Top 100 - My Favourite Films of the 2010's

Finally then: film week. Films are what I spend most of the time on this blog talking about and they're realistically what I spend most of my life experiencing, talking and writing about. The great thing about that is that it means I am very prepared to talk about the films this decade that I most loved. The bad thing about that is that there are almost too many films I wanted to talk about and therefore, I have only gone and bloody done another hundred entry list. If you want to know more about the films than what I've said, you're lucky enough to have a few options here. As ever, I'm always on my Letterboxd account and many of these films have been reviewed on there. I made a list on there if, for whatever reason, you would rather see them in a grid format. Some of these films I've also reviewed on the blog and I'll link to anything I reviewed for those who want to torture themselves with more of my writing. It goes without saying too but these are all entirely my opinion and try as I might, I didn't get to see every film this decade, nor appreciate every critically beloved film I did see. I did my best, so that's enough preamble, let's start at number 100!

100. Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy marked the moment where I finally succumbed to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, something that happened because of flashy visuals, a great soundtrack and humour I couldn’t resist from characters I came to love.

99. Manchester by the Sea 

Time for a misery porn double bill now. Though full of misery and people shouting at each other, there are a few particular moments of Manchester by the Sea especially that just absolutely tear me to pieces.

98. Hereditary

Originally marketed as a horror film, the real horror of Hereditary is not any of the crazy reveals of the third act, but the pain that family inflicts upon each other.

97. Annihilation 

Alex Garland’s follow up to Ex Machina is in part so remarkable because it bears such little resemblance. The fact that in the UK it never got a theatrical release is one of the greater cinematic crimes Netflix have committed, behind only Bright.

96. Pride

Something about me that has changed as the decade has gone on is that (unbelievably), I have gotten less pretentious and am now just able to appreciate a film like Pride, which sets out to be wonderful and succeeds with flying colours.

95. Macbeth

Currently, Macbeth stands as my favourite Shakespeare adaptation, a beautifully bleak adaptation of the Bard’s grisly Scottish tragedy, a film that perfectly understands the stuff I love so much about the original play.

94. First Man

A complete departure by Damien Chazelle, First Man is a quieter film than he has ever made before, despite its occasional moments of intensity. Fortunately, he still infuses it with a tender musicality, turning the theremin into its own character.

93. Blade Runner 2049

I feel like a second viewing could have pushed Blade Runner 2049 further up this list but even without it, I feel comfortable calling this exceptionally beautiful, brilliantly slow slice of science fiction a worthy successor to the iconic original.

92. Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame is a film so good that it makes me wish the Marvel Cinematic Universe ended after its credits rolled. No one has ever tried to end a ten year, twenty film franchise before, but it’s hard to imagine any film ever managing to do so in a way this satisfying.

91. Seven Psychopaths

One of the first films to make me fall in love with meta humour, Seven Psychopaths is violent and self-referential in ways that play directly to my sense of humour, as well as being my introduction to Sam Rockwell.

90. War for the Planet of the Apes

The end of my favourite trilogy this decade, War for the Planet of the Apes is two and a half hours long and yet still manages to thrill, bringing a satisfying end to the story of Caesar.

89. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

If there’s one thing David Fincher is really good at, it’s adaptations of novels and crime thrillers and with this adaptation of a crime thriller, he proved it strongly. A scary, depressing and adult film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is mainly depressing because major studios don’t make movies like this anymore.

88. The Souvenir

A lovely little film that has been seemingly forgotten already, The Souvenir is a journal of the past told from the present, a hazy gauze of a film through which we seek to understand the things that happened to us that were just out of focus. Pretentious words to say this film is wonderful.

87. 1917

Though I’m worried that the film may be far less powerful on a small screen, that initial experience of 1917 was so strong it has to earn a place on this list. The cinematography was terrific, the set-pieces were intense and I cared so much that by the end, I was crying. It is cinema that has to be seen in a cinema and sometimes, that’s okay.

86. 20th Century Women

 An opening of my eyes to many things in the world, I’ve never forgotten the things 20th Century Women taught me. Its fragmented story telling structure opened up a new type of film for me and it was also the film that really got me into Talking Heads.

85. How to Train Your Dragon 2

Such a step up from the original in every way, this is an amazing looking animated film with an emotional sucker punch. Despite watching the original film a lot when I was growing up, this film made me realise I actually have a hell of a lot of love for this franchise and those damn dragons.

84. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Though I completely understand the umbrage some take with the film, I personally loved Three Billboards. It was scathingly funny, contained an impressively twist filled story and had characters I was fascinated by, not least Frances McDormand in a show stopping performance.

83. The Big Short

Even if you walk away from The Big Short and don’t even understand how the financial crisis happened, you’ll walk away furious and desperate for the system to be torn down and in my mind, that’s an absolute success.

82. The Skin I Live In

Pedro Almodovar was not a director I gelled with until I saw this film, at which point it suddenly clicked. Here, all his luscious set dressing is perverted into a horror film that made me feel sick in the very best ways.

81. Toy Story 3

The first film I ever cried at, Toy Story 3 may not be the strongest of the trilogy but that ending cements the legacy of the trilogy as one of the best in cinema. Though the fourth film afterwards was fine, it felt totally inessential after an ending as perfect as this.

80. Won't You Be My Neighbor?

I like documentaries that are a little bit radical or try and do something different in the way they tell their story. Won’t You Be My Neighbor is not that, but it tells a story so profoundly heart-warming that I spent most of it in tears of joy.

79. Swiss Army Man

There aren’t many films with a weirder premise than Swiss Army Man. At the moment before he is about to kill himself, a man finds a corpse that farts and brings him a new lease on life. It is a magical tale about friendship, para-social relationships and boners, held together miraculously by an acapella score.

78. The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water is a lovely little miracle of a film. That it was made for this little money is a miracle. That it has a plot this strange yet is totally charming is a miracle. That it did all of that and somehow still won Best Picture at the Oscars is perhaps the largest miracle of all.

77. Dunkirk

This is Christopher Nolan distilled. All the complex storylines are ditched, in favour of intense action, weaved together with absolutely immaculate editing. Dunkirk remains the only film I’ve ever seen in IMAX and it was the perfect demonstration of what an incredible medium cinema can be.

