The Best Films of the Decade
I realize that I’m a few months late in posting this list, but I put it off trying to catch up on some films and then I felt it was too late. Three weeks into quarantine, and I’ve finally found the time and motivation to put together my list.
Part 1. Honorable Mentions 101-150 (in alphabetical order) (below)
Part 2. 100 – 91
Part 3. 90 – 81
Part 4. 80 – 71
Part 5. 70 – 61
Part 6. 60 – 51
Part 7. 50 – 41
Part 8. 40 – 31 (coming soon)
Part 9. 30 – 21 (coming soon)
Part 10. 20 – 11 (coming soon)
Part 11. 10 – 1 (coming soon)
20th Century Women (dir. Mike Mills, 2016) – A sweet coming of age movie driven by the three amazing women leads (Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, and Greta Gerwig) as they together raise Bening’s character’s son (Billy Crudup).
3 Faces (dir. Jafar Panahi, 2019) – One of Panahi’s illegally made films, this one focusing on the restraints put on Iranian women, and how the alure of fame can act as a respite from the overbearing system.
The Assassin (dir. Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 2015) – If you’re looking for non-stop kung-fu action, then The Assassin is not what you’re looking for. If you’re interested in an incredibly slow ponderous tale with some light action, then Hou Hsiao-Hsien made a film for you.
Beach Rats (dir. Eliza Hittman, 2017) – Eliza Hittman’s coming of age story of a young queer boy (Harris Dickinson) in Brooklyn who spends his summer experimenting with substances and older men.
Black Swan (dir. Darren Aronofsky, 2010) – The film that won Natalie Portman her lone Oscar (stay tuned to the upcoming lists for the film that should have won her a second). Her performance mixed well with Aronofsky’s thriller direction.
BlacKkKlansman (dir. Spike Lee, 2018) – Potentially the best film Lee has put together since Do the Right Thing (1989). It’s a shame that it will be remembered most for losing to Green Book (2018) much like Do the Right Thing did to Driving Miss Daisy (1989).
Blade Runner 2049 (dir. Denis Villeneuve, 2017) – It is not as good as the 1982 Ridley Scott classic, but Villeneuve manages to capture enough of the classic’s ponderous atmosphere and intrigue to make it a welcome addition to the original’s legacy.
Blue is the Warmest Colour (dir. Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013) – While the arguments against the film that the sex scenes are shot from a distinctly male gaze, the lead performances by Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos are among the best of the decade and earn Blue is the Warmest Colour a spot on this list.
Brooklyn (dir. John Crowley, 2015) – Saoirse Ronan and writer Nick Hornby are a perfect mix. She embodies his romantic sensibilities in perfect harmony.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (dir. Marielle Heller, 2018) – The film that would be #101 on the list if I was ranking these, Marielle Heller reminds the world that Melissa McCarthy is an accomplished dramatic performer in this biopic.
Cloud Atlas (dir. Lilly and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, 2012) – Yes it’s a bit of a mess, but that’s only because it’s ambitions were so high. What remains is a great eon-spanning drama with one of the decades best scores.
The Day He Arrives (dir. Hong Sang-Soo, 2012) – A depressed, no longer working director returns to his hometown, and attempts to find meaning in a series of Groundhog Dayesque scenes, as if he is directing and re-directing real life.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl (dir. Marielle Heller, 2015) – The US version of 2009’s Fish Tank, Bel Powley stands out in the mature coming of age story.
Ex Machina (dir. Alex Garland, 2015) – Minimalist science fiction that meditates on what it is to be human is my kink, and this won’t be Garlands last of those films on this list.
A Fantastic Woman (dir. Sebastián Lelio, 2017) – As a trans woman myself, I feel confident in saying that most films about us are exploitative bullshit. A Fantastic Woman on the other hand, is honest and moving.
The Florida Project (dir. Sean Baker, 2017) – Child actor Brooklynn Prince is a standout in the depressing depiction of poverty in the shadow of the Disney World artifice.
The Forbidden Room (dir. Guy Maddin, 2015) – A collection of stories made from fake lost footage accented by a song about Udo Kier’s unrelenting obsession with butts and a tutorial on how to take a bath. Maddin isn’t for everyone but if you’re up for something bizarre I highly recommend The Forbidden Room.
Girl Walk // All Day (dir Jacob Krupnick) – Obsessively just a 75 minute music video to Girl Talks All Day album, I don’t think any movie has given me more joy this decade than this film.
Good Time (dir. Benny and Josh Safdie, 2017) – A neon tinted hellish thriller throughout New York where no one is a good person, but you can’t help but feel for their motivations anyway.
Goodbye First Love (dir. Mia Hansen-Løve, 2012) – Young love is never what it seems, but its an important part of growing up, and Mia Hansen-Løve understands those emotions and how they impact the life of a young woman.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (dir. Wes Anderson, 2014) – Wes Anderson playing with aspect ratio to differentiate time periods adds to his already iconic meticulously crafted mise-en-scène.
The Handmaiden (dir. Park Chan-wook, 2016) – Constantly shifting perspectives and lack of an omniscient camera lend an air of mystery to the lesbian thriller.
High Life (dir. Clare Denis, 2019) – Claire Denis’s low-concept science fiction film relies on strong performances from Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche to create an eerie isolating experience.
