The 2010s: My Favorite Films of the Decade

In 2010, I was in high school — two years until from graduation. Today, I have completed 6 years of college and have two degrees. A decade really is a loooooong amount of time.

At the start of this decade, I was an average film-goer. I saw the big name releases and enjoyed films as entertaining ways to spend an evening with friends. In 2012, I took a class that took a deeper look — certainly a more of an in-depth look than I was ever used to — into films as an art-form. I was hooked. Watching and learning about Charlie Chaplin with Modern Times or Francis Ford Coppola with The Godfather helped me understand that films can be an artistic, political, economic or social statement. They can be used to help tell the history of certain people and places. They, also, can be wildly entertaining.

As the 2010s close, I decided to reflect on which films have stuck out the most and left an impression on myself and how I appreciate this magical medium. I composed this as a way to showcase my favorites of the 2010s — the ones I have no trouble recommending. The 100 films listed here are by no means “the greatest” of the decade. I have no greater authority of telling you what is great than any other person who watches and tries to understand the films they watch. These films are my favorites, some leaving more impressions on me than others.

I will not have a blurb for every entry, but I will do my best to highlight some key moments of my experience watching films in the 2010s. So, to start us off…

100. Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

A fun Richard Linklater film with a great, entertaining cast about college in the 1980s. A great soundtrack, too. More with Linklater further down the list.

99. Personal Shopper (2016)

Kristen Stewart as an American in Paris working as a personal shopper for celebrities. It’s much more chilling and dynamic than its elevator pitch, but this film further showcases the greatness Stewart can bring to a movie.

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

I was on the edge of my seat from the first minute.

97. Zama (2017)

96. Everything Before Us (2015)

95. Renoir (2012)

94. Nightcrawler (2014)

Jake Gyllenhaal as a grimy guy on the search for violence to record and sell to news stations is as disturbing as it sounds. The nature of the business is ugly, but the film gives the viewer incredible insight into this world. Gyllenhaal is sensational.

93. Love & Mercy (2014)

92. Ava’s Possessions (2015)

The perfect blend of comedy and horror. I enjoyed the production and artistic choices just as much as the performances and story.

91. Under the Skin (2013)

ScarJo has had an incredible 2019 — JoJo Rabbit and Marriage Story are awesome examples of her talents — but 2013’s Under the Skin is slick, smart and incredibly satisfying.

90. Before Midnight (2013)

See — more Linklater. The conclusion of the Before series hits the emotions hard.

89. Enough Said (2013)

RIP James Gandolfini

88. Columbus (2017)

An indie that went largely unnoticed from mainstream audiences. Great, understated performances from John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson about friendship in Small Town, USA.

87. Little Sister (2016)

86. Amy (2015)

85. Kristy (2014)

Probably the best “random movie I found on Netflix”. A blend of horror and thriller, the film does a great job at being scary and engaging.

84. A Field in England (2013)

83. True Grit (2010)

Hailee Steinfeld, welcome to stardom! The Coen Brothers remake of the John Wayne classic is solid. But, Steinfeld steals the film. A tremendous performance where she just owns every second she is on screen. An Oscar nominated performance, too!

82. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

81. The Bling Ring (2013)

Sophia Coppola’s electrifying tale of deceit is full of tense drama that is showy and in-your-face — as if you’re one of the characters. A fun watch.

80. About Time (2013)

79. Wind River (2017)

An incredibly moving film with outstanding performances. I dedicated a post to the film.

78. The Book Thief (2013)

77. Darkest Hour (2017)

Probably the best soundtrack of the decade. It’s certainly the one I listen to the most. Oh, and Gary Oldman absolutely deserves the Oscar win. It is a lot of talking, but watching Oldman as Churchill is as magical as it gets. For now, let’s jam.

76. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

75. Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)

74. Never Look Away (2018)

A great look at the world of creativity.

73. Unfriended (2014)

The best of the “online” horror movies.

72. Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc (2017)

Joan of Arc’s story told in a musical fashion? Crazy and wildly entertaining. Count me in!

71. Dope (2015)

70. Copenhagen (2014)

69. Jackie (2016)

Natalie Portman deserved the damn Oscar.

