What a decade! Ten years ago, back when watching films in cinemas was more popular than viewing them at home, we would never have imagined that we'd end up enthralled by superheroes, and we didn't really know all that much about feminism. Harvey Weinstein was still considered a king in Hollywood and his production company was launching many of that year's Academy favourites, such as 'The Fighter'.
A lot has happened since then in the world of cinema. China has begun to get on board with the medium, something that has contributed hugely to the rise of super-productions. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Hollywood has begun to reform and reshape, bringing in new blood such as Natalia de Molina to its ranks of voters. Streaming platforms have transformed into important producers of content that, often, may not have made the big screen otherwise, winning them more than a little animosity from various film festivals and a fair few cinephiles. And, meanwhile, Disney has been buying basically everything that is put on the table in front of them.
A Decade of Fantastic Films
One thing has remained the same throughout the decade, however, and that is that excellent films continue to hit ours screens, big and small, each year. Whether they are fantastical dystopias, nostalgic musicals or intimate studies of the passing of time and the process of ageing, this decade has been full of hugely timely tales to tell through film. Admittedly, not every movie released is worthy of a place on a 'best of' list, but we've selected 15 films that, in our humble opinion, are the best and most important pieces of cinema that the past 10 years has to offer. Action!
Richard Linklater's interest in the passing of time borders on obsessive. With the 'Before' trilogy, the Texan director followed the evolution of a couple through three distinct stages in their lives and relationship: that first strike of Cupid's arrow, the consolidation of their love, and maturation of it. These three films were released with 9 years between each instalment, but not even the romance between Jesse and Céline reaches the same level of commitment as his other grand project, 'Boyhood', which was filmed over the course of 12 years.
The 39 days of filming that took place between 2002 and 2013 chronicled the changes of a dysfunctional family through the eyes and experiences of Mason (Ellar Coltrane), who literally transforms from a child to an adult before the camera. Opting to work with the same cast of actors and actress over a period of more than a decade is a risky move that, nevertheless, forgoes dramatic twists in favour of infusing the film with truth and authenticity in a story full of changes, first loves, disappointment and rebellion, more similar to a photo album, perhaps, than to a film. This fragility, the beauty of the shots and the music, the attentiveness to the short lapses of time, the naturalism and the complete lack of prejudice, manifest offscreen as well as in front of the camera, blurring the line that separates film and reality. 'Boyhood' directly appeals to your most emotional memories whilst you watch the characters age and accompany them during both the key moments and insignificant lulls that mark their relationships. This is a story about the little things and yet also about the most difficult and emotional thing that will happen to you in your entire life: growth.
Written by Luisa N. Jabato
Every generation needs its "coming of age" film. Stephen Chbosky had his directorial debut with the adaptation of his own novel, 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower'. It's your typical story of an introverted teen who tries little by little to make a place for themselves at school, thanks to a new, admittedly odd group of friends, but it has the capacity to leave us greatly affected nonetheless. Through characters such as the Patrick of Ezra Miller. Through the song selection. Through sequences of a car ride through a tunnel. Charlie's story is tender, emotional, profound and is everything that a coming of age film must be if it wants to remain in the viewer's heart even once their own teenage years have passed. The film certainly made a splash when it first premiered, with pithy lines such as "we accept the love with think we deserve" and "we are infinite" cropping up on everybody's Facebook walls.
Written by Jesús Agudo.
In fairness, we would have to sneak 'Avengers: Infinity War' here into 13th place alongside 'Avengers: Endgame'. Together, the two films represent an unprecedented cinematic event that required an entire decade of superhero films to be able to do justice to the story's conclusion. It's for this reason that 'Endgame' is one of the best films of the last ten years (and the highest-grossing film in history, let's not forget). These two films justify the multi-phase structure that makes up the Marvel Cinematographic Universe by concluding the Infinity Saga, tying in the villain that has been gathering power since Phase One and maintaining the personalities of every single hero as they unite in an intricate narrative that runs like clockwork.
The script has been one of the most widely criticised out of all of the instalments of the MCU, but within this particular screenplay the Russo brothers and Kevin Feige dared not only to write one of the biggest cliffhangers of recent years, but also to resolve it with a generous helping of heroism, sacrifice, and consequences that will continue to resonate in the upcoming films and series from Marvel. All of these repercussions are caused by a villain like Thanos, who has such depth that one might think he himself is the protagonist.
Of course, on a visual level, 'Endgame' firmly holds the crown as the most epic spectacle both in this dimension and any alternate ones that may exist, despite the fact that, in its three hour duration, there is only one big action scene as such. This doesn't effect the rest of the film, however, which is full of nostalgia, realisations and the consummation of an ambitious plot that took ten years of films to develop. It is for this reason that the film is one of the best of the decade: because it tied together the whole franchise and used that collected knowledge as the basis for its existence.
