The 100 Best Movies of the Decade [Part Five]

Best Movies of the Decade part five

(Welcome to /Film’s countdown of The 100 Best Movies of the Decade, examining the absolute best movies that were released between 2010 and 2019. This is part five of a five-part series and part of our Best of the Decade series.)

Last week, the /Film team sat down for an extended two-part podcast to narrow down the 100 best films of the past decade. When the dust settled, we were left with a family of movies that could not be more different: action films and intimate dramas and horror flicks and animated movies and everything in-between. What connected them was simple – they represented the collective taste of the entire staff and everything we love about the past ten years of cinema.

What follows is 20-1 of that list, a collection of films we love from the bottom of our hearts.

Sing Street band

20. Sing Street

One of the best coming-of-age films of the decade, Sing Street follows a scrappy band at an oppressive boys school in 1980s Ireland who rebel through their music. They’re influenced by some of the most recognizable artists of the ’80s, and part of the film’s joy is seeing how they listen to a band like Duran Duran or The Cure and incorporate those styles into their next original songs (all of which are fantastic). There’s a budding romance at the story’s center, but it’s the familial relationship between the band’s frontman and his burnout brother that gives the movie much of its emotional heft. [Ben Pearson]

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in La La Land

19. La La Land

A classic musical style, a contemporary love story, a tribute to jazz and cinema. These are all what make La La Land a love story that doesn’t go the way you think it will. Sure, there’s romance, and the musical sequences call back to a time when love seemed so much more simple. But maybe the real love story from director Damien Chazelle is the one that we all have with our dreams. Is it tragic that Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) who had a great love story are no longer together? Or would it have been more tragic if these two gave up on their dreams in order to be with each other? At the end of the day, it’s up to the audiences, and it’s a divisive question to ask. But either way, the movie serves as a reminder that we’re lucky to love at all, even if it’s only for a moment. [Ethan Anderton]

18. Edge of Tomorrow

Quite possibly the most entertaining popcorn movie of the decade, Edge of Tomorrow is the best argument that big, glossy science fiction action movies can stand alongside high art. Tom Cruise plays brilliantly against type as a cowardly soldier caught in a time loop while battling an alien invasion and Emily Blunt matches him beat-for-beat as the badass warrior who trains him to kick ass. These two anchor the film and director Doug Liman drops them into one inspired action scene after another, cushioning the intensity with humor and wit. I have re-watched Edge of Tomorrow more than any other movie on this list and damn it, I’m going to go watch it again right now. [Jacob Hall]

17. Her

Truly a love story that could only have been told this decade, Spike Jonze’s Her is quiet, humane science fiction at its best. Yes, this is the movie where Joaquin Phoenix (stunning, as always) falls in love with the A.I. in his smartphone, but it’s so much more than that. This is a movie about loneliness, about the relationship we develop with our screens, and how technology offers us as many ways to connect as it offers us ways to box ourselves in. You won’t find another genuinely romantic, sweeping tale of love and loss that is also a razor-sharp depiction of artificial intelligence gaining sentience and the singularity. Her is bliss. [Jacob Hall]

margaret qualley once upon a time in hollywood

16. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino’s latest is one of his greatest. A fairy tale of sorts about the end of one era and the beginning of another. Leonardo DiCaprio is hilarious as Rick Dalton, a washed-up actor with zero self-esteem. And Brad Pitt owns the movie as Rick’s longtime stuntman and best (and only) friend Cliff Booth. Together, the pair navigate Hollywood in 1969, while the specter of Charles Manson and his family looms in the background. But Once Upon a Time in Hollywood isn’t a Manson Family movie. Instead, it’s a movie about what could have been, with characters reflecting on the things they’ve accomplished, and the things they never will.  [Chris Evangelista]

15. Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 does what the best sequels do: improve upon and exceed the ambitions of the original. The questions that Ridley Scott’s 1982 original asks — about the nature of humanity and about the essence of the soul — Blade Runner 2049 answers. In a reversal of the journey of Harrison Ford’s original blade runner, Ryan Gosling stars as Officer K, a replicant who yearns to be human, sending him on a quest to find the long-missing Rick Deckard (Ford). Denis Villeneuve delivers a contemplative, visually gorgeous neo-noir anchored by Gosling’s quiet, introspective performance. [Hoai-Tran Bui]