76. The Gift

Sometimes, the very best experiences at the cinema are the ones you don’t see coming. I had heard good stuff about The Gift but knew very little about it and upon leaving the cinema, I was as impressed as I was creeped out. Whenever anyone asks for an underrated horror film this decade, this is the one that slipped through the cracks that I always point to.

75. Lucky

Lucky is the perfect vehicle for Harry Dean Stanton, who sadly died quite soon after this film was shot. It stars him as Lucky, an elderly man just going about his day, talking to other locals of this small town, including frequent collaborator David Lynch. Sometimes, there is a joy in just hanging out with a film and Lucky is exactly that kind of film, a film whose pleasure is in its immense simplicity.

74. The Witch

With The Witch, Robert Eggers immediately announced himself as a filmmaker to look out for. This is the kind of horror film that made me realise I love horror, a slow burn that leaves just enough ambiguities to create shadows that haunt the film. The Witch also deserves huge credit for introducing the world to Anya Taylor-Joy, an actress surely destined for greatness this decade.

73. 10 Cloverfield Lane

I refer to 10 Cloverfield Lane as a “piss palms movie”, the kind of film that makes your hands sweaty early on and never really relents. I know some despise the ending and I personally feel that The Cloverfield Paradox damaged some of my love for this film but at its core, it is such an admirably tight thriller that I have to stand up and applaud.

72. 12 Years a Slave 

Films about slavery often risk falling into the trap of becoming either melodramatic or cliched, usually finding some unhappy middle ground between the two. The extraordinary thing about 12 Years a Slave is that it never goes into either camp, telling a story that is inherently human at its heart and feels real in a way that, while often disturbing, is restrained and truly cinematic.

71. The Hunt

An idea is a hell of a thing. As Inception told us at the start of the decade, placed deep enough in the mind, it can do damaging things, true or not. That’s the core of The Hunt, about how a misunderstanding can lead to a life being ruined, as well as looking into what happens to the life once it has been ruined. This is a miserable film, but a film that understands modern day witch hunts with shocking depth.

70. The Favourite

I don’t much care for period dramas but what I do care for is surrealism, people swearing in silly voices and really weird female characters in fiction. Fortunately, The Favourite has all of those, balancing its gorgeous visuals with a triumvirate of incredible performances, performances lucky enough to deliver wickedly scabrous dialogue. Weirdest of all, even my mum enjoyed it!

69. The Nice Guys


68. The Dirties

One of the things I’ve become obsessed with in cinema is that liminality between truth and fiction and whether that distinction is even important. The Dirties is a film that perfectly understands that question, with director and screenwriter Matt Johnson telling the story of a kid called Matt Johnson, who starts to misunderstand reality during the making of a film about a school shooting. Somehow, it is an ode to cinema obsession, while also being a warning about the danger of cinema obsession.

67. Under the Skin

It is impossible to accurately explain Under the Skin. If I say that it’s a film about an alien that comes to earth to hunt men, you get a very specific idea of a film, an idea that is not this film. Instead, imagine a horrible horny nightmare, fuelled by surrealist imagery and a score that will ricochet around your ears long after the film ends.

66. Burning

There’s a moment in Burning that perfectly sums up the appeal of the film. Three characters have just shared a drink together and are watching the sunset, at which point one of the characters takes their top off and starts to slowly dance at the sunset. Explaining a film like this is hard, as well as explaining how it makes me feel, but recommending it is easy, when few films offer whatever this is.

65. The Night Comes for Us

This has been a really good decade for brutal action films, the first of which we’re going to cover being The Night Comes For Us. It is an immaculate symphony of violence, in which one man goes up against hundreds in combat that genuinely feels bone crunching. Those with a weak disposition should not apply but anyone with a twisted love for violence would be foolish to miss this gem, buried on Netflix.

64. The Lego Movie

A film entirely centred around a line of toys seems like a horrible, horrible idea on the surface but with the wildly creative comedy of Phil Lord and Chris Miller behind it, The Lego Movie blew everyone away. The precedent it set led to some bad stuff later in the decade but the film itself was an immaculate corporate product, designed to make fun of whorish consumption.

63. The Grand Budapest Hotel

I am in the rare boat of putting The Grand Budapest Hotel so far from the top of the list, which partly comes down to studying it in a film class and realising it is a little bit shallow. That aside, the aesthetics are stunning, the dialogue is as blue as the hotel is pink and it was the film that introduced me to the twee world of Wes Anderson. It is very, very lovely.

62. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Some have dismissed this entire trilogy as a showcase for some really impressive motion capture performances and CGI (which in fairness, are brilliant), but that dismissal hides a story with darkness and real stakes. As far as blockbusters this decade go, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes feels like such a special outlier, whose disappearance from cultural memory feels like a great tragedy.

61. Dredd

I love a really simple premise, executed really well. In Dredd, a group of cops (who are badass and fortunately not massive racists like real life cops) are trapped in an apartment complex and have to fight their way to the top to kill a drug kingpin called Ma. The real genius of the film is that the drug is called slo-mo, a drug which turns the world into slow motion and therefore allows for brilliantly ridiculous action sequences. Dredd makes dumb look good.

60. Baby Driver

Parts of Baby Driver have become harder to enjoy since release due to many of the cast turning out to be horrible people and further away from the hype, it’s clear that this is Edgar Wright’s blandest film. Despite that, this is still a film with great action, excellent editing and one of the best soundtracks of any film this decade, a film I cannot help but love despite its flaws.

59. If Beale Street Could Talk 

The very best romance films are ones that make you as head over heels in love with the film as the characters are in love with each other. If Beale Street Could Talk is just that, using Baldwin’s poetic prose as a starting point for beautiful cinematography and one of the best musical scores of the decade, all of which made me swoon over and over again.

58. The Raid

Imagine if Dredd from a few entries ago was filmed in Indonesia and pretty much all the guns were swapped out for the hands of very accomplished martial artists. Imagine no more, in The Raid, where a group of police officers are trapped inside an apartment building and murdered VERY slowly. It is a beautifully simple premise, made exceptional by the action.