Written by Rafael Jiménez.
12'Pain and Glory'
A lot of the writings about 'Pain and Glory' position the film as a personal insight into director Pedro Almodóvar, albeit through the facial expressions, gestures and guise of Antonio Banderas. It is a personal film in that it takes an in-depth study of his recent suffering and conveys it through an imaginative animated sequence. In that his past relationships are made present through the character portrayed by Leonardo Sbaraglia. In that it deals with the world of cinema in general (a firm foundation in Almodóvar's life and in the way he sees the world, something that overflows in the monologue delivered by Asier Etxeandia), and with his own filmography, too.
Something that the filmmaker handles with a bit more modesty, however, are the scenes depicting childhood and family, which are presented in the film as "flashbacks". In them, the young Asier Flores portrays the protagonist during his childhood, César Vincent represents his first love and Salvador's parents are played by Raúl Arévalo and Penélope Cruz. Later, the endearing and incomparable Julieta Serrano takes up the baton in the role of Salvador's mother as she enters old age.
But this glance towards the past is distinct in 'Pain and Glory'. Because Almodóvar, the uncontrollable, the excessive, the wild, the bad boy, finally reveals himself to be a man incapable of betraying the promise that he made to his mother: that he wouldn't show the reality of his family and his village in his films. For this reason, he decides not to film a straightforward account of his childhood, but rather a fictional reconstruction of it. This film is a timely one as we enter a decade in which fiction is as much a part of our lives as any tangible object.
Written by Guillermo Hormigo.
Amidst the various cinematic gems that premiered this decade, 'Parasite' is one of the most daring. Winner of La Palma de Oro at the Cannes Film Festival, this reception symbolises not only the recognition of filmmaker Bong Joon-ho but also of the international recognition of South Korean Cinema, one of the most critically acclaimed subsections of film production that, inexplicably, has often been under-appreciated by certain cinematic institutions.
Pushing beyond the cataloguing of Bong's film as simply "unclassifiable", 'Parasite' is an acerbic and ironic look at modern society. Bong divests the film of his trademark supernatural edge that won his films widespread praise in the past with releases such as 'The Host' (2006) and 'Okja' (2017) in favour of instead capturing the satirical spirit of Marco Ferreri or Pier Paolo Pasilini. This sharp portrait of the upper class and the anxieties of social climbing is worthy of a mention alongside classics such as the brutal 'La Grande Bouffe' (1973) and the perverse 'Theorem' (1968). 'Parasite' could even be derived or inspired by the vagrants of Buñuel's 'Virdiana' (1961), making the word parasitic extraordinarily fitting.
What initially appears to be a social drama morphs into a thriller when sharpness and secrets are discovered behind the walls of the luxurious house that the protagonist's working-class family longs to possess. 'Parasites' continues to transform itself and ends up a black comedy of sorts that offers up its most terrifying and horrific scenes yet with a visceral finale that generates a myriad of emotions in the viewer that has been waiting eagerly for this spectacular conclusion to unfold.
Finally, the Kim family represents how uncomfortable it is to be labelled by the standards of somebody else's ideology. This exploration gives way to a biting critique of the paternalistic way in which the wealthy look down on those in need whilst also offering a twisted and uncanny portrait of the dissatisfaction of the upper class families that create a bubble around themselves and their lives in order to remain blissfully unaware of harsh realities. 'Parasite' is a masterpiece, the likes of which we see increasingly less today, and it places Bong firmly alongside another South Korean cinematic genius, Park Chan-wook.
Written by Miguel Ángel Pizarro.
Even just the teaser trailer for 'Gravity' is more impactful and impeccably made than many of the films that you will have watched lately. Every single aspect of this film's production is pushed to the limit (literally and metaphorically) to create this space odyssey made to be contained within a movie theatre, from the low sounds designed to resonate through the floor until the title appears to the detailed sound mixing intended to immerse us in the atmosphere of outer space (we to you to try to watch the trailer of the film with headphones without being surprised or caught of guard even a little). If to this you then add the impressive 3D, then 'Gravity' is the closest that any person besides an actual astronaut is likely to ever get to living in outer space.
Alfonso Cuarón was exhausted after working tirelessly on this film for 5 years, so much so that he currently has no desire to take on a project of this magnitude ever again: debris storms, explosions, human rescue missions...'Gravity' is a visually-arresting adventure that also serves as one of the most impressive technical feats of the decade, boasting majestic sequences of shots in which every frame and action is filmed with utmost care. Although the Oscars only awarded 'Gravity' for its technical accomplishments, these feats in themselves were all there to support the tender, heartbreaking conflict that Sandra Bullock and George Clooney played to perfection with only their voice and their facial expressions. You don't need a repeat of this greatness, Cuarón. With one film, you've already made history.
