Cinema, ‘like fashion, is never finished’. We applauded like thunder, yawned like hippos, condemned with wrath – for better or worse, the 2010s have changed movies forever.
The return to a galaxy far, far away; a Sunday drive down Fury Road; the idea to ‘bring together a group of remarkable people’ – for generations old and new, the decade has had no shortage of eternal cultural moments.
We’ve endured the greatest paradigm shift the industry has ever experienced, from the rise (and fall) of shared universes to the atomic levelling of Netflix. Who knows what worlds we’ll travel to by 2030 – as technology ascends, the idea of cinema being an essential escape is ingrained in progress.
Take stock of your tears, fears and cheers: these are the top 100 films of the decade.
A mind-bending phantasmagoria that sees a career-best Nicholas Cage tackle a cult in neon-smothered hell.
A beautiful daymare that certifies Ari Aster as cinema’s next great master of horror.
Scrub away your memories of the Robocop remake with this deliciously violent cult favourite – it’s directed with bone-breaking, head-splatting moxie.
97. Son of Saul
An unshakeably harrowing cinematic experience beyond the human notion of mercy.
96. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Tarantino’s penultimate film is pure movie magic; a beautifully crafted, deliriously cathartic sonnet to Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Feig’s A-class, feisty women shattered the glass ceiling with this uproarious, dirty, ultimately kind-hearted romp.
94. The Florida Project
A gorgeous, sublime social insight into parental poverty and the remarkable ability of a child to make any kingdom magic.
93. The Avengers
The trend-setter, the original, the one that changed the superhero game forever. Smaller in scale, but plentiful in sheer joy.
92. A Separation
It’s the acting that makes A Separation so tangible – in their missteps and honour, we’re fully engaged.
Cinema doesn’t get much prettier than this – a devine, inspiring vision of Mexico’s cultural richness.
An immensely hyper-bloody feast – pure video game entertainment and a chant-worthy aptitude for dynamite visuals.
89. We Need To Talk About Kevin
Lynne Ramsay channels trauma and disquieting inhibitions, providing a truly horrific drama you can’t look away from.
A 17-shot satirical daydream, both hyperrealistic and increasingly surreal as the dated star at the story’s core takes flight.
A.I. has never been as soulful than in Her, Spike Jonze’s poignant look at a future not too far from our present.
Brie Larson took home the Oscar for her role in this heart-rending mother-son drama, emotionally-charged from the first frame.
85. Inside Llewyn Davis
A real treat from the Coens – superbly staged and engrossing with a winning, musical turn from Oscar Isaac.
If nothing else, it’s the most beautiful Bond film ever made, thanks to Roger Deakins’ devastating cinematography.
Villeneuve’s third appearance on this list takes us to the heart of the US-Mexico border’s twisted underbelly, on both sides of the fence.
82. Captain Phillips
A mental game of cat-and-mouse between Captain and Pirate keeps you in its grasp in Paul Greengrass’s maddening true story.
81. Private Life
An impressive showcase of grounded, authentic performances. Delicate, really quite funny and built around the empathy of fertility uncertainty.
80. It Follows
Come for Disasterpiece’s Carpenter-esque mastery of synth, stay for a creepily current, hugely effective ghost story.
A sleeper hit from 2013, now celebrated online – for the viewer, one big train is the world, and the fact it hits close to home is a testament to Bong Joon-ho.
78. 12 Years A Slave
The harrowing, remarkable story of Solomon Northup is brought to life with Steve McQueen’s stark Best Picture winner.
A brilliant piece of cinema that requires a certain level of patience to endure. Disgusting, pretentious, anxiety-inducing, breathlessly bold and unforgettable.
76. End of Watch
David Ayer’s first-person ride-along packs a gritty, f*ck-filled punch. However, the real success is how real it all feels.
Jake Gyllenhaal takes us to the root of darkness; a twinkly moonlit world ran by blood, a man driven by an insatiable need for power.
Jon Favreau’s infectiously feel-good film earns a spot for its perennial ability to make you need a grilled cheese.
