Top Ten Movies of the Decade

Top Ten Movies of the Decade

December 28, 2019 0 By Bilal Akram

This decade has been immense for cinema. The MCU has become fully established as an enormous, global powerhouse with Avengers: Endgame (2019) the finale to the Infinity Saga. Christopher Nolan proved his world-class efforts though Interstellar (2014), Inception (2010) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Legendary director Quentin Tarantino released two instant classics in Django Unchained (2012) and Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood (2019). Martin Scorsese added another two editions to his illustrious catalog with Shutter Island (2010) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). A great admirer and inspiration of Scorsese is director Todd Phillips who released Joker (2019) which gives insight into man’s psychological depths. Also, this decade has been big for Leonardo DiCaprio who won his first Oscar in 2015 for ‘The Revenant’. As you can see there are so many great achievements in film since 2010 but this is my list:

1. Inception (2010)

Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending subconscious espionage thriller is one of the best of the decade and also one of the greatest films of all time. Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordan Levitt, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Marion Cottillard make up a brilliant cast. This film was released at the very beginning of the decade in 2010 and is simply a work of genius.

Plot Overview

Cobb is a man with a troubled past. He works as a spy who enters the dreams of a subject to steal information. A high-profile case keeps him from returning home to his family, as he is tasked with entering the mind of Fischer (Cillian Murphy), the successor to a massive corporation the client wishes to meddle with. The catch is that Cobb must travel to the third level of a dream, a plane accessed through a process called inception. This is an almost impossible feat, but Cobb accepts and assembles a team of experts. Saito is the one asking for the service as he is a rival businessman trying to dismantle Fischer’s empire. Cobb’s father-in-law, Prof. Stephen Miles, recommends one of his students to help him. Ariadne (Ellen Page) is young and curious about Cobb’s profession. Cobb gives her a taste of entering a dream and she attempts to rationalise the physical aspects of the projection. Cobb searches for an old friend of his, Eames (Tom Hardy), who is experienced in the field and he recommends Yusuf, who works with heavy sedatives necessary for penetrating the second level to the third level of one’s subconscious. Throughout the film, we are sometimes confused whether the characters are in a dream or not, so Cobb invented a totem of unique weight known only to its holder which when spun, flicked etc. will topple if in reality. The film wrestles with this concept of being in reality or not and which is better. For example, we see old men trapped in their subconscious as they resent the reins of reality. Cobb’s journey is very precarious, and the ultimate loss would be characterised by falling into limbo – raw subconscious where one cannot escape.

Short Review

This film is excellently put together with one of the most complex narratives ever told. We are constantly on the edge of our seats and with the gravity defying stunts and slow-motion falls into baths make this a classic science-fiction masterpiece. It is clichéd to name this a masterpiece, but it truly is one and lives up to expectation and then some. Inception will most certainly keep you guessing to the very end. Also, at the end, the ‘cliff-hanger’ grasps the audience and leaves them guessing and questioning reality. The movie won four Academy Awards in Best Sound Mixing, Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Editing. Adding to this, the score is iconic and amazing from Hans Zimmer. I love this movie a lot and its re-watch value is great.

2. Joker (2019)

Todd Philips take on the comic book villain Joker is a class act which evokes deep themes of loss, betrayal, hopelessness and mental illness. This film was released Oct. 4th, 2019 making it another late entry. Its placement in the top five is due to its societal impact and depiction of utter despair in such a revealing light. A directorial masterpiece and a perfect performance from the mercurial Joaquin Phoenix.

Plot Overview

Joker charts the life Arthur Fleck, who works as a clown at a comedy club, and his struggle in the dire society of Gotham city. Arthur is downtrodden metaphorically and physically as he is subject to mugging and rushing. Fleck has a medical condition, PSB (pseudobulbar affect), whereby he laughs at random moments uncontrollably. He has a card to apologise to those he affects detailing his condition. Fleck is in poor mental health which we see when he has appointments with his therapist. He reiterates by saying, ‘all I have are negative thoughts’, to register his overwhelming, incurable state of mind. This epitomises the sorrowful depths of his surroundings. His only comfort rests in caring for his mother and watching The Murray Franklin Show. One event leads to another and a co-worker at his workplace gives him a gun to protect himself. This is pivotal as he uses the gun as self-defence on some corporate employees. Fleck is often seen in his face paint and clown-persona and this image starts an uprising as the murder of these upper-class employees invoke an APB on a someone in a ‘clown costume’.  Chaos quickly ensues as clown-masked hooligans fill the streets. We can say that Fleck turns into ‘Joker’ after his appearance on The Murray Franklin show. After this he is a full-fledging face of revenge against the heartless city of Gotham.

