The 100 Best Movies of the 2010s

The 100 Best Movies of the 2010s

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The 2010s saw the rise of many cinematic debates—can a Netflix picture win a prestigious film award? Is a TV miniseries just another form of movie? Are comic book features actual cinema or are they, as the great Martin Scorsese calls them, just moving theme parks collecting their fill of entertainment earnings?  

We never really got to answering those questions, and perhaps we never will. But what did emerge from all the clash and conflict is a rich collection of titles that add to cinema’s legacy of diversity. There is no through-line between these movies, no one way of pinning them down—just an abundance of genres, backgrounds, and forms—and that difference makes each and every one of them all the more exciting. The 2010s are marked by incredible variety, and we’ve gathered the best of them below. 

Here’s our list of the era’s most highly-rated yet little-known movies and where to stream them online. 

50. What Maisie Knew (2012)

best

9.0

Country

United States of America

Director

David Siegel, Scott McGehee

Actors

Alexander Skarsgård, Amelia Campbell, Andrea Bordeaux, Breanna Lakatos

Moods

Depressing, Well-acted

From the producers of The Kids Are Alright comes another excellent family drama starring Juliane Moore. She plays a hot-headed rock singer who battles her divorced husband, a narcissistic art dealer, expertly played by the unlikely Steeve Coogan, for custody of her daughter Maisie. When one of them marries the girl’s nanny, the other rushes into marriage as well. Based on Henry James’ titular novel from 1897, it tells the story of a quiet, sensitive young girl coping with being used as a pawn by egotistical parents who spite each other. It is sometimes hard to watch the girl get caught up in all this but the young actress playing Maisie, Onata Aprile, plays the part brilliantly. The screenplay adaption of the ahead-of-its-time material of the book by Nancy Doyne and Carroll Cartwright also hits every note with passion. A harrowing but powerful film.

49. Ex Machina (2015)

best

9.0

Country

UK, United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Alex Garland

Actors

Alex Garland, Alicia Vikander, Chelsea Li, Claire Selby

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Thought-provoking, Thrilling

Ex Machina is the directorial debut of Alex Garland, the writer of 28 Days Later (and 28 Weeks Later). It tells the story of Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson from About Time), an IT developer who is invited by a billionaire CEO to participate in a groundbreaking experiment—administering a Turing test to a humanoid robot called Ava (Alicia Vikander). Meeting the robot with feelings of superiority at first, questions of trust and ethics soon collide with the protagonist’s personal views. While this dazzling film does not rely on them, the visual effects and the overall look-feel of Ex Machina are absolutely stunning and were rightly picked for an Academy Award. They make Ex Machina feel just as casually futuristic as the equally stylish Her and, like Joaquin Phoenix, Gleeson aka Caleb must confront the feelings he develops towards a machine, despite his full awareness that ‘she’ is just that. This is possibly as close to Kubrick as anyone got in the 21st century. Ex Machina is clever, thrilling, and packed with engaging ideas.

48. Virunga (2014)

best

9.0

Country

Congo, UK, United Kingdom

Director

Orlando von Einsiedel

Actors

André Bauma, Emmanuel de Merode, Mélanie Gouby, Orlando von Einsiedel

Moods

Instructive, Raw, Thought-provoking

Orlando von Einsiedel’s epic documentary is at once a stunning natural film, an intimate human drama, and an intense political thriller slash investigative report. The titular Virunga National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site in Eastern Congo, serves as the magnifying glass through which we witness the natural, human, and political crisis of this embattled and volatile region. There are poachers killing endangered gorillas, the bloody business of Big Oil companies, government forces fighting a myriad of militias, and, lastly, the three individuals struggling to protect Virunga and its mountain gorillas from death and destruction. The result is a snap-crackle-pop-type situation, like sitting on a powder keg. The film captures all this superbly with great editing, compelling real-life material, and gripping action. Virunga’s intensity can rival a well-made fictional thriller any day of the week.

47. About Elly (2015)

best

9.0

Country

France, Iran, United States of America

Director

Asghar Farhadi

Actors

Ahmad Mehranfar, Golshifteh Farahani, Mani Haghighi, Marila Zare'i

Moods

Dramatic, Suspenseful, Thought-provoking

Having only made its way to the US six long years after its initial release, this is the long-awaited film from the Oscar-winning director of A Separation—Asghar Farhadi. First off, for full disclosure, Farhadi does not miss and we here at A Good Movie to Watch are unabashed fans of his. At the heart of his fourth film lies a haunting mystery. A group of old friends and relatives reunite for vacation in Northern Iran with one of them bringing Elly to the group, intent on introducing her to her friend Ahmad, a divorcee visiting from Germany. It looks like everything would work out as planned when, suddenly, Elly has vanished. In the habitual Farhadi style, the unfolding mystery and poignant questions about gender and politics are helped along by a subtle script, delicate directing, and on-point performances, including from one of the most well-known Iranian actors of today, Golshifteh Farahani. In addition to being an enthralling watch, it will let you catch a glimpse of the delicate balance struck by middle-class, modern-day Iranians, caught between their own expectations and those of society and tradition.

