25 Great Movies of the 2010s
This end-of-decade list was inevitable.
Out of the 712 films I've watched in theaters over the past ten years, here are the 25 that left an impact on me as well as most of the culture. I laughed, I cried, I felt my heart leap out of my chest. Since 2010, I had one helluva time at the movies.
1. Get Out (2017) - Jordan Peele's socially-conscious thriller is an instant classic, delivering frightful fan-service to genre aficionados while also crafting a resonating, philosophically rich story. The film is a definitive piece of Trump-era terror, arriving at a time when American culture started to question the status of its race relations and tapping into the primal fears of African-Americans, something rarely explored in mainstream entertainment. Star Daniel Kaluuya shines in one of the biggest breakout performances of the decade. Welcome to woke horror.
2. Weekend (2011) - One of the most heartbreaking and honest portrayals of modern romance, writer-director Andrew Haigh's intensely intimate love story is Before Sunrise for the Grindr generation. This glimpse into three days of the lives of two Nottingham blokes (Tom Cullen and Chris New) confirms that - regardless of religion, race, or sexuality - the most tender and most important connections are made when you least expect it. Weekend ultimately demonstrates how the human struggle for an authentic life is universal and beautifully conveys the passion behind one's search for identity and a place to belong. The New York Times said it best: It's "astonishingly self-assured, unassumingly profound, and one of the most satisfying love stories you are likely to see on screen."
3. Eighth Grade (2018) - Bo Burnham's directorial debut may be the first (and best) movie about Gen Z that is capable of resonating across all age groups. Elsie Fisher, a true revelation, plays 13-year-old Kayla, a girl on the verge of graduating from middle school. And every awkward, humiliating, joyful, devastating, and mundane moment leading up to that transition is captured and conveyed with gorgeous poignancy and tender nuance. Burnham proves himself as a keen documenter of adolescent life in the late 2010s, a world of sniffing markers, shooter drills, and dabbing. When Kayla puts herself out there at a mean girl’s pool party — in an unflattering green swimsuit — we follow her along that tense, unbearable walk until she submerges herself, hiding among a group that doesn’t acknowledge her. We see, feel, and know her pain. Eighth Grade never comes off as an indictment of Kids These Days. It’s a beautiful snapshot of youth and the culture that is rapidly shaping it, whether we like it or not.
4. Parasite (2019) - Bong Joon-ho's pitch-perfect, meticulously detailed descent into a domestic nightmare is more than a timely story that satirizes class warfare. It's an absolutely absorbing and timeless tale that demonstrates the writer-director's uncompromising vision and eerie ability to transcend genres.
5. The Invitation (2016) - Simply put, Karyn Kusama's subtle nailbiter is one of the best psychological thrillers of the decade...as well as a sly commentary on grief within self-help culture. It's an impeccably detailed portrait of a Hollywood dinner party gone wrong, infused with a slow-burn tension and dread that culminates in a jaw-dropping third act. Great suspense keeps you guessing until the very end, and The Invitation does that in spades. My heart was still pounding well after I left the theater, most likely due to one of the most chilling final shots ever seen on film.
6. The Social Network (2010) - On the surface, it's an adult drama about college kids. Deep down, it's a cleverly written - and staged - morality play about the social politics of a generation that will look back at David Fincher's masterpiece as a time capsule representing a cyber era in which we finally started to feel the effects of our culture evolving at an exponential rate -- and Mark Zuckerberg as a Twitter-age Thomas Edison who forever changed the dynamics of human communication.
7. Sing Street (2016) - John Carney's fantastic, Irish coming-of-age-in-the-80s charmer is more than just a let's-start-a-band story. It is one of the most joyful, uplifting movies of the 2010s that poignantly celebrates the innocence and ambition of youth as well as the musical influences that speak to the creativity needed to broaden one's horizons in the pursuit of a dream.
8. Inside Out (2015) - The best Disney-Pixar collaboration of the past decade, this immensely appealing tale about a girl and her conflicting emotions -- personified by the likes of Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, and the incomparable Phyllis Smith -- shall be studied in future child psychology classes around the world.
9. Prisoners (2013) - Before director Denis Villeneuve made a mainstream splash with Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, he combined Dark, Domestic Drama with Brutal Revenge Flick. He, along with writer Aaron Guzikowski and a brilliant cast headed by a fierce Hugh Jackman, ultimately hold up a mirror to an American culture seeped in violence and simmering rage. What's fascinatingly disturbing is the film's subtle way of telling its audience that anyone -- literally anyone -- is capable of evil.
10. Tangerine (2015) - Also known as "the movie that was entirely shot on an iPhone," director Sean Baker's electrifying and unintentional love letter to Los Angeles is more than just a filmmaking gimmick, shattering conventional casting while chronicling the Christmas Eve of a pair of transgender sex workers (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor) on a 12-hour mission that culminates at a Hollywood donut shop where unexpected paths cross. It's funny, heartbreaking, unapologetic, and unlike anything I've seen in the past decade.
11. Moonlight (2016) - This poetic coming-of-age saga works on a visceral, resonant level, tapping into emotions and ideas that transcend the screen. Writer-director Barry Jenkins delicately observes the formative, pivotal moments of a young man's life and refuses to spoon-feed audiences any clear-cut resolutions. And therein lies the haunting brilliance of this intimate portrayal of a life forever in progress.
