Filmmaking is in our lifeblood, being the main source of entertainment and development throughout our childhood and our professional careers. So much of the medium and landscape was changed throughout the 2010s and it is our turn to honor our favorites as we roll into 2020. Here are our best picks for the films of the last decade.
10, 2010 – Inception
HM – Exit Through the Gift Shop, True Grit
While the 2000s may have been the decade for Christopher Nolan, but one of his masterpieces bled over into the 2010s. Inception is a dream-manipulating and confusing thrill ride of an adventure every time you hit play. Leonardo DiCaprio leads the incredibly talented cast, exploring this uncommon idea of physical dream tinkering in the most intriguing way possible. Inception is a visual and sensual experience as well, with very little pushing the VFX boundary even further. Hell, the story still confuses audiences to this day, with hardcore fans still trying to interpret Nolan’s opus, adding to its impact.
Cinema started the 2010s decade off strong, with quite a few different contenders snapping for the title. True Grit was an absolutely solid remake, holding an early standard for drama remakes early. On the other side, those who are into documentaries like me, the Banksy produced Exit Through the Gift Shop. The documentary is an interesting look at the evolving world of street art.
9. 2011 – The Tree of Life
HM – Mysteries of Lisbon
Man, I thought that I was just busy with film school in 2011, so I didn’t happen to remember it as well. Yet looking back now 2011 might have been the most underwhelming year for the decade in cinema. It was difficult to settle on two films to serve as the best of the year, and I almost feel like I have to settle. As our only honorable mention, Mysteries of Lisbon is a 5-hour Portuguese period epic that shows just how impressive the Portuguese market is growing. Yet, we have to give the visionary Terrance Malick the 2011 crown with his experimental film Tree of Life.
The world of experimental films is definitely a broad umbrella, and Tree of Life fits snuggly underneath. Featuring a star-studded cast with the talents of Brad Pitt, Sean Pean, and Jessica Chastain just to name a few, each member of the cast takes their performances seriously, even performing at the top of their game. Malick’s style allows audiences to take a detailed look at the concept of memories through a unique vessel, while at the same time exploring the origins of universal life. Yeah, this one is for the big brains in the audience.
8. 2012 – Django Unchained
HM – Moonrise Kingdom, Zero Dark Thirty
Even though 2011 was quite the abysmal year, the world of cinema bounced back hardcore in 2012. It was almost like they recognized their mistakes. 2012 was incredibly difficult to pick a winner, with plenty of solid films across all kinds of genres. Moonrise Kingdom made us fall in love with Bill Murray once again, and Zero Dark Thirty fulfilled our thirst for action with an added dose of patriotism. However, my personal pick goes to Tarantino’s Django Unchained.
Not only is Django Unchained an alternative look at America during the time of slavers, but it is a delightfully gruesome movie. Leonardo DiCaprio elevates his improvisational skills to level 11, even going as far as injuring his hand mid-monologue. Damn dedication if you ask me. Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz steal the show with their chemistry and we need more from their collaboration.
If you want more opinions on movies in 2012, check out David’s outlook here. I asked him to comment on a few of these years and he went and wrote a whole damn article. Haha.
7. 2013 – Gravity
HM – Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years a Slave
After the hectically amazing 2012, the world had no desire to slow down in 2013. Now officially dropped out of college (a story for another time, maybe a YouTube video about it) I spent most of 2013 and 14 actively watching all kinds of movies and animation while working part-time in marketing. 2013 reminded me just how much I loved movies as an art form, from the small independent darlings to the blockbuster epics. While writing this list, I may have just discovered how much I like Leonardo DiCaprio, as his performance in Wolf of Wall Street snagged it another HM, right next to the first film to make me hate my history 12 Years a Slave.
However, 2013 was the year I stopped toeing the line between fantasy and science fiction. Perhaps that is has a foundation that is more in line with real-life possibilities, science fiction won me over. This is why my favorite film of 2013 is Gravity. The chemistry and performances of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are stellar and impressive, heightening the anxiety of existing in space. Plus Gravity has one of the most chaotic scenes that still terrifies me each time I watch it.
6. 2014 – Birdman
HM – Whiplash, The Grand Budapest Hotel
2014, the year I finally started creating content. Films in 2014 were a beautiful showcase of technical prowess in the art of filmmaking, with many talented auteurs give us necessary lessons. Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel gave me a new appreciation for the talents of Ralph Fiennes, and at the same time gave me a few insights on crafting the perfect dramedy. On the other end of the spectrum, Whiplash expertly combined my loves for music and movies and showcased the pain a performer goes through for his best showcase. Also, J.K. Simmons yes terrifyingly threatening and brilliant.
However, on an acting and technical level alone, I have to give our top spot to Birdman. Edward Norton and Emma Stone handle plenty of leg work and support, each showcasing their strengths in this mind-meld of a film. However, Michael Keaton takes center stage in a role that feels crafted just for him, looking as determined and confused as we are. Birdman is a technical marvel, almost being filmed in one continuous shot and being a prime example of the magic of hidden cuts.
5. 2015 – The Martian
HM – Mad Max: Fury Road, Spotlight
Science fiction continues to rule this list, and 2015 is not an exception. 2015 was the year for thriving action and drama films, each making their mark and changing the landscape in their own way. Mad Max: Fury Road pulled out all the stops to reinvent the bland action genre, setting the standard for this genre on an entirely new scale. Spotlight was one of the first movies of the decade to show the world’s growing woke and cancel cultures, targeting the Catholic church for their accusations of pedophilia.