Written by Rafa Jiménez.
This film is not only a demonstration of the cinematographic know-how of a genius like David Fincher, supported by actors that play their parts to perfection. 'The Social Network' is a necessary film. It is a classic that serves to help us understand exactly what it is that we've all become hooked on in the 21st century. Yet, it's not simply a cinematic testament to the current era. Nor is it a film about the creator of Facebook - that description merely scratches the surface. 'The Social Network' is a story about our disappointments, our needs, our complexities. It is a film about us. Before this film, nobody had dared to remind us of just how necessary it is to listen closely to somebody's voice or to look - really look - in their eyes.
The themes of 'The Social Network' are so relevant today that the film is frightening to watch at times. Not because of Facebook in itself, but rather because Fincher uses 'The Social Network' to talk about human beings. About how we must stop talking about who we were or who we were going to become when it's time to talk about who we are. Thus, 'The Social Network' is, without a shred of doubt, a masterpiece.
Written by Alberto Frutos.
Jia Zhang-ke is probably the most important filmmaker of the decade, perhaps even of the entire 21st century thus far. This is not simply because the merits of his films but rather because these movies are used to study the majority of problems that define contemporary global society. It is often noted how his films perfectly synthesise the complex Chinese system in which state control over the majority of the country's major issues goes hand in hand with a liberalised economy. But the treatment of these topics is so utterly human that it can be applied to global realities (we should also point out that China is not the only country with a profoundly contradictory system).
Any of the feature-films brought to life by Jia Zhang-ke in the past 10 years deserves to appear on this list. But 'Mountains May Depart' has a special sensitivity to it that makes it the film of his that has resonated the most with the general public. Past, present and future go hand in hand on this journey through the life of Tao, a young woman whose future will be determined by which of her two friends she decides to marry. 1995, 2015 and 2025 are the years in which we stop to catch up with Tao and her son whilst they witness the social, economic and technological transformations that the world is going through and will go through in the future. In the most devastating final scene of recent years, you can see the weight of the decade - nay, the century - in the aged and wizened face of the actress Zhao Tao as 'Go West' by the Pet Shop Boys plays.
Written by Guillermo Hormigo.
Unforgettable for both its visuals and its narrative, 'Inception', written and directed by Christopher Nolan, combines science fiction with a novel and impossible mix of cinema and architecture, all set to a dizzying rhythm that challenges the viewer to keep ahold of their senses. Its story, much like the dreams through which the film's protagonists travel, plays with layers and depth that are slowly unravelled without ever laying on the paranoia too thick. This is a tremendous achievement when one considers not only the powerful central concept but also that 'Inception' is immersed with tricks and turns that the viewer must be able to absorb whilst already in a stimulated, agitated state. From the buildings that seem to fold in themselves to the seemingly infinite stairs, many scenes from 'Inception' can be included amongst the most powerful images of the decade and have served as a source of inspiration for several films since (with the most famous of them being 'Doctor Strange').
Joining Nolan on this particular journey are Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe...in short, a marvellous handful of actors whose contribution to the film is perfect to drive the original story to new heights without ever pushing it too far. Also deserving of a mention is the most debated ending since Jack and Rose's door conundrum in 'Titanic' and, of course, similarly to how the tragic ending to that particular tale consolidated its fame, it is the powerful open ending of 'Inception' that serves as the icing on a cake that you'll want devour over and over again.
Written by Berta F. Del Castillo.
6'Toy Story 3'
"And as the years go by, our friendship will never die/You're gonna see it's our destiny/You've got a friend in me". This little prediction of Randy Newman's was first uttered in 1995 and, since then, it has certainly been proved true. The release of 'Toy Story' forever changed animated films and also, perhaps, our lives, upon introducing us to Woody, Buzz and the rest of Andy and Bonnie's beloved toys.
Although this year marked our reunion with the gang in 'Toy Story 4', there was a time when we thought that we had said our final goodbyes in the form of 'Toy Story 3', the masterful finale that fused action, comedy and emotion and served to (supposedly) conclude the story with the perfect, full circle ending. With their gift for creating content that appeals just as much to adults as to children, Pixar spoke to us about the passing of time, friendship and the important of leaving certain things (and, sometimes, certain people) in the past in order to move on. It was a surprisingly profound and transcendental finale that knew how to tug at our heartstrings and that won its place in cinematic history with unforgettable scenes such as the devastating climax in the rubbish incinerator and the loaded goodbye between Andy and Woody.
Although the saga has continued, nothing will ever trump the transformative effect that this finale had on the public who, in the last moments of the film, are encouraged to mature and say goodbye to a part of their childhood. This is how 'Toy Story' signed off the original trilogy and celebrated its close relationship with the viewer that will surely stick around for decades to come.
Written by Pedro J. García.
