With 2019 drawing to a close, this festive season is marking not only the end of another year, but the end of another decade. So before we travel headlong into the 2020s, what better time to reflect on the best cinematic treats that the 2010s have had to offer?
Over the last couple of months, we asked you lovely lot – the brilliant Den Of Geek readers – to help us whittle down a shortlist of some of the decade’s best movies into a definitive top 20 by voting for your favourites. We also asked you to vote for your favourite films that didn’t make our initial shortlist, too (more on those at the bottom of this article).
And you didn’t let us down. During the four weeks that the poll was open, we received a huge number of entries totalling many thousands of votes. All of those votes informed the following list of films that have hit it out of the park over the last 10 years in terms of quality, influence and cultural significance.
So, without further ado, here are Den Of Geek’s top 20 movies of the decade – in order – as voted for by you. Thanks to everyone who took part, and don’t forget to let us know your thoughts in the comments. We’ll start with number 20…
20. Get Out (2017)
The highest-ranking horror movie on this list also topped our writers’ poll to become Den Of Geek’s movie of 2017. Rightly so: it’s not only a nuanced, powerful political statement about post-Obama racism, it’s also a damn good horror movie. Daniel Kaluuya was Oscar-nominated for his role as Chris, an African-American guy visiting his white girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) seemingly woke parents for the first time in their country house. But things take a turn for the weird during a lavish garden party. Writer/director Jordan Peele won an Oscar for his original screenplay for the movie – no small achievement and one that was previously unheard of for a Blumhouse genre movie made for less than $5 million. It quickly shot Peele onto the Hollywood hot list, and his follow up, Us, was no less challenging but at the same time no less steeped in pure horror. A game-changer for the genre and an important and impressive film in its own right.
19. Drive (2011)
One of the biggest breakout hits of the early 2010s, this effortlessly cool arthouse thriller – which pitched burgeoning Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Gosling as a brooding, tough-as-nails antihero – wowed critics on its debut at the Cannes Film Festival and became more popular with mainstream audiences than its fiercely independent director, Nicolas Winding Refn, could have ever imagined. Gosling is on top form as the unnamed protagonist, a stuntman turned getaway driver who gets caught up in a heist gone wrong and ends up on a one-man mission to protect his neighbour (Carey Mulligan) and her young son from a ruthless crime lord. His iconic performance, combined with stylish visuals, a synth-heavy score and some memorably brutal action made Drive an instant cult hit. Based on the novel by James Sallis and adapted by screenwriter Hossein Amini, the project (initially tipped as a vehicle for Hugh Jackman) came to the attention of Gosling, who was then given the rare star power of being able to choose a director. It marked the start of what looked like a fruitful relationship between the actor and Refn, although it’s fair to say that the Danish helmer was uncomfortable with his sudden high profile. He willfully set out to make the pair’s next project, 2013’s Only God Forgives, about as far away from ‘Drive 2‘ as he could, and the difficult shoot and divided reception meant their professional relationship fizzled out with more of a whimper than a bang. Still, it was good while it lasted, producing in Drive one of the decade’s very best crime thrillers.
18. The Martian (2015)
Who’d have thought a movie where a bloke recycles his own poo would be nominated for seven Oscars? Ridley Scott’s smart sci-fi may have a title that evokes 1950s B-movies, though the film is anything but. Based on the novel by Andy Weir and starring Matt Damon in the lead role, it follows an astronaut stranded alone on Mars after a mission goes wrong. Sensational, but not sensationalist, it’s a surprisingly grounded study of survival, which was praised for its technical accuracy at the time of release. It’s funny, too, largely buoyed by Matt Damon’s very warm performance (he was Oscar-nominated and won a Golden Globe for his trouble). Much of the science is sound, but The Martian is at heart a human story, and we are with Damon’s Mark Watney every step of the way as he deals with his own very specific hierarchy of needs – food, water, warmth, shelter, communication and eventually escape. A beautiful film in look, feel, score and heart, The Martian joins Gravity, Arrival and more as the new generation of high-concept sci-fi that helped define the decade.