Short Review

Joaquin Phoenix is almost fully guaranteed to win the Best Actor Award at the 2020 Academy Awards as his gritty portrayal of the most notorious comic book character of all time is profound. I had expected the movie to be consistently violent and show a demented and random selection of Joker’s victims. Instead, the deep dive into the mind of the perturbed people treated as underlings in a dystopia is explored in Arthur Fleck’s eyes. An extremely dark movie opens our eyes to the injustice in our society let alone the fictional one of Gotham. A saviour for the previously helpless DCEU, Joker is the highest grossing R-rated and the highest grossing film released in October of all time. Already gaining awards and a wide range of critical acclaim, Joker is a one-of-a-kind movie.

Joaquin Phoenix as ‘Joker’

3. Get Out (2017)

Jordan Peele’s psychological thriller/horror documents the story of Chris as he endures physical and psychological obstacles. This is an amazing movie which represents the perceptions of the black man in white American societies. Daniel Kaluuya portrays the main character in exemplary fashion. The cultural reverberations of the movie permeate through and solidify this movie among the greatest of the decade. The film won Best Original Screenplay at the 2018 Academy Awards. Get Out boasts an impressive 98% score of Rotten Tomatoes to add to its critical appraisal. There are multiple aspects, directing, production and so on, which make this film special. The lens we are given through Chris’s normal interactions make the film additionally suspenseful. We are immersed by the weird, unnatural and racist ways of this twisted family. It is a great representation of how depraved societies with draconian racial stances manipulate and pervert modern standards of living.

Short Review / Plot Overview

Daniel Kaluuya stars as photographer Chris, an African-American man, and his girlfriend Rose, a Caucasian woman, who he is deeply in love and engaged to. Rose plans for Chris to meet her family in the country via a large forest. When Chris arrives he meets her father, mother and brother. Her brother is especially interested in his belief that Chris’s genes as a black man make him athletically inclined. This is the beginning of passive racism and adulation. As the film progresses, Rose’s parents show unusual behaviour especially her mother. Her mother invites Chris into a room where he is hypnotised as trapped in his own mind temporarily. The mother claims that this technique made her quit smoking and can make Chris do so too. We see Chris’s deepest fear, being trapped in a chair. We see the house servants, African-American men and women, who show odd discourse and ooze the thought that they are being controlled by the white family on a psychological level.

A party ensues and many of the white family’s white relatives and friends arrive. One of the friends is an African-American man who wears a summer hat (played by Lakeith Stanfield). When Chris takes a photo, the man has a weird reaction whereby his nose bleeds and he charges for Chris only to be buffered. This is when things turn from passive racism to a more mysterious atmosphere, almost like a conspiracy. Chris is lightly berated and confused as to what just happened. We soon see more odd behaviour and discover that the family has been lobotomising black people and replacing their brains with that of ailing white relatives. These relatives were at the party and Chris is dumbfounded. During a dinner, he is threatened and struggles to leave when he is caught. He is trapped and manages to escape from their grasp, burning down and killing the inhabitants of the house, including Rose who manipulated him into going there. The movie ends when Chris’s friend, who was suspicious of the family, picks him up.

4. The Irishman (2019)

One of the greatest directors of all time, Martin Scorsese, teams up with one of the greatest acting assembles ever made. Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Jesse Plemons, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Ray Romano and countless others star in this revival of the classic mob epics of the late 20th century.

Plot Overview

Set in the 1950s, Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran (Robert De Niro) is a truck driver who transports meat. Sheeran soon gets involved with Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and his Pennsylvania crime family. Sheeran begins with small jobs which build his profile and credibility. He soon grows into a respected member of the crime family and works under Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), a Teamster connected with organised crime. Hoffa has widespread influence and is at the summit of his industry. Sheeran is an established hitman and former labour union high official. His priority lies in protecting and accompanying Hoffa.

Short Review

A narrative rich with numerous plots, this film clocks in at 3 hours 30 minutes. The film is told as a story from Frank Sheeran, who is reflecting on his life at an old age. He leads up to the events before the mysterious disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa in late 1975. We see him at his old age crippled by the lies and illegal activity he committed. His family had left him, and he lives alone in a care home. 

