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Best of the 2010s

Best of the 2010s

Here are the best films that premiered in the 2010s according to our writers. As with all lists, criteria and guidelines should be made transparent. Keeping it simple, I asked contributors to submit a ranked ballot of ten movies. Entirely optional, they could also write a commentary to accompany their list. Each movie earned points according to their position on the ballot (ten for first place, nine for second, eight for third…). Where there were two titles given for a slot, I split the point in half amongst the movies selected. If there were more than two, I canceled the point completely. In one instance, I counted an installation made up of three videos (Philippe Grandrieux’s “Unrest” trilogy) as a single entry. In another, I allowed a film from the 2000s (Parapalos), since it received a theatrical release in the following decade.   


  1. The Turin Horse (Bela Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky, 2011)
  2. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, Anonymous, and Chrstine Cynn, 2012)
  3. Hard to Be a God (Aleksey German, 2013)
  4. [Two-way tie] Holy Motors (Leo Carax, 2012)
    Horse Money (Pedro Costa, 2014)
  5. Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard, 2014)
  6. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
  7. [Five-way tie] Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
    Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011)
    Tabu (Miguel Gomes, 2012)
    White Out, Black In (Adirley Queirós, 2015)
    A Woman’s Revenge (Rita Azevedo Gomes, 2012),
  8. [Three-way tie] La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)
    Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel, 2012)
    My Joy (Sergei Loznitsa, 2010)
  9. The Image Book (Jean-Luc Godard, 2018)
  10. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)


Forrest Cardamenis

“Closed Curtain” (Jafar Panahi and Kambuzia Partovi)

  1. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
  2. Closed Curtain (Jafar Panahi and Kambuzia Partovi, 2013)
  3. Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel, 2012)
  4. Horse Money (Pedro Costa, 2014)
  5. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013)
  6. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)
  7. Drift (Helena Wittman, 2017)
  8. La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)
  9. Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, 2010)
  10. Almayer’s Folly (Chantal Akerman, 2011)

Ten years reduced to a mere ten films, perhaps a single percentage point of all eligible contenders that I saw, is difficult. I could just as easily compile a second list of ten entirely different films with which I would be just as happy (to name a few: Hard to Be a God, The Assassin, Stray Dogs, 24 Frames, Happy Hour, and Manakamana). Comparing shorts against features, however, is herculean, and I excluded them here only because I know I have not adequately explored that world. Still, to name some favorites: Daïchi Saïto’s “Engram of Returning,” Takashi Makino’s “On Generation and Corruption,” Sylvia Schedelbauer’s “Sea of Vapors,” Tomonari Nishikawa’s “Ten Mornings Ten Evenings and One Horizon,” James Benning’s “L. Cohen,” Jodie Mack’s “Something Between Us,” Jacqueline Goss and Jenny Perlin’s “The Measures,” Tsai Ming-liang’s “Journey to the West,” Peter Tscherkassky’s “The Exquisite Corpus,” and Charles-André Coderre’s “Granular Film-Beirut.” 

When making a decade list, one is also inclined to summarize the decade, either based on the submitted list or the longlist of considered titles. I might say that Japan is clearly a leader in avant-garde shorts, or from my longlist of features that Asia still holds the crown. But such pronouncements tend to reflect and reinforce a viewer’s habits and sensibilities, so let me instead challenge mine with some observations: I did not seriously consider any African film for this list, so I should make a point to read about and watch more African films; the same is true of Indian cinemas; genre films are absent from my list, so I should examine my assumptions in what I think the cinema can and should do; women are relatively scarce in my longlist, and non-white women scarcer. As for the summations of the decade’s cinema, I’ll leave those for a time when I can view it with clearer eyes.

Henri de Corinth

“Dream Enclosure” (Sandy Ding)

  1. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
  2. My Joy (Sergei Loznitsa, 2010)
  3. House of Tolerance (Bertrand Bonello, 2011)
  4. “Unrest” sequence (Philippe Grandrieux, 2012–2017)
  5. “Dream Enclosure” (Sandy Ding, 2014)
  6. “La part de l’ombre” (Olivier Smolders, 2014)
  7. Évolution (Lucile Hadzihalilovic, 2015)
  8. “Burning Mountains That Spew Flame” (Samuel M. Delgado and Helena Girón, 2016)
  9. “Altiplano” (Malena Szlam, 2018)
  10. Sophia Antipolis (Virgil Vernier, 2018)

Santiago Gonzales Cragnolino

“White Out, Black In” (Adirley Queirós)

