10 Best Movies of the Decade you will want to see again

10 Best Movies of the Decade you will want to see again
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About the Author

Nicholas Olsen

Nicholas Olsen

Nicholas Olsen is a journalism graduate from Sheridan College. He specializes in Arts & Entertainment reporting, feature writing and film reviews.Twitter: @ChiefcoOne

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As the decade comes to an end, it’s impossible to not feel a sense that the landscape has changed forever. We’ve spent the last decade witnessing the silenced and marginalized become heard. The seams of an insidious Hollywood movie industry burst. Finally, we saw through the cracks. The Me Too movement saw the exclusion of several juggernaut moguls, filmmakers and actors.

The big screen became more diverse and honest. As a result, it’s not the billion dollar Marvel spectacles that will remain in conversation as the years continue to slip thorough our fingertips; it’s the deeply human stories with a modest budget that will inhabit our minds.

These are the films that move us, we feel them, see ourselves in them, and it’s exciting to be living in a time with such unlimited beauty.

The way we consume movies has changed as streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ continue to dominate and grow their platforms. They allow filmmakers to spread their art to millions of people instantly. It was a challenge to box it all up into the 10 best movies of the decade.

Let the following selections be a starting point for you to navigate the magnificent depths of artistry we’ve been spoiled with over the last decade.

10th Best Movie of the Decade:

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

Céline Sciamma has crafted a period piece so unforgettably rich and elegant it would be unjust to not include Portrait of a Lady on Fire — a late eighteenth century love story that centers on two women — Héloïse, a young noblewoman doomed to an unwanted marriage, and Marianne (Noémie Merlant), a painter tasked with completing a portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) for her would-be husband. Sciamma’s direction is imbued with visual ecstasy, a testament to the cinematography of Claire Mathon.

Whether it’s establishing an overcast sky above the sound of crashing waves in an isolated Brittany, or the subtleties of Héloïse’s delicate features as she falls in love, this is a romance that lives in a league of its own, one that’s emboldened by a woman’s sensibility and craft.

9th Best Movie of the Decade:

It Follows (2014)

We’ve witnessed a sort of horror renaissance during the 2010s, where a slew of critically acclaimed; distinct productions were ushered in by David Robert Mitchell’s ultra effective film where calamity is transmitted through acts of sex. Akin to old school John Carpenter fare, It Follows grabs us by the throat and traps us in a nightmarescape that feels too close to home. Richard Vreeland (Disasterpeace)’s equally unhinged mood music seals the deal and leaves us in a whirlwind of panic. When the credits roll, we must ponder the question — would you pass on the threat of imminent death to someone else just to save your skin for a temporary amount of time?

8th Best Movie of the Decade:

Whiplash (2014)

It’s not just the mighty, transcendent performance from veteran actor J.K Simmons, or the tension that drips off every frame of Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash that makes it one of the most explosive movies of the decade. No, it’s the final 15 minutes that seem to pack so much energy and raw performance into an atomic display of orchestral warfare that you feel every beat reverberating through your spine. Your hair will stand up; your equilibrium will implode. Like the moments in time where we first discover a great musician that will go on to cement his/her place in the lines of history — there is nothing quite like it.

7th Best Movie of the Decade:

Elle (2016)

Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is a disquieting black comedy that balances moments of levity with an incendiary tale of a powerful woman in trouble. Based on the novel Oh… by Philippe Djian, it begins with Michèle Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) being raped by a masked assailant in her home. Left bloodied and in tatters on the ground, she doesn’t call the police, instead opting to take a bath and order food. This is just the first subversion in a feverish maze of morally ambiguous characters and happenings that truly unsettle.

As Michèle navigates her upper class world, she’s always one step away from meeting violence from the men in her life, but she never lags or cracks. Huppert embodies a real heroine, not to be taken lightly. At the end you will feel like you’ve known her for a long time. You will better understand a woman’s delicate, yet unshakable presence.


6th Best Movie of the Decade:

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

“I’m tired… I thought I just needed a night’s sleep, but it’s more than that,” says Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) as he finally surrenders his battle against the ever-changing music business that has left him behind. The pain on his face and the heaviness of his voice are idolized for history’s countless talented artists that we have let fall through the cracks, never to be mentioned anywhere outside of their hidden lives. How many Bob Dylans or Woody Guthries have been forgotten as the world transforms and streams forward at unforgiving speeds? We may never know. The Coen brothers ask these questions. They permeate in a washed-out, wintry mise-en-scène full of memorable hooligans and hard-nosed musicians.

