We've reached the end of another decade, so how was it for you? One thing's for sure – the past 10 years have unleashed a plethora of exciting and dazzling movies that took us to places we barely imagined.
On that note, we asked our commissioned writers to elect their favourite film of the 2010s. Scroll down to discover their choices.
George Nash – Get Out
Like snapchat filters and the topknot, comedy actors turning their hand to horror has become something of a trend over the last 10 years.
From John Krasinski (director of A Quiet Place) to Danny McBride (co-writer and producer of 2018’s Halloween reboot-cum-sequel), trading in gags for jump scares has seen the line between fear and laughter draw ever closer. And few filmmakers working today have understood this better than Jordan Peele.
His 2017 debut feature, Get Out, is an incisive, fantastically twisted first foray, that works just as effectively as a straight-up chiller as it does a searing, razor-sharp race satire. Both smart and entertaining, this is a film that absolutely understands its genre, its audience and the troubled world in which they live.
With quotable, meme-worthy dialogue (“I would have voted for Obama for a third term, if I could”), a terrific central performance from British actor Daniel Kaluuya (alongside a memorable, scene-stealing turn from Lil Rel Howery) and a moment that inspired a viral running challenge, Get Out has helped lead a rather spectacular surge in horror cinema in recent years. It also put Peele firmly on the map. Bingo and bone china will never be the same again.
James Luxford – La La Land
We are just a couple of months away from the Oscars, and an unofficial annual tradition: the Oscar backlash. This is something that happens to whatever movie becomes the front runner, the favourite to be named Best Picture.
The problem is – whisper it – there’s no such thing as a ‘best’ film. Like all art, movies are subjective, and often an Oscar front runner receives hatred from not delivering on its inferred promise to be a story that everyone will love. Damien Chazelle’s La La Land suffered that fate, with early buzz raising expectations beyond anything realistic. Allow me, however, to convince you why it is much more than the film that got named Best Picture by mistake.
Set in the rolling hills of Hollywood, Chazelle presents a world where everyone is looking for their shot. Streets leap into song-and-dance routines, as people rhapsodise about how maybe, just maybe, tonight’s the night everything is going to happen for them. Harking back to the golden era of 1950’s musicals, the film’s vibrant colours and flawless soundtrack make you believe Gene Kelly might appear any moment.
Chazelle is a filmmaker who understand that cinema is an art form made of moments – whether it’s JK Simmons screaming “not my tempo” in his previous film Whiplash, or La La Land’s leads Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling falling for each other under a street light – he always delivers a scene that sticks in the mind.
That’s not to say this is all sunshine and singing. The performances of Gosling and Stone bring a reality to the Technicolor fantasy. Playing an aspiring jazz musician and actress, respectively, the pair meet quite accidentally, and find their fates intertwine. As they grow to love each other, they experience each other’s ups and downs, the triumphs and insecurities, and the compromises that come with success.
In one scene Gosling croons “is this the start of something wonderful, or just another dream I can’t make come true?” The answer is a little bit of both, as Sebastian and Mia’s careers take off they find themselves drifting apart, leading to that heart-breaking final scene where they meet eyes and we see a glorious sequence playing out showing what might have been. It’s another lifetime lived in a moment.
So, what is La La Land? A musical? A love story? A peek behind the curtain of show business? A film about jazz? It’s none of those. La La Land is a film about dreams – the ones we make, the ones we leave behind, the ones we couldn’t fulfill. It is a love letter to, as Stone puts it, “the fools who dream”, set against a backdrop where dreams are commonly, if erroneously, perceived to always come true.
Take away the jazz, take away the theatres and auditions, and this is a story of two people following their hearts. That’s something everyone can relate to, and after one of the more tumultuous decades in our history, something we could stand to see more of.
Toby Saunders – Mad Max: Fury Road
While this decade will be remembered for cinematic events such as Avengers: Endgame and the new Star Wars trilogy, I'll remember it for being the decade of reboots and long-awaited sequels.
Some have hit the spot, with films such as the new Planet of the Apes trilogy, the aforementioned Star Wars sequels, the Jurassic World movies, and the utterly fantastic Blade Runner 2049, for example, but there is one film that stands tall above the rest: Mad Max: Fury Road.