57. Shoplifters

I saw Shoplifers in a cinema, not entirely sure what to expect. I knew it had rave reviews and was apparently quite lovely but I was certainly not ready for the apocalypse of loveliness that swamped me. It’s a story about family and how that concept gets to be defined not by blood, but by who cares about you. Importantly, it has also introduced me to a whole new wonderful world of tender Japanese films.

56. The Raid 2

The sequel to The Raid turns everything about the original film up to impressively high levels. I know many have a problem with how sprawling the film becomes compared to the intimate chaos of the original but it actually works a little bit better for me, allowing for the action to ascend to levels of insanity that are almost incomprehensible.

55. I, Daniel Blake

With this heart-breaking film, Ken Loach awakened an angry political side to me. In showing, through unflinching realism, the tale of working class people trying to get by in a country decimated by the Conservatives, I, Daniel Blake completely destroyed me. While I like a nice flashy film, sometimes it is only through simple realism that the emotional power of a film can come through to the audience.

54. Ingrid Goes West

I got to see Ingrid Goes West at the London Film Festival and it probably remains my favourite experience of all the years going to LFF. This is a pitch black comedy about social media obsession, commenting on our influencer obsessed age in ways that will make you question whether to laugh or scream. Personally, I did a little bit of both and had an excellent time, though I wish I could own this film on blu-ray.

53. Paddington

Often ignored so that people can talk about its sequel (which don’t worry, we are going to get to), the 2014 Paddington film should still be considered an exceptional family film. It is funny, creatively directed and so full of soul that it is all but guaranteed to make you cry. There is surely no way you could not love this film.

52. It Comes At Night

When it was released, It Comes At Night had a weird response due to its marketing. The trailer for it billed the film as an action filled horror film, specifically a film where you do find out what comes at night. As it turns out, you don’t and that is exactly what makes the film great. It is slow building, nasty dread that forces you to leave the film feeling absolutely awful. I love it.

51. Knives Out

Knives Out is too recent for me to feel okay breaking down why its roller coaster of a plot is such a genius subversion of expectations, but it should still be stated that this is a film with a totally brilliant script, presented to us in an incredibly compelling way and performed by an ensemble of actors all having the time of their lives. Both times I saw it in the cinema, it was a total blast, impressive because even knowing "whodunnit" doesn’t ruin the film for you.

50. Love and Mercy

I generally detest biopics. Far too often, they are generic tellings that compact the story of a real life genius into bland, easily digestible trash. Love and Mercy spares Brian Wilson that crap. The story of the man behind The Beach Boys is told across two time periods, with two different actors portraying Wilson, which is the perfect way of depicting his struggles with mental health, while also celebrating the colossal work he did for music.

49. You Were Never Really Here

Most people who didn’t enjoy Joker last year probably did so in part because they had already seen You Were Never Really Here. In this film, Joaquin Phoenix plays an enigmatic and haunted man, hired to commit acts of violence to save young girls, but the way Lynne Ramsay presents it elevates it above that. By apparently taking to the editing deck with a hammer, the telling of the tale is just as fractured as the man it depicts, weirdly blossoming into something tender and beautiful by the end.

48. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

The reason Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is on the list is largely because I love a good espionage thriller and this is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It also gets to be so far up this list because all of the cast are terrific in their iciness and the cinematography is gorgeous, things that never hurt as far as I’m concerned.

47. Frances Ha

Greta Gerwig has taken the world by storm as a director in the latter part of the decade but in 2013, she was also able to brilliantly carry Frances Ha. Though I’ve never much cared for mumblecore as a genre, Gerwig’s performance injects it with an irresistible energy, an energy which knows just the right time to dip out and allow for sadness to come through into our hearts.

46. Roma

After some time making big budget Hollywood films (many of which I actually quite enjoy), Alfonso Cuaron returned to making films in his home country of Mexico and made one of his very finest. Roma is so incredible because it is a film that feels utterly effortless, like a film that just sits and observes the remarkable. It’s only afterwards, reflecting on how everything you saw was constructed, that you realise what an incredible job Cuaron did.

45. The Babadook

Before he was a queer icon, The Babadook was the spooky bad guy in the film of the same name. Weirdly, he is probably the least interesting part of the film, a film which has such overwhelming power because of the amazing central performance by Essie Davis. She grounds the film, meaning that whether you believe the horror is literal or metaphorical, you completely believe in the emotions presented, the main one of course being terror.

44. Carol

If I had to describe Carol in one word (and I don’t, but it would certainly save me a lot of time), the word would be “swoon”. It has an immaculately evoked fifties setting, a setting which is where a delightful yet tragic queer love story takes place. Like many of the best love stories (especially the queer ones), the power in this love comes from the moments that are so heavily guarded. A glance across a department store has never moved me more.

43. Django Unchained

I understand the criticism some have about Tarantino tackling a subject as serious as slavery but personally, that worry is surpassed by the sheer enjoyment I get from this film. It takes a joy in the violent redemption of Django and while painting all racists as old timey cartoons is arguably counter-productive to crushing real life racism, watching racists pop like balloons full of ketchup makes me feel very good indeed.

42. It's Such a Beautiful Day

We are all going to die. Some of us are going to die soon, some of us will live a very long time, but we’re all ending up in the same place. It’s Such a Beautiful Day starts with the existential horror of that reality and twists it into something grand and Vonnegutian, using fragmented and almost childlike animation to create one of the most real feeling films I’ve ever experienced. A heart-warming film about existential dread.

41. Good Time

There’s a type of film I have discovered over the last few years, where a character does something bad and spends the rest of the film trying to make it right, inevitably failing in horrible yet entertaining ways. The Safdie Brothers are modern masters at this and Good Time announced that, as well as showing what an incredibly versatile actor Robert Pattinson is, across the worst 24 hours spent in the underbelly of New York.

40. Climax

What a horrible horny nightmare! Climax is the age old story about a dance troupe going to a secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere and all drinking too much sangria, laced with LSD, that tried and true formula of a story. Gaspar Noe has never been an easy filmmaker to like and while I imagine the majority of people watching Climax are going to be repulsed or disturbed, it is a film I weirdly love and am probably going to watch again in the near future.

