Top Ten Films of the 2010s

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I took the last few weeks to really dive into the films of 2010s. This included suggestions from my friends and family in addition to films I that had been on my radar which I never got the chance to see. There were so many great films that I added a runner up section which contains films that are still fantastic but did not make the top ten. Enjoy!

Runner Ups

Phantom Thread (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

Photo taken from One Room With a View

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread is an enigma of a film, much like its main character, Reynolds Woodcock. He’s all consumed by his work as a dress maker until he falls in love with a woman named Alma. This sends his household and mental sanity into a downward spiral which starts to affect his work and coworkers. As Alma seeks to win back Reynolds’ love and attention, we see the broader implications of Anderson’s thesis. His unique take on love, passion, and obsession is nothing short of extraordinary.

The cinematography is near perfect and every scene feels like a Victorian oil painting. The characters are complex, making it unpredictable what will unfold as the film progresses. Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Reynolds is the shining centerpiece of the film as he is both restrained and unhinged. Phantom Thread is truly in its own league as its originality and craftsmanship are far above much of contemporary cinema. 

The Big Short (dir. Adam McKay)

Photo taken from Roger Ebert

The Big Short is a film about the market crash of 2008 and the factors behind it. Sounds boring and confusing, right? That is what most would assume. However, Adam McKay commands a journey of four sets of characters who each journey to short the housing market which they realize is built on risky bonds. Along the way, pop culture icons like Selena Gomez, Margot Robbie, Anthony Bourdain, and Richard Thaler all assist in explaining important concepts to the audience.

The film is also full of many seemingly random clips of news, celebrities, world events, and more. This is perhaps the most interesting part of the film as it shows how distracted the world is by all of the information being spewed from television, social media, and the internet. This is part of the reason that the big banks were able to become as corrupt as they were.

The dialogue is witty and engaging despite the often-uninteresting nature of the subject. McKay also built up a stacked cast for the film including Hollywood heavyweights Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, and Christian Bale who all allow the film to soar to new heights.

Uncut Gems (dir. Josh & Benny Safdie)

Photo taken from Indy100

I was a little unsure of this film but I had heard only great things about Adam Sandler’s performance and the overall story, despite being ignored by the Oscars. It just did not seem like a film I would enjoy. I am glad to say that I was deeply wrong.

This film is pure adrenaline; a thriller in every sense of the word. It begins at the highest level of intensity and continues throughout the entirety of the film. Not only is it suspenseful, exciting, and surprising, but the film’s commentary on gambling and deception is equally as fascinating. The Safdie brothers’ trademark style of overlaid dialogue only adds another layer of chaos to this already anxiety-inducing film.

The cinematography and score are perfect compliments to the overall nostalgic aura. Even the Weeknd’s presence feels strangely at home. The performances of every major character are absolutely fantastic and Sandler most definitely deserved a best acting nod for his portrayal of Howard Ratner. The best way I can sum up this film is that it is the visual manifestation of driving down the Autobahn. All gas, no break.

Top Ten

10. The Grand Budapest Hotel (dir. Wes Anderson)

photo taken from The Globe and Mail

The Grand Budapest Hotel was actually recommended to me by a close friend. Thankfully, I listened to his advice. Wes Anderson’s imaginative and beautiful pastel set pieces paired with the genius costume design make this film visually one of the most interesting films I have ever seen. Pair that with the excellent performances from Ralph Fiennes, Saoirse Ronan, Tony Revolori, and the many other A-list actors featured such as Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, and Owen Wilson and you have got yourself a masterpiece in the making.

The story is also highly original, quirky, and interesting. There are many moments that are high-stakes, funny, and/or moving. However, everything in this film feels as if it is a product of Wes Anderson’s wild imagination. Even the shootout at the end is full of zooms, set pieces, symmetry, quirky humour, and cupcakes.

It is a film that is so unlike anything else I have ever seen and, despite its often-silly premise, it maintained my full attention until the credits rolled. I still have no idea what convinced Wes Anderson to make this film but I sure am glad that he did.

9. Mad Max: Fury Road (dir. George Miller)

photo taken from YouTube

To think that a franchise film such as this one would end up on a top ten list may seem quite ridiculous to some. However, Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the most original and inventive action films of the past decade. The action itself is gripping and chaotic. This is partially due to the excellent world-building done within the film. There are so many crazy inventions, vehicles, characters, and set pieces which take the action to the next level.

