As the decade draws to a close, I figured I would write about 10 films from the 2010’s that I thought deserved some recognition in my opinion. This could’ve been a “Top 100” to be honest and I’m sure plenty of people will disagree with my choices, but hey, it’s my list and I’m sticking to it. This is not a best/worst ranking. I listed them according to the year they were released.
- Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
- Screenplay by: Hossein Amini, based on the novel Drive (2005) by James Sallis.
- Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaac, Albert Brooks
- Budget $15M / Box office $81.4M
I think I saw Drive at least 3 times in theaters when it came out. The visuals, the story, the characters, it all just fit together perfectly. Then there was the music of course. The soundtrack featured songs from artists such as College, Desire, and the opening track “Nightcall” by Kavinsky which became a major hit. For the first time in his career, Gosling was allowed to choose the director and production designer (Beth Mickle). Apparently, he chose wisely because Refn won the award for Best Director at Cannes Film Festival (where it received a standing ovation after the screening), the National Board of Review listed it as one of the best films of 2011, and an Academy Award nomination for Best Sound Editing. Drive was one of the most-nominated films by critics’ groups that year.
FURIOUS 7 (2015)
- Director: James Wan
- Written by: Chris Morgan
- Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Jordana Brewster, Djimon Hounsou, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham
- Budget $190M / Box office $1.5B
I know, I know….I can already hear you questioning why I chose this particular movie. I’ve said this before, I wasn’t always a fan of the F&F films. However, over time, the characters grew on me and I appreciated the chemistry between them. Furious 7 was the 3rd highest-grossing film of 2015, the 9th highest-grossing film of all time, and is the highest-grossing entry in the Furious franchise. Even with all of those records, it will always be remembered as the final appearance of Paul Walker, who was killed in a vehicle crash in 2013 before filming had been completed. Production was delayed for rewrites to the script and Walker’s brothers, Caleb and Cody, were used as stand-ins for Paul’s unfinished scenes. I give credit to everyone who worked on this film for pushing forward after the tragic loss of not only a principal actor but someone who was loved by the entire cast, crew and fans around the world. It was hard not to get emotional watching the tribute to him at the ending, but I think they did it in a touching and tasteful way.
STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON (2015)
- Director: F. Gary Gray
- Screenplay by: Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff
- Story by: S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus, Andrea Berloff
- Starring: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins, Aldis Hodge, Neil Brown Jr., Paul Giamatti
- Budget $50M / Box office $201.6M
The first rapper I ever listened to was The D.O.C., thanks to my friend Christian Hernandez. I was living in Lewisville, TX and yet I had no idea that The D.O.C. was from Dallas. Even though he wasn’t an official member of N.W.A, he had writing credits on many of their songs, Eazy-E’s solo debut album Eazy-Duz-It, and many more. I was too young to really grasp the fact that N.W.A was such a groundbreaking group and that their impact on music was bigger than Hip Hop. Their story made for a great biopic, as the film was chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the top ten films of 2015 and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Most people are familiar with the names Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy-E, but you should also know why DJ Yella and MC Ren are just as important.
- Director: Ryan Coogler
- Screenplay by: Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington
- Story by: Ryan Coogler, based on characters by Sylvester Stallone
- Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Anthony Bellew, Wood Harris
- Budget $40M / Box office $173.6M
In 1976, a struggling actor named Sylvester Stallone sold his script for Rocky and convinced the producers that he should be the lead actor in what would become the highest-grossing film that year and the Oscar winner for Best Picture. 39 years and five sequels later, an up-and-coming filmmaker named Ryan Coogler co-wrote and directed this spin-off about the son of Apollo Creed. Apollo’s death in Rocky IV was an unforgettable moment, and it changed the course of Balboa’s life and career. We know what happened to Rocky in the subsequent films, but what about Apollo’s wife who watched her husband die in the ring? What happened to his trainer and loyal friend Duke who also got Rocky ready for his fight against Clubber Lang? Creed finally answered those questions and gave us a new underdog to root for.
- Director: Barry Jenkins
- Screenplay by: Barry Jenkins
- Story by: Tarell Alvin McCraney, based on his play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue
- Starring: Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Ashton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome, Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali
- Budget $4M / Box office $65.2M
I didn’t know much about Moonlight when I went to the screening. The buzz quickly spread like wildfire once it was released and awards poured in from every ceremony. Every once in a while, a movie will come along that tells a unique story, and in this case, touches on subject matter that rarely gets the kind of praise this movie received. The characters felt authentic, the story was true to life, and you left feeling like you really watched a man’s life story unfold. It was the first film with an all-black cast, the first LGBTQ-related film, and second-lowest-grossing film domestically to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Mahershala won his first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and Jenkins and McCraney also won for Best Adapted Screenplay. Several have called this one of the best films of the 21st century.
BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)
- Director: Denis Villeneuve
- Screenplay by: Hampton Francher, Michael Green
- Story by: Hampton Francher, based on characters from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
- Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Sylvia Hoeks, Mackenzie Davis, Dave Bautista
- Budget $150M / Box office $260.5M
There were a ton of films released in the 1980s that were set in a futuristic apocalyptic or dystopian world. Blade Runner (1982) wasn’t an instant success, but it later became a cult classic and is widely regarded as one of the best sci-fi movies of all time. Aside from the numerous fan theories about some of the characters and parts of the story, there are SEVEN different cuts of the film. I’m usually skeptical when it comes to revisiting old films in the form of prequels, sequels and the dreaded remakes, but 2049 is one of the rare exceptions. Visually, this film was so good that it won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects. Even if it had bombed at the box office and got trashed by critics I still would have paid to see Harrison Ford reprise his role as Rick Deckard.
FREE SOLO (2018)
- Director: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin
- Starring: Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, Jimmy Chin, Sanni McCandless
- Box office $28.6M
I remember scrolling through the selection of movies on a flight from LA a while ago and decided to check out this documentary. I had previously watched another climbing doc called The Dawn Wall (which you should also check out) about Tommy Caldwell, who is considered by many to be the best rock climber in the world. Interestingly enough, Tommy is featured in Free Solo, helping to train his friend and fellow climber Alex Honnold. Tommy is an accomplished free climber, which means using only ropes and protection against injury from falls, not to aid in the actual ascent. In 2015, he and Kevin Jorgeson completed the first free climb of the Dawn Wall of El Capitan. Alex, on the other hand, is a free solo climber, which means he does it alone, without ropes or safety harnesses. In other words, if you fall, game over. It is the most dangerous form of climbing for obvious reasons. Free Solo chronicles Alex’s quest to accomplish this incredibly difficult feat that has never been done, as well as the people in his life that support him. It won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and will give you loads of anxiety watching him make his way up with only his hands and feet.
AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019)
- Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
- Screenplay by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFreely, based on The Avengers by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
- Starring: Everyone
- Budget $356M / Box office $2.7B
Martin Scorsese may not be a fan of superhero films but hey, I am. It’s an enjoyable form of escapism with bigger than life characters that we used to only know from comic books. Apparently I’m not alone because Avengers: Endgame is now the highest-grossing film of all time. Ever. I won’t break down the specifics of the MCU because I would be writing until the end of the next decade. I chose this film because it was the end of a long line of Marvel movies that began with Iron Man in 2008. We knew it was leading up to this, but we didn’t know how much collateral damage there would be when the dust settled. I won’t spoil it if you still haven’t seen it yet, but I will say most of us were not prepared for what happens at the end of the epic rematch against Thanos and his army.
- Director: Todd Phillips
- Written by: Todd Phillips, Bradley Cooper, Emma Tillinger Koskoff
- Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy
- Budget $55M / Box office $1.1B
Batman has always been viewed as a hero. Sure there have been spin-offs and alternate storylines where Bruce Wayne has a much darker side but the average person doesn’t dig that deep. The same applies to The Joker, who most people know as the notorious Gotham City villain and nemesis of Batman. Everyone is pretty familiar with Batman’s story, and Joker’s involvement was usually a blink-and-you-miss-it moment in most cases. It wasn’t until Heath Ledger portrayed him in 2008’s The Dark Knight that fans saw someone take the character to a whole new level. He won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor after his passing which nobody could argue. Skip to 2019 and Joaquin Phoenix managed to pull off what some probably said was impossible. He gave a performance that made you see The Joker in a completely different way and he did it without ripping off any actors (including Ledger) who have played the green-haired criminal. It is now the first R-rated film to gross over a billion dollars worldwide.
UNCUT GEMS (2019)
- Director: Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie
- Written by: Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie
- Starring: Adam Sandler, Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, Kevin Garnett, Idina Menzel, Eric Bogosian
- Box office $11.5M
It might seem unfair to include a film that opened in theaters at the end of the year on a ‘best of the decade’ list, but if you’ve seen Uncut Gems, you’ll understand why. This is Adam Sandler at his best. In 2007, he starred in Reign Over Me as a man who lost his wife and daughters in the 9/11 attacks and struggles trying to cope with the loss. This was the first glimpse at his ability to star in a film where humor is almost nonexistent. The Safdie brothers offered the role to Adam back in 2009 but he declined. The part then went to Jonah Hill in 2017 before Sandler decided to accept and replaced Hill in 2018. The plot moves at a great pace and all the characters serve a purpose. Kevin Garnett stands out not only for being a foot taller than the rest of the cast, but for playing himself in way that wasn’t distracting. Julia Fox also deserves recognition for her performance of “Julia” and holding her own in some heavy scenes. The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures awarded Sandler Best Actor, and chose it as one of the Top Ten best films of 2019.