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The best films of the 2010s: the 50 movies of the decade

The 2010s have given us some incredible movies. Here are 50 of our favourites

By Time Out Film |

The decade began with emotional farewells to ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Toy Story’, ‘Iron Man 2’ disappointing everyone who came into contact with it and Tim Burton’s trippy take on ‘Alice in Wonderland’ hinting that maybe, just maybe, 3D was here to stay. Fast forward ten years and Marvel has shrugged off that rare misfire to become an all-conquering, Martin-Scorsese-upsetting behemoth, 3D is all but mothballed again, ‘Star Wars’ is back and old franchises (hello ‘Toy Story’) proved to be not nearly as finished as we thought they were. And in among those headline stories, there have been some killer movies released. From films by brilliant new voices like Ari Aster, Greta Gerwig, and Jordan Peele to old masters like Hirokazu Kore-eda, Richard Linklater, George Miller and Kathryn Bigelow, here’s a half-century of greats from the 2010s.

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Black Panther, la película de Marvel
Photograph: Marvel/Disney
Film, Action and adventure

Black Panther (2018)

For better or worse (Martin Scorsese would probably say worse), the 2010s were the decade of Marvel. The MCU entered our lexicon in a big way: 21 films released during the last ten years alone, amassing upward of $21 billion globally. Pop culture – its production, its marketing, its consumption – was changed forever, and even if the movies themselves weren’t always worthy of the footprint, at least Ryan Coogler’s was. Dense with creative production design and ‘Hamlet’-like intrigue, ‘Black Panther’ was the superhero movie ennobled. Wakanda forever. –Joshua Rothkopf

The Favourite
Photograph: 20th Century Fox
Film, Drama

The Favourite (2019)

If eighteenth-century England was half as much fun as director Yorgos Lanthimos’s regal romp makes it look, you’d say to hell with all the itchy skin complaints and rotten teeth and move there. ‘The Favourite’ plays like ‘The Crown’ on helium, with bawdiness and bitchiness vying for space with political manoeuvring that would have made Molière proud. Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are a pitch-perfect duo as bitter rivals, but Olivia Colman steals the show as the sorta-object of their affections: a maverick, melancholy queen who never saw a crustacean she didn’t want to race. –Phil de Semlyen

The Duke of Burgundy
Photograph: Rook Films/Curzon Film World
Film, Drama

The Duke of Burgundy (2015)

A backward-glancing filmmaker but not a nostalgic one, Reading’s Peter Strickland emerged as one of the decade’s most unusual voices: a synth-loving retro stylist who infuses the grammar of ’60s and ’70s exploitation flicks with deep feeling. His third feature is the perfect entry point (gateway drug, to be honest). Clothed in the gauzy soft-focus eroticism of Jess Franco and Radley Metzger, it presents a heartbreaking conundrum: a loving couple on the verge of losing their spark. Sometimes, sadomasochistic bondage play isn’t enough. –Joshua Rothkopf

Photograph: Non-Stop Productions/Sony Pictures Classics
Film, Drama

Leviathan (2014)

Russia’s Andrey Zvyagintsev exposed deep civic corruption (and an even deeper national cynicism) with this ominous Job-like fable, a microcosm of an anarchic post-Soviet culture stomping on the common man and favouring thuggish special interests. Besieged Kolya (Aleksei Serebryakov) may lose his house to a rapacious mayor who wants a dacha for himself. Marital estrangement, murder and iffy religious advice swirl into the mix, making ‘Leviathan’ an especially cloudy shot of 190-proof vodka. How it got funded by the powers that be is a mystery. –Joshua Rothkopf

God's Own Country
Photograph: Picturehouse Entertainment
Film, Drama

God's Own Country (2017)

Passion blossoms on the Yorkshire moors in Francis Lee’s stunning debut feature. Josh O’Connor is the surly young farmer who initially resents the presence of hired hand Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu), but who could resist that face? Never falling into stereotype, ‘God’s Own Country’ manages to be both a nuanced portrait of a struggling farming community as well as a sensual romance: much more than just a Yorkshire Brokeback. –Anna Smith

Cold War
Photograph: Opus Film/Amazon Studios
Film, Drama

Cold War (2018)

