Well, here we are: my Top 50 Movies of the 2010s. These aren’t necessarily the 50 “best” or most important movies of the decade, because people far more qualified than me can compile those lists (and, let’s be real, that’s kind of boring). This is my list in all of its bizarre glory, and after watching hundreds of movies released in the past decade, I can confidently say that this wide range of movies — each of which I love for various reasons — all share one underlying theme: they remind me why I love movies, invigorating my passion for storytelling and consuming my head-space for years to come. Regardless of how many of these movies you have seen, hopefully you can find one of your favorites on here, or — better yet — be awestruck by one of them for the first time like I once was.
Now, without further ado: here are my favorite movies of the decade.
Nothing about Nightcrawler feels comfortable, and that’s exactly the point. There are clearly inspirations from Taxi Driver here, but it’s all done with a clever 21st century twist aimed at critiquing the media, and every scene is owned by a career-best performance from Jake Gyllenhaal that feels disturbing in all the right ways.
49. Jojo Rabbit
If you think you’ve seen all a Holocaust movie can be, you probably haven’t seen one where a young Nazi boy is best friends with an imaginary version of Hitler. However, Jojo Rabbit doesn’t succeed just by virtue of being different; it succeeds by using its unique premise for both intense comedic and dramatic effect, all told with tender care from Taika Waititi and anchored by terrific child performances.
48. The Spectacular Now
It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for rom-coms, and The Spectacular Now is unrivaled in just how real every aspect of its central relationship feels. The chemistry between Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley is so off-the-charts that I would have literally no issue if the whole movie was just their characters talking.
Many things can be said about Spike Jonze’s Her, but for me this movie comes down to just how gorgeous every single frame of it is and how Joaquin Phoenix’s layered performance actively rides against the stereotype you would expect from his character, which I think is also true of the movie as a whole. I’m also enamored by just how lived-in and plausible the movie’s depiction of the future seems; screw your gray and ugly dystopias.
46. Phantom Thread
Paul Thomas Anderson redefined the rom-com with Punch Drunk Love, and Phantom Thread is another brilliant attempt from the filmmaker at creating a unique on-screen romance. The movie is darkly twisted, but alongside the wickedness is a potent sense of hilarity mixed together with a dose of romance that shows the complex characters at its core truly need — and deserve — each other.
45. Silver Lining’s Playbook
I admittedly don’t have much to say about this one. It’s just a great feel-good movie, and sometimes that’s all you need.
A slow-burn thriller might not seem suited for a 150 minute runtime, but Burning manages to pull that miraculous feat off and then some. Every aspect of this movie gets under your skin, primarily Steve Yuen’s performance which will drive you mad obsessing over every one of his subtle movements in an attempt get a grip of the unease at the movie’s core.
43. Edge of Tomorrow
It’s very much ‘Groundhog Day as an action movie’, but to reduce Edge of Tomorrow to a cheap knock-off is to ignore every little detail it gets so well. This is a very charming movie that has more brains than your average blockbuster, and it’s a shame that nobody showed up at the box office to see it.
42. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Tarantino’s homage to a bygone era of Hollywood is everything you would want, yet nothing you would expect. Underneath the dizzying recreation of 60’s Hollywood is a heartwarming and hilarious story about friendship and grappling with waning relevance in a changing world, and it all feels like a movie that Tarantino couldn’t have made until this point in his career.
It’s unfortunate that much of the discussion around Moonlight is about the drama behind its best picture win, because this is an absolutely beautiful movie. Where as Boyhood couldn’t effectively develop its protagonist over the years, Moonlight uses its unique structure not as a gimmick, but as an effective way to create a character study that is as deeply moving as it is relevant.
40. Knives Out
Knives Out is the result of an endlessly talented group of people assembling to create something that’s just a boatload of fun. Rian Johnson’s script is — forgive the pun — one of the sharpest you’ll find, redefining the structure of the whodunit and keeping the audience on their toes all while introducing a set of memorable characters and telling a satisfying story up to its terrific final shot.
It might seem like a sports story you’ve probably seen a thousand times, but Creed is told with such intensity and heart that by the time you get to its climactic fight, you’ll be so hyped up that you’re ready to jump in the ring yourself. This might seem like a weird analogy, but it reminds me of The Force Awakens in how it effectively passes the torch of a franchise down to a newer generation, all while adding to the legacy of the films that preceded it.
