The Best Movies of the Decade 2010s list is more of a celebratory event for sinekdoks. The 2010s decade marks the birth-decade of this blog. From 2010 onwards, cinema—the building—has been my escape; since then, I have never spent a year without going to the cinema.
It’s an achievement to me—who spent half of the previous decade watching new movies via VCD and DVD rented from the neighborhood rentals. In 2011, there was a national event that almost killed the joy of watching movies at the cinema; but, we overcame it eventually. In July 2013, sinekdoks posted the first entry. In 2016, Netflix officially launched its streaming service in Indonesia followed by other streaming services, i.e., Iflix, Hooq, Viu, Catchplay, Prime Video, and others, which I immediately subscribed to. In 2018, I almost stopped writing at this blog; but, I eventually decided to carry on. At the dawn of the new decade, I feel compelled to share my personal list of 50 Best Movies of the Decade 2010s.
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Get Out (2017)
50. Get Out (Jordan Peele)
Peele, a comedian-turned-director, revolutionized horror once and for all. Get Out is undoubtedly his masterpiece. It’s a witty, satirical pitch-black comedy about racism served in horror or thriller mantle. The plot sneaks behind and takes you by surprise at every possible turn. To call it one of the most noteworthy films of the year isn’t exaggerating at all. It’s that kind of movie that makes you wish you could watch it for the first time over and over again.
Your Name (2016)
49. Your Name (Makoto Shinkai)
What started as a sweet, quirky gender-swapping drama gradually turns into a heart-throbbing, splendid story of distant love. So distant it almost gets untouchable, but in the end, it shows its true nature: it’s mysterious, enormous, and most importantly, majestic. As the credit rolls, as much sentimental we can be, let’s agree that Makoto Shinkai is truly one of the best animation filmmakers in this era. And if Your Name is your first encounter with Shinkai’s works, you’re up for a good show.
True Grit (2010)
48. True Grit (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen)
Hathaway’s True Grit has earned John Wayne an Oscar and is considered one of the best Revisionist Western ever made. And yet, that doesn’t make Coen Brothers’ version pale in comparison. In fact, the remake brings out the prowess Hathaway’s version lacked while sticking more faithfully to Charles Portis’ novel. The 2010 version takes a more nuanced approach with more gravitas by revolving around the vengeful teenage girl, Mattie (young Hailee Steinfeld). Even when it lost big at Oscars, it’s truly an instant classic.
What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
47. What We Do in the Shadows (Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi)
This improv-laden mockumentary is definitely the finest comedy mockumentary since This is Spinal Tap. Clement and Waititi explore the Kiwi vampire scene with precisely crafted humor and loads of absurdity. While its fangs bite deep with great humor and clever direction, What We Do in the Shadows is establishing itself among the best comedy of the decade and, simply, among the best vampire movies in the few years. Who would have thought that being a vampire can be this sweet and hilarious at once?
The Disaster Artist (2017)
46. The Disaster Artist (James Franco)
The book—written by the patient zero of the most celebrated bad movie ever—was a sensation. Through ‘The Disaster Artist’, we are guided to see Wiseau’s The Room from a new perspective, a new light, and with a completely new awareness which is sensitively captured by James Franco in both directing and acting attempt; and that’s quite an experience. It doesn’t make The Room any better (in fact, it stays as it is, hideous at worst, baffling at best), but it successfully captures a story of dreams and determination in the most unorthodox idiosyncrasy.
45. Incendies (Denis Villeneuve)
Villeneuve opened the decade with a taut thriller full of breadcrumbs and harrowing twists. The rest of the decade is possibly the most wonderful time in his career. Incendies offers a stunning, heart-wrenching tale of twins seeking for their brother and father to complete their mother’s death will. It’s a 2-hour tour de Middle East with tons of puzzle and emotion with a clever twist, possibly one of the cleverest in the decade.
Django Unchained (2012)
44. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino)
“I like the way you die, boy!” is probably the coolest quote from Quentin Tarantino’s movies of the recent decades. Django Unchained is controversial and blatantly offensive; but, it certainly is the director’s celebratory confetti. Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz make the most iconic cahoot since Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta back in Pulp Fiction. Weighed in with a subversive story and character’s motivation, this modern Western offers spectacles by spectacles to further extend Tarantino’s hyper-stylized, ultra-violent penchant after Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds.
