The most defining cinematic shift of the last decade for me was the rise of the film distribution company, A24 which was founded in 2012. They are responsible for cultivating filmmakers with distinctive voices and have released some of the most exceptional cinematic achievements in history in such a short time in existence. Their track record is remarkable, and every year a handful of the most daring, accomplished films to fall into my top ten lists and honorable mentions inevitably comes from A24.
A great many of the films in my personal Best Films of the Decade list were my #1 favorite film from my past top ten lists in their respective year, but a few of them rose through the rankings over the years, surpassing other movies that I adored. All of these films, I believe, will be regarded as some of the best of their genres and I hope if you haven’t seen one of them, or casually dismissed one, that maybe this list might encourage you to reevaluate it. All films are subjective as in any art form but one thing I can be objective about is that this list will provide you with a window into my soul, and why I found each of them profoundly moving in its own way.
1. THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010, Columbia Pictures); Dir. David Fincher
A master class in filmmaking from direction, performance, story, cinematography, editing to film scoring. David Fincher delivers a film that crackles with sharp, biting dialogue to tell a true story of ambition and betrayal that will knock you flat with each and every viewing. Ten years later, this film is even more rewarding and resonant in a world where social media has permeated all our lives for better or worse.
2. FRANCES HA (2013, IFC Films); Dir. Noah Baumbach
Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s script beautifully captures the strength of female friendship and the struggles that come with navigating your 20s. We follow Frances as she stumbles through a period of her life in which she is searching for who she wants to be, and ultimately, discovers who it is she wants to become. Sometimes her blind optimism leads her to crushing disappointment when faced with the realities of life, while other times it’s breathtaking and full of hope; most notably when we watch her spontaneously dance in the New York City streets against the backdrop of David Bowie’s, “Modern Love.”
3. A GHOST STORY (2017, A24); Dir. David Lowery
A haunting & poetic film about the passage of time, our profound ties to home and the legacy we may or may not leave behind after we depart this world. It’s a cinematic journey, set against an ethereal soundtrack, which is poignant, transcendent and simply unlike anything I have ever seen before.
4. FIRST REFORMED (2018, A24); Dir. Paul Schrader
Can God forgive us for what we have done to this world? It’s a question a parishioner asks the character of Reverend Toller in this deeply thought-provoking film, causing him to be plunged into an internal struggle within his soul with what he describes as a war between hope and despair. The parallels with Schrader’s story and Ingmar Bergman’s Winter Light are inspired. Both are unflinching portraits of pastors in spiritual crisis, and astonishing examinations into the human condition.
5. EX MACHINA (2015, A24); Dir. Alex Garland
Alex Garland’s directorial debut deserves to be heralded as one of the best science fiction films not only of this decade, but of our time. The story follows Caleb Smith, a young programmer who wins a once in a lifetime chance to spend a week with his company’s CEO, the reclusive genius, Nathan Bateman. But, as the week unfolds, what was supposed to be a promising opportunity for career advancement instead becomes an unnerving examination of everything Caleb thinks he knows about himself and reality, all the while pushing us as an audience into a tailspin from fascination, to sheer dread, to utter awe.
6. END OF WATCH (2012, Open Road Films); Dir. David Ayer
This quietly affecting and gritty film chronicles two LAPD partners as they set out each day into one of the most dangerous corners of the City of Angels to face criminals, unexpected situations, and to find their way through the ins and outs of their personal lives. It’s a deeply powerful, humanistic take on genuine friendship and a palpable, thrilling and visceral experience.
7. ABOUT TIME (2013, Universal Pictures); Dir. Richard Curtis
A beautiful and heartfelt story about life, loss, and the power of family. The underlying time travel conceit is brilliantly woven throughout the film, allowing us to examine what it means to have a child, how it changes you, and how profoundly your own parents and siblings define who you are and the lengths you will go for one another. This will forever be the film I recommend to anyone that has recently had their first child or lost a parent. Its most moving message though is to embrace all the little things in life that you may not appreciate at first glance, because these are the things that make life worth living, and a film like About Time, is something to be celebrated.
8. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (2016, Amazon Studios); Dir. Kenneth Longeran
Kenneth Longeran has created a modern masterpiece, which weaves the past and present of one broken man’s story so seamlessly that it actually feels as if your heart is breaking when a past unspeakable tragedy is revealed. Casey Affleck delivers the performance of a generation, supported by a cast that is just as miraculous, funny and moving. This film is exquisitely written and so stunning in its subtlety that it takes your breath away.
9. GET OUT (2017, Universal Pictures); Dir. Jordan Peele
Jordan Peele crafted a brilliant social commentary, equal parts terrifying, chill inducing, clever and mind-blowing. I fell even more in love with this film when I unlocked all the thoughtful mysteries and easter eggs within its superb, tightly constructed script. This movie is one for the ages. It’s immensely satisfying, and will leave you with indelible images that you never would expect to be so unnerving – from a mysterious auction, to an unplugged mobile phone, to the stuffing from a chair.
10. NIGHTCRAWLER (2014, Open Road Films); Dir. Dan Gilroy
The streets of Los Angeles, superbly photographed by cinematographer, Robert Elswit, provide the nocturnal backdrop to this spectacular psychological thriller. It chronicles the rise of freelance cameraman, Louis Bloom, who recklessly races around LA to be the first at a crime scene so he can record the mayhem and sell the footage to local news stations. Jake Gyllenhaal is absolutely mesmerizing playing Bloom as a morally bankrupt soul with a blink free stare.
LOOPER (2012, TriStar Pictures); Dir. Rian Johnson
TOY STORY 3 (2010, Walt Disney Studios); Dir. Lee Unkrich
SHOPLIFTERS (2018, Magnolia Pictures); Dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda
HEREDITARY (2018, A24); Dir. Ari Aster
PARASITE (2019, CJ Entertainment); Dir. Bong Joon-ho
DRIVE (2011, Film District); Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn
IT FOLLOWS (2014, Radius); Dir. David Robert Mitchell
INSIDE OUT (2015, Walt Disney Studios); Dir. Pete Docter
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015, Warner Bros.); Dir. George Miller