38. Good Time
Good Time is an uber-stylish, stress-filled 100 minutes that absolutely rules. Robert Pattinson owns every second of this movie, so much so that you’ll be rooting for his character even as he consistently makes bad decisions at every turn.
37. Green Room
Green Room is a movie that doesn’t ask, but rather demands that you grip your seat with white-knuckle intensity for the entirety of its runtime. The violence here is so brutal that it walks the line between a thriller and a full-on horror movie, creating a nail-biting experience that will leave you wanting to blast punk rock as recovery music once it’s over.
36. Planet of the Apes Trilogy
Am I cheating by lumping all three of these together? Absolutely, and I don’t care. What this Apes trilogy did is a miracle in blockbuster filmmaking, not only for the groundbreaking steps forward it took in motion-capture technology, but in the sense that these are big-budget movies that couldn’t feel further away from a typical studio tentpole. They’re dark, they’re complex, and the overarching character arc of Caesar told throughout the three movies is nothing short of a tremendous achievement.
35. 21 Jump Street
There’s something to be said about a perfect collaboration, and the Lord/Miller writing duo and Tatum/Hill acting duo in 21 Jump Street create a comedy classic out of a movie that has no reason to exist. Every scene in this movie is infinitely quotable and radiates the sheer amount of fun that you can tell everybody involved had while filming it.
Skyfall is so good that I contend it should have marked the end of Daniel Craig’s run as Bond. In many ways the movie is a natural evolution of the more grounded tone that Casino Royale brought to the franchise, giving us a more personal insight into Bond’s inner demons and examining his relationships with those he loves, but at the end of the day this is still a classic Bond adventure. Outside of Javier Bardem’s terrific performance as the villain, the MVP here is undoubtedly Roger Deakin’s cinematography, which is not only responsible for some of the most visually striking action scenes ever featured in a Bond movie, but in any action movie of recent memory.
33. What We Do in the Shadows
Vampires…living in a flat…in New Zealand! It’s that simple, it’s that hilarious, and it cements Taika Waititi as one of the funniest voices in comedy working today.
Okja is the kind of bizarre, mad genius that could come from nothing other than the mind of Bong Joon-ho. It manages to capture the joy and humanity of an old-school Spielberg movie, only to then take you some dark places and probably convert you to vegetarianism along the way, too. If nothing else, it’s worth seeing for Jake Gyllenhaal, who gives a performance dialed up so far past 11 in absurdity that no words can do it justice.
I don’t particularly care for baseball, spreadsheets, or movies based on true stories, which makes it all the more impressive that Moneyball won me over as hard as it did. This might just be Brad Pitt’s best performance ever, and it even marks Jonah Hill’s entrance as a versatile actor who can do far more than variations of his character in Superbad.
In a year where we all argued whether Marvel movies are cinema, Avengers: Endgame raises the more important question: does it even matter when they’re this good? The power of the MCU has always relied on the overarching story it has told over time, and this epic finale is a jaw-dropping curtain call for the characters we have grown to love as it masterfully jumps from emotional moments to some of the most satisfying fan-service you’ll ever see. I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun at a movie in my life than watching the final battle sequence on opening night.
29. Steve Jobs
Not to be confused with the generic biopic starring Ashton Kutcher that was quick to capitalize on Steve Jobs’s death, Steve Jobs is a fascinating look at a titan that redefined the world as we know it. The movie’s unconventional structure allows us to intimately see Steve Jobs as a person as opposed to just receiving a by-the-numbers account of his life, and it’s all anchored by a great Sorkin script and a criminally underappreciated performance from Michael Fassbender.
28. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse
A love-letter to comic-books, Spider-Man, and the medium of animation itself, Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse is one of the greatest superhero movies of all time. The amount of creativity in every frame honestly puts 3D animated movies to shame, and it’s all wrapped in a story that pokes fun at and embraces everything we love about the character of Spider-Man.
27. John Wick
If every action movie I saw was as self-aware as John Wick, I would be the happiest man alive. This is a simple revenge story that knows exactly what it is, never taking itself too seriously and delivering some of the most campy fun and satisfying revenge moments ever put on the screen. I honestly feel bad for anybody stupid enough to mess with John Wick.
Rian Johnson loves breathing fresh life into old ideas, and with Looper he manages to somehow make time-travel feel shiny and new with an interesting premise executed in an even more interesting universe, all told with the director’s sharp command of filmmaking techniques.