Few expected that a return to the dusty, orange-hued, post-apocalyptic environment of Mad Max would be quite so entertaining, raw and powerful. But it was. 2015 didn’t know what hit it when George Miller returned to his mad, mad world, not least with Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron taking the place of Mel Gibson.
Our return to Mad Max was as visually striking as it was emotional, encapsulated perfectly by an over-saturated landscape filled with mad, deranged characters hell-bent on causing more explosions than one could shake a stick of dynamite at. John Seale’s cinematography is arresting, dragging us through the sandstorms and sun-ravaged environments with an eye for the beautiful as well as the absurd. Junkie XL’s score accentuates the primal violence of the feminist-driven plot excellently.
Despite the emergence of exciting directorial talents such as Denis Villeneuve, Chris Miller and Phil Lord, and Matt Reeves, cinema reached its peak this decade when it turned to one of its old masters. Mad Max: Fury Road is cinema at its best: entertaining, thought-provoking, and visually breathtaking.
We came for Tom Hardy’s Max Rockatansky, we stayed, rooted for, and fought alongside Charlize Theron’s phenomenal turn as Imperator Furiosa. Oh, what a lovely day it was when Fury Road was released.
Follow Toby Saunders on Twitter.
Nadine Shambrook – The Social Network
The Social Network is one of those films that nails everything. Sure it’s ‘the Facebook film’, but it’s so much more than just a movie about social media. It’s a stylish look at the creation of a massive media corporation, and an outstanding spectacle of cinema.
The screenplay is witty, intelligent, funny, slick, and thrilling – it’s no wonder Aaron Sorkin won the Oscar. By using various legal proceedings to shape the narrative, The Social Network is able to depict different stages of Facebook’s rapid rise and the dramatic fall-outs it created, cramming a lot into two hours without it feeling too long. It’s also an incredibly quotable script (“Drop the ‘the’. Just "Facebook”).
Trent Reznor, of Nine Inch Nails fame, and Atticus Ross teamed up to create the moody score, which perfectly captures the intelligence of Mark Zuckerberg, as well as his arrogance and the conniving nature that informed the creation of social networking as we know it. That re-recording of In The Hall of Mountain King during the boat race scene still sends shivers down my spine.
Every single actor including Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, Justin Timberlake, Max Minghella and, in a small but impactful role, Rooney Mara, is on top form. Since The Social Network, they’ve all gone on to other great things but they’ll always be remembered for this in particular. There’s a reason David Fincher is considered one of the best directors in the business, and The Social Network is proof of that.
As you can see, every aspect of the film is commendable. It’s a pitch perfect modern classic that deserved every ounce of praise and admiration. Even if I don’t use Facebook as much as I did 10 years ago, The Social Network still remains one of my favourite movies.
Follow Nadine Shambrook on Twitter.
Andy Murray – The Witch
From mainstream blockbusters such as The Conjuring and A Quiet Place to breakout indie gems such as Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Ari Aster’s Hereditary, the past decade has been a treasure-trove of devilish delights for horror fans such as myself. But as much as I adore each of these films for their own reasons, my film of the decade is Robert Eggers’ feature debut The Witch.
Set in 1630s New England, The Witch follows a Puritan family of English settlers (Anya Taylor-Joy in her feature debut, Kate Dickie, Ralph Ineson and Harvey Scrimshaw) who, after being banished from their colony, find themselves struggling to forge a new life for themselves on the edge of a very foreboding forest.
Even worse, their new neighbour happens to be a witch who, unbeknownst to the family, kidnaps their new-born child and torments them, setting each member against each other as their paranoia fuelled by religious and superstitious belief sets in.
Unlike most mainstream horror outings, Eggers’s film ignores conventional jump scare tactics – save two at the end that you’ll never see coming – and goes all-out in creating an atmosphere of unadulterated dread that gradually tightens its grip on us as events grow more intense.