Call Me by Your Name (2017)
43. Call Me by Your Name (Luca Guadagnino)
Guadagnino’s adaptation of André Aciman’s novel of the same name is sexy and charming in its every vision. It will take you high to the memories of summer fling idylls and bring you down to the harrowing vision of broken hearts. The romance is seductive but never manipulative; it rather stays in the moment, indulges every single of it, and complete the cycle with reflections guided by Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet’s sympathetic performance. It’s hard to resist the seduction to indulge in this kind of romance over and over again.
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
42. Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve)
2049 comes as a genre-bending late follow-up to Blade Runner, which appears as a slow-burning detective story to reveal answers to both philosophical and ‘physical’ mystery presented in the premise. Villeneuve’s cyberpunk sequel deliberately yet subtly mirrors Ridley Scott’s original in terms of plot and general elements, but confidently delves into new territory at the same time. All of those are wrapped exquisitely in one of the most stunning 164 minutes in the history of life.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
41. Inside Llewyn Davis (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)
“If it was never new and it never gets old, then it’s a folk song,” Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac in one of his most compelling performances in the decade) exclaims. The very same notion goes to the story of the titular character. Llewyn Davis is a Coen Brothers’ typical character through and through—one who always deals with misery, self-loathe, and a cleverly coined nickname as “Midas’ little brother.” He is most possibly the most Coen-esque character since the “Dude” Lebowski; that’s why the directors put a lot of passion into making his story alive.
40. Bridesmaids (Paul Feig)
Written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids also marks one of the finest Paul Feig works exec-produced by modern comedy godfather, Judd Apatow. The bridesmaid’s duty fiasco dramedy is among the finest and cleverest female-driven comedy without having to go degrading or condescending. The ensemble harmonizes in precisely timed and crafted comedic moments that are genuine and surprisingly fabulous even at its raunchiest. Feig’s career gets an upgrade after this; meanwhile, the casts (Wiig, Rudolph, McCarthy, Byrne, Kemper) cements their roles as pivotal figures in the finest comedic movies and shows of the recent.
The Wailing (2016)
39. The Wailing (Na Hong-jin)
This South Korean hybrid horror injects audiences with relentless anxieties and ceaseless question marks from beginning to end. From a murder investigation, The Wailing keeps deceiving the audiences for 150 minutes before delivering the sucker-punch which will make you feel sick. It’s, by any standards, faith-collapsing.
The Spectacular Now (2013)
38. The Spectacular Now (James Ponsoldt)
Adapted from Tim Tharp’s novel of the same title, The Spectacular Now uniquely forges the conventional boy-meets-girl relationship with their typical angst of future and sexual curiosity into a beautiful summer contemplation. No romantic coming-of-age chemistry in recent history is as natural and sincere as Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley in this drama.
37. Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance (Alejandro González Iñárritu )
Michael Keaton guides audiences through this complex character study of people among fame and ambition. What makes it great is, it enhances itself with all the exotic cinematic bravura—including the fuzzy illusion of single take through jingles and jangles as well as the unique musical scores using only a set of drums. More to it, it’s the juxtaposition of the on-screen character with Keaton’s career is what makes it enormously incredible.
36. Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-Eda)
Kore-Eda breaks down the concept of family in this Japanese urban drama which points out the elephant in the room within Japan’s socio-economy—poverty. A master in domestic drama, Kore-Eda crafts a disconcerting portrayal of an unideal family, which reconstructs the principles of a family in an uplifting yet moving story. It’s raw and honest even at its most creatively engineered narrative drive.
35. Inception (Christopher Nolan)
When it comes to Nolan’s filmography, the inventively challenging narrative is what always comes in mind. Inception appears to be one of the most riveting, imaginative, intriguing, and ground-breaking ones. Comprising a stellar ensemble of casts with blockbustery production scale, Nolan conceives a story that might as well unravel from his own dream. Leonardo DiCaprio leads the casts spectacularly and helps to make one of the most iconic endings in recent history.
34. Hereditary (Ari Aster)
Aster and his A24 comrades (that should also include Robert Eggers, Trey Edward Shults, and David Robert Mitchell) prove that wit is the new face of horror. His debut, Hereditary, reflects that credo. It’s not a mere jump-scare-laden horror; but it’s a mindfuck, disturbing mental challenge led by Toni Collette’s terrific performance. Aster’s bone-chilling direction makes sure it’s a mentally disturbing chef–d‘oeuvre.
33. Mommy (Xavier Dolan)
For whatever it is, Dolan had crafted a mesmerizing tale of constriction and release. In only 139 minutes, the versatile filmmaker puts the ferocious side of a mother’s love and anger in a literal square; he caged them in an emotionally draining story within a 1:1 frame ratio. Outpoured with visions to the emotion in a visually mesmerizing piece of work, the idiosyncratic visuals of Mommy works as a cinematic vehicle; and, that’s wonderful.
