Critics and filmmakers weigh in on the best films of the decade, including Julia Ducournau’s Raw and Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here. Read more best of the decade coverage.
When asking our critic and filmmaker friends to list their favourite films of the decade, we decided to be mean and limit their choices to five. That’s just five films, released between 2010 and 2019, that have stuck with them throughout the 2010s. We hoped that such a limited number would encourage lists that represent the pinnacle of what these writers are most passionate about. We’ve allowed our 31 participants to define for themselves what they think constitutes a film. We hope that these individually published lists will help you celebrate old favourites, discover new movie loves, and also find critics and filmmakers who share your own tastes.
For the fun of it, here are the stats:
- Raw and You Were Never Really Here won out, with five appearances each.
- Moonlight, American Honey, and Personal Shopper appeared four times each.
- The Social Network, No Home Movie, Carol, Weekend, Paddington 2, and Call Me by Your Name appeared three times each.
- Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse, Frances Ha, Lady Bird, Certified Copy, Spring Breakers, The Witch, Get Out, Oslo August 31st, Under the Skin, The Farewell, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Wolf of Wall Street appeared twice each.
- 29% (35 out of 120) of the films that appear on this list were directed by women. However, the two highest rated films on the list were made by female directors.
- Five films from 2010 were chosen, 14 from 2011, 11 from 2012, 11 from 2013, 12 from 2014, 15 from 2015, 20 from 2016, 12 from 2017, 13 from 2018, and five from 2019. That makes 2016 the most popular year and 2010 and 2019 tied for least popular.
Giulia Ausani (@giuau), Film Critic
Frances Ha (2012, dir. Noah Baumbach)
I didn’t watch this movie as soon as it came out. No, I actually watched it for the first time just over a year ago, a few weeks before turning 27 – the same age as its protagonist, whom I immediately (and tragicomically) related to. Frances Ha was an epiphany: it was exactly the movie I needed to be reminded that it’s okay if you’re in your late twenties and you still feel aimless, with no real purpose in life, and “not a real person yet”. It’s one of the most accurate and delicate on-screen analyses on female friendship; and an ode to those people who still don’t know what to do with their lives: it’s okay. We’ll figure it out.
How to Train Your Dragon (2010, dir. Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois)
The How to Train Your Dragon trilogy is the best animated franchise of the decade, and you can quote me on that. Even after almost ten years (gosh I am old), the first one still has everything that makes a movie a great one: dazzling animation, a trying-too-hard, too-clumsy-for-his-own-good protagonist and, of course, dragons. But not your usual, boringly ferocious dragons: Toothless acts like a cat, a characteristic that, if you ask me, makes him just the best dragon of all time. Take that, Daenerys. And even if you don’t love dragons as much as I do (although you should), this movie will still win you over. At its heart, this is a tender tale about the power of friendship and self acceptance, and about how you don’t need to forcibly become someone you’re not just to live up to other people’s expectations. And have I already mentioned the dragon that’s like a fire-breathing cat?
Her (2013, dir. Spike Jonze)
Yes, I do think one of the best love stories of the decade is that between a man and an operative system. Spike Jonze’s aesthetically pleasing gem is almost too poetic to put into words, and the way Samantha feels so human and alive even if she doesn’t technically exist in the real world will never fail to amaze me. Her is an exploration of love and relationships that’s beautiful, devastating and liberating; as painful as it is, it helped me recover from heartbreak and move on after the end of a relationship. I couldn’t have asked for more from a movie.
Arrival (2016, dir. Denis Villeneuve)
The fact that Amy Adams’s outstanding performance in Arrival did not grant her an Oscar nomination is proof that humanity as a whole is doomed, and it’s really important for me – decidedly not a person who holds grudges – to remind you all of this unforgivable injustice. Anyway. I hold this film particularly close to my heart for reasons that go way beyond its staggering visuals, the breathtaking score and Adams’s perfection: as a linguistics enthusiast who made her BA dissertation on translation, there’s no way I wouldn’t love a movie that revolves around the importance of communication for understanding ourselves and others. Especially when the movie in question gets philosophical and uses its sci-fi setting to explore humanity itself, and love and loss.
Lady Bird (2017, dir. Greta Gerwig)
At every rewatch, as soon as the end credits start rolling I feel the urge to pick up the phone to call my mum and tell her just how much I love her. Our relationship was more understanding and affectionate than Lady Bird and her mum’s, and yet I still failed to see the attention she payed to me. I dreamt of being rich and living in a bigger house, and wished she had given me a more unique name instead of Giulia, which was not just plain boring but also shared with three other girls in my class. It’s okay: like Lady Bird, time gives us perspective and allows us to see our faults. With her coming-of-age tale, Gerwig does something incredible: she doesn’t make us nostalgic for our teenage years (a trap: movies make them more poetic than they actually were); she manages to make us root for Lady Bird while simultaneously making us feel a bit ashamed of her ugly parts, which were our very own ugly parts when we were obnoxious and often ungrateful teenagers. She makes us forgive our past selves, and reconcile with them just as Lady Bird reconciles with her hometown and her mum. I’ll never not thank Greta Gerwig for this.
