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Top 100 Films of the 2010s

A collection of genre-bending experiments, bold new voices, and revelatory career peaks

The Top 100 Films of the 2010s, artwork by Steven Fiche
The Top 100 Films of the 2010s, artwork by Steven Fiche
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    Join us as we celebrate the best music, film, and television of the decade. Today, we look back at the 100 Best Films of the 2010s.

    At the top of the 2010s, in one of the top films on the list you’re about to read through, a young tech mogul declared in an ecstatic frenzy that we were going to live on the Internet. He was right, of course, even if Sean Parker probably didn’t realize what Mark Zuckerberg was about to unleash on the global community.

    Like everything, so much of the decade in film unfolded on the Internet. The decade began with Netflix still taking its earliest steps into on-demand streaming, and it’s ending with the production and release of a Martin Scorsese-directed tentpole feature. We watch movies at home as often as theaters now, if not far more frequently; we praise and argue and think about them online for the same reason we’ve always talked about the movies, to better understand them and ourselves and the world through them. In confusing and increasingly fraught times, we needed ways to understand, and film at its best gave us a chance to do exactly that.

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    The list you’re about to read, like every other one you’re about to read in the coming weeks and months, is a condensed version of a far longer list, one full of films just as exceptional as the 100 to follow here. That’s just part of the list-making game. But we’d like to think that it also captures the spectrum of moviegoing experiences from the decade that was, the genre-bending experiments and bold new voices and revelatory career peaks that accompanied film’s transition into cinematic universes and dedicated repertory theaters and the press of a button on your remote.

    We have a lot more to say about what we’ll call the 100 best films of the 2010s, as you’re about to see, so let’s get started.

    –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
    Senior Writer


    100. mother! (2017)

    mother! (Paramount Pictures)

    mother! (Paramount Pictures)

    In 2017, Darren Aronofsky wrapped two careful fists around his directorial detonator and pushed down to deliver mother!, his most acerbic work in nearly two decades, and, arguably, the most divisive film of that year. Some loved it, others hated it, most just weren’t quite sure what to make of it all. mother! doubled down on the psychological horror, pinning its viewer against the wall and peeling back their eyelids to watch Aronofsky’s dizzying, in-your-face, and violent approach to exploring the terrors of humanity: the emotional labors inherent in love, the exploitability of giving oneself to another, the selfishness required in creating, the dangers of cult-like religion, the utter destruction of the world by man and his ilk — you name it. In just a few harrowing hours, Aronofsky devised a new mythology for mankind, and this time, paradise was placid. –Irene Monokandilos


    99. Gone Girl (2014)

    Gone Girl (20th Century Fox)

    Gone Girl (20th Century Fox)

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    What does one do when directing an adaptation of a book with an incredibly satisfying, much-discussed twist? If you’re director David Fincher and screenwriter Gillian Flynn (adapting her own 2012 novel), you find new ways of subverting expectations. You cast Ben Affleck, a guy whose public persona is a cocktail of the likable and the untrustworthy. You capitalize on Rosamund Pike’s angelic face and her knack for turning on the shark-eyes. You make sure it’s every bit as mean, sharp, and blackly funny as the novel. You use all that to lull the audience into forgetting everything they know about Amazing Amy — and then you stock up on fake blood. What a ride. –Allison Shoemaker


    98. The Raid 2 (2014)

    The Raid 2 (Sony Pictures Classics)

    The Raid 2 (Sony Pictures Classics)

    Writer and director Gareth Evans took the warp-speed, bone-breaking fisticuffs of 2011’s The Raid to the next level with its epic 2014 sequel. Trading a claustrophobic siege movie for an epic crime drama, the next entry in the saga of Rama (Iko Uwais) picks up immediately where the previous film left off, thrusting him deeper into the criminal underbelly. The result remains a fine-tuned, accomplished film with a sprawling cast of memorable characters. With precision and economical storytelling, Evans upped the ante on his own breathtaking action sequences and fight choreography, no doubt inspiring a number of successors and imitators across the industry. –Meagan Navarro


    97. Her Smell (2019)

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    Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell, Vinyl, Soundtrack

    Her Smell (Gunpowder and Sky)

    Now is the age of Elisabeth Moss; long may she reign. The past decade is practically littered with stellar, vulnerable Moss performances, but few of her post-Mad Men roles are as intriguing or raw as as riot-grrl firebrand Becky Something in Alex Ross Perry’s Her Smell. She’s demanding, difficult, and quick to anger, circling the drain of addiction and abstract spiritualism. But Moss breaks through Perry’s deliberate aesthetic distance in exhilarating form, allowing her the kind of messy, entitled anger (and subsequent fall from grace) usually afforded to male characters in these kinds of grimy artistic profiles. It came and went this year, but in a just world, Her Smell, and Moss, would get the recognition they deserve. –Clint Worthington


    96. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

    Kubo and the Two Strings (Focus Features)

    Kubo and the Two Strings (Focus Features)

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    “If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to everything you see and hear, no matter how unusual it may seem.” At the beginning of Kubo and the Two Strings, the young titular hero introduces this concept for the sake of a performance. Kubo’s retelling a tale that even he doesn’t fully know or understand, just to make a little spare change and take care of himself and his grandmother. But Laika’s sterling achievement invites and even encourages you to revel in every frame of lustrous stop-motion animation, to savor every meticulously crafted detail along the way. Kubo offers a poignant warrior’s saga, one in which the danger is real and the consequences are permanent, but also one which believes that even the worst among us can still return to the light. You just have to tell the right story. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    95. The Favourite (2018)

    The Favourite, Fox Searchlight, Emma Stone

    The Favourite (Fox Searchlight)

    An unholy concoction made up of Kubrick, PBS’s Masterpiece, and battery acid, Yorgos Lanthimos’ fiendish satire The Favourite is perhaps the closest we’ll ever come to knowing how Jane Austen would sound on a bender. Set in the court of Britain’s Queen Anne, the film ostensibly centers on a love triangle between Olivia Colman’s Anne, a noblewoman and trusted friend (Rachel Weisz), and a newly arrived servant (Emma Stone). But Lanthimos quickly peels back the elegant wallpaper to reveal a more complex power struggle, then pulls up the floorboards to show the beating heart beneath. Uniformly excellent performances make it unmissable, but it’s the sound of that heart (and of bunnies) that lingers. –Allison Shoemaker


    94. Krisha (2015)

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    Krisha (A24)

    Krisha (A24)

    A24 wunderkind Trey Edward Shults made his feature film debut with a modestly budgeted pressure cooker of a family drama, loosely based on (and cast with) his actual family. Centered around Shults’ real-life aunt Krisha (Krisha Fairchild), Krisha turns a tense Thanksgiving homecoming into a simmering mixture of unresolved guilt and complex familial dynamics. Shults lays out many of the hallmarks of his filmmaking style here (from frenetic, elliptical editing to aspect ratios that shift with his characters’ state of mind), and pulls an Oscar-caliber performance from Krisha herself that’s impossible to pull your eyes from. (Just ignore the part where Shults writes himself into a scene where Krisha gets to gush about how much of a filmmaking genius he is.) –Clint Worthington


    93. A Ghost Story (2017)

    A Ghost Story (A24)

    A Ghost Story (A24)

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    Rooney Mara stomachs half a pie. Casey Affleck hides behind a sheet. Will Oldham muses about obsolescence. This is the plaintive world of David Lowery’s A Ghost Story, and it’s more haunting than anything in The Conjuring universe. Built like a MoMa installation and blocked like an Off-Broadway play, this 95-minute excursion through the afterlife offers a sobering outlook on mortality, the stuff we leave behind, and how time cruelly (albeit naturally) drifts away from it all. How far Lowery is willing to take this concept is a true marvel of the production itself, particularly how he never shatters its minimalistic structure. With each frame comes another gasp of life — until it’s a fading memory. –Michael Roffman


    92. The Wind Rises (2013)

    The Wind Rises (Toho)

    The Wind Rises (Toho)

    Japanese animation goliath Hayao Miyazaki has woven a career of films that delight viewers with oddity, sincerity, and beauty in equal measure. The Wind Rises is no exception. Eschewing fanciful cat buses, mermaids, and adorable witches for the gorgeousness that comes within the mundane and the solemn, Miyazaki’s supposed final bow follows a young Japanese engineer who dreams of building airplanes, only to spend a life struggling with the use of his art as vehicles of destruction. As Jiro looks back in lament at how his dream of beauty was corrupted by men, so too does Miyazaki, in his tragic and bittersweet farewell. –Irene Monokandilos


    91. Elle (2016)

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    Elle (Sony Pictures Classics)

