End of the decade: best movies of the 2010s

“Knight of Cups” (dir. Terrence Malick)

Malick’s first full foray into the digital age proved to be far and away his most complicated, challenging and divisive work to date. The tale of a struggling Hollywood screenwriter, played with masterful reserve by Christian Bale, embarking on a spiritual quest through material culture to find meaning rubbed many moviegoers the wrong way with its staggeringly cold exterior. But once you fully immerse yourself in the idiosyncrasies and chip away at it, “Knight of Cups” reveals itself to be one of the most unabashedly optimistic, touching and lived-in films about the difference between living and being alive in the 21st Century.

“Cloud Atlas” (dir. Lilly Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, & Tom Tykwer)

The Wachowski Sisters and Tom Stykwer teamed up to adapt a seemingly unadaptable piece of literature in David Mitchell’s rousing tale of deeply interconnected lives spanning across different centuries and continents. It’s an epic on all fronts and lends itself to being one of the most unique films in existence. A film that truly matches its gobsmacking amount ambition with its deeply affecting level of humanity and heart.

“Waves” (dir. Trey Edward Shultz)

Empathy personified onto film. Trey Edward Shultz proved to be one of the best and most audacious up-and-comers of the 2010’s with his personal debut feature “Krisha,” then with his chilling post-apocalyptic family drama “It Comes at Night.” But his footing wasn’t fully solidified until now with “Waves.” A destructive, powerful, operatic portrait of the 21st century family unit in all of its horror and glory. A rare film that is both out to surprise its audience and make them understand every little emotion that is projected on screen. A genuine new wave experience in all regards. 

“Before Midnight” (dir. Richard Linklater)

The concluding chapter to Linklater’s “Before Trilogy” is perhaps his most mature and thoughtful film. A romantic drama about inevitability and change with one of the most richly textured screenplays ever written. A perfect 18-year build-up to a perfect grace note.

“The Wind Rises” (dir. Hayao Miyazaki)


Nothing is truly better than when artists thoughtfully reflect on themselves and when someone on the level of Miyazaki does it, it will change the way you look at your own life. A film of indescribable bittersweetness about the joys of dreaming and having fantasies, and the pains of the weight of the world around us. 

“Mad Max: Fury Road” (dir. George Miller)

A perfect spectacle not only in how masterfully concocted every single frame of it is and how brilliantly choreographed its hypnotic action sequences are, but also in how it simply stands for something. A beautiful piece of resistance against facism in patriarchy and just about the most easily rewatchable and most entertaining film this decade had to offer. Deranged and beguiling in equal measures.

“Like Someone in Love” (dir. Abbas Kiarostami)

A more overtly personal entry for me on this list. Kiarostami is such an important figure in film that we lost this decade that it would sacrilege for him not to have a place here. “Like Someone in Love” is simply one of the most relaxing films I’ve ever seen and one that plays so freely with the great lengths of digital cinema, which is perfect for a film so deeply rooted in the images and reflections of others.

“The Master” (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

A ferocious, old-fashioned examination of man’s inherent need for a guiding light. Perfect performances all around, a dynamite Johnny Greenwood score and a master of filmmaking flexing every single muscle he knows how to. There is so, so, so much brewing within this film that even after nearly a dozen viewings, I still don’t fully have a grasp on it. And that’s what I love most about it.

“Faces Places” (dir. Agnes Varda & JR)

Agnes is another legend we lost this decade, but not before she made the absolute most of her skills as both a filmmaker and a human being. This wildly touching documentary follows Agnes and prolific street artist JR as they road trip along the countryside of France and meet many beautiful people, who tell their stories and help them make art. A film so affecting it can reaffirm anyone’s love for our shared humanity.

“Drive” (dir. Nicholas Winding Refn)

Easily one of the most influential films of the decade for the cross between mainstream and art-house. Refn’s tale of a reserved getaway driver dismantles and rebuilds the common conception of the silver screen hero with lush neon lighting, a killer soundtrack and a perfectly minimalist cinematic approach. This will live on as a cultural cornerstone of the decade and with good reason.