Director Pawel Pawlikowski (also of ‘Ida’) made one of the most romantic films of the 2010s: a decades-spanning, David Lean-esque epic about the pains of unattainable love. Shot in sparkling black-and-white and embellished with music ranging from Polish folk songs to classic chanteuse ballads (the latter performed by breakout star Joanna Kulig), Pawlikowski’s post-WWII melodrama offers everything we crave from stories of passion: a handsome central couple, unruly surface emotions and beguilingly sexy undertones. –Tomris Laffly

Photograph: Warner Bros.
Film, Science fiction

Gravity (2013)

The rebirth of 3D in the late 2000s resulted in countless cinematic crimes and digital misfires – but ‘Gravity’ made it all worthwhile. The pinnacle of special effects cinema to date, Alfonso Cuarón’s high-orbit road movie follows marooned astronauts Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as they struggle to reach safety in the wake of a catastrophic space shuttle accident. Viewed on the biggest available screen in pin-sharp 3D, it’s literally breathtaking. –Tom Huddleston

Denis Lavant in Holy Motors
Photograph: Artificial Eye

Holy Motors (2012)

This sui generis masterpiece is the kind of bonkers gem that has you wishing that French auteur Leos Carax made a whole lot more movies. It’s only his fifth feature in a career that exploded into life in the early ’80s, but, wow, what a comeback: his muse Denis Lavant brings all his loose-limbed, acrobatic genius to the lead, well, 11 roles. One of them is a leprechaun. Another is an elderly beggar. Flowers get eaten. Armpits are licked. Kylie shows up. See? Bonkers – but utterly brilliant with it. –Phil de Semlyen

Photograph: Netflix
Film, Drama

Roma (2018)

With ‘Roma’, Alfonso Cuarón joined the masters. Exploring the writer-director’s Mexico City upbringing from a unique and empathetic sideways angle, this gorgeous monochrome memoir focuses not on little Alfonso and his privileged siblings but on the experiences of his indigenous housekeeper and nanny, played with understated grace by first-timer Yalitza Aparicio. Robbed of Best Picture by the undeserving ‘Green Book’, Cuarón took the consolation prize of being the first Best Director winner for a foreign language film. –Tom Huddleston

Photograph: StudioCanal/Film4
Film, Comedy

Sightseers (2012)

A caravanning couple’s dream holiday turns sour in this deliciously dark comedy penned by its stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oram. As the tension mounts, so does the body count and the pair must decide whether to turn Bonnie and Clyde. Directed by Ben Wheatley, ‘Sightseers’ combines alternative British character comedy with horror tropes and amusing sidekicks: if comedies were drinks, this would be a very bitter, black builders’ tea. –Anna Smith

Another Year
Photograph: Momentum Pictures/Film4
Film, Comedy

Another Year (2010)

If the decade taught us nothing else, it’s that Lesley Manville is a truly stellar actor. Her standout performance came in Mike Leigh’s ‘Another Year’, a kind of filmic ‘Eleanor Rigby’ with a London postcode. As singleton Mary, she’s tortured by the contentment of Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent’s happy marrieds and stuck in a damaging spin cycle of expensive mistakes and cheap wine. A judgement-free study of everyday life – and struggle – Leigh’s compassionate film blossoms around her into something truly affecting and universal. –Phil de Semlyen

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Photograph: Roy Andersson Filmproduktion AB/ Magnolia Pictures
Film, Comedy

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2015)

So deadpan you want to check its pulse, Roy Andersson’s straight-faced comic marvel feels more like a series of loosely connected tableaus than a narrative whole in the traditional sense. But then, there’s nothing traditional about the Swedish director’s way of synthesising the universal business of being human into an artform that’s somehow larky, profound and existential. Time Out’s review at the time compared him with Monty Python. This is his ‘Dead Parrot’ sketch. –Phil de Semlyen

The Babadook
Photograph: IFC Films
Film, Horror

The Babadook (2014)

Among the most assured debuts of the century so far, Jennifer Kent’s heartbreaking horror film – also a parable on motherhood – unearths the deeply feminine emotional and sexual frustrations intrinsic to maternity. A grief-soaked, contemporary ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ told in gothic hues, Kent’s modern classic mines screams not via cheap jump-scares, but something several degrees more terrifying: a single parent (the soulful Essie Davis) on the verge of a nervous breakdown. –Tomris Laffly

