Remember the 2010s? Trump? Brexit? That weird dress that was two different colours? It all seems so long ago now. More importantly the decade gave us some of the best films of the decade, so here is our top ten – these are not necessarily our favourites, but they are the decade’s cinematic highlights and breakthroughs; the films people will be discussing in decades to come. Just like that weird dress.
10. Avengers Endgame (2019)
For better or worse (depending on whether you ask the Russo brothers or Martin Scorsese), Marvel’s superhero universe has dominated the last decade of mainstream cinema, with imitators only showing what an accomplishment their 23-and-counting long series is. The films have actually improved over time, with all the best moments such as Black Panther, Infinity War and Thor: Ragnarok occurring in the most recent phase.
This is production line film making that, at its best, is still filled with creativity, vision and heart. And phase three finale Endgame concluded so many plot points, characters and story arcs with such finesse that it’s unsurprising it completely vaporised a certain galaxy far far away to be the biggest and most emotionally satisfying event film of the decade. AC
9. Eighth Grade (2019)
A few films on this list are notable for introducing voices previously absent from the medium, and Eighth Grade is an A+ example. 15-year-old Elsie Fisher gives one of the decade’s most natural performances as a socially awkward teenager (is there any other kind?) voted “Most Quiet” by her classmates.
Writer/director Bo Burnham shows us the world through the eyes of the young female character whose role in indie films was previously to lisp something cute before a The Smiths needle drop. Eighth Grade is a different class; sensitive, alert and one of the most insightful movies for the social media age. DM
8. BlackkKlansman (2018)
Based on a true story, Spike Lee’s BlackkKlansman isn’t afraid to make us feel uncomfortable, as black cop Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) dupes David Duke (Topher Grace) and finds his way into the KKK. With the help of Detective Zimmerman (Adam Driver) he uncovers a surprisingly active local cell with the potential to harm more than just the town’s linen supply.
BlackkKlansman showed Lee is still at the top of his game, earning his first ever Best Director nomination at the Academy Awards. Achieving a fine balance between tension and humour, Lee uses footage of the real-life white supremacist terrorist attack in Charlottesville to show this 80s-set story remains shockingly relevant. AC
7. Us (2019)
Jordan Peele’s Us is everything you want in a horror movie: funny, scary, weird, political, violent, beautifully shot, brilliantly acted, and a film you can’t unsee. In a good way, not a Happytime Murders way. The story of an African American family tormented by their doppelgängers, its scope is wider, ambitions higher and ideas deeper than Get Out.
Both films make Peele the decade’s most significant filmmaker in American horror, a modern-day George A. Romero or Wes Craven who understands horror as a form of protest; that the greatest threat facing us is us. Apart from robots, obviously. DM
6. A Fantastic Woman (2017)
The 2010s will be remembered as the decade films about sexuality and gender ceased to be ghettoised in an amorphous LGBT genre and simply became films: dramas (A Fantastic Woman), comedies (Love, Simon) and preppy mood boards (Call Me By Your Name).
A rare instance of a trans actress (Daniela Vega) playing a trans woman on film, Sebastián Lelio’s (Disobediance) Chilean drama offers another perspective hitherto unseen in cinema. This unique movie is filled with unforgettable images, including a dream sequence in which Marina leans forward into a powerful gust of wind; despite the overwhelming opposition to her existence, she – unlike the audience – will not be moved. DM
5. The Master (2012)
While Louis Theroux may have kicked the hornet’s nest of Scientology, The Master took a less direct but more insightful approach with this story based on the life of founder and sci-fi author L Ron Hubbard, without mentioning either the man or his religion directly.
Hoffman dazzles as the tempestuous Lancaster Dodd, just two years before his untimely death, with a charisma and charm that makes his founding of a religion plausible, something which is hard to imagine in the 21st century. He’s paired with Joaquin Phoenix as Quell, a troubled veteran and potential recruit, and when the two share the screen it’s nothing short of magic. Bold and brilliant, it puts a human face to the bizarre and dark inner workings of everyone’s favourite celebrity space cult. AC
4. Luce (2019)
Rarely do you see a film where the full auditorium watches in total silence, where jaws drop not at violence or gore but at plot reveals. This fairly small-scale thriller from Julius Ohah about a high-achieving student (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is as knotty as it is provocative, as teacher Harriet Wilson (Octavia Spencer) jousts with the youth, obsessed with the idea that he poses threat. Never fully revealing itself, but planting enough clues to mull for weeks, Luce is a brilliantly acted and utterly engrossing comment on racial double standards in America. AC
3. Roma (2018)
Few sentences have come to evoke as much terror as “A Netflix Original Movie.” But for every hundred Bird Boxes there is one Roma, a sweeping yet intimate epic about a maid (Yalitza Aparicio) in Mexico City. Alfonso Cuarón’s long takes and natural sound represent the antithesis of the way most films are made in Hollywood, and serve to capture seemingly real lives and human emotions at their most vivid. It’s a film of social conscience and great integrity, not to mention one of the best-looking pictures of the 2010s. Long may he Cuarry-ón. DM
2. Son of Saul (2016)
Probably the most realistic depiction of life (if you can even call it that) inside a concentration camp, Son of Saul is a harrowing and gripping movie that follows a Hungarian prisoner (Géza Röhrig) as he struggles to give his son a Jewish burial. László Nemes (in his debut feature) makes none of the usual concessions to audiences without sacrificing watchability, provocatively placing you in Saul’s position using long, breathless takes and tight, claustrophobic framing for an experience that can not and should not be forgotten. DM
1. Moonlight (2017)
Moonlight wasn’t just a highlight of the year it was released – going on to win Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Awards – but of the decade, with its startlingly sensitive portrayal of a young man at three stages of his life, as he comes to terms with his identity.
The 2010s are the decade films about race shifted from narrowly-focused stories told by white film makers (like Mississippi Burning), to authentic black voices capable of channeling hard-hitting themes into larger tales (see also Luce, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Black Panther), and Moonlight is the film that embodies this best. A stunning, memorable and subtle drama which looks at race, sexuality and expectation, Moonlight is our film of the decade. AC
Filtering a decade of films into a list of ten is an impossible task, and there are many more we could have added including Anomalisa, 12 Years a Slave, A Separation, Amazing Grace, Spotlight, The Red Turtle, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Her, Hounds of Love, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, Widows, The Martian, Interstellar and The Breadwinner.