Sofia Bohdanowicz (@SofiaGolightly), Filmmaker
Cemetery of Splendor (2015, dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
Certified Copy (2010, dir. Abbas Kiarostami)
The Dreamed Ones (2016, dir. Ruth Beckermann)
Evidentiary Bodies (2018, dir. Barbara Hammer)
Museum Hours (2012, Jem Cohen)
No Home Movie (2016, dir. Chantal Akerman)
Personal Shopper (2016, dir. Olivier Assayas)
Spectrum Reverse Spectrum (2014, dir. Margaret Honda)
Tonsler Park (2017, dir. Kevin Jerome Everson)
Vitalina Varela (2019, dir. Pedro Costa)
Special Mention: Happy as Lazzaro (2019, dir. Alice Rohrwacher)
Cathy Brennan (@TownTattle), Film Critic
The 2010s were a lot like the Willy Wonka boat ride for me. Started out innocently enough, before gradually morphing into a delirious horror show that destroyed any stable conceptions of the human world. Everything after 2015 is a fever dream. I hope my list reflects that.
Poetry (2010, dir. Lee Chang-dong)
Spring Breakers (2012, dir. Harmony Korine)
Hentai Kamen (2013, dir. Yūichi Fukuda)
Knock Knock (2015, dir. Eli Roth)
Chappie (2015, dir. Neill Blomkamp)
Ben Flanagan (@manlikeflan), Film Critic
1. Margaret (2011, dir. Kenneth Lonergan)
2. Elle (2016, dir. Paul Verhoeven)
3. American Honey (2016, dir. Andrea Arnold)
4. The Other Side of the Wind (2018, dir. Orson Welles) / Shirkers (2018, dir. Sandi Tan)
5. Toni Erdmann (2016, dir. Maren Ade)
Kelly Gredner (@HorrorSpinsters), Co-founder of Horror Spinsters
1. Raw (2016, dir. Julia Ducournau)
A relatable, intriguing, and moving cannibalism film about sexuality, femininity, and womanhood.
2. The Witch (2015, dir. Robert Eggers)
This was a refreshing and beautiful period piece that would make anyone want to become a witch and live “deliciously”.
3. Cabin in the Woods (2011, dir. Drew Goddard)
A meta-horror film from horror fans for horror fans – it’s comical, entertaining and is pure Goddard & Whedon.
4. The Babadook (2014, dir. Jennifer Kent)
A stunningly unique film that produced an iconic new Boogyman of grief.
5. Maniac (2012, dir. Franck Khalfoun)
This is the rare example of a remake illuminating the strength of the original but twisting it for a new generation with the surprisingly delightful presence of Elijah Wood.
Valeska Griffiths (@bitchcraftTO), Editor of Anatomy of a Scream
Hereditary (2018, dir. Ari Aster)
The fact that Toni Collette didn’t receive an Oscar nod for her performance in this film is a travesty, but let’s not get into it. Hereditary was a heavily-hyped debut film that not only lived up to the promotional chatter but—in my opinion—exceeded it. Visually striking, harrowing in its narrative, and truly horrifying in its climax, Hereditary is a film that I find challenging in all the right ways.
Get Out (2017, dir. Jordan Peele)
The debut horror feature from comedian-turned-writer-director Jordan Peele, Get Out is a masterclass in creating the perfect balance of horror, comedy, and social critique. Confidently executed and truly affecting, Get Out rightfully spawned a trove of thinkpieces dedicated to exploring the deliberate and thoughtful symbolism planted throughout the compelling narrative.
Raw (2016, dir. Julia Ducournau)
I regret that all five of my picks are from the last three years, but we had such a bumper crop of extraordinary horror films released during that time. Julia Ducournau’s Raw is no exception; living up to the promise implicit in its title, Raw blends visceral imagery and potent metaphor to deliver an impactful and deliciously addictive coming-of-age cannibalism tale. Highly recommend, even for the slightly squeamish.
Midsommar (2019, dir. Ari Aster)
I saw Midsommar three times in theatres (including the excellent Director’s Cut). I hate to call myself an Aster fangirl, but after he delivered two masterpieces in the same number of years, I don’t know how else to describe myself. Midsommar is beautiful and twisted, darkly humorous and highly disturbing. The meticulous attention to detail is mind-blowing and the film richly rewards repeat viewings.
