The 75 Best Movies of the 2010s Decade
The 2010s decade has been a wild cinematic, coming-of-age journey for me. Started the last decade with exploring the most sort-out-list – IMDb top 250 to making this list myself; from posting a short stanza about the films on social media to writing on “High On Films”; from adoring Christopher Nolan, David Fincher to loving Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Lee Chang-dong, Andrey Zvyagintsev and Paul Thomas Anderson (I still love Nolan and Fincher). Have obsessively seen contemporary films and gradually but passionately explored the cinema auteurs. The films have become an inseparable part of me. An extension of my existence. One of the reasons to go on in life. If films could define me, these are the 75 movies from the past decade that I love. The list includes only fiction feature narrative movies.
75. Hanagatami | Nobuhiko Obayashi
Nobuhiko Obayashi, director of indescribable cult classic House (1977), conjures up his comprehensive experience in film-making and conceives a phantasmagorical cautionary tale of the perils of War. Obayashi blends measuredly written characters, symbolising different ideologies of the Japnese youngsters, with hyperrealistic visuals and meditative storytelling. Layered with esoteric motifs and visuals, he manages to make a reflective drama about the wasted youth of Japan’s war years.
75. Berberian Sound Studio | Peter Strickland
Peter Strickland sets “Berberian Sound Studio” in the realm of sound in an indigenous manner that the entire narration relies on the soundscape than the visuals. He creates an arousing horror drama using sound as a narrative tool. Furthermore, the aural chills push the narrative to such an edge of paranoia that we find ourselves in the melted sphere of reality and nightmare. Perhaps, if we closely scrutinize, the film would work as a satire for film-makers and audience who do not value sound in cinema.
Related to Best Movies of the 2010s: 20 Underrated Horror Films of 2010s
74. La Flor | Mariano Llinás
The austere appeal of Mariano Llinas’ film that took ten years to film is quite evident in the craft of the film – be it writing, direction, editing and performances that went into making this 808 min epic. Six chapters traversing through different genres, the narrative is spear-headed by four talented (female) actors, who give every inch of themselves to the film as much as the writer-director Mariano Llinás put in.
Mariano Llinás opens the film to introduce his ambitious project, mapping out the structure on a sheet of paper in a way that explains the title: Four of the stories have a beginning but no end; the fifth, like a short story, has a proper beginning and ending; and the sixth begins in the middle and ends the film. Eventually, La flor is adequately paced and thrillingly narrated, dabbling with various philosophical ideas.
73. Happy Hour | Ryusuke Hamaguchi
In one of the sequences that last more than forty-five minutes, we see four long-time friends attending an abstract therapy session, if I may call so, that virtually plays in real-time. One might wonder what purpose does it serve, and it would be difficult to defend if someone outright calls it boring. Ryusuke Hamaguchi captures such banal details found in the most mundane facets of life that pushes us to reflect on the characters rather than sequentially forwarding the narrative.
Related Read to Best Movies of the 2010s: 12 Films That Explore Mental Illness
‘Happy Hour’ observes the uneventful intersection of quotidian lives of these friends, caught up in a thankless routine which gradually takes a psychological toll on them. The intimidating running length of five-and-a-half-hours might turn you off. Nevertheless, it’s an intimate film, deeply entrenched in the Japanese socio-culture, whose branches spread out to touch the universality of friendship and love.
72. Thelma | Joachim Trier
I remember watching Thelma in a film festival and was thoroughly engrossed by the way the narrative of a conservative and reticent girl was visualized. The titular character is brought up in a strict, religious family, going out in a world all alone, and finding it hard to adjust to the new social surroundings. She has never been independent, or in touch with her inner self, and never in touch with the modern social structure that’s constantly transforming the diktat of religion and patriarchy.
Related to Best Movies of the 2010s: 50 Best Films of 2017
She finds the new environment liberating, but the enlightenment is followed up with deeper, incomprehensible agony. The horror of maturing from adolescence into adulthood has never been narrated in such a terrifying manner. In fact, the mise-en-scene of the film is one that urgently hits you. Overall, an eerie, moody and spine-chilling feature.
71. Sieranevada | Cristi Puiu
A cluster of closely knit, cantankerous relatives are crammed in a flat during a funeral service for nearly three hours. In terms of plot-line, that pretty much covers everything. It does check your patience, but if you manage to sit back till the end, the experience is rewarding. Moreover, you’d chuckle frequently once discerning how closely the family member characters reflect your own family.
