The decade just passed marked 10 years of excellent cinema. But which films rose beyond the mass of mediocrity and towards the pulpit of excellence?
So this was originally going to be a top 10 films of the decade. But, it ended up being a top 13. The reason for this is that I simply couldn’t whittle this list of 13 films down any further. And besides, if the aim of a ‘best of’ list is to highlight the creme de la creme then it seems counterproductive to constrain that list any more than it needs to be.
The Irishman (2019)
Eighth Grade (2018)
Get Out (2017)
The Death of Stalin (2017)
Sing Street (2016)
The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Pitch Perfect (2012)
The Master (2012)
The Raid (2011)
I Saw the Devil (2010)
127 Hours (2010)
These were all excellent films and could have easily made it onto the final list but just missed out for one reason or another. With that said, let’s get on with my 13 favourite films from the past 10 years.
13. The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
This simply had to feature; if nothing else than for revitalising and reshaping an increasingly stagnant genre. If you love horror films, and I absolutely do, then I struggle to see a scenario in which you won’t enjoy this film. I think part of the reason this film proved so divisive amongst audiences was a conceptual misunderstanding. Basically, ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ is the closest thing we’ve had to ‘Scream’ since it’s 1996 release – this being a horror film which satirises just about every aspect of the genre whilst also juggling it’s own, hilariously written plot.
Any movie which manages to be both a homage and love letter to the genre from which it hails, whilst poking fun at the various tropes which exist within it, is a pretty bloody good movie in my eyes.
Though not particularly scary, ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ is undoubtedly the best and most important horror film I’ve seen in the last decade. It manages to deconstruct and turn the horror genre completely on its head, transcending the boundaries of mere spoof in order to become something new and entirely original. Where ‘Scream’ exhibited the ‘rules’ of horror flicks, ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ provides an intentionally trope-laden, cinematic history of horror with painstakingly detailed adoration. It’s well acted, funny and delightfully nostalgic.
12. Black Swan (2010)
If you aren’t aware of Darren Aronofsky (the director of ‘Black Swan’) then I’d strongly recommend you check him out! The man has operated within a rich vein of form since the turn of the century, giving us an abundance of cinematic excellence including ‘Requiem for a Dream’ (2000), ‘The Wrestler’ (2008) and ‘Mother’ (2017). ‘Black Swan’ is no different, telling the story of a dancer who battles with her sanity and commitment to the craft as she tries to embrace her darker side in order to truly embody the titular character in a stage production of ‘Swan Lake’.
This almost feels like a mashup of his two earlier works I mentioned, taking the disturbing imagery of ‘Requiem for a Dream’ and combining it with the heartfelt, yet difficult to watch scenes from ‘The Wrestler’. Natalie Portman is fantastic (and fully deserving of her Oscar win) as Nina, the frustratingly shy and awkward ballet dancer. Vincent Cassel is great as the creepy dance instructor and Mila Kunis shows a level of acting ability I had no idea was there.
‘Black Swan’ is both beautiful and nightmarish in equal measure. It offers an introspective examination into the murky underside of the human psyche, anchored by Portman’s career-defining performance and Tchaivosky’s revelatory compositions.
11. Drive (2011)
Looking at Nicolas Winding Refn’s entire directorial career, you’d be forgiven for thinking that ‘Drive’ was simply a fluke. Well, if that is the case, then it’s one which I’m very glad he stumbled into making.
I’ve seen many people berate this movie as slow and boring which I largely view as a symptom of modern cinema audiences because to me, ‘Drive’ isn’t dull in the slightest. It’s stylised approach to cinema – from a title sequence written in cursive pink to a wonderfully retro soundtrack – births this film into a pitch-perfect reflection of films from the 70’s and 80’s.
Ryan Gosling does an excellent job playing the quiet, yet ultimately intimidating villain. His seemingly gentle nature, as well as his understated (yet very well handled) relationship with Carey Mulligan’s character, provides a brilliant juxtaposition for when we see the dark underbelly of his persona through the lens of action and violence which is very well handled. And without going into too much detail, the elevator scene offers one of the most deeply complex yet subtle examinations of a character I’ve ever seen.
10. Rango (2011)
I remember seeing people fume and rage at ‘Rango’ and it’s violent themes which clearly weren’t appropriate for their four year old daughter. And they’d be right. But I suppose that’s their fault for seeing a new film in the cinema and assuming that by virtue of it being animated, it’d suffice as a babysitter for 100 minutes.
Anyway, ‘Rango’ is just so much fun and a great modern-day homage to spaghetti westerns popularized in the 60’s and onwards. We don’t even know our protagonist’s name (no, it isn’t Rango), a fairly obvious but still endearing nod to Clint Eastwood’s ‘man with no name’ from the Dollar trilogy.
What Gore Verbinski does so well with ‘Rango’ is make a film which appeals to fans of classic Westerns whilst also drawing in a crowd which is less than familiar with the genre. A combination of Johnny Depp’s eccentric performance, fantastic imagery and scenery which is so brilliantly reminiscent of (whilst more than capable of standing up to) genre classics, and a funny, action-packed story allow ‘Rango’ to bridge the gap between Western puritans and more casual movie-goers. Animated films (outside of the ‘Pixar’ canon) are often accused of adhering to a formulaic nature but this certainly isn’t the case here!
Next time, I’ll be revealing my picks from no. 9-5!
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