Revenge (2018, dir. Coralie Fargeat)
If you’d told me two years ago that a rape-revenge film would make my top 5 (or even top 10 list), I would have scoffed at the idea. Revenge is Coralie Fargeat’s stunning debut, and the vividly realized tale of a phoenix rising from the ashes was a gamechanger. Released a year after Natalia Leite’s excellent rape revenge film M.F.A, Revenge offers further proof that the subgenre truly belongs to female filmmakers.
Laura Anne Harris (@lauraanneharri1), Playwright, Actress, and Film Critic
Christine (2016, dir. Antônio Campos)
A Quiet Passion (2016, dir. Terence Davies)
Carol (2015, dir. Todd Haynes)
Moonlight (2016, dir. Barry Jenkins)
God Knows Where I Am (2016, dir. Jedd Wider, Todd Wider)
Alex Heeney (@bwestcineaste), Editor-in-Chief at Seventh Row
This is by no means a definitive list, but it does represent films I adore, films I fall further in love with the more times I watch them, and films I’ll never tire of thinking about. It’s fairly heavily biased toward the early part of the decade primarily because I’ve had time to fall out of love with these films — and instead, I actually love them more than I did in 2011. I could have easily replaced these with more accomplished films by the same directors (45 Years, Louder Than Bombs), but these are my personal favourites. And on another day, I could easily have swapped my 2-5 around to include Certain Women, Tomboy, National Gallery, Call Me by Your Name, Stories We Tell, Sergio & Sergei, Leave No Trace, and many more.
1.Oslo, August 31st (2011, dir. Joachim Trier)
I never expected to identify so strongly with a suicidal recovering heroin addict (as I am none of those things), but that’s the magic of Joachim Trier. It’s the film that turned me into a diehard fan and Trier scholar.
2. Mouthpiece (2018, dir. Patricia Rozema)
Few films speak so well to what it means to be a woman in the 2010s, the way you’re at war with yourself, policing yourself, and constantly at war with how patriarchy has colonized your body and mind.
3. Weekend (2011, dir. Andrew Haigh)
Nobody understands intimacy and romance like Andrew Haigh.
4. The Deep Blue Sea (2011, dir. Terence Davies)
Has Rachel Weisz ever been so amazing and so gorgeous? This film rips out my heart every time and makes me fall in love every time.
5. Coriolanus (2011, dir. Ralph Fiennes)
A first feature and yet one of the very best Shakespeare films (or productions) ever made (Branagh also holds this honour with Henry V). Fiennes makes a difficult play readily accessible and gives a performance that feels so definitive, you can’t help but (unfavourably) compare every other Coriolanus to his.
Ella Kemp (@ella_kemp), Film Critic
1. Moonlight (2016, dir. Barry Jenkins)
2. Call Me By Your Name (2017, dir. Luca Guadagnino)
3. Into the Spider-Verse (2018, dir. Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman)
4. Interstellar (2014, dir. Christopher Nolan)
5. Shame (2012, dir. Steve McQueen)
Jack King (@_jarking), Film Critic
120 BPM (2017, dir. Robin Campillo)
Moonlight (2016, dir. Barry Jenkins)
Weekend (2011, dir. Andrew Haigh)
Whiplash (2014, dir. Damian Chazelle)
You Were Never Really Here (2017, dir. Lynne Ramsay)
Jesse Knight (@Superfluously), Film Critic
1. Raw (2016, dir. Julia Ducournau)
2. The Last To See Them (2019, dir. Sara Summa)
3. Too Late To Die Young (2018, dir. Dominga Sotomayor)
4. House of Tolerance (2011, dir. Bertrand Bonello)
5. The Duke of Burgundy (2014, dir. Peter Strickland)
Willow Maclay (@willow_catelyn), Film Critic
1.Twin Peaks: The Return (2017, dir. David Lynch)
2. No Home Movie (2015, dir. Chantal Akerman)
3. Under the Skin (2013, dir. Jonathan Glazer)
4. Meek’s Cutoff (2010, dir. Kelly Reichardt)
5. Romancing in Thin Air (2011, dir. Johnnie To)
Graciela Mae (@notgracielamae), Filmmaker and Film Critic
Carol (2015, dir. Todd Haynes)
The Farewell (2019, dir. Lulu Wang)
The Favourite (2018, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)
Frances Ha (2012, dir. Noah Baumbach)
20th Century Women (2016, dir. Mike Mills)
Per Morten Mjølkeråen (@mjolkeraaen), Film Critic
I’m still trying to finalise my full best-of-the-decade list, which is proving an almost impossible task, but here is an attempted top 5. My #1-#3 are pretty set in stone, while the rest of my top 10s are oscillating on a daily basis, but I’m pretty pleased with the listing below.
