The best films of the decade, ranked for you to disagree with

It’s been a turbulent ten years for the entertainment industry, with the box office rankings dominated by big budget superhero movies, and new contenders emerging from the world of streaming. But which movies made a real mark in the 2010s?

WIRED’s editorial team have each picked our favourite film of the last decade, which we’ve combined with an opaque and definitely not arbitrary ranking system to come up with this definitive list. You may also enjoy our guide to the new films in 2020.

14. The Farewell

We’re not crying, you’re crying. This story of a family travelling back to China to say goodbye to their dying matriarch is an unforgettable love letter to imperfect families and their thorny secrets. An awkward, funny and endearing cast of characters, led by rapper and comedienne Awkwafina (yes, she of Saturday Night Live fame) strike a joyful balance of comedy and tragedy that avoids being soppy. True, the film deals with family politics, cultural differences between China and the US and jumps between English and Mandarin. But it avoids making light of the topics, without being too sad. If you’ve ever loved anyone, this film will leave you with the rare feeling of fulfilment (and distinct hunger for a big plate of home cooked food). Natasha Bernal

13. Wonder Woman

Perhaps calling it the best superhero movie of the past decade is a stretch, but in terms of DC’s output, it’s a vastly superior offering. Wonder Woman’s appearance – and relative success – is significant, and hopefully part of a long-lasting sea change in popular culture. That an action film with a female protagonist and which was directed by a woman could perform brilliantly at the box office is a cause for celebration, though Elizabeth Banks’ criticism that its success can be partially chalked up to being part of a larger male genre – comic book movies – isn’t wrong either. But Wonder Woman succeeded where it’s more overtly male colleagues didn’t (Man of Steel, and Batman vs Superman, we are looking at you), because they failed to celebrate their characters in an inspirational way, and that’s the charm of this film. Wonder Woman may have been corny as hell, but it showcased a character who, as well as kicking ass, was funny, tough, open, compassionate – all the things that make someone engaging in a way that Bruce Wayne’s brooding macho cynicism didn’t. WW purists weren’t thrilled at the revision of her origin story, and it was criticised for being both too feminist and not feminist enough, but the core mission of bringing peace to man’s war-torn world remained intact, and made for a fun, rewatchable outing. Mike Dent

12. Toni Erdmann

How can we convince you to watch a three hour German-Austrian film that won the critics prize at Cannes Film Festival in 2016? Maybe we can wear huge false teeth to get your attention. Or turn up at your work pretending to be a life coach named Toni Erdmann and introduce myself to your boss. Winifried Conradi (Peter Simonischek) does this and more socially excruciating pranks in an attempt to shake his uber-professional daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller) out of her straight-laced, all work and no play life. Aside from the painfully awkward but bizarrely touching central relationship, director Maren Ade gives us unbelievable scene after unbelievable scene, including her contender for the most memorable party in recent film history. Sophie Charara

11. Like Someone in Love

The first half of Like Someone in Love takes place within a single shot. A young student, working as an escort in Tokyo, argues in a dark restaurant with her pimp. He demands she see a client. As the taxi speeds to this destination, we realise she has chosen to miss a meeting with her grandmother, whom the cab passes as she shakes in the cold under the city’s shimmering blue lights. In a decade dominated by loud superhero movies, the film is a testament to what a great director can accomplish with a limited budget and keen interest in human beings. Will Bedingfield

10. The Hateful Eight

Quentin Tarantino’s 2015 oater thriller The Hateful Eight features a cast of unsavoury individuals – bandits, former Confederate soldiers, bounty hunters – stuck in a cabin in Wyoming as a snowstorm rages outside. The spectre of the American Civil War still looms large, which explains why there is plenty of hate filling the air. We gradually move from Sergio Leone to Agatha Christie, as Stetson-wearing characters start dying – murdered – one by one. Tarantino being Tarantino, the slow-burn tension eventually resolves in an orgy of bullets, bolognese-thick blood, and nooses. With The Hateful Eight Tarantino accomplishes two things in one stroke: he goes back to basics, dusting off some of his strong suits from the time when he wasn’t obsessed with revenge movies; and he steers a century-old genre – the Western film – towards a new, more cerebral, snow-covered place. A finely crafted script, strong acting, and – of course – Ennio Morricone’s score all concur to make The Hateful Eight unmissable. Gian Volpicelli

9. Avengers: Infinity War

Whatever you think of the Marvel industrial complex, you can’t deny that it’s been a defining feature of the last ten years. Endgame, the climax of “Phase Three” of the 23-film series, deftly brought together a story arc that spanned eras and galaxies – but the most iconic moment was in the first half of the saga-ending double. The movies have been accused of having homogenous paint-by-numbers plots, but few would have seen “the snap” coming – dissolving half your cast is one surefire way to get people talking. Amit Katwala

8. Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade takes you right back to those excruciating days of early adolescence – except it takes place in the altogether much more terrifying modern world where every awkward childhood moment can be prolonged, relived and broadcast to millions. Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) is a socially anxious teenager who – while being shy and withdrawn in person – produces vlogs giving life advice and always signing off with her signature phrase: “Gucci!” Painfully real but also heartwarming, Eighth Grade manage to be so sensitive and thoughtful because it takes it young star seriously, and doesn’t subject her to the cruel detachment that so much writing about young people suffers from. Matt Reynolds

7. Arrival

Arrival achieves something very rare. It’s a thoughtful, philosophical sci-fi movie with little to no action that isn’t a tedious bore. Its story of a linguist attempting to decode the language of mysterious alien visitors touches on some weighty philosophical ideas, but marries them to an emotional story that’s rewarding and relatable. Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner shine in the lead roles, while Denis Villeneuve’s direction shows a cinematic literacy all too rare in modern filmmaking. Andy Vandervell

6. Moonlight

Moonlight is an appropriate name for a film that ripples like silvery rays on water (which incidentally, is a motif flowing through this film). Inspired by the playwright’s postgraduate theatre project “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue”, the film follows a young man from Miami through three chapters of his life, titled by the nickname he assumes in each – “Little”, “Chiron” and “Black”. It navigates his childhood, his covert high-school romance with a boy in his class, and his transformation into a hulking young man, gold grills across his teeth – who despite emulating some kind of masculine ideal, is still painfully uncomfortable in his own skin. A quiet, understated, heartbreaking masterpiece. Laurie Clarke

5. Her

The premise is a ridiculous one. A lonely writer falls in love with his artificially-intelligent voice assistant, finding himself coming face to face with the question of what it means to be human. But that weird summary is the exact story that made us all cry. So many tears. Her, set in a futuristic Los Angeles where everything is bathed in a gorgeous sepia tone, is a film that’s filled with so much joy about the beauty of life, and inside the ridiculous-sounding plot line, is ultimately a story about love and humanity. Punctured with humour and a lush score from Arcade Fire, Her will go down as one of the greatest films this decade, helping to pioneer a new kind of character-driven science fiction. Alex Lee

4. Gravity

Let’s face it, 3D films were mostly rubbish. Gravity, however, wasn’t. Alfonso Cuarón’s stomach-churningly tense thriller is as much about overcoming adversity as it is a film about survival in space. A technical marvel, the soaring soundtrack and ludicrous, green-screen packed cinematography combine to create perhaps the only truly great 3D film ever made. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney add much-needed personality to this unique, very human story of survival, love and our collective humanity. James Temperton

3. Inception

Inception is Christopher Nolan at his best – a fact that was reflected in its four Oscar wins and a further four nominations. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio playing a thief who thrives by trading in stolen information. The twist? The information is extracted from people’s dreams. But DiCaprio wants to leave the criminal world behind and has the chance to get out by completing one last job. Instead of stealing dreams though, this time he is faced with the opposite problem: planting an idea into the subconscious of another person. This requires creating dreams within dreams. Matt Burgess

2. Interstellar

Christopher Nolan’s Oscar-winning sci-fi epic has just about everything you could want in a space film: robots, black holes, time-bending and incredible planets. Humanity is on the brink of extinction and Interstellar is about the race for survival. Then to top it off, it has a star studded cast: Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway’s characters are blasted into space, Michael Caine is a scientist trying to stop humanity from going extinct, and Matt Damon pops up on a frozen planet, trying to get home. The plot echoes the environmental issues we have faced this decade, and provides a look into the lengths we may have to take when our planet dies. Maria Mellor

1. Get Out

Everyone’s favourite horror producer Jason Blum famously advised Jordan Peele to change the final scenes of Get Out from an ending filled with despair to the one we got of, let’s say, incredulous, wisecracking hope. The genius is that Get Out would be a masterpiece either way. In his directing debut, fully formed auteur Peele plays with Big Current Issues of society and race with the precision and panache of a Christopher Nolan meddling with time. The result is the most original movie of the decade with a mind melting plot which follows what happens to Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a black man, when he visits his girlfriend’s white family: genuine thrills and blood spills, devastating(ly good) dialogue and a writer-director who never forgets to be funny. Social horror, more than existential sci-fi, is what the 2010s required and we didn’t know it until Get Out delivered. SC

More great stories from WIRED

🚙 SUVs are worse for the planet than anyone realised

⏲️ Science says we should work shorter hours in winter

🐘 The illegal trade of Siberian mammoth tusks revealed

🙈 I ditched Google for DuckDuckGo. Here’s why you should too

📧 How to use psychology to get people to answer your emails

Like this article?

Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on twitter
Share on Twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on Linkdin
Share on pinterest
Share on Pinterest

Leave a comment