Cristi Puiu, through his painstakingly meticulous realist aesthetics, shows how involvement with relatives beyond a certain point can impart contempt. Sieranevada is often thoughtful and absurdly hilarious at times. Furthermore, the drama unfolds with an air of mystery that’d leave you breathless. It’s an honest ensemble portrait of a family reunion where prejudices and back-slapping emerge during extended conversations about Charlie Hebdo, Communism, 9/11 conspiracies; and when acerbic personal remarks bring out the ugly side of relationships.
70. Swiss Army Man | Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
Brimming with imaginative but playful narrative, partly hilarious and partly deranged, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert ‘Castaway’ with a farting corpse is an allegorical film questioning morality and the value of life. The film critiques the human’s interaction in society and everything that’s wrong with us when we socialize.
Related to Best Movies of the 2010s: 15 Must-See Coming of Age Films of 2016
Swiss Army Man conveys this theme with honesty and anguished sentiments. It might not appeal to everyone, but there is no denying that film has underlying earnestness and thought-provoking commentary underneath all the farts and gas smell.
69. Almayer’s Folly | Chantal Akerman
Chantal Akerman’s loose adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novel is a cathartic examination of existentialism of a European fugitive and his mixed-race daughter who is going through a troubling stasis in life. Akerman’s direction is precise and restraint in capturing their dilemma, frustration and importantly, their state of mind. Incidentally, the images are evocative to the point of surrealism.
68. Court | Chaitanya Tamhane
In the current political climate of India, when sedition charges are slapped at the drop of a hat, and Judiciary takes its sweet time to pass judgement, Court is more relevant than ever. Chaitanya Tamhane’s satirical narrative ironically observes the people bestowed with the responsibility to protect and preserve the law.
The narrative’s glacial pace is the same as the workings of the Indian Judicial system. Yet the bare-bones storytelling methods fashions an intense and engaging court-room drama makes. The film revolves around an activist-singer & teacher Narayan Kamble, who is accused of performing a song that allegedly provoked a sewer worker to commit suicide.
67. Horse Money | Pedro Costa
Pedro Costa’s “Horse Money” is challenging to assimilate and difficult to describe as the snippet can only give you a cursory idea about the film. The obscurity in the narrative comes from both, the visual that is ill-lit, evocative and composed of nightmares, and also from the perplexing journey of Ventura’s psyche exploding of psychological purgatory. The best things would be to surrender yourself to the film and rewatch to make some sense out of it.
66. Phantom Thread | Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson’s lead protagonist, Reynold Woodcock (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) in “Phantom Thread” is a mother fixated man-child who is detached from the real world & emotions as Plainview in ‘There Will be Blood’. He is downright a misogynist. He is in complete control of his environment. Enter hotel waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps) who surrenders herself to the charm of Woodcock and becomes his muse.
Related to Best Movies of the 2010s: Every Paul Thomas Anderson Film Ranked
Until the thread of fling entangles in a romantic confrontation which exposes Woodstock’s dictatorial temperament. He outright rejects the romantic advancement, throwing Alma in a pool of disappointment and despondency. As she suffocates in the one-sided relationship, Anderson nurtures the film with claustrophobic ‘artist and muse’ psycho-drama terrain. The subversion is imminent in Anderson’s film, and he weaves a fabric of mystery & complexity in this toxic, submissive romantic drama that’s replete with rich aesthetics and beguiling production design.
65. The Tribe | Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi
The Tribe (Plemya) is an unflinching, tour-de-force cinema with a bleak undertone. It’s told entirely in impenetrable and untranslated Ukrainian sign language. The layered narrative is peppered with a series of harsh episodes before it delivering a knock-out punch at the end that will leave you shaken.
The film provides an uncomfortable insight into the deaf students’ culture, devoid of humanity, who moonlight as hooligans, drug-dealers and run a prostitution business. Although there’s neither music nor words, there are some powerful and visceral moments here that makes the silence so deafening.
64. Mad Max: Fury Road | George Miller
George Miller started the pre-production of his fourth instalment in a wasteland of Mad Max franchise way back in 1997. But he faced several hurdles that led to postponing it multiple times. In fact, he even contemplated to make it as an animated film. Nevertheless, he scrapped that idea for a live-action film. And thank-god he listened to his instinct! Mad Max: Fury Road is a road-trip on acid, an orgy of unrelenting action scenes achieved with minimal usage of CGI. It features one of the best-choreographed action scenes of the decade, devoid of clunkiness and tackiness.
Related to Best Movies of the 2010s: 50 Best Films of 2015
63. From What is Before | Lav Diaz
Filipino auteur Lav Diaz’s follow-up to ‘Norte, The End of History’ takes a close look at the lives of Philippines in a small village during the three-year run-up to then-president Ferdinand Marcos’ placing the country under martial law in 1972. Shot in the low contract black & white, at an unhurried pace, with dreary undertone to it and massively long takes, the film is as immersive as it gets.
