Sunday, 1 March 2015

Best of the Decade... So Far

The ethereal Jessica Chastain in Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" (2011)

Finally being done with all the frenzy of awards shows, “Best of 2014” features in every magazine and newspaper in the world, and, of course, having heard everyone’s disdainful judgement of the Oscar winners and the show, film commentary sites have now begun compiling a new sort of list. New Year’s Day 2015 marked the middle of this decade (if you began counting on New Year’s Day 2010, which we know to be incorrect), and all self-respecting film pundits have thrown in their choices for the best features released so far this decade.

Naturally, having no wish other than to be yoked to the critical bandwagon, I’ve had to compile my own list of The Best Films of the Decade So Far, which has proved rather cool – this is my first list of The Best Films of anything, and I’m quite excited that I get to share it here right after composing it. I’ve read some critics’ assertions that they have to confer with themselves at length over the order of titles on a list, and over what should be put in or left out. I managed to compile this one rather quickly, and to form something which I feel represents my feelings somewhat truthfully. Richard Brody writes, “A list is not a game; it’s an image in words.” As enjoyable as it is to write your own, and bare some small part of your feelings to readers, it’s also pleasing to read others’ lists, being as personal and revealing as they are.

Margot Robbie and Leonardo DiCaprio conversing civilly in Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" (2013)

You will notice a number of films missing from my own list that any other movie-going fanatic wouldn’t hesitate to toss into theirs. To be clear, I’ve considered every film of this decade I’ve seen: if I’ve left something out, it’s either because I haven’t seen it yet, or don’t think enough of it to include it here. Even before uploading this list, I was called out on its total exclusion of Christopher Nolan. I have seen Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, and Interstellar, and I don’t deem any one of them among the best films released since 2010. I like to think this isn’t due to despicable élitism, but considered aesthetic judgements and sense. Other glaring omissions – like The Master, A Separation, Margaret, Certified Copy, Amour, Tabu, Under the Skin, Inside Llewyn Davis, The Act of Killing, Ida, Moonrise Kingdom, Holy Motors, Black Swan, Magic Mike, Nebraska and Drive – are missing simply because I’ve yet to see them, and so, as I understand, have some rather thrilling experiences ahead of me.

Please let me know your own selections in the comments, as well as your misgivings with mine – I know I can’t inundate a list with Scorsese, Malick, Linklater, Allen and Soderbergh, and include Judd Apatow in the top ten, while leaving out Birdman, Whiplash, and Christopher Nolan, and expect everyone to be wildly enthusiastic about it.

Ralph Fiennes, quite the gigolo, in Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel" (2014)

My own picks for the best releases since 2010:
  1. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
  2. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
  3. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013)
  4. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)
  5. Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese, 2010)

Numbers 6 to 10, in alphabetical order:
12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)
Gone Girl (David Fincher, 2014)
Hugo (Martin Scorsese, 2011)
This is 40 (Judd Apatow, 2012) (reviewed on this blog)
To the Wonder (Terrence Malick, 2013)

Numbers 11 to 20:
American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)
Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin, 2012)
Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, 2013)
Bernie (Richard Linklater, 2012)
Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014) (reviewed on this blog)
Contagion (Steven Soderbergh, 2011)
The Descendants (Alexander Payne, 2011)
Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen, 2011)
Moneyball (Bennett Miller, 2011)
Selma (Ava DuVernay, 2014) (reviewed on this blog)

And another eighteen:
Anna Karenina (Joe Wright, 2012)
Behind the Candelabra (Steven Soderbergh, 2013)
Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen, 2013)
Bridesmaids (Paul Feig, 2011)
Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller, 2014)
Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, 2013)
The LEGO Movie (Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, 2014)
Lincoln (Steven Spielberg, 2012)
Magic in the Moonlight (Woody Allen, 2014)
Mr Turner (Mike Leigh, 2014)
Rabbit Hole (John Cameron Mitchell, 2010)
Rust and Bone (Jacques Audiard, 2012)
Side Effects (Steven Soderbergh, 2013)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Thomas Alfredson, 2011)
Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich, 2010)
True Grit (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2010)
Die Wonderwerker (Katinka Heyns, 2011)
Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012)

Rooney Mara and Jesse Eisenberg in David Fincher's "The Social Network" (2010)

To give an idea of what other ardent film commentators have liked this decade, I include the list put up on Fandor by Kevin B. Lee. Lee tweeted in December, asking what the best films of the decade so far have been. He drew nearly 300 responses, and polled the results (his video of which can be watched here). These are the top 31 films, each receiving at least 21 votes:
  1. The Tree of Life
  2. Certified Copy
  3. The Master
  4. Margaret
  5. Holy Motors
  6. A Separation
  7. Under the Skin
  8. Inside Llewyn Davis
  9. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recal His Past Lives
  10. Boyhood
  11. Goodbye to Language
  12. The Social Network
  13. Moonrise Kingdom
  14. Her (tie) Leviathan
  1. Mysteries of Lisbon
  2. The Act of Killing (tie) The Turin Horse
  1. Before Midnight (tie) Melancholia (tie) Once upon a Time in Anatolia
  1. Frances Ha (tie) The Wolf of Wall Street
  1. The Immigrant (tie) Spring Breakers (tie) Tabu
  1. Amour (tie) House of Pleasures/Tolerance
  1. The Grand Budapest Hotel (tie) Like Someone in Love (tie) This is Not a Film

