Being born in nineteen-eighty I remember a time when decades had their own personality. The eighties are easily and fondly recognised by their fashions, films, music and more, as are the nineties. The turn of the millennium seemed to kill off the notion of definable decades though. People tried in vain to keep the trend going with the awfully named noughties, yet things that seemed to define all prior decades began to disappear. Trends and movements vanished as a sort of social standardisation took hold.
Some uninspired sap named our current decade the twenty-tens, a moniker so lacklustre I didn’t even notice the decade was coming to an end until a work colleague pointed it out last week. Fortunately for films fans, whilst most other aspects of life continued to settle in to a homogenous groove, cinemas were still chock-full of amazing movies.
So in the style of what we use to call a top forty countdown, here are FilmsFilmsFilms best movies from the last decade. Are they our favourites or are they those that were considered the best movies made in the era? Our list is a blend of both, but even then it was tough to compile, with brilliant films like Ladybird (2017), Dredd (2012), BlacKkKlansman (2018), The World’s End (2013), Logan (2017), The Imitation Game (2014), Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014), Dunkirk (2017), Get Out (2017), The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) and others just missing out on the list. Here’s hoping the next ten years delivers just as many delights; but for the love of popcorn, please someone come up with a better name than the twenty-twenties.
40. THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010)
The internet used to be a small nicety in life; now life is propped up by the web like a vital load bearing wall. It shows just how fast the world moves looking back on a recent film exploring the birth of one of the internet’s biggest websites only to realise the website itself is now considered old hat. The story behind Facebook’s creation is still a fascinating one though, acted by a crop of 2010’s freshest faces on the verge of making it to the Hollywood A-list.
39. THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (2012)
It’s a slight shame that the Hobbit films weren’t shot before the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The story of a gang of dwarves and a hobbit heading off to slay a single dragon and reclaim some treasure filled caves will always be small fries when compared to the all-out war of the Rings films. But even so, all the brilliant filmmaking Peter Jackson brought to bear on his first three Middle Earth outings is repeated here. And that includes casting choices; his Hobbit ensemble more than match his Rings cast, and it’s the first of the three Hobbit films where they shine the most.
38. FOUR LIONS (2010)
If there’s one thing that sadly did define the first two decades of the twenty-first century its terrorist attacks. No country was safe it seemed and no one seemed to understand what point these murderous fanatics were trying to make. It was a brave move then to create a comedy film centred on a budding but amateurish terrorist cell in Sheffield. But if anyone could achieve it, it was writer and director Chris Morris, the genius behind such dark comedic treats as The Day Today and Brass Eye. His Four Lions became one of the best comedies of the decade.
37. THE KING’S SPEECH (2010)
A good number of the historical dramas the Academy get their knickers in a twist about each year aren’t actually as good as they think they are. They do occasionally get it right though, and the Best Picture winner in 2011 was a worthy winner. No doubt Cats (2019) director Tom Hooper will be popping his copy of The Kings Speech in to his dvd player this new year to remind himself of happier times, and to relive the decades best duet, the brilliant back and forth between Colin Firth’s King George VI and Geoffrey Rush’s Lionel Logue, ‘I don’t care how many arseholes have sat in this chair’.
36. THE IRISHMAN (2019)
We recently gave Martin Scorsese a bit of grief for his grumpy old man turn in giving the marvellous Marvel movies an undeserved kicking. We can’t stay angry at Marty though, not when he’s still delivering movies of the quality of The Irishman, the story of union boss Jimmy Hoffa and his "fixer" Frank Sheeran, fifty-two years after his directorial debut. It was a real coup that he managed to reunite his winning team of Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro, with Pesci initially turning the director down over and over again. He also managed to add fellow legend Al Pacino to the cast. If that wasn't enough the brilliant British actor Stephen Graham got to the chance to show he could more than hold his own against these acting giants.
35. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012)
That The Dark Knight (2008) was pretty much a perfect movie doesn’t do the third part in Nolan’s Batman trilogy many favours; its mistakes stand out all the more, particularly the mishandling of its otherwise excellent villain Bane in the climatic showdown. Even so Rises is still a fantastic movie, upping the scale of threat to a Gotham-wide conundrum much more effectively that Batman Begins (2005) did. Bale was also able to give his Bruce Wayne the send-off he deserved, and the final scenes rightfully came down to the brilliant relationship he forged with Michael Caine’s Alfred, the unsung hero of the entire three film arc.
34. ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012)
There was no shame in Zero Dark Thirty losing out to Argo at the 85th Academy Awards but Kathryn Bigelow’s movie would have been a worthy winner as well. Her telling of the decade long manhunt for Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was one of the most gripping thrillers of the decade. It also gave Jessica Chastain the role of a lifetime, one that she used to claim her spot as one of the best actresses on the planet. In fact the film would have been higher up our list if it wasn't for the factual inaccuracies that have now been revealed in the way the US extracted information on Al Queda from those held captive; see the equally brilliant The Report (2019) for the full story on that point.
33. TOY STORY 3 (2010)
If a franchise earns serious box office dollars it’s almost required that the story be turned in to a trilogy. Whether the adventures of Woody and Buzz Lightyear were envisioned as a three part plot when Toy Story (1995) was released, it’s highly doubtful. Even so, director Lee Unkrich did a great job stepping in to John Lasseter’s shoes and making Toy Story 3 feel like it was the end point of the story all along, helped immensely by that touching final scene with Andy and Bonnie.
32. BOYHOOD (2013)
Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is one of the finest achievements in all of cinema. When filming began in 2001 the writer / director had no idea whether his cast and crew were still going to be fit and able when he regrouped twice more in years to come, or if the studio would pull funding on his project and some point during its creation. That he brought all the pieces together so well in 2013 to create one of the most touchingly real stories on the pangs and pains of growing up is a work of moviemaking genius.
31. ARGO (2012)
Hollywood has never let a true representation of the facts get in the way of a good story, and writer Chris Terrio and director Ben Affleck certainly didn’t let historical accuracy spoil their plans for a solid thriller movie. Flexibility with the truth aside, Argo was one of the best and most tense films of the decade, telling the rescue of six US diplomats by a fake film crew with enough flair and style to earn a deserved Best Picture Academy Award.
30. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)
With the furore caused by The Last Jedi and Rise of Skywalker, people have already forgotten what a fantastic blockbuster The Force Awakens was. Leaving aside the fact it was a thinly veiled A New Hope remake, J.J. Abrams managed to introduce a raft of new characters that were able to hold their own against the much anticipated return of such beloved favourites as Han Solo, Princess Leia and Chewbacca. No mean feat at all, but it makes their slight mishandling since doubly disappointing.
29. INSIDE OUT (2015)
Expectations for animated children’s movies are often quite low; it doesn’t take much to entertain a child full of e-numbers for ninety minutes. It’s a wonder then that films like Inside Out actually exist, movies where the creators took the time and effort to create something touching, insightful, and entertaining for all. Pete Docter’s film brilliant realised the inner emotions of a young teen girl, perfectly captured with more than enough heart and humour than most adult fare from the last decade.
28. EASY A (2010)
It doesn’t always take a billion dollar blockbuster, a stirring historical drama, or a super tense thriller to capture plaudits; a simple teen comedy drama can work just as well, though they often have to go the extra mile just to be heard. That’s exactly what Will Gluck’s Easy A did, though the lion share of the credit should go to Emma Stone for her brilliant performance as Olive, a high school girl who embraces an unfounded reputation for promiscuity for financial gain, ‘I could have chlamydia. I have been ... whoring around a lot’.
27. THE FIGHTER (2010)
Cementing his reputation as perhaps this generation’s greatest actor, the performance of the decade could well go to Christian Bale for his Dicky Eklund, older brother and former boxing great to Mark Wahlberg’s struggling fighter Mickey Ward. That the rest of the cast of David O Russell's The Fighter, including the aforementioned Wahlberg, Melissa Leo, Amy Adams, and Jack McGee, manage to keep pace with Bale makes for the best sports drama of the last decade by some considerable distance.