Through the bleak colour palette of Jarin Blaschke’s cinematography, the slow and steady editing, and a host of genuinely disturbing imagery (the raven scene, anyone?), there’s a constant sensation of uneasiness embedded in the film, and with it the witch’s ominous presence is felt in every frame.
Plenty of praise must also be awarded to Mark Korven’s eerie score (this is guided by my love of film music), which sets the tone for what’s to come from the outset. Achieved by using a variety of unique instruments including a nyckleharpa, waterphone, and the Apprehension Engine, Korven’s own creation, the music provides a soundscape that’s as fascinating as it is chilling.
Although a terrifying, baby-killing monster lurks in the woods, the true horror of The Witch doesn’t come from that. It comes from its ability to suck us into this family’s descent into grief, paranoia and fear, with something new to discover on each subsequent viewing. And if what critics are saying is true about Eggers’s next project, then The Lighthouse could possibly be my favourite film of the next decade.
Follow Andy Murray on Twitter.
Jon Fuge – Arrival
Giant, monolithic space craft enter Earth’s atmosphere and plummet down to the ground before stopping suddenly, and silently hovering just above the planet’s surface.
Director Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival is a modern day throwback to thinking person’s science fiction. Standing alongside the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Arrival does not need space battles or laser swords in order to thrill you, instead filling your head with nuanced spectacle and heady themes.
The eerie atmosphere that gently shrouds the film never lets up, as we follow Amy Adams’ expert linguist, Louise Banks, as she attempts to uncover the mystery of these alien visitors. As mankind teeters on the brink of global war, it is a race against time to find answers, leading Banks to a solution that could threaten both her life and humanity itself.
Arrival delivers not only a must-see cinematic experience, but also a career-best performance from Adams, who anchors the lofty ideas with a very grounded, nuanced portrayal. The less you know going into the film, the better, but rest assured you will not regret committing to Villeneuve’s unique vision, as he proves unequivocally that he is nothing less than a master of filmmaking.
Follow Jon Fuge on Twitter.
Freda Cooper – Whiplash
The last 10 years of cinema have included Carol, A Ghost Story, The Master and Phantom Thread, and that’s barely scratching the surface. So how on earth do you choose one single movie from a decade’s worth of them?
When a film prompts such an overwhelming reaction, one that’s still as fresh in your memory as when it happened five years ago, it’s close to being a no-brainer. After this one, I emerged from the cinema feeling like I was walking six feet off the ground. It’s Whiplash.
Damien Chazelle’s scintillating drama was a bolt from the blue, the story of an obsessive drummer (Miles Teller) who literally bleeds and sweats over his cymbals, and his equally obsessive teacher (Oscar-winning J.K. Simmons) with a chair-throwing habit and an off-the-scale gift for invective. Coupled with a narrative that moves at whip-cracking speed, never missing a beat or wasting a moment, it’s an adrenaline-pumping drama that, for me, is still the closest you’ll get to a legal high on the big screen.
It also introduced us to Chazelle’s extraordinary camera and editing skills, flitting from one scene to another, often with the rhythm of a metronome, delivering something that doesn’t just help tell the story, but embellishes it and dazzles all at the same time.
Equally crucial to the film’s success were the two central performances. Miles Teller has never been better, playing the arrogant, obsessive student who somehow still manages to get our sympathy. But this was J.K. Simmons’s show.
For years he’d been “that guy” on the big and small screen, always delivering strong performances but never getting the recognition he deserved – until this role which, to use his own words, turned him into “an overnight sensation at 60”. A bully in black, hell bent on perfection, there were fleeting glimpses of humanity in a performance that made the screen positively crackle with electricity.
Chazelle did way, way more than just a "good job". Whiplash was – and is – blood, sweat, tears and 100% adrenaline.
Sarah Buddery – Mad Max: Fury Road
For many, this will have been their first foray into the wild world of Mad Max. However, it is still considered to be a sequel to the original Mel Gibson trilogy of the 1980s and, of course, it still had legendary director George Miller back at the helm.
Those who have seen the previous films may have a little more context, but for the newcomers, this is a film that catapults you headfirst into the hellish landscapes and sends you on an adrenaline-fuelled, full throttle descent into madness.