Upon being pushed to choose the best films of the decade, we would have say that 'Her' is a film that triumphs in each and every aspect of its production, though its strongest point is the depiction of the various emotional states and the distinct psychological and sentimental phases that are experienced over the course of a love story. Hope, sex, disappointment, tenderness, doubts - absolutely everything is handled with the utmost care, with constant wit, and with a script written and directed by the wonderful Spike Jonze.
It is through its exploration of its two protagonists, Theodore (a human) and Samantha (an AI), that the film casts aside a lacklustre exploration of barely-concealed messages to offer up a reflection on how the role of the individual may change in the near future and, most importantly, on the role and function of love in our lives and in society. Yesterday, here, now and tomorrow. 'Her' explores the need to find a place in which we can put down roots during those times in which everything around us seems to be crumbling. It explores the importance of hearing another's voice. Of voices in themselves. 'Her' is, in short, a masterpiece. One of the essential films of the 21st century.
Written by Alberto Frutos.
The thing with 'Mad Max: Fury Road' is that it could have gone really, really badly. It marked the return of George Miller to a post-apocalyptic universe created way back in the 80s after a decade in which the only thing he had directed were the two 'Happy Feet' films. The team was granted $150 million and creative freedom, so they recorded 470 hours of footage which took months of condensing on the part of editor Margaret Sixel. Sixel, furthermore, was Miller's wife and this film marked her first action movie. To top it all off, leading actor Tom Hardy allegedly did not get on at all with neither the director nor his co-star, Charlize Theron.
Taking all of that into account, the result is nothing short of miraculous. 'Fury Road' is not just one of the greatest cinematic spectacles of this decade, a feat of pacing and visual marvel that gets better the bigger the screen that you watch it on is. It is also the definitive feminist cry of defiance against commercial cinema in Hollywood. Many other films have tried before to do what 'Fury Road' does in this film with its creation of a Resistance formed by free, flawed, survivalist women (all models, of course). The patriarchy, old, cruel and unjust, is dead and nobody's even realised it yet. And all of this is told against the backdrop of an insane and explosive road. George Miller enticed male chauvinists into a feminist allegory without them even realising it.
Written by Javier P. Martín.
3'La La Land'
Very few films released over the past ten years have received unanimous praise from critics and the public alike, but 'La La Land' ranks amongst them. The love story between Mia and Sebastian drew inspiration from the many classic musical movies that director Damien Chazelle wished to pay homage to, and yet it managed to win over just as many young people as it did the older generations that had grown up with the genre. Because it doesn't matter what era it's set in; its love story is timeless.
We'll never know what this film would have been like with Miles Teller and Emma Watson as its stars, but you can't say 'La La Land' without thinking of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, who won her only Oscar to date for her performance. Speaking of awards, the film will also go down in history for some due to 'Oscargate', which ended with 'Moonlight' as the winner of Best Picture. But for many others, for the ones who dream, 'La La Land' won a much more important prize that year: a place in the memories and hearts of millions of cinephiles.
Written by David Pardillos.
Here at movie'n'co, we love LGBT cinema, but we're particularly enamoured with this particular. 'Call Me By Your Name' is one of the best films of this decade, and it tells a gay love story in what is one of the best examples of modern cinema - not just of LGBT cinema, but of the film industry as a whole.
Luca Guadagnino's talent for capturing physicality on camera (sweaty heat, latent desire, heated looks, gentle grazes, the massages, sleepy kisses) is one of the many reasons for which 'Call Me By Your Name' will forever stay imprinted on the cultural imagination. Based on the universally heartbreaking novel about first love by André Aciman and adapted expertly for the screen by James Ivory, this absolutely flawless film launched the career of Armie Hammer to new heights and introduced us to another actor who will, in all likelihood, define the next decade of cinema: Timothée Chalamet.
All of this culminates in a love story between two men that moved everyone who watched it and broke down the barriers that usually surround LGBT cinema. With its portrait of a teenager experiencing first love and beginning to grow into their identity, 'Call Me By Your Name' is a universal, luminous and unforgettable film.
Written by Javier P. Martín.
Amy Adams was robbed of an Oscar for the umpteenth time with 'Arrival'. This one stings that bit more, however, because she gives absolutely everything she's got in what is one of the best science fiction films that we have seen in years. A film about language and communication, wrapped up in the story of an alien invasion. From 'Incendies' and 'Prisoners', we knew that director Denis Villeneuve was one to watch. With 'Arrival', our suspicions that there is no challenge that Villeneuve can't tackle, whether it's making seemingly impossible sequels ('Blade Runner 2049') or managing to convey messages loud and clear just through the use of ink circles, were proven right. Few films of this decade have turned out to as intellectually stimulating as this one. Hopefully, the next ten years of cinema will grant us at least one gem of the same calibre as 'Arrival'.
Written by Jesús Agudo.