It can be hard to evaluate the best films of the 2010s, when every damn year of the decade, especially from 2015 onward, have felt like ten years unto themselves. But movies, as ever, offer respite from that chaos. It’s been a decade that has offered impressive new voices in film and given different voices bigger platforms. Names like Jordan Peele, Ava DuVerney, Ryan Coogler and more have opened up important ideas to wider audiences, while also delivering top class entertainment. Long-term talents, from Scorsese and Soderbergh to Bong Joon-ho, Todd Haynes and Katheryn Bigelow, have changed with the times and done great work, even when it hasn’t been their defining masterpieces, these greats have produced films that audiences have latched onto and continue to engage with in interesting ways, our often noxious online discourse still providing the opportunity to grow cultural conversation. Still, that noxious shite can make even the most ardent film lover never want to talk about cinema again, and the last ten years have seen too many unwinnable bullshit battles waged by people determined to keep their beloved franchises for themselves only, or draft movies, sometimes at random, into the unending culture wars.
Netflix have changed the game completely for film distribution and audience engagement in ways we still haven’t fully processed since 2010, for better and worse, what even counts as a “film” and how we see them have been altered forever. After a relatively wobbly start to the 21st century that now seems impossible, Disney have become a monster in the 2010s, consuming one of the great film studios in the last year in Fox, reshaping history as they see fit, flooding and fixing the market, threatening all the positives in the paragraphs above. 80% of the box office is simply too much for one studio to hold, and cinema as an art form is at risk if the 2020’s continue to allow expression to be supressed in the name of expansion.
You can see some of what’s at stake in some of the great Irish films that have come out this decade, both on screen and off. Wonderful work has been done with local cinema thanks to collaboration with fellow European studios, and great films that in decades past only Irish eyes would have been watching have warmly received worldwide. Check out our Best Irish Films of the Decade list, coming soon, for some of the best of our country’s cinema. More of that in the times ahead of us please, especially for this website’s sake. There are always challenges, but without the vibrant cinema scene that has continued to grow in this country, Film In Dublin would never have started. With that in mind, it’s a good time to delve into some of our writer’s personal favourites of the decade, our Best Movies of the 2010s.
We got some Film In Dublin writers from past and present to come together to pick out their top 10s, a wide and (as much as possible) comprehensive selection of the best kinds of films the decade has had to offer. You can find every genre, a variety of styles and a diversity of directors in the picks below, some well-considered overlap and deep cuts that demonstrate how every individual has films that speak to them in different ways.
So the end the ramble preamble, here are the best movies of the decade, according to us. And we invite all of you to leave your own top 10 in the comments at the bottom of the page, or to share with us on our Facebook or Twitter accounts.
10. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018, Peter Ramsay, Bob Persichetti, Rodney Rothman)
9. Toy Story 3 (2010, Lee Unkrich)
8. Under the Skin (2014, Jonathan Glazer)
7. McGruber (2010, Jorma Taccone)
6. Inception (2010, Christopher Nolan)
5. Looper (2012, Rian Johnson)
4. The Martian (2015, Ridley Scott)
3. The Social Network (2010, David Fincher)
2. Whiplash (2015, Damien Chazelle)
1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015, George Miller)
Racing out in front of the rest of the films of the decade and slaughtering all the competition, Mad Max Fury Road is easily the best film of the last 10 years and potentially the best action film ever made (tá brón orm Die Hard). George Millers masterpiece feels like a shot of adrenaline directly into your eyeballs. Even on repeat viewings since its 2015 release the experience is like main lining excitement. The closest you can get to being on a rollercoaster while sitting still, from its opening frames Fury Road grabs the viewer and doesn’t let you go. The film takes what we thought about action cinema and elevates it to another level delivering a 2 hour experience that will often be copied but will never be equaled.
Much has been made about its production. How it started as 3,500 storyboard panels visualizing the action before a single word was written or how Miller directed the action on the move inside a tricked out dune buggy orchestrating the mayhem like some crazy desert dwelling composer. The preparation and coordination must have been immense but the results are all there on the screen. Two hours of glorious action cinema telling a powerful story with a zero flab. Mad Max Fury Road will define action cinema moving forward. There is now talk of a sequel brewing which means there is a strong possibility that the best of the next decade might already have its number one.
10. Hereditary (2018, Ari Aster)
9. Get Out (2017, Jordan Peele)
8. Her (2014, Spike Jonze)
7. Interstellar (2014, Christopher Nolan)
6. Call Me By Your Name (2017, Luca Guadagnino)
5. Burning (2018, Chang-dong Lee)
4. Joker (2019, Todd Phillips)
3. The Irishman (2019, Martin Scorsese)
2. The Master (2012, Paul Thomas Anderson)
1. The Great Beauty (2013, Paulo Sorrentino)
Picking up the prize for “Best Foreign Language Fim” at the 86th Academy Awards, Paolo Sorrentino‘s ride through Rome takes us through the inner thoughts and outer escapades of an ageing writer who reflects on a lifetime of lavish parties, superficial relationships and ultimately forces us to reconsider what really needs to be cherished in life (and why or if it all really matters). With superbly paced and scintillating dialogue, along with a truly mesmerising but richly layered score, The Great Beauty emerges as an unforgettable blend of deep introspection and poignancy decorated by its thrilling sensual exterior.