Enemy isn’t a movie that you watch, form your opinion on, and then forget about and move on with your life. Instead, it will enthrall you with its atmospheric direction, leave you confused and frustrated by its ending, and then probably cause you to become obsessed with it until you realize just how genius the whole darn thing is. This is up there with Denis Villenueve’s best work, and perhaps it’s only fitting for one of the defining psychological films of the decade to live nowhere else other than the audience’s head.
One of Bong Joon-ho’s greatest superpowers is his ability to blend an auteur’s voice with blockbuster sensibilities, and nowhere is that better seen than Snowpiercer‘s chilling social commentary and kinetic action scenes. Oh, and that production design? My goodness.
23. Django: Unchained
You can definitely feel the weight of Tarantino working with a new editor here after the loss of Sally Menke, but that doesn’t stop Django: Unchained from being one of the most entertaining films in his filmography. Much like Inglorious Basterds, we get a sense of the brutality and tension at stake in this time-period, yet Tarantino finds a way to leverage this for comedic material and an extremely satisfying revenge story. Oh, and Jamie Foxx in this movie is the coolest man to walk the face of the earth.
22. Eighth Grade
Bo Burnham’s take on a coming-of-age story excels in recreating teen angst for multiple generations of audiences, as well as capturing what middle school looks like in the age of social media and YouTube. If you hear anybody talking about the movie, chances are they’ll throw around the word awkward, because that’s just what eighth grade — as well as Eighth Grade — is: awkward. But besides this uncomfortably realistic depiction of middle school, there’s a huge level of heart here anchored by a breakout performance from Elsie Fisher, and the movie is absolutely hilarious as well. Suffice to say, Eighth Grade is much better than eighth grade.
It would have been easy for Jordan Peele to make another horror film about race hot off the heels of Get Out, but Us shows the mark of an ambitious director who doesn’t intend on repeating himself anytime soon. Peele continues to prove himself as one of the most interesting visual storytellers working today, this time creating iconography that forces us to examine class in America and the hostile ways in which we view one another, all while he still delivers a crowdpleaser blend of horror and comedy.
Annihilation gives me hope for movies. It’s rare to see big-budget sci-fi this unabashedly confident, thoughtful, and demanding of its audience, which makes Alex Garland’s follow-up to Ex Machina truly feel like it’s something from another planet. We’ll be talking about the audiovisual feast that is the last 20 minutes of this movie for years to come.
Sicario is an intense, gorgeously-shot look at the war against the Mexican drug cartel. No punches are pulled here when it comes to depicting an unflinchingly bleak world where there’s a constant struggle in the ambiguity between right and wrong, and it’s impossible to take your eyes off of the movie during its runtime and impossible to forget about it after the credits roll.
18. The LEGO Movie
Leave it to Phil Lord and Chris Miller to take essentially one big advertisement, sprinkle in more heart and brains than it has any right to have, and turn it into a witty comedy about the power of creativity that might just make you tear up. I could watch this movie every day and find a new joke to laugh at every time.
Heist movies are my jam, so of course I love the visually stunning and thoroughly layered heist of the mind that is Inception. Christopher Nolan has a true gift for balancing spectacle and plot, and with Inception that’s all wrapped up in a touching story about dealing with regret and finding catharsis through your dreams. Plus, that Hans Zimmer score speaks for itself.
16. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
If its title wasn’t a dead give-away, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is totally ridiculous. However, you would be a fool to ride this off as merely a dumb comedy, because this mockumentary is not only a hilarious parody of the music industry, but a genuinely heartwarming story about friendship that even has some absolute bangers thrown in there for good measure. I guess this continues The Lonely Island’s trend of creating great comedies that are financial failures and obtain cult-classic status years down the line.
15. Paddington 2
Paddington 2 is the closest a movie can get to giving you a hug. Every scene is so playful in its visuals and music and Paddington himself is so pure and lovable that by the time the movie ends, you’ll genuinely feel washed over with positivity and feel inspired to become a better person. This is simply a delightful two hours that everybody needs in their life.
14. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
If you take the wildest adrenaline rush you’ve ever experienced and multiply it by 1000, you’re left with Mission: Impossible – Fallout. This is a masterclass in action filmmaking, with each setpiece so unique and thrilling that it’s hard for me not to smile like a maniac throughout the whole movie every time I watch it. Tom Cruise, you absolute mad lad.