1.Personal Shopper (2016, dir. Olivier Assayas)
2. Oslo, August 31st (2011, dir. Joachim Trier)
3. Team Hurricane (2017, dir. Annika Berg)
4. Kanskje i morgen & Verden venter (2011 & 2014, dir. Mariken Halle)
5. Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015, dir. Chloé Zhao)
Short films that deserve a mention: Soundtrack 7 (2016, dir. FKA Twigs); A Film, Reclaimed (2015, dir. Ana Vaz, Tristan Bera); Grosse fatigue (2013, dir. Camille Henrot); and No Crying at the Dinner Table (2019, dir. Carol Nguyen).
Brandon Nowalk (@bnowalk), Film Critic
1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015, dir. George Miller)
Heroic elemental drama expressed through car culture creativity. George Miller’s fast cinema is cleaner than most slow cinema.
2. Zama (2017, dir. Lucrecia Martel)
The past has never been as present-tense as it is in Lucrecia Martel’s delirious, pitiless chronicle of a middle manager in colonial Paraguay waiting, waiting, waiting to hear about his promotion from the high office in Spain.
3. Certified Copy (2010, dir. Abbas Kiarostami)
The tectonic shift of the decade provocatively reframes the passionate afternoon duel/t between an academic and an admirer in Abbas Kiarostami’s termite romance.
4. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013, dir. Martin Scorsese)
For the pews of neck-craning, felony-curious howdeedoodats alone, Martin Scorsese’s pop-punk flea circus stands apart. Other Scorsese endings check in on what the protagonist has not learned—think of Travis Bickle rewarded for his vigilante massacre, Henry Hill declaring his straight life shnook-dom, The Departed wiping itself up—but in the end The Wolf of Wall Street bounces off Jordan Belfort and lands on the shnooks who look up to him.
5. Paris 05:59: Theo & Hugo (2016, dir. Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau)
A powerhouse opening sequence—20 minutes of what could be silent cinema tinted red and blue if not for the widescreen frame, raging house music, and unashamed gay sex—propels two new lovers with different HIV statuses on a Cleo-esque sojourn through Paris one night.
Max Oxley (@Maximus900), Film Critic
American Honey (2016, dir. Andrea Arnold)
Before Midnight (2013, dir. Richard Linklater)
Minding the Gap (2018, dir. Bing Liu)
Happy Hour (2015, dir. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi)
Magic Mike XXL (2015, dir. Gregory Jacobs)
Jessica Parant (@HorrorSpinsters), Co-founder of Horror Spinsters
1.The Witch (2015, dir. Robert Eggers)
Released in 2015 and was the directorial debut of Robert Eggers, this film is a supernatural horror tale about a Puritan New England family in 1630 suspecting their eldest daughter, Thomasin, of being a witch. I remember so vividly watching this film for the first time. I was enraptured by it; from its brilliant combination of the set, score, dialogue, cinematography and acting which blended together folklore and historical events surrounding women and witchcraft. I never grow tired of this film and with every re-watch, I see a new element to it that I want to talk to other horror fans about.
2. The Void (2016, dir. Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski)
I had read about the film online and in Rue Morgue Magazine and the moment I heard it was being compared to Lovecraftian horror, I knew I had to see it. I was also completely engrossed in reading Lovecraft at the time for a monthly book club, so it just seemed like perfect timing. I was drawn into the film from it’s acting, score, atmosphere, and practical effects. This movie doesn’t shy away from using such practical effects reminiscent of body horror masters like John Carpenter and David Cronenberg. No special camera effects were used to obscure anything – the horror is front and center and you just can’t look away.
3. American Mary (2012, dir. Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska)
I want to thank the Soska Sisters for this film! It was one of the first films I have ever watched in the Rape-Revenge genre and it blew me away. Normally, I would feel very uncomfortable watching scenes of body mutilation and there were times I had to shut my eyes. But Katherine Isabelle as Mary was incredibly sexy and I was rooting for her right from the start. The way she tortures her rapist is reminiscent of what women have to live with day in and out after surviving such a brutal violation. She can never go back to the way she was before the rape happened and through her new profession, she teaches him that same lesson
4. Raw (2016, dir. Julia Ducournau)
The idea of combining the act of devouring someone physically with the act of losing yourself in the ecstasy of our primitive sexual desires is an interesting topic for me. Especially in Raw, as Justine finds her strength and sexual identity through her acts of cannibalism. It also addresses veganism in horror, which I find to be an interesting element that still has yet to be fully explored.