68. Hearts Beat Loud (2018)

Father-daughter stories are my weakness. I love films, shows or books where that relationship is explored. Hearts Beat Loud is one of the best, as well as giving the world some great music.

67. Denial (2016)

66. The Big Sick (2017)

65. A Ghost Story (2017)

Two ghosts chatting it up — who doesn’t want that?

64. First Reformed (2017)

63. Christine (2016)

A heartbreaking story, but a film packed with filmmaking at its best. I wrote about the film here.

62. Stronger (2017)

Seeing this film in Boston, blocks away from where the Boston bombing actually happened was fairly moving to think about. Strong performances and an eye-opening journey into the power of believing in one’s self and each other.

61. Loving (2016)

An incredible story from our history books with an out-of-this world performance from Ruth Negga. More from here on Loving here.

60. Room (2015)

59. This Is Our Land (2017)

58. Thoroughbreds (2017)

The best dressed movie from this decade? Most likely. A funny movie about hiring a hitman.

57. The Conjuring (2013)

56. Ex-Machina (2014)

55. Comet (2014)

Time-traveling. Reality switching. There is a lot of going on in this film. I loved every second.

54. The Great Beauty (2013)

53. Life Partners (2014)

52. Drinking Buddies (2013)

If you know me, then you know I love Olivia Wilde. If you don’t, now you do. My favorite role of hers comes in this comedy.

51. Pitch Perfect (2012)

I can hear you judging me, and I don’t care. An awesome musical where the performances are fun, fresh and iconic. The “No Diggity” scene along is a musical moment that will live on for a long, long time.

50. Begin Again (2013)

49. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

The book was blah. The film was sensational. A fantastic coming-of-age film with an engaging and energetic performance from Ezra Miller. He is the star of this and no one can convince me otherwise.

48. The Master (2012)

47. The Town (2010)

46. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)

45. Lore (2012)

I love WWII films that offer different point-of-views from that history books. Lore takes the viewer inside Germany in the aftermath of the war.

44. Cafe Society (2016)

Yeah, I know it’s Woody. But seeing this film with a friend where we knew nothing going in and absolutely smitten with the acting, story and production value by its end makes it one of the most memorable screenings of the decade.

43. Red Knot (2014)

A story about a relationship that takes place in Antarctica, sign me up! More on the film here.

42. Barbara (2012)

41. Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010)

40. Frances Ha (2012)

Hello world, meet Greta Gerwig, who gives one of the most stunning performances of the decade.

39. Midsommar (2019)

THAT SMILE FROM FLORENCE PUGH AT THE END IS EVERYTHING I WANT IN AN ENDING.

GOOSEBUMPS.

38. Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

37. Colette (2018)

36. The Favourite (2018)

Olivia Coleman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz all at on their “A” game. It’s funny, riveting and stunning. The best looking dance scene of the decade? It’s tough to top it.

35. Phantom Thread (2017)

34. Hostiles (2017)

Long live the western!

33. Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)

Remember when I mentioned Kristen Stewart was a fantastic actress? This is the film that broke down the negative reputation thanks to the Twilight saga. Oh yeah, Juliette Binoche also stars. More here.

32. The Big Short (2015)

31. Insidious (2010)

ONE OF THE FREAKIEST SCENES THIS DECADE

30. Life of Pi (2012)

Another example disproving the theory that the “book is always better than the movie”. Ang Lee delivers the goods with this adaptation.

29. The Spectacular Now (2013)

More coming-of-age greatness.

28. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

I think about the “Roll Jordan Roll” scene constantly. It’s a powerful example to use music as a way of showcasing a person’s defeat, in this case Soloman’s realization freedom is just about unattainable.

27. Testament of Youth (2014)

Hello, Alicia Vikander. An exceptional book transformed into a gorgeous film.

26. Easy A (2010)

NOT NOW QUIZNOS was just about as funny a line could get in 2010. A film filled with great quotes, funny performances and amazing musical cues makes Easy A an easy choice for the list. Emma Stone delivers the hilarious goods.

25. OJ: Made In America (2016)

24. Lincoln (2012)

Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln is a performance for the ages — pardon the historic callback. But Tommy Lee Jones as Congressman Thaddeus Stevens is the film we wanted to see, as well. A master director (Spielberg) with masterful actors. They delivered.