This movie was released in late November of 2019 which makes it a rather late entry. However, it is so different to any movie released this decade that I had to include it. One of my favourite movie genres is crime/drama, namely gangster epics, and this film is a great example of one. With the pioneers of the genre in Pacino, De Niro, Pesci, Scorsese etc. involved, even before its release, it was set to be outstanding. With all of its aspects combined, the film is a forerunner for awards at the 92nd Academy Awards. A final hoorah of the golden age of Hollywood this is likely the last time we will see these actors work together for a film. A perfect end to their respective careers.

5. Django Unchained (2012)

Quentin Tarantino has produced a few brilliant movies this decade but Django Unchained is the pick of the bunch.

Plot Overview

This movie tells the story of Django (Jaime Foxx) and his pursuit of freedom. He is on the search for his wife and along with bounty hunter, Schultz (Christoph Waltz), arranges a way to achieve this. Django is a slave being transported by slave owners, the Speck Brothers, and Schultz meets him at a lonely road. Schultz frees Django from the brothers because he has knowledge of the Brittle Brothers. Schultz is a bounty hunter who is searching for John, Ellis and Roger Brittle and proposes a deal with Django. He will give Django his freedom, $75 and a horse if he cooperates with him. When Schultz and Django complete the task, Django tells Schultz that he will use the money to free his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). Schultz gives Django another proposition: if he helps him during the winter, he will give a third to him and help him find Broomhilda. Django accepts and they soon develop a friendship. After this winter stint, Schultz learns that Broomhilda is slave to Calvin Candie von Shaft (Leonardo DiCaprio) at Candyland Farm, Mississippi. Django and Schultz devise a plan to lure Calvin and free Broomhilda. However, they face one of Calvin’s minions, Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), who is not so easily fooled.

Short Review

The film is critically-acclaimed and won two Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actor (Christoph Waltz) and Best Original Screenplay (Quentin Tarantino), along with MTV’s Best Jaw-Dropping Moment award. This is Tarantino at his best. He incorporates the arduous lives of slaves in a violent and raw way and the justice of murdering slave owners to create a balance of the reality of slavery and its revocation through Django and Schultz’s heroics. A solid entry in the top ten of the decade, Django Unchained has left a great impact on the movie industry and portrays history in classy Tarantino style. The signature finale bloodbaths of Tarantino features is featured in all of its gratuitous detail in this flick.

6. Avengers Endgame (2019)

The biggest movie of the decade is also one of the best movies of the decade. Avengers Endgame is the culmination of over 20 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) spanning from 2008-2019. This movie caps off ‘The Infinity Saga’, as coined shortly after Endgame by MCU executive Kevin Feige. The cast includes nearly all of these film’s actors and characters with the main stars being Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlet Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo (aka the original Avengers).

Plot Overview

Endgame picks up five years after the events of Avengers Infinity War, when Thanos used the Infinity Gauntlet to successfully wipe out half of all life in the universe including many of the Avengers. The remaining heroes are scattered and decide to rally together when Ant-Man introduces the possibility of time travel via the quantum realm where he escaped from at the start of the movie, a continuation in Ant-Man and the Wasp’s post-credits scene. Tony Stark and Professor Hulk are consulted, and they use Pym particles to time travel and rectify their failures. This team composes of Tony Stark, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Professor Hulk, Ant-Man and others.

The team splits and go to different periods where the Infinity Stones were before Thanos acquired them. Eventually, bar an extremely saddening loss, they gather the stones and Professor Hulk steps up to use them in Tony Stark’s Iron Gauntlet given his strength. He snaps his fingers and succeeds but is struck by irreparable damage on the arm the gauntlet was on. Everything goes swimmingly until Thanos arrives fresh from the events of Guardians of the Galaxy from the 2014 timeline where Nebula and Gamora travelled to get the reality stone from Morag. Chaos ensues and the blipped heroes reappear and fight against Thanos and his forces.

Short Review

This is a movie which had to be included on the list and was chosen over other movies, such as Infinity War, due to its conclusive nature which combines high quality acting and production. This is a holistic entity for the MCU and does justice for all characters, even those who died given their amazing character arcs and noble sacrifices. This movie is the highest grossing film of all time with just under $3 billion and has broken countless other records at the box office.