5. Suspiria (2018, dir. Luca Guadagnino)
People either love or hate this remake. I will admit that when I heard about it being made and about the casting, I had my doubts. However, when I finally got an opportunity to watch it, I fell in love with it. To me, the 2018 movie is not a remake but a reimagining inspired by the original. Both movies have unique styles in telling a very similar and impactful story about witches in the modern world.
Brett Pardy (@AntiqueiPod), Associate Editor at Seventh Row
Burning (2018, dir. Lee Chang-dong)
The Farewell (2018, dir. Lulu Wang)
Moonlight (2016, dir. Barry Jenkins)
The Tree of Life (2011, dir. Terrence Malick)
Two Days, One Night (2014, Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne)
Rahul Patel (@RahulReviews), Film Critic
1. Call Me By Your Name (2017, dir. Luca Guadagnino)
2. Pitch Perfect (2012, dir. Jason Moore)
3. Inception (2010, dir. Christopher Nolan)
4. Selma (2014, dir. Ava DuVernay)
5. The Lobster (2015, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos)
Jake Pitre (@jake_pitre), Film Critic
1. Spring Breakers (2012, dir. Harmony Korine)
Can’t think of a movie that better defines this decade.
2. Personal Shopper (2016, dir. Olivier Assayas)
Introduced me to my favourite artist, Hilma af Klint. Also, Kristen Stewart is unmatched, giving the best performance of the 2010s.
3. Upstream Color (2013, dir. Shane Carruth)
Justice for Shane Carruth. One of the most affective cinematic experiences of my life.
4. Tomboy (2011, dir. Céline Sciamma)
I still haven’t seen Portrait of a Lady on Fire, but Céline Sciamma already started this decade with the transformative power of tenderness.
5. Carol (2015, dir. Todd Haynes)
Flung out of space, bitch!
Andrew Pope (@WhitlockAndPope), Film Critic
1. Holy Motors (2012, dir. Leos Carax)
An ecstatic transfiguration of cinema – a glorious hymn to its power and danger. A exploded kaleidoscope of cine-history, from Bergman’s Persona to Pixar’s Cars. Too many highlights to mention, but I love very little the way I love the the “interval” in which some Muybridge images lead into Denis Lavant letting rip with an accordion cover of RL Burnside’s ‘Let My Baby Ride’. (Miming, naturally.) A baroque dream-church of a film.
2. Under the Skin (2013, dir. Jonathan Glazer)
Many have compared the opening sequence to 2001, but overall I’m reminded of Cronenberg’s The Fly, and of Jeff Goldblum’s line in that film: “I was an an insect who dreamt he was a man, and loved it. But now the dream is over, and I am awake“. In Under The Skin a nameless woman moves though a nocturnal world, a spider in search of flies, and she is safe. She uses a battery of pre-planned questions to casually assesses others as potential victims – do they have loved ones, will they be missed, etc. But once she sees herself as an individual, becoming more fully formed as a person and allowing empathy to take root, she opens herself up to danger. The turning point comes when a crying child in a passing car reminds her of the baby she left on a beach during one of her kills. That brief reverie marks the beginning of a spiral into humanity – which, in turn, leaves her vulnerable to manipulation; when a man she passes in the woods casually runs his own battery of questions against her, she doesn’t spot that he flags her as a target. Under the Skin is a symphony of gazes, empathy, and becoming. A vespertine hymn on the importance of human connections, hidden in a bleak vision of a world where one must be either hammer or anvil. Plus: a wonderful Tommy Cooper cameo!
3. O.J.: Made in America (2016, dir. Ezra Edelman)
I was sorely tempted to put the stunning Twin Peaks: The Return on this list, in which case it would have been in the top three for sure. But while I’d probably lean against The Return as cinema, I first saw OJ: Made in America in one long viewing at the Picturehouse Central, so it definitely counts. This is the best documentary one could ever hope for on the intersection of race, gender, celebrity, hypocrisy, violence, and the American Dream. It takes the story of OJ Simpson and uses it to paint a portrait of a country in a state not just of denial, but of active psychosis. A masterpiece.
4. Embrace of the Serpent (2015, dir. Ciro Guerra)
It seems Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is the thorn in the side of Western consciousness, the problem that can’t be solved. Many have tried to adapt or reflect it in cinema. Embrace of the Serpent sits alongside Apocalypse Now as one of the very greatest aftershocks from that novel. But far more than Apocalypse Now, Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego’s beautiful vision of heaven and hell in the jungle is a version reclaimed and reconfigured by post-colonial consciousness – the version we need in the 21st century.