26. THE LEGO MOVIE (2014)
Many film fans expected a lazy cash in when they heard that Lego were taking their toy brand to the big screen. Lego and Warner could have produced just that and it would have still turned a profit, but to be fair to them they put together a movie that had more laughs, more heart, and more intriguing twists than a years worth of Disney movies combined. It also included the most catchy theme song in the history of cinema, which may or may not be a good thing.
25. SICARIO (2015)
The best antidote to the Hollywood happy ending is currently director Denis Villeneuve. His films to date have followed very untypical paths and his Sicario is no different. It’s intriguingly tough to pin down who the central protagonist is as the story swings between Emily Blunt’s FBI agent, Josh Brolin’s CIA agent and Benicio Del Toro’s mercenary, as the trio are enlisted as part of task force to tackle a powerful Mexican drug cartel. Tense, morally ambiguous, dusty, and grubby, Villeneuve's movie was a surprise hit in 2015, enough that an oddly named sequel, Sicario 2: Day of Soldado (2018), was quickly commissioned.
24. IT (2017)
The nineteen-eighties were once a much maligned decade, but enough time has now passed that people have forgotten about shoulder pads, Moonwalker (1988), and Milli Vanilli. Of all the art to revel in the renewed love for the decade director Andy Muschietti's It adaptation stands near the top of the pile. The best child ensemble cast this side of The Goonies (1985) was the winning stroke, as the adult cast of the disappointing It: Chapter Two (2019) showed.
23. THE BIG SHORT (2015)
It takes some doing to make an entertaining film about the 2008 financial crisis. Even though it affected nearly all of the western world in ways we’re still feeling today, and even though those behind it were utter bastards of the highest order, it was still a tricky sell for a movie script. Full credit writer / director Adam McKay for pulling it off though. His The Big Short not only made the whole debacle much easier to understand it produced two fantastic performances from Steve Carrell and Christian Bale.
22. JOHN WICK (2014)
In an age of complex plots and clever twists John Wick arrived as the sublimely simple movie action-fans had been hankering for. In his directorial debut, former stuntman Chad Stahelski introduces us to Wick, a recently widowed former hitman who seeks revenge after his pet dog is killed and his favourite car is stolen. The fight scenes are raw, the gun-play is hard hitting, and Keanu Reeves is phenomenal as the man-of-few-words Wick, with the entirely believable reputation as the scariest, toughest, most dangerous hitman ever to take a life. A huge box office quickly amassed and a new Hollywood franchise was born.
21. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (2017)
Writer and director Martin McDonagh hasn’t had the most prolific career to date (just four films since his debut in 2004), but his Three Billboards was one of, if not the, best movie of 2017. Inspired by a series of billboards he saw in Vidor Texas in 1998 alleging an unsolved murder, the film follows Mildred Hayes and her ongoing push for justice for her raped and murdered daughter. More of a dark comedy than most viewers expected, McDonagh inspired some of the best performances of the decade from his cast, including Frances McDormand, Peter Dinklage, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell all on career best form.
20. DRIVE (2011)
Ryan Gosling had been quietly delivering superb acting performances for a few years, receiving a barely noticed Academy Award nomination for Lars and the Real Girl (2007), but it was Nicholas Winding Refn’s icy cool Drive which brought Gosling to the attention of most movie fans. Gosling plays The Driver, a stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver. A hushed romance between Carey Mulligan’s Irene and one of the best soundtracks of the decade from Cliff Martinez added to Refn’s stylised direction to create a brilliant piece of movie making.
19. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)
It was assumed that Fury Road was the sort of movie Hollywood would never take a risk on anymore. It was also assumed that original Mad Max (1979) writer and director George Miller had long given up his dusty Australian biker leathers, swapped for the cosy offerings of Babe (1995) and Happy Feet (2006). How happy film fans were in 2015 to find out they were wrong on both counts. Fury Road was a balmy, frenetic, glorious runaway freight train of a movie. It would take multiple viewings to appreciate everything the movie offered up visually, let alone the subtleties of Max’s continuing story as he joins forces with the enigmatic Furiosa (an excellent Charlize Theron) to escape the clutches of mad cult leader Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who previously played Toecutter in Mad Max).
18. RUSH (2013)
It says a lot about Peter Morgan’s writing, Ron Howard’s directing, and the performances of Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl that despite the animosity of their on-track clashes you really want Nikki Lauda and James Hunt to hug and make up during most of Rush. They don’t go that far, but two of Rush’s finest scenes see Hunt beat the shit out of an obnoxious journalist who berates Lauda for his burnt features, and sees the two drivers finally share their respect for each other just before the credits roll. The rest of Rush is equally gripping and touching.
17. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER VERSE (2018)
Competition for the best Marvel movie of the decade was incredibly fierce. When Into The Spider Verse arrived in early December 2018 it was expected to be a simple kids animation for the Christmas period; how wrong we were. The film’s unique art style gave it a look rarely seen in blockbuster movies and one that was a joy to watch. The story was also an unforeseen delight, featuring a host of different Spidermen pulled in to one universe by Kingpin’s super-collider weapon. Genuine laughs and genuine heart were woven in to the script effortlessly to create one of the most unexpectedly brilliant films of the decade.
16. INCEPTION (2010)
When Inception arrived at the start of the decade it was a visual stunner, lighting up audience eyeballs as we followed Leonardo DiCaprio’s thief for hire, his unique method being the theft of information from a target’s subconscious. Cue topsy-turvy trips through bending twisting mindscapes and folding panoramas. It was as if director Christopher Nolan had hired MC Escher to head-up his visual effects department. A decade later the impact of the effects have dulled a little, but this only helps the brilliant story and Nolan’s top notch cast stand out even more.
15. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014)
It didn’t seem possible to top the Stewart / McKellen casting of the original X-Men films, but Matthew Vaughn did it. His James McAvoy / Michael Fassbender duo matched their elder counterparts. Achieving the seemingly impossible director Bryan Singer used one of the best Uncanny X-Men comic storylines to bring both sets of casts together. Wisely, he switched focus from Shadowcat to Wolverine, ensuring the most charismatic X-Man of all, Hugh Jackman, could lead the way. The result was the best X-Men movie seen to date. Tragic, action packed, touching, and funny, it also finally gave the long-suffering Logan the happy ending everyone wanted for him.
14. SPOTLIGHT (2015)
Perhaps the most important film of the decade, Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight rightly won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2016. Many were doubtful whether it would triumph though, given the kicking it gave the Catholic church, its plot detailing the Boston Globe’s 2003 investigation in to the endemic abuse of children within the church and the insidious lengths the church went to in covering it up. One of the decade’s best ensemble casts wisely jettisoned scenery chewing and let the facts speak for themselves, none more so than the final credits reveal of just how bad the problem of child abuse in the church really is.
13. SKYFALL (2012)
After twenty-two films there didn’t seem much more to say about Britain’s top spy. Sam Mendes thought so to, so finally took the bold step of digging in to James Bond’s past. We subsequently get more backstory on Bond than we’ve ever had before, and it makes for fascinating viewing. 007 is only as good as his villain and his Bong girl though, and in Skyfall he had two of the best. Javier Bardem was equal parts jester and psycho, making for the best Bond baddie since Blofeld debuted, while Judi Dench is the unconventional Bond girl. Mendes changed the rule book further by ditching the happy ending. The result was the brilliant Bond instalment the hardworking Daniel Craig deserved.
12. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016)
In 2016 director Gareth Edwards showed Abrams and Johnson what could be achieved when the obsession with the Skywalker saga is ditched. Some questioned whether the Star Wars universe could carry a purely dramatic story, and Rogue One was the inspired response. A throwaway line from A New Hope, ‘Many Bothans died to bring us this information’, was the plot catalyst as Edwards details the Rebel struggle to steal the plans for the planet killing Death Star. Rogue One flows like a true war movie, including all the heart wrenching sacrifice you’d expect from a conflict as large as the Empire versus the Rebellion. Finally in the Star Wars universe there were real consequences to all the laser driven chaos and starship battles.
11. EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014)
Much like The Matrix (1999) before it there was little fanfare or expectation around Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow. Movie fans caught on quick though, and Edge of Tomorrow became one of the biggest science fiction action movies of the decade. Based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need Is Kill, we follow Tom Cruise’s arrogant Army public relations officer William Cage as he is unceremoniously dumped on the front lines of a war against invading alien forces. Lasting all of a few minutes, the inexperienced Cage then discovers he is stuck in a time loop, forced to relieve the battle over and over. An ingenious concept, Cruise is at his watchable best, superbly supported by Emily Blunt and Bill Paxton, the latter almost stealing the show in a supporting role that reminds us why he will be forever missed.
10. THE RAID (2011)
The best action film of the decade was intriguingly a Welsh-Indonesian production, with director Gareth Evans heading to Indonesia to film his script following an elite police squad battling up the floors of a high-rise tower block to take out a drug cartel. A kinetic whirlwind of fantastic set-pieces flows from start to finish, so intense that in lesser hands The Raid would just be a muddle of bullets and shattered plaster. But Evans marshals events with a sure hand and the result is a movie is that is pure rocket-fuelled entertainment.
9. JOKER (2019)
Its impossible to call Joker a fun watch. Todd Phillips picture is a harrowing and depressing two hours spent in the company of a man struggling to cope with his mental afflictions, issues not helped by a world whose empathy tank is running on fumes. It’s a vital watch though, one of the absolute must see movies not just of this decade, but of every other decade to. Joaquin Phoenix’s considerable acting talent is no secret, but even those familiar with his past successes were taken aback by just how magnificent he was throughout Joker. He ensures that the dangerous questions the Joker asks of the modern world are handled sensitively and with a mind to thinking his Arthur Fleck might actually have a point.
8. BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)
Halloween (2007), The Wicker Man (2006), Rollerball (2002), The Sting II (1983), King Kong (1976), Staying Alive (1983), Dumb & Dumber To (2014); if there’s one steadfast Hollywood rule its that you don’t mess with a classic. Blade Runner (1982) fans were understandably jittery when they heard that their beloved movie was getting a sequel. It was a minor miracle then that Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 not only treated its predecessor with respect, but was a superb movie in its own right. Intriguing, visually arresting, touching, 2049 earns a spot in that ultra exclusive club; sequels that match the brilliance of their originator.
7. IT FOLLOWS (2014)
It’s a proven trend that when there’s strife in the wider world horror films find a welcome home on the big screen. The past decade saw a number of successes in the genre, It (2017), Halloween (2018), Get Out (2017), Hereditary (2018), The Babadook (2014), Let Me In (2010), The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) but the best horror film of the past ten years belongs to David Robert Mitchell. Taking the concept of sex-equals-death that has long been an idiom of the genre, It Follows is a genuinely chilling allegory, advocating that knickers are best kept on and penises are best kept firmly in pants. Ambiguity over the films era and ending, a brilliant soundtrack by Disasterpiece, and a cast of relative unknowns performing their hearts out all ensure that it’s horror movie immortality for Mitchell.
6. DEADPOOL (2016)
As enjoyable as all the Marvel and X-Men movies were, they really needed a comedic antidote to poke good-natured fun at all the sub-genre traits that Ironman and his cohorts birthed. Step forward Ryan Reynolds. Seeking to make up for his failed Wade Wilson appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), test footage of his fourth-walk breaking take on the Merc with the Mouth “leaked” online in 2014 to much furore. Cautiously cashing in, 20th Century Fox gave director Tim Miller a middling $58million budget, then waltzed away with $782million in profits as Reynolds and Miller put together the best comedy of the decade. A million memes and endlessly quotable dialogue flooded the media-sphere, whilst Reynolds and comic fans finally got the Deadpool they both dreamed of.
5. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013)
Just behind Deadpool in the comedy of the decade battle was Martin Scorsese’s scorching ode to eighties excess, the true story of dodgy Wall Street stockbroker Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street. A sweary, drug-fuelled, sex romp of a comedy-drama, you wonder how much of what is seen on screen actually happened in real life and how much was exaggerated in order to tell Belfort's story in an entertaining way. Whatever the truth of it all, it makes for an amazing watch and a stunning performance by Leonardo Di Caprio in the title role. The Academy were unimpressed by all the debauchery though and Scorsese’s movie missed out on all of the Oscars it was nominated for.
4. NIGHTCRAWLER (2014)
Another movie that was not just one of the best films of the decade, but one of the best all time was Dan Gilroy’s macabre study of the underbelly of amateur Los Angeles news reporting Nightcrawler. Jake Gyllenhaal is at his career best as Louis Bloom, a man with few resources and few skills, desperate to fight his way in to the world of on-site news journalism. His one talent he discovers is a lack of conscience when it comes to filming what most others would deem unethical. Bloom is a masterpiece of a creation, naïvely child like one moment, sinister and psychotic the next, Gilroy builds a greasy, neon-lit Los Angeles around him, equally lacking in humanity but equally fascinating to behold. Rene Russo spars superbly with Gyllenhaal and the much missed Bill Paxton provides one of his last great performances also.
3. INTERSTELLAR (2014)
Its rare that a film gets made that only gets more relevant as time moves on, but Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar will sadly become more prescient in the future. Matthew McConaughey found a career groove early in the decade whereby he now doesn’t know how to deliver a bad performance, and his Joseph Cooper is one of the stand out acting displays of the decade. As with all Nolan films, acting support around him is equally superb, as his Cooper leaves an environmentally knackered Earth in search of a planet that can save humanity. Matching the acting brilliance with visual brilliance, the space effects which, thanks to input from theoretical physicist Kip Thorn, finally showed a real version of space on the big screen. And what a wonder it was to see.
2. THE GUEST (2014)
It may have slipped by many film fans but Adam Wingard’s The Guest was one of the best films seen in many a year. Defining the film’s genre is difficult; what starts as a dramatic, bittersweet story about a fallen war comrade, starts to stray in to buddy comedy mode, before those background notes of tension clamber forward for the thrilling, eighties slasher style climax. The best soundtrack of the decade was compiled by Steve Moore, while Maika Monroe added yet another superb heroine to her growing resume. It was Dan Stevens who stole the show though, almost unrecognisable from his stint on Downton Abbey. His David should be the villain but, like the Peterson family he moves in with claiming to be the Army buddy of their recently deceased son, it’s impossible not to be drawn in by his intense personality. A movie that is crying out for a sequel, but is sadly unlikely to get one.
1. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR / ENDGAME (2018 / 2019)
There could have easily been a handful of Marvel movies on our top forty list, Ant-Man (2015), Guardians of Galaxy (2014), Thor Ragnarok (2017), Black Panther (2018), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). But standing on the shoulders of giants is the Russo Brothers Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. Following on from so many action packed instalments, Infinity War and Endgame were able to revel in the interplay between its sizeable cast of enigmatic characters, all of whom we have grown to love over the past few years. The result was the perfect combination between a million dollar Hollywood blockbuster, a caper film with sparkling dialogue, and a touching character study on loss, sacrifice and family. And thanks to the Thanos finger snap it had one of the best gasp-inducing moments in all of cinema. The only down side is that’s it’s unlikely that Marvel Studios will ever top these masterpieces of popular cinema; but at least Steve Rogers finally got that well-earned dance with the gorgeous Peggy Carter, and as cinematic full-stops go, that’s as perfect as it gets.