With that in mind, as we end the 2nd (!?) decade of the 2000’s, we were asked to come up with a list our ‘Best’ films of the past 10 years. I’ve undoubtedly forgotten all about some films that will come rushing into my head sometime in the next 2 weeks, but for now, I’m fairly confident in these choices.
And since we’re talking about a 10-year period here, I thought I’d break it down into my Top 20 Narrative Features, and my Top 20 Documentary Features. And then, just for fun, I’ve included my “Terrifying Top Thirteen” Horror Films. I’m a lifelong horror fan to my very core, so I wanted to give an extra special shout out to the scary movies that stuck with me the most this decade!
MY TOP 20 FILMS OF THE DECADE (in alphabetical order)
99 HOMES (2014)
Criminally overlooked and underrated housing crisis drama, with knockout performances by Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon.
BEFORE MIDNIGHT (2013)
The brilliant culmination of one of the greatest film trilogies ever.
CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE (2011)
My favourite ‘dramedy’ of the decade, I can watch this one any day of the week.
DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)
Tarantino working at his absolute peak of his powers, and you get the distinct feeling that only QT could pull off something this audacious.
Joaquin Phoenix is nothing short of brilliant, in a film that channels Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, but is its own unique and terrifying beast.
Greta Gerwig’s tremendously funny and poignant dramedy is one for the ages. (CIFF Selection 2017)
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)
After a 20+ year wait, I have no idea how he did it, but George Miller managed to surpass even the highest of expectations, with this explosive and adrenaline- pumping slice of action movie nirvana.
MARRIAGE STORY (2019)
This film absolutely gutted me, and I haven’t been able to shake it, weeks after seeing it. Oh, and it also features 2 of the best performances of the decade.
A very underrated gem, this razor-sharp satire is a funny but deeply unsettling mashup of Taxi Driver and Network.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (2019)
The 2nd of 2 Tarantino films on this list finds Quentin furthering the wish-fulfillment storytelling he began with Inglourious Basterds, to great effect.
SHORT TERM 12 (2013)
Brie Larson’s true breakout role was in this tiny indie from 2013, the best movie about foster care ever made.
SING STREET (2016)
I love the films of John Carney (Once, and Begin Again, which also almost made this list), and this magnificent, 80’s set crowd pleaser may just be his best.
I’m a total sucker for All the President’s Men-style movies, and this is the best ‘newspaper movie’ since that 1976 classic.
THE BIG SHORT (2015)
A great cast, a fantastic script, cleverly told with some truly imaginative filmmaking, this is the kind of ‘Hollywood’ movie that Hollywood used to make more often.
THE BIG SICK (2017)
Easily the best romantic comedy of the decade; it’s not even close. Although, I’m not sure I’ve ever cried so much at a ‘comedy’…
THE DISASTER ARTIST (2017)
Humanizing ‘auteur’ Tommy Wiseau while never sacrificing the laughs, this is a genuinely good-natured and loving biopic, the best of its kind since Ed Wood.
THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010)
David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin teamed up to give us the Facebook story, just a few years after Facebook was even a thing! Just as prescient today as it was in 2010.
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBINGS, MISSOURI (2017)
Just when you thought Frances McDormand would never find a role as great as the one she had in Fargo, Martin McDonagh’s phenomenal thriller came along to kick us right in the gut.
The less you know upfront about writer/director/star Jim Cummings’ hilariously awkward character study, the better. You just have to ‘experience’ it. (CIFF 2018 Selection)
As for Damien Chazelle, I could just as easily put La La Land on this list, but the scales tipped for this one, mainly because of the blistering performances of Miles Teller and JK Simmons. (CIFF 2014 Selection)
MY TOP 20 DOCS OF THE DECADE (in alphabetical order)
20 FEET FROM STARDOM
Gloriously showcasing the singers who never got their due, backing up the more ‘famous’ singers we all know and love. This one will make you want to stand up and cheer.
ALL THINGS MUST PASS
Colin Hanks’ beautiful ‘eulogy’ for Tower Records is a loving tribute to what is now, unfortunately, a completely bygone era.
(CIFF Doc Soup 2018-19 Selection) One of the most joyous and celebratory docs I’ve seen, this one will put a smile on your face from beginning to end.
Like a kick to the ribs, this emotionally exhausting, yet triumphant, film might just restore your faith in humanity a little bit.
