When thinking about how to make a list of the best films of the decade it seemed daunting. For one thing the staff has changed dramatically since Flixist started and for another there were just a lot of movies that came out. How could we possibly look at every movie? We couldn’t. So some ground rules were set.
This list is the best films of the decade that Flixist reviewed. As such some notable movies weren’t even eligible. For instance we didn’t review The Social Network, which was obviously an oversight but it means the movie wasn’t allowed for voting on this list. Of the films we reviewed we took only movies that scored a nine or above. That’s a very limited number as our scoring system is incredibly difficult and it cut out even more fantastic films. An eight on our scale can win an Academy award but it wasn’t eligible for voting here.
What this also means is that films that many other sites forgot about made it to our list because they scored well at the time but have been forgotten since. This gave us a reminder of classics that seems to have not stuck in the consciousness of filmdom. What was the end result? A top ten list that is as wonderfully weird and fantastic as the decade was itself.
Everyone forgot about this movie. It doesn’t show up anywhere in people’s top ten and drifts in on some nebulous top 100 lists, yet it’s easily one of the decade’s best movies — a film that actually confronts societal issues of masculinity and loneliness like Joker wanted to. A neo-noir of epic proportions that functions as a stark and daring look at the role of modern day media, the film is posthumously prescient given how Donald Trump manipulates and twists the truth. It is gorgeously shot and probably features Jake Gyllenhal’s best performance as a low key sociopath who seems to charm you in while still pushing you away. This was Dan Gilroy’s first foray into directing but you wouldn’t know it as he captures an LA that seems to exist in a dark noir bubble of questionable morals and anti-heroes. Much like the film’s protagonist, who slinks his way unnoticed through the underbelly of a city, the movie seems to have slid out of people’s attention.
9. The Wolf of Wall Street
This year Martin Scorcese has come under some heat for decrying Marvel films as not “cinema” with his main argument being that it isn’t “human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.” Agree or disagree, Scorcese put on a master class of doing just that with The Wolf of Wall Street, a satirical-yet-true look at Wall Street, its culture, and the criminality that runs rampant through it. The film is the kind of movie you can only get when a master is basically given free reign to do whatever he pleases. That might mean he gets a little too much of it (the film notoriously missed its release date because of editing) but what results is a uniquely constructed movie that delivers one of DiCaprio’s best performances and somehow both functions as a metaphor for the 90’s greed and a deceptively dark comedy.
8. The Raid 2
It’s unclear how The Raid and The Raid 2 director Gareth Evans isn’t a massive action movie director in Hollywood at this point. The man put together two of the best action (not just kung fu, but action) flicks of the last decade that should have helped reinvent action cinema but went largely ignored thanks to the fact that they weren’t American films. The Raid 2 is everything the first film was and more. If you need a single reason its on this list just watch the car chase/fight sequence for some of the most stunning, real-world action you’ve ever seen with camera work that’s on par with Mad Max: Fury Road. There are plenty of other reasons too, including its kinetic speed and breathtaking fist fights. The movie’s plot may drag a little but this is easily one of the best action movies of the decade and shares a common thread with the other ones on this list: great action being done for real under the guidance of great directors.
We do not give scores of 10 (or 100 previous to our shift to a 10 point scale) here at Flixist. In the past decade it has happened three times. Two of those have gone to Aflonso Cuarón, with the first one ever going to his groundbreaking film Gravity. There’s something magical about Cuarón‘s down-to-earth cinematic style being applied to a science-fiction film. A chamber piece set in the largest chamber there is, the movie is a emotional and powerful examination of fear, friendship, and survival but also a stellar bit of tense and suspenseful action. Cuarón had to create new technology to film his actors exactly how he wanted, placing them in giant lighting contraptions to make sure everything was perfect. It turns out it made everything perfect. The sheer scope of Gravity still impresses to this day not only in its technical merits, but in its gorgeous cinematography, including its masterful 17 minute single-take opening. The only unfortunate part of the film is that seeing it outside of the big screen and not in 3D drastically dulls its impact. It is a move made for theaters and must be experienced as such.