Both cheeky and formidable, the lush sense of period is second only to the devastating familiarity that Oscar Isaac’s pathos lends to Davis.


5th Best Movie of the Decade:

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011) 

What helps elevate David Fincher’s adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s novel of the same name from basic genre trappings is its dread-inducing atmosphere and snappy script from Steven Zaillian. On the surface, it centers on disgraced investigative reporter, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) as he huddles by a fire in a snowed in cabin and frantically investigates the decades old disappearance of a teenage girl. However, as the film opens up, and we are introduced to the eccentric, yet gifted hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), we begin to understand that this is a sprawling tale of men who hate women, and the unspeakable cycle of violence brought upon them by various facets of society.

4th Best Movie of the Decade:

First Reformed (2017)

There is a sense of urgency coursing through First Reformed. Shot in an intimate 4:3 aspect ratio, the stillness in Paul Schrader’s direction ensures his actors are boxed in and obliterating the screen. Ethan Hawke is extraordinary as the deeply wounded Reverend Ernst Toller, who begins to question the people and institutions around him after a shattering encounter with a mentally ill environmental activist.

He learns that we have to look inward and downward instead of to the sky if we want to save the planet from man-made destruction. Schrader’s warning is deafening. He presents a mood that’s furious to the extreme, and we never quite know if Reverend Toller is going to toe the line as if nothing is wrong, or self-immolate in protest of the psychotic greed that encapsulates our dying planet.


3rd Best Movie of the Decade:

Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Kenneth Lonergan’s tale of a family destroyed by profound grief will move anyone who has experienced loss. Casey Affleck’s portrayal of an ordinary New Englander who made a disastrous mistake is not just among the best of the decade, but will be immortalized as an all-time legendary performance.

Set on the coast of the Atlantic, Manchester by the Sea looks into the destabilized soul, how one can be redeemed and find a way to rebuild and take responsibility for others. It’s a reminder to battle against despair and cherish what we have left.

2nd Best Movie of the Decade:

The Master (2012)

The Master is one of a kind. The layers of storytelling are endless – not unlike a cinematic labyrinth. You can watch Paul Thomas Anderson’s a handful of times, and you will come out with a new detail yet undiscovered.

Freddie Quell’s presence demands attention — thanks to our lord and savior Joaquin Phoenix — he’s a blackened, out of work warrior with a lost spirit. His life mirrors many of today’s young adults, sharing the same lack of direction and erratic nature. Such cynicism and anti-spirituality circulates around us like a raging storm.

Quell’s only sedation is Lancaster Dodd — a screen presence that will allow Phillip Seymour Hoffman to live on forever — who spends his life trying to understand the purpose of human beings. All of his understanding is dismantled when he meets a pure animalistic force like Freddie, who seems to live his days in a way Dodd could never imagine.

 The Best Movie of the Decade:

Moonlight (2016)

The story of Chiron is told in three distinct chapters, outlining his life from a young child in an unforgiving neighborhood to a seemingly hardened drug dealer in the traps of Atlanta.

Barry Jenkins masterfully keeps the continuity of Chiron’s personality seamless. As the tones and color transform with every third of the film — Jenkins and cinematographer James Laxton emulate three unique types of film stock — one quality remains unchanged: Chiron’s quiet vulnerability. He grows up without a father; his only source of guidance is a wise, introspective hustler named Juan (Mahershala Ali escapes into the role) that nurtures a young Chiron while his mother is constantly getting high.

Jenkins and writer Tarell Alvin McCraney have captured the essence of the world in Moonlight.

At the forefront, it’s the story of a gay man finding himself and donning an emotional suit of armor in adult life, only to have it destroyed by a gentle reminder of the past. To look deeper would mean finding the echoes of the human condition itself, the lasting damage caused by traumatic experiences during our formative years.

There’s a scene in which an adult Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) exits a car and looks out at a dark beach, it’s pitch black, but you can hear the waves crash and his face is still. It’s the same wounded look he’s had for decades, one you can easily miss, it only lasts for a few seconds, but if you don’t, it is something that will remain with you forever.


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