Photograph: Thunderbird Releasing/AOI Promotion
Film, Drama

Shoplifters (2018)

Japanese maestro Hirokazu Kore-eda’s best films explore the mechanics of family: how we relate to, and care for one another. Made in the wake of global recession and inspired by real-life stories of Japanese families stealing to eat, ‘Shoplifters’ tracks the fortunes of one such criminal collective, unrelated by blood but bonded by necessity and experience. Packed with moral complexity and shifting sympathies, Kore-eda’s film deservedly snatched the Palme d’Or at Cannes. –Tom Huddleston

Young Adult
Photograph: Paramount Pictures
Film, Drama

Young Adult (2012)

Charlize Theron plays ‘psychotic prom queen bitch’ Mavis Gary in a black comedy that’s all the funnier for not being set at high school. It’s decades later, and Mavis heads back to her small suburban town with her sights set on her ex, Buddy (Patrick Wilson), undeterred by the fact that he’s married with a baby. Once again, ‘Juno’ writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman achieve a near-perfect balance between bitter laughs and insightful observation. –Anna Smith

The Raid
Photograph: Sony Pictures Classics/Stage 6 Films
Film, Action and adventure

The Raid (2012)

One cop. One towerblock. An army of bad guys. The plot of Wales-born, Indonesia-based writer-director Gareth Edwards’s ferocious action movie was so simple, it was surprising no one had thought of it before (though coincidentally, the makers of ‘Dredd’ did think of it at roughly the same time). Punishingly choreographed by stars Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, ‘The Raid’ introduced the Indonesian martial art of Pencak Silat to gobsmacked audiences and spawned an intermittently marvellous but wildly overcomplicated sequel. –Tom Huddleston

Photograph: Paramount Pictures
Film, Animation

Anomalisa (2016)

Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson deliver a startlingly original look at loneliness and love with this stop-motion animation about a travelling businessman (David Thewlis) who tries to look up his ex. It’s a darkly funny character comedy with all the surrealism you’d expect from a Kaufman creation, but like his screenplay for ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, it’s relatable in all kinds of unexpected ways. It also rivals ‘Team America’ for the most memorable puppet sex scene in cinema. –Anna Smith

The Great Beauty
Photograph: Indigo Film/Artificial Eye
Film, Drama

The Great Beauty (2013)

Paolo Sorrentino’s elegant comedy harkened back to ‘La Dolce Vita’ and its debauched journalist hero’s metaphysical yearnings. Jep (the magnificently louche Toni Servillo), a sunglass-shaded observer, is abruptly shaken by his own lifelong superficiality; he hopes to stretch out before it’s too late. Like Jep, the movie chases an evolving sense of beauty amid Berlusconi’s hedonism, but the confidence and panache of the filmmaking is never in doubt. –Joshua Rothkopf

12 Years a Slave
Photograph: Film4/ Fox Searchlight
Film, Drama

12 Years a Slave (2014)

If Nate Parker’s ‘The Birth of a Nation’ was a fierce corrective to DW Griffith’s 1915 namesake, this Oscar winner dismantled the cosy myths of ‘Gone with the Wind’ piece by piece, showing slavery as the traumatic, brutalising prison it was. The big houses in Brit director Steve McQueen’s Best Picture winner (and surprise commercial hit) are filled only with moral cowards (Benedict Cumberbatch’s William Ford) and drunken monsters (Michael Fassbender’s Edwin Epps). One, McQueen’s film suggests, is as bad as the other. Thankfully, the soulful Chiwetel Ejiofor as free-born New Yorker Solomon Northup and Lupita Nyong’o (spectacular in her breakthrough role) make it as much a cry of defiance as a litany of miseries. –Phil de Semlyen

Force Majeure
Photograph: TriArt Film
Film, Drama

Force Majeure (2015)

Probably the best film named after a boring legal term (‘Double Indemnity’ aside), Ruben Östlund’s tragicomic ‘Force Majeure’ charts the cracks that open in a well-to-do family when dad scarpers during an avalanche on a skiing holiday, leaving his wife and kids to fend for themselves. Sharper than the pointy bit of a ski poll, what follows feels like a defining satire on the fragility of the male ego. In a meta twist, the avalanche became an internet sensation this year. –Phil de Semlyen