The Irishman (2019)
32. The Irishman (Martin Scorsese)
It is undoubtedly a Martin Scorsese cinema through and through. Clocking in at 209 minutes, this twilight piece de resistance funnels the director’s trademarks and signature theme—making a league with Mean Streets, Goodfellas, and Casino. Extracted by Steven Zaillian from Charles Brandt’s book, ‘I Heard You Painted Houses’, the film reunites Scorsese with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci while gives the director the chance to collaborate with Al Pacino for the first time.
31. Room (Lenny Abrahamson)
Impossible not to love Room for what it delivers: a profoundly heart-wrenching mother-and-son drama and a showcase of heart-throbbing performances by Oscar nominee, Brie Larson, and Jacob Tremblay. Room, although depicts depressive tragedy, is never been a cheap tear-jerking drama; it’s instead evolving from an optimistic survival drama into escalating self-acceptance and trauma-healing drama, which once again, is very optimistic. It has never been easy to watch Room, but when it finishes, it’s hard to let it go.
Black Swan (2010)
30. Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky)
Natalie Portman leaps in as a struggling ballerina in Aronofsky’s character study which often cuts the edge. It’s a story about the quest of perfection that the director never has the guts to tone down. The metaphor of Swan Lake is only making it more insightful to fall into the character’s waning sanity.
Once upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
29. Once upon a Time… in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino)
Midway through the movie, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Rick Dalton, would tell his co-star the synopsis of a pulp Western novel he reads. As he goes on, he would unconsciously self-refer the story to his career, before he finally breaks down in tears. That kind of parable is something that will happen quite often in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, a self-referential love letter from the industry’s wunderkind to the late 60s cinema. While featuring almost all director’s trademark, the film observes the director’s substantial growth to a more mature creative force—that tends more to discourse and contemplation.
The Artist (2011)
28. The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius)
Undoubtedly, The Artist is Hazanavicius’ most (or only) compelling work so far. The ecstatic ambition to retell the fall of the silent movie is cleverly presented with aesthetics borrowed from the silent era and the afterward era. Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo seal the cahoot with a very pleasant performance, which helps audiences to understand the struggle of actors in the bygone era.
Gone Girl (2014)
27. Gone Girl (David Fincher)
Fincher manifests the haunting, insecure feeling from Gillian Flynn’s book into a visual sickness that haunts so terrible it becomes a pitch-black comedy of “reality”. Gone Girl nails it with powerful story-telling, one of the finest ensemble of casts including the iconic roles by Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck, and perfect manifestation of modern-day satire about modern marriage as well as media’s influence in creating sensations.
26. Skyfall (Sam Mendes)
Following up on the serious, grounded, less campy 007 reboots initiated by Casino Royale (2006), Skyfall is, by far, the best and most serious James Bond movie. The somber theme and riveting narrative are made perfect with Daniel Craig’s religious performance. The action scenes are still blockbuster-worthy, the cinematography is top of the class, and the real complexity rarely found in the franchise has made the bar high, even, for the franchise itself.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
25. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)
The Wolf of Wall Street is an amazingly wild, depraved, twisted, and beautiful party of money and debauchery. Scorsese confidently displays excessive pictures of sex and drug use–money, cocaine, liquor, prostitution, orgy, and party are everywhere. Scorsese finally gets the best of DiCaprio in his finest piece of work in the decade.
Before Midnight (2013)
24. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)
In 1995, we follow Jesse (Ethan Hunt) and Celine (Julie Delpy) as they share ideas and perspectives about lives and love in Vienna on Before Sunrise. In 2004, their paths crossed again in Paris, in Before Sunset, where their more matured spirits contemplated together. In 2013, the couple embarks in another conversation about parenting, about career, about the fantasies against the imperfect reality. Before Midnight offers intelligent insights about commitments and long-term relationships, wrapping the ideas from the whole trilogy warmly.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
23. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)
Picturesque like the portrayed establishment and witty as the main protagonist who becomes magnetic navel of Wes Anderson’s eighth feature film that, The Grand Budapest Hotel proves his savvy. With fancy ‘literature’, contemplative humor, and most of all, premier narrative—whimsical and quirky, needless to say, it embraces those features to structure a more historical, literature, and European quirky tale in the titular hotel. Once you check-in, you only want to stay and explore and nothing more.
Toy Story 3 (2010)
22. Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich)
Unkrich crafts a bold story with Toy Story 3. Not only that the plot redefines the world-building once and for all, but it also provides a heartfelt closure making Toy Story the most effortless movie trilogy (which eventually is extended with a victory lap in Toy Story 4).
