10 Best Films of the Decade

It took a lot of debating and compromise, but Alex and I were finally able to come to an agreement we could both live with as to what the 10 best films of the past decade are. Of course, there aren’t any films from 2019 in the top 10, because not enough time has passed and we haven’t seen many of this year’s releases more than once. I guess that’s my way of saying that this list really won’t be definitive until ten years from now. That said, everyone else seems to be coming out with these end of decade lists right now so why should we miss out on the fun? Also, the films listed in our top 10 are going to make for a pretty great New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day movie marathon.

Below are films that Alex and I both included on our long lists of the best films of the 2010s. We’ve also included an honorable mention section for films that either appeared only on one or our lists or just couldn’t fit into a top 10. Here is our unranked list.

BlacKkKlansman

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Nate:

 Spike Lee’s takes a hard-hitting look at America’s culture of hate with this story of Ron Stallworth, a black Colorado Springs police officer who infiltrated the KKK in the 1970s. Brilliantly acted, written and edited, the film draws a connection between racist movements, leaders and even films of the past to the hate fueled rise of Donald Trump.

Alex:

There are so many amazing things about this film that I don’t even know where to start. I think the most brilliant thing about it is even though it is set in the past the message and themes of the film are still so relevant today. That paired with an amazing screenplay and a score that is beyond perfect makes this film one that will be remembered for a long time to come. The fact that John David Washington and Adam Driver received so few accolades for their performances is still disappointing.

 

The Descendants

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Nate:                                                                                                                                                    Alexander Payne started off the decade strong with this and 2013’s Nebraska. Hopefully Downsizing taught him some valuable lessons and he’ll return to making good films again soon. The Descendants edges out Nebraska for a spot on this list thanks to the incredible performance by George Clooney, some unforgettable cinematography and a script that is brutally honest. As funny as it is sad, this is the best film of 2011, and one that people will continue to talk about for years to come (unlike The Artist).

Alex:

I am willing to forgive the casting of Shailene Woodley (I mean come on, does her facial expression ever change?), but only because the screenplay is good enough to make up for it. The story told in this film is so simple and so heartbreaking. The family dynamic that Alexander Payne created is one that everyone can relate to in some way and that is this film’s greatest strength. We see plenty of family dramas every year, but there’s something special about this one. And it doesn’t hurt that George Clooney’s hot dad vibes are overwhelming.

 

Django Unchained

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Nate:

I’m not Tarantino’s biggest fan (see my review of Once Upon A Time in Hollywood), but he made one good film this decade. This story about a former slave who sets out to free his wife from a plantation owner is presented with Tarantino’s usual visual flourishes and sense of humor, but also doesn’t shy away from depicting the brutality of slavery. On paper, this idea mixed with Tarantino’s style shouldn’t work and seems like it would just be offensive. I can respect those who say it is, but I’d argue it mostly avoids being exploitation, which is something I can’t say about the director’s last two films.

Alex:

Honestly, before this year Tarantino’s body of work was a blind spot for me. In the last year, I have been working to remedy that though. Django has quickly become my favorite film of his. The film is able to strike a balance that I was skeptical could actually be achieved. It depicts the realistic hell that was the lives of slaves as well as how ridiculous and morally bankrupt plantation owners were.

 

Dunkirk

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Nate: 

Easily the most immersive moviegoing experience I’ve had this decade was seeing Dunkirk for the first time. It’s an overwhelming, nerve shattering war film. At every turn it avoids clichés and focuses on just making the audience experience the anxiety of soldiers. Christopher Nolan had a strong decade, but with Dunkirk he finally achieved that pure cinema masterpiece he’d been striving for.

Alex:

I am not big on war movies, but Dunkirk is one that I will watch over and over again. The anxiety the viewer feels while watching this film is unlike any other cinematic experience I have ever had. I still cannot listen to this score while I am driving because of what it does to me. The performances are amazing and it is the closest most of us will get to actually experiencing war. Like Nate said, it is such an immersive experience.