Exit Through the Gift Shop
Photograph: Paranoid Pictures/Revolver Entertainment
Film, Documentaries

Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010)

Was it a hoax? Turns out that was the least thorny question emerging from this cryptic documentary, as wry and complex as a Robert Altman film. At first, its ostensible subject is Banksy (also credited as the film’s director), the mysterious street artist who likes to deface public spaces after midnight. But prophetically, the film shifts its attention to a phoney on the rise: Thierry Guetta, an amateur videographer reborn as an art star. Thanks to Rhys Ifans’s droll narration, you’re never not laughing, even as the concept of fame unravels. –Joshua Rothkopf

Son of Saul
Photograph: Laokoon Filmgroup
Film, Drama

Son of Saul (2016)

With anti-Semitism on the rise worldwide, the subject of the Holocaust feels as vital as ever – as do movies about it, especially those that commit to a studious, unsentimental reproduction of the horror in all its banality. Hungary’s László Nemes made his feature debut with this shattering landmark drama, an immersive plunge into the day-to-day operations of Auschwitz, seen through the eyes of a Sonderkommando, Saul (Géza Röhrig), one of the Jewish prisoners conscripted into the disposal of the bodies. –Joshua Rothkopf

inside out
Photograph: Disney Pixar
Film, Animation

Inside Out (2015)

If the opening of ‘Up’ made you blub, you might not have been ready for the bit in Pixar’s stunningly brainy, deeply emotional animation where the tweenaged Riley Andersen runs away from home, her world collapsing around her. We’ve all been there: a time in our lives where our emotions just became too big for our ability to process them. But only Pixar has the daring to reimagine those fast-changing young psyches as a dazzling landscape filled with globe-like memories, trains of thought and an imaginary friend called Bing Bong. –Phil de Semlyen

A Separation, best Oscar-winning Netflix films
Photograph: Artificial Eye
Film, Drama

A Separation (2011)

In Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-winning magnum opus, the humane Iranian master explores his customary theme of social justice, mapping out an unflinching study of a marriage’s dissolution intertwined with a shrewd whodunnit. En route to a divorce (not always granted in Iran), we experience an enormous amount of cultural texture as the complex custody case winds its way through the courts. Few films resolve to a final shot this devastating. –Tomris Laffly

Photograph: Universal Pictures

Bridesmaids (2011)

Two bridesmaids (Kristen Wiig and Rose Byrne) must work together to help their mutual friend plan her wedding, but rivalry and therefore hilarity ensues. It could have been awful, it could have been ordinary, but in the hands of writers Wiig and Annie Mumolo, ‘Bridesmaids’ is hands-down hilarious. Never underestimating its audience, it swerved to avoid clichés as if they were littered across this well-trodden path and paved the way for more big-budget female-centred comedies. The aeroplane scene remains magnificent. –Anna Smith

Photograph: Wilson Webb/StudioCanal
Film, Drama

Carol (2015)

The masterpiece his entire career seemed to have been building towards, Todd Haynes’s sumptuous adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel ‘The Price of Salt’ gathers all of his previous preoccupations – forbidden passion, social anxiety, repressed emotion, painstakingly detailed ’50s fashions – into one majestic package. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are effortlessly convincing as the secret lovers kept apart by convention, and the final scenes are heart-stopping. It’s perhaps no wonder that Haynes has seemed a little directionless ever since. –Tom Huddleston

The Death of Stalin
Photograph: Nicola Dove/Entertainment One
Film, Comedy

The Death of Stalin (2017)

Finding dark laughs in Stalin’s vicious inner circle, Armando Iannucci reminds us that with material this sharp, nothing is off-limits. With co-writer David Schneider, he reimagines the aftermath of Stalin’s death as a vaudevillian carnival of in-fighting and shameless manoeuvring, populating it with some of the greatest comic actors of their generation. It still hasn’t been released in Russia, although it has been illegally downloaded by 1.5 million people. Comrade Beria would have all their names on a list. –Phil de Semlyen