Not just the best film of the decade, Fury Road is perhaps also one of the best action films ever. Packed with memorable set pieces, and with a stunningly saturated aesthetic, Miller's epic is a truly remarkable feat in filmmaking. It may have style in abundance, but it also has a lot of substance, particularly regarding the Furiosa character.
Played by Charlize Theron, Furiosa is a true badass and feminist icon, and while the film bears Max’s name, this is definitely her film, and it is all the stronger for that. With a hotly anticipated sequel on the horizon, there are certainly huge shoes to fill.
Robb Sheppard – Inception
In the wake of the resounding success of 2008’s The Dark Knight, the announcement of an original big budget film both written and directed by Christopher Nolan, certainly felt like a flex. In the wake of his enormous commercial and critical success, Nolan now had carte blanche.
Inception marked a return to the non-linear narrative of Memento, which made the director’s name, as well as exploring the ideas of memory manipulation which have long been a staple of his work.
The notion of cerebral spies who are able to extract, or in this case, implant, memories felt akin to being tag-teamed by both James Bond and David Blaine at the same time. The idea of a ‘kick’ being needed to awaken the dreamer immediately rang true with anyone who has ever dreamt about falling, only to wake up right before hitting the floor. Add to that a hefty helping of unresolved daddy issues and a relationship built on regret, and most of the audience had an ‘in’.
Inception features some of the most enticing aesthetics in cinema, featuring a city concisely folding in on itself, a derailed freight train ploughing through lines of queuing cars and the zero-gravity fist fight that takes place in a revolving hotel corridor.
Each of these scenes not only stands up a full decade later but serves as a reminder that there is a balance between CGI and practical effects that can yield some staggering results.
In terms of its soundscape, Hans Zimmer brought the ‘braaams’ to the score. This triumphant timbre has been used again and again in Inception’s aftermath, signifying everything from superhero smackdowns to X-Factor Finales. Inception served to cement Zimmer’s sound as his own.
Interestingly, the sense of loss, guilt and uncertainty found in Leonardo DiCaprio’s central character Dominic Cobb was further explored in fellow 2010 movie Shutter Island, directed by Martin Scorsese. At least in Inception, Leo had Nolan regulars Ken Watanabe, Michael Caine and Cillian Murphy to help him weather the storm.
Sure, like most of Nolan’s movies, there’s something which doesn’t quite connect in an emotional sense and the timing of the van falling from the bridge is most dubious, but the ending invites debate long after the film has finished, and invites repeated re-watches.
Which sounds like a good idea right about now…
Hannah Dixon – Frozen
Walt Disney Animation Studios have released a number of incredible films over the last decade, but none have made quite as big an impact as Frozen.
Released in winter 2013, it became a cultural phenomenon beyond anyone’s wildest expectations and, fan or not, we defy you not to sing along with ‘Let It Go’ whenever it plays on the radio. Frozen depicts the relationship between Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) – two sisters whose close childhood bond was broken due to Elsa’s magical powers. Years later when Elsa’s powers are revealed and put their kingdom in grave danger, Anna sets out on a quest to save both Arendelle and her estranged sister.
The most important lesson to take from the film: true love is the greatest weapon of all. We adore that it’s not the love of Kristoff that ultimately saves Anna, but her own love for sister. It’s not the first Disney animated hit to showcase family relationships over romance – the likes of Lilo and Stitch have also portrayed this wonderfully – but it was Frozen which seems to have had the biggest impact, going on to make more than $1 billion worldwide and gaining a sequel plus two animated shorts.
As well as the two sisters, Frozen also has great supporting characters in the form of Olaf, the naive talking snowman voiced by Beauty and the Beast’s Josh Gad and Kristoff, a cynical iceman voiced by Jonathan Groff (Hamilton; Mindhunter). The incredible cast, important message and incredibly catchy songs make it an unmissable film of the last ten years.
For what it’s worth, Frozen 2, which hit Cineworld screens just last month, is just as worthy as its predecessor of a place on this list. We still can’t get ‘Lost in the Woods’ out of our head.
Follow Hannah Dixon on Twitter.
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