    Elle (Sony Pictures Classics)

    Paul Verhoeven made a return from his 10-year hiatus in high, offensive style. Elle opens with its hero (Isabelle Huppert) being violated on the floor of her apartment as her attacker scurries away. Then she cleans herself up and goes to work. The mystery deepens like a Patricia Highsmith novel as she unexpectedly draws nearer to unearthing the identity of the man who got away and finds herself in the thick of sexually charged, if petty, corporate espionage. Verhoeven shoots the film like a modernist farce, letting Huppert’s feline visage and icy eyes do the heavy lifting, crafting his most twisted film since he left his native Netherlands for America. –Scout Tafoya


    90. Lady Bird (2017)

    Lady Bird (A24)

    Lady Bird (A24)

    Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut, Lady Bird, took on the coming-of-age tale with an autobiographical lens. Saoirse Ronan stars as the eponymous lead, a strong-willed teen struggling to find her way amidst a turbulent relationship with her mother and societal pressures. With pathos and humor, Lady Bird treats its title character with respect and allows her to be both flawed and complicated. An affecting tale told against a rapidly shifting economic landscape post-911, Gerwig declared herself a force to be reckoned with, particularly after garnering five Academy Award nominations. –Meagan Navarro


    89. Attack the Block (2011)

    Attack the Block (Optimum Releasing)

    Attack the Block (Optimum Releasing)

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    Long before Star Wars made John Boyega a household name, he delivered a star-worthy performance in Joe Cornish’s feature film debut, Attack the Block. As Moses, Boyega leads a gang of teenage thugs as they’re forced to defend their turf from an alien invasion. That simple sci-fi comedy premise becomes anything as Cornish weaves in classist satire and themes of race. A high-energy thriller with fun creature effects and a beating heart to balance the endless wit, Cornish paid tribute to the classics, all while forging his own path. Social commentary has never gone down easier than in this fantastic popcorn flick for the ages. –Meagan Navarro


    88. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)

    Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Universal)

    Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Universal)

    “Out of four possible stars Rolling Stone has given it … the shit emoji.” The Lonely Island movies have never performed as well as their crowd-pleasing songs and music videos, but don’t let the reviews scare you. From 2007’s Hot Rod through 2016’s ingenious Popstar, they’ve had more fun playing with what narrative film is capable of supporting than nearly any other American comedy directors. In Popstar, frontman Andy Samberg found the perfect use for his boyish good looks and burlesque of masculine confidence as Conner4real, a Justin Bieber stand-in as punchable as he is ubiquitous. Popstar delights in setting the conventions of biopics, reality TV, and the voracious ouroboros of celebrity alight with a flamethrower. –Scout Tafoya


    87. Columbus (2017)

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    Columbus (Sundance Institute)

    Columbus (Sundance Institute)

    In the same way that Columbus, Indiana, is a town unexpectedly rife with architectural wonders, Columbus is a deceptively masterful feature built from unassuming parts. As the pensive son of a comatose professor (John Cho) and a local architecture student (Haley Lu Richardson) come together over a few days to talk and wander and feel a bit less alone, Kogonada’s directorial debut amplifies delicate emotions without once cheapening or diminishing them. In its quiet way, Columbus is the kind of film that rewards an attentive viewer for their consideration. The conversations may focus on buildings, but the true search is for symmetry and connection, for clean lines to soothe frazzled landscapes and chipped spirits. The ground shifts beneath us all, subtly, even as our lives and the larger world move on, and therein lies the film’s soft-spoken power. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    86. The Trip (2010)

    The Trip (BBC Worldwide)

    The Trip (BBC Worldwide)

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    Tell me if you’ve heard of this one: Two grown men get up to no good across the English countryside, palavering with women half their age, and making a ruckus in restaurants with deep cut impersonations of Michael Caine and Sean Connery. No? You should watch the BBC more often. Originally a six-episode miniseries starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, The Trip became an international delight when it was recut and rolled into theaters in 2010. Although it’s since been even more condensed by YouTube clips, Michael Winterbottom’s film swells with adult drama that lingers long after the laughter. Come for the references to Get Carter; stay for the existential dread. –Michael Roffman


    85. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

    Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Paramount Pictures)

    Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Paramount Pictures)

    Brad Bird came into this like a pro. The animation whiz opened his 2011 thriller with a prison-break so fluid and flawless they ought to teach it at UCLA. Tom Cruise, our man Ethan Hunt, languishes in prison. Then his door pops open. Music starts hitting the PA system. It’s Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head”. You know what? It works. Hunt’s back in action, and assisted with crafty co-spies, with just enough time to deviate from his plan by picking up an unexpected aid. The scene crescendos perfectly to the classic Schifrin theme, and like a sparked wick, Ghost Protocol lights our fire and invites us to whatever’s next. This is how you hook your audience. How you start a great work of escapism. –Blake Goble


    84. Sing Street (2016)

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    Sing Street, John Carney, Musical

    Sing Street (Lionsgate)

    John Carney’s no stranger to musical charmers, but Sing Street is an especially gleeful breath of fresh air. The tale of a group of misfits (including golden-voiced moppet Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) weathering the struggles of 1980s Ireland by starting their own rock band, the film revels in the youthful punch of its protagonists, weaving a simple but heartfelt story about the liberating nature of forging your own path. Plus, it’s underscored by an album’s worth of unstoppable, period-appropriate Carney-penned bops, from “Drive It Like You Stole It” to “To Find You” (which, speaking from personal experience, makes for a tear-jerking first dance at the wedding). –Clint Worthington


    83. Parasite (2019)

    Parasite Movie Review

    Parasite (Neon)

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    Bong Joon-ho’s often reveled in the perverse comedy of class distinctions, and Parasite is his most assured document on the subject to date. A twisty, Hitchcockian tale of an impoverished clan conning their way into the well-paid service of a wealthy family, Parasite sees Director Bong at the height of his powers, sending his characters through a meat grinder of capitalist desperation and nesting-doll power dynamics as thematically enlightening as it is perversely delightful to watch. One could hardly mistake it for social realism, but its crackerjack plotting and vibrant storytelling will have you humming “Jessica, only child, Illinois, Chicago” for weeks on end. –Clint Worthington


    82. Eighth Grade (2018)

    Eighth Grade (A24)

    Eighth Grade (A24)

    All the awkwardness tethered to adolescence isn’t gender-specific, but (speaking from experience) few things are more poignant and volatile than a pre-teen girl. In comedian-turned-filmmaker Bo Burnham’s directorial debut, Eighth Grade, Kayla, (the amazing Elsie Fisher) acts as an old photograph of that past version of ourselves we may have buried down — deep down. Independent filmmaking at its finest, Eighth Grade is a funny, wise, heart-wrenching coming-of-age tale told in the social media age, but, despite technological advances, serves as a reminder that most of the pronounced, defining moments of teenage-hood take place in our heads, and that fumbling, insecure 14-year-old self isn’t a phase, but a state of mind. And it’s one most of us don’t really grow out of entirely. –Samantha Lopez


    81. Manchester by the Sea (2016)

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    Manchester by the Sea (Amazon)

    Manchester by the Sea (Amazon)

    Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea remains one of the more difficult watches of the past decade. It’s a pale, frozen, and cruel world that Lonergan lays out for Casey Affleck’s Lee Chandler, a quiet, broken janitor with a tragic past who does all he can just to maintain a one-room apartment and endure four buildings of snowy sidewalks, leaky pipes, and annoying tenants. When Lee’s brother, Joe, dies and leaves his only son, Patrick, to his care, Lee finds himself drowning both in new responsibilities but also memories of the mistake that ravaged his life. It’s a story about self-forgiveness that heartbreakingly suggests that sometimes our guilt is just too strong an impediment. When Lee mentions the idea of a pullout sofa and the film ends with Patrick and him fishing from Joe’s boat, we, as an audience, find ourselves utterly grateful for even the slightest hint that things may one day be alright. Finally, the ground begins to thaw. –Matt Melis


    80. Burning (2018)

    Burning (Well Go USA Entertainment)

    Burning (Well Go USA Entertainment)

    Master Korean director Lee Chang-dong’s absorbing, enigmatic 2018 thriller is something of a magic trick, seducing you with some of the most visually arresting images of the last decade while slowly transforming itself before your eyes into a wholly unsettling portrait of unchecked, obsessive male desire. Burning is a simple enough story: lower-class aspiring novelist Lee Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) reconnects with childhood friend Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo), who returns from a long vacation on the arm of wealthy, confident Ben (Steven Yeun). But when Hae-mi mysteriously disappears, the film takes a chilling turn. Burning is about the insidious ways class and desire often violently intertwine. It’s one helluva mind-fuck that will linger in your consciousness long after the credits roll. –Emmy Potter