13. A Ghost Story
I could say this for many movies on this list, but it’s perhaps most fitting with A Ghost Story: this movie has no reason to work. Containing essentially zero dialogue and featuring scenes where Casey Affleck watches paint dry or Rooney Mara eats pie for three minutes, A Ghost Story revels in finding emotional intimacy in the most unexpected of places. It’s so simple in its structure that you don’t even notice its deft editing tricks and the ease in which it tackles so many big ideas about love, time, and our place in the universe. I know I sound a bit ridiculous, but trust me: there’s really nothing quite like A Ghost Story.
12. The Witch
What makes something scary? No two people will probably have the exact same answers, but Robert Eggers’s meticulously crafted slow-burn delves into what’s perhaps scariest of all: fear of the unknown. The way this period-piece escalates in tension and paranoia is nothing short of terrifying, so much so that I honestly watched the last 20 minutes through my hands covering my face. This is truly next-level stuff.
Hereditary is two horror movies in one, with the only difference between the two being that one is a drama about a dysfunctional family dealing with grief, while the other involves supernatural demons. The synergistic relationship between these two parts creates something truly unique, which is only further complemented by horrifying visuals and an uncomfortable atmosphere that lead you into a finale where Ari Aster pulls every trick out of the bag. However, you can basically disregard everything I just said; this movie is really the Toni Collette show, and it’s beyond parody she wasn’t nominated for an Oscar.
10. Gone Girl
Gone Girl is a quintessential Fincher movie: immaculately crafted, deeply disturbing, and bleakly funny in a way that no other director could pull off. Sure, it’s a mystery with a surprising reveal, but Gone Girl’s secret superpower is that it’s a satire that’s both sad and funny in equal measure, commenting on everything from inept marriages to the bias of the media. Also, I’m not going to dip into spoiler territory, but consider me a big fan of the controversial ending.
We can sit here all day and nitpick plot details, but at the end of the day Interstellar is as breathtaking of a spectacle as you’ll ever watch on a movie screen. This is Christopher Nolan at the peak of his ambition, not only in regards to the movie’s intensely researched physics, but in the fact that we get to see a typically cold director tell a story bubbling with emotion and heart. I guess any way you cut it, a movie that has me staggering out a theater feeling like a changed person, staring at the stars, and contemplating my place in the universe is doing something right.
8. Baby Driver
It’s hard to find a movie that oozes as much style or confidence in every frame as Baby Driver. It honestly feels like the coolest movie you’ve ever seen, but what really makes it all work is Edgar Wright taking its premise and perfecting it with a foot-tapping soundtrack and out-of-this-world editing, all while ingraining it into the story and a cast of memorable characters.
7. Get Out
I mean, how could you call this anything less than a modern classic? Ever since its release in 2017, Get Out’s cultural impact has showed no signs of slowing down, and I couldn’t be happier for the movie’s success. Jordan Peele’s debut left all our jaws on the ground with shocking reveals, creative worldbuilding, and a razer-sharp command of dark comedy that forced us to examine ourselves and the way we view racial relations in modern day America. If you don’t like this movie, you’re probably stuck in the sunken place.
Arrival is nothing less than an intensely emotional and immersive experience which will blow your freaking mind. Everything from its production design to its score creates an atmosphere that you couldn’t leave even if you wanted to, and the message at its core feels like a pressingly necessary one for the times we live in. Once you arrive to its ending that recontextualizes the entire movie for reasons equally devastating and inspiring, Arrival becomes undeniable not only as Denis Villenueve’s best movie, but a sci-fi masterpiece for the ages.
5. Ex Machina
There’s no point in me dodging around it: Ex Machina might just be my favorite sci-fi film ever. Every aspect of Alex Garland’s directorial debut feels tightly constructed, which is only fitting for such a claustrophobic and simple premise that takes you on a ride of twists and turns which will have you second-guessing yourself the whole way through. Every character feels extremely fleshed out and well-acted, especially on repeat viewings when you can start to see things from a different perspective, as this is a sci-fi movie that offers no easy answers; it asks uneasy questions of its audience, examining our relationships with others and technology’s role in it only to lead you into a final 20 minutes that will have your heart beating for hours after the credits roll. I adore this movie.
4. The Social Network
Sure, The Social Network is a masterpiece and arguably the best movie from my favorite director working today, but it has only grown in relevance since its release in 2010 and has gone on to become the defining movie of the decade. Facebook has fundamentally altered everything from our social interactions to our data privacy, and when you look at news headlines and see Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress, it’s almost impossible not to realize just how accurate The Social Network was as an ominous warning that has now gone on to become an unfortunate reality. Relevance aside, there’s something charming in the fact that this movie is basically just characters talking to each other in rooms for two hours, yet you could make the argument that it’s the most exhilarating movie on this entire list; Fincher direction and Sorkin dialogue is a team-up so good it’s actually kinda unfair.
