The Best Movies of the 2010s
The last ten years were a great decade for TV shows, and maybe an even better one for movies. I spent a lot of time (too much time) over the past decade falling in love with new directors, new actors, new genres, and new styles of filmmaking. I’ve probably watched more movies over the past ten years than many people will watch in their life, which is both cool and troubling. According to Letterboxd, I’ve seen nearly 2,000 movies that have come out since 2010, but the 25 below are my picks for the best movies of the 2010s.
Now, in reality, they’re not the best movies of the decade, because “best” is a dumb metric and I hate it. Instead, these are my 25 favorite movies. They’re the ones I love the most, the ones I want to rewatch the most, and the ones that best sum up what I love about storytelling. I spent a lot of time breaking my favorite TV shows into different lists when I counted down my 25 favorites, but that would probably too burdensome here, and also I’m exhausted. (I’m sorry, movies. I’ll do better in 2029.) Instead, I’ll direct you to my many lists on Letterboxd, where you can go way too deep into my psyche and my movie madness.
#25: Never Goin’ Back (2018)
“I puked him to death.”
Why I Love It: I love coming of age stories. I love Cami and Maia. I love the (recent) trend of filmmakers saying, “Hey, we can show women being gross monsters, too!” I love waffles, and I love how much Cami and Maia love waffles. I love the guys in this movie nearly as much as I do the ladies. I love that a little movie like this can come out of nowhere and become one of my favorite movies of the year (2018) and of the decade. I love how disgusting this movie is. I love that it doesn’t bother me.
#24: The Avengers (2012)
Why I Love It: I love the MCU. I love newer entries than I love The Avengers, but without The Avengers (and without the original Iron Man), we’d have none of it. I love how effortless this movie feels. I love how seamlessly this all weaves together. I love the scale that couples with a relatively compact and restrained story. I love the way that the MCU all came together, and I love how Endgame was the perfect culmination to a decade of movies.
#23: The Witch (2015)
“Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”
Why I Love It: I love that this movie feels like it was made centuries ago. I love Black Phillip. I love living deliciously. I love Anya Taylor-Joy’s emergence in this movie as a star and a force to be reckoned with. I love that this was Robert Eggers’s first movie, that it’s so polished and perfect, and then he goes and makes The Lighthouse, which is even better and weirder. I love that horror is becoming (once again?) a mainstream, acceptable genre for “good movies.”
#22: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
“Come find me when you wake up.”
Why I Love It: I love the action of this movie. I love Tom Cruise. I love that this feels (in many ways) like a perfect culmination of Tom Cruise’s career. I love Emily Blunt. I love her character’s fearlessness and leadership. I love the scene where Tom Cruise has to prove to her that he has what she had. I love Groundhog Day-esque stories (more later!), and I love subversions on the genre (is that a genre? It’s a convention, I guess. So, subversions on the convention. Whatever).
#21: The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
“Statistical fact: cops will never pull over a man with a huge bong in his car. Why? They fear this man.”
Why I Love It: I love meta filmmaking, meta horror, and meta storytelling. I love that this movie functions as both a twist on the horror genre, as well as a genuinely great horror movie. I loved seeing this movie in a theater full of retired people (for some reason) and wondering if I was in the right place (or if they were in the wrong one). I love all the performances, especially Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford. I love the scale and scope and imagination of the third act.
#20: La La Land (2016)
“Here’s to the ones who dream.”
Why I Love It: I love Ryan Gosling. I love Emma Stone. I love them in movies together, and I love them together in this movie especially. I love the music. I love when Ryan Gosling plays music in movies (which he does a lot). I love Chicken on a Stick. I love Ryan Gosling’s triple take when Emma Stone requests “I Ran.” I (weirdly) love my inability to defend this movie to its (many) haters, other than to say that watching it makes me happy and I enjoy it and that’s about it.
#19: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
“I like to drink egg creams, and I like to fight Nazis. A lot.”
Why I Love It: I love the look of this movie. I love that this felt, once again (or for the first time?), like a comic book had actually become a movie. I love Nicolas Cage. I love that Nicolas Cage was in a movie that everyone loved, thereby proving that he is a good and popular and likable actor forever and ever. I love the music in this movie. I love Miles Morales. I love how surreal this movie gets. I love the idea that this world could go in any number of directions, each of them exciting.
#18: Cloud Atlas (2012)
“All boundaries are conventions, waiting to be transcended.”
