Revolution after revolution, the twenty-tens changed cinema’s DNA

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Some critics will tell you they don’t like making lists because they don’t believe in pitting one artistic achievement against another. This is bollocks. In a decade as rich and complicated as the one ending — a span that’s seen the #metoo movement, Oscars-So-White and the streaming wars — dynamic movies are inevitable and it’s impossible not to have favourites.

These are the finest 25 movies of the last 10 years. They’re so good, one can’t help but feel hopeful for cinema’s future.

This is probably a mistake — the economics aren’t looking good — but let’s go with it.

1. INSIDE OUT (2015) I know. Bold choice. But I’m a strong believer this Pixar classic is the smartest film made this decade. Imagine a movie portraying a young mind in flux and delivering a satisfying dramatic arc AT THE SAME TIME. In a time when originality often seems in short supply, Inside Out broke the mold and help make experimental filmmaking more mainstream.

2. MELANCHOLIA (2011) Of all apocalyptic movies, the only one tackling the havoc a cataclysmic event would wreak upon our souls is Lars Von Trier’s magnum opus. Melancholia is gorgeous without being flashy, and its thesis — that the only people who can function at the end of the world are those who are so depressed they welcome doom — is far too plausible. Von Trier should thrive in the age of climate change.

3. PARASITE (2019) I was hesitant to rank a movie that came out just a few months ago this high, but there’s something about the social critique of Parasite that sticks. Dealing with how money mutates your mindset has seldom being this funny and poignant. Parasite has so much to say about class warfare — I’ve seen it three times and still think there is more in it to unearth.

4. THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010) I had the David Fincher movie ranked way lower but realized how topical and prescient it turned out to be, not to mention entertaining. Fincher explores how Mark Zuckerberg’s sociopathic qualities helped create Facebook. Now, that same “anything goes” attitude has permeated Western democracy, courtesy of the social media tycoon who couldn’t be bothered to stop spreading fake news and hateful ideologies. Thanks, Mark!

5. THE LOBSTER (2015) Ever felt socially pressured to find a partner because — as the Mandalorian would say — “it’s the way”? Filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos made the process a biting satire in which the only thing worse than the marriage industrial complex are sadistic incels. Another film that’s gained meaning with time.

6. BEFORE MIDNIGHT (2013) Way before Marriage Story, Before Midnight gave us a realistic glimpse of a couple falling apart, with the added heartbreak of knowing them for years. The dramatic ending (or was it?) of Jesse and Celine’s epic love story was raw and fierce, and no lawyers were involved. Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke’s finest hour.

7. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013) I can appreciate Martin Scorsese’s sentimental side but America’s foremost filmmaker is never better than when he doesn’t give a shit about the morality of his characters. This is why Wolf is superior to The Irishman: it’s unapologetic in its depiction of financial gangsterism. You might feel terrible at the end, but you won’t be cheated with lies about all villains getting their comeuppance.

8. WHIPLASH (2014) Now that hockey is finally being scrutinized for racism, sexism, homophobia and abuse, it’s worth revisiting Damien Chazelle’s best drama in which a talented drummer is pushed beyond reason by a merciless instructor. The movie asks uncomfortable questions about the costs of greatness and the drawbacks of coddling.

9. FRANCES HA (2012) The power couple of Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach got started with a light comedy that captures the Millennial state of mind better than other movies have. The Frances of the title is talented and good natured, socially aware yet unable to focus. Her life goes to pieces the moment her best friend moves out, a sign of the vulnerability of a generation with fewer resources and a monstrous burden to carry. Thanks, boomers.

10. ARRIVAL (2016) The best science fiction helps us understand our present. Using a linguist’s efforts to establish a dialogue with alien visitors, Denis Villeneuve addresses mankind’s communication issues, and, at individual level, how learning a new language can reshape your mind. A brilliant twist makes this high-minded undertaking painfully real.

11. 45 YEARS (2015) Couples’ woes are sad but when there’s no time to fix them, they become tragic. The wonderfully acted 45 Years chronicles the journey of a woman (Charlotte Rampling) falling out of love with her husband upon some revelations from events decades ago. Rampling is superb at conveying disappointment, regret and anger, often without moving an eyelid.

12. THE HUNT (2012) We like Mads Mikkelsen in this magazine — so much so we interviewed him twice this year. The great Dane is at his best in this harrowing drama about a small-town kindergarten teacher whose life goes to hell when he’s wrongly accused of molesting a little girl. The Hunt goes against the grain in today’s pitchfork-happy climate, but it makes a valid point by appealing to reason over angry-mob justice.

13. EX MACHINA (2014) Singularity, or the moment machines acquire sentience, has launched hundreds of adventures but none as intimate as Alex Garland’s thriller. Ex Machina presents some provocative questions: what makes us human? Is genre a construct? Is Alicia Vikander single? Will my wife be mad when she reads this article? (Don’t know, beats me, no, and yes.)

14. HEREDITARY (2018) Inner monologue during the head scene: “I don’t like where this is going.” “He wouldn’t dare.” “HE DID IT!” “I don’t want to see that.” “I wonder if the other critics would notice if I leave.” “His mom is going to be pissed.” “At least I didn’t have to see the head.” [10 minutes later] “THAT SICK BASTARD”. continued over

15. INCEPTION (2010) While the almost religious devotion for Christopher Nolan from some corners is a bit much, the filmmaker deserves full marks for coming up with fresh narrative devices to tell a story. Inception sounds positively insane (a thief travels to a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream to implant an idea in someone’s mind), yet Nolan makes it understandable and thrilling.

The Best Of The Rest

16. SHAME (2011) Sex addiction has never being this harrowing or taken this seriously. Shame was an adult movie when there weren’t any, and it introduced the world to powerhouse filmmaker Steve McQueen.

17. DRIVE (2011) How many movies can say they’re instantly iconic? None, because movies don’t talk — but if they could, Drive would. The ’80s-tinged soundtrack, the scorpion jacket, the blue Chevy Malibu, the head stomping… great movie.

18. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (2011) Kid picks up on his mother’s resentment, goes on rampage. This movie did for parenthood what Fatal Attraction did for adultery.

19. HOLY MOTORS (2012) I spent this entire movie fending off murderous looks from my significant other. Weird, hysterical, messy. Loved every minute.

20. STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (2017) Best of the saga (including Empire). Don’t @ me.

21. ROCKETMAN (2019) This is how you make a musician’s biopic: loud, dramatic and full of creative licence.

22. CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (2017) Summer in Italy, supporting parents, first boyfriend: Armie Hammer. Coming out never look so good.

23. SKYFALL (2012) The perfect James Bond movie. Even the song is superb.

24. MONEYBALL (2011) Aaron Sorkin makes baseball and math look exciting. Bonus points for difficulty.

25. BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (2013) Sure, the director turned out to be a creep but the leads give their all to make the central relationship palpable, from the passion at the beginning to the despair at the end. A beauty.

And, finally:

THE BEST MOVIE I TOTALLY FORGOT ABOUT UNTIL MY EDITOR REMINDED ME I LOVE IT: THE FLORIDA PROJECT (2017): Sean Baker’s fresco of life in the shadows of Disneyworld nearly fell by the wayside, but it’s one of the decade’s very best films. The surreal nature of poverty in Orlando (pastel colors and daily fireworks) makes this portrait of at-risk children fun to watch, but danger lurks all the same. American cinema at its most humanistic.