As we near the end of the decade, it’s called upon and necessary that we recall the very finest films of the decade, to look back and appreciate the brilliance of some of these films. This will be a personal list of my absolute favourites, of which some rank among my now-all time favourites. Researching and remembering the best is easy, but whittling down to choose just fifty out of the thousands made is extremely tough and a grand challenge. This has been an eclectic decade of films, we have seen a modern golden age of horror and the resurgence of musicals, whilst building on last decade’s major introduction to a new form of studio film – superhero franchises. So many new and exciting voices have been brought into the world this decade, including some strikingly-twisted few films from now-sophomore directors to a reign of masterful works from Hollywood’s youngest Oscar-winning director.
These are films that will stand the test of time (hopefully, some have already) to rank among the best films ever made, and that people will remember and cherish their cinema experiences in spectating these films. I sure do.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (dir. Rian Johnson), Bone Tomahawk (dir. S. Craig Zahler), The Old Man & the Gun (dir. David Lowery), Sunset (dir. László Nemes), Roma (dir. Alfonso Cuaron), Winter’s Bone (dir. Debra Granik), Isle of Dogs (dir. Wes Anderson), Cold War (dir. Paweł Pawlikowski), Little Women (dir. Greta Gerwig), Portrait of a Lady on Fire (dir. Céline Sciamma), You Were Never Really Here (dir. Lynne Ramsay), Phantom Thread (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson), Jersey Boys (dir. Clint Eastwood) Melancholia (dir. Lars Von Trier) and Fantastic Beasts and The Crimes of Grindelwald (dir. David Yates).
The films ranked 1-10 on the list have detailed reasoning, the rest have minimal descriptions of what makes them that good and worthy of recognition. Enjoy!
The Top 50 Best Films of this Decade (2010’s)
- Interstellar (dir. Christopher Nolan) – Harmonious, enthralling and mind-blowing. Interstellar is one of the best films ever made. Never has a cinema experience come close to that of this film, Nolan leaves you speechless and emotionally bound in this chilling space-odyssey like no other.
- Django Unchained (dir. Quentin Tarantino) – The very definition of pure cinema intoxication, Django Unchained is Tarantino at the height of his mastery. Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio all shell out wondrously operatic performances. Tarantino through visuals, top-notch Oscar-level performers, soundtrack and his own touch of operatic explosiveness has created one of his finest films.
- La La Land (dir. Damien Chazelle) – Brimming with hope, joy and charm, it’s the perfect film to see on big screen. La La Land represents filmmaking at its best. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are infectiously magic, with Damien Chazelle’s vibrantly enthusiastic touch collating to a film of excellence.
- Leave No Trace (dir. Debra Granik) – Debra Granik, who directed Winter’s Bone returned with this 2018 masterpiece. Leave No Trace deserves all the praise, its view on the gentle nature of a father-daughter relationship shines incredibly bright through the restrained nature of both characters. The idea of ‘Forgotten America’ is portrayed through the glorious cinematography and Thomasin McKenzie’s gentle yet realist performance that shines incredibly bright. Perhaps McKenzie gives the best performance of the decade by any actor, male or female…
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (dir. Quentin Tarantino) – There is something beguiling in the feeling you get when feasting your eyes upon this film, a fairy-tale-like quality is felt in the character arcs and the corresponding visuals. With my eighth viewing in the cinema (the most I’ve ever seen a film!), I’m certain it’s a masterpiece and is one of Tarantino’s best (that’s saying a lot!). Tarantino’s LA is a mystical feat of technicolor brilliance and what is captured is a feel that only Tarantino could capture. It encapsulates everything about why I love films.
- Suspiria (dir. Luca Guadagnino) – A bone-chilling film that taps into your very core, Guadagnino like Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) transmits his work through a visionary eye with heavy symbolism littered throughout. You are left questioning and shivering, kneeling before Guadagnino’s Suspiria with its horrifying concept, eerie atmosphere and its pitch perfect precision in every single shot.
