20. La La Land (2016/17)
Dir: Damien Chazelle
Described in The Film Magazine’s review as “outlandishly enjoyable and quietly devastating”, Damien Chazelle’s follow-up hit to his debut feature Whiplash was a critical and audience hit that paid fitting tribute to Hollywood’s Golden Age musicals with a mature and distinctive modern take; one that was filled with beautiful imagery and anchored by a heart-wrenching narrative twist. Featuring the ever-popular Ryan Gosling and an Oscar-winning performance from Emma Stone, La La Land was not only a decade-defining piece but was also all the proof Hollywood needed to once again embrace musicals.
19. The Tree of Life (2011)
Dir: Terrence Malick
A Palme d’Or winner from one of the industry’s most respected albeit enigmatic figures, The Tree of Life was a celebrated merging of mainstream and avante-garde storytelling techniques that all-but confirmed Malick as one of the only certifiable American auteurs of the modern age. Mixing real-life experience with existential philosophy made for an intriguing insight into the famously reclusive filmmaker and marked what many argue was a high point of the visual form under his guidance. A must-watch piece of cinematic art, The Tree of Life’s influence only grows as the years pass; this deeply beautiful and layered piece being one of the decade’s true reference points to many.
Recommended for you: Terrence Malick Films Ranked
18. Interstellar (2014)
Dir: Christopher Nolan
An exploration of outer space with a more moving and distinctly memorable exploration of inner space at the heart of the film’s narrative, Christopher Nolan reached his empathetic peak with Interstellar in 2014, his deep dive into timeless connectivity and inter-dimensional love being the sort of philosophical undertaking only Nolan’s creative and distinct visuals could do justice to.
This is a modern classic of the sci-fi genre, a must-watch and wholly important entry into the career of its world famous director and one of the most rewarding visual experiences of the decade.
Recommended for you: Christopher Nolan Films Ranked
17. Spotlight (2015/16)
Dir: Tom McCarthy
Starring a cast of incredible actors including Mark Ruffalo, a resurgent Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams to name but a few, Tom McCarthy’s Best Picture winner Spotlight very much found its strength in its phenomenal script, characterisations and performances; the true story at its heart being handled delicately and passionately to devastating, world-view-shattering effect. If there was such a thing as a category for “needed” movies, this would certainly be one.
16. 120BPM (2017)
Dir: Robin Campillo
An enthralling exploration of what it means to be alive, 120BPM was a powerful portrayal of love and politics that wrapped around you to envelope its important historical moment within the context of happiness and passion.
This film was powerful because it confronted serious issues while not backing away from the people who make up the heart of those targeted by prejudice, and Campillo’s movie is stunningly beautiful for it.
15. The Shape of Water (2018)
Dir: Guillermo Del Toro
A film that marked a pivotal moment in the career of its creative, innovative and legendary director for how it finally earned him the Best Director Oscar, The Shape of Water was a fairytale for the modern age that was quite unlike anything that had come before it despite how much it was inspired by films of decades that have since passed. For fans of Del Toro, this film was far from a surprise as a touching, visually stunning, timeless yet timely political analogy, but for some it was a final confirmation of the director’s almost incomparable talents. Despite having a cost of less than $20million, The Shape of Water looked and felt costly, a testament to the phenomenal work in every aspect of the production.
Recommended for you: Guillermo Del Toro Movies Ranked
14. Moonlight (2016)
Dir: Barry Jenkins
Moonlight is more than just the film that won the Oscar that was wrongly handed to La La Land, it was the debut of a distinct and poetic voice in American cinema, Barry Jenkins; that voice being one that was seemingly undeniable in how much love, empathy and romance it could tie into genuine societal issues.
Every inch of the screen in this low budget film radiated feeling, the score lifting it out of the screen and into the brain; Moonlight being undeniable even to the most hardened and old fashioned of Academy members and one of the most deserving Best Picture winners of the decade.
13. The Social Network (2010)
Dir: David Fincher
Perhaps one of its director’s most concise and surgical releases, The Social Network from the turn of the decade was considered at the time to be one of the most overlooked films in Oscars history, and time has only solidified that view, the film’s telling of the creation of Facebook via the story of its founder Mark Zuckerberg becoming one of the most significant releases in recent memory on the screen and off it.
Recommended for you: Feeling Blue, Facebook? – The Colour Symbolism of The Social Network
12. Carol (2015)
Dir: Todd Haynes
Intoxicating romantic cinema that will haunt and devour you, Todd Haynes’ Carol casts a spell that it’s hard to get away from; the film enticing you then moving you around until you’re no longer the same person after seeing it as you were beforehand.
Rooney Mara and particularly Cate Blanchett offer phenomenal nuanced performances, the cinematography from Edward Lachman is simply timeless and Carol is altogether unmissable.
11. Son of Saul (2015)
Dir: Nemes László
One of, if not the, directorial debuts of the decade, László Nemes’ (credited as Nemes László in the film itself) Son of Saul presents unspeakable hell with phenomenal complexity and visual otherness to produce one of the most unique movies about prisoners of war ever made. Winner of the Cannes Palme d’Or as well as the Best Foreign Language awards at the Oscars and the BAFTAs, Son of Saul was one of the most memorable films from outside of the English language we’ve seen this century.