23. Midnight in Paris (2011)

22. The Florida Project (2017)

Willem Dafoe’s character chasing away that potential predator is one of the most heartwarming (and horrifying) scenes of the decade. Plus, the performances of Brooklyn Prince and Bria Vinaite are jaw-dropping great. Sean Baker, the director, shoots this small town in Florida with a beauty we often overlook.

21. Assassination Nation (2018)

Mean Girls meets The Purge. It shocks, and it rocks.

20. Skate Kitchen (2018)

Coming-of-age. Skate culture. A handful of characters you come to know and love. Filmmaking at its finest. More on the film here.

19. The Vietnam War (2017)

Ken Burns — my favorite director — offers a look at one of the most important moments in this country’s history. Powerful.

18. The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

17. The Witch (2015)

16. Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)

This film is incredibly controversial. Understandably so. But, the performances of Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos left me in awe after watching the first time. A truly phenomenal look at the life (and death) of a relationship and finding happiness within yourself. The break-up scene is one of two scenes this decade (just wait for the other) that has me speechless every time I watch.

15. Blindspotting (2018)

14. Life After Beth (2014)

A really fun take on zombie films. And romantic comedies.

13. It Follows (2013)

A rival with Darkest Hour for the greatest soundtrack of the decade. But on top of that, It Follows features the campy fun of classic horror movies and bringing it to the decade. It’s a chilling movie where discussion about what the film is about is surely to follow.

12. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

11. Mistress America (2015)

Hello, again, from Greta Gerwig. This Noah Baumbach film explores the relationship between Lola Kirke (a college student) and Gerwig (a hopeful business owner). It’s a film where nothing really big happens, but the small happenings between the two characters is emotional and engaging. Also, the film features one of my favorite road trip adventures I’ve experienced.

I called it a near perfect film, and I stand by that.

10. The Hate U Give (2018)

I cried for about 90% of this film. What I want in a great viewing experience is a look into someone’s point-of-view. The Hate U Give is among the best this decade where the viewer’s eyes are wide open to the story at hand. Amandla Stenberg with a performance that is among the best this decade.

9. Brooklyn (2015)

My love for Saoirse starts here.

(Spoiler: it doesn’t end here.)

8. Boyhood (2014)

LINKLATER! AGAIN!

I think the film resonated with me because it’s about a boy growing up with divorced parents and his journey through boyhood. I mean, just ask me about my life and it’s pretty much Boyhood.

7. Spotlight (2015)

Journalism can make for great films! An awesome Boston film that uncovers what it took to expose such a heinous crime. I wrote more about Spotlight here.

6. Adrift (2018)

Shailene Woodley is a badass.

5. Whiplash (2014)

Yes, a drumming scene is about as tense as any great thriller. JK Simmons delivers an Oscar winning performance.

4. 50/50 (2011)

One of the most heartwarming films of the year is about a guy getting cancer. There is so much heart and genuine love in 50/50, where Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt all shine.

3. Short Term 12 (2013)

A heroic performance by Brie Larson, where the film is filled with “Oh my god, they are in this movie!?” I was floored with how the relationships were explored and changed throughout the film. I wrote about Larson’s performance.

2. Lady Bird (2017)

The theme of my last three deal with great performances, really. Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf deliver astounding performances as a daughter and mother who don’t really see eye-to-eye. The struggle between Ronan wanting to be the individual and Metcalf protecting her “little bird” makes for one of the decade’s best films.

Lady Bird also explores the importance of home, and, as someone who has moved away from home, that theme and the way the film explores it (thanks to the script and direction by GRETA FREAKIN’ GERWIG) hits me as much as any other film has.

1. Manchester by the Sea (2016)

And here we go. My favorite.

This is not a fun film, but Manchester by the Sea offers the performances, the story, the visuals that were etched into my mind and have not been forgotten. A loner, grudge (Casey Affleck) warming up to community and family due a tragedy, but in doing so has to confront his past. Manchester left me shook after seeing it in theaters (I drove back home in silence), and leaves me teary-eyed writing this. It’s a film that is powerfully quiet. There are not a ton of loud, showy sequences, but the couple that are in Manchester measure up as some of the best scenes in film.

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