‘From What is Before’ reflects the consequences of the stirring political climate that quickly snowballs to adversely impact the traditional and social values which eventually leads to mass murder. It’s a terrifying historical drama that is exhaustively intimate and nuanced.
62. The Wolf House | Cristóbal León, Joaquin Cociña
If Brothers Quay, David Lynch and Guy Maddin ever decide to make an animation film, it would certainly look like ‘The Wolf House.’ The surrealism, eeriness & meticulous sound design found in films of Lynch; Guy Maddin’s eccentricity and sad spirit of lost films, finely woven with Lewis Carrol’s ‘Alice in trouble-land (Colonia Dignidad)’ that result in this disturbing phantasmagoric narrative which pushes the boundary of conventional cinema.
It is not only the most inventive & imaginative animated film of the century. But it also actively re-writes the grammar for future animation features. Based on ‘Manichaeism subjectivity’, the film often alternates between beautiful and grotesque, horror and hope. At the centre of the surrealist animation lies the terrorising colony of fundamentalist Germans that often called their Chilean neighbours “ Schweine”, which meant pig. One of the best and wildly original animated movies of the decade 2010s.
61. Hard to be a God | Aleksei German
Adapted from the novel of the same name written by Strugatski brothers (who also wrote ‘Roadside Picnic’, adapted by Andrei Tarkovsky into the masterpiece ‘Stalker’), Late Aleksei German’s ‘Hard to be a God’ vividly imagines how the medieval European period must have functioned as a society before the emergence of “Renaissance”.
Mud, straw, drizzle, shit, bodily fluids and brutish commoners constitute the unsettling and equally disgusting setting on the Earth-like similar planet that is uncivilized and people living like wild beasts. Devoid of civilized society on the planet, the immersive monochromatic images get freehand in setting up strange & primal animalistic social-behaviour of the characters that could be viscerally challenging to digest. In fact, you have to have patience and an open mind to see this bonkers comedy.
60. Marriage Story | Noah Baumbach
Noah Baumbach’s incisive and searing drama about love and parting away is written with an extra ounce of compassion that makes it endearing & hopeful. Baumbach throws the ace card in its opening sequence where Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlet Johansson) in a montage read out each other’s qualities that they fell for to ensure we don’t judge them and choose our sides for the flaws they show while their life derails.
Related to Best Movies of the 2010s: Every Noah Baumbach Film Ranked
Ironically titled, Noah, implicitly examines what makes the marriage work in the first place and explicitly observes the absurdities and ugliness of it falling apart. Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story leaves us with a pertinent question, if marriage is the first step towards divorce, is divorce an end of a relationship?
59. Monsieur Lazhar | Philippe Falardeau
After a teacher is found dead from hanging herself in a classroom, the wave of grief and sadness grapples her homeroom students. Two sixth-graders, Alice (Sophie Nélisse) and Simon (Émilien Néron) are the most affected. Subsequently, we learn that they are the ones who have seen their teacher hanging from a pipe. An Algerian immigrant, Bachir Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag) takes up the job as a replacement teacher. Lazhar comes with his set of heartaches and troubles.
‘Monsieur Lazhar’ is a story of these wounded personalities who are seeking respite from their emotional frailty and psychological vulnerability. The greatest achievement of the film is that it subverts melodrama, contrivances and upsurge of emotional outpouring. Moreover, it never leaves us with a simple answer. Interestingly, it never probes deeper into what could have pushed a teacher to hang herself in a classroom. But Philippe Falardeau’s hefty narrative concerns itself with the way the charismatic characters process trauma and move on from one day to another.
58. Little England | Pantelis Voulgaris
A rare romantic period drama, devoid of romantic frivolity, dramatic cliches and caricatures, Pantelis Voulgaris’s ‘Little England’ transcends love stories beyond mere expression, resonating imperfectly in today’s time. Long shots allow the film to have gentle & expressive breathe, filled with picturesque locations and minimal dialogues.
Above all, the spectrum of convoluted emotions resulting from the troubled familial dynamics complements well the layered narrative. Weaving a story of women living on a small Greece island, waiting for their lovers, husbands, fathers to return home, and meanwhile, they must look after themselves. The visceral narrative is structured around a compelling storyline, suggestive dialogues, subtle & emotional nuances, without the ambiguities and abstractions.
57. Aquarius | Kleber Mendonça Filho
One of the most intense and powerful performances of the decade came from Sofia Braga in Aquarius. Kleber Mendonça Filho’s film is a terrific character study of a music critic. Amidst all the music, philosophy and progressiveness lie a drama about boundaries and colonialism.
