Demetrios Matheou

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Demetrios Matheou

January 10th, 2020
Best films of the 2010s

  • Jan 10, 2020
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With Owen Richards

The 2010s was a rich, rewarding decade for cinema. Filmmakers responded to a wealth of material – political and social turmoil, economic crisis, the rise of social media – while also contending with demands on their own industry for greater diversity and the growing threat, or opportunity posed by the powerful streaming platforms. Expansive or intimate, political or personal, all in some way innovative, here are 15 films that defined the decade

The Social Network (2010)

After Fight Club captured the zeitgeist of the Nineties, David Fincher was doing it again with this compelling account of the birth of Facebook, which announced 500 million users shortly before the film’s release. Propelled by Aaron Sorkin’s super-smart script, with the reliably sociopathic Jesse Eisenberg playing Mark Zuckerberg as a visionary not through any desire to change the world, merely to be part of its elite. The cautionary tale of the decade. (DM)

Bridesmaids (2011)

After a decade of Frat Pack dominated films, Bridesmaids was a shot in the arm for comedy. A tiered cake of farce, gross-out and real heart, it launched the film careers of writer/star Kristen Wiig, director Paul Feig, and Chris O’Dowd. The real star though is Melissa McCarthy in her Academy Award-nominated turn as Megan. (OR)

The Avengers (2012)

We used to have franchises, now we have “cinematic universes”. Boasting pinpoint casting and Joss Whedon’s whip-smart script, The Avengers paved the way for superhero domination and transformed Disney’s business model for good. Now with Marvel, Star Wars and in-house remakes, just two of Disney’s 12 theatrical releases this year are original concepts. In 2009, it was nine out of ten. Game-changer. (OR)

Frances Ha (2012)

While sparkling with the kooky comic spirit of Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, this vital, relevant film spoke to a generation of young people finding their ambitions frustratingly out of reach. It also marked the transition for star and co-writer Greta Gerwig from indie darling to formidable all-round filmmaker, who would win directing and writing Oscar noms with Lady Bird and whose Little Women is just around the corner. (DM)

The Act of Killing (2012)

The decade’s most ground-breaking documentary was Joshua Oppenheimer’s audacious, emotionally overwhelming exposure of the genocide in 1960s Indonesia, when paramilitaries and hired gangsters murdered more than a million communists, ethnic Chinese and intellectuals. Oppenheimer not only interviewed the killers but invited them to recreate their misdeeds for the camera – a complex, challenging conceit whose results live long in the memory. (DM)

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

By no means Scorsese’s best film, but The Wolf of Wall Street proved a late turning point for his audience appeal. A technicolour, GIF-ready barrage of sex, drugs and capitalism, it appealed to audiences younger than Scorsese had in decades. After becoming his highest-grossing film, Netflix agreed to fund The Irishman, which had been sitting in development hell since 2004. (OR)

Boyhood (2014)

Despite the decade’s plethora of mega-budget franchises, intimate, relatable stories also thrived, epitomised by Richard Linklater’s deeply moving and authentic account of one boy’s life. The director followed the same actors for 12 years, adult professionals (Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette) and child newcomers all ageing before our eyes. Pondering adolescence, family, parenthood and personal fulfilment, Boyhood helped to keep the 2010s real. (DM)

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Not quite a remake, not really a sequel. No-one knew what to expect from Fury Road, but what we got was the most visceral action movie ever made. In the deserts of Namibia, George Miller crafted a frame-by-frame masterpiece that happily shuns plot for sheer spectacle. Bond and Mission Impossible are pushing the limits of live stunt work, but this is still the apex. (OR)

Tangerine (2015)

It seemed astonishing that Sean Baker shot his vibrant dramady about two black transgender prostitutes looking for love in LA solely on iPhones. The ingenuity places the film at the forefront of the decade’s micro-budget, tech-savvy advances. Equally significant was Baker’s casting of transgender actors and non-judgemental focus on marginalised characters, the latter repeated in his Oscar-nominated The Florida Projecttwo years later. (DM)

The Big Short (2015)

With factual precision, cinematic invention and sheer chutzpah, Saturday Night Live alumni Adam McKay dared to mine the black comedy of the 2008 financial crisis – with Bale, Carrell, Gosling and Pitt likeable guides through the immoral maze. The film’s success mirrored SNL’s return to the political frontline in a decade in which political reality was stranger than any fiction. (DM)

Moonlight (2016)

That moment at the Oscars was a gift to marketing, but a disservice to such a stunning piece of filmmaking. Moonlight tells the story of Chiron, a gay African-American at three separate points of his life. Comprising a heart-wrenching script, powerful performances and hypnotic cinematography and editing, Moonlight was a real moment for black, LGBT and independent cinema. (OR)

Toni Erdmann (2016)

German writer/director Maren Ade became the first woman to win the prestigious European Film Award for her brilliant comedy of embarrassment. Ade dealt with serious issues – the venality of the corporate world, office sexism, the crisis of work-life balance – while offering a universal tale of a dad trying to reconnect with his grown-up child, with the aid of some quite spectacular fake teeth. (DM)

Get Out (2017)

For fans of sketch comedy, Key and Peele were well-known for their acerbic satire. But not even the most ardent Comedy Central evangelist could have predicted the genius of Jordan Peele’s debut. Get Outmasterfully built tension through recognisable African-American experiences, and alongside HereditaryThe Witch and A Quiet Place, proved to critics what fans long knew: horror is far more than cheap jump scares. (OR)

Black Panther (2018)

Director Ryan Coogler transformed the ailing Rocky franchise with Creed, but his work on Black Panther changed the cultural conversation. A Marvel film that celebrated African brilliance while confronting racial inequality, this was the kind of representation that Hollywood had been lacking for far too long. It broke box office records, while “Wakanda forever” became a universal call for black pride. (OR)

Roma (2018)

The 2010s saw the biggest change in viewing habits since the release of home video. Streaming is the new norm, and Roma was the moment Hollywood accepted defeat. A beautiful, semi-autobiographical tribute to Alfonso Cuarón’s Mexican upbringing, it proved the streaming giants could offer directors the creative freedom that traditional studios could not. Its Oscars success cemented Netflix’s place as a new film powerhouse. (OR)

This article first appeared in The i newspaper