A Decade of Filmmaking: Ranking the Best?

New Year's Eve is a great spot from which to look back over the year and evaluate the ups and downs of the previous 365 days. For filmmakers, it's a great time to take stock of the year's best of lists. When time is running out for an entire decade, this means that there is an extra special treat: best of the decade lists! Do you have favorite films from this closing decade?

If you're a filmmaker that learns by example, or if you work on your craft by standing on the shoulders of giants, then you must love the end of the year best of lists. All at once, you're given an entire summary of the year.  

More often these days, critics are taking the time to explain why they've selected certain films. When you take the time to consider these explanations, the same rationale seem to pop-up across lists. If you're looking to learn how to create a signature look, nurture a mood, develop a theme, ratchet tension / drama, or build a world, these films are where to start.

A few notes: These lists focus mostly on English language films and English language best of lists simply to make the collation simpler. I've compiled lists from traditional media giants as well as some of the more popular YouTubers who have released their lists to date. I've stayed away from genre-based lists.

I am surprised that Paddington 2 showed up so often and am happy that Interstellar did not.

Without further ado, in a rough order of how often they seem to show up across a variety of lists, the best films of the 2010s:

  • Mad Max: Fury Road,
  • Moonlight,
  • The Tree of Life,
  • The Social Network,
  • Get Out,
  • Paddington 2,
  • Before Midnight,
  • Black Panther,
  • The Master,
  • Handmaiden,
  • Inside Llewyn Davis,
  • Lady Bird,
  • Melancholia, and
  • Phantom Thread

Ralph the Movie Maker 

10. The Lighthouse

9. Nocturnal Animals

8. Mad Max: Fury Road

7. Ida

6. The Social Network

5. Shame

4. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

3. The Master

2. Drive

1. Under the Skin

The New Yorker

10. Li'l Quinquin

9. Somewhere

8. The Grand Budapest Hotel

7. Margaret

6. The Future

5. Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun

4. An Elephant Sitting Still

3. Get Out

2. Madeline's Madeline

1. The Wolf of Wall Street

IMDB

10. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

9. Avengers: Infinity War

8. Django Unchained

7. Avengers: Endgame

6. Whiplash

5. The Intouchables

4. Interstellar

3. Parasite

2. Joker

1. Inception

Esquire

10. Paddington 2

9. Moonlight

8. Handmaiden

7. The Lobster

6. Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood

5. Whiplash

4. Call Me By Your Name

3. Mad Max: Fury Road

2. Before Midnight

1. the social network

Variety

(Peter Debruge)

10. Waves

9. 12 Years a Slave

8. Beasts of the Southern Wild

7. Inside Llewyn Davis

6. Son of Saul

5. The Rider

4. I Am Love

3. Amour

2. Secret Sunshine

1. Tree of Life

(Owen Gleiberman)

10. Lady Bird

9. Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol

8. Tree of Life

7. Amour

6. Bridesmaids

5. Hell or High Water

4. Before Midnight

3. Mad Max: Fury Road

2. La La Land

1. the social network

No Film School

10. Madeline's Madeline

9. Black Panther

8. Money Ball

7. Paddington 2

6. Hereditary

5. Mad Max: Fury Road

4. Stories We Tell

3. Spotlight

2. The Tree of Life

1. Get Out

Time Magazine

In chronological order:

10. Somewhere

9. Cave of Forgotten Dreams

8. Melancholia

7. Before Midnight

6. Phoenix

5. John Wick

4. Selma

3. Moonlight

2. The Lost City of Z.

1. Roma

Vanity Fair

10. Princess Cyd

9. Weekend

8. Force Majeure

7. Eden

6. Get Out

5. Parasite

4. Melancholia

3. Dawson City: Frozen Time

2. Phantom Thread

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

Peter Travers

10. Black Panther

9. The Master

8. Zero Dark Thirty

7. 12 Years A Slave

6. Get Out

5. Boyhood

4. The Irishman

3. Moonlight

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

1. The Social Network

The Hollywood Reporter

10. The Gatekeepers

9. Mad Max: Fury Road

8. Brooklyn

7. Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood

6. Leviathan

5. The Handmaiden

4. Only Lovers Left Alive

3. Inside Llewyn Davis

2. The Social Network

1. Carlos

AV Club

10. Lady Bird

9. Phantom Thread

8. Frances Ha

7. The Florida Project

6. Moonlight

5. The Tree of Life

4. A Separation

3. The Social Network

2. The Master

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

Rotten Tomatoes

10. Eight Grade

9. Inside Out

8. Wonder Woman

7. Dunkirk

6. Moonlight

5. Mad Max: Fury Road

4. Get Out

3. BlacKKKlansman

2. Lady Bird

1. Black Panther

Vulture

10 The Florida Project

9. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

8. Margaret

7. The Fits

6. Moonlight

5. Separation

4. The Rider

3. The Tree of Life

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

1. Melancholia

Independent

10. 20th Century Women

9. You Were Never Really Here

8. Mad Mad: Fury Road

7. Paddington 2 (WHAT???)

6. American Honey

5. Inside Llewyn Davis

4. Phantom Thread

3. Get Out

2. Carol

1. Moonlight

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6 Comments

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

Personally I liked all three.
I watch movies for several reasons. Not always for sheer entertainment.
What does your list look like?

Michael Comeau's picture

WHAT?

Black Panther isn't even the best Marvel movie.

It's a great movie, but come on.

Black Panther appearing so many times? Really? When a mediocre movie like that is mentioned more time than a masterpiece like The Grand Budapest Hotel you know something is wrong with the critics...

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

I think sometimes movies can be cultural “moments”. This makes them valuable films, no?
Funny you mention GBH. It was on a lot of lists just outside the top 10.

Joel Manes's picture

Lists like this are ridiculous and a waste of time. Good luck finding 2 people agreeing on any list.

At least half of IMDB's ratings and reviews are made by corporate shills and bots.