featured Film Review

Ten Years in the Making: The Best Movies of the Decade

December 30, 2019Ben MK

No year-end celebration would be complete without a look back at the year's most resonant movies. So, of course, when it comes to marking the end of a decade, we would be remiss if we were to squander an opportunity to reflect on the films that truly left their mark on us. From dystopian sci-fi thrillers to satirical comedies, the last ten years in cinema have been memorable indeed — and here are the ten best.

#1 — Parasite

A tale about South Korea's class divide, Bong Joon-ho's Parasite is a welcome addition to the director's already impressive repertoire. Using genre trappings as sociopolitical allegory, the story follows two families from opposite walks of life who enter into a series of bizarre events that irrevocably entangle their fates. Darkly funny and unmistakably chilling, the result is a must-see for fans of South Korean cinema — but its hybrid of black comedy and violent thriller is so utterly mesmerizing that it crosses language barriers.

#2 — Mad Max: Fury Road

The brainchild of co-writer/director George Miller, this third sequel in the Mad Max series plunges filmgoers headlong back into the down-and-dirty world first brought to the big screen in 1979 — albeit with a somewhat pro-feminist twist. Practically a non-stop multi-vehicle chase across endless miles of scorching desert, Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the most visceral, action-packed and balls-to-the-wall works of cinema you'll ever lay eyes on. And anyone who takes a pass on it because of gender politics is only missing out.

#3 — Jojo Rabbit

Young Jojo Betzler isn't the bravest, smartest or most athletic 10-year-old, and he's constantly being bullied by his older classmates. But when he's feeling low he knows there's one person he can always count on — his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler. Packed with ample charm and goofiness, Taika Waititi's Jojo Rabbit is a World War II film unlike any other. Hilarious yet also genuinely heartfelt in its message, the result isn't nearly as controversial as its subject matter might suggest. It is, however, as feel-good as movies get.

#4 — Blade Runner 2049

Expertly building on the 37-year legacy of Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi masterwork, while also delivering a worthy, genre-defining tale unto its own, Blade Runner 2049 is a contemplative look not just at the nature of the soul and what it means to be human, but also at the way we live our lives today. Bolstered by a higher quotient of action-packed set-pieces than its predecessor, Denis Villeneuve's dystopian vision of Los Angeles is just as philosophically-minded, making this a truly mesmerizing sci-fi spectacle with soul.

#5 — The Shape of Water

Turning genre conventions on their ear to tell an entirely different type of story, The Shape of Water isn't — as some might wrongly imagine — a tale of terror. What it is, though, is the story of what happens when two outsiders fall in love, with Guillermo del Toro using the racism, sexism and homophobia of the era to remind audiences that outsiders are not bred, but are a product of the misguided views of their society. Bolstered by a stellar cast, the result is both magical and moving.

#6 — Ex Machina

Depicting the rise of a sentient, artificial being while also attempting to deal with some of the broader ethical issues such a breakthrough implies, Alex Garland's Ex Machina blends sex, science fiction and horror into an electrifying, modern-day Frankenstein tale. Though it's tempting to think of its characters as remodelled versions of Blade Runner's Rachael, Deckard and Tyrell, stars Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac bring such psychological depth to these familiar archetypes that any comparisons quickly fade.

#7 — Nightcrawler

A darkly satirical commentary on sensationalism in the media, Nightcrawler, the debut feature from screenwriter-turned-director Dan Gilroy, is a disturbing character study that excels, thanks to Jake Gyllenhaal's unflinching and haunting portrayal of its fast-talking and well-spoken, but decidedly unhinged, lead character. Exhibiting a perpetually wide-eyed intensity, Gyllenhaal makes no attempt to court sympathy from filmgoers, and it's positively thrilling to watch him climb — both literally and figuratively — over body after body to get his way.

#8 — Snowpiercer

Rare is the film that can be all things to all people, but Snowpiercer might just be that kind of rarity. Tapping into universal themes of humanity for its story of a post-apocalyptic train ride gone off the rails, Joon-ho Bong's English-language directorial debut is a story about striking back against totalitarian oppression that starts out as a thinly-veiled allegory for the Occupy Movement — but which slowly morphs into a narrative about illusory control mechanisms, blending dark humor with futuristic surrealism and bizarre Orwellian machinations.

#9 — The Revenant

At its essence a survival-horror movie, The Revenant is unflinching in its brutality. With minimal dialogue, Leonardo DiCaprio carries most of the film with his committed performance, which also sees him nearly buried alive and swept up in raging rapids. Meanwhile, Tom Hardy chews the scenery as his trash-talking adversary. Hardy gets the lion's share of the dialogue, but it's DiCaprio's total immersion in his role that elevates Alejandro G. Iñárritu's period thriller from bare-bones storytelling to must-see masterpiece.

#10 — Get Out

Not the type of movie to dance around the elephant in the room, Jordan Peele's directorial debut tackles its subject matter head on. While other films might relegate the topic of race to the background, Get Out places it squarely at the forefront. The result isn't just a pointed social commentary that has opened the door for other woke filmmakers — it's also a prime example of the heights that can be achieved in the horror genre when directors not only strive to instill fear, but are equally fearless themselves.

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