Exclaim!'s 30 Best Films of the 2010s
Ranking the top movies of the decade, from 'Moonlight' to, uh, 'Jackass 3D'
Published Oct 24, 2019
10. First Reformed (2017)
Directed by Paul Schrader
Few films really get at the crux of our modern hell world and its constant cries for us to actually do something like Paul Schrader's meditative drama First Reformed. In this expertly shot, endlessly melancholy film, a zealous priest is taunted by the oppressive bleakness of an environment in turmoil and the millionaire hypocrites who continue to pillage its resources. Whether you're religious or not, you'll find plenty to relate to in this harrowing, highly philosophical tale.
9. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Directed by George Miller
Thirty years after Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome redefined cage matches forever, George Miller revived the franchise to turn the action genre on its head once again. By sparing plot theatrics in favour of a stark visual style and shocking amounts of character depth, Mad Max: Fury Road rewrote the rules of what a high-octane roadster flick could look and feel like — no wonder many have already started calling it the best action film of all time.
8. The Witch (2015)
Directed by Robert Eggers
Set in 1600s New England, The Witch follows the lives of a settler family and their daughter Thomasin, who have been banished from their community over religious differences. Stationed in a farm next to some seriously creepy woods, the family begin to experience supernatural occurrences. Thomasin soon finds herself in the position to make a decision: to eschew her repressive society and live deliciously with whatever lies in the darkness, or submit to God and paternalistic forces.
Director Robert Eggers worked explicitly using only natural light on location in Kiosk, Ontario, for the entirety of the film, giving it its signature moody, bleak aura. The Witch is grandiose while somehow remaining decidedly understated. Through its balance between delicate and brutal imagery, the film forms a powerful allegory of the demonization of women and girls — resulting in a dark and oddly empowering tale about feminine solidarity.
7. Ex Machina (2014)
Directed by Alex Garland
Even though Ex Machina is about an AI, it's an incredibly human film. The robotic protagonist has wants, needs and emotions. Her final scenes have some of the most powerful visuals of the decade: putting on her new skin and releasing herself from her cage with child-like bewilderment when met with the outside world for the first time. It's moving.
6. Call Me by Your Name (2017)
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
There are very few films in the world that can transport you straight to its setting. When watching Call Me by Your Name, Italy is a character in Elio and Oliver's romance — you can feel the hot Italian summer heat burning into your skin, the fiery passion and even Elio's fear of letting himself fall in love for the first time. Luca Guadagnino manages to capture everything there is to feel about your first love while also curating every scene so perfectly that there isn't a single frame that doesn't feel beautiful. Call Me by Your Name is an artistic masterpiece that will continue to make history and tear heartstrings for years to come.
5. Frances Ha (2012)
Directed by Noah Baumbach
As an indie coming-of-age flick, Frances Ha is so perfect that it nearly borders on self-parody. Co-written by director Noah Baumbach and star Greta Gerwig, the film is a buoyant and playful jaunt that also demonstrates the financial instability and aimless ennui of the millennial experience. Admire the breathtaking black-and-white New York City, relate to the discomfort at a lack of future prospects.
4. Arrival (2016)
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
On the one hand, Arrival is a harrowing human drama about a woman grieving after the death of her young daughter and her divorce; on the other, it's a heady examination of extraterrestrials, the fourth dimension, and the way language shapes our experience of the world. Canadian director Denis Villeneuve establishes a sombre mood that's as emotional as it is academic — which is made all the better by a spine-tingling, minimalist score from Jóhann Jóhannsson.
3. Boyhood (2014)
Directed by Richard Linklater
In the 1990s, Richard Linklater felt like filmmaking's answer to the Velvet Underground — he inspired countless penniless would-be directors with his first feature film (1990's Slacker) and galvanized American indie cinema over the ensuing decade with a verbose love story (the first Before film) and a throwback coming-of-age tale (1993's Dazed and Confused). Still, while his beautiful tone poems have always seemed to find the right audience, they didn't exactly scream "ambition" to some.
All that changed in 2001 when he began work on what would become Boyhood: a 12-years-in-the-making film that charted a boy from a broken home's life as he moved from childhood into adulthood. While conceptually gimmicky, few films over the past ten years have felt as honest, heartfelt, and heroic.
2. Get Out (2017)
Directed by Jordan Peele
We're living in a horror renaissance, the apex of which was Get Out. Upon its release in 2017, it shattered multiple box office records: for debut features, horror features and black writer/directors. Within weeks, it firmly transformed Jordan Peele's career from sketch funnyman to satirist who knows exactly what scares us. With its sharp brilliance and deeply unsettling tone, Get Out expertly weaves uncomfortable social truths with old-fashioned horror homage. More than any other film this decade, it reminded audiences that the best kind of horror is the kind that reflects the mirror back onto ourselves.
(Laura Di Girolamo)
1. Moonlight (2016)
Directed by Barry Jenkins
When taking stock of the last decade in politics and pop culture, one can't help but ask, "Has anything truly changed?" The President of the United States is a white supremacist, and long-festering currents of racism, homophobia and xenophobia have come to dominate today's divisive sociopolitical era. But while these odious themes have been galvanized in the past ten years, they didn't emerge from nothing — these events have opened ignorant eyes to the oppression that many have been facing since the dawn of human civilization.
Moonlight was born from these marginalized spaces. Charting the life of Chiron, a young black man coming to terms with his sexuality, Moonlight is at once vivid and still, heartbreaking and uplifting. Its methodical pacing and stunning performances blew open the doors for the type of storytelling that could be accepted by general audiences, while also bolstering the profiles of stars Trevante Rhodes and Mahershela Ali and director Barry Jenkins. Its impact has lingered far longer than its improbable Best Picture win at the Oscars — a historic moment that not even a pair of bumbling, aging heisters could ruin.