17. Skyfall (2012)
After bursting onto the scene with the brilliant Casino Royale and then failing to make an impact with its uninspired follow-up Quantum Of Solace, Daniel Craig’s James Bond was in dire need of another barnstormer to win audiences back around. He got it with Skyfall, the 23rd 007 adventure, which saw the super-spy delving deeper into his past than ever before and going head-to-head with Javier Bardem’s Silva, a vengeful former MI6 agent turned cyberterrorist. Directed by Sam Mendes and arriving a year after the film series’ 50th anniversary, Skyfall saw the franchise continuing to embrace the modern world while leaning harder into Bond nostalgia than either of Craig’s previous efforts, with several Easter egg-like throwbacks to previous films and the re-introduction of classic characters Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris). Chuck in Roger Deakins’ gorgeous cinematography and Adele’s Oscar-winning banger of a theme tune – arguably one of the franchise’s best – and you had all the ingredients for a classic 007 crowdpleaser. But the real draw was the focus on our hero’s complex relationship with Judi Dench’s mother-figure M, who was retired from the series after an 18-year stint in an emotional climax. It all paid off: Skyfall was a huge hit, becoming the first (and still only) film in the franchise to earn over $1 billion at the box office. Job done.
16. Avengers Assemble (2012)
The first proof that Marvel Studios could properly pull off a superhero team-up came in 2012, with Joss Whedon writing and directing a cinematic event that almost seems quaint by today’s post-Endgame standards. But still, let’s not forget just how amazing it was to see Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, the Hulk and Hawkeye coming together on the big screen for the first time. High-end action and Whedon-powered quips combined with grounded performances to prove that comic-book crossovers really can work in live-action form. Tom Hiddleston’s exquisitely evil turn as Loki was a vital piece of the puzzle, as well, as was the heroic sacrifice of Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson. Even though Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. brought back Coulson and Age Of Ultron failed to match up to the first film, we’ll always be able to look back at Avengers Assemble as a huge success that introduced Thanos and turned every studio in Hollywood onto the idea of shared universes.
15. The Raid (2011)
This breakout Indonesian action thriller became an international calling card for writer-director Gareth Evans (The Raid 2, Nextflix’s Apostle) and actors/fight choreographers Iko Uwais (soon to be seen in the upcoming Snake Eyes) and Yayan Ruhian (most recently seen in John Wick: Chapter 3), as well as a blistering big-screen showcase for the martial art of pencak silat. Uwais plays Rama, a rookie member of an elite police squad tasked with infiltrating an apartment block in the slums of Jakarta that’s ruled by a ruthless drug lord. But when things quickly go south and most of his team are killed, Rama has to fight his way through legions of criminals just to get out alive. A precursor to the likes of Dredd and John Wick, the story is simple but executed to perfection, with the action rarely letting up over the movie’s taut, 100-minute running time. In a film stuffed full of impressive – and very violent – dust-ups, though, The Raid is destined to be remembered for the three-way fight that sees Rama and his brother Andi (Donny Alamsyah) take on Ruhian’s terrifying Mad Dog. Intense doesn’t quite cover it.
14. Whiplash (2014)
This indie movie about jazz drumming burst onto screens and blew away audiences who thought they weren’t interested in jazz, drumming, or its stars Miles Teller and JK Simmons, who both deliver extraordinary performances. It’s a battle of wills between the ferocious teacher who drives his pupils to achieve their best through cruelty and intimidation, and the student who has to question at what price genius comes. Tense, sharp and exhausting, with a finale that includes the most exhilarating drum solo committed to the screen, this was a surprise breakout for first-time feature director Damien Chazelle, earning Oscar nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture and wins for Best Supporting Actor (JK Simmons), Sound Mixing and Editing. Chazelle went on to win Best Director for La La Land, which was also almost mistakenly given the award for Best Picture. We think Whiplash is better.
13. Deadpool (2016)
While the MCU was ruling the multiplex with bright, family-friendly fare, a Marvel movie powered by the fans was sneaking up to take on the big guns. A passion project for star Ryan Reynolds, who first played a watered-down version of the role in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the movie gained major traction after ‘leaked’ test footage found its way to audiences. They loved it, and Fox took a gamble on a rude, crude, sweary and violent R-Rated movie that broke the fourth-wall just as Deadpool is supposed to do. The fans took the merc with a mouth into their hearts to the tune of $782 million (from a $58 million budget), making Deadpool the highest-grossing X-Men movie so far (at the time). It was surpassed by Deadpool 2 in 2018, with a Deadpool 3 already on the slate. The film tells the story of Wade Wilson – a former mercenary diagnosed with terminal cancer, who accepts the offer of a nefarious experimental treatment that gives him mutant healing abilities but leaves him disfigured and still a total wise-arse. Deadpool was fast, funny and surprising, and showed studios that comic-book movies could be highly lucrative without being family-friendly. Logan followed to great critical and commercial success, and this year Joker became the first R-rated movie to pass $1 billion globally. It was surely Deadpool’s dirty gob that called them on.
12. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
The Winter Soldier was the first film that Joe and Anthony Russo directed in the MCU, and it was the second script that Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely contributed to the universe, with Marvel bringing together a creative dream team that would later deliver Civil War, Infinity War and Endgame. All their inventiveness is on show here, with Cap’s second solo outing throwing out everything we thought we knew about S.H.I.E.L.D. and focusing in on Steve Rogers’ uneasy relationship with authority. Black Widow and Nick Fury also became more fleshed-out characters here, and Anthony Mackie joined the heroic fold as Falcon. It was also the first time that Marvel noticeably tried to make a genre movie, with the murky morals and gritty action combining with Robert Redford’s two-faced Hydra/S.H.I.E.L.D. boss to capture the twisty spirit of political thrillers from the ’70s and ’80s. It was a bunch of bold decisions that paid off, basically, making The Winter Soldier the big surprising success of the MCU’s Phase 2 sequels.
11. The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013)
Martin Scorsese earned the biggest box office bucks of his career to date with The Wolf Of Wall Street, the culmination of his five-film streak working with Leonardo DiCaprio (who it’s easy to see as Marty’s modern muse, a natural successor to Robert DeNiro in that role). The film, which weirdly seemed to be embraced by the very same banking community that it was actively taking the piss out of, will long be remembered for launching the big-screen career of Margot Robbie, introducing us to Matthew McConaughey’s weird chest-beating party trick, and winning big laughs with the sequence where DiCaprio is off his tits on quaaludes. The film, the script, the direction, Leo D and Jonah Hill were all nominated for Oscars. But this is one of those great films that can scoop up prestigious awards and drown in nominations while also offering a whole lot of fun to mainstream audiences.
10. Arrival (2016)
Before Denis Villeneuve made Blade Runner 2049, he served up cerebral sci-fi with Arrival, working from a script by Eric Heisserer (that was based on a short story by Ted Chiang). Amy Adams starred as a linguist and Jeremy Renner was a physicist, and the main bulk of the film saw the pair trying to decipher the mysterious language of some visiting aliens. It’s one of those movies that makes you think, due to its sophisticated ideas about what ‘first contact’ might actually be like. These big concepts work together with stellar performances, strong visual-effects work and a powerful emotional through-line to create a film that makes a big impression and lasts long in the memory. It’s easy to see why our readers voted for it. The Academy loved it too, dishing out eight Oscar nominations and one win (for Best Sound Editing).
9. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)
Could this be the best Spider-Man film ever made? This wildly ambitious animation blew audiences away when it hit cinemas last Christmas. Seamlessly mixing a whole range of animation styles, this complicated, emotional and grown-up movie brought together Spider-Men and -Women from a range of different universes, juggling multiple characters each with a clear identity. Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) is the star, a young boy struggling with his newfound powers and responsibilities while trying not to disappoint his cop Dad – oh, and saving the multiverse, too. It was a very smart new take on Spidey (at a time when Tom Holland’s live-action webslinger is still very much in the picture) as well as offering us some lovely nods and Easter eggs to the Sam Raimi-era webhead. Spider-Verse became one of the very few animations to beat Pixar to the Best Animated Feature Film award at the Oscars – entirely deservedly. Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman, who worked with up to 140 animators, created a thing of beauty that Spidey fans from every dimension could relate to.
8. John Wick (2014)
“Yeah…I’m thinking I’m back.” Keanu Reeves made an epic return to the action genre with this bruising (and moderately budgeted) revenge tale, which seemed to come out of nowhere and ended up birthing one of the decade’s most successful new franchises. As the titular assassin who’s dragged out of retirement when a gang of mobsters break into his home, steal his car and kill his beloved dog, Reeves gave a career-best performance as he embarked on a relentless, bloodthirsty quest for vengeance. Directed by former stuntmen Chad Stahelski and David Leitch (though only Stahelski got the credit), John Wick was a brilliant and unapologetically brutal shot out of left field, wowing audiences with its clever choreography and crazy set-pieces. John Wick has not only given rise to two successful and mythology-expanding sequels (with a fourth chapter on the way), but it has also launched the directorial careers of Wick-regular Stahelski and Leitch (who moved on to Deadpool 2 and Fast & Furious spin-off Hobbs & Shaw) and has influenced numerous Hollywood offerings since with its unique brand of gritty, non-stop action.