46. The Act of Killing (2012)

9.0

Country

Denmark, Finland, Germany

Director

Christine Cynn, Female director

Actors

Adi Zulkadry, Anwar Congo, Haji Anif, Herman Koto

Moods

Dark, Depressing, Discussion-sparking

Joshua Oppenheimer’s daring feat is a documentary unlike anything ever done. Despite it being one of the most difficult things to watch for any human being (or because of it), The Act of Killing received praise across the board, including an Academy Award nomination. Without Oppenheimer’s efforts, you might have never heard of the unspeakable events that happened when, in 1965-66, Suharto overthrew the then-president of Indonesia and a gangster-led death squad killed almost a million people. Did they pay for their crimes? Quite the contrary: said gangsters went on becoming political mainstays in modern-day Indonesia, are still now heralded as heroes, and admit to all these crimes with a smile and not a hint of regret. The gruesome twist of this documentary is that Oppenheimer asks them to re-enact the killings in surreal, sadistic snuff movies inspired by the murderer’s favorite action movies. You are forced to stand idly by as they re-create brutal mass murder and joke about raping a 14-year-old. However, somewhere amidst this terrifying farce, the killers, too, have fleeting moments of realization that what they’re doing is wrong. If you make it through this in one piece, try watching its more victim-focused follow-up The Look of Silence. Bone-chilling but very powerful stuff.

45. Detachment (2012)

best

9.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Tony Kaye

Actors

Adrien Brody, Betty Kaye, Blythe Danner, Bryan Cranston

Moods

Challenging, Dark, Depressing

A very poetic film by Tony Kaye (American History X) about an English Literature teacher (Adrien Brody – “The Pianist”) who only works as a substitute in schools which are located in very poor urban areas. The reason behind his choice is that he doesn’t want to bond too much with his students and colleagues because he is trying to control his dark emotions about life and the triviality of our existences (although it sounds depressing it is absolutely not). He also takes care of his last family connection, his grandfather, to whom he is very close and who lives in an elderly home. Unsurprisingly, their relationship is very emotional and deep. Every time you think about your existence, your place in the world, your interactions with other people; watch Detachment.

44. Samsara (2012)

best

9.0

Country

Angola, Brazil, China

Director

Ron Fricke

Actors

Balinese Tari Legong Dancers, Hiroshi Ishiguro, Ni Made Megahadi Pratiwi, Olivier De Sagazan

Moods

Challenging, Mind-blowing, Original

The Sanskrit word Samsara refers to the wheel of life and roughly translates to “continuous flow”. And, indeed, Samsara takes us on an entrancing journey, chronicling the never-ending cycle of birth, life, death, and re-birth that life, big and small, goes through—at least according to the religions that were born on the Indian continent. Shot on 70mm film and utilizing computerized camera movements as well as time-lapse photography, this film by American director Ron Fricke delivers absolutely breath-taking visuals. Whether it’s awe-inspiring vastness or the close-up of a human face, its narration-less narrative integrates every aspect of human and natural life regardless of scale or location. The scope of this effort is truly awe-inspiring and the clarity of it has to be seen to be believed. An unusual and magical film!

43. Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)

best

9.0

Country

Belgium, France, Spain

Director

Abdellatif Kechiche

Actors

Adèle Exarchopoulos, Alain Duclos, Alika Del Sol, Alma Jodorowsky

Moods

Intense, Original, Thought-provoking

More simply called La Vie d’Adèle in its native language, this French coming-of-age movie was hugely successful when it came out and was probably one of the most talked-about films of the time. On the one hand, the usual puritans came to the fore, criticizing the lengthy and graphic sex scenes. On the other hand, Julie Maroh, who wrote the source material that inspired the script, denounced Franco-Tunisian filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche for directing with his d*ck, if you don’t mind me saying so, while also being an on-set tyrant. Whatever you make of this in hindsight, the only way to know is to watch this powerfully acted drama about the titular Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), and her infatuation with Emma, a free-spirited girl with blue hair, played by Léa Seydoux. The film beautifully and realistically portrays Adele’s evolution from a teenage high-school girl to a grown, confident woman. As their relationship matures, so does Adèle, and she slowly begins to outgrow her sexual and philosophical mentor. Whatever your final verdict on the controversial sex scene, Blue Is the Warmest Color is without doubt an outstanding film as are the performances from Exarchopoulos and Séydoux.

42. Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010)

best

9.0

Country

UK, United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Banksy

Actors

André, Banksy, Debora Guetta, Mr. Brainwash

Moods

Funny, Original, Smart

What happens when Banksy, one of the most famous ambassadors of street art, meets Mr. Brainwash, an egocentric aspiring French artist? Well, one of the funniest, interesting and exciting documentaries ever made about art, commercialism and the apparent gulf between them. But is it really a documentary? This confident and zany film will leave you guessing.

41. Inside Job (2010)

best

9.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Charles Ferguson

Actors

Andri Snær Magnason, Ann Curry, Barack Obama, Christine Lagarde

Moods

Instructive, Mind-blowing, Thought-provoking

This Oscar winning documentary is no standard film. Even by being beautifully crafted and having an amazing soundtrack–soundtracks are important–it does not miss its core story for a second. A delivery so good and so crisp that it will make you go “the sons of b” and “those motherf” more times than Joey from Friends got laid in 1999.

On a more serious note, Inside Job is a great and complete technical overview of the financial meltdown. I know the word “technical” scared you there, but it shouldn’t! The movie is simple, uses charts and colors for all of us who once thought figures and formulas were too complicated to understand — it even makes you go, “hey, this is not so difficult to understand. Them motherf.’ The movie is also very exciting: no spoilers but all I can say is that there are b*s trippin in there.

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