Moonlight - Alex Hibbert and Mahershala Ali

14. Moonlight

After decades of being pushed into the corners and hidden in the shadows, LGBTQ cinema exploded into the mainstream this decade, with Moonlight leading the charge. The rare Best Picture winner that actually deserves the honor, Barry Jenkins’ punishing and ultimately hopeful story of a young black boy coming to terms with his sexuality in a culture that forces him to hide his truth is one of the best movies ever made. Featuring a standout performance from Mahershala Ali (another deserving Oscar winner), Moonlight is unafraid to stare into the emotional abyss and more importantly, it is unafraid to offer a helping hand to pull us out of it. [Jacob Hall]

annihilation

13. Annihilation

A group of female scientists head into an encroaching dimension called The Shimmer, hoping to find out how to stop its expansion. But once they cross the threshold, they end up getting much more than they bargained for. Writer/director Alex Garland is working on another level here, giving audiences a heady, “hits you on the astral plane” type of experience akin to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It can be viewed as a powerful exploration of depression, a quest against the spread of violence, and probably a dozen other things, too. I’m not the least bit surprised that it didn’t become a box office hit, but I think this is a towering cinematic achievement. [Ben Pearson]

inside llewyn davis top 10

12. Inside Llewyn Davis 

Everyone has their favorite film from the Coen brothers. This is mine. Inside Llewyn Davis is very possibly the best movie ever made about being an artist, a film unafraid to deliver the coldest, harshest truth of them all: you can be genuinely talented, brilliant even, but you can still fall to the wayside and never break out. Oscar Isaac gives an astonishing performance as the title character, a folk musician who is probably a few years too early or a few years too late, who endures a week filled with heartache, high stress, creative compromise, and extended periods of cat-sitting. It’s hilarious (the “Please Mr. Kennedy” sequence!), it’s soul-shattering (the scene with F. Murray Abraham!), and it features a parade of your favorite character actors doing what they do best (hello, John Goodman). No film this miserable, this emotionally tough, should be this watchable and entertaining. But Inside Llewyn Davis hits you in the gut again and again and you want to ask for more. [Jacob Hall]

11. Inside Out

Inside Out is Pixar’s most conceptually ambitious film and its most undeniably moving one. Director Pete Docter turns emotions into tangible beings in Inside Out, which follows the happy-go-lucky girl Riley as she struggles to adapt after a cross-country move to San Francisco. Adrift and emotionally confused, Riley’s internal struggle is played out by Joy (Amy Poehler) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith), whose scuffle results in them getting swept into the far reaches of her mind. Inside Out deals with complex emotions never before tackled in a Pixar film and — most amazingly — doesn’t have a villain. It allows for a far richer Pixar experience than we’ve ever had, in a surreal, imaginative exploration of the inner workings of our emotions. [Hoai-Tran Bui]

Gone Girl

10. Gone Girl

It’s wild that David Fincher only made three movies in the 2010s, and that the last of those, the pitch-black thriller Gone Girl, came out less than halfway through the decade. Thankfully, that adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best seller is one of the best movies of Fincher’s entire filmography: a surprising, chilling, twisted meditation on marriage, betrayal, and the lies we sometimes tell ourselves. The ferocious Rosamund Pike plays an all-time great villain here, Ben Affleck delivers one of the best performances of his career, and Fincher actually seems like he’s having a bit of fun amid his typical meticulousness. [Ben Pearson]

9. Mad Max: Fury Road

Grand and operatic, Mad Max: Fury Road is a deceptively simple film whose outrageous imagery and anarchic action sequences uphold a feminist fable about victims of abuse taking back their lives. Tom Hardy’s titular Mad Max is but a quiet witness to the righteous fury and cathartic journey of Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, a gasoline warrior who stages a rescue of a group of abused women in search of a better life. George Miller crafts a deranged, spectacular action masterpiece that meditates on the nature of power and hope, while dealing a crushing blow to the patriarchy. [Hoai-Tran Bui]

wolf of wall street top 10

8. The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese’s blistering condemnation of capitalism and greed The Wolf of Wall Street is so damn funny that many didn’t seem to grasp that the director wasn’t glorifying its main character, a monstrous creep played to perfection by Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort is a crooked stockbroker who lies, cheats, and steals his way to wealth. Does he learn anything from his misdeeds? Does he come to regret them? No, and no. He’s content with the evil he’s done, and why shouldn’t he be? America has made it exceedingly easy for people like him to get away with what they do, and almost never suffer the consequences.  [Chris Evangelista]

Inception hallway

7. Inception

It’s kind of hilarious to think about Christopher Nolan’s massive, multi-tiered 2010 action thriller Inception as the personal “one for him” between Dark Knight films, but that’s exactly what it was. This visionary passion project proved that audiences were still hungry for intelligent blockbusters: it was smart enough to get everyone talking about it and not so smart that it was off-putting to regular moviegoers. The script and score were aces, the excellent ensemble cast did terrific work all around, and Nolan and cinematographer Wally Pfister crafted some innovative, influential imagery that cemented Inception as one of the best films of the decade. [Ben Pearson]

