The Ten Best Films Of The Decade


Well, the decade is almost up, so right under the wire, I’m chiming in with my best of the decade post. Below you will see the ten movies I’ve chosen as the top cinematic efforts of the decade, along with a few bonus lists (minus commentary there). I won’t be going too in depth, since I’ve raved about everything here multiple times, but these all get my highest recommendations. Where possible, I’ve just quoted from the reviews already found here on the site. If you’re looking for something to put on as you get set to close out the year, these will do it!

Here are my ten favorite films of the decade:

10. Blinded by the Light – I’ll just leave my initial reaction on social media from the first time I laid eyes on this one: “It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while a film perfectly captures a feeling. For me, Blinded By The Light brilliantly presents what it’s like to discover Bruce Springsteen as a teenager. The movie is a crowd pleaser of the first order, but for someone like myself, it was close to a religious experience and my body was wracked with the feeling of being seen. I’d be shocked if this doesn’t stick as my favorite film of the year. I truly feel seen in a way that cinema, at its best, can sometimes do.”

9. The Disaster Artist – The Disaster Artist causes so much pleasure it should be illegal in more conservative states. Literally everything about it works. Fans of The Room will howl with delight. Virgins to Tommy Wiseau’s vision will be compelled by the Ed Wood like tale. James Franco’s commitment not just to the role of Wiseau but also showcasing how this could gain a cult following is something special. This is Franco’s finest hour, bar none. Throw in another top notch screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (easily one of the most underrated writing duos in Hollywood) and the work here is undeniable.

8. Hell or High Water – This is a nearly perfect bit of cinema. I was blown away by the anger on display, and how wonderfully subtle it gets handled. On the one hand, it works as a just brilliant crime drama, but on the other, it’s a character study as much about middle class Texans as the three main characters. Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster, and Chris Pine are at their best, essaying full formed characters who you immediately become fascinated by. I don’t want to say too much about what happens, but they all vie for your allegiance in terrific and unexpected ways. Plus, it has one of the best endings of the decade. It’s just magnificent stuff, all around.

7. Interstellar – Even with high expectations back during the first press screenings, I was floored by this film. It’s visually stunning, powerful, and surprisingly emotional. Christopher Nolan has never been one to move me to tears, but on more than one occasion I got choked up. Particularly in terms of how he deals with relationships between fathers and daughters (Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain/Mackenzie Foye, as well as Michael Caine and Anne Hathaway), it’s actually quite beautiful and sad. That’s really something special and unique, compounded by how intelligent the science fiction is here. The details about black holes and the Theory of Relativity is handled with the sort of faith that assumed the audience will come on this journey without turning off their brains. If they/you do, you’ll be in for something amazing.

6. Drive – Many classic movie characters live by a code. The idea of the character driven by a moral standing is an old one in Hollywood, but one that Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling pay phenomenal tribute to here with their creation of The Driver. Far more a character study than a “car” or action movie, and arguably even more so a superhero origin story, the film is absolutely beautiful, both in its quiet moments and in the times when blood is shed. It’s as complete and satisfying a film as we’ve seen this decade.

5. The Cabin in the Woods – I really don’t know how anyone could not love The Cabin in the Woods. I just don’t It’s just about a perfect piece of cinema, meant to bring out joy in any genre lover’s heart. It’s not always high art, but it’s definitely a brilliant work of art, and the most purely enjoyable flick of the decade, at least in my humble opinion. Any attempt not to find this an absolute riot is bound to fail.

4. Inside Llewyn Davis – A true gem, Inside Llewyn Davis is a beautiful, funny, sad, and ultimately haunting look at a struggling artist, amazingly captured by the Coen Brothers, along with their cast. Positively haunting in its look at how being just shy of good enough at what you love can ruin your life, it’s a heartbreaking but agonizingly relatable experience. The Coens don’t spare their protagonist, but they have more affection for him than almost anyone else they’ve created throughout their career.

3. The Social Network – No work this decade has proven more prescient than The Social Network. Featuring some all time great directing and writing, alongside terrific performances, this will stand the test of time. Aside from my top pick still to come, this is the most likely entry to join the AFI Top 100 when the group does a new list at some point soon. It’s impossible to argue against its brilliance.

2. Blue Valentine – Emotional napalm…that’s what I called this film when I first saw it, and that remains true to this day. With stunning performances from Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, this romantic drama from Derek Cianfrance is so real it hurts. Anyone who has ever been in love knows the feeling this movie gives then, and it’s a true emotional experience. Cinematic perfection, plain and simple.

1. her – The best movie of the decade is also one of my all time favorite films. Spike Jonze captured something brilliant here in a perfect flick that provides literally anything and everything a cinephile could ask for. Don’t even bother reading this, just go and put it on again. You’ll easily understand why it tops this list…

As a bonus, here are my favorite performances of the decade, as well as my top directorial outings and screenplays:


Performances

10. Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars)
9. Ryan Gosling (Drive)
8. Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
7. Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
6. Joaquin Phoenix (her)
5. Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
4. Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine)
3. Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
2. Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)
1. Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)


Directing

10. David Ayer (End of Watch)
9. Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)
8. David Lowery (A Ghost Story)
7. Ethan Coen and Joel Coen (Inside Llewyn Davis)
6. Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
5. Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine)
4. Christopher Nolan (Interstellar)
3. Nicholas Winding Refn (Drive)
2. David Fincher (The Social Network)
1. Spike Jonze (her)


Screenplays

10. Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (The Fault in Our Stars)
9. Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan (Interstellar)
8. Ethan Coen and Joel Coen (Inside Llewyn Davis)
7. Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)
6. Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water)
5. Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (The Spectacular Now)
4. Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon (The Cabin in the Woods)
3. Derek Cianfrance, Joey Curtis, and Cami Delavigne (Blue Valentine)
2. Spike Jonze (her)
1. Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network)


Here’s to the next decade of cinema!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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