6. Inside Out
Nearly all Pixar movies are good but there are a select few that transcend the magic the studio usually produces to become films that are staggering achievements of emotion and storytelling. Inside Out achieved that and even more. Packed into a children’s film we find a movie that unfolds the emotions deep inside us, reflecting back each and every audience member’s own life and experiences no matter who they are or where they come. It is a catharsis wrapped in a children’s film whose story — the anthropormophiszing of emotions — seems like it would be too obvious to be impactful and yet plays as subtly as a piece of classical music. Not only that, but it manages to introduce difficult to understand concepts to children in such a way that anyone can understand them, a feat that deserves high praise. Inside Out was truly a creative and intellectual high point for a company made famous for their frequent high points.
5. Black Swan
Darren Aronofsky’s decade was not that great, to be honest. The director stumbled with both Noah and mother!, which were divisive with critics and flops with audiences. However, he kicked this decade off with a stunning and riveting piece of art in Black Swan. The film may not be Aronofsky’s most daring movie but it is by far his most accessible and the one that blends his two styles – realism and metaphor – in a perfect combination. The movie is a deep dive into the human psyche but also a metaphor for art itself. Anchored by Natalie Portman’s best performance of her career and shot with a daring dullness that only emphasizes its foray’s into the metaphysical the film is art house yet understandable all in one and capped off Aronofsky’s stunningly good 2000s.
Dunkirk is staggering on so many levels its hard to know what makes it so incredibly special. There is, of course, the fact that it was directed by the best director of the decade, Christopher Nolan, whose slavish devotion to shooting without special effects when possible delivers movies that are more visceral than anything else you watch. It could also be the sheer scope of the movie, which plays with time in a way that’s complex and yet understandable, building tension in a unique and unmatched way. Maybe it’s just the fact that the story is one of the great triumphs of the human spirit, effectively putting audiences onto the beaches of Dunkirk and letting the dread and terror slowly wash us as the clock ticks closer to the inevitable German attack. Much like Gravity, it is a film that must be seen on the big screen and, if you ask Nolan, on a 70mm print. Watching a movie this big and groundbreaking needs a theater.
3. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
There are action movies and there are Action Movies. There’s fight sequences and then there’s Henry Cavill reloading his fists. There’s stunt sequences and then there’s Tom Cruise hanging from a helicopter. It’s not often that a long running franchise gets better with age or that a blockbuster pushes boundaries but Mission: Impossible – Fallout did both and then cranked everything up to eleven. Director Christopher McQuarrie took full advantage of Tom Cruise’s death wish to put together what is an action masterpiece, combining a tense story with stunning and incredible feats of action. It came together into a movie that’s more than its parts and one of the best of the decade.
2. Get Out
There might not be another movie more of this decade than Get Out. A subversive, endlessly clever, and completely unexpected horror/comedy from half of Key and Peele that dives into the subtle layers of racism that influence our lives everyday, the movie hit hard. There’s few more perfectly put together films of the decade. It leads us all along with small hints before pulling the rug out from under us, simultaneously giving us a thrilling thriller and insight into just how insidiously racism is embedded in our entire society. It’s almost unthinkable for a horror movie to get this much fanfare and praise nowadays that extends beyond generic horror tropes. The social commentary in Get Out transcended film, placing the film as one of the few cultural touchstones of the decade that still can be felt today. Get Out launched what should be Jordan Peele’s stellar career and helped propel a new wave of horror films that drove the genre away from the slashers of the 90s and 00s and into a genre rebirth that has delivered a series of socially important and thought-provoking horror movies.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
It wasn’t even close. When voting concluded for this list, Mad Max: Fury Road destroyed any and all competition that it was up against. While we’ve said many things about Mad Max: Fury Road since its release, what’s most striking about the movie is how it brought together all different groups of people in admiration for this movie. General moviegoers were entertained by the raw action almost completely done with practical effects on a scale that just hasn’t been seen before. Cinephiles were treated to ingenious cinematography, sound design, audio mixing, and editing. Writers could marvel at the less is more approach and how anyone could walk into Fury Road not having seen any other movie in the franchise and easily understanding it as well as grasping the complex symbolism and metaphors. At the end of the day, anyone and everyone can find something to be thrilled at in Mad Max: Fury Road. That universal adoration is what allows George Miller’s magnum opus to be crowned Flixist’s Film of the Decade.