21. Somewhere (Sofia Coppola)
Sofia Coppola portrays the existential crisis of another celebrity as in Lost in Translation with a different breed of stardom, of course, but somehow injects the story with her personal experience as the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola. Stephen Dorff perfectly captures the message with certain kinds of melancholy and boredom; but, the real star of Somewhere is the silence that connects and glues the whole story together. The whole movie is a meditative observation of characters with only a handful of a plot to analyze.
20. 1917 (Sam Mendes)
Mendes reinvents World War I movie with sophisticated technical prowess and massive scale of production in 1917. It’s a cinematic triumph presented with an illusion of seamless single take for almost two hours, which works more than pleasing the eyes. The technique undoubtedly is the only possible one to narrate Mendes’ captivating story and guide the audiences to the harrowing looks of war in real-time.
19. ROMA (Alfonso Cuarón)
There’s an old saying, “beautiful thing doesn’t seek for attention.” I believe that’s the most perfect phrase to define Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma—the director’s love-letter to the 1970s Mexico, a place that shaped him to be the auteur he is now. A lot of things happen in Roma, yet, Cuaron binds them up together carefully with refined visuals and technical expertise. Guillermo del Toro calls it a mural of subtexts about the zeitgeist of the place and the era. By all accounts, it is eloquent, contextual and, definitely, timeless. A cult classic.
18. Carol (Todd Haynes)
Taking a subtle way to transliterate its substance—an unconventional love between two women against the 50s scene—into a digestible romance, Carol makes romance great again. Fueled by Haynes’ exquisite directing and both main actresses’ idyllic performances, it effortlessly ascends in the rank of finest romance ever made. Heightened by dying-to-see performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, the love burns at all times.
The Favourite (2018)
17. The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos)
Lanthimos strays away from making modern fable out of miserable people, as in The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer; instead, he crafts an exquisite period drama that feels as peculiar and as bold as any Lanthimos’ movies. Not only it is his most accessible, but The Favourite is also his most well-acted and his most celebrated triumphant with Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, and Olivia Colman takes the prize.
16. Silence (Martin Scorsese)
Adapting Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel of the same title about the voyage of two Jesuit priests in 17th century Japan, in a misty era called ‘Kakure Kirishitan’ or ‘hidden Christian.’ It is a story about faith and questions that surround men of faith in a desperate time. Inarguably, it is poignant, visceral and thought-provoking at the same time – just like faith itself. Scorsese has transcends the story into a real pilgrimage of faith: a timely best picture.
Lady Bird (2017)
15. Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig)
Lady Bird gives us a candid confession of a rural teenage girl with her big passion as brilliantly made alive by Saoirse Ronan’s terrific performance. The film’s concern to the protagonist’s identity odyssey and conflict with Laurie Metcalf’s unnerving mother persona is profound and honest. In her directorial debut, Greta Gerwig’s indie darling spirit is emanated all along, making the whole film seems like a reflection of her mind. It resounds as a highly relatable ode to adolescence.
14. Arrival (Denis Villeneuve)
Adapted from one short story in Arrival also nudges about Bruner’s idea that language is constitutive of reality. Meaning to say that reality might differ from each other due to the way one understands the language. The film brings this construct into the surface, keeps the connection between language and science intact, and presents it into a moving story mildly but vividly. It results in an elegantly eloquent palindrome of a story—a continuum, an order which can be seen forward from beginning or backward from the end respectively.
The Shape of Water (2017)
13. The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro)
The Shape of Water is, once again, Guillermo del Toro’s love letter to his own works, to his obsession with baroque fantasy and, especially, to his frequent collaborator, Doug Jones. What makes it different from his previous film is Del Toro’s shift to more mature storytelling about love and acceptance. It’s beautiful and heartwarming by any means as it precisely transcends its whimsical love story with wonders and splendors into a delightful fairy tale. The director’s inner-child has grown up a bit and it’s a satisfying process to experience.
The Social Network (2010)
12. The Social Network (David Fincher)
The beat of Aaron Sorkin’s dialogues sets the rhythm of David Fincher’s biography of Mark Zuckerberg. Fincher’s direction is clever and rapid as if it’s Zuckerberg himself; somehow, it feels like it has all the precision and it cannot wait. Jesse Eisenberg’s clinical performance is proven to be iconic as time goes by. However, it’s always the story’s stance which lasts longer than all other qualities. Fincher’s vision of Zuckerberg is predictive and imminent; he has warned us.