Stories We Tell
Photograph: National Film Board of Canada
Film, Documentaries

Stories We Tell (2013)

Sarah Polley’s melancholic investigation of her family’s history begins as a cosy personal journey, then eases into a much scarier proposition: let’s be more curious about our parents’ pasts. Blending first-person interviews and grainy Super 8 re-enactments with panache, Polley’s one-of-a-kind identity pursuit ends up resembling a memory piece – one that honours her mother’s unapologetically spirited misbehaving. –Tomris Laffly

Photograph: Warner Bros.
Film, Drama

Her (2014)

Released on Valentine’s Day 2014, this is no ordinary romance. Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is in love with his computer’s operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Her entrancing voice helps make Spike Jonze’s futuristic film seem almost credible; as does the timely concept that’s explored with the writer-director’s usual wit and panache. It’s ‘The Man with Two Brains’ for the internet age, and yes, that is very much a compliment. –Anna Smith

The tree of life
Photograph: Fox Searchlight
Film, Drama

The Tree of Life (2011)

Simple as a fable, Terrence Malick’s yearning meditation on compassion and morality derives much of its emotional force from the writer-director’s own experience, dealing as it does with a boy in 1950s Texas who loses a brother, just as Malick did around the same age. But this spare central narrative is imbued with celestial importance, not least in the breathtaking special effects sequence tracking the origins of the universe and the dawning of empathy. Dizzying, frustrating, heavenly. –Tom Huddleston

Photograph: Fox Searchlight
Film, Drama

Margaret (2011)

Set for release in 2005 but shelved for six years when writer-director Kenneth Lonergan and studio Fox Searchlight couldn’t agree on a final cut, this slippery, intensely felt drama charts one self-absorbed teenager’s experience with tragedy. Anna Paquin is astonishing as Lisa Cohen, the child of New York privilege who witnesses a fatal bus crash and slowly goes to pieces. Part character study, part social satire and part mournful post-9/11 elegy, ‘Margaret’ is a complex, unpredictable and exhausting masterpiece. –Tom Huddleston

The Act of Killing
Photograph: Dogwoof
Film, Documentaries

The Act of Killing (2013)

Hard to watch and impossible to fully comprehend, Joshua Oppenheimer’s radical documentary tracks down some of the men who took part in the Indonesian mass killings of the mid-1960s and asks them to recreate and relive their crimes for the camera. Flattered by the attention, these mass-murderers willingly take part, only for some to find themselves perplexed and even traumatised by the experience. Stark, incisive and unafraid to confront the absolute worst of human nature, ‘The Act of Killing’ is, for better and worse, unforgettable. –Tom Huddleston

Zero Dark Thirty
Photograph: Columbia Pictures
Film, Thrillers

Zero Dark Thirty (2013)

An era-defining political thriller in the tradition of ‘The Battle of Algiers’, Kathryn Bigelow’s plunge into the hunt for Osama bin Laden features the most driven main character since ‘Zodiac’. She is Maya (Jessica Chastain, portraying a character largely modelled on a still-undercover CIA analyst), the self-professed ‘motherfucker’ who discovered the terrorist’s hideout. Surpassing even her Oscar-winning ‘The Hurt Locker’, Bigelow’s psychodrama is a career-best achievement, riven by mission doubts and ethical compromises. –Tomris Laffly

La La Land
Photograph: Dale Robinette/Lionsgate
Film, Comedy

La La Land (2016)

Wunderkind Damien Chazelle breathes new life into a dying breed: the original Hollywood musical. Loaded with jazzy tracks and vintage dance moves, Chazelle’s romantic romp – the winner of the Best Picture Oscar for about four seconds – is indebted to both Jacques Demy and MGM’s legendary Freed Unit, but has a signature all of its own, stopping traffic in the first glorious sequence. A tonic for 2016’s political unsightliness, the movie now feels ageless. –Tomris Laffly

We Need To Talk about Kevin
Photograph: Nicole Rivelli/BBC Films
Film, Drama

We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)

Talk about a killer third feature. Lynne Ramsay’s chilling adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s novel is gripping from start to finish, with a constant sense of intrigue. Tilda Swinton is perfectly cast as the mother of a child who raises alarm bells, but perhaps not loudly or clearly enough, and Ezra Miller is a revelation as the older Kevin. And the story – sadly – remains relevant today. –Anna Smith