Sorkin’s script leans more on sustenance than quickfire appeal to create a smart, entertaining sporting drama with a great Pitt performance.
72. The Cabin in the Woods
The Evil Dead elements are delightful in their own right – it’s when The Cabin in the Woods cuts loose into something much, much different that you’ll find a new drug.
71. John Wick
The first film of the series and still the best; the Keanussaince started with this canine-revenge tale you can’t help but chant for.
70. Guardians of the Galaxy
The MCU’s little miracle; a nigh-on completely unknown superhero team are now a household name thanks to James Gunn’s triumphant effort.
69. I, Daniel Blake
It’ll leave you whimpering, but I, Daniel Blake is more than a film – it’s a politically furious outcry.
68. Lady Bird
Gleeful, touching and outstandingly crafted, Greta Gerwig’s debut coming-of-age film is an all-timer.
67. Apollo 11
Places you in the orbit of mankind’s giant leap as an omniscient spectator – minimal hand-holding, no narration. Brilliant.
66. Gone Girl
The fact that Rosamund Pike didn’t take home the Oscar for her mesmerising, shocking turn here should be a federal crime.
65. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
A jolt of nostalgia unlike anything I’ve ever experienced – Star Wars‘ return to the big screen was event cinema at its best.
64. First Man
What First Man does best of all, and most importantly, is inspire pure awe.
63. The Tree of Life
One of the most powerful cinematic experiences humanity can relish – unparalleled in the intimacy of its ginormity.
62. A Star Is Born
Bradley Cooper managed to land a masterpiece on his first go. You could say, a star is born.
The superhero genre gets the found-footage treatment in Josh Trank’s extremely well-done origin story of good versus evil.
60. Phantom Thread
With the fabulously performed Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson fashioned an expertly crafted, sadist period fantasy.
59. Call Me By Your Name
A relishing, bravura showcase of true love, Call Me By Your Name was the wistfully romantic showstopper of 2017.
58. The Big Short
Adam McKay’s entry into the dramatic arena is financial, immoral ecstasy. Line it up.
57. About Time
Its saccharine rom-com body is a vessel for a genuine tear-jerker, with Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams making for an effortless pair.
56. Inside Out
Are there six other words that make you want to cry as much as: ‘Take her to the moon for me?’
Nolan’s wormhole space epic takes you on a breathtaking journey – with a hair-raising organ score from Hans Zimmer.
54. A Ghost Story
A thoroughly bizarre but touching parable on grief. Beautifully observed from start to finish – like a tragic poem come to life.
53. Ex Machina
Unnerving and transfixing, Ex Machina is a not-so-futuristic morality tale with a real nasty edge and magnificent visual effects.
52. Hunt For The Wilderpeople
It’s not just the cheekiness, or Sam Neill’s grumpy oaf – Taika Waititi’s ‘gangsta’ film has a ginormous amount of unadulterated spirit.
51. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Fallout is a blockbuster beyond the standard pedigree – an absolutely triumphant feast of a stunt-strong action movie.
50. Four Lions
Who knew a film about a group of wannabe suicide bombers could be so hysterical? The destination is bleak, but the journey is (mostly) joyous.
49. Blue Valentine
Quite simply, the most heart-breaking portrayal of the boy-meets-girl story to ever see the screen.
48. The Act of Killing
A bizarre documentary that flies horrifyingly close to the sun – a truly shuddering portrait of evil without remorse.
47. The Babadook
The real impact of The Babadook lies in the days, months and years it pervades your imagination, irregularly but firmly.
Crestfallen and deliciously rabid – a Wolverine movie so pure, so poignant, the world doesn’t actually deserve it.
A cinematic tour-de-force that shows the horror of war lies more in its thunder than the blood.
44. Avengers: Infinity War
Audaciously epic and gargantuan in scale, it’s a devastating, historic spectacle (emphasis on devastating).
43. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Scott Pilgrim operates on a different plane of visual existence: the flow between the grounded and zany is, in every sense of the word, inventive.