La La Land (2016)
11. La La Land (Damien Chazelle)
Damien Chazelle crafts a sharp-witted, jazz-spirited romance in La La Land. It’s love, no, passion letter to the beauty of music, of cinema, of L.A., and of a dream. La La Land, undoubtedly, is a bunch of happiness, blissful tunes and whoop-de-do wrapped in an ethereal rhapsody. It’s an exhilarating, feel-good musical that will take you to the stars and make you reluctant to touch the ground again, even if you’re not familiar with classic musical.
A Separation (2011)
10. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi)
Narratively complex and morally ambiguous, Farhadi’s hyperrealistic suburban drama which can only happen because of the complex Iranian law systems. Farhadi connects chains of events tautly under the pretense of poetic justice while grounds the whole narrative as close as it can be with the reality. The result is a harrowing and haunting tale that Farhadi is adeptly engineered to play out with audiences’ sympathy and logic at the same time.
09. Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn)
The director’s penchant for arthouse brutality and neon-bathed cinematography meets the climax with Drive. Guided by Cliff Martinez’s carefully crafted scoring, Ryan Gosling’s complex performance, and a series of striking imagery, Refn slickly plays out on hyper-drive to craft the ultraviolent action bonanza an artful experience.
08. Parasite (Bong Joon-ho)
Angry Bong Joon-ho illustrates his restlessness towards the social gap with a thought-provoking, family tragicomedy that does not look like anything you’ve seen before. It’s the game-changer to the world cinema with the surprising (but much-predicted) Oscar-winning. It’s funny, ironic and thrilling deeply at the same breath.
07. Her (Spike Jonze)
Her transcends the extraordinary love story between a sentimental man (Joaquin Phoenix) and an operating system into a deeply meditative observation of human dependency. Jonze’s story is profoundly moving, beautiful, and scary at the same time. His directorial effort, on another note, is filled with cleverness and subtlety. Phoenix is given the authority to create the fantasy all by himself and Jonze captures it perfectly to make the whole drama believable.
06. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)
In 372 miles above the Earth, there are some absolute rules: air temperature always fluctuates, sound cannot spread, no air pressure, no oxygen at all, and most importantly, no gravity. Cuaron incorporates them into a thrilling and beautiful space survival that sticks to the law of physics. Not only does it break the grounds of cinematic experience, but it also reinvents space blockbuster.
Knives Out (2019)
05. Knives Out (Rian Johnson)
Johnson’s entire filmography only highlights how rich his references are and how stylish his filmmaking technique can be. Brick is an excellent hardboiled homage; The Brothers Bloom makes an ambitious callback to caper movies; Looper is an instant sci-fi classic, and only toxic Star Wars fans deny The Last Jedi as the finest movie in the canon since the original trilogy. Knives Out takes Johnson’s geekiness to the next level and you should be ready to call his new whodunit thriller a new instant classic.
Inside Out (2015)
04. Inside Out (Pete Docter, Ronaldo del Carmen)
Pixar takes the complexity of human emotion and creates an intriguing story that helps to visualize neuro-psychology with a wonderful story of teenage angst. It’s undoubtedly the boldest step the studio has ever taken with the most inventive (if not reflective) world-building since Toy Story.
03. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)
There are no two words in the English language more harmful than “good job”. That’s the credo of Chazelle’s Whiplash, the most intense movie of the decade. Chazelle breaks the conventions of movies about music and engineers a completely different vehicles for the story to make it like an intense action bravura.
The Master (2012)
02. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Masterfully acted, expertly written, and clinically directed, The Master continues Paul Thomas Anderson’s back-to-back masterpiece following There Will Be Blood. Pairing Joaquin Phoenix in one of his most frighteningly powerful performances and Philip Seymour Hoffman in his finest performances of all time, the acting department is colossal; especially with Amy Adams on board as well. This is a major voyage to the impending harrow which Anderson only unravels when audiences connect to the infernal characters.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
01. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)
The idea of Mad Max: Fury Road crossed in George Miller’s mind when he walked across an intersection in Los Angeles back in 1998—28 years since he met lifetime collaborator, Byron Kennedy; 19 years since the first Mad Max; 15 years after Byron Kennedy’s death; 13 years after the last Mad Max movie, Beyond Thunderdome. Only 15 years later, after some intensive study to break down the Hero’s Journey, a book which Miller worships like the bible, Miller flew all the way to Namibia continuing the story that has to be done. The result is a real cinematic prowess by any means, by any standards. The high-octane, heavy-metal infused car-nage rips the desert marking the most exquisite cinematic come-back in the recent history.
Also, find this list on Letterboxd of sinekdoks.