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The 50 best movies of the 2010s

In a decade rife with change, there was no shortage of excellence

By Phil de Semlyen, Tom Huddleston, Tomris Laffly, Joshua Rothkopf and Anna Smith |

What a difference a decade makes. Go back to December 2009 and what do you see? James Cameron’s Avatar, effects-heavy and filmed in 3-D, seemed bleeding edge. Netflix was the place you rented DVDs from; streaming wasn’t available yet. And Iron Man was more about the heroic rebranding of Robert Downey Jr., not a sign of things to come. How things have changed. Still, in many ways, the dream of cinema felt as vital as ever during the decade that followed. A new wave of major voices came to prominence, directors we’ll hopefully be hearing about for years to come: Barry Jenkins, Greta Gerwig, Jordan Peele, Ari Aster, Damien Chazelle. Older masters like Hirokazu Kore-eda, Kathryn Bigelow, Richard Linklater and the mighty George Miller made their best work. Looking back over the 2010s, we found much to love—films that may save us as a species if we heed their warnings and warm to their compassion. This list is just a taste.

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Black Panther, la película de Marvel
Movies, 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 10 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.—Joshua Rothkopf

The Favourite
Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Movies, Drama

The Favourite (2018)

If 18th-century England were 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 move there. The Favourite plays like The Crown on helium, with bawdiness and bitchiness vying for space with political maneuvering 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 with a penchant for keeping docile bunnies by her side.—Phil de Semlyen

The Duke of Burgundy
Photo: Courtesy of Rook Films/Curzon Film World
Movies, Drama

The Duke of Burgundy (2014)

A backward-glancing filmmaker but not a nostalgic one, Britain’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 actually presents a heartbreaking conundrum: a loving couple on the verge of losing its spark. Sometimes, bondage play isn’t enough.—Joshua Rothkopf

Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Movies, 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 favoring 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
Photo: Courtesy of Agatha A. Nitecka/Samuel Goldwyn Films
Movies, 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
Photo: Courtesy of Opus Film/Amazon Studios
Movies, 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

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Movies, Science fiction

Gravity (2013)

The rebirth of 3-D 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 focus, it’s breathtaking.—Tom Huddleston

Denis Lavant in Holy Motors
Photo: Courtesy of 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 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. Utterly brilliant.—Phil de Semlyen

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix
Movies, 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 a Best Picture Oscar by the undeserving Green Book, Cuarón made what might be a more significant step, bringing Netflix and streaming into the awards conversation by pure dint of talent.—Tom Huddleston

Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Selects
Movies, Comedy

Sightseers (2012)

A caravaning couple’s dream vacation turns sour in this deliciously dark comedy—one of the decade’s most vicious—penned by co-stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oram. As the tension mounts, so does the body count and the pair must decide whether to turn into Bonnie and Clyde. Directed by Ben Wheatley, Sightseers combines alternative British character comedy with horror tropes and amusing sidekicks: If such movies were drinks, this one would be a bitter black tea, wince-inducing with every sip but utterly refreshing.—Anna Smith

Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Another Year (2010)

If the decade taught us nothing else, it’s that Lesley Manville is a truly stellar actor. Her first standout performance arrived in Mike Leigh’s triumph, a kind of visualized “Eleanor Rigby” with a London postal code. As singleton Mary, Manville is tortured by the contentment of a pair of happy marrieds (Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent) and stuck in a damaging spin cycle of expensive mistakes and cheap wine. A judgment-free study of everyday life and its struggles, Leigh’s compassionate film blossoms into something truly universal.—Phil de Semlyen

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Photo: Courtesy of Roy Andersson Filmproduktion AB/ Magnolia Pictures
Movies, Comedy

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014)

So deadpan you almost 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 synthesizing the universal business of being human into a style 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
Photo: Courtesy of IFC Films
Movies, 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 new 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

Photo: Courtesy of Thunderbird Releasing/AOI Promotion
Movies, Drama

Shoplifters (2018)

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s best films all 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
Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Movies, Drama

Young Adult (2011)

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. Largely misunderstood in its moment, the movie now feels like one of cinema’s most honest depictions of self-delusion.—Anna Smith

Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Movies, Action and adventure

The Raid: Redemption (2011)

One cop. One tower block. An army of bad guys. The plot of Wales-born, Indonesia-based 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 Western audiences and spawned an intermittently marvelous but wildly overcomplicated sequel.—Tom Huddleston

Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Movies, Animation

Anomalisa (2015)

Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson deliver a startlingly original look at loneliness and love with this stop-motion animated stunner about a traveling businessman (David Thewlis) who tries to look up his ex but ends up with a stranger (Jennifer Jason Leigh). 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
Photo: Courtesy of Indigo Film/Artificial Eye
Movies, Drama