It’s about respecting one’s privacy and will to live in something more than just a home. Aquarius is a film about things, their value, and their essence. From the old dusty record on the shelf to memories of stolen times, Aquarius leaves us with a staggering climax that talks about ownership and sentimentality.
56. Shoplifters | Hirokazu Kore-eda
Soothing, understated and so emotionally moving that you wouldn’t even notice when tears stream down your face, the newest film by Hirokazu Kore-eda is a humanist masterpiece. Having explored how true fatherhood doesn’t just involve a blood relation in his 2013 film “Like Father Like Son”, Kore-eda takes up the tough job of humanizing a bunch of misfit thieves by questioning the very essence of what makes a family. This is Kore-eda at his most realistically best.
Related to Best Movies of the 2010s: Every Hirokazu Kore-eda Film Ranked
55. The Wailing | Na Hong-jin
Forget about most of the inflated but substandard horror films you been served for a long time, there is nothing quite like The Wailing. It’ makes the most popular horror film series in recent times, ‘The Conjuring’ look like a school project. The Wailing is probably the best psychological horror-thriller since William Friedkin’s ‘The Exorcist (1973)’.
Na Hong-jin cleverly traverses through multiple genres with such panache. Fervently wading into themes of satanic cult and folklore that’s adorned with distinct Southeast Asian religious beliefs, the film achieves supreme genre-transcendence by cross-pollinating elements of wacky thriller and thoughtful arthouse drama.
Read the complete review of The Wailing.
54. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy| Tomas Alfredson
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy opens with Control (John Hurt), the head of British Intelligence service who always had held his suspicion in sending one of the agents – Jim Prideaux to Budapest in order to get information about the mole in “The Circus”. It might be quite difficult to keep up with the plot, as it never deigns to reveal the intricate mechanisms of an intelligence operation, and keeps dropping spy jargon quite frequently. Yet it engrosses your attention enough to do your own little research to completely comprehend the nuances of the narrative.
Adapted from the novel by the same name, John le Carré’s book which was previously adapted by BBC as a 7 episode miniseries, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of the finest espionage films ever. It is gritty, unnerving, deliberately slow-paced and has extracted restrained performances from the talented ensemble cast. Eventually, it’s most spectacular aspect is the script that’s multi-layered and so meticulously written that by the time end credits roll, you will be completely in awe of it.
Read the complete review of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
53. So Long My Son | Wang Xiaoshuai
Spanning across three decades, Wang Xiaoshuai’s epic but intimate family drama is emotional havoc. By the time you weep past the second act, the thick air of despondency and sadness fills you with insurmountable pain that won’t ease til the end. The perpetual melancholia will consume you, wretch you, such is the film. He pulls this off masterfully without a hint of melodrama or contrived nature of storytelling.
“So long, My Son” chronicles the biting journey of two families full of miseries & disappointments. The film opens with a tragedy that defines the future course of the two neighbouring families in China, at the onset of the 21st Century. One family coping with the loss of their only son and the other family carrying the terrible burden of guilt.
52. Boyhood | Richard Linklater
The first time around, I was not moved by Boyhood. I had thought of enough reasons to write-up an article of why Boyhood is an incoherent mess. It has generic coming-of-age drama narrated most lazily; the performances are quite ordinary except for Patricia Arquette; there are not enough memorable scenes that hold on to my thoughts. But watching it again made me fall in love with it. I immensely loved it for all the reasons I did not appreciate back in 2014.
The vignettes of all the ordinary & mundane events in the lives that we would overlook otherwise are patiently stitched together in this reflective piece of art. My primary complaint was the cursory examination of Mason’s character while growing up, but now I realise it is supposed to be that way. Not because life works like that, no it doesn’t, it is far complex and entangled than what it seems, and it must be true for Mason as well, but Linklater is interested to capture the spirit of growing up.
51. Frances Ha | Noah Baumbach
Oozing with the child-like infectious energy, ‘Frances Ha’ is an oddball comedy; a celebration of liveliness; a twenty-seven-year-old Frances (Greta Gerwig) caught up in an awkward situation of not growing up to accept the responsibility of adulthood. She twirls and dances her way to manage things on her – financially and socially, even after the illusion is uncovered in broad daylight.
Related to Best Movies of the 2010s: 25 Great Feminist Films You Should Watch
In the hands of any other writer, Frances could have been a hippie we would hate or laugh at, but Baumbach and Gerwig are in love with the character. And it shows. Instead of laughing at her, we cheer for her, we laugh with her. Even in the most embarrassing situation, which could be her doing, we feel sad for her, even though she doesn’t need our pity.