Hustlers (dir. Lorene Scafaria, 2019) – Through what could be a straightforward Scorsese crime film homage, Lorene Scafaria tells a story about the power of female friendship set atop the glitz and glam and a New York strip club.
Inside Out (dir. Pete Doctor and Ronnie Del Carmen, 2015) – The best Pixar film of the decade does what most Pixar films do best: present a mature emotional core behind a film that can be consumed by all ages.
Kate Plays Christine (dir. Robert Greene, 2016) – A film that stretches the definition of what a documentary is and can be, the story of an actress preparing for a role that doesn’t exist in order to personalize a near forgotten story is innovative and memorable.
Kubo and the Two Strings (dir. Travis Knight, 2016) – Animation studio Laika Entertainment’s masterpiece, Kubo and the Two Strings mixes great voice acting, a strong story, and breathtaking stop motion.
The Lobster (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015) – A very dark comedy that introduced Yorgos Lanthimos to a wider audience than his prior Greek films is fascinating in its straight-faced absurdness.
Love & Friendship (dir Whit Stillman, 2016) – Whit Stillman’s heightened style mixes perfectly with Jane Austen’s writing, and reuniting with his Last Days of Disco leads Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny is a joy.
The Lure (dir. Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2017) – A Polish, cannibal, mermaid, musical and if that’s not enough to pique your interest, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.
Manchester by the Sea (dir. Kenneth Lonergan, 2016) – A trio of great performances (Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, and Lucas Hedges) highlight this emotional tale of loss and isolation.
Margaret (dir. Kenneth Lonergan, 2011) – The studio’s lack of faith in Lonergan’s two and a half plus magnum opus is the only reason it qualifies for this decades list, but the meandering search for meaning is amazing if not commercially viable.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (dir. Desiree Akhavan, 2018) – Essentially a dramatic retelling of But I’m a Cheerleader (1999), The Miseducation of Cameron Post tells the story of a girl at a conversion therapy camp in a way that’s more complex than just stating that it’s wrong.
Miss Stevens (dir. Julia Hart, 2016) – Criminally looked over, this early performance from Timothée Chalamet mixes comedy with emotional depth in a way that it’s one sentence blurb undermines.
Mistress America (dir. Noah Baumbach) – This movie is just fun. Greta Gerwig as a 30-something who doesn’t have her life together is a welcome character for this 30-something who doesn’t have her life together.
Moneyball (dir. Bennett Miller, 2011) – Sports movies are not the type that are likely to end up on my best of list, but a solid screenplay coupled with great acting performances makes this one to watch.
Mr. Turner (dir. Mike Leigh, 2014) – Timothy Spall embodies the eccentricity of painter J.M.W. Turner and portrays a deeply unpleasant painter who is still fascinating in the lengths he goes to for his passion.
Obvious Child (dir. Gillian Robespierre, 2014) – Jenny Slate stars in this answer to the standard rom-com. The matter-of fact discussion of Slate’s character’s decision to have an abortion is a welcome stance on a common occurrence that is still relegated to taboo.
Paint it Black (dir. Amber Tamblyn, 2016) – Amber Tamblyn’s directorial debut is an intense character drama exploring the emotional struggles of grief.
Samsara (dir. Ron Fricke – 2011) – The cinematographer of the Qatsi trilogy, makes his own entry into the emotionally stirring, beautifully shot, non-narrative documentary.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (dir. Edgar Wright, 2010) – The only comic book movie to make my list (save your hate mail, I don’t care) Edgar Wright’s frenetic style mixes so well with the source material that I do feel bad we missed out the potential of an Edgar Wright Ant-Man.
Sing Street (dir. John Carney, 2016) – A blast of a musical. The story is lovely and heartwarming, the young actors well performed, and the soundtrack absolutely slaps.
The Square (dir. Ruben Östlund, 2017) – A film that examines the meanings behind modern and performance are and the rich members of society who consume it without understanding.
Suspiria (dir. Luc Guadagnino, 2018) – As a remake of a classic, Guadagnino differentiates his version of Suspiria by foregoing the original’s trademark color scheme and classic score allowing it to stand on its own.
The Tale (dir. Jennifer Fox, 2018) – Jennifer Fox’s visual memoir is an emotionally difficult watch. One which becomes all the more devastating when you remember that it’s a true story.
Tiny Furniture (dir. Lena Dunham, 2010) – Before she made the TV show Girls Lena Dunham made on of the most important films of the mumblecore movement staring her real-life family and Girls costar Jemima Kirke.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010) – The utterly bizarre Palme d’Or winner examines mortality, not through a melancholic tone, but one accepting of the final stage of life.
Upstream Color (dir. Shane Carruth, 2013) – Shane Carruth follows up Primer (2005), one of the driest and science heavy science fiction films of all time, with the exact opposite in the contemplative and fantastical Upstream Color.
Winter’s Bone (dir. Debra Granik, 2010) – What if Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen was transported to present day Missouri, and her story was not written for children? Then you’d have Winter’s Bone.
The Witch (dir. Robert Eggers, 2016) – The films that arguably set off the A24 horror movement, The Witch exemplifies the A24 horror trademark, a slow burn that cressendos throughout the film without release.