However, while both of these films made significant strides in their respective genres, my top pick goes to The Martian. One of the most scientifically accurate films in the last decade, The Martian holds up due to Matt Damon’s amazing acting range. Matt Damon’s character is alone through most of the film, leaving plenty of extra space to be filled in by another body. However, Damon embodies the film’s protagonist Mark Watney to such a tee that I would believe it if he was sent to space to survive. The Martian actually earns the top crown for one main reason, re-watchability. Since The Martian was released back in 2015, I have seen the Mark Watney adventure at least ten times. I love this story.
4. 2016 – Arrival
HM – Deadpool, Manchester By The Sea
Oh look, another year, and another sci-fi film to earn the top crown. 2016 we were deep into the middle of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, dropping superhero after superhero film that grew old rather quickly….until Deadpool. It feels weird to look back at Deadpool and realize that it has already been four years since Ryan Reynolds first redeemed himself in the role. On the entirely opposite end of the spectrum and taking the world by surprise was the drama Manchester by the Sea. My opinion change of Casey Affleck’s acting prowess earns the film an honorable mention spot on those merits alone.
However, this year’s top crown goes to Arrival. At this point in storytelling, it is incredibly difficult to tell an alien invasion story in a way audiences have never seen before. Championed by the highly talented Denis Villeneuve, Arrival is a testament to the power of language and communication. Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner are at the top of their game, with Adams being the soft hero the world needs if extinction hinges on translation to prevent it.
3. 2017 – Get Out
HM – Logan, Blade Runner 2049
Alright science fiction, it is time to GTFO, other genres need a taste of the spotlight to survive. With the success of darker superhero films like Deadpool, the stage was set for one of the best superhero films ever made. Logan served as an official send-off for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine after a long 17-year career in the role, and it couldn’t have been done with more expertise. While we may be saying goodbye to one iteration, X-23 will take the mantle. On the flip side, 2017 was also set up for the year’s best long-awaited sequel, Blade Runner 2049. A visual masterpiece, 2049 served plenty of homage to the 1982 original Blade Runner, all while holding its own as a modern sci-fi epic.
Despite these achievements, the gold medal goes to the modern horror mainstay Get Out. Fresh out of the mind of comedian Jordan Peele, Get Out proves that comedy and tragedy are just two opposite sides of the same coin. Tackling heavy present-day problems such as PC culture and racism, Get Out is a surreal story that makes us question our own ideals and opinions. A major wake up call and social critique of modern society, Peele gives us a sociology lesson through the guise of horror.
2. 2018 – Hereditary
HM – A Quiet Place, Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, Sorry to Bother You
Back to back horror pieces? Something must be wrong with me, or my tastes have continued to evolve. My personal favorite year of film during the last decade, 2018 had plenty of innovative movies taking their turn on the silver screen. I didn’t want to litter this entry with too many honorable mentions, as there were absolutely too many great ones to pick from. A Quiet Place pushed the boundaries of sensory-deprivation horror to another level, all while re-introducing us to an evolved John Krasinski. Into the Spiderverse combined urban art, sounds, and themes to show that DC is the king of animated superheroes. Sorry to Bother You took another stab at our fragile social ecosystem in a confusing yet hilarious premise that we didn’t know we needed.
But these movies are just behind one of my favorite authentically horror films of the decade, Hereditary. I’ll be honest, it takes quite a bit to frighten me, especially something fake like a horror film. However, over the years I have found my weakness, horror derived from dread and stillness. Hereditary eaily ranks in the top echelon of horror for me, with the likes of It Follows and The Babadook. Midsommer director Ari Aster excels in his directorial debut, leading this not-well-known cast into this dark supernatural world that he has created. If you haven’t seen Hereditary, fix that ASAP.
1. 2019 – Joker
HM – Midsommer, Avengers: Endgame, John Wick 3, Us
Let’s face it, 2019 has actually been a monumental year for the film industry. Films throughout the year broke all kinds of records and set new standards for the industry going into 2020. While 2019 also showed us just how powerful exclusive shows and movies have in today’s society, with Disney+ stealing headlines with The Mandalorian and Netflix intriguing viewers with Martin Scorsese’s almost 4-hour epic The Irishman on Netflix. While I wanted to give The Irishman at least an honorable mention, I still haven’t finished it off so it doesn’t count…yet.
With plenty of choices to choose from, it was rather difficult to select the film of the year. Avengers: Endgame closed a massive wave of storytelling in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, John Wick 3 fueled the overwhelmingly positive Keanu wave, while Midsommer and Us revived my love for horror in 2019. Yet Joaquin Phoenix as the titular crown prince filled the hole we needed for a villain-centered story. Even though Joker could have just been another interpretation of Joker‘s origin story, Todd Philips crafted a modern look into mental health and continued the conversation into the mainstream.
That is a wrap on the 2010’s! What do you think will be the best film of 2020? Let us know!
Are there any other projects/albums/movies that you think we should check out? Let us know in the comments!
Who am I? Just some guy who decided to start writing on the Internet years ago and now operates his own brand and site. Owner/Operator of Modern Neon Media, I make all kinds of niche content to suit my interests at the time. DIY Enthusiast, Brewmaster extraordinaire, and avid freak for geek culture. Follow on my socials for a more “on” version of me.