Photograph: David Bornfriend/A24
Film, Drama

Moonlight (2017)

As aching and graceful as it is, ‘Moonlight’ will always be synonymous with the greatest snafu in Oscar history. But it should equally be remembered as the film that heralded the arrival of Barry Jenkins, an American auteur possessing an unmistakably original voice, yet one comparable to giants like Wong Kar-wai and Claire Denis. A milestone in mainstream LGBTQ+ cinema, Jenkins’s early-career masterwork gently redefines black masculinity with specificity and universality. –Tomris Laffly

Inside Llewyn Davis
Photograph: Alison Rosa/StudioCanal
Film, Drama

Inside Llewyn Davis (2014)

What happened to the guy who opened for Bob Dylan? The Coens take that premise and develop it into a wintry folk fantasia, suffused with the glum frustrations of also-rans. Shivering in the blueish light of Bruno Delbonnel’s masterful cinematography, Oscar Isaac turns in one of the decade’s flintiest performances, dangerously close to unlikable. Fortunately for us (but not for Llewyn), the movie aches with gorgeous music, and is animated by the filmmakers’ total command – as well as the presence of a cat. –Joshua Rothkopf

Florence Pugh; Jack Reynor in MIDSOMMAR
Photograph: Gabor Kotschy/A24
Film, Horror

Midsommar (2019)

It isn’t too soon to look at the two features of Ari Aster – the punishing ‘Hereditary’ and this equally impressive sunlit nightmare – and see a young master at work. Horror is Aster’s chosen genre but already he’s subverting it, deepening the vulnerability of his main characters with family tragedies and tenderising his audiences for the bigger chomp to come. ‘Midsommar’ speaks in a fluent language of betrayal and revenge, beautifully supplied by breakout star Florence Pugh without recourse to strident you-go-girl moments. –Joshua Rothkopf

Call Me By Your Name
Photograph: Sony Pictures Classic
Film, Romance

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Is this ’80s-set summer holiday saga the most tactile film of the decade? It’s not far off. It feels like you can almost reach out and touch the fabric of Timothée Chalamet’s polo collar, or even graze a hand along Armie Hammer’s thigh. That’s just one of the reasons ‘Call Me by Your Name’ captured imaginations around the world. It’s also a vivid gay love story that’s intelligent, characterful and funny, just like André Aciman’s source novel. Bravo Luca Guadagnino. –Anna Smith

INCEPJOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT as Arthur in Warner Bros. PicturesTION
Photograph: Stephen Vaughn/Warner Bros
Film, Fantasy

Inception (2011)

For his seventh feature film, writer-director Christopher Nolan took an instantly engaging premise and twisted into a terrifically complex tale, still finding a happy medium between arthouse and blockbuster. The notion is simple: teams of foraging scientists invade someone’s dreams and extract valuable information from their minds. But it’s a precarious business, people’s heads, and when something goes wrong, it has a profound knock-on effect. Impressively, Nolan balances bravura action sequences with a proper emotional payload, deep philosophical ideas and an ambiguous ending that kept the internet theorising for months. –Anna Smith

Marriage Story
Photograph: Wilson Webb/Netflix
Film, Drama

Marriage Story (2019)

Noah Baumbach delivers his most mature work to date with this fiery masterpiece drawn from his own experiences: a divorce drama caressed by notes of humour and evenly split bravura performances by Adam Driver and a never-better Scarlett Johansson. The two play theatre people waging a bicoastal custody battle. A soul-crushing portrait of a marriage gone numb, the film improves upon the ambiguity of ‘Kramer vs Kramer’; here, cravings for independence bump up against shared responsibilities and the reality of thwarted ambitions. Baumbach’s frank observations about falling out of love might rip your heart out, especially when an unforgiving argument uncorks things that can’t be unsaid. But almost miraculously for a tale about two combatants, ‘Marriage Story’ ends generously, amid the soft-pink magic hour of an LA suburb. –Tomris Laffly

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Photograph: Martin Scali/Fox Searchlight
Film, Comedy