Additionally, the acting from all of the characters is extremely compelling, especially from Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy. Hardy especially is hysterically frantic and feels as if his character from Venom was in a better film. The strongest part of the film, however, are the visuals. Everything seems slightly oversaturated to the point where common elements like fire and lightning look alluring and strangely beautiful. It is just such a wild ride through every aspect of the film.

8. Lady Bird (dir. Greta Gerwig)

photo taken from Film Comment

Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age tale of a daughter and her mother is an emotional rollercoaster and has to be one of the greatest solo directorial debuts of all time. For quite some time, it had the highest Rotten Tomatoes score ever on the platform. The film is full of dynamic performances from the likes of Saoirse Ronan, Beanie Feldstein, Timothee Chalamet, Lucas Hedges, and Laurie Metcalf. Lady Bird, Ronan’s character, is impossible to not adore by the time that the credits roll.

The story itself is extremely compelling as it puts more emphasis on familial relationships and friendships than romance for young woman. It is a reminder of how desperately Hollywood needs to nurture and encourage more diversity and specifically female directors to execute their desired stories and visions. The fact that Greta Gerwig’s first solo film was as successful as it was is a testament to her power as a director. Her latest film, Little Women, has just released (it is also fantastic by the way) but it was clear from the opening moments of Lady Bird just how special she was.

7. Thor Ragnarok (dir. Taika Waititi)

photo taken from MTV

Yes, this is in fact a Marvel movie about a god of thunder, a god of mischief, a Pegasus riding warrior, and a Hulk. What about this should not be considered art Martin Scorsese? In all seriousness, however, Thor: Ragnarok is one of the most fun films I have ever watched.

After Thor: The Dark World, I vowed to never see another Thor movie as long as I lived. But years later I was roped into seeing Ragnarok and was beyond pleasantly surprised. Not only did this movie defy the common arc, aesthetic palette, character dynamics, and dialogue of most of the Thor/Marvel films up to this point, it actually worked as a Marvel film and a standalone epic. The dialogue was actually funny, the action scenes were colourful and dynamic, and the characters were all really interesting and relatable (even the bad ones!).

One of the other elements of the film I really enjoyed were the visual effects. The battles scenes with the Valkyrie and where Thor is enveloped in lightning and descending from the sky are some of the most visually satisfying scenes I have witnessed in any film, MCU or regular. With Ragnarok, Taika singlehandedly pulled the Thor franchise out of the doom and gloom it had currently been swallowed by and into a film that has been elevated on every level.

6. Get Out (dir. Jordan Peele)

photo taken from Film School Rejects

I was taken to this movie on a whim. My friends asked if I wanted to go to an advanced screening and I thought “Why not tag along?”. I had no idea what I was in for. Get Out was undeniably haunting, but not for the reasons one would think. The metaphor that envelopes the entire story is the real killer as its desire is to expose “liberal racism” which is the tendancy to treat African American people as different from white people or “other”. This is all disguised as an Invasion of the Body Snatchers-type thriller that is truly a breath of fresh air.

The scriptwriting is sharp and witty to the point where when you watch the film again it is clear what each of the character’s motivations are. There are moments that play out more like the comedy that Peele is known for and others that are executed with almost Kubrick-style dramatic intensity. The acting of the entire cast is also superb. Who could forget the chills of the crying scene with Betty Gabriel?

Get Out is a film that plays out as a thriller just as well as any other horror film but also works as a statement. It is this genius that makes Get Out such a critically important film as Jordan Peele proves himself an unstoppable force within both cinematic and social circles.

5. Inception (dir. Christopher Nolan)

photo taken from Film School Rejects

It is hard to believe that Inception is almost ten years old. I can still remember the initial trailers for the film that piqued my interest which featured Leonardo DiCaprio falling into a bathtub and a café exploding (both in slow motion). I hadn’t the slightest clue of the significance of the scenes but I could tell that this would be a film like no other.

Ten years later, Inception still holds up as a mind-bending, wildly inventive thriller about “dreams within dreams”. What is even more compelling is that the story is focussed on the power of planting an idea in someone’s mind as that is what the characters are tasked with inside the film.

Throughout all of the armies of subconsciousness and dreamscapes lies exceptional acting performances from A-listers such as DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt among others. However, the visual effects are the most impressive element of the film, whether it is the zero-gravity fight scene in the hotel or the initial experimentation in the dream world between DiCaprio and Page’s characters. This film packs a punch and will keep you up at night trying to figure out what exactly that last scene means.