    79. Your Name (2017)

    Your Name (Toho)

    Your Name (Toho)

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    Makoto Shinkai’s apocalyptic body-swapping fantasy dramedy (yes, you read that right),Your Name ,is one of the highest-grossing feature films in Japanese history, and as the film unfolds, it’s reasonably easy to understand why. It’s a crowd pleaser in every sense, sweetly funny and sweepingly romantic, even as it begins to unspool its harrowing central mystery. As a young girl from the country and a young boy in Tokyo begin to spontaneously swap bodies, their burgeoning connection forms the basis of the film’s exploration of self-discovery, cultural loss, and the ways in which we’re all tenuously hanging on to threads of our lives out of the fear that one day we’ll lose hold. From the stunning animation, which feels as though it’s working in every hue of the color wheel, to its unabashed optimism even in the face of the unimaginable, Your Name is a singular work by an equally singular filmmaker. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    78. The Tale (2018)

    The Tale (HBO)

    The Tale (HBO)

    In the midst of the #MeToo movement, few films have tackled the sensitive subject of sexual abuse as tactfully and masterfully as The Tale. Utilizing her own past experiences as a victim, Jennifer Fox’s film is a deeply personal take on the oft-whispered topic. It’s also an intriguing look at the way humans access their own memories and the subjective nature of how we choose to remember something. Laura Dern’s powerhouse performance as a fictionalized version of Fox serves as the linchpin that unifies the film’s multiple timelines and stands among the actress’ greatest turns yet. –Kyle Cubr


    77. The Master (2012)

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    The Master (Annapurna)

    The Master (Annapurna)

    A white-hot rejoinder to Scientology and an acknowledgement of the existential angst that drives people towards those kinds of cults, The Master remains one of Paul Thomas Anderson’s greatest cinematic profiles of morally compromised geniuses. PTA revels in stillness, in crashing waves, in the quiet power of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd (one of his very best last roles) over twitchy, trauma-ridden vet Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix, whose Joker feels like an afterimage of his turn here) to tell a story about time, tragedy, and male insecurity. And all of this is framed through Mihai Mălaimare Jr.’s lush, 70mm-aided eye. –Clint Worthington


    76. The Interrupters (2011)

    The Interrupters (PBSd)

    The Interrupters (PBSd)

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    Far too often, the stories told about Chicago focus solely on its violent crime, on the shootings and murders taking place in the neighborhoods dubbed “bad” by neglectful city officials and ignorant outsiders, and opportunists searching for a dog-whistle to bolster racist rhetoric. The Interrupters, Steve James’ documentary portrait of Chicago’s South Side, instead follows CeaseFire, a group devoted to changing the city’s reputation by physically intervening in escalating situations to stop them before somebody crosses a line. Through their work, James captures a different side of the city, even as he never sidesteps the life-and-death realities of some of its most embattled neighborhoods. It’s the side full of tenacity and resolve, the one full of people who live through the unimaginable on a daily basis and still continue to dream of, and fight for, more. It’s a portrait of an American city in all its truth. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    75. Blue Valentine (2010)

    Blue Valentine (Hunting Lane Films)

    Blue Valentine (Hunting Lane Films)

    In a decade dominated by blockbusters and distracted by technicolor fight scenes, Derek Cianfrance enlisted Michelle Williams, Ryan Gosling, and Grizzly Bear to help us feel again. Blue Valentine’s log line is simple — it’s a plaintive portrait of love on the rocks that never gets a neat and tidy ending. Hey, who in love ever has? Moving, messy, and deeply human in equal measure, Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine is the type of cinema that sticks to the walls with its harrowing truths about love we’ve all watched crash first-hand; the kind that makes you morose for days to come, all the while humming to yourself “You always hurt the ones you love/ The ones you shouldn’t hurt at all.” –Irene Monokandilos


    74. Phoenix (2014)

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    Phoenix (The Criterion Collection)

    Phoenix (The Criterion Collection)

    Christian Petzold’s strongest theatrical feature this decade hinges on its closing minutes. That’s a gamble only a staunch formalist like Petzold would dream of taking in the first place. That he succeeds is a testament to the heap of aching tension he’s built around a climactic revelation, and to the typically brilliant work of his star and muse, Nina Hoss. Hoss plays a woman whose face has been rebuilt after it was disfigured during the second world war. She wants to return to her life but her husband has moved on and doesn’t believe that the woman before him is the one he was intimate with for years. The pair use each other until they can take no more, dead-ending at a gut-wrenching love song that strips away false faces for good. –Scout Tafoya


    73. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

    Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Marvel Studios)

    Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Marvel Studios)

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    Captain America should be an impossible character to pull off in the modern era — too noble, too pure, too old-fashioned. But by leaning into Steve Rogers as a man out of time, one who must reconcile his ideals with modern realities, the Russo Bros. and Chris Evans gave the character a depth that made Cap a fan favorite. Winter Soldier’s paranoid thriller premise, sharp and well-staged action, and great supporting turns from Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Robert freakin’ Redford proved that the MCU could soar even without Iron Man leading the charge. While all involved would go onto bigger, more bombastic things, Winter Soldier’s exploration of what it means to stand steadfast for what that famous shield represents, even after the world’s changed, made it memorable and distinctive, before and after its fireworks went off. –Andrew Bloom


    72. Good Time (2017)

    Good Time (A24)

    Good Time (A24)

    In Good Time, the Safdie brothers capture the chaotic energy that defined the latter years of the decade. It looks and feels like how you feel when you drink an espresso a little too late in the afternoon, and it varies from intense thriller to funny, heartwarming drama. Robert Pattinson delivers one of the best, most unique performances of 2017. While Pattinson had spent the earlier part of the 2010s trying to prove he’s more than Edward Cullen in weird, challenging art films, Good Time solidified his status as an actor who can — and will — define a generation (romantically and artistically). Without Good Time, would Robert Pattinson be playing Batman? No. And he most certainly would have not gotten the mermaid banging role of his dreams in The Lighthouse. –Carrie Wittmer


    71. Nocturama (2016)

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    Nocturama (Wild Bunch)

    Nocturama (Wild Bunch)

    The 2010s yielded no shortage of filmmaking that explored modern terrorism and the violence that sustains its endless cycle of cruelty. But Nocturama, Bertrand Bonello’s unforgettable exploration of a young terrorist group’s interior lives on the eve of a bombing in Paris, eschews many of the hallmarks of other such films. There are no explicit motives. They don’t seem to be especially invested in the act. And as the film’s band of unruly youths hide out overnight in a lavish department store, dabbling in the very kind of capitalist excess they’ll violently assault in the morning, Nocturama offers a far more harrowing perspective on the forces behind so much cruelty: even those carrying out such atrocities may not even know, or understand, or care why they’re doing it at all. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    70. Midsommar (2019)

    Midsommar (A24)

    Midsommar (A24)

    Call it a dizzying black comedy. A perfect deconstruction of a relationship on film. Or a film school brat’s dream blend of Powell, Jodorowsky, Bergman, and Christopher Guest. Midsommar had so much to offer in its excessive odyssey of Scandinavian craziness that we’re still swirling our eyes making up our minds over what it’s all about. Ari Aster cemented himself as a name to watch in his sophomore feature, planting a hypnotic blend of the bleak, the spiritual, the romantic, the forlorn, and the hilarious. All in broad daylight. The script ran around for years, before Hereditary’s release, and Aster directs like someone afraid he might not get another chance to share all his wildest ideas. A raw trip. –Blake Goble


    69. Paterson (2017)

    Paterson (Amazon)

    Paterson (Amazon)

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    Paterson (Adam Driver) drives a bus in Paterson, New Jersey. Every day, he drives, listens to his passengers, and writes poems in a notebook when he can spare a moment. He goes home to his wife (Golshifteh Farahani), walks her dog, Marvin, and stops at a bar. Then he does it all again. Jim Jarmusch’s lovely, spare film follows Paterson for a week in which very little out of the ordinary happens. The real miracle of Paterson — beyond Driver’s exemplary performance — is that, like a great poem, its simplicity both belies and explains its honest-to-god profundity. What’s it about? Nothing much, just the painful wonder that is being alive. –Allison Shoemaker


    68. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

    What We Do In the Shadows (The Orchard)

    What We Do In the Shadows (The Orchard)

