The best films of the decade

By Lukas Vojacek

The second decade of the 21st century is over. While the famous filmmakers are getting ready their cameras for the next one, it is a good time to evaluate what was the best stuff that we could have seen in our cinemas (and on our computer screens) during the past 10 years.

The mainstream film industry actually went through a lot of dramatic changes in the 2010s. The Walt Disney Company continued its great expansion by swallowing Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox, making the conglomerate an owner of more than a third of the US movie production. Netflix and the other online streaming platforms became serious competitors to the classic cinema. And James Cameron still seems to be working on his numerous Avatar sequels. Fortunately, this decade also brought us some pretty good films. Sorry, I don’t mean Avengers, nor the new Star Wars. Let’s put the highest-grossing blockbusters aside and have a closer look at the best 10 masterpieces that provided us with the real artistic experience and made the international cinematography little bit richer once again. Have you seen all of them?

As it is nearly impossible to say, which of these movies is really the number one, they are listed chronologically by the date of their release.

1. The Social Network (2010)

One of the main characteristics of the past decade was definitely the rapid expansion of digital technology and the Social Network Sites into our everyday lives. It is quite symbolic then, that one of the greatest films of this era is about the founder of Facebook. Even though not everything shown on the screen is based on the real events, the biographical drama written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by David Fincher is absolutely stunning and gleefully exposes the background of Mark Zuckerberg’s phenomenal success.
The clever dialogues, brilliant young actors and Fincher’s meticulous direction made this piece something more than just a historical document. The professional critics were pleased too. The Social Network won three Oscars, three BAFTAs and four Golden Globes among the other awards.

2. A Separation (2011)

A married couple is faced with a difficult decision. Should they improve the life of their daughter Termeh by moving to another country or stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease? This Iranian-French drama made by the innovative writer and director Asghar Farhadi provides us with a powerful story that challenges political and social unity in the current Middle East.
As usual, Farhadi created highly-developed and believable characters and put them in the emotional situation to which everyone can relate. He also gives lots of space to a female protagonist, demolishing some Western preconception against the Muslim culture.

3. Melancholia (2011)

Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Cameron Spurr in Melancholia (2011)
Credit: IMDB

Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier, a famous enfant terrible of international cinema, received a lot of media attention in the recent years mainly because of his shocking erotic movie Nymphomaniac and also due to some of his inappropriate public comments.
These controversies little bit overshadowed his masterpiece from the beginning of the decade, psychological sci-fi thriller Melancholia. The film focuses on the tense relationship between two sisters, while a mysterious new planet threatens to collide with Earth.
Long camera takes, amazing acting performance by Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg, and the surprising climax are among many positive aspects of this remarkable project.

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

A vivid adventurous comedy takes place between the First and the Second World War in the fictional Eastern European Republic of Zubrowka and tells the story of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a luxury hotel and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. A stylish film with a starry cast, including Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Tilda Swinton and Harvey Keitel, this is full of bizarre scenes, amusing pop culture references and successfully combines the mix of genres from criminal thriller to loony parody. Perhaps the best work of American cult filmmaker Wes Anderson.

5. Son of Saul (2015)

Just be honest – how many Hungarian movies have you seen so far? If your answer is none and you would like to change that, the one you can start with is definitely Son of Saul, a war drama, co-written and directed by László Nemes. This winner of an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film is about a Jewish prisoner at Auschwitz, who is forced to work in the gas chambers. A bold author presents us with the original perspective on the Holocaust and horrifying life in the concentration camps.

6. Moonlight (2016)

Mahershala Ali and Alex R. Hibbert in Moonlight (2016)
Credit: IMDB

Another Oscar-winning American drama about racial and sexual discrimination is work of young and talented filmmaker Barry Jenkins. The moving film tells us the story of Chiron, an African-American youngster who is struggling with his identity and sexuality in the rough neighbourhood of Miami. Eventually, he finds guidance in Juan, a drug dealer, who teaches him to carve his own path. Moonlight is an amazingly accomplished movie with many uplifting and heart-breaking moments that is going to resonate inside the viewers for a very long time.

7. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

When the police in Ebbing, Missouri fails to catch the rapist and murderer of a young woman, the victim’s mother Mildred (Frances McDormand) decides to take justice into her own hands. Brilliant London-born screenwriter and director Martin McDonagh again manages to craft a fantastic cheeky movie that is funny and brutal at the same time. The plot deals in its original way with the legitimacy of vengeance and the acceptance of death. It almost resembles a tragic poem or ballad about the problems of modern society. The acting performances of McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell are outstanding. I think we can look forward to Martin’s next film without concerns.

8. Roma (2018)

Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón already has a reputation of a first-class filmmaker and pretty much all of his work could be considered as the best product that current Hollywood can offer (Children of Men, Gravity). However, his 2018 flick Roma is probably his most peculiar and intimate movie. A thrilling social drama describes one year in the life of a middle-class family’s maid in Mexico City in the early 1970s. Cuarón was inspired by his own childhood. The black and white film was shot in Spanish with a strictly unknown Mexican cast and the result is just splendid. It has a clear artistic vision, beautiful camerawork and sophisticated script.
Another interesting fact is that Roma is one of the first critically acclaimed films that was financed and distributed by Netflix. It therefore shows that online streaming platforms are most likely going to play a significant role in the future days of the international movie industry.

9. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

There are not many filmmakers in the present Hollywood that can afford to shoot more than two-hours long movies with almost no action that is not based on a popular book, nor part of a successful commercial franchise and yet, it is still superb and pleasure to watch. Quentin Tarantino is one of the few who has this magnificent ability and his latest piece with Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead roles seems like a grand finale of the director’s wonderful career. This movie is more than anything else an avid tribute to classical Hollywood cinema, when the silver screens were full of dandyish cowboys and beautiful women, and it is soaked in the charming atmosphere of sunny California in the 1960s.
The plot about an ageing television actor and his stunt double, who are trying to achieve fame in the film industry, retells the terrible history of Charles Manson murders. And as every Tarantino’s movie it obviously contains lot of violence, black humour, punchy lines, charismatic actors and a shocking twist in the end.

10. Parasite (2019)

Woo-sik Choi and So-dam Park in Gisaengchung (2019)
Credit: IMDB

One of the largest surprises of the last year is the well-deserved success of this South Korean piece, written and directed by Bong Joon Ho (Okja). The protagonist of the tale is an unemployed young man who together with his poor family ingratiate themselves in the lives of the wealthy and snobbish couple. A petty fraud nevertheless turns later into an unexpected tragedy. Parasite is an astonishing combination of witty comedy, social drama and survival horror that has a lot to tell. While the average spectator will enjoy the bloody and amusing parts, there is also plenty of information hidden under the surface for the more knowledgeable members of the audience.
Bong Joon Ho’s new hit is out now in the UK, although it lagged behind other European countries in releasing here. So, if you haven’t seen it, you definitely shouldn’t miss it.

11. What else?

There are of course many other extraordinary movies made in recent years that deserve your attention, such as Martin Scorcese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Richard Linklater’s low-budget drama Boyhood (2014), Birdman (2014), a dark comedy directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, or spectacular war film Dunkirk (2017) from Christopher Nolan. Do you have your personal favourite that we forgot to mention? Please leave us a comment below this article.