39. The Handmaiden

When I first saw The Handmaiden, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it. I clearly knew it was brilliantly made, but I didn’t know what to actually feel. On a recent rewatch, it clicked into place and I fell in love. Yes, this is an erotic thriller, but the eroticism comes from more than just the sex, it comes in the borderline sexual way that the plot unfurls and the props are presented. Not for everyone, but very much for me.

38. Interstellar

One of Christopher Nolan’s more controversial films, I adore Interstellar. It dreams really big with its ideas and by using equally big visuals, it is able to deliver on the big emotion. Getting to see it in the cinema was a big treat for me, as after missing it on first release, I finally caught it on re-release and experienced one of the strangest blockbusters of the decade. I don’t mind when a film has so many ideas floating around it, when so many of them are ideas I love this much.

37. The Hateful 8

Quentin Tarantino is a director who steals great ideas from better filmmakers and has problems trimming down his movies to acceptable lengths. With The Hateful 8, he turns both of those things to his advantage, stealing from The Thing and Agatha Christie adaptations (sometimes very directly) over a three hour runtime that I love to sit through. The violence simmers under the surface largely, but the extended length means the moments of explosion are even more satisfying.

36. The Wolf of Wall Street

Since its release, The Wolf of Wall Street has been horribly misinterpreted by idiot bros who study Finance or Economics at university as an epic, awesome movie about how cool it is to have excess of money. In actual fact, this is Scorsese at his best, using the power of excess to slowly (and too subtly for some) drain the fun out of it. Believe me, with my political beliefs, this film wouldn’t have made it onto the list if it was the film everyone mistook it for.

35. Bad Times at the El Royale

This is going to end up as one of my hotter takes. I love Bad Times at the El Royale so much, it almost feels made for me. It has a heavy thematic emphasis on scopophilia, stars a bunch of actors I love and knows how to have such a great time with itself. I’ve made plenty of space on this list for serious, artistic works, so please just let me have this joyously silly film about bad people holed up in a motel together.

34. Mommy

If you want to know why aspect ratios are important (and god knows that is not a thing many people have been demanding to know), Mommy is a perfect example. The screen is presented as almost a square, creating a truly claustrophobic feeling. However, there are moments where, accompanied by pop songs, the screen explodes out and the sense of freedom you get in those moments are unrivalled. Be warned though, the good feelings will not last.

33. Anomalisa

Charlie Kaufman only released one film this decade, because his scripts are consistently proving too strange to be a viable and profitable prospect for most studios. Fortunately, the one film he did release, Anomalisa, brought plenty of that Kaufman magic. It's such a unique animated film, using homogeny to enhance its themes of loneliness and existential despair.

32. Moonlight

When Boyhood came out, everyone spoke about how the remarkable technique of filming the film over twelve years meant you could see the characters age in real time. However, what Moonlight does proves that casting three actors to play the same character works arguably better, telling a coming of age story about the kind of person who doesn’t usually get cinematic stories about them. It is only one of the many remarkable things this incredibly moving film does so well.

31. Nocturnal Animals

I enjoy telling this story a lot, so apologies if you’ve already heard it but the first time I saw Nocturnal Animals, I was deathly hungover and very nauseous. I was pretty sure the film was great but only on a second viewing did I quite appreciate its brilliance. Tom Ford places three stories on top of each other, cuts them and lets the stories bleed into each other. It is a particularly beautiful type of bleeding, it must be said.

30. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Since the start of this millennium, we’ve been getting Spider-Man films. Though many have been great, it’s enough to make you question whether a Spider-Man film could ever feel fresh again. Into the Spider-Verse pulled off a minor miracle by creating one of the most original feeling films of the entire decade, with an animation style that finally captured the feeling of watching a comic on the big screen. That this film came from the same company as The Emoji Movie is almost incomprehensible.

29. Exit Through the Gift Shop

Exit Through the Gift Shop is my favourite documentary ever, playing so perfectly with the form of the medium. Initially, it intends to be a documentary about street art and Banksy, but it soon mutates into this hideous monster of a film, flying off the rails as the man behind the camera tries himself to become a street artist. Best of all, there’s even the question of whether any of it was real to start with, making this my perfect kind of documentary, one that may as well not be a documentary at all.

28. The World's End

Often, The World’s End gets dismissed as the weakest film in Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy, but I’m here to try and help you re-evaluate it. Though it is admittedly the least funny of the three, there’s an incredibly tragic power to the story of Gary King. He has brought all his childhood friends together to recreate the very thing that caused his life and theirs to spiral out of control. Pegg and Frost bring a brilliant sadness to their roles and it is the best performance I’ve seen from either of them.

27. Raw

Being at university is hard. You learn a lot about yourself and a lot of the time, you end up learning that through times that are weird, gross or just plain bad. Raw is a film that takes that universal truth and applies cannibalism to it. Through all the horror and gore though, that truth and sense of heart remains, making this the most weirdly relatable film about cannibals that I have ever seen.

26. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Do you know that phrase “I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry”? That phrase is the perfect way to describe The Killing of a Sacred Deer. A doctor must atone for a horrible thing he has done in the past by deciding which member of his family to kill. That impossibly dark premise goes to some strange and oddly funny places along the way, climaxing in a scene that is either impossibly tense or thigh-slappingly hilarious, depending on how you took the film. Either interpretation is perfectly valid with a film this demented.

25. We Need to Talk About Kevin

As The Babadook proved earlier in the list, there aren’t many things more horrifying than motherhood and the ultimate example is this masterpiece, a film that flits smoothly between drama and horror. Tilda Swinton is one of the most versatile actors of our current age and here, she is arguably giving one of her best performances as a tortured mother, forced to reckon with what her son did. With We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lynne Ramsay did something it is very hard to talk about, but very impressive to watch.

24. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

From here on out, all of these films are, for me, ten out of ten films. They are the kind of films that I absolutely adore and will happily recommend to anyone who will listen, which is why I’m happy to start this section with one of the most easily recommendable films ever; Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Since this came out, Taika Waititi has become much more well known, but if you’re yet to see any of his films, this is the one to start with. It’s a heartwarming film about a young boy and his foster dad going out into the New Zealand wild and being chased down by child protective services. Throughout, you’re going to laugh, you’re probably going to cry and you’re definitely going to walk away feeling full of life. 