The Great Beauty (2013)

Turning the corner on a junky span of Italian cinema best left forgotten, 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 himself, 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
Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures
Movies, Drama

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Dismantling the cozy myths of Gone with the Wind piece by piece, this Oscar winner depicted slavery as the traumatic, brutalizing prison it was. The plantation houses in Brit director Steve McQueen’s surprise commercial hit are filled only with moral cowards (Benedict Cumberbatch’s William Ford) and drunken monsters (Michael Fassbender’s Edwin Epps). Neither is better than the other, McQueen’s film suggests. Thankfully, the soulful Chiwetel Ejiofor as free-born New Yorker Solomon Northup and Lupita Nyong’o (spectacular in her breakout role) make it as much a cry of defiance as a litany of miseries.—Phil de Semlyen

Force Majeure
Photo: Courtesy of TriArt Film
Movies, Drama

Force Majeure (2014)

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

Exit Through the Gift Shop
Photo: Courtesy of Paranoid Pictures/Revolver Entertainment
Movies, Documentary

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 Exit’s director), the mysterious street artist who likes to deface public spaces after midnight. But prophetically, the film shifts its attention to a phony 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
Photo: Courtesy of Laokoon Filmgroup
Movies, Drama

Son of Saul (2015)

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
Photo: Courtesy of Disney/Pixar
Movies, Animation

Inside Out (2015)

If the opening of Up made your tear ducts gush, you might not have been ready for the bit in Pixar’s heartfelt animated treasure in which the tweenaged Riley runs away from home, her world collapsing around her. We’ve all been there: a time in our lives when emotions become 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, literal trains of thought and imaginary friends called Bing Bong.—Phil de Semlyen

Leila Hatami and Peyman Moaadi in A Separation
Photo: Courtesy of Artificial Eye
Movies, 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 whodunit. 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

Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Bridesmaids (2011)

Two ultra-competitive bridesmaids (Kristen Wiig and Rose Byrne) must work together to plan a wedding, but rivalry gets in the way. It could have been awful (or worse, merely ordinary) but in the hands of co-writers Wiig and Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids was hands-down hilarious—and quietly radical to boot. Never underestimating its audience, it swerved to avoid clichés, paving the road for more big-budget female-centered comedies to come. Meanwhile, Melissa McCarthy arrived like a force of nature: brassy, confident, inspiring.—Anna Smith

Photo: Courtesy of Wilson Webb/StudioCanal
Movies, Drama

Carol (2015)

The masterpiece his entire career was building toward, Todd Haynes’s sumptuous adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt gathers all of the director’s 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

A Morte de Estaline
Photo: Courtesy of IFC Films
Movies, Comedy

The Death of Stalin (2017)

Finding dark laughs in a vicious inner circle, Veep’s Armando Iannucci reminds us that with material this sharp, nothing is off limits. With co-writer David Schneider, he reimagines the immediate aftermath of Joseph Stalin’s death as a vaudevillian carnival of in-fighting and shameless maneuvering, 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.—Phil de Semlyen

Stories We Tell
Photo: Courtesy of National Film Board of Canada
Movies, Comedy

Stories We Tell (2012)

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

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Movies, Comedy

Her (2013)

It's the future: a sleeker, better-managed one than we usually get. Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is in love with his computer’s OS system (Scarlett Johansson). Her entrancing voice helps make Spike Jonze’s speculative fiction quite credible, as does the timely concept of artificial connection, explored with the writer-director's usual wit and irreverence. It's The Man with Two Brains for the internet age, and yes, that’s very much a compliment.—Anna Smith

The tree of life
Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures
Movies, 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 a breathtaking special-effects sequence tracking the origins of the universe and the dawning of empathy. Dizzying, frustrating, heavenly.—Tom Huddleston

Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

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, a 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
Photo: Courtesy of Dogwoof
Movies, Documentary

The Act of Killing (2012)

Hard to watch and impossible to fully comprehend, Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary tracks down some of the men who took part in the Indonesian mass killings of the mid-1960s and asks them to re-create 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 traumatized 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

Photo: Courtesy of Annapurna Pictures
Movies, Action and adventure

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

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 modeled 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

Stone and Gosling in La La Land
Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate
Movies, 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 a hot second—is indebted to both Jacques Demy and MGM’s legendary Freed Unit, but has a signature all its own, stopping traffic in the first glorious sequence. A tonic for 2016’s political unsightliness, the movie now feels ageless.—Tomris Laffly