Why I Love It: I love how achingly beautiful this movie is. I love this movie’s focus on the interconnectedness of all things and all people. I love the score. I love remembering tearing through the book to see this in theaters before it left, and loving every second of it. I love that this movie’s editing makes it feel far brisker than its nearly-three hour runtime. I love how daring this movie is, and how even when it doesn’t quite work, it still soars.
#17: Arrival (2016)
“If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?”
Why I Love It: I love “On the Nature of Daylight.” I love contemplative space/sci-fi movies. I love Amy Adams in this movie. I love how incredibly depressing and heartbreaking this movie becomes on second viewing, as well as how incredibly beautiful and meaningful it becomes, too. I love the way this movie looks. I love the way this movie sounds. I love the way this movie feels. I love the aliens in this movie, and the motivation for their, ahem, arrival.
#16: Annihilation (2018)
“It’s not like us… it’s unlike us. I don’t know what it wants, or if it wants, but it’ll grow until it encompasses everything. Our bodies and our minds will be fragmented into their smallest parts until not one part remains… Annihilation.”
Why I Love It: I love the spectacle of this movie. I love that Arrival makes me cry, but Annihilation staggers me with awe. I love the score and the music and the sound. I love how arcane and obscure the plot is. I love that it took a book I (read after the fact and) thought was okay, and turned it into a movie that I adored. I love the bear, and I love how much the bear terrifies me. I love all the weirdness of The Shimmer. I love the final act. I love how this movie sticks its landing.
#15: Midsommar (2019)
“It does no good to die kicking and screaming and lashing back at the inevitable. It corrupts the soul.”
Why I Love It: I love Hereditary, and I love that Midsommar is even more my speed and features an even more interesting story. I love Florence Pugh, and I love her performance here. I love the theatrical cut of this movie, and I think the director’s cut turns this into a masterpiece. I love the look of this movie — its set decoration, its lighting, its costumes. I love its haunting score. I love that this is a spoiler (sorry!) for my favorite movie of 2019. I love that Chidi’s here.
#14: The Guest (2014)
“You did the right thing. I don’t blame you.”
Why I Love It: I love Dan Stevens in this movie. I love Maika Monroe in this movie (more below!). I love the supporting cast of characters that make up this world. I love how funny this movie can be, only to suddenly turn a corner and turn haunting and terrifying. I love its (synthy) soundtrack. (O, Antonio!) I love that it is, essentially, Terminator meets Halloween, and is as cool as that sounds. I love all the Wingard/Barrett team-ups, but I love this one the most. I love this sort of spoiler-y GIF.
#13: Upstream Color (2013)
“The water before you is somehow special. When you drink it you feel revived and full of energy. It is better than anything you’ve ever tasted. Take a drink now.”
Why I Love It: I love how Shane Carruth’s brain works. I love that this movie seems to end scenes a few seconds before you think they “should.” I love this movie’s score (probably more than any other movie of the decade). I love the love story that is ethereal and strained and realistic and wonderful. I love that it’s kind of impossible to describe the plot of this movie, and that if you did, it’d sound like gibberish. I love this movie in ways that words cannot adequately describe, which suits it fine.
#12: The Nice Guys (2016)
“Sweetheart, how many times have I told you? Don’t say ‘and stuff.’ Just say, ‘Dad, there are whores here.'”
Why I Love It: I (still) love Ryan Gosling. I love how goofy this movie is. I love how tense this movie is. I love Shane Black’s sense of humor, and I love the way Gosling and Russell Crowe manage to convey it beautifully. I love nearly everything Gosling says in this movie. I love how well Angourie Rice fits into this world, and I love seeing Margaret Qualley in anything (even though she’s not really in this movie all that much). I love detective stories, and I love mismatched duos.
#11: Magic Mike XXL (2015)
“Was she the glass slipper?”
Why I Love It: I love Channing Tatum. I love that this movie is pure joy and pure sex positivity. I love that this one of the greatest road trip movies of all-time. I love that each guy has his role to play in the group, and each fits perfectly. I love that the first Magic Mike told a grounded story about the American Dream, then this movie showed up, like, “Now it’s time to have fun.” I love that the final half hour is one long dance number. I love the scene in the Atlanta house. I love Amber Heard.
#10: Happy Death Day (2017)
“Oh, hey, you’re up.”