12. Inception (2010) - If 2008's The Dark Knight didn't cement Chris Nolan as a commercial auteur of our generation, then Inception surely did the job. Combining groundbreaking special-effects with an extremely intricate narrative that never loses us, Nolan reaffirmed our belief that a blockbuster can have brains. Employing a brilliant cast of pawns (Leo, Marion, Joseph, Ellen, and the magnetic Tom Hardy), he plops them down in a labyrinthine game that's part chess, part cat-and-mouse. What's real? What's a dream? We're still asking, the totem's still spinning...and we're still loving it.
13. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012) - John Madden's gorgeous travelogue not only gathers the best acting talent from the UK, it beautifully taps into the concerns and insecurities of American Baby Boomers, a generation entering its "final act" while admirably discovering ways to establish new leases on their lives. And when you put Judi Dench and Maggie Smith in the same movie, you're guaranteed a bloody good time.
14. Cloud Atlas (2012) - The Wachowskis deliver their most ambitious project to date, a cornucopia of genres skillfully woven together in a majestic tapestry that covers an array of metaphysical themes. Watching it is like witnessing a dream flourishing before your eyes. It's one of those rare movies that speaks to the subconscious. You either get it and appreciate it for what it is, or you dismiss it as a hot mess -- a beautifully detailed one at that.
15. Boyhood (2014) - What seemed like a filmmaking gimmick (shooting the same actors over a 12-year period) turns out to be a intimately epic chronicle of an American family that is as loving, flawed, and complicated as any brood out there in the country. Richard Linklater's personal and groundbreaking opus is a series of small moments that adds up to a timeless tale of fleeting youth and innocence.
16. The Skeleton Twins (2014) - Tender and darkly comedic with just the right amount of indie-flavored angst and ennui, Twins has shades of 2000's You Can Count On Me and delves into the tragic moments that hit us when we're young and keeps us scarred as adults. Who knew a pair of SNL vets could do drama so well? Also: Best. Lip sync scene. Ever.
17. Other People (2016) - Writer-director Chris Kelly gets personal with his big-screen dramedy about a New York writer (Jesse Plemons) returning to his hometown to care for his cancer-stricken mother. But this isn't just a 90-minute-long weepie. Kelly recruits a capable cast (including a shocklingly good Molly Shannon) that manages to find the comedy in between moments of pain and heartache and celebrate the bonds between mothers and sons.
18. Beginners (2011) - Christopher Plummer won a well-deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Hal, a 75-year-old man who comes out of the closet five years before his death in Mike Mills's semi-autobiographical character study. Ewan McGregor and the magnetic Melanie Laurent respectively give fine performances as Oliver and Anna, Hal's struggling son and the woman he falls for. And three cheers for that subtitle-communicating Jack Russell Terrier.
19. The Cabin in the Woods (2012) - A horror flick that twists, turns, and gleefully annihilates the traditional tropes of the genre while satirizing the hell out of its stereotypes, this much-delayed film from Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard was well worth the wait.
20. Waiting for Superman (2010) - Davis Guggenheim's jaw-dropping documentary is not only an urgent wake-up call for America, it's a terrifying snapshot of the unprecedented abuse our country's children are unknowingly suffering from. Chronicling the lives of five promising kids who wish to be admitted into good schools -- most whose fates are determined by a numbered ping-pong ball -- the film exposes the gaping cracks in our education system and attempts to save what's left of it. Guggenheim, along with reformer Geoffrey Canada, undertakes an exhaustive review of public education (not ALL teachers are to blame), surveying "drop-out factories" and "academic sinkholes" and methodically dissecting the system and its seemingly intractable problems. A must-see for all families.
21. Bridesmaids (2011) - The moment Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph's characters sit down over coffee for a round of effortless, off-the-cuff girl talk, I knew something special was going on here. Disguised as a gross-out chick flick, Bridesmaids is really a sweet statement about friendship and the challenging changes that sometimes threaten it (relocating to another city, losing a BFF to a fiance). And thank you, Paul Feig, for introducing us to the wonders of Melissa McCarthy and the absolutely charming Irishness of Chris O'Dowd, one of the most unassuming romantic leads.
22. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 (2011) - An enormously satisfying conclusion to the biggest franchise in film history, Harry & Co. went out with several bangs, plenty of deaths, and an emotional wallop that stayed with us long after the final credits rolled. Every story, every bit-part player (Emma Thompson gets three seconds of screen time and still makes an impact), and every magical nook and cranny came together with expert precision like cogs in an enchanted machine. All in all, a 10-year investment that definitely paid off. One of the best experiences I had in the theater all decade.
23. Black Panther (2018) - Even those suffering from Superhero Movie Fatigue couldn't resist the power, charisma, and genuine wonder of this groundbreaking installment within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. More than just another fantastical epic, Panther brought much-needed black excellence to the big screen in a way that felt effortless -- all while offering a fascinating look at an alternate world in which such excellence is allowed to soar beyond its potential.
24. Gravity (2013) - A stunning technical achievement from the man behind Children of Men (a top 10 fave from 2006), this immersive space thriller is a tale of survival that hooks you at the first frame.
25. Page One: Inside the New York Times (2011) - A top-notch, suspenseful thriller about the impending doom of a global institution...and it's a documentary. Andrew Rossi's unprecedented inside-look at the most famous newspaper in the world also paints a portrait of the faces behind the renowned content and reveals just how endangered of a species print media is. Journalist David Carr, whom most of the film follows, supplies some tasty soundbites as we watch his career, and those of his constituents, hang by a thread.