    The vampire luring its prey back to a clandestine location is not new to the genre. But What We Do in the Shadows has a perfect play on that classic bit through escalation. We’re talking some poor schmuck trying to flee from a house with shrieking music while flanked by floating bloodsuckers in flying V’s, popping out of literally any corner of the imagination. It’s a hilarious build, but then, just to remind us how silly vampires are, we see one of the vampires has either turned into, or placed his face on, a black cat. Like, what the hell? Best GIF a movie has produced this decade. –Blake Goble


    67. Shoplifters (2018)

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    Shoplifters (Magnolia)

    Shoplifters (Magnolia)

    There are many glamorous notions in pop culture about the spectacular, bright, and shiny side of Japanese society. But Shoplifters is intriguing in that it illuminates how the overlooked and downtrodden get by. The film centers on a makeshift family of day laborers who bond over petty theft and side hustles. Their moral code becomes less clear, though, when they ‘steal’ a derelict, young girl from a violent household. Writer and director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s prior documentary experience imbues Shoplifters with a rare authenticity that sublimates scenes of day-to-day life. He also demonstrates how these good intentions open up a more complex discussion about family, abuse, loneliness, greed, and the loss of innocence. –Dan Pfleegor


    66. Toni Erdmann (2016)

    Toni Erdmann (Thunderbird Releasing)

    Toni Erdmann (Thunderbird Releasing)

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    Toni Erdmann will go down as an asthma-inducing funny film. That we can all agree on. There’s a Whitney Houston karaoke jam for the ages, and the titular Erdmann’s wig and false teeth are classic gag comedy. There’s even an all-nude lunch brought on by a breakdown that you have to see to believe (and when you do, you can’t help but watch from between your fingers). This is a brilliantly twitchy kind of humor, Toni Erdmann’s joke-making. But none of it would click nearly as big as it does if not for the beating heart of a father and daughter reconnecting at its core. Toni Erdmann brings truth to old adage; it makes us laugh and cry. –Blake Goble


    65. 13th (2016)

    netflix ava duvernay central park five

    13th (Netflix)

    What a piss-poorly written Amendment, the 13th. You don’t have to be a legal scholar to read “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States” in order to figure out that the second clause is like a gateway justification for the way the incarceration system works in modern America. The prisons aren’t technically, slavery? Bullshit. Ava DuVernay’s Netflix doc 13th understands the slippery slope we play when legislation is written poorly. It calls out decades of racism persisting under not-so-clever new word choices. And 13th rails on the systemic cruelty with which we treat black people as second class before they ever get a chance. –Blake Goble


    64. Drive (2011)

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    Drive (FilmDistrict)

    Drive (FilmDistrict)

    The film that inspired a litany of horribly executed costumes for Halloween back in 2011, Drive oozes a sexy assuredness throughout. Ryan Gosling’s performance as the stoic stunt man turned getaway driver commands the screen with his frighteningly calm demeanor along with Albert Brooks’ ominous portrayal of Bernie Rose. The film’s highly-stylized set pieces flow effortlessly into one another, bouncing from action to exposition like the Driver shifting from gear to gear. Director Nicolas Winding Refn blends beauty and brutally, tenderness and violence into a harmonious symphony that truly sings with its memorable ’80s-inspired synthesizer score. –Kyle Cubr


    63. Annihilation (2018)

    Annihilation (Paramount Pictures)

    Annihilation (Paramount Pictures)

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    Once you enter The Shimmer, the internal becomes external. Fears take form, beauty destroys, death comes gently or gnashes its teeth. Writer-director Alex Garland adapted Jeff VanderMeer’s novel from memory, hoping to recreate the dreamlike, otherworldly nature of the story, which sees soldier and cellular biologist Lena (Natalie Portman) and four other women (Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, Jennifer Jason Leigh) step into the unknown. They encounter horrors that are also wonders in a landscape where nothing and everything make sense — a hell of a playground for Garland’s keen and inventive imagination. As a sci-fi yarn, it’s a thrill; as an exploration of depression, grief, guilt, identity, evolution, and self-destruction, it’s unforgettable. –Allison Shoemaker


    62. Spring Breakers (2012)

    Spring Breakers (A24)

    Spring Breakers (A24)

    At the top of the decade, as electronic music ascended to previously untouched heights of popularity and YOLO took over as a cultural ethos, hedonism became the ultimate American fantasy, even as it was fated for a quick comedown, the blissed-out reverie dissolving to reveal the overdoses and rape culture and emptiness lurking beneath. Spring Breakers captures this moment as lightning in a bottle, a neon-drenched phantasmagoria of undulating bass, Floridian grime, ex-Disney Channel stars, and substance abuse. Harmony Korine directs the film’s bus trip to St. Petersburg as an ascension to Mecca and a descent into hell, amplifying the aural and visual and tactile to near-unbearable degrees in service of speaking the vapid language of the hot, bored, and overstimulated. Never has “spring break forever” endured as such an epitaph, or such a threat. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    61. La La Land (2016)

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    La La Land (Lionsgate)

    La La Land (Lionsgate)

    Nobody loves Hollywood more than Damien Chazelle — and why wouldn’t he? After Whiplash, the prodigious filmmaker turned enough heads in Tinseltown to make his own dreams come true, and one of ’em was La La Land. In lesser hands, an A-list musical about hopes and ambition would likely fall apart by the opening number, but not with Chazelle. From that first ditty on the 405 to that late-night drink at Seb’s, he’s always leading the dance, guiding us through this jazzy romance and indulging in just enough schmaltz to keep things whimsical. But when he wants to bruise, he does, and that final look says it all, earning him his first Oscar and a direct flight to the real stars. –Michael Roffman


    60. Amy (2015)

    Amy (A24)

    Amy (A24)

    Amy Winehouse was only 27 when she died in 2011, and like so many other musicians lost to their vices at a young age, she left far too soon. But unlike many of them, she lived and died in public at a time when every raw personal moment and every relapse was broadcast in real time. Asif Kapadia’s Oscar-winning documentary about Winehouse’s life, rapid ascent to stardom, and even quicker fall from grace is a devastating portrait of a star who was only getting started and whose downward spiral was met with bile and snark and contempt in place of empathy and forgiveness. The 24-hour news cycle might not have killed Amy Winehouse, but as Amy attests through its bounty of archival footage, it didn’t lift a finger to stop her either. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    59. Baby Driver (2017)

    Baby Driver (Sony Pictures Releasing)

    Baby Driver (Sony Pictures Releasing)

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    Edgar Wright had always been working towards Baby Driver. The roots of his long-gestating passion project dial back to 1995, when he was just a budding filmmaker in suburban London, and Michael Mann was setting the bar for heist flicks with Heat. Needless to say, Wright learned a lot in two decades, and that’s on full display in the final cut. This is the portrait of a filmmaker truly coming into his own, and everything he proved in his prior hits, be it Shaun of the Dead or Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, is amplified here on the streets of Atlanta. From the breakneck editing, to the metropolis of songs, to the sugary dialogue, Baby Driver is always Wright and it never feels wrong. –Michael Roffman


    58. American Honey (2016)

    American Honey (A24)

    American Honey (A24)

    This sprawling vision of uninhibited youth rests almost entirely on the adept shoulders of actress Sasha Lane in her debut feature, and to think that filmmaker Andrea Arnold plucked her from obscurity during a fateful spring break. A captivating and observant road trip movie that unfurls a unique and gritty depiction of poverty, Arnold fearlessly examines societal cycles of exploitation. Her portrait of America’s forgotten makes for a powerful piece of cinema that deftly blends the characters’ escapist fantasies with fatalistic realities. Overindulgent and trashy, you’ll never be bored with this portrayal of disenfranchised millennials that are anchored by Lane and Shia LaBeouf’s lively and layered performances. –Meagan Navarro


    57. Force Majeure (2014)

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    Force Majeure (TriArt Film)

    Force Majeure (TriArt Film)

    How far would you go to protect your family? And what happens when they find out that the answer’s pretty disappointing? That’s the central question at the root of Ruben Östlund’s 2014 dramedy Force Majeure, centered around a family vacationing in the French Alps who see their father (Johannes Bah Kuhnke) abandon them when it looks like an avalanche will kill them all. But of course, it doesn’t, and the family is left to deal with the uncomfortable aftermath of their patriarch’s own cowardice, and the existing schisms it reveals in their dynamic. Östlund’s a master of darkly comic discomfort, and he uses his grim toolset to deliciously cringe-inducing effect. –Clint Worthington


    56. First Reformed (2018)

    First Reformed (A24)

    First Reformed (A24)

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    “Can God forgive us?” cries Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) in Paul Schrader’s searing, apocalyptic drama about a country priest who grows cancerous with existential climate despair. Fittingly for the screenwriter of Taxi Driver, First Reformed sees Schrader sinking into deeply familiar territory — Catholicism, moral decay, the vagaries of pride — to dig at the heart of the very modern phenomenon of climate grief. But thanks to Hawke’s grippingly pained lead turn, it also becomes about the toll that living in a hopeless world takes on all of us, and the dark things we turn to in comfort. –Clint Worthington