Spiderverse 4

6. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse is one of the best animated features and best comic book movies ever made. I don’t think another movie does a better job of bringing a comic book to life on the big screen and it’s one of the most visually exciting animated films I’ve seen in years. It’s full of heart, heroism and humor – I think Stan Lee would be proud. When I first saw the film, I got home and immediately paid to subscribe to Marvel Unlimited just so I could marathon read through dozens of Miles Morales comics because I didn’t want my time with these characters to end. [Peter Sciretta]

5. Parasite

“Eat the rich” thrillers have become the pop culture du jour, and Parasite at first glance seems to fit in nicely with this category of a comeuppance for the obscenely rich. But Bong Joon-ho’s  film has a much more complex, and ultimately more harrowing, message. What begins as a pitch-black tragicomedy descends into horrors that make you rethink how you exist in the very fabric of society. The titular parasites in Bong’s film are the impoverished Kim family, led by the unlucky patriarch Ki-taek (Bong’s frequent collaborator Song Kang-ho). When the son of the family (Choi Woo-shik) lands a job as the English tutor of the wealthy Park family, the Kim’s instantly take advantage of the wealthier family’s resources to try to pull themselves out of poverty. But as Bong rips the rug out from underneath us, and the film transforms from social thriller into a horror movie, Parasite makes clear the revelation: If you eat the rich, you’re still a cannibal. [Hoai-Tran Bui]

4. Get Out

The sneakiest trick of Get Out is that it is two things simultaneously. Yes, it is a pitch-dark evisceration of modern America and the white supremacy that lurks beneath even the most seemingly progressive communities. And yes, it is also a crowd-pleasing horror movie that is as thrilling and hilarious as any popcorn film released in multiplexes alongside it. Jordan Peele’s reinvention from comedian to genre filmmaker delivered unto the world an auteur whose astonishing imagination has been barely tapped – Get Out feels like the start of something truly unique and special. If someone asked me to recommend a movie that best represents the fears and anxieties of the decade, this would be my first choice. And when we’re done cheering and screaming and yelling at the screen, we can quietly digest the bitter pill embedded in every frame of this masterpiece. [Jacob Hall]

Star Wars The Last Jedi

3. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Rian Johnson pushed the Star Wars franchise in bold, unexpected directions, so it’s not surprising that this film has been divisive. It’s a movie about interrogating the ways of the past, forging a new path when old ones prove no longer viable, and crafting a new legacy for the next generation. Heroes are fallible, The Last Jedi says, and disappointment in them is inevitable. But what do we do in the face of that disappointment? Do we lie down while fascists take over? Hell no. Because there’s still a spark of hope left out there – the hope that together, we can accomplish what’s never been done before. [Ben Pearson]

2. Arrival

If science-fiction was invented to imagine the best of what humanity is capable of, then Arrival is the pinnacle of science-fiction. Like in any piece of sci-fi, the fate of the world hangs in the balance — but it’s not down to guns or giant asteroids to save the day, but language. Denis Villeneuve’s cerebral sci-fi masterpiece may strike an eerie tone and a curiously minimalist visual palette, but its vision is as sunny and optimistic as it can get: arguing that if we can change our minds, we can change the world. Amy Adams stars a linguistics professor who must learn to communicate with the aliens that have touched down on Earth, lest the world’s nations escalate affairs to a global attack. Arrival is a movie on the precipice, but instead of looking down into an abyss, the film looks up to show that humanity’s saving grace isn’t cold, hard logic, but the warmth of human connection. [Hoai-Tran Bui]

The Social Network

1. The Social Network

Facebook change the way we present ourselves on the internet. Now it’s changing the face of our democracy as we know it. And it’s crazy to think that it all started with Mark Zuckerberg, a computer genius who seemingly created the game-changing social media website in an effort to spite an ex-girlfriend. Hell hath no fury like a nerd scorned. Aaron Sorkin’s sharp script and David Fincher’s brilliant focus on defining Zuckerberg as a character hand-in-hand with the creation of Facebook makes for a movie that transcends the typical true story formula. The result is a movie that isn’t just about Zuckerberg and Facebook, but every single one of us, trying to hid our insecurities by only calling attention to our successes online, inventing a world for ourselves that’s so much better than our real life. As Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg so perfectly puts it, “It’s like a final club, but we’re the president.” [Ethan Anderton]

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