23. Inside Out

With children's films, there is often an assumption that they have to be childish or simplistic. There’s of course some stuff that you shouldn’t show children but otherwise, don’t patronise them, deliver something incredible. Something incredible is exactly what Inside Out does, an animated film that decides to tell the simple story of all the emotions inside your head. The storytelling is simple but the intent is pure and the feelings are incredibly powerful. I also think there’s something incredibly admirable about telling children that it’s okay to feel sad. God knows it’s a message that as a 15 year old first seeing it, I needed and today, as a 21 year old, I continue to need.

22. Hell or High Water

Though it may not look like it, Hell or High Water is actually a western. None of the main characters ride a horse and it is all set in modern day Texas but even so, this is a film with the heart of a western, specifically the kind of western from the end of the Hollywood era. You see, this tale about brothers robbing banks to pay off their mother’s debt is a tale of remorse and reaching the end of the line. It feeds into the quintessentially American myth of the western, while also using the modern context of the economic recession to create a deep feeling of sadness and regret. You’d be hard pushed to find a movie on this list more obsessed with men and manliness but by God, Hell or High Water does it well.

21. Suspiria

The original Suspiria is one of the most respected horror films ever made. When it came out in the seventies, it defined what Italian horror looked like and influenced countless horror films outside those borders. Therefore, any remake was going to be greeted with great suspicion, least of all a remake by the guy who made the very lovely Call Me By Your Name. As it turns out, the 2018 remake of Suspiria worked so well because it was completely different from the original. The core concept of a dance academy run by witches in Berlin was kept, pretty much everything else got thrown out. Gone are the luscious colours, now there’s grey. Say goodbye to enigmatically drawn characters, here be characters with fully fledged and complex backstories. Enjoy the brief and sparse plot? Tough shit, here’s six acts and an epilogue of political intrigue and side stories about World War 2 and regret. All of the reasons that purists of the original film (and director of the original, Dario Argento) hate the new one are the exact reasons I love this radical re-imagining, one of the few examples this decade of a remake done right.

20. Booksmart

Booksmart is an exceptional comedy, though I have to admit that to me personally, it has a lot more meaning than that. I first saw it with some friends at university, some friends I miss dearly, at one of the more memorable screenings I’ve ever been to. Then, when I was in Los Angeles over Christmas I got incredibly lucky in that there was a screening of Booksmart at the iconic Arclight Cinema with the director and two stars present to talk about the film. This is a film that has followed me around the world, but it should still be celebrated for being delightful. The characters on screen are the kind of believable teenage wrecks that I’ve spent my life befriending, the chemistry between the entire cast is next level and the soundtrack is pretty much perfectly chosen. If you want a coming of age comedy from this decade, you’re going to be hard pushed to find one this funny with this much heart.

19. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

This decade has been a decade of comic book adaptations, a decade in which many of the highest grossing films have been superhero films of some kind. As far as I’m concerned though, none of those films nailed the film of watching a comic book like Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. This is a film that has an absolutely electric energy about it and though I know there are problems with Ramona Flowers being a character whose only purpose seems to be to give Scott a purpose, as well as the ending being Scott clearly choosing the wrong girl, I find it far too lovable to let those things hold me back. The music is brilliant, everyone in the cast brings it (even the ones who would eventually go on to star in those aforementioned comic book films) and as ever, Wright’s editing style keeps the whole thing afloat.

18. Mad Max: Fury Road

Action films are easy to dismiss. I know this, as a budding film writer I’m always reading snobbish takedowns of perfectly well constructed films. One action film that was most certainly not dismissed though was Mad Max: Fury Road. As soon as this film came out, it was an instant classic, wowing audiences and critics alike with genuinely revolutionary action. Not since Buster Keaton has Hollywood cinema seen such dedication to death defying stunts, stunts which somehow remain impressive when viewed on your TV. Also utterly immaculate is the production design of this film. The Mad Max films have a vibe that has seeped into popular culture but with this film, the franchise reaches new and even more bonkers levels. It is hard to put into words just how much damn fun this film is, this utterly insane gem that somehow got nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Of all the insane moments surrounding this film, that may just be my favourite.

17. Gone Girl

David Fincher is probably my favourite director. That title jumps around a bit between him and David Lynch at the moment but as far as directors who have made films this decade, he’s my guy. Having made his name with nasty, twisted little thrillers about murder, we all should have expected he would eventually get his hands on something like Gone Girl and we should have been far more excited. This is a gorgeously twisted film, one that expands on the brilliant structure of the original novel and adds more spit into the eye of middle America. I have a wonderful memory of seeing this film for the first time with two friends and when it got to THAT scene near the end, all three of us shouted aloud at the TV, the kind of moment that this film was clearly built for. Despite being a thriller though, absolutely none of the joy is detracted by knowing where the plot is going. In fact, it may even be improved, one of those rare films where the clinical examination after makes it even more fun. As one final note, I don’t think Ben Affleck has ever been more perfectly cast as a slimy yet likeable man, ripped apart by the media. Fincher knows how to stunt cast a film.

16. The Lighthouse

The first time I saw The Lighthouse, I had no idea what to make of it. Going in, I knew it was the second film from the director of The Witch and that led me to expect a horror film. It kind of is, but is also so much harder to define than that. There is horror, there is humour, there is extended reference to Greek myths. All of this comes together in a sweaty, gross combination to create a film that is utterly unforgettable, despite just being about two men stuck in a lighthouse together. As with all great films though, it isn't "just" that. The most immediately notable thing about the film is its presentation style, of an almost entirely square screen, shot in black and white. It creates a claustrophobia and evokes some of Ingmar Bergman's best films in a way that feels truly earned. Fortuntaely, seeing as there are only two of them, the performances are excellent too. Robert Pattinson starts out quiet and relatively normal before absolutely losing his shit and Willem Dafoe is immediately in lost-shit mode and relishes it. I'm going to wrap this up here, because it really is impossible to describe what The Lighthouse is. The only appropriate thing to do is watch it yourself.