    55. Young Adult (2011)

    Young Adult (Paramount Pictures)

    Young Adult (Paramount Pictures)

    At some point in life, just about everybody meets a Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron). Maybe you met her in high school, the venomous queen bee who figured out early that the road to success is paved over people. Maybe you meet her as an adult, as Jason Reitman’s observant character study does, when she hasn’t outgrown that teenage bile even as it’s rapidly tearing her career and life apart. But what distinguishes Young Adult from so many portraits of fading glory is Theron’s ferocious and layered performance. Mavis is nakedly vulnerable even at her cruelest, in desperate need of human connection even as it repulses her when offered on anyone else’s terms, and an unstable woman on the cusp of middle age who has to change, but may not even be capable anymore. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    54. Leviathan (2014)

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    Leviathan (Fox)

    Leviathan (Fox)

    Crime and punishment in the Barents Sea. Leviathan is a masterwork of naturalism and melancholy, a wailing on abuses of power. Just add whale bones and vodka. Witness a small-town mechanic Nikolay’s (Aleksey Serebryakov) life come undone when his plot of land suddenly becomes valuable. And director Andrey Zvyagintsev swings wide, making Leviathan a beast of burden. This isn’t just a man’s familiar shipwreck, but Leviathan takes on contemporary heft criticizing the Russian Orthodox Church, the political regime, and the class system. Guys like Nikolay never have a chance in this world. An epic heartbreaker. –Blake Goble


    53. Roma (2018)

    Roma (Netflix)

    Roma (Netflix)

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    Cleo is an indigenous domestic worker who helps Antonio and Sofía take care of their four children. Things take a turn when Antonio runs away with his mistress and Cleo finds out that she’s pregnant. When Sofía decides to take the kids on vacation, she invites Cleo for a much-needed getaway to clear their minds and bond as a family. This is Alfonso Cuarón’s autobiographical masterpiece, Roma. Set in Mexico City in the 1970s, Cuarón breaks through the walls of language and culture and uses intimacy, comedy, and a touch of absurdity to express the universal depths of ordinary life. However, it’s the powerful lens of personal filmmaking that makes it a true triumph. –Samantha Lopez


    52. Moneyball (2011)

    Moneyball (Columbia Pictures)

    Moneyball (Columbia Pictures)

    It’s not often that the real drama in a sports movie takes place off the field. But that’s the case in Bennett Miller’s Moneyball, a look at how Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) tried to use statistical analysis to compete against larger markets. At the time, Beane and partner-in-crime Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) were turning their backs on more than 100 years of conventional baseball wisdom and piling up the doubters, including Beane’s own gruff manager, Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman). But what makes Moneyball more than just a crash course in sabermetrics or the story of an innovative front-office mind is the unshakable sense that Beane, who never lived up to his own potential as a ballplayer, is battling life’s curveballs from games long gone by just as much as he’s trying to field a club capable of winning the Series. It’s a story about winning at the highest level, certainly, but also one about finding peace in the fact that life often hands us another at bat when we least expect it. –Matt Melis


    51. Cold War (2018)

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    Cold War, Kino Świat

    Cold War (Amazon)

    Set in the 1950s against the background of the Cold War in Poland, two people from different backgrounds and different dispositions start a nearly impossible romance. Paweł Pawlikowski’s Cold War, which is shot in shimmering black and white, is as visually stunning as it is passionately crafted. The film is a meditation on love, memory, history and a story that is both deeply personal and politically aware. Visually, Cold War is wistful and crafted for ultimate seduction, and Pawlikowski is in complete control of its form, making it completely accessible and incredibly human, which makes the film’s ending, like everything that precedes it, unbelievably magnificent. –Samantha Lopez


    50. Nightcrawler (2014)

    Nightcrawler (Open Road Films)

    Nightcrawler (Open Road Films)

    Dan Gilroy’s nocturnal police-scanner thriller remains one of the most breathtaking uses of Los Angeles in a movie. But while a lit LA at night could be the supporting actress to Jake Gyllenhaal’s enterprising nightcrawler Lou Bloom, La-la Land pales in comparison to the cold, bargaining planet that this alien character must come from. Bloom is a new breed of, well, human: tech savvy, a quick study of all the knowledge at his fingertips, an obsessive self-inventory taker, a compulsive resume updater, and, most importantly, a man without scruples, emotion, or empathy who sees life as a mere series of transactions and business opportunities. As Bloom crawls up the nightcrawler ladder, not only do we feel repeatedly shocked at what moral boundaries he crosses without a second thought, but we also see how he begins to drag those around him down to that same callous method of operation. It’s a chilling look at what happens when we reduce the world to only winning and losing. –Matt Melis


    49. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

    Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Sony Pictures)

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    With Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino delivered his most mature and most personal film to date. Those classic QT hallmarks remain: a compendium of pop culture references, a rocking soundtrack, and bloody ultra-violence. Yet Hollywood is a much quieter sort of film — that is, until its final moments. Exploring age and feeling out of touch with a world you helped shape, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton is Tarantino by proxy, trying to find his groove in an industry that feels like it’s leaving him behind. Tarantino, for all of his nefarious characters and depictions of seedy underworlds and morally ambiguous characters, has always been interested in delivering a happy ending, and with Hollywood, he delivers an alternate climax to the ‘60s, and not the one the world necessarily deserves, but the one we need in 2019. –Mike Vanderbilt


    48. Amour (2012)

    Amour (Les Films du Losange)

    Amour (Les Films du Losange)

    Recurring themes throughout Michael Haneke’s challenging filmography explore the twisted pleasures found in both sadism and masochism. Funny Games and Cache study the nefarious enjoyment of torturing others, whereas The Piano Teacher delves into the titillating delights of self harm. And yet, in his 2012 masterpiece, the Austrian director manages to turn these motifs upside down. Amour, the French language end-of-life love story, examines the torment of a husband witnessing his dying wife’s deterioration and ultimate suffering. Audiences watched Haneke’s prior films with hands held tight over nervous eyes. But for Amour, hands are clenched in agony over broken hearts. –Dan Pfleegor


    47. Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

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    Exit Through the Gift Shop (Producers Distribution Agency)

    Exit Through the Gift Shop (Producers Distribution Agency)

    All these egotistical artist biopics – Surviving Picasso, Pollock, Frida – not one of them ever thought to try and be funny. Banksy, the wise-ass graffiti guru of the 21st century took his brand of willy-nilly punk art and made a rousing statement with Exit Through the Gift Shop on modern art. An artist’s tale that seems to be a documentary, but perhaps it’s spoof or satire. Banksy himself would never cop to this being anything concrete, and that art-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder mantra is too fucking funny sometimes. Exit Through the Gift Shop is a string swipe of a crust-punk brush at the art establishment. –Blake Goble


    46. Jackie (2016)

    Jackie (Fox Searchlight)

    Jackie (Fox Searchlight)

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    Natalie Portman began the decade with an Oscar, but it’s in Jackie that she gave her best performance. What could have simply been another lazy biopic spirals into something mad in the hands of Portman and director Pablo Larraín, an intimate character study that shoots out like the starburst of fractures radiating from the spot where a mirror was punched. That spot is the Kennedy association, the cracks that emerge each one piece of a splintered persona: the dream girl, the figurehead, the grieving widow, and so on. Each is as real and false as the next in Portman’s hands/ “I don’t smoke,” she says, cigarette between her fingers, and you believe her. –Allison Shoemaker


    45. Inherent Vice (2014)

    Inherent Vice (Warner Bros.)

    Inherent Vice (Warner Bros.)