- The Dark Knight Rises (dir. Christopher Nolan) – Nolan having made my favourite film of all time, The Dark Knight, had a lot of expectations going into the sequel. The Dark Knight Rises is perhaps nearly on-par with the prior film, Nolan builds an all-encompassing atmosphere of a cinematic dream. It is a film that can be watched over and over, everything is perfect. I am always left shivering with a tear in my eye. Nolan knows how to hit those emotional moments and of course his infamous endings.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (dir. David Yates) – The finale to some of the best films of all time, The Deathly Hallows Part 2 is an absolute romp of a film. It is quite honestly the perfect end to the Harry Potter saga, it’s emotional, riveting and sincerely wonderful. Try watching it again in a cinema…
- Inception (dir. Christopher Nolan) – Nolan, always the innovator. Along comes 2010’s Inception, a complex, but always coherent mind-bending film of soaring heights. Nolan’s film is beyond imaginative and is beautifully executed. Honestly, it’s quite hard to comprehend how this came together so perfectly? But, that’s down to the mastery of Mr Christopher Nolan.
- The Hateful Eight (dir. Quentin Tarantino) – An underappreciated Tarantino masterpiece, The Hateful Eight is one of the best written, directed, shot and acted films of the decade. All its cogs are greased to perfection and the outcome is to be in absolute awe of.
- The Wolf of Wall Street (dir. Martin Scorsese) – Hysterical, stylish and brashly beautiful. DiCaprio gives his best performance ever. Scorsese kills it once more.
- Never Look Away (dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck) – Poetic and beautiful, Never Look Away has the most beautiful cinematography I’ve ever seen.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (dir. David Yates) – Perhaps the slowest and most underappreciated entry in the franchise. It’s intimate, touching and a continued wonder into J.K. Rowling’s magical world.
- Lady Bird (dir. Greta Gerwig) – The reason why I watch as many films as I do. Greta Gerwig’s film is a joyous ride of filmmaking magic.
- The Grand Budapest Hotel (dir. Wes Anderson) – Perfectly crafted. Beautiful. Hilarious. Wes Anderson’s masterpiece.
- The Irishman (dir. Martin Scorsese) – One of Scorsese’s finest films, ranking among his very best. Beautiful on all fronts.
- The Artist (dir. Michel Hazanavicius) – Why aren’t there more silent films? A reminder of the hypnotic effect of silent cinema, with a beautiful twist.
- Blade Runner 2049 (dir. Denis Villeneuve) – Better than one of the best films ever made. Denis Villeneuve not only made a fantastic film, but a deeper film than the original.
- Baby Driver (dir. Edgar Wright) – Extremely sharp and brilliantly calculated. Baby Driver is Edgar Wright’s rip-roaring masterpiece.
- Shutter Island (dir. Martin Scorsese) – Highly stylised and incredibly intense. Scorsese’s film is impossibly complex, keeping you on edge throughout. Additionally, DiCaprio continues his streak of some of this century’s best performances and Shutter Island is endlessly beautiful to gaze upon.
- The Shape of Water (dir. Guillermo Del Toro) – Del Toro’s Oscar-winner is impossibly nonchalant and full of the utmost beauty. One of the best directed films. Like Pan’s Labyrinth, Del Toro’s dark fairy-tale is impossible to resist.
- Hereditary (dir. Ari Aster) – Incredibly planned, directed and executed. Ari Aster has created one of the scariest films of all time.
- The Babadook (dir. Jennifer Kent) – Chilling to the very core, Kent’s film is nightmare-inducing and ridiculously clever.
- At Eternity’s Gate (dir. Julian Schnabel) – A wonderfully impulsive study of Vincent Van Gogh. It is a rapturously-tragic study of the human condition, looking into the artist’s fractured mind. Expressionistic filmmaking at its finest.
- Mary Poppins Returns (dir. Rob Marshall) – Emily Blunt IS Mary Poppins. This homage to the original is joyful, playful and honestly, perfect in every way.
- The House that Jack Built (dir. Lars Von Trier) – The most philosophical and possibly the most effective film of the decade. It rips into your soul and Lars Von Trier never lets go. Beautiful, horrifying and fascinating.
- A Quiet Place (dir. John Krasinski) – Fear-inducing and masterfully suspenseful, John Krasinski’s psychological thriller is the most intense film I’ve ever watched.
- The Favourite (dir. Yorgos Lanthimos) – An absurd, rousing and tragic joy. Lanthimos’ direction is to be marveled at. Whilst, Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz deliver performances of undeniable brilliance.
- First Reformed (dir. Paul Schrader) – Extremly hard to stomach, it’s indescribably effective. Hawke and Schrader are a pitch-perfect team in crafting this masterful piece of cinema.