15. her

Loneliness isn't a new phenomenon but in our modern age, it has become exaccerbated. Our new means of communication mean that (cliched as it sounds), we can feel even more alone now that we have limitless contact at our fingertips. Harder than just reaching people, we now struggle to make genuine connections. I know it's something that I have really struggled with all decade, something that has defined pretty much every one of my romantic relationships. It is this conundrum and desire that her is all about. Set in a future that feels recognisably close, Theodore is a lonely man, who spends his working hours writing letters on behalf of other people. Think of him as a ghost writer for love letters and thank you cards and you're on the right path. One day, he updates his operating system to a sentient program called Samantha and slowly, cut off from other contact with real people, the two of them fall in love. Despite one of the characters not existing in a physical state, this is one of my favourite love stories, a story as much about realising you need to love yourself as it is about loving the people around you. It looks beautiful thanks to the cinematography and production design and the score from Arcade Fire is some of their best ever work, all of which embed this masterpiece into my brain as much as the message embeds itself into my heart.

14. Lady Bird

I definitely caught Lady Bird at the right time in my life. It is a coming of age story about a young woman in her final year of high school, preparing to move to University and away from her home. I saw it in the middle of my first year at university, having just experienced the year depicted on screen and it tore me in half. Lady Bird is a film that feels so utterly simple, but the miracle of it is that obviously, it isn't. It becomes easy to forget when you fall in love with the film this much and then becomes really frustrating when you realise that this was Greta Gerwig's first film as a solo director. Such a profound impact on me did Lady Bird have that I went to Sacramento, the setting of the film, purely because of the film. I went and personally visited places like the rose garden where Lady Bird and Danny ran around, the shop where Lady Bird bought cigarettes and porn and the bridge where Lady Bird and her friend Julie go after prom. As soon as I arrived at each of those locations, I felt like I had stepped inside of the film and once there, I didn't want to leave again. A great deal of the power is in Jon Brion's score, a score that slowly guides the film towards its melancholy conclusion, a conclusion that never fails to make me weep, but then again pretty much everything about this film has a profound effect on me. Lady Bird is a special film but to me especially, it is one of the more personal films I've ever watched.

13. Ex Machina

Debates about artificial intelligence have picked up this decade and it remains a fascinating debate, although one I admittedly feel is pretty simple; don't make artificial intelligence, it will probably kill us all. In a much more nuanced way than I go about it, Ex Machina is the story of that argument. A programmer called Caleb is invited, by his reclusive and slightly insane boss, to a remote facility where he believes he has created artificial life. Once there Caleb meets Eva, the aforementioned AI, and must conduct tests on her to work out whether she is truly intelligent or not. The reason I dig Ex Machina is that it really is that simple. It's those three characters (plus one other, occasionally), in one building, squaring off. This is the perfect way to build tension if you're a director who knows what they're doing and it certainly seems like Alex Garland does. The film also gets bonus points for the best dance sequence this decade, better than any from actual musicals. Ex Machina is a film that doesn't do much but it does what it does perfectly.

12. Marriage Story

The reputation that now proceeds Marriage Story is that it's a relentlessly sad sob fest, where people just scream at each other the whole time. That is not entirely true, though I admit that there is a section late into the film that I find near unwatchable because of how sad it makes me. What Marriage Story rarely gets credit for is being a really warm and often funny film. Though about a divorce, there's room for light here, whether it's in the bungled delivery of divorce papers or the clumsy interactions of a post-breakup romance. Like I said too, there's light. Throughout, you can tell that Charlie and Nicole don't hate each other, they just can't stay together and they want the best for their son (called Henry, in a move that may explain why this film hits so deep for me). Despite me saying that this film isn't sad, I do find it really difficult to write out how powerful it is. Noah Baumbach has made a career on wry, slightly detached films but here, he is fully invested in the emotion, never once sacrificing a chance to make the audience strongly feel love, regret or pain. As far as motion pictures go, it is one of the more moving.

11. Uncut Gems

This is going to sound like on of those things people who write about film always say but I have genuinely had quite a lot of difficulty separating these final 11. If you're feeling like it, just shuffle them around and you would still have a list I feel comfortable standing by. As it turned out on the day I wrote this though, it was Uncut Gems that made it to number eleven. I've spent most of the past decade hating Adam Sandler, an actor who I have seen consistently make nothing but lazy choices in un-enjoyable and often offensive movies. His performance in Uncut Gems makes me hate him even more, because it shows that when he gives a damn he can deliver one of the best performances of the decade. Joining Sandler's performance on this rollercoaster ride are a superbly agitating score by Daniel Lopatin and a directing style that layers plots and noise over each other until it all feels too much. One scene in particular in this film is one of the most stressful things I have seen in any film and all the scene involves is some people trying to open a door. Also elevating Uncut Gems is how perfectly memeable it is. Every single aspect of this film became instantly iconic and I could post any bit of it on my garbage twitter account and people would go crazy for it. If you haven't seen Uncut Gems then pour yourself a strong drink and find out how indeed it is that Howard Ratner wins.

10. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

I'm a Film and English Literature student and am therefore far too dense to understand proper art, like paintings and statues. What I do understand is Greek myth, something that genius director Celine Sciamma employs. In one scene in the middle of the film, the characters discuss the myth of Orpehus, a man who went to the underworld to rescue Eurydice, his lover, but lost her when he turned around to look at her. The characters discussing it in Portrait are a noble woman destined to be married off to a suitor she has never met, a painter there to paint a picture of her for the suitor and the maid trying to look after the two. It is an incredibly loaded scene and in the way they respond to this story, the intimate and expertly plotted character details all come out into the open in a few simple sentences. That's the power of Portrait of a Lady on Fire, a soaring queer romance that doesn't have a lot of dialogue between the characters but makes sure every word counts. The power in each of the words between painter and subject builds and builds and builds until you reach an ending that genuinely makes me cry so hard I struggle to breathe. I may not recognise an incredible work of art when I see one but I know an incredible film and that is precisely what Portrait of a Lady on Fire is.

