Its not just the end of the year, but the end of a decade, and that can mean only one thing… a top ten list! This list will include the films that have had the most lasting impact on me over the last ten years, and while some or most I don’t consider to be perfect, in my opinion they are pretty damn close to it. Sadly not every film I ever liked could make it on this list, so to start I have a list of honourable mentions the just didn’t make the cut.
The Hateful Eight
Blade Runner 2049
Manchester by the Sea
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Mission Impossible: Fallout
In all honestly, any of these films could have been on this list on a different day, but in the pursuit of some film enthusiast integrity, some big boy decisions had to made. Now to the main event. Drum roll please………….
Nolan started off the decade right with his sci-fi mind-heist Inception. Inception is a different kind of blockbuster. It is smart, over two hours without extensive action scenes, yet entirely captivating all the same. It manages to bring Leonardo DiCaprio to a blockbuster, which as far as I am aware had never been done before. It brought Tom Hardy into the spotlight and proves yet again that Hans Zimmer can really make a great score.
9) Under the Skin
Under The Skin is a hard film to sell. It is an arthouse film about an alien disguised as a human (Scarlett Johansson) who lures unsuspecting men into a black void for their eventual consumption. Everything from its cinematography, editing, music and acting are eerie and unsettling, but only in the best kind of ways. A particular moment I found so shocking I audibly, very dramatically and unwillingly gasped. It is not for everyone, but was most certainly for me, and still to this day sends shivers down my spine whenever I listen to the score. As a fun tidbit, it was also partly responsible for my admission into my film course four-five years ago, as the lecturer/interviewer was a massive fan of the film and happened to have the bluray case sitting on the table, which was an excellent segway into some artsy film chat.
Another Nolan epic, and a film that initially I actually didn’t like all that much. It felt overlong, and contrived in some plot points, but something drew me back to it again. And again. With each viewing this worked its way up in my rankings until eventually managing to get a place on this list. Each time I watched it further presented its heartbreaking tale of a father and a daughter, lightyears apart, with increasing nuance. It was the kind of sci-fi epic you could only get from Nolan, and the results are astronomical. Also another win for Zimmer!
I was blown away by Arrival, so much so I got my girlfriend to begrudgingly come with me to see it a second time the very next day. Denis Villeneuve has quickly become one of my favourite directors, and I would imagine many other people’s too. Arrival in my opinion is his best. The reveal shot of the floating monolithic ship gives me goosebumps just thinking about it, especially as the hauntingly beautiful score by the late Johann Johannsson echoes in my brain. It takes its time, without taking too much time, and as someone that was not able to foresee the conclusions of the story, I was completely floored.
6) Mad Max: Fury Road
I was not a fan of the Mad Max series. In my opinion the original trilogy was OK; a product of the time, but nothing special for today’s audiences. That is why when I watched the sheer spectacle of Fury Road, I felt the swell of excitement in George Miller’s mad world being given the modern filmmaking treatment. But it isn’t just a modern treatment, this is a masterclass of directed action, which manages to make a two-hour car chase a white-knuckle ride. This is a great looking movie and the blend of CGI and practical effects is so seamless that this film was a genuine experience to see in the cinema.
5) Gone Girl
A missing wife, a sleezy and suspicious husband, and a series of personal and condemning anniversary clues are the baseline of David Fincher’s murder mystery Gone Girl. This is a deeply dark and disturbing tale, but one that is every bit as interesting as the book that it was adapted from by Gillian Flynn. This is as Fincher as it gets, and in my opinion is his best film since Se7en, and I am a massive fan of all of his work – well maybe not all, looking at you Alien 3…
4) About Time
To completely change the tone an impromptu Valentine’s day viewing led me to About Time. Picked from a plethora of rom-coms on Netflix, myself, my girlfriend and her mum had no idea what we were in for. This is a witty, funny and heartwarming film that pulls the rug from under you in the most unexpected ways. The only other thing I need to say is that all three of us were sobbing away by the end, and I am not so easily brought to tears.
3) Green Room
Aaaaand back to doom and gloom. I hadn’t heard of Green Room before I saw it. I hadn’t seen a single ad, or a single poster. Then on a shift at the Odeon, doing a routine check of a screen, I came a across a relatively empty showing of this film. The twenty seconds I saw was enough to encourage me to go the next day, and how glad am I that I did. The screening was empty, and it was lucky that it was. Legs jigging, balancing on edge of my seat and hands swinging up to my head were commonplace as I watched one of the most visceral and adrenaline pumping gore-fests with highly-taut tension and dread. There is pulpy and raw violence, Neo-Nazis and a brilliant cast including the late Anton Yelchin. This is an insanely intense thrill ride that leaves you feeling exhausted, even after its relatively short run time.
It is common knowledge by now that Jake Gyllenhaal is one of the modern greats, but this really was the one that solidified it for me. Typically, I don’t rewatch too many of my favourite films all that often, having seen most twice, three times at a push, but this film is just infectious. It’s methodical evolution of the Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom is phenomenal to the point that any time I see it is on, or if I am unsure of what to watch I will often choose this. It is disturbing yet provocative as the psychotic Bloom demands your attention, analysing every opportunity through his big wide unblinking bug-eyes – especially as it heads into its insane manipulated car chase of a car chase. Its one for the books!
Spike Jonze’s subtle sci-fi romance is a true delight. Thick with charm and warmth despite the overbearing loneliness of central protagonist Theodore Twombly, Her is a deeply emotional journey through an alternative blend of San Francisco and Shanghai. It looks great, has an stellar score, and everyone is bringing their A game – particularly Scarlett Johansson who brings her character to life despite only being a voice. It has odd line that can come across as a bit niche, but this was a film that I was on board with from the very start and has stayed with me ever since. Not just one of my favourites of the decade, but of all time.