The Best Films Of The 2010s, According To Critics

Maxwell JonesMaxwell Jones in Entertainment, Film
Published 01.01.20
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In the immortal words of Jack Nicholson in The Shining, here’s 2020!

Okay, perhaps that’s not entirely accurate.

But nothing makes you feel old like entering a new decade. Remember when Daniel Craig was cast as James Bond? That was fifteen years ago. Remember when Obama was elected president? That was almost twelve years ago. Remember when you found out you just scraped a C pass on your Maths GCSE and cried with joy at the prospect of not having to resit like everyone told you? That was six years ago.

Maybe that last one’s just me, but whatever. A lot has been going on in the film industry since we left the Noughties and entered the Tens, with enough Oscar-winners to satisfy a whole new generation. Here’s a list of the top ten selected by critics to enter the Classics section at HMV, from 2010 through to 2019.

2010: Inception

I think we’ve come to a point in our history where we can all agree that Christopher Nolan is one of the greatest filmmakers that ever lived. From the Dark Knight Trilogy to Dunkirk, Nolan has showcased his talents through a wide range of genres, with a particular interest in time travel and the esoteric.

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and the usual Nolan suspects of Michael Caine and Marion Cotillard, the film follows a professional thief who uses his ability to infiltrate people’s dreams to steal classified information, coerced into helping some shady characters in exchange for a pardon for his crimes.

Despite its headache-inducing visual effects (and that’s just in 2D), the film was lauded by critics like Mark Kermode as the best film of 2010, with particular emphasis on DiCaprio’s performance and such complex writing from Nolan that it keeps the viewer guessing even as the credits roll.

2011: The Tree of Life

As existential themes go, this has to be the most intense. Terrence Malick’s modern classic flicks between tales of hard family relationships and the disputed origin story of Planet Earth, referencing biblical texts and scientific theories as it goes.

Produced in part by Brad Pitt, the film is credited for coaxing legendary special effects legend Douglas Trumbull out of a near-thirty-year retirement. The marvellous effects earned the film three Oscar nominations and has appeared on over seventy Top Ten film lists since its release, despite its polarising reception from critics at its first screening in Cannes.

But outside the bubble of over-privileged critics, the film has an impressive 85% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so perhaps it’s just an acquired taste. Like mushrooms. Or democratic socialism.

2012: The Dark Knight Rises

Of course, at least one of Christopher Nolan’s Batman masterpieces had to make it onto this list. Whilst many fans revere The Dark Knight as the best of the trilogy – predominantly due to the late great Heath Ledger’s immortal performance as the Joker – critics were quick to name the grand finale of the short-lived franchise as the best film of 2012.

Starring some of the best of Nolan’s favourite actors, the film achieved the impossible and tied up as many loose ends as it could in a satisfying and fulfilling way, whilst also having us beg for more. Eight years later, fans remain desperate to know what became of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Blake, who revealed his real name to be ‘Robin’ after inheriting the Batcave in Bruce Wayne’s last will and testament.

Is he Robin? Is he Nightwing? Is he Batman the Second? Is he … still a cop who uses Batman’s technology to find bad guys quicker to fast-track himself to Chief of Police?

Seeing as Nolan has said the franchise is over, we’ll probably never know.

With many critics praising the intricate plot, the film has been compared to masterpieces such as The Godfather: Part 2, but was not always so well-loved. Some critics were so harsh that the Batman fandom threatened them with physical violence, whilst others engaged in the earliest form of Cancel Culture and just blocked their ears to it.

2013: The Wolf of Wall Street

Seriously, who doesn’t love this film?

Yet another hit on this list starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese’s lengthy, rich and detailed analysis of the worst a person can be when given enough money broke the box office and gave birth to a whole new generation of get-rich-quick wannabes, my generation in particular.

