2020 is here and that means Back to the Future, Escape from LA and even Blade Runner now take place completely in the past!. Luckily, the future they promised didn’t come true but sadly neither did most of the technology.
Looking back at the decade in film, there have been some good movies, very few truly great ones and an absolute ton of garbage. Studios are less daring than ever before, banking on sequels, remakes, book dramatisations, tiresome animated films and big franchises like Marvel and Star Wars to bring in huge box office receipts. That’s not to say there haven’t been some excellent, innovative films from smaller studios and independent filmmakers, but they’ve been hard to find. But find them I have!
So here’s my rundown of what I consider the best films of the last decade. But beware, this list is not particularly blockbuster friendly! If you would like to see the VERY different ‘best of the decade’ list that fellow MovieMuser Mat has put together, then head here.
Having seen over 750 films released in the twenteens, it was an almost impossible job to settle on only a top 10. My first attempt gave me a shortlist of 37. My second brought this down to 22 and it was a real ordeal to cut another 7 from that list. But I did it! My top ten is listed further down the page, but first up here are the 5 films that despite their brilliance, just missed out…
- Still Life (2013) is a heart-warming and heart-breaking tale of love and death. Eddie Marsan is simply magnificent as a boring council worker who lives for the people recently deceased more than he does for himself. A fantastic score compliments the excellent direction to make Still Life highly recommended.
- Starred Up (2013) sees a hot headed son initially try to impress his father before going to war with him in this superb British prison drama starring Ben Mendelsohn and Jack O’Connell.
- The Selfish Giant (2013) is a stunning contemporary retelling of a classic fable as a young boy tries to support his family by working for a dodgy scrap merchant. The film is directed by Chloe Barnard who has gone on to become ‘a significant new voice in British cinema’.
- The Brand New Testament (2015) is both odd and up-lifting. A delightful tale of living rather than existing when a 10 year old girl decides to write a new testament for the world. Which unsurprisingly upsets her father God, who is a grumpy sadist living in Brussels.
- I, Daniel Blake (2016) Will make you laugh, cry and rage about the hypocrisy and bureaucracy of the British welfare state. After a heart attack the titular character is told by his cardiologist that he cannot return to work, but is also declared ineligible for income support. Ken Loach once again champions the the underdog in another hard hitting socialist critique on the British governments that have allowed so many people like Daniel to fall through the cracks.
Now on with the countdown!
THE TOP 10 FILMS OF THE DECADE (2010-2019)
10. Anomalisa (2015)
This is the story of Michael Stone, a man tired of his life and monotonous routine. However, things change when he meets a stranger on a business trip and his world is turned upside down. In a year when three of the top animated movies dealt with aspects of mental health (the others were Disney Pixar’s Inside Out and Studio Ghibli’s When Marnie Was There), Anomalisa feels the most true and despite its stop-motion styling it was one of the most real and relatable films of that year. A small but perfectly chosen voice cast complement the wonderful animation, but it is Charlie Kaufman’s excellent script that makes Anomalisa a winner. Plus, You’ve never seen a more real and touching sex scene that the one between two puppets in this film!
9. Clash (2016)
Set just after the political events of June 2013, the film is shot entirely within the confines of an 8m long police van containing Muslim Brotherhood members and pro-army supporters, as well as other people belonging to neither of these factions. This amazing insight into the Egyptian uprising is a fantastic achievement in film-making as well as a thrilling glimpse of the struggles going on elsewhere in the world.
8. Mississippi Grind (2015)
Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds head out on a road-trip to Mississippi with the dream of gambling big and paying off loan shark debts. Made for the relatively minuscule sum of $6m, the film is far more than a tale of addiction and the quality of the characters shines from start to finish. A road movie of friendship, highs, lows and hope, the acting, particularly from Mendelsohn, is absolutely superb and you feel the impact of every winning hand or losing dice roll.
7. Coherence (2013)
Coherence is James Ward Byrkit’s directorial debut and features a limited set and no set script. What initially looks like a rather dull relationship drama about the various insignificant couples at a dinner party, but a power cut changes the evening in ways I certainly did not expect. Looking outside, all but one house has lost power. One of the attendees needs to make a phone call so heads over to the only house with power, but he returns with a cut head and a strange locked box. What is inside the box frightens the friends and they start to investigate possible explanations for what is happening, which only creates more paranoia and tension.
With just a single location (the film is actually shot in the director’s own home) and just 8 actors, Coherence creates a much bigger world than it may suggest and has a creepy sense of foreboding that stayed with me long after the film ended. A clever sci-fi tale of parallel universes and quantum decoherence that neither dumbs down for, nor bamboozles it’s audience.
6. White God (2014)
White God is a tragic tale of Lilli and Hagen. Lilli is a thirteen year old girl forced to live with her estranged dad, whilst her mum spends three months on business in Australia. Hagen is her illegal immigrant boyfriend. When Lilli’s father refuses to put Hagen up he is left to fend for himself on the streets of Budapest and is brutalised by the wickedness of the seedy underworld. Whilst Lilli searches day and night for Hagen, he is quickly corrupted by life on the streets and is forced into illegal prize fighting. He meets a large number of other immigrants and when he is eventually thrown into an internment camp, he leads a bloody uprising that sees hundreds of illegals roaming the streets causing chaos and panic for the locals. With the aid of an elderly immigrant that had befriended Hagen, Lilli must track him down and bring an end to the uprising before the violence gets out of hand.
Except it isn’t. You need to replace the words illegal with ‘unregistered’, immigrant with ‘pet’ and boyfriend with ‘dog’, then the above paragraph becomes true.
White God is a remarkable film that takes a serious subject lightly, but manages to keep all of the authenticity and impact without resorting to Disney style animal tricks. The uprising of ferrel dogs against the ‘White God’ is not only believable, it s stunning to watch. The performances of the lead animal actors (Hagen is played by two different trained dogs) is so stunning that you believe in his terror, anger, love and hate.
As the film’s cast is made up of about a dozen humans and over 250 dogs, it becomes a thing of beauty when all of the canines are rampaging through Budapest. Every one of the dogs is a cross-breed and there is not one bit of CGI in the whole film. This is a testament to Director Kornél Mundruczó who has managed to keep to the wonderful story without veering into glamour, horror, or puppy love. Whilst you feel for the animals in the film, you would most certainly be afraid of them too.
The countdown continues on Page 2…