7. Gravity (2013)

This space sci-fi epic stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as astronauts on a Russian Soyuz ship. This film revived and reinvented the genre whereby crew are stranded in space – a theme akin to that of Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’. Released in 2013, Gravity won a mammoth six Academy Awards in Best Original Music Score, Best Sound Mixing,, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Editing. These visuals and so on were spectacular and a cut above most movies. It was this movie which bucked the trend for modern space-age dramas of the decade like Interstellar (2014), The Martian (2015), Ad Astra (2019) etc.

Plot Overview

Gravity is the story of Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) who is an engineer aboard the Russian Soyuz capsule – with Earth in eyeshot – and astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney). A disaster leaves high-speed space debris smash into their ship, leaving many dead with Stone and Kowalski the remaining survivors. They are stranded, floating in space and end up locating a Chinese ship where there is no correspondence. They aim to use the ship to return to Earth. The character of Kowalski is portrayed as calm and rational as he calms Stone down when he reels her in after she is catapulted from the ship via debris. A struggling Stone fights her demons when tragedy strikes and must head home with courage and determination which almost escape her.

Short Review

This movie was a ground-breaking blockbuster and characterised the realistic adventures of a person in space. The stunning production and directing amplify the story of the inexperienced individual transforming and morphing into a strong-willed and experienced. Director Alfonso Cuaron utilised numerous shots and angles to reflect the point of view of Stone as she is discovering things. This creates suspense which is what makes the film so enjoyable as well as intellectually engaging, despite a few scientific inaccuracies. The final scenes depict the gradual adjustments to the Earth’s surface and gravity in vivid expression, mimicking the first steps of a toddler. The main character is reborn as a new and experienced person.

8. Logan (2017)

The final appearance of Hugh Jackman’s ‘The Wolverine’ is a sad and depressing portrayal of Logan’s downfall. Despite this, it is an exceptional conclusion to Logan’s story arc with plenty to whet the appetite. James Mangold delivers a worthy finale also starring Stephen Merchant, Patrick Stewart, Daphne Keen and Boyd Holbrook. This film was released and is arguably the greatest movie in the Marvel mutant movie series (i.e. films associated with the X-Men).

Plot Overview

We are introduced to Logan as a taxi driver in the distant future. We see his boring, miserable life and his alcohol and drug abuse. He is living in an old place in the middle of the desert where he takes care of Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who is an old, ailing man with ‘mutant dementia’. Logan cares for the often delusional Xavier by feeding him and giving him medicine to supress detrimental seizures which invoke such power that the blast radius renders people stationary. When this happens, Logan resists the stoppage through his mutant force and ambles to Charles to administer the medication. Caliban (Stephen Merchant) is the mutant who helps Logan take care of Charles.

A young girl, Laura (X-23 played by Daphne Keen), must be saved from operatives who wish to imprison her in the institute she escaped from. Logan helps her and narrowly escapes with Charles when they find her but loses Caliban who is kidnapped. Logan, Charles and Laura begin a road trip to a mutant sanctuary. After a violent and deadly sequence, Logan and Laura eventually reach the sanctuary but are tracked down. An enthralling chase ensues, as Logan protects the mutants from the sanctuary when his clone faces him. Logan’s substance abuse reduces his abilities to fight and heal but he soldiers on and the movie ends when he succeeds in saving them.

Short Review

This film came out in 2017 and is the epitome of conclusions. The dusty, orange tinted scenes which paint most of the film’s settings add depth and texture visually and ooze a wild-west, outlaw atmosphere. This is the third superhero movie on the list and is completely different to the other two and most movies of this genre given its 15 rating and unconventional take on a superhero/antihero.

9. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)

In my opinion, Star Wars is easily the greatest sci-fi franchise of all time. Star Wars Episode 7 revives George Lucas’s legendary universe and sparks a new age of Star Wars fans. It definitely does not disappoint and is a worthy successor to previous instalments. This 2015 film was also a box office giant with over $2 billion gross – $936 million in the US alone (a record high).

Plot Overview

The film is set after 30 years after the events of Star Wars IV: A New Hope (1977) and picks up after Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi (1983). Detached from this storyline we are introduced to Rey (Daisy Ridley), who is a lone scavenger on the planet Jakku. We see her boring daily routine which is broken by the entrance of BB8, who is a wanted droid by The First Order (opposition to the Resistance). The First Order is led by Sith lord Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and is a powerful entity. Storm Troopers are Ren’s minions, but a rogue trooper is determined to escape from The First Order. This is the character Finn (John Boyega) who is named so from his deindividuated alias as a trooper: FN-2187. Rey and Finn run into each other as they run away from The First Order, with Rey protecting BB8. After an epic aerial chase, we see them survive by the skin of their teeth.

