If I had to pinpoint the film that got me really into film, it might be this one. I came out of the cinema just amazed that I was so hooked by a film where so little happens. I learned that dialogue and acting can be so engaging. This film really stays with you, it’s haunting. Affleck gives one of the all-time great performances in my opinion, and Hedges and Williams are stellar in support. It’s horrendously sad, but the glimmers of hope are realistic and genuinely hopeful, rather than being over-the-top. There’s humour and tonnes of heart, I hope it ages well.
Best Scene: The police station scene
Best Character: Patrick
Best Actor/Actress: Casey Affleck
Best Quote: “There’s nothin’ there.” – Lee
Having only one Jake Gyllenhaal film on this list is mad. But this is a highly, highly underrated film that only becomes more relevant as time goes on. This film is, in my opinion, what Joker wanted to be. It’s got a disturbing main character, a darkly funny plot and actually shows what our capitalist can do to a desperate person over time. Riz Ahmed is fantastic too, and I hope his career continues to develop after this, Rogue One and The Night Of.
Best Scene: The dinner
Best Character: Nina
Best Actor/Actress: Jake Gyllenhaal
Best Quote: “I would never ask you to do something that I would not do myself.” – Lou
Hugely underrated. I love Brad Pitt, I love sport and I loved this book. But the film for me is even better. It does the impossible and makes a sports movie not cheesy. Pitt is great, as are Hill and Hoffman, but the real star of this movie is the story, and the way in which the film guides us through it. A true underdog story that not many have actually watched. It deserved more awards than it got, and I think any film that’s better than the book it’s based on is worthy of praise.
Best Scene: The home run
Best Character: Scott Hatteberg
Best Actor/Actress: Brad Pitt
Best Quote: “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” – Billy
4. Knives Out
Probably the most controversial on this list, but I really did love it that much. As far as genre films go, this is as good as it gets. Probably the most entertaining film you’re ever likely to see, and the cast alone make it worthy of this list. I’ve waxed lyrical about it in my full review, so check that out here. But I really can’t say enough good about this film. I hope it wins the awards it deserves.
Best Scene: Ransom’s arrival
Best Character: Marta
Best Actor/Actress: Daniel Craig
Best Quote: “Eat shit. Eat shit. Eat Shit. Eat shit. Definitely eat shit” – Ransom
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Quite simply a masterpiece. We watched this for our course at uni, and one of my best mates Dan hates anything post-2000, but I convinced him to stay for this and he absolutely loved it. It’s funny, sad, heartwarming and visually stunning all at the same time. There really is something for everyone in this. Fiennes is undoubtedly the star, but all the supporting side characters are excellent too. There aren’t many films that I would honestly classify as perfect, but this is one of them. It’s flawless.
Best Scene: The stop-motion ski chase
Best Character: Gustave H
Best Actor/Actress: Tony Revolori
Best Quote: “There are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity… He was one of them. What more is there to say?” – Zero
2. Get Out
As I said with The Grand Budapest Hotel, it’s rare a film is perfect, but my god this is. The script is probably the best I’ve ever seen. Every sentence, every word, every frame of this film has a purpose, nothing is overlooked. The costumes, the music, the set design, everything is meticulously thought through and executed perfectly. I don’t like horror, and I guess this isn’t horror, but whatever it is I want more. For such a lot budget, with a first-time director, this film should not have happened. But thank god it did. It took a lot for this not to be #1 on my list. Ignoring everything it says about race, it’s still an all-time great, but every line is laced with racial tensions, and it captures the minority experience brilliantly.
Best Scene: Finding the keys
Best Character: Rose
Best Actor/Actress: Daniel Kaluuya
Best Quote: “I’m TS-motherfuckin’-A. We handle shit. That’s what we do. Consider this situation fuckin’ handled.” – Rod
Like I said, it took a lot for Get Out to not be #1. But this is a lot. This is the pinnacle of filmmaking. One of the most visually stunning films I’ve ever seen, especially given there’s nothing particularly grand to shoot. Every frame could be a photograph. The acting is on another level to anything I’ve ever seen, even from the children. The narrative structure is fantastic, and I think the two teenage actors, Ashton Sanders and Jharrel Jerome, have big futures. I just finished When They See Us and my god, Jharrel Jerome is going to win an Oscar one day, I’m calling it now. You will never see a film like this again. It’s about more than love, more than loneliness, more than hardship, it’s about humanity, it’s about life. There is so much in this film that’s has very little plot. I came out of this stunned, and every time I’ve watched it since I’m even more amazed at how perfect it is. Truly, in my opinion, one of the greatest films ever made, maybe even the greatest.
Best Scene: Learning to swim
Best Character: Chiron
Best Actor/Actress: Jharrel Jerome
Best Quote: “At some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you gonna be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you.” – Juan
It’s been an amazing decade for film, and I can’t wait to see what the 20s have in store. I’ve still got 1917, The Lighthouse, Parasite and The Irishman to watch. If it can match the 10s we’re in for a treat. Here are my awards for the decade:
Best Moment: Cap using Thor’s hammer (Endgame)
Best Scene: Chiron learning to swim (Moonlight)
Best Character: Red (Us)
Best Actor: Ryan Gosling
Best Actress: Lupita Nyongo’o
Best Quote: “Which would be worse – to live as a monster, or to die as a good man?” (Shutter Island)
Disagree with my choices? Let me know in the comments or get in touch!