Want some film recommendations?
Disclaimer: The following is opinion. I probably forgot some films too.
I was inspired to write this post from an article by The New Yorker. I’ve changed the idea to talk more about the best films of the decade so far: 2010 to now. This time frame I fondly call ’the teens’ - a name I deliberated over for an extended period of time. As someone who has grown up in the digital age an extended period of time can be anywhere from 3 seconds to about 5 seconds.
I am not, and do not claim to be, a film reviewer. I will be providing brief explanations and anecdotes to highlight what interested me about the film.
I am hoping there is no recency bias in my list but I can’t promise anything. The films are rated on how much I enjoyed them and how the films impacted my craft. They’re all pretty darn good so don’t take offence to why 16 is higher than 17 - they are all tip top films. Onwards.
22. John Wick.
Brutal and entertaining; it completely revitalised the action genre in Hollywood as well as breathing new life into Keanu Reeves’ career. There’s a great balance of sound and colour and some other things probably. The song Think by Kaleida appears in a cool club fight scene. Give it a listen.
The first Denis Villeneuve film I saw. It was instantly obvious that the direction of the film was unique and haunting. Interesting story and memorable to boot - it plays on your morals.
20. Ex Machina
Boss dance scene and an interesting exploration of the Turing test in practical use. Solid film which does everything right.
A film which came out of nowhere and dazzled. Villeneuve’s second film on this list. It shows what a cinematic icon he is becoming. The film has such an alternative narrative structure which is ridiculously rewarding.
18. Blue is the Warmest Colour
True love never hurt this much. Wonderful look at love in the 21st century. The two leads deserve every bit of praise this film garnered.
17. The Raid
The film which was, to a degree, the precursor to John Wick. The true action renaissance film. It is both parts brutal and ridiculous but entertaining throughout.
16. Inherent Vice
Bizarre and unique. Total Paul Thomas Anderson. Watched this on my own once - the solo Nandos afterwards was suitable time to reflect. It can be quite divisive but well worth the trip.
15. Mad Max: Fury Road
Massive success of a film that pretty much everyone and their dog was raving about - and for good reason. Visually visceral and non-stop (in a good way). I enjoy films in which we follow the action closely and it takes place relatively real time.
Truly iconic and pop culture. Ever sine it’s inception there have been memes and parodies from all across the internet and the wider world. It’s become a household name for a reason. Inception was the balance between originality, big budget and action which you rarely see done to a high standard these days.
13. Short Term 12
Brilliant performance by Brie Larson from a film that never truly came out of obscurity when it was released. Saw it on a whim and was blown away by the real human interactions depicted and the wonderful balance between comedy and drama.
12. Guardians of the Galaxy
This one is pretty obvious. Huge blockbuster film which took a relatively unknown Director (although Super is fantastic) and gave him the chance to make the film he wanted to. The film has a superb grasp on music and adventure and is a callback to the great action films of the past a la Indiana Jones and Star Wars.
11. The Place Beyond the Pines
Derek Cianfrance, for me, is like a good Richard Linklater. He has great conceptually ideas for his films and their structures but genuinely delivers to a filmic standard. The Place Beyond the Pines isn’t a perfect film but it was really influential in how I see and structure films. Great performances as well. Top film.
I had a Whiplash experience once. It’s sort of spoilery and i’m not sure I can speak of it but yeah the film is great. Iconic. Whiplash deserves praise for that J.K. Simmons performance above all else.
9. The Tree of Life
Terence Malick is a genius. This visual poetry of a film is a legit masterpiece. Although it is a hard film to watch multiple times due to it’s spatial temperance. It feels otherworldly but also strictly human and bare. Definitely worth a watch when your mind is prepared. Massive influence on me as a director.
I really appreciate films in which the title perfectly sums up what the film is about. Simple. Great film. Delivers on all fronts and has fantastic performances including a music solo which is perfect. Steve McQueen is the man. Hunger is also a harrowing but tremendous accomplishment too.
For a film which was pegged by its trailers as a standard action film turned out to be so much more. Brilliant soundtrack and fabulously violent. Bronson and Valhalla Rising were great films in their own right but this was on another level and allowed Refn to appeal to a commercial market.
6. Inside Llewyn Davis
Coen Brothers. It’s great. The story of a struggling musician in New York. Just really well written. Nothing else to say.
5. The Lobster
Fantastic film and would probably be number 1 if these other films hadn’t had such a profound effect on me. Wonderfully bizarre film that delivers its comedy in such deadpan fashion.
4. Only God Forgives
Refn’s second film on this list and for good reason. Only God Forgives is not for everyone and that’s fine but I freakin’ love it. Tense, visceral and maybe a bit obnoxious but prolific filmmaking.
Steve Carell in a transformative role and delivers in more ways than one. I think Ruffalo doesn’t get enough chops for his performance - tactile and authentic. The knowledge that the story is real adds such an edge to the drama. Worthwhile.
2. Blue Valentine
I have never sobbed as much to a film than this one (even more than The Notebook). Derek Cianfrance’s second film on this list is a wonderfully structured exploration of the differences in a relationship from the beginning to years later. Achingly moving and hard to watch at times - it is genuinely authentic.
1. The Master
The film that takes the top spot is the stand out choice. A superbly crafted character piece. A career defining performance from Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a L. Ron Hubbard-esque character. Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams also deliver in the bucket loads. This is Paul Thomas Anderson at the top of his game. Grand visuals and amazing camera movements. Watch it if you haven’t and let me know what you think. Cannot recommend it more. The best film of the decade (so far).
Notable omissions: Get Out, 12 Years a Slave, War for the Planet of the Apes, Nightcrawler, Under the Skin, The Social Network, Moneyball, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Wolf of Wall Street and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
I also watched Blade Runner 2049 after writing this and that would be somewhere in the top 15. Need to watch it again to be sure of it’s placement.
Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear what you think! Let me know some of your favourite films of the decade down below.