In the absence of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and the rest of the Resistance must defeat The First Order and are bolstered by Rey and Finn who have in BB8 the information on the making on a new Death Star. The dumfounded Resistance rally together and set out a plan of attack. As the threat looms imminently, we see Solo, Rey, Finn and a few others infiltrate the new mega weapon. An enormous battle between space crafts breaks out and both of the sides inflict great damage on one another. An iconic lightsaber fight breaks out between Rey and Ren and Finn watches helplessly. Eventually the action ends, and we see the Resistance destroy the new Death Star.

Short Review

This film stood out during the decade and its reinvention of Star Wars manages to still carry the aura its classic predecessors. Every part of the movie moves action forwards and enthrals and envelops the audience in a magical atmosphere. Out of the trilogy of rebooted sequels, this is the best. The film introduces a new crop of astounding characters and actors just as previous movies had done. The story is similar to that of the original trilogy in the pursuit against the Death Star, however, this movie refreshes such a storyline. The movie incorporates many aspects to put this new generation of movies firmly on the map.

10. The Revenant (2015)

Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s triple Oscar-winning revenge tragedy stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy as hero and villain respectively. DiCaprio won his first Oscar in this movie (Best Actor) with his gritty performance as Hugh Glass. The Revenant is a 2016 film which is unique in looking into the era of Indians against Americans in the 19th century. It puts of fresh lens in showing the struggles of a group of outcasts who are pursued by Indians.

Plot Overview

Hugh Glass is a renowned frontiersmen and is the leader of his hunting crew. A town is ransacked and burnt as Glass’ wife is murdered and he is left scrambling away with his son. On a hunting trip with his son, Glass and the group are being pursued and must hide in a forest. When Glass is attacked by a bear in a gruelling, malicious encounter, Glass is severely injured and paralysed. Glass sees Fitzgerald kill his son who is half-Indian. He is distraught and incapable of doing anything. The group decide to leave Glass for dead when they give up carrying him as John Fitzgerald decides to lead the group. These event sparks Glass’ journey for revenge against the imperious John Fitzgerald who ordered his abandonment. The movie is set in the winter with frost and snow everywhere. Glass, after great hardship, manages to drag himself as he travels towards the American base where Fitzgerald and crew are heading.

On his journey, he is helped by a rogue Indian who survives by eating raw animal insides as a quick meal. When his horse falls and dies from a cliff, Glass is forced to disembowel the beast and shelter in it against the harsh winter coldness. He wakes up and escapes and, at a level of recovery whereby he is close to walking, he reaches the Americans. He recuperates briefly but is hell-bent on killing Fitzgerald who had ran away when he heard Glass was back. Glass gets a horse and rides out as a tense battle ensues. Fitzgerald sees Glass’ horse which has a decoy mounted. Fitzgerald is careful and Glass emerges. A gun fight begins until they disarm each other. A violent, bloody and brutal fist fight begins as both characters are injured. An Indian tribe aid Glass and the movie ends with Glass’ breath clouding the camera and a black screen with the sound of him breathing.

Short Review

There are so many great things about the movie. Throughout, we are told of Glass’ wife and her phrase in Native American garnering towards the strength of a tree and it staying in place in spite of almost all weather. This is one of the many moral stories and proverbs which shape the brilliant narrative. The very title ‘revenant’ is a rare word meaning ‘a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead’ which signifies yet again the rebirth of a character and their bounce back from adversity. The Best Director Oscar was deservedly awarded to Iñárritu as well as DiCaprio’s performance which was incredibly impressive and immersive.  

This list was very difficult to make as there are so many movies that deserve to be on this list.

Honorable Mentions :

The Social Network (2010), Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019), Black Panther (2018), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (2017), Green Book (2018), Lala Land (2016), Skyfall (2012), The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey (2012), The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013), Shutter Island (2011), 12 Years A Slave (2013) , Deadpoool (2016), Avengers Infinity War (2018), Captain America Civil War (2016), Captain America The Winter Soldier (2014), Avengers Assemble (2012), Big Hero 6 (2014), Frozen (2013), A Star Is Born (2018), Source Code (2011), Interstellar (2014), The Martian (2015) and many others