    By the time the 1970s began in America, the idealism and relative innocence of the ‘60s was already mutating into a mockery of the same, as war and disease and addiction conspired to hijack the Dream. Yet as Inherent Vice suggests throughout, those forces were conspiring to steal it all away even at the height of our reveries. In Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel, Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) has the curse of knowing that all of this is happening while lacking the power to do much about it. But as he rambles through a Los Angeles under siege from early gentrification, neo-Nazis, dirty cops, and a collapsing national fantasy, amid a perfectly hazy cinematic mix of screwball comedy and stoner noir, Vice figures out that all we can do is stay alive, and maybe bring a couple of our friends back from the brink. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    44. The Revenant (2015)

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    The Revenant (20th Century Fox)

    The Revenant (20th Century Fox)

    Revenge is a dish best served cold — or inside a dead horse carcass. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s grisly adaptation of Michael Punke’s 2002 novel is a frontier epic that was a nightmare to shoot and yet a dream to watch. It also nabbed Leonardo DiCaprio his long-coveted Best Actor Oscar, and whether or not you see this as more of an endurance test over a performance is moot. This is a riveting turn from the international playboy, who sheds his looks as he growls and claws his way through every impeccable frame in his quest for blood. His ambition is only matched by Iñárritu, whose patience, confidence, and scope as a filmmaker rivals the greying hairs on George Miller’s head. –Michael Roffman


    43. Shirkers (2018)

    Shirkers (Netflix)

    Shirkers (Netflix)

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    In 1992, Sandi Tan and Jasmine Ng and Sophia Siddique shot their hallucinatory debut feature Shirkers, a wild-eyed Lynchian adventure about an assassin traveling through their own stomping grounds in Singapore. Along the way, they befriended and collaborated with a stranger named Georges Cardona, who would eventually steal the finished project and then disappear without a trace. Shirkers, Tan’s haunting documentary about both the loss of her film and her hunt to reclaim the footage (and years) stolen from her, is far more than an exploration of that story, which alone would constitute its own outstanding feature. Tan challenges traditional documentary forms throughout, allowing the moral pendulum to swing in all directions, including her own. It’s a story of men taking things from women, and friends taking things from their own close friends, and time grinding forward all the while, indifferent to anyone’s art or dreams. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    42. Melancholia (2011)

    Melancholia (Nordisk Film)

    Melancholia (Nordisk Film)

    Lars Von Trier has spent all of the 2010s in a sweltering hodgepodge of confessional and therapy with arthouse audiences press-ganged into either absolving or condemning him for his sins. Melancholia is one long primal scream as Kirsten Dunst stops fighting her depression and lets it consume her. At the same time a planet approaches the earth, certain to obliterate it and every living thing on it. Von Trier reduces human life to the pettiest of squabbles, making his human characters look like an ecosystem of fleas on the back of a great beast. Destruction is almost a relief from the inanity of modern life, and yet he can’t stop himself from mourning the beauty he’ll miss when the lights go out. –Scout Tafoya


    41. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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    Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company)

    Silver Linings Playbook (The Weinstein Company)

    David O. Russell had a nice streak there at the beginning of the decade, rolling out one ensemble story after the next. Perhaps the warmest of the bunch was his holiday detour into Upper Darby, Philadelphia with Silver Linings Playbook. A recovery tale masked as a rom-com, this instant re-watchable thrives from its rich economy of characters, a muscle that O. Russell has admittedly always flexed, but never this strong. There’s so much life to this world, littered with so many nuances, and everyone feels like they belong together. It’s modern Americana at its finest — cynical, unpredictable, full of heart — and never once do you think to step out the backdoor. You’re home. –Michael Roffman


    40. BlackkKlansman (2018)

    BlacKkKlansman Trailer Spike Lee Adam Driver John David Washington

    BlacKkKlansman (Focus Features)

    The Blaxploitation film was alive and well in Spike Lee’s shaking-mad hands. BlackKklansman snaps, sizzles, and socked it to audiences. Infiltrating hate, as the taglines promised. This true story of Ron Stallworth, Colorado Springs’ first black cop and an infiltrator of the KKK, became a pulp work of good guy propaganda that will go down as capital R relevant. BlackKklansman will go down as a heated clapback to the rise of white Supremacy, the Charlottesville car attack, and other male-oriented, gun-toting atrocities under our dumb “both sides” president. Stallworth kicked cracker ass, and we needed that kind of justice in 2018. Still do. Ron Stallworth, a beacon and a hero from another time, just in time to give us a lesson in what America still struggles to figure out: racism. –Blake Goble


    39. The Babadook (2014)

    The Babadook (Entertainment One)

    The Babadook (Entertainment One)

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    The Babadook is easily one of the decade’s scariest features, with thoroughly unsettling sound and character design and the titular beastie itself emerging slowly from the corners of the frame to spook our disturb our heroes. And yet that’s only half of the film’s chilling equation. The portrait of personal, parental struggle — the mix of love and hate and raw difficulty that emerge from a lost partner and a spirited child — make the plight of the beleaguered woman at the center of it all as unnerving as any haunting could be. The way director Jennifer Kent melds the supernatural and the all too real in The Babadook is sensational and results in one incredible, absolutely terrifying film. –Andrew Bloom


    38. Looper (2012)

    Looper (TriStar Pictures)

    Looper (TriStar Pictures)

    Bruce Willis just can’t resist time traveling and visiting his younger self in his movies can he? Rian Johnson’s neo-noir is brimming with influences and homages stretching back to the Pre-Code Era. He also eschews the typical overwrought scientific terms that frequently prevail in these types of films (*cough*Primer*cough*). Opting to focus more on how time travel affects the lives of those involved than on the actual act itself, Looper imparts a grounded approach to this sci-fi-gangster mashup thanks its sharply-written script and inferred world-building. The less you see, the more you think about it, particularly what actually happened to Paul Dano. –Kyle Cubr


    37. Before Midnight (2012)

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    Before Midnight (Sony Pictures Classics)

    Before Midnight (Sony Pictures Classics)

    The third and final (?) chapter of writer/director Richard Linklater’s decades-spanning love story of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) is a deliciously bittersweet look at the hard realities of a long-term romance. Now in their forties with two kids, there’s understandable tension between the pair even on an idyllic Greek vacation — they’re tired, older, and getting on each other’s nerves. Hawke and Delpy, who also both co-wrote the film, are at their best here, tearing into each other in ways only two people who have known each other a long time truly can. Before Midnight is frank, funny, and, above all, real about what love looks like when the idealism of youth slips away. It goes down like a fine, aged red wine: smooth at first but with a pleasant bite. –Emmy Potter


    36. Fruitvale Station (2013)

    Fruitvale Station (The Weinstein Company)

    Fruitvale Station (The Weinstein Company)

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    Oscar Grant III was just trying to get home. There’s a modern narrative, a frustrating and repetitive one, on being black in America where pullovers are like death sentences. Where police officers are quick to judge and even quicker to act with extreme prejudice. And Fruitvale Station is a perfect distillation of this sad phenomenon. Ryan Coogler’s debut feature, supported with a sensitive, nuanced breakout from Michael B. Jordan, is like a bittersweet timestamp on race relations in the last decade. Botham Jean. Sandra Bland. Laquan McDonald. And hundreds of others. Oscar Grant was, and is, all of them. Fruitvale Station is a key work on empathy. –Blake Goble


    35. Carol (2015)

    Carol (StudioCanal)

    Carol (StudioCanal)

    Foundation garments—girdles, slips, garters, brassieres—give the body a facade; a shape that’s just so, that doesn’t move, doesn’t change. It confines, but it serves a purpose. It’s artifice as shield. In Todd Haynes’ mid-century lesbian romance Carol, brilliantly adapted from a Patricia Highsmith novel by Phyllis Nagy, there are plenty of foundation garments (expertly deployed by god-level costume designer Sandy Powell), appropriate for a romance that’s all about detecting the flushed skin and quickening pulse behind the veneer of social acceptability. Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett give layered, swooningly romantic performances, and Haynes, inspired by the work of Ruth Orkin and other female photographers of the period, captures them with a gaze that feels distinctly feminine. –Allison Shoemaker


    34. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse (2018)

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    Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (Sony)

    Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (Sony)

    In a year where debate rages as to whether superhero films count as true “cinema,” perhaps the best case for their legitimacy came out only 12 months ago. Into the Spider-Verse manages to be a lot of things at once: a thrilling, heartfelt introduction to Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a multi-verse Spidey story including at least eight webslingers, and a visually stunning animated adventure like nothing we’ve seen before. More than its vibrant mix of aesthetics from Golden Age comic panels to modern street art, Into the Spider-Verse manages to blend these disparate elements into one of the best animated films — and superhero stories — of the decade. –Clint Worthington


    33. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

    Inside Llewyn Davis (CBS Films)

    Inside Llewyn Davis (CBS Films)

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    The 2010s were the best and most creatively resplendent decade The Coen Brothers have yet had, thanks largely to their decision to investigate their own neuroses and all the criticism lobbied against them, with a bitter sense of humor and their most beatific, classically drawn images. Inside Llewyn Davis is their movie about their hang-ups, about the way they doubt their success, their expertise, the idea that anyone really understands what they see even when praising them. Oscar Isaac does career-best work as a folk singer caught between eras, searching for oxygen as fortune reaches everyone but him. Their vision of pre-Dylan, post-Kerouac America yields their most romantically bleak images since Barton Fink. –Scout Tafoya