- Call Me By Your Name (dir. Luca Guadagnino) – Sublime. Timothée Chalamet is perhaps the best young performer of the decade, an absolute revelation. What best describes the experience of Guadagnino’s soaring romance is its intimacy. A feeling of luscious romance exudes off the screen.
- Joker (dir. Todd Phillips) – Dark, gritty and wondrous to look upon. Phoenix is a force of nature in this beautifully twisted take on the clown prince of crime.
- The Lighthouse (dir. Robert Eggers) – Unnerving, mad and mythical. Dafoe and Pattinson are preposterously fantastic in Robert Egger’s maritime masterwork.
- Midsommar (dir. Ari Aster) – Ari Aster’s follow-up to Hereditary is a beautifully nightmarish fairytale. It’s devilishly disturbing. Whilst, being utterly symphonic and wondrous in Aster’s direction and cinematography.
- Wonder Woman (dir. Patty Jenkins) – Tears of joy. Simply a wondrous film.
- Dunkirk (dir. Christopher Nolan) – Riveting, suspense-filled and masterfully controlled. Nolan’s latest film is a triumph in filmmaking.
- The Witch (dir. Robert Eggers) – Who is this Robert Eggers? We now know… The Witch is a acceptionally deft horror crafted with the upmost precision. It chills to the core.
- First Man (dir. Damien Chazelle) – Damien Chazelle is here to stay. Following up La La Land with this atmospheric, visceral and beautifully intimate space odyssey.
- Crimson Peak (dir. Guillermo Del Toro) – Beautifully haunting, whilst utterly terrifying.
- mother! (dir. Darren Aronofsky) – A Draw-dropping anxiety nightmare of unthinkable intensity. Lawrence is out-of-this-world incredible, how is it possible to be THAT good?
- The Post (dir. Steven Spielberg) – Full of intrigue and incredibly relevant. The Post is an underappreciated gem.
- Whiplash (dir. Damien Chazelle) – Damien Chazelle’s breakout onto the scene is relentlessly ruthless and electrifying.
- Hacksaw Ridge (dir. Mel Gibson) – Perhaps, the greatest war film of the decade?
- Sicario (dir. Denis Villeneuve) – A straight-up mean and relentless film, it’s the perfect action film. Villeneuve, you need to stop being so damn good.
- Four Lions (dir. Chris Morris) – The funniest film of the decade? It’s endlessly rewatchable. Also, it’s incredibly sharp and full of wit that cuts right into you.
- The Hunger Games (dir. Gary Ross) – Jennifer Lawrence’s proper breakout role post-Winter’s Bone. Smart, thrilling and always captivating.
- The Conjuring 2 (dir. James Wan) – Horrifying. Absolutely the scariest film I’ve ever seen. Sleep? What is sleep? This film took that away from me.
- Dragged Across Concrete (dir. S. Craig Zahler) – Directed to the heavens, Zahler’s film is an example of a filmmaker in complete control and it REALLY shows. Relentless, meaningful and meticulously crafted, it’s cinema at a true height.
- The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (dir. The Coen Brothers) – Unlike anything else in the decade. Both haunting and beautiful, it’s the Coen’s on top-form. Also, it boasts some of the best images of the decade.
- Silence (dir. Martin Scorsese) – An impassioned slow-burn of symphonic beauty and psychological depth.
- Moonrise Kingdom (dir. Wes Anderson) – A precious step into Wes Anderson’s loving world of childhood romance. Shot with a stylised elegance, Anderson’s film is unforgettably perfect.
Those are my picks for the best films of the decade. Additionally, below is the list of director’s that made the list more than once!
Directors with multiple picks in the Top 50 list:
Christopher Nolan – 4 Picks (Interstellar, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, Dunkirk)
Martin Scorsese – 4 Picks (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Irishman, Shutter Island, Silence)
Quentin Tarantino – 3 Picks (Django Unchained, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Hateful Eight)
Damien Chazelle – 3 Picks (La La Land, First Man, Whiplash)
Guillermo Del Toro – 2 Picks (The Shape of Water, Crimson Peak)
Luca Guadagnino – 2 Picks (Suspiria, Call Me by Your Name)
Denis Villeneuve – 2 Picks (Blade Runner 2049, Sicario)
Wes Anderson – 2 Picks (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom)
Ari Aster – 2 Picks (Hereditary, Midsommar)
Robert Eggers – 2 Picks (The Lighthouse, The Witch)
David Yates – 2 Picks (Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2)
Written by Ben Rolph