It’s that time of year again. Only this time around, instead of just comparing our favourites from the last 12 months, we also get to go back and discuss the stand-out flicks of the last 10 years.
I must admit, I’m not really a fan of ‘best of’ lists because I find it hard to compare art for the sole purpose of deciding which is ‘better’. But, what I can say is, it’s been quite a decade for film – and there are definitely some films which made a greater impact on me than others.
So here, I’ve gathered my favourite 10 films of the last 10 years (along with some honourable mentions) and have taken the opportunity to say a little something about why they made my list. I’d love to know what you think in the comments, but also, I’d be keen to hear your own lists so I can start to catch up on everything I’ve probably missed from the 2010s!
#10 – The Revenant (2015)
A movie that can pack in such a wealth of breathtaking cinematography alongside truly heart-pounding action and drama is a rare thing, but 2015’s The Revenant seems to do it with ease. One of the most completely entrancing films I think I’ve ever seen, The Revenant had me absolutely agape at points and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.
#9 – Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)
Out of all these, 2016’s Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is easily the one I’ve rewatched the most. The Lonely Island’s infinitely quotable popumentary following Connor ‘Connor4Real’ Friel and his former group The Style Boyz is both a regular drunk watch and an essential comfort blanket when I fly. Every watch provides a new favourite joke (currently “Tony! Tone! Toni! Tonee?”) and the soundtrack still makes me laugh on every listen.
#8 – Joker (2019)
A movie that split audiences on its approach to comic book adaptation and the clear (some would say plagiarist) way it wore its influences on its sleeve, Joker is probably a controversial pick. But, as someone who adores the films from which it so obviously borrows and has been pleading with Hollywood to push comic book movies in a more interesting direction for years, this film just hits all the right notes for me. My only hope now is DC/Warner now learns the right lessons from it.
#7 – The Neon Demon (2016)
I think The Neon Demon was just one of those films that worked perfectly for me in the moment. I didn’t know what to expect, but as a fan of Refn’s previous work I was open to the whatever it chose to be. And, seen in a loud, dark and almost empty cinema after a couple of whiskeys, it set my senses on fire. Sure, it’s a little ‘style over substance’ (as can be Refn’s want) but I think in this context it kind of makes sense. Rich, vivid, sickly, fascinating and truly beautiful.
#6 – Her (2013)
On paper, a film like Spike Jonze’s Her really shouldn’t work, but the way the film is executed both by its director and its lead Joaquin Phoenix here is just so raw and emotionally impactful it truly soars. A strange and tragic study of love, loss and the inescapable truth that sometimes ‘people’ change much faster than the relationships of which they are a part, I have no problem calling this film a modern masterpiece.
#5 Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)
When we look back on 2019, I think we’ll remember it as the year we were incredibly lucky to get films from two absolute giants of cinema in Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorcese. And while the latter served up something special in The Irishman, the former knocked it out of the park with a movie that I feel is clearly among his very best. It’s a little long, and a little meandering, but that’s what’s so great about it… watching two magnificent actors buddy up for a true love letter to cinema from a director so fascinated by Hollywood is, well, a gift.
#4 Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
I’d always been indifferent to Star Wars. It was a franchise that had been dull and repetitive for years, with a ‘hit rate’ that even seemed terminally disappoint its own paradoxically devout fanbase. It should probably be no surprise then, that the most daring entry in that series should also be the most hated by that crowd – and the one I absolutely adore.
Not only does Johnson’s film dare to do something new with Lucas’ universe, it is, in moments, more beautiful (Battle of Crait, Snoke’s Throne Room), poigniant (burning the Jedi tree, Luke’s Death) and gripping (Rey and Kylo’s tense, complex relationship) than any other Star Wars film. And speaking of Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, holy crap is he good in this, the rage when he’s ordering the AT-M6 to focus every gun they have on Luke? Incredible. Huh… “AT-M6″… check me out… maybe I am a Star Wars fan after all.
#3 A Star is Born (2018)
I definitely approached A Star is Born knowing I was going to get something out of it, but I had no idea it would hit me so hard. A 2018 update on the classic tale seemed like a great idea, and casting Bradley Cooper as the grizzled alcoholic rock star alongside Lady Gaga’s fresh-faced ingenue was definitely something I could get on board with.
But the way Cooper as its director manages to splice the timeless story and fascinating central performances together with magnificent visuals (particularly in the live sections) and blistering songs right from the outset, is what really makes this movie sing like its life depended on it. And yes, I’m still holding out hope for a Jackson Maine and Ally co-headlining tour.
#2 The Avengers (2012)
As a kid growing up in the 1980s, I could only ever have dreamed about seeing my Marvel comic book heroes on screen. Even after Tim Burton’s groundbreaking Batman, I was always frustrated that Marvel never quite seemed to take the baton and run with its characters. But at the same time, I understood it. Most people didn’t know Marvel-owned characters like Iron Man, Thor and Captain America the same way they knew other heroes Spider-man (Sony) and Superman (Warner Bros), and even if they did, how could they possibly work on screen?
Starting with Iron Man in 2008, The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been massively important to me and has consistently kept the wide-eyed kid inside of me alive and smiling. And while other films since (or even before) 2012’s The Avengers might be thought of as ‘better’, the sheer achievements of this movie in terms of making all these characters, plots and relationships work so well for mainstream audiences – while keeping things thrilling and magical for the fans – should never be underestimated.
#1 Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse
Like I say, comic books, comic book characters and comic book movies… they’re all very important to me. I grew up as an avid Marvel and DC reader as well as being a movie fan, and living in a world today where these characters are treated with such respect (particularly with young kids of my own now) has been magical. My only ongoing complaint has been that very often, these films don’t quite trust audiences enough to try new things, to assume we understand origins well enough that we can cope with simply seeing our heroes plunged into a great story or strange set of circumstances.
If any studio was going to take the bull by the horns and do this, well, Sony had to be the most unlikely contender. After three Raimi movies that deteriorated largely because of studio meddling, Sony rebooted with two dreadful films that were visually abhorrent and devoid of any of the homespun charm that made Spidey so great. Then there was the company email hack revealing that they were planning all sorts of misguided shit like an Aunt May story and giving Spider-man “an EDM angle”. So how in the hell the studio managed to turn all of this around with 2018’s Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse is frankly beyond me – but I’m so glad they did.
Spider-verse is without doubt one of the most visually stunning movies (not animated movies, not superhero movies… but movies) I’ve ever seen. In 4K UHD, it genuinely feels like the thing your eyes and ears have been missing the whole time they’ve otherwise been uselessly stuck to your stupid head. But while it’s easy to get caught up in those amazing aesthetics, it’s important to remember all of this film’s other spectacular successes. It has charm, it has heart, it flips the Spider-man mythos on its head while still managing to not only honour it, but celebrate it. It introduces a ‘new’ Spider-man effortlessly and provides kids all over the world with a more relatable, modern hero. No one ever doubted the power of Spider-man as a timeless icon of popular culture, but Spider-verse shows that even when a studio has managed to run it completely into the ground, it can come back stronger and more powerful than ever.
Honorary mentions: Cosmopolis (2012), Inherent Vice (2014), The Social Network (2010), The Wolf of Wall Street (2014), Drive (2011), Maniac (2012), The Nice Guys (2016), Big Hero 6 (2014), Killer Joe (2011), Hyena (2014).