With the 2010’s coming close to its final year, let’s reflect on some of the most memorable cinematic experiences this decade has offered us. *Subject to change in 2019*
Written By Blake Hall
25. The Florida Project (2017, Sean Baker)
A fantastic slice of life. It’s like a sleazy take on the childhood
segments of Boyhood. I love how it finds humanity in characters that
society would typically frown upon. Behind the grittiness, there is a
beautiful child like tone and sense of wonder to it. It’s features
what I find to be William Dafoe’s best performance to date. It’s the
most grounded character I’ve ever seen him portray. You sense that he
genuinely cares for these characters.
24. Black Swan (2010, Darren Aronofsky)
An all around well crafted psychological thriller that sticks with you. Natalie Portman gives an intense portrayal of a dancer increasingly plunging into paranoid madness. It’s her finest performance to date.
23. Paterson (2016, Jim Jarmusch)
The perfect chill out film. It’s a film that calms me in a special way. It has just the right amount of philosophical content and charm. It finds beauty and fascination within the mundane.
22. Hereditary (2018, Ari Aster)
For me, the best of the recent indie horror films. It’s my favorite kind of horror; a slow burner that slowly goes off the rails (think The Shining or Rosemary’s Baby). Toni Colette gives the performance of a lifetime. I find it crazy that this is a directorial debut; it’s magnificently told and is genuinely unsettling.
21. The Hateful Eight (2015, Quentin Tarantino)
You know a film is great when it’s nearly 3 hours long and primarily set in one room, yet you aren’t bored for a second. That’s exactly how I feel about this one. Of course a who-done-it type of story is right up Tarantino’s alley. It plays out like a Clue game at times. Like any great Tarantino film, there is an underlying tension that anything could go down at any given moment. Two decades later and the man’s still got it.
20. The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013, Martin Scorsese)
Martin Scorsese’s third entry to his loose rise and fall “money” trilogy (along with GoodFellas and Casino) and it’s absolutely wild and electric. This is Scorsese at his most comedic and vulgar. Leonardo DiCaprio absolutely kills it here and really should have been what won him his first Oscar. His performance as the despicable Jordan Belfort is my favorite work he’s done to date. It’s three hours of non stop momentum.
19. Song To Song (2017, Terrence Malick)
Terrence Malick’s most recent “lost souls seeking fulfillment” entry. It doesn’t offer any kind of structured narrative, which is a huge reason why I think audiences generally disliked this one (as with most of Malick’s recent work) but man I was sucked into it. The mesmerizing visuals soaked me in from start to finish. It creates its own world. Malick is a master of emotional directing.
18. Call Me By Your Name (2017, Luca Guadagnino)
Such a lovely exploration on first love. As bizarre as it may sound, I believe it’s the scenery that really elevates this above most romance films. Something about summer Italy makes for the perfect romantic scenario. Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer both knock it out of the park with their natural chemistry.
17. Django Unchained (2012, Quentin Tarantino)
I believe Quentin Tarantino invented a new sub-genre here: the blaxploitation western. And man what an excellent film it is. One of his very best from a storytelling perspective; primarily down to the emotional connection it develops with Django and his quest for freedom. One of Tarantino’s most entertaining works to date. It’s disturbing, hilarious, exciting and an all around strong cinematic experience.
16. The Social Network (2010, David Fincher)
Simply one of the most immersive and interesting films of recent times. It tells the story of Mark Zuckerberg and the development of Facebook in a way that’s intense, funny and all around gripping. It goes beyond being the “a movie about facebook” and holds up a mirror to American society, making it like a 21st century Citizen Kane.
15. Drive (2011, Nicolas Winding Refn)
This is a real film lovers paradise. Nicolas Winding Refn takes the style of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns and puts it into a modern day urban setting. The atmosphere and style sucks you right in and it never loses steam. This film reminds one of how great a film can be when there is clear passion for the joy and thrill of creating cinema.
14. Lady Bird (2017, Greta Gerwig)
One of the best coming of age films I’ve ever seen. What makes this one unique is the primary focus being on the relationship between a mother and daughter. It’s equally hilarious and effectively dramatic. One I found very easy to connect with as I’m sure it will be for most others. A sheer joy to watch from start to finish.
13. Whiplash (2014, Damien Chazelle)
This is a monster of entertainment, suspense and thought provoking themes. It’s like the first half of Full Metal Jacket goes to jazz school. Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons have absolutely magnetic chemistry. It proposes questions that stick with you. Is it worth physical pain and internal suffering to achieve ambitious goals? Is it worth ruining friendships and outcasting everyone around you? It really gets you thinking while proving a heavy adrenaline rush.
12. Moonlight (2016, Barry Jenkins)
A deeply compelling, sensual and empathetic film. I love just how gracefully this personal story is told within its three act structure. The cinematography and use of color schemes is gorgeous. A film as purely human as this deserves to be seen and treasured.
11. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013, Coen Brothers)
One of the greatest achievements of the Coen Brothers. Along with The Dude, Llewyn Davis is my favorite Coen character to date, primarily down to how fleshed out and human he is. It’s easy to identify with his failures and disappointments. It’s an exploration of how tough the real world can be. It’s tone is lonely and melancholic, yet with a glimpse of hope. A beautiful film.
10. Inherent Vice (2014, Paul Thomas Anderson)
One of the strangest and most polarizing films of the decade. One that needed time to grow on me but is now one of my favorites. It’s mostly disliked for its plot, which is near impossible to follow (I still have no idea what exactly happens). However, the key is to not worry about the plot and view it as an exploration of memory loss based on smoking way too much pot. In that sense, it’s the greatest stoner film I’ve ever seen (well The Big Lebowski too). It isn’t a traditional stoner film that retorts to the typical jokes and stereotypes but one that evokes the mood of feeling way too hazed. It offers an endless amount of great characters, strong atmosphere, a groovy soundtrack and stunning directing, as always from the masterful Paul Thomas Anderson.