  1. Romancing in Thin Air (Johnnie To, 2012)
  2. Goodbye to Language (Jean Luc Godard, 2014)
  3. White Out, Black In (Adirley Queirós, 2015)
  4. The Ballad Of Genesis and Lady Jaye (Marie Losier, 2011)
  5. Tokyo Tribe (Sion Sono, 2014)
  6. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)
  7. Stand By for Tape Back-Up (Ross Sutherland, 2015)
  8. Mambo Cool (Chris Gude, 2013)
  9. El hombre de paso piedra (Martín Farina, 2015)
  10. The Impossible Picture (Sandra Wollner, 2016)

Romancing in Thin Air is the greatest masterpiece of classical filmmaking from the most underrated master in current cinema. Goodbye to Language is the greatest masterpiece of modern filmmaking, an old master still breaking ground like none of his younger disciples. White Out, Black InMambo Cool, and El hombre de paso piedra, lead the way for independent Latin-American cinematography — at once rigorous, playful, poetical, and political. The Ballad Of Genesis and Lady Jaye speaks of our present times with such originality. As Genesis and Lady Jaye discover and mutate their identities, so too does the film in a really joyous manner. Tokyo Tribe is the work of a true one-of-a-kind, demented yet absolutely precise auteur. The Master is a grandiose piece of American cinema and one of the greatest collaborations/competitions between two actors (and a director) I’ve ever seen. Stand By for Tape Back-Up is a film made by somebody who doesn’t belong in cinema (the work of a literal poet), and his film is all the better for it, because Sutherland has a beautiful understanding of the power of moving images and our relationship with mass culture. The Impossible Picture is one of the best debuts I’ve seen in a long time. Really looking forward to what comes next from Wollner as we enter this new decade.

Flavia Dima

“Right Now, Wrong Then” (Hong Sang-soo)

  1. La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018)
  2. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, Anonymous, and Chrstine Cynn, 2012)
  3. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016)
  4. The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu (Andrei Ujica, 2010)
  5. Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa, 2019)
  6. The Turin Horse (Bela Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky, 2011)
  7. Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2014)
  8. Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong Sang-soo, 2015)
  9. The Image Book (Jean-Luc Godard, 2018)
  10. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, 2012)

Special mention: Twin Peaks: The Return (David Lynch, 2017)


Steve Erickson

“Office” (Johnnie To)

  1. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
  2. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016)
  3. Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)
  4. Bloody Beans (Narimane Mari, 2013)
  5. Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel, 2012)
  6. Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello, 2016)
  7. “Señorita” (Ian Pons Jewell, 2015)
  8. Office (Johnnie To, 2015)
  9. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)
  10. The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2015)

Over the past decade, the place that cinema used to occupy at the center of American culture has been replaced by a more general turn towards image-making that doesn’t distinguish between video games, feature films, TV shows, and YouTube videos. The “death of cinema” theorized by Jean-Luc Godard and Serge Daney looms over recent films as different as Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019), The Irishman (2019), and The Image Book (2018). The view of the movie theater as a sacred space of quasi-religious communion has been tarnished. Is there anything exalted about paying $15 to see a documentary made for TV (and whose style frequently suffers from it) on a small screen with a tiny audience in a theater? How is this more communal than the widespread discussion of The Irishman online that took place once it premiered on Netflix? The #MeToo movement has made clear the amount of sexual abuse upon which the film industry has been based, but at least it offers the possibility that “the future is female” can be something more than a t-shirt slogan.

The hope that blogs and social media would allow exciting new voices to emerge was betrayed. Instead, the alt-weekly circuit that nurtured and published some of America’s best film writing is now nearly dead. To be sure, there are benefits to the decline of gatekeepers’ power, especially in allowing feminist, queer, and/or minority voices to be heard, but the pull towards clickbait, even in “progressive” media, has been hard to resist. American film culture grew so resistant to subtitles, hand in hand with our politics’ “build a wall” mentality, that the commercial success of Parasite (2019) feels like a flashback to the early 2000s. 

Films like Get Out (2017) and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), which combined political urgency, formal invention, and the ability to please wide audiences, were unicorns this decade. Hong Sang-soo built up a body of work that was more impressive than any individual film, eventually finding a steady but small audience, but even he did so by branding himself: his films essentially take place in the HSS Cinematic Universe. If the future of week-long runs in movie theaters looks pessimistic, especially for independent cinema outside big cities, it’s time to embrace a broader idea of what cinema can be, embracing the fragmentary and epic, the art gallery and VOD.