My notable mentions for the decade (because deciding a top ten was so difficult) are: American Mary (2012, Sylvia & Jen Soska), It Follows (2014, David Robert Mitchell), The Raid (2011, Gareth Evans), Dredd (2012, Pete Travis) and We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011, Lynne Ramsay). The 2010s delivered a host of excellent movies, but few made such an impact as The Witch. From the initial trailer hitting the internet, I was pumped for this film! It did not disappoint – I even scolded a grown man in the theatre for talking during a particularly intense scene. The music, pacing, script, cinematography, acting, historical elements… it was all perfect. It was a film that took chances and did things very differently – something that is now synonymous with A24 distributed & produced movies.
9. First Reformed (2018, Paul Schrader)
8. Song of the Sea (2015, Tomm Moore)
7. Sicario (2015, Denis Villeneuve)
6. Nocturnal Animals (2016, Tom Ford)
5. Phantom Thread (2018, Paul Thomas Anderson)
4. Moonlight (2017, Barry Jenkins)
3. 12 Years A Slave (2014, Steve McQueen)
2 The Master (2012, Paul Thomas Anderson)
I’ve revisited A Ghost Story several times since my first viewing (the Blu-Ray rarely gathers dust in my house). However, this time I approached it with some trepidation. Slapping ‘Best of the Decade’ onto any film is a big statement, especially in a decade filled with films from expert filmmakers like Scorsese, Ramsay, Villeneuve, PTA, etc. And yet, despite the remarkable cinema we’ve enjoyed since 2010, A Ghost Story still stands at the top of the pile. This is a film that moves with quiet confidence and soaring ambition through issues as vast as life, loss, memory and time, plunging the depths of themes that many directors have devoted their lives to exploring.
While some arthouse films opt for provocative imagery over narrative convention, Lowry fuses both in order to tell this simple yet unique story. Bold costume design, a distinct editing style and remarkable cinematography assist director David Lowry’s efforts to tell what is a very simple love story between two people who experience tragic loss. This is elevated to the next level by Daniel Hart’s wonderful soundtrack, which heightens the power, intensity and emotion of the film. What David Lowry achieves here is astounding. Armed with only $100,000, Lowry has crafted a film that masters daunting and complicated themes while still feeling intimate and personal. With uncompromising commitment to this personal story, the film still evokes something much larger, making for a profound, beautiful and haunting experience. In 2017, I wrote that this film was about “the enduring and resolute spirit of love in the face of significant loss” and this certainly still stands up. A Ghost Story is modern cinema at its most peculiar and finest.
9. Breathe (2017, Andy Serkis)
8. Love and Friendship (2016, Whit Stillman)
7. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014, Wes Anderson)
6. Get Out (2017, Jordan Peele)
5. Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018, Peter Ramsay, Bob Persichetti, Rodney Rothman)
4. The Guest (2014, Adam Wingard)
3. Belle (2014, Amma Asante)
2. Whip It (2010, Drew Barrymore)
God’s Own Country carefully builds a delicate human story against the harsh backdrop of Yorkshire countryside. The film has a lot to say about the emotional repression enforced on men within the patriarchal system which is sadly lacking in so much of contemporary cinema, even though we’re surrounded by male-driven narratives.
The Spring setting was an apt choice as the season is often associated with renewal and revival which is perfect for Johnny’s movement from toxic isolation to warmth. The affection that develops between Johnny and Gheorghe is a slow burn, it doesn’t happen as dramatically as we might expect given the striking landscape. Gheorghe’s maturity and strong sense of self allow him to let Johnny come to him, the way you might hold out a hand to deer and stay perfectly still until they feel comfortable enough to get close. This film is threadbare and stark but it provides genuine heart and warmth, exactly like Gheorghe’s woven jumper. A stunning debut from Francis Lee.
We’ll finish these lists how we started them: correctly gushing about how Fury Road rules. As an action movie, the film is without peer over the last decade, even as the genre has come to dominate listings more and more. Even as exciting new series like John Wick have been introduced or the Fast and Furious movies have increasingly won hearts all over the globe, George Miller continues to show them all how it’s done, no film quite as kinetic, as visceral as Furiosa, Max and the gang’s rip-roaring journey through the desert, where something breath-taking spools onto screen roughly once every three minutes. It’s gorgeous. It’s exciting. Both mythic and moving. And also that dude plays an electric guitar and fire shoots out – raddest movie of the decade, facts, I don’t make the rules.
But Fury Road is even more than an awesome action movie, it’s a miracle, something forged in the fires of an incredibly troubled production, intended by the studio as now-standard IP-milking, and another dumb movie of explosions to distract viewers during their summer, that improbably and impeccably serves as cinema at its finest – art that develops our understanding of our world, of each other, of ourselves, and offers a vision of how the pain of all three can be soothed, how we can go forward together.
As the decade has gone on, we’ve all become increasingly aware that we live in a fucked up world, and one that’s only getting more fucked up. It’s always been thus, but it has become harder to hide from the truths that people in power will hurt those without it, that power comes in many forms and corrupts quickly, that hatred and lechery and avarice and cowardice are destroying everything around us in ways that may not be able to come back from. A lot of films, through narratives of empowerment, escapism and optimism, offer up hope in the face of this. But Hope is Mad when you have killed the world. Moving forward from the destructive insanity found along the Fury Road, where the easily manipulated are promised glory by the grotesquely powerful, that will be a hard day. The decade ahead will be as hard as the one that has gone, especially for those without the protections and privileges that someone like Max has. But Fury Road as well as any film has done over the last ten years, illustrates that through a model that is empathetic, intersectional, equal, sustainable, feminist, socialist, we could fix what has long since been broken. Together, truly together, we may be able to find redemption.