42. Game Night
Hectic, hilarious, blood-soaked pooch mayhem better than any game of Jenga.
41. Avengers: Endgame
A galvanising conclusion to more than 10 years of movies so massive that it knocked Cameron’s Avatar off the throne. A spectacular, truly once-in-a-lifetime epic. Avengers, dismissed.
40. The Martian
When in doubt, Ridley Scott science’d the shit out of it – Damon’s yet-another-stranded-man tale puts the Starman into survival.
39. Ad Astra
Toxic masculinity, daddy issues and mankind’s battle with existentialism make up the poetry of James Gray’s magnificent, beautiful space odyssey.
38. Get Out
A wicked, imperative horror satire that showcased Jordan Peele’s film-making gusto – don’t Get Out, get in.
A mesmerising, incendiary portrait of villainy. Brutal, unforgiving and extraordinarily led by Phoenix, Joker is an absolute triumph.
36. Hell or High Water
A somber and gripping neo-Western, built upon loyalty and the blurred lines of righteousness.
35. The Guest
Adam Wingard’s underappreciated, 80s-inspired pulp thriller is a simmering pot of intrigue and mayhem with a killer vibe.
Filmed over 12 years, to call this an epic would be an understatement; rather, it is life in all its glory, mediocrity and shame.
33. Kill List
Both an innately chilling thriller and eerie study of British hitmen, Kill List‘s aura is all-consuming right to its mental end. You won’t see it coming.
A dazzlingly delicate love story: two women tangled in class and taboo, brought to life by Todd Haynes’ sumptuous flair and Carter Burwell’s wonderful music.
As a hyperreal look at a close encounter’s effect on global cooperation, it’s strong. As a heart-wrenching allegory for grief’s debilitating grasp, it’s stunning.
30. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
Beautiful, hilarious, enthralling, inspiring; everything Spidey stands for and more. Masterpiece.
An incendiary, essential movie for a dangerous time. Say what you want about the film, but the crux of it is this – Spike Lee is furious, and you should be too.
28. Eighth Grade
Bo Burnham gave audiences a vivid, genuine glimpse at today’s flossing, dabbing, snapchatting, and crucially, struggling teens. A really, really amazing film.
A journalistic heist film injected with raw adrenaline – a day-by-day account of Snowden’s earth-shattering bombshell. A scandal to some, a victory to others.
26. The Wolf of Wall Street
Scorsese takes a swaggering DiCaprio on a filthy, potty-mouthed, white-nosed, absolutely exhilarating exercise in indulgence. Villainy at its most seductive.
25. The Master
Utterly fascinating from Paul Thomas Anderson’s first frame – sensationally performed also, the world isn’t the same without Phil Seymour Hoffman.
24. The Old Man & the Gun
A unreserved, mellow tribute to a gentleman’s wistful love affair for crime that soothes the soul.
An outstandingly horrifying achievement from a debut filmmaker, Hereditary is a classic in the making, built on rock-solid, terrifying, atmospheric terror.
22. Paddington 2
Bottled happiness: there is simply no other film on the planet that makes people feel as sweet as Paddington 2.
Its charming humility is a guise for how f*cking awesome Kick-Ass really is: one only needs look at the film’s late ‘strobe’ sequence to see the epitome of superhero action.
20. Under The Skin
The nightmarish awe of Under The Skin is its hidden weapon: as Scarlett Johansson’s seductress collects tongue-waggling Scotsmen, fleeting moments of humour are distilled by genuine unease. At times beautiful, at others dumbfounding, you simply can’t turn away.
19. You Were Never Really Here
A visceral knockout from Lynne Ramsay. The excess is stripped but the violence is sore: a very personal tale of redemption (or the lack thereof) in a suffocating world.
A midnight movie reverie with an ultraviolent lick – it takes pleasure in hitting you like a bloody boot to the face, but also swoops you off your feet with its angelic elegance.
