By this point, best-of-decade lists are everywhere, and a lot of them highlight the same movies: the stunning accomplishment of Mad Max: Fury Road; the breakout brilliance of Get Out; the near-perfection of Parasite.
So I’m going to talk about nine other great movies from the 2010s — the ones not necessarily on all the lists. They’re not all small or obscure films; they are all fictional narratives, documentaries being their own beast (but if you missed 20 Feet From Stardom, please rectify that situation immediately).
These are the weird ones and the loving ones, the movies I talked about the most and, arguably, the movies the internet argued the most about. I hope you’ll give every one of them a chance.
In chronological order:
Rare Exports (2010)
Eugeneans are lucky: The Broadway Metro often shows this cult Christmas movie at the holidays, and if you missed it this year, maybe next year is your chance. Dark, quirky, creepy and genuinely sweet, this Finnish Krampus tale is good spooky counterprogramming to American holiday fare, full of naked elves, youthful ingenuity and a reminder that some of the magic we want to believe in isn’t so nice.
Attack the Block (2011)
Between Marvel and Star Wars (all part of the Disney machine, now), science fiction is more mainstream than ever. Attack the Block is scrappier, a low-budget British alien-invasion film starring a then-unknown young actor named John Boyega. Class-aware and clever, Attack the Block plays with the idea of heroism: who we expect it from, what it looks like, where it comes from. It’s also one of the rare alien flicks to give us space invaders that don’t look like giant bugs, and for that inventiveness I’m forever grateful.
By now, audiences have caught on to Yorgos Lanthimos: The Favourite was widely considered one of 2018’s best films. A disconcerting movie about the strangeness of family — about the way a family is its own world, with its own laws and rules and traditions, some of which always need to change — Dogtooth is unsettling and unforgettable (you might never look at an airplane overhead the same way). It resonates like a fairy tale, an absurd but archetypal and fundamental story about what we fear and how we try to control those fears.
Holy Motors (2012)
Leos Carax still hasn’t followed up this madcap, bonkers, sublime and baffling film. But how do you follow Holy Motors? The AV Club accurately described it as “the kind of bugfuck cliff-dive that’ll still be celebrated decades after most of 2012’s prestige awards-bait has been forgotten.”
I almost didn’t include this movie for the simple reason that I still don’t know how to describe it. It’s what you make of it, what you build in your mind out of Carax’s images and snippets of story. It looks forward, upward and outward, imagining strange entertainments, weird delights, impossible ways of moving through the world. Brazenly weird but strangely intimate, Holy Motors is a visionary paean to all the things film can — and should — do.
Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)
There were at least two good vampire movies this decade (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is the other), which is already kind of a treat for anyone who cut their teeth on Anne Rice. But Jim Jarmusch is far less interested in the glamor of the undead (which is not to say Tilda Swinton isn’t glamorous as hell) than he is in the rhythms and beauty of the extremely long-term relationship between his Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton). They grow apart, they live apart, they come together again, experiencing the world as a series of disappointments (Adam) or a thing full of curiosities and new experiences (Eve). Languid and beguiling, Lovers also has one of the best soundtracks of this or any decade.
The Last Jedi (2017)
I saw The Rise of Skywalker last night, and added this movie — a franchise blockbuster, hardly a little scrappy film you might have missed — to my list this morning. In the light of J.J. Abrams’ disjointed Skywalker swan song, Rian Johnson’s accomplishment with The Last Jedi is all the more admirable. Thematically rich, beautifully shot, and generous, TLJ looked hard at the mythology of Star Wars and the Jedi and realized it needed to be bigger. It needed to belong to everyone, and that meant de-elevating the few. Jedi argues that you can tell mythic stories on a human scale — a scale that includes failure and loss — and that you can use those stories to inspire. It’s a triumph.
Support the Girls (2018)
More than a decade ago, Andrew Bujalski made my fourth favorite film of 2006: Mutual Appreciation, a movie that perfectly depicted how much of post-college life is sitting around and shooting the shit. He’s gotten a little more ambitious since then; Support the Girls is about how incompatible compassion is with capitalism. It’s also funny, and the cast — Regina Hall and Hayley Lu Richardson in particular — makes this movie feel lived-in. Bujalski does what he does so brilliantly: remind us that every life is a story worth telling.
Sorry to Bother You (2018)
When you watch a lot of movies, you can wind up being very difficult to truly shock. Boots Riley did it with a pivotal scene in his brilliant, subversive, hilarious, anti-racist, anti-capitalist Sorry to Bother You, the last movie to truly make me ask myself what the hell I just saw. From Armie Hammer’s turn as the worst kind of self-satisfied start-up bro to Tessa Thompson’s performance art to LaKeith Stanfield’s understated grace as Cassius Green, Sorry to Bother You is a precision-built piece of art, challenging and imperfect and ready to be revisited.
Paddington 2 (2018)
If you haven’t seen Paddington, the first movie, never fear. Neither have I. But I saw the sequel in a theater with half a dozen grown-ass people, and we all cried. It’s not sad, or scary, or any of the things that we might associate with crying. It’s just full of hope and kindness, like an enveloping cinematic hug. And we needed that. Ben Whishaw is the very epitome of audio grace as Paddington, the kindest bear that ever lived, and Hugh Grant has the time of his career hamming it up as Paddington’s crooked neighbor. But truly: Who cares about the plot? We’re in it for Paddington, for his inventiveness, his curiosity, his hope. There are few movies I will recommend unreservedly to literally anyone. This is one of them.
Nine more for good measure: Amour; The Cabin in the Woods; Certified Copy; Green Room; Mission: Impossible — Fallout; Scott Pilgrim vs. the World; Short Term 12; We Are the Best!; Your Sister’s Sister. ν