Patrick Gamble

“Stray Dogs” (Tsai Ming-liang)

  1. Stray Dogs (Tsai Ming-liang, 2013)
  2. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013)
  3. Hard to Be a God (Aleksey German, 2013)
  4. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, Anonymous, and Chrstine Cynn, 2012)
  5. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011)
  6. O.J.: Made in America (Ezra Edelman, 2016)
  7. Song of Granite (Pat Collins, 2017)
  8. Old Dog (Pema Tseden, 2011)
  9. Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)
  10. Ray & Liz (Richard Billingham, 2018)

Carmen Gray

“Aurora” (Cristi Puiu)

  1. The Turin Horse (Bela Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky, 2011)
  2. Story of My Death (Albert Serra, 2013)
  3. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, Anonymous, and Chrstine Cynn, 2012)
  4. Aurora (Cristi Puiu, 2010)
  5. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)
  6. Stranger By the Lake (Alain Guiraudie, 2013)
  7. Kate Plays Christine (Robert Greene, 2016)
  8. You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay, 2017)
  9. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)
  10. Ex Libris: The New York Public Library (Frederick Wiseman, 2017)

Jaime Grijalba

“It’s Such a Beautiful Day” (Don Hertzfeldt)

  1. Homeland: Iraq Year Zero (Abbas Fahdel, 2015)
  2. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, Anonymous, and Chrstine Cynn, 2012)
  3. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2012)
  4. Silence (Martin Scorsese, 2016)
  5. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)
  6. Roma (Alfonso Cuarón, 2018)
  7. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (Don Hertzfeldt, 2012)
  8. The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino, 2015)
  9. Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky 2010)
  10. Her (Spike Jonze, 2013)

Victor Guimarães

“Zama” (Lucrecia Martel)

  1. “Pude ver un puma” (Eduardo Williams, 2011) 
  2. The Turin Horse (Bela Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky, 2011)
  3. “The Pushcarts Leave Eternity Street” (Ken Jacobs, 2011) 
  4. “Bicicletas de Nhanderú” (Patrícia Ferreira and Ariel Ortega, 2011) 
  5. A Woman’s Revenge (Rita Azevedo Gomes, 2012) 
  6. “Mille soleils” (Mati Diop, 2013) 
  7. Hard to Be a God (Aleksey German, 2013) 
  8. Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard, 2014) 
  9. Zama (Lucrecia Martel, 2017) 
  10. Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa, 2019)

This is not my ideal list. This is a snapshot of my cinephilia as it has been in the past decade, with its many gaps and flaws. This is a portrait of my taste and my cinematic beliefs as I think they are right now, so I can look at them in the future and try to be different. In any case, these are the films that made my heart beat faster. They made me return and watch them again. Each time, my body trembled in a different way and my mind expanded in a different direction. And then they haunted me. They compelled me to read, to write, to program, to follow the work of their directors, or to just live with the impact of their energy. These films made me think of what cinema is and, more importantly, what cinema can be.

Wilfred Okiche

“Moonlight” (Barry Jenkins)

  1. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016)
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
  3. Inxeba (John Trengove, 2017)
  4. Gone Girl (David Fincher, 2014)
  5. I Am Not a Witch (Rungano Nyoni, 2017)
  6. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (Bob Perischetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman, 2018)
  7. ’76 (Izu Ojukwu, 2016)
  8. Selma (Ava DuVernay, 2014)
  9. Atlantics (Mati Diop, 2019)
  10. Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)

Raju Roychowdhury

“A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence” (Roy Andersson)

  1. The Turin Horse (Bela Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky, 2011)
  2. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012) 
  3. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Roy Andersson, 2014) 
  4. Slack Bay (Bruno Dumont, 2016) 
  5. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011) 
  6. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
  7. Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011) 
  8. Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard, 2014) 
  9. The River (Emir Baigazin, 2018) 
  10. La flor (Mariano Llinás, 2018) 

Lucía Salas

“A Woman’s Revenge” (Rita Azevedo Gomes)

  1. Sip’ohi: El lugar del manduré (Sebastián Lingiardi, 2011)
  2. A Woman’s Revenge (Rita Azevedo Gomes, 2012)
  3. Road to Nowhere (Monte Hellman, 2010)
  4. White Out, Black In (Adirley Queirós, 2015)
  5. Parapalos (Ana Poliak, a film from 2004 that had its release in Buenos Aires eight years after its first festival screening, in 2012)
  6. Deux Rémi, deux (Pierre Leon, 2015)
  7. “List” (Hong Sang-soo, 2011)
  8. What Now? Remind Me (Joaquim Pinto, 2013)
  9. Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke, 2015)
  10. Como me da la gana II (Ignacio Agüero, 2016)

Hamed Sarrafi

“My Joy” (Sergei Loznitsa)

  1. The Clock (Christian Marclay, 2010)
  2. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
  3. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)
  4. Son of Saul (László Nemes, 2015)
  5. Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)
  6. Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel, 2012)
  7. My Joy (Sergei Loznitsa, 2010)
  8. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011)
  9. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011), Twin Peaks: The Return (David Lynch, 2017), The Knick (Steven Soderbergh, 2014–15), Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015), The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010), Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013), Force Majeure (Ruben Östland,  Arabian Nights (Miguel Gomes, 2015), The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012), Carlos (Olivier Assayas, 2010), La flor (Mariano, Llinás, 2018), Sieranevada (Cristi Puiu, 2016), Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010), Zama (Lucrecia Martel, 2017), All Is Lost (J.C. Chandor, 2013), Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan, 2017), Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, 2013), The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson, 2015), and… 

It’s always difficult selecting the best movies I saw each year. This personal task is even more complicated and heartbreaking when choosing your best for best-of-the-decade lists. Anyway, for the 2010s, I picked movies that are profoundly ambitious, stay with me emotionally, alter my perspective, add something new to the art and grammar of cinema, or remain forever on my mind.