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Wobbling into view looking like a festive biscuit tin, the gorgeously ornate ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ could only be the creation of Wes Anderson. Controlled by the perfectly camp concierge Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), it is the setting of a graceful character comedy that speeds up as its story gains urgency. War is the unwelcome influence, but the shift in tone is beautifully managed in one of Anderson’s most sophisticated stories. This plays with genre, and it wins. Murder, romance, politics, conflict, crime: all combine in an orderly fashion to create a story that’s as gripping as it is funny. And then there’s the cast: Tilda Swinton, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe… obviously we could go on. If you haven’t checked in, it’s never too late. –Anna Smith

Lady Bird
Photograph: IAC Films
Film, Comedy

Lady Bird (2018)

After lending her distinctive voice to mumblecore indies and Noah Baumbach’s ‘Frances Ha’, Greta Gerwig burst on the scene as an undeniable directorial force with this witty semi-autobiographical triumph. A rich coming-of-age comedy that also engages with issues of faith, social class and teenage sex, ‘Lady Bird’ boasts an ensemble made up of stage veterans and a new generation of talented actors, including emotive heartbreaker Saoirse Ronan and up-and-comers Timothée Chalamet, Lucas Hedges and Beanie Feldstein. Full of attentive visual flair that romances the suburban Sacramento – from drab classroom corners to the comfy nooks of girlhood homes – the film is a reflective celebration of formative female friendships and the guiding voices of mothers. –Tomris Laffly

Manchester by the Sea
Photograph: Claire Folger/Amazon Studios
Film, Drama

Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Burned by the six-year, studio-mandated delay meted out to his sophomore film ‘Margaret’ (see No 20) playwright-turned-filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan retreated from Hollywood for more than a decade. When he returned, it was in triumph. Brought on as a writer-for-hire to flesh out an original idea by actors Matt Damon and John Krasinski, Lonergan delivered a devastating (and ultimately Oscar-winning) treatise on grief. Casey Affleck – an actor who knows a little something about regretting your mistakes – plays Lee Chandler, the taciturn handyman who returns to the eponymous coastal town to bury his brother, only to find himself saddled with an obstreperous teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges). One of the best films ever made about the emotional aftermath of deep personal loss, ‘Manchester By the Sea’ can be spare and relentless, but it’s also unexpectedly hilarious. It recognises, and even celebrates those darkly comic absurdities that come hand in hand with trauma. –Tom Huddleston

Under the Skin
Photograph: Studio Canal
Film, Drama

Under the Skin (2013)

A stylish filmmaker turned increasingly thoughtful, Jonathan Glazer (‘Birth’) re-emerged after a nine-year break from features with this stunner: a woman-who-fell-to-Earth sci-fi drama that poignantly anticipates the international migrant crisis. Somehow Glazer convinced Scarlett Johansson to wear a dark wig and shoot guerrilla-style on the streets of Glasgow. Her unnamed main character, an alien, lures men to a dark void, but this isn’t an artier version of ‘Species’. Rather, Glazer deepens the emotions into cosmic loneliness, with a critical assist from composer Mica Levi, one of the decade’s true finds. Despite Johansson’s Marvel omnipresence, she finds her way into a whole new register (this in a year when she also voiced a disembodied AI in ‘Her’). ‘Under the Skin’ is a definitive example of risk-taking on screen and off. –Joshua Rothkopf

Get Out
Photograph: Universal Pictures
Film, Horror

Get Out (2017)

This game-changing horror movie came out of nowhere and drilled straight into the consciousness of anyone who saw it. The reinvention of sketch-comedy star Jordan Peele as a kind of John Carpenter for the 2010s was one of the best stories of the decade: so too, the arrival of Daniel Kaluuya as an actor of serious range. Packed with Easter eggs (you need servicable Swahili to decode one of them), the film’s scary takedown of liberal hypocrisy is constructed around the Londoner’s unwitting boyfriend, Chris, as he discovers a cancer in the soul of affluent white suburbia. –Phil de Semlyen

Jesse Eisenberg, left, and Joseph Mazzello  in Columbia Pictures' "The Social Network."
Photograph: Merrick Morton/Columbia Tristar
Film, Drama

The Social Network (2010)

