Published Oct 24, 2019It's hard to believe that the 2010s even happened, but the decade that we still lump together with the 2000s had its own distinctive qualities — something you can clearly see with Exclaim!'s 30 Best Films of the 2010s.
In pop culture, there were plenty of shifts. Big-budget blockbusters all but incinerated the movie middle class, while streaming services ensured that every project found its place no matter the quality. Between it all, our triumphs and tragedies were reflected through film.
What follows is a diverse and delectable collection of cinema that will serve as a definitive document of life in the 2010s, with our best film selections including modern classics like Moonlight, Bridesmaids, You Were Never Really Here, Good Time, Mad Max: Fury Road and more. Also, one writer insisted we include Jackass 3D.
Exclaim!'s 30 Best Films of the 2010s:
30. 20th Century Women (2016)
Directed by Mike Mills
20th Century Women is a stunning and emotional portrait of a group of people at a specific moment in time — we see how they lived, what they argued about, what genre of music they listened to, and we follow their journeys to self-discovery. The film allows itself to be messy and it doesn't try too hard; the characters we get to know along the way are allowed to breathe.
29. The Master (2012)
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Paul Thomas Anderson's melancholic parable of post-war masculine alienation and spirituality plays as beautifully today as it did on release, punctuated by career defining performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jaoquin Phoenix.
28. Annihilation (2018)
Directed by Alex Garland
Four women (including Natalie Portman as Lena, the soldier/scientist) travel into the otherworldly, apocalyptic phenomenon known as "the Shimmer" in search of answers to what lies beyond, not knowing if they will return. While the film's plot drives its characters into the exploration of a horrifyingly alien environment — which, as an exploration of human nature in the face of certain disaster, is a strength unto its own — the true beauty of Annihilation lies in its cinematography and visual effects. Transcendental depictions of flora and fauna are simultaneously ethereal and deeply disturbing, a quality from the original novel that director Alex Garland aimed to capture before anything else. Coupled with the film's scaled back dialogue and cast, Annihilation is a slow-burning, visceral beauty, which remains as ambitious as it is artistically successful.
27. The Fireflies Are Gone (2018)
Directed by Sébastien Pilote
Sébastien Pilote's The Fireflies are Gone (La disparition des lucioles) follows Leo (Karelle Tremblay) during her apathetic final days of high school. Like many of the films characters, she feels trapped by her circumstances and by her small Quebec town itself. Maintaining a certain quirkiness and charm, Pilote's film is powerful for its ability to slow down and give careful attention to the complexity, and often pain, of daily life.
26. Interstellar (2014)
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Christopher Nolan's moody space epic explores the lengths that humans will go to in order to save our species in the face of environmental collapse. The key is the heart-wrenching bond between astronaut Joseph Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his daughter — a relationship that reinforces exactly what's at stake in saving the world.
25. Certain Women (2016)
Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Kelly Reichardt's films continue to demonstrate a quiet confidence that solidifies her as a true American master. Her familiar glacial pace is still on display in Certain Women, but the film's narrative is split into three short stories. As such, it solves the viewer's potential boredom problem while still delivering the meditations on modern life that Reichardt is unparalleled in offering.
24. Bridesmaids (2011)
Directed by Paul Feig
With its depraved poop humour and drunken, druggy meltdowns, Bridesmaids proves that thirty-somethings can be every bit as aimless and irresponsible as teenagers. In particular, Melissa McCarthy delivers a hilariously crude supporting performance for the ages. But as absurdly funny as it is, the film's lasting impression is one of heartwarming friendship.
23. The Square (2017)
Directed by Ruben Östlund
As time goes on, modern art continues to increase in its ridiculousness. That means its a perfect backdrop for Ruben Östlund's absurd satire, which lampoons the foolishness of the snooty art world while simultaneously trolling the viewer at the same time. You'll never see another movie as delightfully uncomfortable as The Square.
22. The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)
Directed by Joe Talbot
Of the many maladies facing humanity in 2019, one of the most brutal is housing injustice. As income inequality grows, so too does the cost of living for regular people who can't gobble up property like wealthy elites. Gentrification might feel like a boring subject for a film, but Joe Talbot's The Last Black Man in San Francisco captures the subject with a poetic grace and vivacity that certainly only comes once a decade, if that.
21. Paddington 2 (2017)
Directed by Paul King
Feel-good never felt so good until the little bear from Peru graced our screens. And Paddington 2 is probably the best sequel of all time, let alone this decade. [Ed note: take THAT, The Godfather Part II.] It feels like a warm hug. The film is so full of love and magic that it mystifies audiences of all ages.