4. Jojo Rabbit (dir. Taika Waititi)

photo taken from Pinterest

Upon walking out of the theatre after I had seen this film I called my parents and told them that “films like this are the reason why I am into movies”. Granted, upon first glance Jojo Rabbit should not work. It is a satire about a German child in World War II whose imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler. Yet, the true core of this story is the importance of love and the dangers/idiocy of intolerance. Perhaps this is why it took home the coveted “People’s Choice Award” at TIFF this past year.

The acting in this movie is all around fantastic. In fact, I think this is one of Scarlett Johansson’s best performances. She is so lovable and (SPOILER) her eventual demise tore my heart out. Even the child actors in this film are beyond impressive. They are so endearing and really drive the main themes of the movie home through their innocence and natural kindness.

The comedy within this film also lands well and does not feel as if it is pushing the envelope. Rather, it seems to call attention to problems and ridiculous nature of hatred and intolerance. This film makes a strong case that using comedy to deal with difficult topics can actually reduce the power that they have over us.

3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (dir. Stephen Chbosky)

photo taken from Pop Sugar

This film is my guilty pleasure. I remember rewatching it the night after my first viewing because I just could not escape the characters and moving story. As a student, this story of finding your “people” was extremely compelling and the performances from the three leads were all extremely convincing in bringing a unique perspective to each character.

The story itself is an impressive adaptation from the novel of the same name. It does not seem to lose any of the emotional punch and fits in all of the key plot points without feeling rushed or messy. One of my favourite elements of The Perks of Being a Wallflower was the impressive soundtrack compiled for the film which has permanently changed my reaction to “Come On Eileen” and “Heroes”.

I do not think I have ever felt as drained by the end of a film. The sadness that I felt and released during this film was so cathartic. The Perks of Being a Wallflower will break your heart but its endearing tale of friendship and support will hopefully also encourage you to seek comfort in those closest to you and help those who are struggling.

2. Baby Driver (dir. Edgar Wright)

photo taken from F Slate

As someone who loves both music and film, Baby Driver is a dream come true. Baby, the protagonist, listens to music because of a condition that he developed after an accident that killed his parents. Everything is precisely timed to the soundtrack from within his earbuds and is one of the most entertaining and satisfying things that I never knew I needed.

Visually, the film is also extremely well-crafted. Each scene seems vibrant and picturesque, even if the setting is only a drab apartment or drafty warehouse. The dialogue and characters within the film are also grand achievements. There’s the sleeping giant within Buddy (Jon Hamm), the flirtatious Darling (Eiza Gonalez), the loveable Debora (Lily James), and the manic Bats (Jamie Foxx) among others who all play vital roles within Edgar Wright’s tale of theft and hot pursuit.

The soundtrack is also expertly selected and features music from the likes of Queen, Beck, and The Commodores. The execution of the harmonization of this music with the various sequences in the film is extremely well-done and pristine. If Edgar Wright left anyone wondering after the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, Baby Driver makes it clear that he is one of the most fascinating directors currently working in film.

1. La La Land (dir. Damien Chazelle)

photo taken from NPR

Perhaps my love affair with musicals began with Veggie Tales or when I saw High School Musical for the first time. Regardless, La La Land is a special treat for any musical and/or film lover. The soundtrack is elegant and jazz-oriented which makes this story feel mature and grounded unlike many other musicals who try and appear extremely flashy and fantastical.

The story is set in director Damien Chazelle’s idealized version of Hollywood where every setting is dramatic and all of the characters dress monochromatically. This allows for cinematography that is unparalleled in any other film. The last twenty minutes of the film are something of a true masterpiece and the images themselves could be framed within the Louvre and blend in perfectly.

The story is also expertly executed with the ease of seasoned professional, and yet, Chazelle’s career is only just beginning. He takes your typical tale of love and loss and transforms it into a struggle between love and personal dreams. This conflict is not only present in Hollywood but is an issue to which many can relate. This is just another way that Chazelle takes the often-outlandish musical template and brings it back to reality. The acting from Hollywood sweethearts Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone is also compelling and caused Stone to win the Oscar for Best Actress at the 2016 Academy Awards.

Every aspect of this film is perfect. It is visually stunning, the story is emotionally engaging, the characters are well-developed and relatable, and the music is beautiful and memorable. It will most likely go down as one of the greatest films of all time and is a cinematic achievement that only comes around once in a generation.

Thanks for reading!

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