‘You’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.’ Does any speech from the past decade of cinema resonate more deeply than this one, delivered by college student Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) to her demanding date, Jesse Eisenberg’s socially challenged Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg? As the real-life Zuckerberg evades public scrutiny, hosts shadowy meetings with powerful men and quietly counts his billions, the world he helped to shape is going up in flames. Powered by a relentless, clinical Aaron Sorkin script, directed with sinuous grace by David Fincher and loaded with smirking, smart-ass central performances, ‘The Social Network’ is arguably the most important and prophetic film of our era. Isn’t that a depressing thought? –Tom Huddleston

Phantom Thread
Photograph: Laurie Sparham/Universal Pictures
Film, Drama

Phantom Thread (2018)

You may be tempted to write off the whole thing as another case of irritable male genius torturing his fragile muse. But a redemptive strain of female retaliation mushrooms in Paul Thomas Anderson’s sophisticated romance (our favourite of his three strong narrative features made during the decade), resulting in a perverse comedy set within the elegance of a fictional mid-twentieth-century London fashion house. What begins as flirtation morphs into a delicious battle of the sexes, fought by former PTA oilman Daniel Day-Lewis – here playing Reynolds Woodcock, a behind-the-times couturier who dresses the rich – and newcomer Vicky Krieps’s headstrong waitress who refuses to keep it quiet at breakfast. Draped by attractive yet fittingly severe costumes and Jonny Greenwood’s stylish score, Anderson’s ‘Rebecca’-meets-Ophüls fling is not only one of the decade’s most beautiful films, but also the most quotable. –Tomris Laffly

Mad Max: Fury Road
Photograph: Jasin Boland/Warner Bros.
Film, Action and adventure

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Action movies in the 2010s found their thrills in speed (‘Fast Five’, the ‘Mission: Impossible’ films), spectacle (‘Inception’, the MCU) and raw-knuckled smackdowns (‘John Wick’, ‘Atomic Blonde’). The decade’s standout actioner, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, just went ahead and put a bullet hole in all those boxes – and a few that we hadn’t seen before, including villains who, unusually, boast a house guitarist (shout out to the Doof Warrior). Director George Miller, whose hyper-kinetic style makes this movie the big-screen equivalent of defibrillation (he’s a doctor, it’s okay), made a majestic, sand-blasted road movie that also came alive in its quiet moments – not that there were too many of those. Four years on, the roar of the War Rig and Junkie XL’s thunderous score are still rattling around in our brains. –Phil de Semlyen

Photograph: Universal Pictures
Film, Drama

Boyhood (2014)

Our favourite film of the decade took 12 years to shoot – by design. That kind of gamble doesn’t necessarily equal a masterstroke, but given the humane outlook of director Richard Linklater, America’s most relaxed player of the long game, it did. ‘Boyhood’ is about growing up and if you approach it on a granular level, scene by scene, the content is fairly conventional: school days, first love, bad decisions, families in flux. But something magical happens as we watch young Ellar Coltrane steadily become a Texas teen (not to mention Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke deepen into middle-aged resignation). It’s a shift away from melodrama and toward momentum, a remarkably subtle and life-affirming gesture. ‘Boyhood’ feels experimental but it’s as familiar as a home movie; Linklater did something similar with his ‘Before’ trilogy – a couple captured in a new film every nine years (each exquisite in its own way) – but ‘Boyhood’ is the one he’ll be remembered for. It represents the kind of long-term commitment to storytelling that we, as viewers, feel for cinema itself. –Joshua Rothkopf

Photograph: Jaguar PS/

Richard Linklater on ‘Boyhood’

Time Out: Richard, ‘Boyhood’ is our film of the decade – congrats! It feels like a decade-defining work. After spending so many years making it, was it a difficult movie to say goodbye to?

‘Had it had a more open-ended story, we’d probably still be shooting, but we had that built-in lifespan, first through 12th grade, and that was it. I think all of us had a hard time saying goodbye to it because it had become such a part of our lives. To have had 12 years of being in creative production mode and then to suddenly be talking of it in the past tense, as a completed work, was jarring. Even though the film was in theatres, done, we all kind of looked at each other and went: “We should still be shooting.” The feeling slowly dissipated, but it took a few years.’


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