Why I Love It: I (still) love Groundhog Day-esque story conventions, and I love seeing it smartly applied within the horror genre. I love Jessica Rothe as Tree. I love her swagger, I love her frustration, I love her sass. I love the fun she has with the role. I love that the mascot for the college in this movie is, for some reason a baby. I love that I could love a PG-13 horror movie as much as I love this movie. I love the way the sequel grows the world, but I love the purity of this original.
#9: It Follows (2014)
“It could look like someone you know or it could be a stranger in a crowd. Whatever helps it get close to you.”
Why I Love It: I love the score by Disasterpeace. I (still) love Maika Monroe. I love that this movie exists firmly outside of time, but firmly grounded and rooted in a place. I love the simplicity of the movie’s evil, yet how abstract and terrifying it manages to be. I love that I can feel this movie in a way that I can’t with most others, that this movie can be so evocative. I love that the kids are able to fend for themselves, yet remain kind of (realistically) dumb. I love that little shell e-reader.
#8: Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
“Show me how you drive and I’ll show you who you are.”
Why I Love It: I love this movie a lot.
#7: Fast Five (2011)
“Your mistake? Thinkin’ you’re in America. You’re a long way from home. THIS IS BRASIL.”
Why I Love It: I love this movie a lot, too.
#6: Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)
“You gotta fucking embrace your inner strange, man. Just be weird, you know?”
Why I Love It: I love how casual and comfortable this movie feels. I love the sense of camaraderie between the characters, which feels like it comes from an authentic/genuine place with the actors. I love Richard Linklater’s hangout movies, and I think I love this one most of all (but please, don’t make me choose). I love the way that Linklater uses music in this movie. I love the all the songs in this movie. I love how low stakes this movie is, yet how meaningful each scene feels. I love Zoey Deutch.
#5: John Wick (2014)
“Yeah, I’m thinking I’m back.”
Why I Love It: I love Keanu Reeves. I love that John Wick feels like a pure culmination and distillation of his entire career into a character. I love the precision of the John Wick character, and I love how authentic Keanu’s portrayal feels. I love the sequels, but I love the simplicity of this one. I love this movie’s world, and I love its rules. I love the Red Circle fight. I love the way that John Wick looks at you after he stabs you and watches the life slowly drain from your body.
#4: Spring Breakers (2012)
“I got Scarface on repeat. Scarface on repeat. Constant y’all!”
Why I Love It: I love this movie’s neon-soaked aesthetic. I love the soundtrack (especially the Britney Spears scene and music cue). I love James Franco’s performance. I love the subversion of the Disney actresses’ roles, imagery. and personas. I love how this movie lampoons its target audience. I love how this movie simultaneously feels both hyper-real and cartoonish. I love the way Harmony Korine edits this movie to transcend time, space, and place.
#3: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Why I Love It: I love Charlize Theron. I love how breathtaking this movie is. I love that there will likely never be another movie like this, and I love that no one would be crazy enough to try (except for maybe George Miller again). I love the simplicity of the story, but I also love how deep this movie is. I love Riley Keough, I love the Doof Warrior, and I love that they’re married in real life. I love having ordered food in the theater, and letting it get cold because I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.
#2: Paddington 2 (2017)
“If we’re kind and polite, the world will be right.”
Why I Love It: I love this bear so, so much. I love how smart this movie is. I love that jokes, gags, and scenes that feel like throwaways seemingly all come back and pay off later in the movie. I love the messages of this movie. I love how kind this movie is. I love how full of love and life it is. I love that no one believes me when I say this is one of my favorite movies, and I love being proven right when they finally give in and watch it. I love its wrap-up, and I love its ending. I really love this bear.
#1: American Honey (2016)
“You feel that? That’s boyfriend material.”
Why I Love It: I love Shia LaBeouf. I love the energy he brings to this movie. I (still) love Riley Keough. I love Sasha Lane. I love how she was plucked from obscurity (along with many of the other actors in this movie) and managed to leap off the screen. I love how realistic this movie feels. I love how it manages to be both sad and uplifting, all at once. I love this (all-time great) meet-cute. I love all of the movie’s music, and how it works in the story. I love the way this movie looks.
Unrankable: Cats (2019)
Why I Love It: I love using the word love to describe the way I feel about Cats. I love seeing a movie that is so entirely unlike anything that has ever come before, and will ever come again. I love that a movie like this got made, and I love that a movie like this got wide distribution. I love thinking I have an order to my favorite movies list, and then I watch Cats, and suddenly numbers no longer have meaning. Language no longer has meaning. We are all jellicle. That is all. Jellicle.