9. La La Land

Ah, La La Land, a film whose controversy seemed to never stop at one point. There was the issue of it taking jazz, a medium whose origins lie primarily with African-Americans, and featuring pretty much only one main black character. There was the backlash when it became so wildly popular around the January it released wide, with people saying that "actually, it's not that great". Of course, there was also when it won Best Picture at the Oscars for a few minutes, before it was revealed that Moonlight actually won. And yet, I still love La La Land. It turned me, a self-professed hater of musicals, into a total fanboy who skipped to the cinema four times to see it. I've fallen in total and absolute love with this film, a love letter to the movies, to jazz and to Los Angeles itself. It also knows how to really have fun with itself, coming out in the pool party scene, one of my favourite bits of the film. Fun is something I finally began to allow myself to have at the cinema these last few years and La La Land was my outlet for a good long time. Most importantly, it gave us many songs that have become part of our pop cultural fabric. Even for those sticks in the mud who didn't get on with the film, I challenge you to hear "Another Day of Sun" and not feel like your day is only going to go up. Despite a downbeat and slightly melancholic ending, I can never walk away from La La Land without a spring in my step.

8. Before Midnight

Before Midnight is the third entry in what is probably the most remarkable trilogy in film history. The first film, Before Sunrise, featured Jesse and Celine falling in love in a chance encounter and nine years later, there was Before Sunset, a film in which we see where they are after their encounter. Nine years after that, we find ourselves here. Jesse and Celine are now married, with children. What makes Before Midnight such a brilliant entry into this trilogy is how different it is. The first two films are dreamlike, romance films that feel so good because they're slightly heightened versions of the world, versions of the world where things that could never happen do. With Before Midnight, the dream layer is removed from the world and we find ourselves faced with reality. There is still plenty of joy and wonder to this reality but at times, it is a reality that stings. It climaxes in an argument between our two characters, an argument that is as powerful as it is because of the five hours of screen time and 18 years of real time that built up to it. To say it is heartbreaking would be an understatement, but it still offers a sense of hope. As the world changes, people change and the relationships between people change. Jesse and Celine still love each other, but what that love looks like and the things that stand between it are different. Personally, it is my least favourite of the trilogy, but I think it should tell you something about the quality of these films that the worst entry in the best trilogy ever made can still be considered one of the best films of the decade.

7. Arrival

I have an incredibly distinctive memory of the first time I saw Arrival. It was on opening day, I knew very little about it and settled down with my mate Will to see it. We were totally blown away by the whole film and at a moment where something was revealed, we both turned to each other and silently exchanged a look of "Wait, is that what this film is?". Watching it again recently, I was struck by how the film is somehow even more profoundly brilliant on repeat viewings. The story is of a language professor, tasked with translating the language of and communicating with aliens who have just arrived on earth. No shooting the aliens, no sending massive nuclear warheads, no dramatic speeches from world leaders, this is a science fiction film that dares to be truly cerebral. It being a film about language, it's only appropriate that it deconstructs the language of films itself. To say too much would spoil the film for anyone who hasn't yet seen it but needless to say, it takes assumptions we make about sci-fi and uses them against us in fascinating ways. It is also totally and undeniably a human film. I love how little of this film is about conflict and, truth be told, how little of this film is about aliens. It is about Louise, our protagonist, and the life she has surrounding these events. Her story brought me to tears and by the final montage, when we learn of the decision she has made, I was weeping inconsolably. Arrival truly is science fiction to make your head spin and your heart swell.

6. Parasite

There is a compelling argument (an argument I agree with) that pretty much everything has gone downhill since Parasite won best picture at the Oscars. Not only was it as a moment utterly spectacular thanks to Jane Fonda's impeccable timing, but it was a landmark moment in the history of the ceremony. No film from South Korea had ever been nominated for any Oscars, no Palme D'Or winner had won Best Picture since the fifties and no foreign language film had ever won Best Picture. For a film to break the mould like that, it would need to be spectacular and that is precisely what Parasite is. On a purely superficial level, it is an immaculate thriller that delivers twists and moments of agonising tension on a regular basis, all happening to characters we care about. Dig a little deeper though and it is overflowing with subtext and thematic details that are rife for analysis, analysis that really does become a joy when you watch the film over and over again. Though director Bong Joon-Ho wrote this film with specifically Korean things in mind, he made a film so brilliant that it has become totally universal. I'm going to end this section on a bold claim, a claim I intend to stand by for a while: I think Parasite is the best film to ever win Best Picture at the Oscars. If it isn't the best, it's certainly the most deserving.

5. Call Me By Your Name

It's the late eighties, somewhere in Northern Italy. Elio is on holiday with his family, as they prepare to welcome a student to come and study with them, a student called Oliver. This is going to be a summer Elio never forgets, a summer of first loves, long held gazes and things that remained unsaid. To describe the appeal of Call Me By Your Name is to describe a long, luxurious summer. Everything is so slow at first, so enjoyably languid, but moments stand out. You say things you would never dare say in the winter, because summer feels like such a fantasy, a fantasy whose end you realise is fast approaching. As you reach those last few days, hours, moments, you try and make the most of them before they're suddenly... Gone. Despite feeling like a dream, Call Me By Your Name makes every moment feel so hyper real. Peaches look so juicy, skin looks so sweaty, gazes look so loaded. If there is nothing else that this film has done for me, it has given me an accurate way to process my own feelings of romance, forcing myself to face that question of "Is it better to speak or die?". What becomes the central question of the film has become a central question of my life, such is the impact that this luscious, aching, summer romance had on me.

4. Little Women

I don't really like period dramas, I don't have any sisters and I've never read the original novel of Little Women. On paper, that should mean that Greta Gerwig's Little Women is not a film for me and yet, that couldn't be further from the truth. Though it only came out in December, I feel like I've carried this film with me forever. It is so overhwlemingly magical that fragments of it are lodged around my body; some bits in my brain, some bits in my heart, quite a lot in my tear ducts. It's even become some weird running joke, about how quickly I can cry while watching the film (current record, seven minutes in). Every performance is joyous, every note on the score a spine-tingling treat, every whip smart word of dialogue making me grin from ear to ear. Few films have been as immediately important to me as Little Women has and I can barely explain why. I legitimately struggle to think of a single fault with it, it is a film that achieves exactly what it sets out to do. I can only imagine what a wreck I'm going to be watching this film in the future, when my love for Little Women has become a defining personality trait. Hang on actually, I would like to go back a bit, I do have one complaint: I don't know if I will ever find a character I see myself in as much or want to marry as much as I do Saoirse Ronan's interpretation of Jo March. She is very nearly the perfect character in a film for me.