    32. Her (2013)

    Her (Warner Bros. Pictures)

    Her (Warner Bros. Pictures)

    For a film about a man falling in love with his computer, there sure is a lot of humanity to Her. Spike Jonze’s balmy commentary on love, relationships, and our need for connection hacks right into our operating systems. There’s a conscience to this film, one that comes from someone who’s been shattered, and has spent a long time running tape to figure out why. No doubt influenced by his own divorce, and working with creatives like Charlie Kaufman, Jonze poured his soul into his first original screenplay, and he came out on top with his first Oscar. Looking back, though, the real victory for him may have been a sense of catharsis. It’s perhaps telling he’s yet to follow it up. –Michael Roffman


    31. A Separation (2011)

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    A Separation (Sony Pictures Classics)

    A Separation (Sony Pictures Classics)

    There’s not a lot of ratatat. The action is limited to carefully suggested shots in small homes and apartment hallways. And the need for a big, explosive moment is kinda, well, not necessary. The familiar human condition – divorce, Alzheimer’s, pregnancy, court – is there, and unspooled for all to weigh in on. And that’s what makes A Separation a smarter, shrewder film than most. This is a pure film about choices and consequences, a case study on how to assemble a film that prods and provokes with an A+ screenplay. A modernist moral fable in the vein of Rohmer, A Separation is one of those films that manages to provoke emotions while refusing to force its audiences to pick sides or be sure of what’s right or wrong. –Blake Goble


    30. Zero Dark Thirty (2011)

    Zero Dark Thirty (Sony Pictures Releasing)

    Zero Dark Thirty (Sony Pictures Releasing)

    Kathryn Bigelow’s studies of men pushed to violence have nothing on the crystalline dread instilled by her movies about women moving through institutions. Repressed by expectations of what they’re meant to bring to the table, both Jamie Lee Curtis’ rookie cop in Blue Steel and Jessica Chastain’s flinty, green CIA operative in Zero Dark Thirty learn to corset everything that makes them look feminine in pursuit of a monster. Zero Dark Thirty follows one woman’s upstream swim through a relentless tide of men as they all look for Osama Bin Laden in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. Bigelow’s film sparked months of discourse at the time about whether it condoned torture. Now, its restrained direction and raft of intense performances look all the more enigmatic as the particulars of the war on terror become a scab on the national consciousness. –Scout Tafoya


    29. 45 Years (2015)

    45 Years (Artificial Eye)

    45 Years (Artificial Eye)

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    Andrew Haigh‘s scarily intelligent sophomore feature stunned its small but appreciative audience when it was quietly released in the height of the 2015 award season. It won very little mainstream acclaim and yet its impression lingers like a ghost. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay play a married couple whose long life together suddenly casts a different reflection when one of them confesses something that should be benign but immediately turns nuclear. Their quiet lives become possessed by the spirit of the life one of them didn’t get to lead, and indeed the film veers near to horror on several occasions. Haigh beautifully exploits the baggage Rampling and Courtenay, 50 year veterans of screen both, bring to their roles, while gifting them devastating parts to play. –Scout Tafoya


    28. OJ: Made in America (2016)

    OJ: Made in America (ESPN Films)

    OJ: Made in America (ESPN Films)

    More than a tawdry true-crime documentary, O.J.: Made In America is an expansive, eight-hour exploration of celebrity, race, murder, Los Angeles, and America through the career, trial, and eventual incarceration of Orenthal James Simpson. The documentary looks back at Simpson’s career in football, his abusive relationship with Nicole Brown, and, of course, the ensuing murder trial. Hour after hour, the film unflinchingly explores the perception that Simpson turned his back on the black community until—in a savvy move during his trial—he and his defense team utilized the legacy of racism in the L.A.P.D—particularly in the wake of Rodney King—that helped result in his acquittal. –Mike Vanderbilt


    27. Frances Ha (2012)

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    Frances Ha (IFC Films)

    Frances Ha (IFC Films)

    Frances is 27 years old. She lives in New York, but doesn’t really have an apartment; apprentices for a dance company, but doesn’t really dance; has a best friend named Sophie, but doesn’t really see her all that much anymore. Frances throws herself towards her dreams, but is realizing that sometimes, even when you’ve done everything you thought you were supposed to, reality can seep in, and things don’t always go according to plan. However, it’s settling and compromising on one’s dream that’s the most “grown-up” thing to do, and in equal measure, the most liberating. Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha (staring Greta Gerwig) is a modern New York tale about friendship, class, ambition, failure, and the dissatisfaction of growing up. –Samantha Lopez


    26. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

    The Wolf of Wall Street (Paramount Pictures)

    The Wolf of Wall Street ( Paramount Pictures)

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    Who says Marty only makes mob movies? 2013 was The Year of Greed for cinema, but Martin Scorsese’s late-capitalist bacchanal The Wolf of Wall Street stands head and shoulders above its contemporaries. A dizzying pitch-black comedy about crooked stockbroker Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio at his manic, cocaine-fueled best), who climbed his way to fame and fortune on the back of rampant fraud, it’s hard to think of another film that so perfectly coats the insanity of unchecked greed in such deceptively gleeful trappings. Detractors may ding the film for glorifying Belfort’s behavior (and even featuring him in a cameo), but the film’s final moment — in which Scorsese turns his camera to Belfort’s next marks, and implicitly the film’s audience — is one of the decade’s most pointed cinematic bait and switches. –Clint Worthington


    25. Logan (2017)

    Logan (20th Century Fox)

    Logan (20th Century Fox)

    Describing Logan is complicated. It’s a spinoff sequel to a franchise that had technically been reset, and a coda for the two heroes that built it. Seeing the film unfold, though, it’s quite simple: Logan is a Western. This isn’t a theme park ride, but a grounded tale about two legends being crushed by the weight of time. Where it really leaps from the pages is how James Mangold wields two decades’ worth of invested character development into an auteurist meditation on legacy and mortality. By doing so, Mangold took a sharp detour amidst the Golden Age of Comic Book Movies, inviting us to a funeral that ultimately suggests not every film in the genre needs “To be continued…” –Michael Roffman


    24. Son of Saul (2015)

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    Son of Saul (Mozinet)

    Son of Saul (Mozinet)

    Time has a way of sanding off history’s most jagged edges. No matter how disturbing an episode from the past, it’s now in the past, and therefore kept at a comfortable distance from our own experiences. Son of Saul, László Nemes’ exploration of Auschwitz as seen through a Hungarian man conscripted into the sonderkommando, offers no such distance. The boxy Academy ratio keeps the focus tight, on Saul or on whatever terrors await him around every corner, forcing viewers into a first-hand experience of what unchecked fascism looks, feels, and sounds like in practice. It’s as relentlessly tactile a viewing experience as any found in modern filmmaking, and a chronicle of the horrors of war that offers no comfort, or hope, or release. It’s simply hell on Earth. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    23. Call Me By Your Name (2017)

    Call Me By Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics)

    Call Me By Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics)

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    If you had to distill Call Me by Your Name down to just three scenes—and you shouldn’t! Don’t ever do that!—you’d need a before, during, and after. In the first, Oliver (Armie Hammer) dances with unabashed dorkiness to the Psychedelic Furs as Elio (Timothée Chalamet) watches; he suddenly dances into the frame and they move—separately, but together. In the second, they meet in a dark bedroom and Elio climbs Oliver like he wants to touch every part of him with every part of himself. In the third, Elio stares into a crackling fire, allowing heartbreak to devour him as they devoured each other. Luca Guadagnino’s young love story, brilliantly adapted by James Ivory, treats every step they take toward and away from each other like a memory in the making, something to be cherished and polished over the years, July-bright even on the coldest days, young and beautiful forever. –Allison Shoemaker


    22. The Invitation (2015)

    The Invitation (Drafthouse Films)

    The Invitation (Drafthouse Films)

    A masterclass in building tension, a simple dinner party has never been as riveting or as terrifying as it is in Karyn Kusama’s taut psychological horror-thriller, The Invitation. When Will (Logan Marshall-Green) steps foot in his ex-wife’s home two years after a tragedy, their past comes back to haunt them in unsettling ways. Strange behavior and mysterious guests instill ambiguity and paranoia. Is Will succumbing to his depression, or is there something more sinister at play? Kusama creates a razor-sharp study of grief, coiling the claustrophobic suspense tighter until it explodes in a shocking finale. An airtight screenplay combined with Kusama’s stellar direction makes this thriller an all-timer. –Meagan Navarro


    21. Dunkirk (2017)

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    Dunkirk (Warner Bros. Pictures)

    Dunkirk (Warner Bros. Pictures)