Following the traditional Scorsese formula of ‘humble New Yorker who narrates the story of how he met a dodgy bloke who introduced him to a life of crime, got him hooked on money, hookers and cocaine, then helped him climb the ranks of the underworld to become one of the most successful men in New York, constantly cheating on his super hot wife and screwing people out of millions of dollars, ultimately makes a fatal slip, gets caught and spends the rest of his life in prison as a lesson to anyone thinking of trying this at home’, the film helped to rehabilitate the real Jordan Belfort and raise awareness to the side-effects of the criminal lifestyle.

The film also introduced the world to the profound acting talents of Margot Robbie, previously known to the Western world only as ‘the blonde girl from Neighbours‘, as well as make it into the Guinness Book of World Records for its ultraliberal use of profanities in a film, with the F-word uttered a fantastic 428 times.

F***ing f***!

2014: Birdman (0r The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

In an interesting analysis of the downsides of career stardom, the film sees Michael Keaton as a washed out actor desperate to escape the confines of typecasting after a successful career as ‘Birdman’ by turning his talents away from the screen and onto the stage. Unfortunately, fate has other plans, with his efforts met with cruel yet hilarious results.

Despite its brilliant writing and acting, the film notoriously went through rigorous rewrites, with the final script reaching completion halfway through filming. Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the film’s experimentation with real characters and real storylines easily made it the most highly reviewed movie of 2014, with a lot of people still talking about its relevance as an analysis of career depression to this day.

2015: Brooklyn

Adapted from Colm Tóibín’s best-selling novel, Brooklyn was a hit with everyone. Especially my Irish nan. And my mate, who totally fancies Saoirse Ronan. I mean who doesn’t, right?

The movie told a simple tale of a young Irish émigré, Eilis, seeking career opportunities in New York. But she swiftly discovers that she isn’t adapting to her new life as easy as she thought she should be, despite the warm welcome she receives from a handsome Italian and his family.

Returning to Ireland for her sister’s funeral, Eilis struggles with her overbearing homesickness and considers moving back, but ultimately decides to stick with her American dream by returning to New York.

The film earned Ronan her first Oscar, as well as increase the already booming tourism in the Republic of Ireland. It’s not all Guinness and shamrocks, y’know. But the Guinness is spectacular.

2016: Manchester by the Sea

Yet another Oscar winner, Manchester by the Sea tells the story of a real life town in Massachusetts in which a lonely janitor (or caretaker, as we say in Great Britain) takes guardianship of his young nephew following the death of his brother.

The film deals with a number of themes, ranging from depression, grief and the hardships of the fishing industry. It earned Casey Affleck, brother of legendary Ben, his first Oscar, as well as a Best Original Screenplay trophy for director Kenneth Lonergan.

2017: Call Me By Your Name

Set during the late 1980s (my parents are hooked already), Call Me By Your Name follows a pair of young American men who fall in love whilst holidaying in la bella Italia.

The film has been described as a ‘coming-of-age’ film, but somehow I doubt it can really be compared to any of the American Pie films …

Although deeply romantic and emotional, the film is revered as one of the more family-oriented made by Italian director Luca Guadagnino, who has brought us other award winners like I Am Love and A Bigger Splash.

And finally …

2018 and 2019: Avengers: Infinity War/Endgame

For a decade, Marvel had been working meticulously to create the biggest and the best superhero movie of all time, carefully building up character arcs and mythological Easter eggs for the greatest payoff in cinema history.

But, of course, such an event could not take place over merely one film. Thus, the Avengers saga culminated in two blockbuster instalments that topped the charts in both 2018 and 2019, leading to a mixture of tears and applause as the world said goodbye to their much-beloved characters.

Among the characters to meet their fatal end during the final showdown with Thanos was Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark, who began the franchise way back in 2008 with Iron Man, as well as Chris Evans’s Steve Rogers who passed on the Captain America shield to travel back in time and live in peace with Peggy Carter.

But fans were excited by the involvement of a new wave of heroes to carry the Marvel franchise through to another decade, such as Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel and Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, so don’t lose heart

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