As an ardent perfectionist who has probably spent too much of high school practicing on a marimba, I can’t help but relate to Whiplash on a level that haunts me in every frame. Anybody that has ever been filled with a burning desire to succeed can relate to Whiplash in some capacity, and perhaps the movie’s smartest choice is offering grey area when it comes to the line between achieving the success you crave, but also examining the cost it takes to get there. It helps that Whiplash is told with the intensity of a freight train, in no short part due to J.K. Simmons’s terrifying performance combined with what might be the most electric editing of the entire decade. I don’t think there’s a more defining moment in my love for film than watching this movie for the first time — a moment where the true magic of filmmaking seemed to snap into place for me all at once, especially during those last ten minutes which still have me speechless to this day.
I know Parasite only came out this year, but I feel like the legacy it’s going to leave behind is undeniable. This is as sensational of a movie as you’ll ever find — a magic trick from Bong Joon-ho that toys with your emotions, subverts your expectations, and pulls off more legendary sequences in its runtime than most directors will ever have in their entire career. I’m not sure whether this is a scathing indictment of most blockbusters or just a testament to Parasite’s greatness (it’s probably a bit of both), but Parasite might be one of the most outrageous pieces of crowdpleasing entertainment ever produced, as underneath all the class commentary and punches to the gut is a movie that will have you laughing, cheering, gasping, and gripping your seat the whole way through. If it sounds like I’m speaking in vague terms, that’s because I am: Parasite is an experience you don’t want spoiled, so make plans to watch it as soon as physically possible and prepare to be amazed.
1. La La Land
From its dazzling opening number to its dramatic finish, La La Land grabs me by the heartstrings and never lets me go. It feels hypnotic in the way it makes you fall in love with the characters at its center and an idealized version of Los Angeles that’s nothing less than the most magical place on earth, but what makes La La Land so brilliant is how it manages to reconcile its romantic fantasies alongside the brutal realities of chasing your dreams. Nowhere is this better encapsulated than the movie’s music, which is enough to not only make your heart soar in joy, but also break your heart piece-by-piece. However, let’s be real; for all the gorgeous shots and memorable music, there’s really no emotional weight behind this movie without the chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. This might be my favorite on-screen romance ever, and the way the last 20 minutes of La La Land pay respect to their relationship and the movie’s dichotomy of fantasy and reality is nothing short of astonishing. I couldn’t be happier to say that La La Land has my heart, my mind, and my pick for my favorite movie of the decade.
Most Overrated: The Shape of Water, Spotlight, Argo, Boyhood, A Star Is Born, Dunkirk
Movies I’m Embarrassed I Haven’t Seen: Silence, Frances Ha, The Tree of Life, Black Swan, Krisha, A Separation, Columbus, Brooklyn, Call Me By Your Name, Short Term 12, 12 Years A Slave, The Master, The Lost City of Z
Edit (8/30/2020): If you’re reading this, hello! To think how naive and innocent my pre-pandemic self was. Well, anyways, there is a lot I would re-do about this article in hindsight, but that’s just how it goes for any piece of writing you put on the internet. I do want to note, however, that I deleted the Honorable Mentions section from this article, which was mostly just a random compilation of movies I felt pressured to include in some capacity but didn’t necessarily care for. I guess I could keep it there, but it really bugged me and I don’t think removing it diminishes or changes the core of this article, which is the actual Top 50. Also, I’ve watched and re-watched a lot of movies since uploading this, and the following is a list of movies that would probably crack the Top 50 if I were to re-write this article today: Black Swan, Everybody Wants Some!!, Marriage Story, The Handmaiden, Train to Busan, Before Midnight, The Hateful Eight, The Grand Budapest Hotel
5 thoughts on “Top 50 Movies of the 2010s”
WHAT ABOUT WOLF OF WALL STREET!!!!!!
It’s impeccably made, but it can’t sustain its energy for nearly half of its runtime and comes across as a bit bloated and overly indulgent as a result. But, hey, I recognize I’m in the minority on that one.
Thoughts on Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs The World?
It’s good! It’s pure Edgar Wright through and through, but as a result it comes across as a bit style-over-substance to me. I still enjoy it though.