Tilda Swinton and Jasper Newell in We Need to Talk About Kevin
Photo: Courtesy of Code Red

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

Photo: Courtesy of David Bornfriend/A24
Movies, Drama

Moonlight (2016)

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
Photo: Courtesy of Alison Rosa/StudioCanal
Movies, Drama

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

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 bluish 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

Photo: Courtesy of A24 / Gabor Kotschy
Movies, 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 tenderizing 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
Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Movies, Romance

Call Me by Your Name (2017)

Is this ’80s-set summer holiday saga a perfect romance? It's not far off. You can almost reach out and feel 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. The vivid gay love story is also intelligent, richly characterized and funny, just like its source novel. Bravo, Luca Guadagnino.—Anna Smith

INCEPJOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT as Arthur in Warner Bros. PicturesTION
Photo: Courtesy of Stephen Vaughn/Warner Bros.

Inception (2010)

For his seventh feature film, writer-director Christopher Nolan took an instantly engaging premise and twisted it into a terrifically complex tale, 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 butterfly effect. Impressively, Nolan balances bravura action sequences with weighty emotions, and deep philosophical ideas with an ambiguity that kept the internet theorizing for months.—Anna Smith

Marriage Story
Photo: Courtesy of Wilson Webb/Netflix
Movies, 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 humor and evenly-split bravura performances by Adam Driver and a never-better Scarlett Johansson. The two play theater people waging a bicoastal custody battle. A soul-crushing portrait of a marriage gone numb, the film improves upon Kramer vs. Kramer; here, cravings of 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 a Los Angeles suburb.—Tomris Laffly

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Photo: Courtesy of Martin Scali/Fox Searchlight Pictures
Movies, Comedy

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Rising out of the mountains like a frosted pink cake, the pretty Grand Budapest Hotel could only be the creation of Wes Anderson. Controlled by its concierge, Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes, perfectly camp), 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 one plays with genre and wins: Murder, romance, politics, nostalgia and crime all combine in an orderly fashion to create a tale that's as gripping as it is funny. And then there's the cast—Tilda Swinton, Saorise Ronan, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, obviously we could go on. If you haven’t checked in yet, it’s not too late.—Anna Smith

Lady Bird
Photo: Courtesy of IAC Films
Movies, Comedy

Lady Bird (2017)

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 Brooklyn’s 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
Photo: Courtesy of Claire Folger/Amazon Studios
Movies, 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 moviemaking for over 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 plays Lee Chandler, a 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 feel spare and relentless, but it’s also unexpectedly hilarious, recognizing and even celebrating those darkly comic absurdities that come hand in hand with trauma.—Tom Huddleston

Under the Skin
Photo: Courtesy of StudioCanal
Movies, Drama

Under the Skin (2013)

A stylish filmmaker turned increasingly thoughtful, Birth’s Jonathan Glazer 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 her credit, an excellent judge of scripts) 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 wholly new register (this in a year when she also voiced a disembodied AI in Her, our No. 22). Under the Skin is a definitive example of risk-taking onscreen and off.—Joshua Rothkopf

Get Out
Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Movies, 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 racially charged John Carpenter for the 2010s was one of the best stories of the decade; so too, the arrival of actor Daniel Kaluuya. Packed with Easter eggs, the film’s scary takedown of liberal hypocrisy is constructed around the discovery of a cancer in the soul of affluent white suburbia.—Phil de Semlyen

Jesse Eisenberg, left, and Joseph Mazzello  in Columbia Pictures' "The Social Network."
Photo: Courtesy of Merrick Morton/Columbia Pictures
Movies, 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, the socially challenged Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg)? As the real-life Zuckerberg evades public scrutiny, hosts shadowy meetings 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, itself a depressing thought.—Tom Huddleston

Phantom Thread
Photo: Courtesy of Focus Features
Movies, Drama

Phantom Thread (2017)

You may be tempted to write the whole thing off 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 favorite of his three strong narrative features made during the decade), resulting in a perverse comedy set within the elegance of a fictional mid-20th-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 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
Photo: Courtesy of Jasin Boland/Warner Bros.
Movies, Action and adventure

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

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

Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Movies, Drama

Boyhood (2014)

Our favorite 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-age 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, returning to the same couple every nine years for a new film (each exquisite in its own way), but this 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

72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards - Press Room
Photo: Jordan Strauss

Richard Linklater on Boyhood

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

Richard Linklater: Had the movie had a more open-ended story, we’d probably still be shooting! But we had that built-in lifespan—first through 12th grades—and that was it.  I think we all 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 speaking of it in the past tense, as a completed work, was jarring. Even when the film was in theaters, 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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