5. The Souvenir (2019, dir. Joanna Hogg)
The Souvenir is a confident, focused, rigorous, heartfelt howl of anguish. Alongside Portrait of a Lady on Fire, this was one of two great love stories of 2019, ending the decade on a note of doomed romance. Honor Swinton-Byrne (Julie) and Tom Burke (Anthony) both excel in their performances – she incredibly naturalistic in her debut role, he managing a balancing act between louche, arch, worldly and broken. The sheer unshowy craft of the thing is remarkable – the blocking an framing are beautiful, perfectly balancing the romance, the distance of time, the nostalgia, the chilliness of Anthony’s control mechanisms and the warmth of their love. It’s also a story of transformation, as Julie takes control – if not of Anthony, then of herself. By the end, at least whatever happens it will happen on her terms, and she will own her own story. Heart-crushing.
Christopher Schobert (@FilmSwoon), Film Critic
This list changes on a daily basis — in fact, it’s changing as I write this. But right now, today, at this moment, these are the five films from the last decade that I think about most.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013, dir. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)
The Master (2012, dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013, dir. Jim Jarmusch)
Paddington 2 (2017, dir. Paul King)
Personal Shopper (2016, dir. Olivier Assayas)
Fatima Sheriff (@reaffirmsfaith), Screen Queens Staff Writer
1. Paddington 2 (2017, dir. Paul King)
A pitch-perfect magic trick that somehow met the expectations of almost every audience member. Though I often prefer origin stories, this is a case where the sequel exceeded its predecessor and perfected its brand of humour. King exerts an auteur level of attention to detail to produce an intricate masterpiece akin to Wes Anderson, so every shot is gorgeously coloured and framed. This film kick-started what is now termed ‘nice-core’, a genre I’m excited to see grow, because we all need this kind of joy in our lives, not just at Christmas.
2. Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse (2018, dir. Peter Ramsay, Rodney Rothman, Bob Perscichetti)
Once again, a brilliant balance of technical genius which appealed to both newcomers and lovers of the character. Miles’ origin story is self-aware that the industry is saturated with comic book heroes, especially Spidermans, and in recognising this, still makes room for several more. It leaves viewers satisfied with this standalone but still easily able to envision a future for these characters and this medium.
3. You Were Never Really Here (2017, dir. Lynne Ramsay)
A beacon within an industry where protagonists with mental illness can be grievously mishandled and easily misunderstood by the audience. Ramsay’s feature following the harrowing We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011), uses all tools within live-action cinema, from editing, to cinematography, to sound design, and scoring, building up this revenge story from a fractured psyche within just 90 minutes. All these aspects are applaudable, and alongside Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) this deserved better from last year’s awards season.
4. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010, dir. Edgar Wright)
Merging the legacies of an entertaining comic book and video game franchise, Wright’s foray from the comforts of British comedy is imaginative, visually engaging and just plain fun. The comic timing is unmatched, as he makes the most of the arsenal of excellent actors at his disposal. The result is a film which is endlessly quotable and rewatchable, as every comedy should be.
5. Ghostbusters (2016, dir. Paul Feig)
Perhaps a controversial choice, but Feig is unique in his ability to unabashedly accept the comic superiority of women. The backlash of this film was saddening, but perhaps I just enjoyed the stars laughing in the face of this franchise, and making it their own. All-female reboots may be hit-and-miss, but seeing action heroines who weren’t sexualised, defined by men or performing impossibilities was uniquely empowering. Whether it worked for you or not, it has a special place within my heart, and many other women’s, I’m sure.
Orla Smith (@orlamango), Seventh Row Executive Editor
I quickly gave up trying to make this a definitive list — it’s just too hard to distill so many years of movie loves into a solid five! So this is just how I felt today (with the exception of number one, that never changes). Also, out of fairness and for my own sanity, I’ve excluded anything that came out this year as it’s best to let those films ferment in my memory, plus I’ll have plenty chance to talk about them in my best of the year list. Notably, that excludes Portrait of a Lady on Fire (dir. Céline Sciamma), Mouthpiece (dir. Patricia Rozema), and Wild Nights with Emily (dir. Madeleine Olnek).
1.Certain Women (2016, dir. Kelly Reichardt)
One of the best films ever about loneliness.
2. Somewhere (2010, dir. Sofia Coppola)
Everything about this film is so precise and so quietly sad. The ice skating scene makes me cry every time, despite (or because of) its stark simplicity.
3. You Were Never Really Here (2017, dir. Lynne Ramsay)
The first time I watched this I felt like I’d been bludgeoned by a hammer. The second time, I cried. It really feels like you’re inside his head.
4. Weekend (2011, dir. Andrew Haigh)
Such a warm, comforting, melancholy portrayal of intimacy in domestic spaces. A lot of my favourite films are about loneliness, one of the hardest feelings to portray cinematically but one of the most potent. Haigh has such an eye for it.