3. Paddington 2

I said Jo March is almost the perfect character because the perfect character, in the only perfect film, is Paddington Bear. If you are seeing Paddington 2 this far up the list and are in doubt of how it did so, you've clearly not seen it. There is genuinely no film in existence that takes as much joy in merely existing as Paddington 2. Not only is it a film with a gorgeously wholesome moral, but the craft of this is immaculate. Visually, it rivals the best of Wes Anderson's work and in terms of script, it has perfect setups and payoff, leading to an incredibly satisfying third act. Like I said, it's also incredibly pure and if the ending doesn't leave you absolutely sobbing with joy, something is broken inside of you. I'm not entirely sure how else to pitch this film to you. It is a tale about acceptance of people from strange lands, while also celebrating the things that we can do well in Britain when we aren't being so cynical, a tale told in a way that will make you cry, laugh and feel as if your whole world has been brightened. The fact that two films this decade were better than Paddington 2 is startling, but let that only be a positive reflection on what a great decade it's been for films and not a critique of this miracle of a film.

2. The Social Network

In 2010, there was a worry that a film about Facebook could become dated by the end of the decade. Regrettably, it turns out that The Social Network has only become more prevalant as the decade has gone on, with the way that Facebook and tech companies like it have monopolised our waking hour and created billionaires from our misery. The Social Network is that story, but it's also smart enough to know that not always sticking to the truth will make for a much more compelling film. David Fincher is famed for films about murder and serial killers but here, no one is murdered, apart from potential careers. Aaron Sorkin cranks out his most razor sharp script, full of countless brilliant monologues and snarky putdowns, many of which live rent free in my head. Also due credit is Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg. It is one of the best pieces of casting all decade, Eisenberg getting to turn Zuckerberg into an entitled man-child whose desire to be loved ends up hurting more people than any of us could ever imagine. Cream of this very creamy crop though is the score, by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Their chiptune, bleepy bloop music is addictive and makes the film fly by. It is hard to know what else to say, if anything else at all should be said. I suppose I'll return to that point I said at the start of the paragraph, that this is a film that, as the rise of billionaire man-children increases, becomes sadly more and more relevant as this tortured world keeps on turning. No other film better captures the horror of this decade.

1. Whiplash

In preparing for this list, I've been rewatching many of the films that are so high up this list. It's always a slightly scary thing to do, especially if it's the kind of film that you often hold up as being one of your all time favourites, which was the position I found myself in with Whiplash. As you can probably guess by the fact that it's at number one on my list, it did not disappoint. On an immediate level, Whiplash is a remarkable film for its tension. Despite being a film about a guy who wants to become one of the best drummers in the world, it is nauseatingly thrilling. At the best of times, a drum beat getting quicker is going to make you tense, but when that drum beat decides someone's future, you're going to struggle to breathe. As the film goes on, it just gets worse and worse, by which I mean better and better. With Andrew chasing greatness and Fletcher (performed by J.K. Simmons, in the greatest performance of the decade) pushing him closer and closer to the edge, each moment spent at the drums is a moment of agony for the viewer. By the end, I was genuinely having to watch the film through my fingers like I was eight and watching Doctor Who, despite having seen the film three times and knowing exactly what the outcome was. On a filmmaking level, it is genuine perfection.
Whiplash is a beautiful nightmare in double time swing.
Greater than just being the most intense film I have ever seen, Whiplash also has a lot going on under the surface. This is a really powerful study into obsession and the pursuit of greatness. The way Fletcher treats his students is monstrous but the more you watch the film, the more you realise they're complicit. This is abuse but at any moment, these students could walk away, join a different jazz band. And none of them do. Why? Because they know this is the path to greatness, they know they need to have the chair thrown at their head or they won't be the next Charlie Parker. Andrew is obsessed with his pursuit of greatness and as he himself says, it isn't enough to be great. He wants to be, nay, has to be one of the greats and will destroy himself to get there. As a tale of obsession, it is heartbreaking and to a much smaller extent, I understand the journey. You are, after all, reading the work of someone who just wrote 100 entries about films he watched over the course of 10 years, all done the week he is moving back to university. I understand pushing yourself to the limits of your field in the pursuit of something close to greatness. Despite the two paragraphs I have spent trying though, I'm never going to come close to explaining why Whiplash is so great, this incredible nightmare in double time swing. The editing is precise, the performances are nuanced yet immediately satisfying and the music itself is superb. In the simplest words, I love Whiplash more than I have loved any other film this decade.

Time for some statistics about these films now, for those (like me) of a nerdy disposition for stuff like this.

Films on this list nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards: 25 (zero from the 2012 ceremony)
Films on this list that won Best Picture at the Academy Awards: 4

Year statistics:
2010 - 4 films
2011 - 5 films
2012 - 6 films
2013 - 7 films
2014 - 15 films
2015 - 9 films
2016 - 14 films
2017 - 15 films
2018 - 14 films
2019 - 11 films

Directors with multiple films:
Paul King - 2
Greta Gerwig - 2
Luca Guadagnino - 2
Denis Villeneuve - 2
Josh and Benny Safdie - 2
Noah Baumbach - 2
Alex Garland - 2
Robert Eggers - 2
Lynne Ramsay - 2
Yorgos Lanthimos - 2
Barry Jenkins - 2
Quentin Tarantino - 2
Christopher Nolan - 2
Gareth Evans - 2
Matt Reeves - 2
Martin McDonagh - 2
Edgar Wright - 3
Damien Chazelle - 3
David Fincher - 3

I was going to do actors who appear most often but working that out would have been a week of work on its own, so I hope you weren't desperate for that statistic.

Stay tuned, because there's one more list to come later in the week and oh boy, it is going to be a fitting way to end, judging by the stuff that seems to be most popular on my blog. Let's just say, if you're looking for a list to find films to really torment me with, you're in luck.


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