CENTRAL PARK FIVE
If you’ve seen the limited series, check out this mesmerising 2012 Ken Burns doc that first shed light on this incredible miscarriage of justice.
No matter your opinion on whether or not Edward Snowden did the right thing, this infinitely compelling doc grabs you from frame one, and doesn’t let go.
GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY & THE PRISON OF BELIEF
There’s a reason the Church of Scientology did everything they could to block Alex Gibney’s incendiary exposé.
One of the biggest surprises of the decade, at once ‘not what I was expecting’, while simultaneously ‘wildly surpassing all my expectations’!
(CIFF 2016 Selection) Watch this one right after 20 Feet From Stardom – this time, honouring the sidekicks and musicians who you ‘think’ are part of the band, but are in reality just…hired guns.
Remember the 2008 financial meltdown? This absolutely chilling documentary sure does. 2011 Oscar Winner for Best Documentary, for good reason.
The best movie ever made about a movie that never actually was made. You will come away from this film desperate to see the film that never was.
MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS
In a decade of GREAT music docs (I could have done an entire Top 20 list just for music docs), this one tops them all. And you do NOT have to be a fan of The National to fall in love with this film.
OJ: MADE IN AMERICA
Thought you knew everything there possibly was to know about the most famous case in American history? Think again.
This loving biography of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is elevated to greatness by giving us a glimpse into her personal life and career as a true trail-blazer.
Dave Grohl’s love letter to the legendary studio is as high energy and good-spirited as the man himself, not to mention endlessly entertaining.
THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM
More than any other film on this list, this might be the one that most pleasantly surprised me – it’s gorgeous, moving, and utterly beguiling.
THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS
‘Truth is stranger than fiction’. Indeed.
Enter the world of ‘Competitive Tickling’ – and that’s just the starting point for a descent into a truly bizarre nightmare for journalist David Farrier.
I’m still shocked at how much open access the filmmakers had in making this film, particularly when Anthony Weiner’s ‘redemption story’ transitions to yet another scandal.
WEST OF MEMPHIS
Make it a double bill with Central Park Five, and scream to the high heavens when you realize just how flawed our justice system really is.
MY “TERRIFYING TOP 13” HORROR FILMS OF THE DECADE (in alphabetical order)
A QUIET PLACE
Never has silence been so deeply, profoundly terrifying.
Jeremy Saulnier’s energetic and funny debut feature, Murder Party, in no way prepared us for this disturbing, intense, and pulse-pounding follow-up.
Scary, funny, surprising, suspenseful, and it REALLY sticks the landing, cementing Jordan Peele’s socially conscious thriller place as an instant genre classic.
Easily the best Halloween movie since the 1978 original, and for that reason alone it deserves a place on this list! But the undeniable thrill of seeing Jamie Lee Curtis back in the role that made her a horror movie icon? That’s what locked it for me.
Yes, Ari Aster has only made 2 feature films, and they’re both on this list. Not ‘traditionally’ scary by way of jump scares and the like; the feeling of deep unease just never leaves you, for the entire 2 hours. And Toni Collette was robbed of an Oscar nomination.
With music and Steadicam shots deeply indebted to John Carpenter, and a high concept premise that could have been laughable had they not pulled it off, this one’s a keeper.
Still my favourite Ben Wheatley film (although Sightseers comes pretty damn close), this film is just relentlessly harrowing.
The other Ari Aster film on the list, and a film I liked even more than Hereditary. Just as unsettling, just as uneasy, but in the cold light of day, even more terrifying.
This fantastically disturbing Hollywood cautionary tale is a total gem.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
Joss Whedon’s instant classic turns the slasher movie genre on its ear, resulting in the funniest, scariest, most surprising horror film of the decade. Never has the phrase ‘Spoiler Alert!’ been so necessary!
THE LOVED ONES
The most insane, intense, violent, relentless (yet funny) horror film of the decade. If you haven’t seen this Australian nightmare, seek it out NOW!
TUCKER AND DALE VS EVIL
Held up in ‘studio release limbo’ for 2 years, this is the funniest, most entertaining, most crowd-pleasing horror movie of the decade. Hands down.
Smart, funny, surprising, shocking – there aren’t enough superlatives to do justice to Adam Wingard’s pitch-black horror movie rollercoaster ride.
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