5. Raw (2016, dir. Julia Ducournau)
There’s so many layers to Raw, one of the best and most striking debuts of the decade. It’s also close to my heart since an essay I wrote about the film was the first thing I had published at Seventh Row, and now, two and a half years later, it’s been published in a book!
Mike Thorn (@MikeThornWrites), Author and Film Critic
1.Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey (2016, dir. Terrence Malick)
2. Journey to the Shore (2015, dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
3. Stemple Pass (2012, dir. James Benning)
4. No Home Movie (2015, dir. Chantal Akerman)
5. The Lords of Salem (2012, dir. Rob Zombie)
Fiona Underhill (@FionaUnderhill), Editor of Jumpcut Online
1.Call Me by Your Name (2017, dir. Luca Guadagnino)
2. Stoker (2013, dir. Park Chan-wook)
3. The Riot Club (2014, dir. Lone Scherfig)
4. Snowpiercer (2013, dir. Bong Joon-ho)
5. The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015, dir. Marielle Heller)
Marina Vuotto (@sobmarina_), Film Critic
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014, dir. Wes Anderson)
Nothing short of my own cinematic dream, when I first watched The Grand Budapest Hotel I could hardly believe my eyes. The perfectionism we came to know Wes Anderson for is at its peak, and it’s never been better used than in this wonderland of a film. And yet, I am ready to fight anyone who says there’s no substance beyond the immaculate surface. Grand Budapest is, more than anything else, a labour of love. For cinema, for love itself, for the stories we tell ourselves and others to make “this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity” a more bearable place to live.
2. Paddington 2 (2017, dir. Paul King)
The only film I think has the power to make viewers better people, Paddington 2 has everything. It’s my favourite screwball comedy, my favourite action film, and my favourite political commentary. The absolute lack of cynicism and unadulterated goodness of Paddington Bear are handled in such a way that makes this film a masterpiece of humanism and kindness that could easily indulge in naivety, and yet it never does. Paddington 2 is an educated response to the current widespread bitterness, and challenges it not by ignoring its causes, but by acknowledging them and offering hope: not everyone is good, but everyone could be.
3. The Social Network (2010, dir. David Fincher)
It feels redundant to try and explain the brilliance of this film, as we are all aware of it and I’m expecting to see it on a lot of people’s top 5, so I’ll say this: I watched this for the first time with my sister when we were, respectively, 13 and 10 years old. We became obsessed with it, recorded it when it was shown on TV, and watched it countless times. Me, because it made me realise I loved films; my sister, because it made her realise that she loved men, especially Andrew Garfield. Growing up, unsure as to why a David Fincher / Aaron Sorkin dialogue-heavy drama would appeal so much to two pre-teens, we kept revisiting it — it gets better every time. The dialogue, the drama, the comedy, the music. That rowing scene! It set an impossible standard, as I thought all grown-up films would be this good. Sadly, they are not, and The Social Network remains unmatched in my heart.
4. Lady Bird (2017, dir. Greta Gerwig)
Lady Bird doesn’t have the ambition or scope we traditionally associate with masterpieces — it tells a small story in a straightforward way. But it does it so well. The empathy shines through every detail, making Lady Bird an unassumingly perfect film. Each moment is carefully thought out, each small event is given the emotional resonance it deserves. And the script, the script! Greta Gerwig makes it look easy, but to write a coming-of-age that feels familiar, and classic, and utterly fresh at the same time is no small feat. There is a before Lady Bird and an after Lady Bird.
5. World of Tomorrow (2015, dir. Don Hertzfeldt)
In a decade where we saw a lot of sci-fi, and a lot of grandiose, existential sci-fi, the best exponent of the genre remains this 16-minute animated short which deals with time, loss, and being in a more effective and poignant way than a lot of 2-and-a-half hour space epics. Think of it as a poem: one of those poems that inexplicably bottle a whole set of complicated feelings into a few, perfectly chosen words, that you read once and keep at the back of your brain forever. World of Tomorrow is beautiful and haunting, playing with hand drawing and digital abstract animation, resulting in something unique and unforgettable.
Rebecca Nicole Williams (@SorceressOfFilm), Film Programmer and Critic
Rampart (2011, dir. Oren Moverman)
I love the tone of this and how it intersects with other films in the “Dirty Los Angeles Cop” sub-genre. Woody Harrelson is spot on.
The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty (2013, dir. Ben Stiller)
In my view a very accomplished film, and probably Stiller’s best, with a great character arc and a beautiful resolution I think the author of the source material would have liked. Only thing that jars is all the product placement, but then it’s a Stiller movie. Grab a Big Gulp and a slice of Papa John’s and have at it.
Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014, dir. James Gunn)
I am Groot.
Nightcrawler (2014, dir. Dan Gilroy)
Again this partly reflects my own interest in Angeleno history but this is exceptionally well shot. directed and acted with a killer script. Undoubtedly the darkest and bleakest view of the American news media one might expect in the 2010a and that is undoubtedly why it didn’t get any Oscar nominations. This is a film already slipping off the radar. As is Rampart for that matter.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015, dir. George Miller)
Proof that cinema can still astonish. A masterpiece.
Lena Wilson (@lenalwilson), Film Critic
1.Beach Rats (2017, dir. Eliza Hittman)
Films like Moonlight, Call Me by Your Name, God’s Own Country and Love, Simon demonstrate the enormous representational strides made in gay cinema in the last ten years — and in society writ large. All of the above films were made during or after 2015, when the United States legalized same-sex marriage, and each debuted to critical acclaim there. But Beach Rats, Eliza Hittman’s introspective drama about a closeted young man in Brooklyn, expertly reminds us of the social strictures we’ve yet to shake. At once a tender character study and a somber rumination on toxic masculinity, Hittman partners with electric lead actor Harris Dickinson to tell the story of Frankie, who struggles at much with his own homophobic beliefs as with those of the community around him. In Frankie’s carefully constructed world, there is no acceptance of homosexuality, only compartmentalized desire and — like Coney Island’s summertime fireworks — the ritual repetition of social norms. It is a poignant, timely reminder of where society is, and how far many of us still have to come.
2. Leave No Trace (2018, dir. Debra Granik)
The experiential beauty of Leave No Trace almost defies description. It’s the sun shining between the trees above an illicit campground, the earned trust of bumblebees, the silent brutality of downed forests. As in her 2010 masterpiece Winter’s Bone, director Debra Granik roots the quiet desperation of her environment in a young, riveting protagonist. Tom, a young teenager played to perfection by Thomasin McKenzie, remains effortlessly grounded throughout the film and complements her PTSD-addled father, Will (Ben Foster). This back-to-the-land requiem is a consummate example of filmmaking’s humanistic and artistic potential.
3. The Lion’s Mouth Opens (2014, dir. Lucy Walker)
In just 28 minutes, The Lion’s Mouth Opens tells a story of inherited instability that will move you to tears. The film follows Marianna Palka (a revolutionary filmmaker in her own right) as she discovers whether or not she is genetically predisposed for Huntington’s disease, the degenerative illness that robbed her father of motor function and sanity throughout her childhood. Sweetened by poetry and friendship and haunted by fractured memories, The Lion’s Mouth Opens is as arresting as it is heartfelt.
4. Pariah (2011, dir. Dee Rees)
Before Mudbound became an Oscar nominee, Dee Rees broke new storytelling ground with Pariah, her concise and empathetic story of a black teenage lesbian named Alike (Adepero Oduye). Pariah is much more than a coming-of-age story. All the more ingenious for its tiny scale, this family drama tackles the intersection of faith and homophobia in the black community without falling into reductive tropes. Bolstered by Bradford Young’s award-winning cinematography and a revelatory cast — including Kim Wayans as Alike’s mercurial mother — Pariah exemplifies the necessity of diverse creators and stories in the film industry.
5. The Invitation (2015, dir. Karyn Kusama)
After the woefully misunderstood Jennifer’s Body drew widespread condemnation, it took Karyn Kusama six years to return to theatres. She did so with a bloody bang, once again showcasing her horror prowess with The Invitation. Centered on the most awkward dinner party of all time, The Invitation follows Will (Logan Marshall-Green) as he battles grief and whack-job cultists. This finely-choreographed masterclass in tension sets up ample traps, and when they finally spring, the chaos that follows will haunt you for weeks.
Hannah Woodhead (@goodjobliz), Associate Editor of Little White Lies
As I’ve had to make a number of these lists, I like to highlight different things – this time I chose five films that I think best sum up the 2010s, particularly the politics, and the social landscape. They’re all amazing films, but also speak to what’s gone on and going on in contemporary western culture.
1.You Were Never Really Here (2017, dir. Lynne Ramsay)
2. The Social Network (2010, dir. David Fincher)
3. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013, dir. Martin Scorsese)
4. American Honey (2016, dir. Andrea Arnold)
5. Get Out (2017, dir. Jordan Peele)
Debbie Zhou (@debbie_zhou), Managing Editor of Rough Cut
American Honey (2016, dir. American Honey)
Cameraperson (2016, dir. Kirsten Johnson)
The Social Network (2010, dir. David Fincher)
Stories We Tell (2012, dir. Sarah Polley)
You Were Never Really Here (2017, dir. Lynne Ramsay)