    Dignity in defeat. That’s the key phrase here. In Christopher Nolan’s brilliantly tight Dunkirk, the odds are so slim. The occupation of Dunkirk in World War II is reframed as an exercise in fear, hope, and why we must act when time is running out. But it’s not a classically rah-rah propaganda. Dunkirk is more elemental than that, and Nolan, ever the ample technician, ratchets up a story of escape across three timelines in perfect unison, as if to suggest the only way to ever truly achieve peace, or do no harm, is to work in unison. To come together and fight for our lives. And Dunkirk has the gall to suggest that war offers no easy escape, but how we accord ourselves in the aftermath might matter most. Add in the fact that it’s a technical superlative thriller (with all the studio amenities of amazing cinematography and hefty scoring to flaunt) Dunkirk is a battlefield masterpiece, about so much more than war’s face. –Blake Goble


    20. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

    The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

    The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

    Could this be the best line delivery of the decade? Monsieur Gustave, Ralph Fiennes in the role of a lifetime, is attempting safe passage with his lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori) in the European countryside. It’s all fake, the countries, the train, all of it, but this scene is about pastiche and memory. Reminiscing fraught times in lavender and rosy red. Gustave, is hassled by gestapo, halting his train. His nose is bloodied, he demands his lobby boy be left alone. And after a good soldier lets him loose, Gustave, composing himself explains to Zero that there are still “faint glimmers of civilization” left in the world. And we believe, he’s so cultured, and divine. That is. Until he raises a small glass of white liquor and purrs, “Oh, fuck it.” Just perfect. The Grand Budapest Hotel exists within a perfect space of nostalgia; comic, cool, saddening, and easy on the eyes. So divine, colorful, and opulent, it’s clearly a fantasy of how things once were. Yet, Wes Anderson’s hotel daydream is willing to acknowledging the creeping dread of war, time, and how brazen people can behave when arbitrary lines are drawn. –Blake Goble


    19. Green Room (2016)

    Green Room (A24)

    Green Room (A24)

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    Jeremy Saulnier really had it out for his audiences with Green Room. His punk rock thriller is meticulously built to subvert any expectations and yet also indulge them. In other words, you know shit’s gonna hit the fan, but you don’t know how much will get on you. It’s a relentless feeling, but thrilling in every sense of the word. For a little over 90 minutes, Saulnier essentially covers his protagonists with chum and leaves them with the wolves as the stakes literally punch through the linoleum floor. But he never sits back. No, he stays right beside them, filming every bruise, every laceration, and every broken appendage, leaving your stomach to decide how much you actually care to see. –Michael Roffman


    18. Tangerine (2015)

    Tangerine (Magnolia Pictures)

    Tangerine (Magnolia Pictures)

    Tangerine received a lot of initial hype due to both having been shot on three 5S smartphones and having cast actual transgender actresses in the starring roles of Sin-Dee and Alexandra. But that only matters now because of how remarkable the film turned out. Filmmaker Sean Baker immerses us on Christmas Eve in a vibrant subculture of transgender sex workers and the men who support them one trick at a time. It’s a hilarious yuletide romp in the hot Los Angeles sun, but one that takes place on a knife’s edge, where things can turn dangerous and heartbreaking in an instant. For all its technical thrift and window on a world most of us rarely, if ever, get to witness, Baker’s film ultimately shines because, at its heart, it’s a relatable story about how people can both have our backs and let us down. –Matt Melis


    17. 12 Years a Slave (2013)

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    12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

    12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

    One of the great lies of early America was the promise that freedom belonged to all. 12 Years a Slave, based on the memoirs of Solomon Northup, is a pointed rebuke of that delusion, and of so many others entertained then and now about that time. Director Steve McQueen passes not only through some of the most extreme forms of abuse and degradation that black Americans endured for generations, but also the cultural myths (like that of the kindhearted slave owner) that sustained all of it. McQueen’s film is as much a corrective to cinema’s history of whitewashed plantation narratives as it’s a towering work of its own, a barbed reminder that the worst violence is often perpetrated by those who believe themselves morally correct. Yet there will always be those who survive it, and rise from it. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


    16. Boyhood (2014)

    Boyhood (A24)

    Boyhood (A24)

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    To call Boyhood ambitious undersells it by a decade’s worth of craft and achievement. Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age tale, filmed bit-by-bit over the course of 10 years, shows growth and change in real time and with that, delivers an unmatched sort of cinematic bildungsroman. Rather than a straight line, the film dares to delve into the loose ends, cul-de-sacs, and open questions of growing up that have no more answers on the screen than they do in real life. Linklater’s slice of life approach adds a sense of relatability and realness to the proceedings, and Patricia Arquette’s Oscar-winning performance poignantly drives home the momentum of years that Boyhood captures like no other movie. –Andrew Bloom


    15. The Tree of Life (2011)

    The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

    The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

    The modern parlance around “montage” tends to drum up images of Sylvester Stallone or marionettes buffing up against ‘80s rock or some such thing. But step back for a moment, and bathe in Tree of Life’s fluid beauty. It’s like a perfect distillation of the power of montage as a means to convey something richer than mere progress: moods, views, sensations, and feelings. Tree of Life, edited to abstraction by Hank Corwin, Jay Rabinowitz, Daniel Rezende, Billy Weber, and Mark Yoshikawa, is like a literal stream of consciousness placed on to film. Philosophical quandaries ranging from the birth of our children to the mysteries of the cosmos, become connected at the cut of a shot. Tree of Life is a divine mystery, grounded in everyday life, boundless in its vivid explorations. –Blake Goble


    14. Get Out (2017)

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    Get Out (Universal)

    Get Out (Universal)

    At its core, an excellent Twilight Zone episode, Get Out found writer/director Jordan Peele going full stop into the horror genre. It shouldn’t have come as much as a surprise as it did seeing how he and comedy partner Keegan Michael-Key routinely skewered genre cinema on their breakthrough sketch comedy show, Key & Peele. Peele’s Oscar-winning screenplay was at once terrifying and chock full of biting social and racial satire, deftly blending horror and comedy like An American Werewolf In London before it. In sum, Get Out announced Peele as a bold voice in genre filmmaking and will be remembered of one of the best horror flicks of the decade. –Mike Vanderbilt


    13. Bridesmaids (2011)

    Bridesmaids (Universal)

    Bridesmaids (Universal)

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    The drunken plane stunt. The Mexican lunch gone awry. The giant cookie that Kristen Wiig beats to hell. Puppies as gifts. Wilson Phillips in person. And no dialogue for Tim Heidecker thank goodness. Bridesmaids is gilded with so many good and silly ideas. All its place-cards are on the table. Paul Feig, Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy. All of them came into Bridesmaids with nothing to lose and everything to gain. And re-watching the affectionate, absurd Bridesmaids is like seeing a coming out party for these talents that have grown into A-listers in the last decade. In terms of replay value and shocking heart, Bridesmaids is the comedy of the decade. –Blake Goble


    12. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

    Blade Runner 2049 (Warner Bros. Pictures)

    Blade Runner 2049 (Warner Bros. Pictures)

    To say expectations were high for the follow-up to Ridley Scott’s influential 1982 cult sci-fi classic is a massive understatement, but wow did director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriters Hampton Francher and Michael Green deliver. Blade Runner 2049 takes the existential themes of the ’82 film and dives into them in deeper, more intimate ways, centering the story on Ryan Gosling’s weary blade runner Agent K, who unearths a secret that leads him straight to the missing Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). The other star here is Oscar-winning cinematographer (what a relief to say that!) Roger Deakins, who makes every frame a feast of bold hues, chilly textures, and atmospheric dread. Blade Runner 2049 is the rare sequel that expands on its predecessor in all the right ways but stands as a superior piece of filmmaking in its own right. It’s a masterpiece. –Emmy Potter


    11. Inside Out (2015)

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    joy sadness inside out pixar

    Inside Out (Pixar)

    Inside Out shouldn’t work. It just shouldn’t. When your characters are feelings, how can there be tension? Fear (Bill Hader) will always be afraid, Disgust (Mindy Kaling) will always be disgusted. Nothing to it. Yet the decade’s best animated film works all too well, with tension to spare—a sensitive, emotionally sophisticated permission slip for kids (and grownups) to feel the things that they feel, and to allow those feelings to be complicated. Anchored by the terrific vocal performances of Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith (as Joy and Sadness, respectively) and enriched by Pixar’s usual brand of ensorcelling art direction and visual style, it’s the rare piece of entertainment that both delights and, without a doubt, makes the world a better place. If you need us, we’ll be over there, remembering Bing Bong and giving ourselves permission to feel sad. –Allison Shoemaker


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