Somehow, it’s almost the end of the decade. 2020 is nigh, and you know what that means? Opportunity to ponder over our favourite movies of the last ten years, of course! It’s been a great decade for movies – most are, if you look hard enough – and our writers have been racking their brains to choose their top picks. Here they are, collected in their full eclectic glory:
The Social Network (2010), dir. David Fincher
Just as the noughties came to a close, David Fincher released The Social Network, a voyage of classical storytelling exploring love, betrayal and friendship all through the process of Facebook’s creation. The film feels like a true collaboration, with every aspect of filmmaking coming together in perfect harmony to create a sensational character-driven drama. The nuances of cinematography, editing, and direction all work brilliantly against Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield’s powerhouse performances. In their portrayals of Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin, there comes across a genuine chemistry that suffuses the downfall of their relationship with a power reminiscent of Shakespearean tragedy. Fincher, working with Aaron Sorkin’s script and the music of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, constructs a tale with masterly precision that transcends its subject and becomes applicable to society at large.
Winnie the Pooh (2011), dir. Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall
Winnie the Pooh saw a reinvention of little ol’ Pooh and friends, with an updated style of animation that diverged from previous instalment in the cuddly franchise Pooh’s Heffalump Movie (2005). The 2011 film follows the story of Pooh and his pals (the usual gang, Piglet, Tigger, Owl, etc.) on the hunt for Eeyore’s missing tail and ‘The Bakson’ (later revealed to be a note saying ‘back soon’) that has captured their beloved Christopher Robin. With its usual silly antics, funny songs, and purposely awry spelling that leads to confusion, not forgetting as well Pooh’s rumbly tummy that always getting him distracted and on the search for ‘hunny’, you can’t help but enjoy watching this updated retreat into our childhoods. Winnie the Pooh is a wonderful, kind-hearted movie that went underappreciated on release. It is one with frequent replay value; personally, I can’t count on two hands how many times I’ve seen it!
21 Jump Street (2012), dir. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
21 Jump Street sees Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill go undercover as high schoolers to investigate the spread of a new drug circulating amongst students, one that goes by the inconspicuous name of HFS (“Holy F*cking Sh*t”). One of the comedic highlights of the decade, it works to disregard all of the cliché stereotypes of the American high school landscape (the jocks, the nerds) and instead give us a more authentic – and very funny – look at the way students interact in the 21st century. The emos and hipsters are the in-crowd now, and caring for the world and the environment is the new ‘cool’. 21 Jump Street was our big introduction to the comedy stylings of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. It’s stupidly smart, and some of the lines here have become favourite movie quotes: “organised sports are so fascist it makes me sick.” A stoner classic, the amazing cast is topped off by a bulldozing turn from Ice Cube.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012), dir. Stephen Chbosky
Combining delicate themes, intimate relationships and a nostalgic soundtrack (including ‘Heroes’ and ‘Come On Eileen’), Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, adapted from his own novel, very much deserves a place in the pantheon of classic coming-of-age drama. As a story about an awkward teen, dubbed a ‘wallflower’, struggling to make friends in high school, the film is an easily relatable one for many of its young adult target audience. It’s this empathetic understanding of adolescence that makes it so compelling, with Perks delving into darker areas of the teenage experience which certainly contributes to its dramatic effect. The dynamic friendships between the primary trio of characters, played by Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller, are extremely memorable. Chbosky succeeds in sensitively exploring mental illness and the trauma of abuse, effortlessly and truthfully. The iconic tunnel scene really captures a fleeting essence of youth.
Pacific Rim (2013), dir. Guillermo del Toro
The original release of Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim went somewhat below the radar, but with its dynamic action and well-written characters it has proved itself as a particular highlight of the decade. Everything about this movie, if willing to suspend the convention of disbelief, is breathtaking. The world of Pacific Rim looks and feels so real, a landscape that has been dealing with the scars of attacking Kaiju for years. From the vibrant colours of the night-time city setting, to the glow given off by the cataclysmic Breach, and the Jaeger’s unique modifications for each of its users, it’s clear how much care has been taken to create this unique universe. Idris Elba’s “Cancelling the apocalypse” speech before the final confrontation still gives me chills; the combination of the stunning soundtrack from Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi with Elba’s powerful call to arms is simply goosebumps-inducing every time. While the title might not have been a massive box-office hit by today’s standards, Pacific Rim did enough to get a sequel starring John Boyega. It’s a shame that it didn’t win more of the awards that it deserved.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), dir. Wes Anderson
The decade has produced some truly fantastic films. However, one stands out proud amongst the rest: Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. This comedy-drama is able to evoke almost every kind of emotion under the sun out of the audience. It is one of the few films that has taken a hold on me, left me utterly captivated, from start to finish. Anderson’s film is a story about telling stories. It is fairly fast-paced, but still creates plenty of tension built through elongated chases in dark, panoramic vistas. It’s full of the filmmaker’s distinctive style and utilises a typically tricksy narrative structure, beginning with an few layers of intricate inception before getting into the main story of lobby boy Zero and hotel concierge Gustave H. Their tale is one of murder and mystery, loyalty and deception. Above all, it has a delicious sense of humour. The star-studded cast, led by Ralph Fiennes, is nothing short of perfection, with each performer going above and beyond to convincingly embody the eccentric melange of characters.
Whiplash (2014), dir. Damien Chazelle
One of the best films of the decade has to be, drumroll please…Whiplash. Miles Teller gives an incredible performance as Andrew Neiman, a first-year jazz student at a prestigious music academy scouted by the terrifying conductor Terrence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons). Damien Chazelle’s film tracks the turbulent development of their relationship, which verges on abusive. Fletcher will stop at nothing to make Neiman the best drummer he can be. The title ‘whiplash’ is appropriate as it connotes violence, a slave/master dynamic, a traumatic injury, and even a musical piece performed in the film. The electrifying plot of Whiplash keeps you on the edge of your seat; the nail-biting scenes are at some points hard to watch, but also hard to look away from. Chazelle’s second feature received international acclaim, winning three Oscars. An unstoppable film with a suitably jazzy soundtrack, Whiplash is a must-see.
– Jemima Mann
Moonlight (2016), dir. Barry Jenkins
A deserved Best Picture winner, Moonlight tells the story of Chiron over three generations, with three different actors, to remarkable effect. Growing up in poverty with an abusive, drug-addict mother, his tale of intersectionality, from a black kid struggling with his sexuality to a black man with the same conflict, is shot through with a tender sense of understanding from director Barry Jenkins. The cinematography from James Laxton is rich in colour and acutely immersive, placing us firmly in Chiron’s world, in his shoes. The performances from all the Chirons are exceptional, but the inner pain captured by Trevante Rhodes – as adult Chiron, a dealer going by the nickname “Black” – is devastating. One of the film’s final scenes, where Chiron is reunited with childhood friend Kevin (André Holland), is poignant, warm and essentially human. In all respects, Moonlight is utterly vital filmmaking. La La Land is good, but Moonlight‘s in a whole other league.