I also include the highest ranked films of this decade on IMDb’s Top 250 list, as a (fairly accurate, I’d say) view of the populist choices of this decade’s top cinematic releases (each film’s rank on the IMDb list is in brackets after the title):
  1.  Inception [14]
  2. Interstellar [21]
  3. Whiplash [37] (reviewed on this blog)
  4. The Intouchables [39]
  5.  Django Unchained [57]
  6. The Dark Knight Rises [59]
  7. Toy Story 3 [73]
  8.  A Separation [105]
  9. The Hunt [120]
  10. The Wolf of Wall Street [138]
  11. Gone Girl [140]
  12. Warrior [145]
  13. How to Train Your Dragon [152]
  14. Rush [161]
  15. Incendies [170]
  16. Boyhood [176]
  17. 12 Years a Slave [178]
  18. The Grand Budapest Hotel [185]
  19. Guardians of the Galaxy [191]
  20. The Imitation Game [199] (reviewed on this blog)
  21. The Avengers [201]
  22. Shutter Island [207]
  23. Kingsman: The Secret Service [212]
  24. Gangs of Wasseypur [218]
  25. The King’s Speech [220]
  26.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II [222]
  27. X-Men: Days of Future Past [224]
  28. The Help [239]
  29. Birdman [244]
  30. Prisoners [246]

Paul Rudd in Judd Apatow's high-art "This is 40" (2012)


  1. Definitely a list of excellent movies. Based on your opinions of 50 Shades of Grey, I'm rather surprised the Nymphomaniac series wasn't included in your top 10. I, personally, could not have left Christopher Nolan's talent from the list and would have included both Inception and The Dark Knight rises in my top 20. My top would have also included Les Misérables, Black Swan & The Imitation game. Good read Jared - all & all a very balanced list that caters for most people's tastes.

    1. I didn't see the "Nymphomaniac" films, but based on the trailers, I expect that Lars von Trier's dreariness and earnestness may prevent them from ever appearing here. I found The Dark Knight Rises too dogged and gloomy to take seriously beyond the spectacle, and Inception concerned itself too much with its mechanations and machinery to be emotionally involving. I detest Les Misérables (perhaps I'll explain why on my blog some day soon), and my reasons for dismissing The Imitation Game are explained in my blog post on it. I'm also sure you realise that catering for a large contingency's tastes is one of my very last concerns in compiling a list of films. The selection reflects my own feelings, and is made to show something of myself to others, not to pander to them. Thanks so much for your comment :)

  2. I also think that Side Effects is definitely deserving of a top ten position!

  3. Really enjoyed 12 year's a slave, boyhoodamd this is 40. I don't think that bridesmaids should be on any such list - it's really not that great at all. And that's it for my comment Jared, keep up the good work :)

    1. I think "Bridesmaids" featured some of the best acting of its year, and even of this decade. Kristen Wiig, and the other cast members, have been monstrously underrated in it, and the film, nothing less than hysterically funny, takes a candid and yet touching view of a person whose personal life is faltering and slipping dangerously towards despair. I include it because I love it, and also because it's been consistently undervalued by far too many viewers.

  4. Having seen Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan" (2010) recently, I include it in my selection of the best films of this decade, either in the top 20, or in the unranked numbers six to ten, as a sort of 11th top ten title.

  5. Dude, a lot of people really like Wolf of Wall STreet, but I think that's just for the shock factor. I definitely don't think it should be in the top 5. Also I don't think This is Forty should be on your list at all, or Magic in the Moonlight. The story is too thin, and it's very inconsequential compared to Woody's other movies. Lincoln, Gravity and Birdman were the best movies of their years, and they should all be at the top.

    1. Thanks for your comment :) Having seen The Wolf of Wall Street three times now, I genuinely admire and love it, not just because of the wild antics and hilarious set pieces in it, but because of the once again extraordinary techniques and invigorating energy Scorsese has thrown into the film, and the dark view he takes of the crazy lives of the characters. This is 40 is one of the most thoughtful and tender films I've seen, and it manages to embody both that thought and tenderness without ever resorting to sentimentality. It also manages to be very funny without exploiting its characters or abandoning its views. Every frame in this film serves the overall purpose, and it takes an honest look at marriage, that many other films have shied away from. Magic in the Moonlight, though thin in its particulars, features truly marvelous, even magical performances, especially by Emma Stone. Her acting here lends extra weight and delight to the film that its story alone would not merit. Lincoln is very good, but seems to take a slightly aggrandising and sentimental view of its hero; Gravity is incredibly visceral, but is remarkable in the trait that it contains virtually no ideas; and Birdman I've written about elsewhere (in my post about the Oscar telecast). They are nearly universally loved and admired, but my own reactions to these films keeps them outside of my top twenty of this decade.

  6. No "The King's Speech", "The Artist", "Argo" or "Birdman"? Do you have something against any movie that won Best Picture?

  7. I don't automatically dislike a Best Picture winner; "12 Years a Slave" is high up on my list, and 13 of my top 20 were Best Picture nominees. It seems, however, that the Academy, while they do nominate better films now than they had in the past, doesn't often give their top prize to the best film, or even a very good one. The Academy chooses the picture they are most proud of as representing the film industry, or, as Roger Ebert described it, the biggest headline. "The King's Speech" is dully earnest and anodyne and sweet, without doing anything major for cinema. "The Artist," while something of a delight and crowd-pleaser, lacks the intense passions found in genuine Silent Films. The photography and absence of the dramatising of deep psychological states makes it seem more like a run-of-the-mill 40s classical era than a raw early movie of the silent era. "Argo" is quite entertaining, and moves through its plot briskly, but again lacks psychological depth and intensity. I've written about "Birdman" before, in my post about the Oscar telecast.


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