9. Everybody Wants Some!! (2016, Richard Linklater)
Richard Linklater doing what he does best: people simply talking and hanging out. It’s an absolute delight from start to finish. In real life, I’m not sure how well I’d get along with most of these characters but within this world, they’re some of the coolest guys I’ve ever met. For two hours, I’m right on board with them. One of the best buddy films I’ve ever seen. It’s a film that reminds one the value of a good time spent with good friends. Its celebration of youth and humanity leaves an endless smile on my face. Does for college what Dazed And Confused did for high school.
8. Toy Story 3 (2010, Lee Unkrich)
Like most people of my generation, Toy Story was a huge part of my childhood. I watched the first and second films endlessly back in the day. The timing of its release was a huge deal. This is a heavily emotional experience. It’s an exploration of inevitable change that we all must go through in our lives. Through its humor and sadness, it represents a nostalgia trip to the simple days of childhood for an entire generation. Its added layer of growing up makes it my favorite entry in this magical trilogy.
7. Knight Of Cups (2015, Terrence Malick)
As with any 2010s Terrence Malick film, this is one that will or will not connect with people. I think this is mostly down to the lack of established characters, no general plot and heavily abstract thematic content. This film plays as a montage of thought process and feeling. It’s a film that asks you to fill yourself into the scenes. Malick doesn’t identify Christian Bale’s character but puts you, the viewer, into his shoes. What I think this film does so well is express a journey of seeking fulfillment when things seem purposeless. It’s a film that can help one see beauty and clarity again when feeling lost.
6. Before Midnight (2013, Richard Linklater)
A masterful way to conclude this blissful trilogy. The magic of Before Sunrise and hope of Before Sunset is gone and the hardships of reality are present. The trilogy makes us so invested in Celine and Jesse that it hurts to watch their romance at serious conflict. This is a film that works as well as it does due to its realism and honesty. Within this trilogy, Richard Linklater has made the most incredible and immersive exploration on love that I’ve ever seen.
5. Phantom Thread (2017, Paul Thomas Anderson)
Every single moment of this film is overwhelmingly enchanting. Jonny Greenwood’s score is absolutely stunning and creates a unique world within this film. It’s his finest moment to date as a film composer (which is really saying something). It’s a film that explores the beauty, hardships and purpose of a romantic relationship. Being Paul Thomas Anderson’s least flashy film, it echoes the sweeping nature of a classic 1950s film while having the rich qualities of the best kind of modern filmmaking.
4. Twin Peaks: The Return (2017, David Lynch)
So this is a bit of a cheat since it’s really a TV season, but I’m only listing it as a film because David Lynch himself considers it to be an 18 hour film. It’s easily my favorite season of any TV show and one of the greatest achievements I’ve ever experienced cinematically. To say the least, it’s one big surreal nightmarish experience with an endless amount of masterful characters and visuals. Within this world, you will find wonder, mystery, terror, humor, weirdness, spirituality and so much more. This is so massive that I can only imagine it getting better on repeated viewings. It’s David Lynch’s greatest contribution to cinema and we’re so fortunate to have it.
3. Boyhood (2014, Richard Linklater)
The greatest coming of age film I’ve ever seen. This never fails to take me back and remind me how special it is to be alive. It makes one reflect on memories and the moments that define who one is. It stirs a desire to spend time with loved ones. I find it easy to relate to Mason, who is a kid unsure of what he wants. The fact this was filmed in the span of time I actually grew up in makes it all the more resonating. I love how it’s about his parents growing up too. It portrays that they still haven’t “figured it out” yet. This film is all about the journey. Trying to find your place in life. It’s a film with great honest humanity that I see as the film Richard Linklater spent his entire career building up to. It makes me reflect, feel warmth and greatly inspired. This film is a treasure.
2. The Master (2012, Paul Thomas Anderson)
This is a film that I feel really taps into something profound. Paul Thomas Anderson takes his love for thematic content about family/acceptance and delivers his most complex, multi-layered take on it to date. Like There Will Be Blood, it has the feeling of getting lost into a grandiose epic while being deeply intimate. It’s primarily known for being the “Scientology movie” but it’s so much more than that. The cult aspect is merely a backdrop for the true soul of the film. It’s an expression of a desire to belong, yet a yearning to be free. A study of how everyone needs someone to look up to. Both Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are absolutely unreal here. It’s a film that’s simultaneously intense and soothing. It’s a modern masterpiece and one of the main reasons why I have to consider Paul Thomas Anderson to be the greatest director of our generation.
1. The Tree Of Life (2011, Terrence Malick)
This film is an overwhelming explosion of joy and wonder. There are so many films out there about soul searching and seeking the purpose of life, but this is the most awe inspiring one I’ve ever seen. It’s a film that’s indescribably unique, beautiful, mystical and majestic in its grandiose vision. It ranges from pondering the universe to observing intimate lives. It’s a film that explores the good in humanity as well as what leads to self destruction. It’s an exploration of how sweet childhood innocence slowly fades into dull skepticism. The Tree Of Life is an epic about family, life, childhood and everything beautiful that exists in the world. I can’t imagine finding another film that personally impacts me the way this one does, the only other contenders are 2001: A Space Odyssey and There Will Be Blood. The Tree Of Life makes me just want to run into the woods, lay down and look at the sun through the leaves.