7. Logan (2017)
The movies have certainly varied in quality, but there’s no denying that Hugh Jackman’s career-defining, nine-film (if you include that First Class cameo) tenure as Wolverine has been pretty iconic. While James Mangold’s 2013 spin-off sequel The Wolverine had its flaws, it at least showed enough promise to allow the pair to reteam for one last big-screen send-off for Jackman’s adamantium-clawed mutant. And what a send-off. Inspired by the ‘Old Man Logan’ comic arc and set in a bleak future in which most of the X-Men had been eradicated, the film – a sort-of superhero western – saw the titular hero caring for an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and fighting to save young mutant Laura (Dafne Keen) from the evil corporation that is hunting her, all while dealing with the loss of his own healing powers. Logan is as moving as it is ferocious, with the performances of the central trio all making sure that the film packs a real emotional punch – many felt Stewart especially was robbed of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, while Jackman’s final moments are absolutely devastating. A fitting end to one of cinema’s best-loved superheroes.
6. Rogue One (2016)
From a notoriously troubled production (which apparently saw director Gareth Edwards’ project shepherded to the finish line by Bourne’s Tony Gilroy) came one of the greatest Star Wars films of all time. Certainly, this is the one Star Wars movie of this decade that most people can agree on. Who would’ve thought that the Rebel mission to snare the Death Star plans, which was relegated to the opening crawl in the original Star Wars film, would end up being such a powerful and emotional story? The film’s brutal body count ensures that the stakes always feel high, despite the fact that we knew the outcome in advance, and the roster of likeable actors in interesting roles didn’t hurt either. It’s truly an embarrassment of riches, with Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Forest Whitaker, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen and Ben Mendelsohn all doing stellar work. With all of that talent and some ace action sequences to boot, it’s easy to see why Rogue One was a roaring success – even the creepy CGI versions of Tarkin and Leia couldn’t stop it from becoming a geek favourite. It was probably Darth Vader’s epic murder spree scene that sealed the deal, though, wasn’t it?
5. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
The amazing achievements of Avengers: Endgame couldn’t have happened without Avengers: Infinity War, the first part of Marvel’s epic conclusion to the cinematic version of the Infinity Saga. It’s a film that was laboured with telling the opening half of a humongous story, which makes it all the more impressive that Infinity War was pretty darn good. As well as wrangling a whole gauntlet’s worth of Infinity Stones into the right place, the Russo brothers’ first Avengers flick also managed to pack in emotional moments (like Peter Parker not wanting to go) and epic action (like the Battle of Wakanda), as well as interesting visuals (like Doctor Strange’s battle with Thanos) and epic moments that massively impacted pop culture. Lest we forget that the heart-sinking event known as ‘The Snap’ started here, with Marvel making the bold move of killing off half of the characters they’d spent years getting viewers to love. It’s a big, bold film that wowed audiences at the time, even if it left us with more questions than answers.
4. Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
Hardly anyone knew who the Guardians Of The Galaxy actually were before this film landed in 2014. The project was a risky prospect on paper – though ask James Gunn and the cast and they’ll remind you that actually, hardly anyone knew who Iron Man was in 2008 either. It was also one that showed audiences Marvel was willing to play in a more adult and irreverent field than we’d seen in the MCU so far. Sweary and silly and starring a gang of douchebag outlaws brought together by accident, GOTG took the MCU into space and to new heights. This was a movie you could watch as a standalone, drawing in viewers who didn’t necessarily want to watch the whole series. It also made a massive star and unlikely heartthrob of Chris Pratt, who was until then best known for playing schlubby Andy Dwyer in Parks And Recreation. The risk paid off, turning a tree and a talking raccoon into two of Marvel’s most beloved characters and delivering another box-office smash for Disney.
3. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
The top-voted comic-book movie on this list is the film the MCU had been building to this entire decade (and more). A giant, epic crescendo of a movie that was as devastating as it was satisfying, Endgame was less of a game-changer than a cinematic event that we can’t really imagine ever being matched or mirrored. Eleven years and 21 movies in the making, Endgame was a culmination of and something of an ending for everything that had come before, in a series that had already changed the face of cinema. And far from burning everything to the ground, instead the movie made way for a new generation of heroes. If you’re into the MCU, you’ll almost certainly have seen the film – it’s currently the highest-grossing movie of all time, so, you know, a lot of people did – and if you’re not there’s not much point trying to explain the intricacies of a plot that had been building over multiple movies. But in short, half the population of the universe have been snapped into inexistence by the mad titan Thanos, and what’s left of the Avengers are battling to bring them back. Lots at stake, then. And one of the many great things about Endgame is that there actually are consequences. Not everyone makes it to the end of the film. Those that do make it aren’t the same by the last beats of the 181-minute runtime. There are fights, yes. Massive, euphoric smackdowns and team-ups. But this is a film full of nuance, intimacy and emotion, too. Endgame is a great film, but more than that, it’s an ambitious and impressive achievement that is likely to go down as one of the defining moments of the decade.
2. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
George Miller’s long-awaited sequel to his original post-apocalyptic action trilogy traveled a long and treacherous road through development hell on its way to the big screen – one that involved financial difficulties, numerous delays and forced relocation owing to the whims of Mother Nature. But boy, the journey was worth it. Miller’s fourth outing in the Max-iverse saw Tom Hardy taking over from Mel Gibson in the title role, teaming up with Charlize Theron’s metal-armed warrior Imperator Furiosa to free a group of enslaved women from the clutches of the tyrannical – and terrifying – Immortan Joe. Fury Road is essentially one thrilling, continuous chase through the desert wastelands, containing relatively little dialogue but packed with expertly orchestrated action on an almost operatic scale, as the film’s beautifully crafted, rig-like vehicles clash spectacularly to Junkie XL’s bombastic, thunderous score. With its jaw-dropping stuntwork, eccentric characters and powerfully feminist themes, this is a genre movie striving to be something more. That the film turned out to be quite so good was one of the decade’s biggest – and most pleasant – surprises, as was its well-deserved Oscar recognition – though it sadly missed out on the Best Picture prize, it was still one of the 2016 ceremony’s most-nominated movies and took home an impressive six trophies. It’s not just one of the decade’s best movies; it’s arguably one of the best action films of all time.
1. Inception (2010)
Here’s the big one… Yep, Christopher Nolan’s ambitious, mind-bending sci-fi actioner was voted the best film of the decade – and by quite some way, too. Coming off the back of The Dark Knight, writer-director Nolan burst into the 2010s on the top of his game, following up his super successful Bat-sequel with an original and intelligent blockbuster that cemented his status as one of Hollywood’s most important filmmakers. Inception combined a stellar ensemble cast (including – deep breath – Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Marion Cotillard and Michael Caine) with a higher-than-high concept, featuring a group of professional thieves who infiltrate the subconscious of a business heir to carry out an “information heist”. The result was an epic blend of intriguing science fiction and Bond-style action set-pieces (complete with groundbreaking visual effects), in a film that challenged audiences without frustrating them. In a decade stuffed full of sequels and shared universes, Nolan wasn’t afraid to dream a little bigger – Inception’s bold vision and sheer inventiveness struck a chord with mainstream cinemagoers, earning enough at the box office ($825 million) to count among the big hitters while firmly lodging itself in pop culture’s collective consciousness.
In terms of “almost made it”, there were two films that narrowly missed out on the top 20: Pixar masterpiece Toy Story 3 (2011) and Brit success story Paddington (2014) were each within sniffing distance – in both cases, there were under 20 votes needed to cross the finish line and pip Get Out to the number 20 spot.
In terms of films that were not on our original shortlist but were suggested separately by voters, the most voted-for was Denis Villeneuve’s spectacular sci-fi sequel Blade Runner 2049 – which, in context of the full list, placed 36th overall. If you count those votes separately, these are the top 10 movies among the non-shortlisted suggestions:
1. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)2. Interstellar (2014)3. Joker (2019)4. Dredd (2012)5= Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016)5= La La Land (2016)5= Thor: Ragnarok (2017)8= Baby Driver (2017)8= The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)10. Call Me By Your Name (2017)
So there we have it. As we said at the top of the article, a big thanks to those who took the time to vote. And here’s to another decade of fantastic moviemaking!