• Adam Johnson

My "Best Films of the 2010s" List

Updated: Jan 3, 2020

Hey, everyone!

I kind of disappeared there for a while, huh? Let you hanging with some promised futures? Let's just roll with it.

Somehow it's already the end of the decade. Science tells me that it's because the Earth has made its rotation around the Sun ten times already, but my mind tells me that time flew because I didn't do as Robin Williams (RIP) said and "Carpe Diem!" as much as I should have from January 1, 2010, to now.

These things happen. So do movies!

And all the cool cats have been listing their favorite films of this decade. I went back and forth about whether I should do this before seeing Twin Peaks: The Return, Marriage Story, Little Women, Ex Machina, Cats, or Nightcrawler - all some of many cinematic projects that I am confident have a fighting chance of landing on this list - but I also figure that there are many hidden gems that I would neglect all the same, even if I did see those five. 2010 is kind of a Blindspot City, to be quite honest, but 2017 was also one of my favorite years in movies, which I want to talk about.

This list just represents a celebration of the 50 films that stood out most to me. After all, this is the decade I started blogging about film, and ever since then, my film literacy and tastes have developed. As I continue to evolve those things, this list could radically change in two years - films would drop, films would be added, placement switched around - but these are films still worth talking about.

So for one last 2019 hurrah, these are my 50 films of the decade with select brief explanations. You all have lives and New Year's parties to get to, after all, and I don't want to keep you. Please share your picks in the comments, or with me on Facebook or Twitter! Let's get started!

Honorable Mentions: IT (2017), Searching (2018), Wonder Woman (2017), Deadpool (2016), Sing Street (2016), Crimson Peak (2015), Puss in Boots (2011), Short Term 12 (2013), Hecho en Mexico (2013), Thoroughbreds (2018)

50. mother! (2017)

Darren Aronofsky's latest film is more statement than story, but its disturbing twist on the Biblical narrative makes an unforgettable point about some Americans' use of religion to shirk stewardship.

49. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

48. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

47. Hereditary (2018)

46. Begin Again (2017)

45. Under the Skin (2013)

While it does lose steam towards the end, Jonathan Glazer and Scarlett Johansson collaborated to produce one of the most unforgettable science fiction horror films I've ever seen. Hypnotic in its construction, haunting in its meaning, and shocking and stunning in its visuals, Under the Skin speaks strong themes without much dialogue or explicit explanation.

44. I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017)

43. Inception (2010)

42. Her (2013)

41. Birdman (2014)

40. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

This has one of my favorite final shots: Jessica Chastain, alone on the plane, cries, saying everything about the film, her character, and the events they are based on.

39. Jafar Panahi's Taxi (2015)

38. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

37. Silence (2016)

36. John Wick (2014)

35. Coco (2017)

34. Black Panther (2018)

33. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

It can be said that not much happens besides action set-pieces and driving in a circle, which would be partially true. Yet somehow, George Miller gave us some of the best in action and dystopian cinema this decade, all in a simple yet breathless story about humanity.

32. Us (2019)

31. Avengers: Endgame (2019)

30. A Hidden Life (2019)

29. Paterson (2016)

28. The Florida Project (2017)

27. First Reformed (2017)

26. Wild Rose (2019)

25. Baahubali: The Beginning (2015)

The chances are you've never seen a film like this before, and if cinema is not merciful, we may never see a film like this again. Part Lord of the Rings-style epic, part musical, part romance, part Infinity War, and the rest a very David S. Pumpkins "His Own Thang" kind of a thing, Baahubali blew my mind, even with visual effects that aren't quite pristine. That doesn't matter. We don't get anything like this in American cinema, and that, dear friends, is a darn shame.

24. The Muppets (2011)

23. Game Night (2018)

22. Logan (2017)

21. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

20. The Irishman (2019)

Martin Scorsese's gargantuan gangster epic is and feels like 3.5 hours, but it never feels like a chore to get through. Even with de-aging effects that can be distracting, the script, direction, and performances never falter. Pacino, De Niro, and Pesci of course give it their all, but the daughter character, played at different ages by Lucy Gallina and Anna Paquin, is what you can never shake, and only by the look in her eyes. It's never just a gangster picture with a master like Scorsese, and the final half-hour dares to look at the seemingly important events of Jimmy Hoffa's disappearance through the lens of eternity. Perhaps recency bias is why it's up so high on this list, but I cannot imagine it being much lower.

19. The Babadook (2014)

18. Frozen II (2019)

17. Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

16. Midsommar (2019)

15. A Separation (2011)

14. La La Land (2016)

13. Doctor Sleep (2019)

12. Moana (2016)

11. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

10. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

While The Last Jedi is by all means a fantastic and gorgeous Star Wars adventure, it's elevated by an introspective approach in the spirit of Empire and by unexpected choices that makes sense for and develops the characters. What I love most about it is that it most understands the story George Lucas was telling and complexifies that story by having characters respond to the failures of the past at their most critical points. It's still the Star War I think most about, and it's the one I love more as I continue to rewatch it.

I get you probably disagree. And that's fine. But we both love Star Wars and one of them had to show up here, right?

9. Annihilation (2018)

8. Whiplash (2014)

7. The Big Sick (2017)

6. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

5. Your Name. (2016)

You'll enjoy the Freaky Friday teen comedy aspects and get caught up in the characters' stories, but when this anime masterclass switches gears, you won't be ready for a striking storytelling decision the likes of which have never left me more, as the kids say, shook. It's a must-see if you love animation, and equally necessary if you like movies. That means you.

4. Parasite (2019)

Bong Joon-ho's masterpiece is one of those rare perfect films, which means it'll be a travesty when the Academy only gives it two nominations. It left me tense while I was guffawing at the humor. It has something significant to say about South Korean class issues while also being accessible to global audiences. It's crushing while satisfyingly entertaining. It's all sorts of genres while being cohesively itself. I believe when film critics, film theorists, film aficionados, and Alfred Hitchcock of today and yesteryear defined what makes a film, Parasite was the Platonic Form they couldn't fathom. Now don't get me wrong: there are still three more films on my list, but if this wasn't at least #5, I wouldn't consider myself a good film blogger.

3. BlacKkKlansman (2018)

The most important American film I've seen in a while. Spike Lee's urgent piece of art tells an entertaining story full of resonance and meaning. It shows how different Americans can be simultaneously privileged and oppressed, how prejudice is proliferated, the power of cinema in shaping perceptions, and how the battles for justice are still necessary today.

2. Lady Bird (2017)

Lady Bird is not the most important film of the decade. It's not even the most perfect or the most daring. However, it is deft in its story design: snapshots of memories pieced together in a relatable and straightforward mural that reveals more and satisfies more on every rewatch - which has been more than a few times for me.

1. The Tree of Life (2012)

The Tree of Life made me the lover of film that I am, after an art teacher screened it in film club. While I could leave it at #1 for nostalgia's sake, it truly is that great of a film, embracing the avant-garde because that's the approach this sprawling story needed to speak most effectively and most truthfully. At its core, it's the Book of Job in the 1950s Midwest, but it's also the story of everything and of the intimate. There are few films I have seen like this, and while I could praise it simply for the audacity of its design and execution, it is also spiritually, emotionally, and meaningfully moving, and it is rewarding if you let yourself experience it. Few films have spoken to me the way Terrence Malick's magnum opus does, which is why it is my film of the decade.

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