2020 is here and that means the 2010s are over, and let’s be honest, it’s not been a great decade in many ways. The future predicted in films like Back to the Future II and Blade Runner did not come to pass, though some of the technology suggested in those films does now exist – no hoverboards or flying cars though, sadly.
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.
With all that said, I am a big fan of the big budget blockbuster movie when it’s done right and do gravitate to those kind of movies, so here’s my rundown of what I consider the best films of the last decade.
Lists with an irregular number of entries seems to be very popular on a lot of sites these days, so I could’ve done a Top 14, but I prefer to stick to a more traditional Top Ten so there are a few notable films that I really enjoyed but didn’t quite make the cut.
- Eddie the Eagle (2016) is a classic British tale of celebrating underachievement and a funny, heartwarming feelgood movie. Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman are both excellent and even if the story isn’t entirely true, it is still a hugely entertaining film showing that sometimes it’s good enough just to take part.
- Nightcrawler (2014) saw Jake Gyllenhaal setting a new personal best for creepiest performance in the lead role of this graphic and disturbing satire of our fascination with disastrous news, which is as visually stunning as it is shocking.
- Inside Out (2015) was Pixar’s most intelligent and creative movie to date, whose themes are arguably more suitable for adults than children, though it will undoubtedly entertain both.
- Eye in the Sky (2015) is a fascinating study of 21st Century warfare and the political and moral choices it can involve, with brilliant performances from some of Britain’s finest acting talent. Gripping throughout with a truly nail-biting finale, it’s an intelligent thriller that you’ll be thinking about long after you’ve finished watching.
Now on with the countdown!
10. Hell or High Water (2016)
The Western has made something of a resurgence in the last decade, with films such as Django Unchained and The Revenant being well regarded, but for me this modern evolution of the genre was the best of the bunch. Chris Pine and Ben Foster star as brothers that embark on a series of robberies targeting the very bank chain that they owe money to, racing against the clock and a dogged Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) to steal enough money to pay off their family’s overdue mortgage debt. Story-wise the film is not particularly original but where it really stands out is with the brilliantly crafted characters and the rich, witty dialogue between them. This is a real hidden gem with acting performances that are hard to fault, culminating with a showdown that stands up with the best the genre has to offer.
9. You’re Next (2011)
The last decade has not been great for horror films in general, but one sub-genre that did find a lot of success is the home invasion thriller, popularised by the likes of The Purge and Don’t Breathe. You’re Next might have flown under the radar compared to those but is one of the best examples in my opinion. It starts like any other movie of its type – a family and friends at a secluded house are besieged by masked assailants with powerful weapons and a variety of fiendish traps. However, one of the intended victims is rather more resourceful than the invaders bargained for and she doesn’t make it easy for them. The twist in the middle of the film is a little predictable, but seeing the bad guys get their comeuppance in a variety of ingenious ways that play out like an R-Rated Home Alone makes up for any shortcomings. With a memorable lead performance from Sharni Vinson, the blackest of humour and death scenes that will make you scream with glee, this is one horror film that’s fully deserving of cult classic status.
8. Toy Story 3 (2010)
While I appreciated the technical achievement, comedy and storytelling of the first two films, I’d never considered myself a huge Toy Story fan until the release of the third instalment. Pixar’s return to the franchise after 11 years sees the residents of Andy’s bedroom face an uncertain future since their 17 year old owner no longer plays with them. Their adventures this time see them involved in some of the most traumatic moments in animated movie history as you realise just how much these characters mean to you. I don’t mind admitting that the scene where they seem certain to be destroyed reduced this grown man to tears and it’s matched by the joyful finale where they find a new home with young Bonnie. Pixar are the masters of playing with your emotions but it is a fantastic story and should have been an incredibly touching end to these characters’ story. Sadly that story was lessened by the release of Toy Story 4 this year, which was enjoyable enough but just didn’t have the magic of its predecessors.
7. The Guard (2011)
Brendan Gleeson is in some of the best form of his career as a loudmouthed, unprofessional small-town Irish Sergeant in John Michael McDonagh’s unconventional Buddy Cop movie. Teaming up with Don Cheadle’s fastidious FBI Agent, the two unravels the threads of a case involving murder, drug dealers and police corruption, resulting in an action-packed finale. Sometimes you’ll sit down to watch a film with no expectations and it will turn out to completely exceed them. The Guard is one of those films – it’s laced with black humour and violence, characters that are far more likeable than they deserve to be and a story that is both clever and thrilling. An absolute unexpected pleasure that deserved the acclaim that helped it become the most successful Irish independent film of all time.
6. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
This film is representing the entire Planet of the Apes origin series, which I consider to be the finest trilogy of the decade and a rare exception of a franchise reboot that actually improves on the original story. In the first film Alzheimer’s researcher James Franco inadvertently brings about the development of hyper-intelligent primates whilst also unleashing a human-destroying virus, a sequence of events whose ultimate end we already knew. This was a film and indeed a trilogy that most people probably didn’t expect much from, myself included, but turned out to be clever, intense and touching, with Andy Serkis doing his usual superb motion capture performance as lead ape Caesar. By the time you’re mid-way through the second film you’re fully on the side of the apes, who are so convincing it’s easy to forget they are CGI, and watching them rise above the self-destructive actions of the human race is quite satisfying. In an era that has seen more bad reboots than I care to count, the Apes series was rare moment of intelligence and self-control from a major studio that was as thrilling as it was refreshing.
The countdown continues on Page 2…