 

Mad Max: Fury Road

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Nate:

 I have not seen any of the other Mad Max films, but that’s not really a requirement. George Miller’s masterpiece brought more brains to the action genre than any other film in recent memory. Loaded with jaw-dropping chase sequences and cool cinematography, it’s also anchored by feminist and pro-environment messages. I didn’t expect that much from a two hour car chase, but it was a pleasant surprise.

Alex:

When this film was first released I scoffed at everyone saying it was so good. I really just thought it was going to be another bloated action movie. But like most good things in life, Nate made me watch it to prove me wrong. It is just so well shot. I have never seen any of the other Mad Max movies so I really didn’t know what to expect. It was so great to watch a kick ass female hero be so unapologetic.

 

Moonlight

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Nate:

Barry Jenkins’ three act character study is everything you could want from a film. Like one of our honorable mentions, Boyhood, it’s a work of art that’s all about little moments. It’s not plot heavy, but at the end you feel like you’ve watched something epic and timeless. It would have felt fresh any year this decade, but was particularly welcome in 2016. Seeing it in theaters was the perfect antidote to having watched Trump supporters celebrate weeks earlier. In the midst of so many ignorant people trying to narrowly define the American experience, it was nice to have this reminder that America is different for everyone. This country isn’t kind to everyone, but its diversity is what we should celebrate most of all.

Alex:

This is the film that really showed me how much I enjoy character driven films. The character that Barry Jenkins created is so raw and real in his quest for understanding. The parallels drawn in the plot to the state of the world, politics, and societal standards really give the viewer a lot to contemplate. Mahershala Ali gave a performance in this film that all of his other performances will now be measured against.

 

Moonrise Kingdom

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Nate:

A film whose bright color palate masks the dark humor at its core, Moonrise Kingdom tells a deceptively simple tale about young love that is unpredictable and loaded with Anderson’s trademark quirkiness.

Alex:

Moonrise Kingdom is the most fun film on this list. It is bright, colorful, and whimsical while still having a worthwhile message. It is just one of those feel good stories that you want to watch over and over again. That paired with what can only be described as an amazing cast makes this film one that can be enjoyed by just about anyone.

Roma

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Nate:

Alfonso Cauron deservedly won two directing Oscars this decade, but despite the visual delights of Gravity, he saved his most stunning work for this beautiful character study. Those who know me well had to realize I wouldn’t get through a top ten list without at least one black and white film, and this one is gorgeous.

Alex:

Roma was my favorite film of 2018. It is one of those super personal stories that you get a rare glimpse of as an outsider. It is beautifully shot and tells a story that is able to cross cultural boundaries.

The Social Network

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Nate:

A dark, douchey depiction of Mark Zuckerberg and social media that only gets better and more accurate with age.

Alex:

Up until recently I thought this film was a little unfair to Mark Zuckerberg. In light of recent events, it is clear though that Zuckerberg really is just that terrible. I haven’t rewatched this one in a while, but I have a feeling the next time I do things will make a little more sense.

 

Spotlight

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Nate:

Before the era of “fake news” seemed to fully take hold and unintentionally usher in a flood of movies about journalism, Spotlight served as a riveting reminder why the fourth estate is so important. Driven by a slew of fine performances and a taut script, Spotlight evokes suspense, outrage, inspiration and heartbreak.

Alex:

Given so many current events, this film is even more important than when it first came out. It serves as a stark reminder the importance the press serves in a world where we need it more than ever before. The stakes are high, the story is riveting, and the consequences are devastating.

Honorable Mentions: 12 Years A Slave, Boyhood, Booksmart, The Farewell, Foxcatcher, Flight, Inside Llewyn Davis, I, Tonya, Jackie, Lady Bird, Leave No Trace, Lincoln, Moneyball, Parasite, A Separation, A Star Is Born, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Wind River, Zero Dark Thirty.

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