UPDATE NOTE: Click here for a 2020 update of my 50 All-Time Favorite Films.
Marcia and I watched The Lighthouse this weekend. A harrowing flick with innovative visuals and cinematography, and good enough for me to update the “Best Movies” section at my 2019: Year In Review page to include it there. As I was doing that, I noticed my Best Albums of 2010-2019 article nearby (virtually speaking), and, well, if you know me and/or been here more than a couple of times, then you probably know where the combination platter of those two threads led me.
Being a chronic list-maker, I already had a large amount of information on what films I’d seen and liked over the past decade here at the website, so I started by combining and culling those annual lists, then went to look at several other critical websites for their own best of the year (each year) or decade-in-review pieces. There weren’t many films disclosed throughout that review process that I wanted to see that I hadn’t seen, so that was nice to affirm; living in Chicago within walking distance of several movie theaters certainly was conducive to keeping abreast of current cinematic offerings, alongside the emergence of streaming services over the decade.
With those resources, it didn’t take me very long to develop a first-draft list of my 25 Best Films of the decade, and as I mulled it over the past couple of days, making some drops and adds, it finally started to seem like a good list to share. I will note, though, that as I look at the list and the pool from which it was drawn, I think it’s a list of good films from a decade that history will judge to be a wan era in cinematic history, critically, if not commercially. The blockbusters of the decade are almost all comic book franchises, sequels, reboots, or movies inspired by toys, games, theme-park rides or other infantile sources. The roster of Academy Award Best Pictures includes plentiful “What were they thinking?!?” winners like Argo, The Artist, Birdman, Spotlight, The Shape of Water and Green Book, mostly nice enough for a bucket of popcorn, sure, but none to these eyes and ears worthy of being dubbed best in their years of release, by long margins in most cases.
That said, I will note one other trend: my list definitely skews toward the latter half of the decade, and I think that’s a positive sign, as more unique, original, diverse films are seeing the light of day, and then finding audiences and attention beyond the tiny art house scene, than was the case at the start of the decade. I scrubbed my list fairly hard to make sure that this late decade skew wasn’t just an artifact of me better remembering more recently-seen films than those I saw a decade ago and forgot about, but going through all the data at my disposal, I do think it is a real trend, at least in terms of the types of films that I appreciate most.
As the list below will likely and quickly make clear, the movies that I hold in the highest regard tend to be original, technically sophisticated (beyond just slathering on layers of CGI), unique, and haunting, in both their real-time content and their lingering effects on my consciousness. There are scenes and performances in these films that took my breath away, and which I continue to remember and consider years after I first saw them. Their stories are all fresh, and their action and direction are truly creative, with nary a straight regurgitation nor a franchise feature among them. More of these, Hollywood! Please!
As always, I welcome your own thoughts, corrections, and additions in the comments. Is there something out there that I need to see? An amendment screaming to be made? Hit me, if so! I’m always open to having my mind blown unexpectedly.
THE 25 BEST FILMS OF 2010-2019 (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER)
Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
Black Swan (2010)
The Death of Stalin (2017)
The Favourite (2018)
A Field in England (2013)
The Florida Project (2017)
Get Out (2017)
A Ghost Story (2017)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Inside Out (2015)
Jojo Rabbit (2019)
Lady Bird (2017)
The Lobster (2015)
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Sorry to Bother You (2018)
Under the Skin (2013)
The Witch (2015)