17. Zero Dark Thirty
Kathryn Bigelow’s comprehensive report of the Osama Bin Laden saga is her best film: an emphatic procedural with its feet on the ground.
16. The Irishman
An impeccable, near-perfect epic: Scorsese’s defining masterpiece of the millennium.
A life-changing blockbuster: the jaws of one’s imagination stay dropped after Nolan’s dream-chasing extravaganza latches its hooks.
14. La La Land
An impressively crafted, moving take on the MGM musicals of old, equipped with toe-tappers and weepies. I am unashamedly, and unconditionally, in love with La La Land.
Moonlight is nothing short of perfection. Tackling each chapter with a compelling, frightless gravitas, it’s insightful and impeccable. A landmark film for the ages.
12. The Shape of Water
A dramatic, gorgeous parable on forbidden love and acceptance, with the strangeness of a B-movie horror and the swooning delights of a fairytale – The Shape of Water is why people go to the movies.
11. Before Midnight
The final chapter in cinema’s greatest trilogy, Jesse and Celine’s climactic outing is a devout letter to love at its bittersweet brink.
A visual effects spectacular and space tourism’s most terrifying deterrent: both an intense physical and emotional rollercoaster in orbit.
A hardline, heart-choking account of journos-in-action, told with pathos and respect, earning its chilling resonance as the credits roll.
An exposé with titanic stopping power. Tilikum’s plight is disturbing and unforgettable – which is exactly what the nature capitalists needed.
7. Blade Runner 2049
Not just the pinnacle of cinematic beauty, but an impeccably-realised sci-fi neo-noir more than worthy of the 35-year wait.
Dread permeates Villeneuve’s magnum opus – an hard-boiled, grim whodunnit that takes distressing turns to show just how depraved a desperate person can be.
5. The Raid 2
The most astounding fight cinematography ever filmed fills an old-school warring mobs saga – balletic and brutal, Gareth Evans is the artist of violence.
An anxiously-staged cage match of relentless, sweary torment and musical wills, Whiplash is a mighty, virtuoso psychological thriller.
The underdog story has never been better; a rousing, enrapturing beast of a fighting flick. Muscular in every sense of the word; it packs a real tear-flooding punch too.
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
George Miller’s miraculous return to the post-apocalyptic wasteland is a pedal-to-the-metal cacophony of carnage. Junkie XL’s stirring score, unstoppable momentum, absolutely unreal stunt work – in the simplest of terms, it’s a beautiful monster.
1. The Social Network
‘You’re gonna go through life thinking girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.’
With this breathtakingly scathing incel-tailored put-down, and the switch from The White Stripes’ Ball and Biscuit to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s haunting score, The Social Network begins.
It was 2010’s improbable miracle: in chronicling the inception of the decade’s most prolific website, the film-making prowess is wicked and impeccable from beginning-to-end.
The delicious darkness of Fincher and ultra-lightning of Sorkin’s writing combine to make a film quite unlike any other: with background Tom Clancy shooters and gel-tipped peacock hair-dos, it’s a modern period piece, but its illustration of arrogance, ingenuity, friendship and corruption captures a magnetic, thrillingly contemporary snapshot.
The whole thing has a cocaine-momentum: the composing duo’s electric composition is an all-timer as experienced with ‘In Motion’; Sorkin cauterises wild, frenzied tangents mid-chatter and orchestrates near-terrifying monologues via the vessel of Jesse Eisenberg’s alien performance as Mark Zuckerberg (‘Do I have your full attention?’) and Andrew Garfield’s Eduardo Saverin, the emotional soul of the biopic.
Fincher imbues an almost dirty sense of revolution as their triumphant timeline escalates.
It is the defining film of an era shook to the core, for better or worse, by Facebook: a cautious celebration of unmistakeable intelligence but wary look at how our need to ‘be cool’ throws decency to the wind. It’s the paradox of social media: in our digitalisation of real life, people are driven apart rather than together.
A masterpiece of untouchable calibre – the best film of the decade.
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After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BCTJ-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He’s now left his Scottish homelands and took up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.