James Slaymaker

“Communists” (Jean-Marie Straub)

  1. The Image Book (Jean-Luc Godard, 2018)
  2. 24 Frames (Abbas Kiarostami, 2017) 
  3. The Halt (Lav Diaz, 2019) 
  4. Mysteries of Lisbon (Raúl Ruiz, 2010)
  5. Communists (Jean-Marie Straub, 2014)
  6. Beauty Lives in Freedom (Wang Bing, 2018)
  7. The Last of the Unjust (Claude Lanzmann, 2013)
  8. The Other Side of the Wind (Orson Welles, 2018) 
  9. Horse Money (Pedro Costa, 2014) 
  10. Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke, 2015) 

Tanner Tafelski

“Hard to Be a God” (Aleksey German)

  1. Hard to Be a God (Aleksey German, 2013)
  2. ‘Til Madness Do Us Part (Wang Bing, 2013)
  3. Horse Money (Pedro Costa, 2014)
  4. Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard, 2014)
  5. The Immigrant (James Gray, 2013)
  6. Welcome to New York (Abel Ferrara, 2014)
  7. On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong Sang-soo, 2017)
  8. “Traces” (Scott Stark, 2012)
  9. Homeland: Iraq Year Zero (Abbas Fahdel, 2015)
  10. Évolution (Lucile Hadzihalilovic, 2015)

Scout Tafoya

“Certain Women” (Kelly Reichardt)

  1. Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt, 2016)
  2. Black Mother (Khalik Allah, 2018)
  3. Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick, 2015)
  4. Hard to Be a God (Aleksey German, 2013)
  5. Dormant Beauty (Marco Bellocchio, 2012)
  6. Greenery Will Bloom Again (Ermanno Olmi, 2014)
  7. Holy Motors (Leo Carax, 2012)
  8. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Guy Ritchie, 2011)
  9. You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (Alain Resnais, 2012)
  10. House of Tolerance (Bertrand Bonello, 2011)

Irina Trocan

“The Pearl Button” (Patricio Guzmán)

  1. Tabu (Miguel Gomes, 2012)
  2. Carlos (Olivier Assayas, 2010)
  3. Us (Jordan Peele, 2019)
  4. Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh, 2014)
  5. Elle (Paul Verhoeven, 2016)
  6. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013)
  7. The Missing Picture (Rithy Panh, 2013)
  8. The Pearl Button (Patricio Guzmán, 2015)
  9. Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2015)
  10. On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong Sang-soo, 2017)

The films in my list are all notable works that I would wholeheartedly defend today, though as full disclosure, the 2010s have also coincided with my first full decade as a film critic and my twenties. After ten quite likely unrepeatable years of watching films and reviewing them for days and nights with much more enthusiasm and energy than I can currently muster for recent releases, it’s been a challenge to bring down the list to merely ten. In order to get some coherence and have the list communicate beyond my random preferences, there is some bias towards better-known films, at least within the more intelligent/auteur-centric mainstream output or in the arthouse circuit. Looking back, I’m happy to say it has been an exciting decade, if inevitably plagued by overproduction and fomo-ish overconsumption, and it took a while to clear the clutter before coming up with a shortlist of films I actually loved. So long, 2010s, and in many ways, good riddance.

Pawel Wieszczecinski

“Eldorado XXI” (Salomé Lamas)

  1. Horse Money (Pedro Costa, 2014)
  2. Tangerine (Sean Baker, 2015)
  3. The Irishman (Martin Scorsese, 2019)
  4. Eldorado XXI (Salomé Lamas, 2016)
  5. The Day After (Hong Sang-soo, 2017)
  6. Tabu (Miguel Gomes, 2012)
  7. The Rider (Chloé Zhao, 2017)
  8. Us (Jordan Peele, 2019) and Viola (Matias Piñeiro, 2012)
  9. Araby (Affonso Uchoa and Joãoa Dumans, 2017) and The Tribe (Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi, 2014)
  10. Werewolf (Ashley McKenzie, 2016)


Top image: Rita Azevedo Gomes’ A Woman’s Revenge 

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