Simon Ong’s Top Ten Movies of the 2010s

by Simon Ong

As promised, here’s my top ten for the entire decade. I kept things a little more brief this time around as the end of the 2010s snuck up on me a little bit. Since 2010, amid distractions like graduating middle school, high school, and college, I took 408 trips to the movie theater; including films I watched at home, I’ve seen a total of 581 films released in the recently concluded decade. These are the ten best.

10. Roma

Written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón

A stunning and personal portrait of life in 1970s Mexico City, writer-director-cinematographer Alfonso Cuarón proves that black-and-white can be far more vivid than color, and Yalitza Aparicio delivers one of the finest performances from a previously unknown actress. See my review of it in my best-of-2018 list here.

9. The Tree of Life

Written and directed by Terrence Malick

A grand epic about faith and family, Terrence Malick expertly weaves a story that exists both on the largest of stages, from the inception of the universe to the dawn of life, to the smallest and most personal; a boy growing up in the suburban American south.

8. Nathan for You: Finding Frances

Directed by Nathan Fielder

This may be a controversial choice as it is technically a feature-length television finale, but Nathan for You: Finding Frances is one of the most compelling and subversive character studies of subjects real of fictional told this decade — and it’s positively hilarious to boot.

7. Your Name.

Written and directed by Makoto Shinkai

The finest animated film to come out of this decade is also one of the strangest. Your Name is an emotional roller coaster of a film that deserves to be seen far more widely by American audiences, beautiful in its story and its animation.

6. Parasite

Directed by Bong Joon-ho, screenplay by Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won

My full thoughts on Parasite are available in my 2019 Top Ten published yesterday, but the film stakes its place out on this list as well, serving as one of the most sobering, yet entertaining, statements on the class divide common in societies across the globe.

5. Birdman

Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, screenplay by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., and Armando Bo

Come for the unflinching direction by Alejandro G. Iñárritu and cinematography of Emmanual Lubezki as they take you through most of the film in one shot, but stay for Michael Keaton delivering the performance of his career in this film about fame, ego, and the pursuit of artistic fulfillment. 

4. Inside Llewyn Davis

Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

One of the Coen Brothers’ most somber films, Oscar Isaac is terrific as struggling folk-singer Llewyn Davis as he navigates a gray and hazy New York. Full of great music and subdued-humor, Inside Llewyn Davis delights while also breaking your heart as Llewyn is haunted by his failures, personal and professional.

3. The Shape of Water

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, screenplay by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor

An unconventional but beautiful love story, Guillermo del Toro’s unique style is on full display with the art direction and creature-design standing out especially. Of note above all else is the fantastic and convincing performance given by Sally Hawkins who so effortlessly slips into a roll that could so easily have come across as silly.

2. La La Land

Written and directed by Damien Chazelle

I can already hear people angrily reacting to this choice, but I’m afraid I must live my truth: La La Land is still just an incredibly joyful, occasionally very moving film. Almost every song is an earworm, the cinematography glows, and Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are sublime. I don’t want to hear it; La La Land rules.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

Directed by George Miller, screenplay by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nico Lathouris

Mad Max: Fury Road is the best movie of the decade — and it’s not particularly close. I don’t think there’s any other film this decade as impressive on a technical level, seamlessly integrating practical and computer-generated effects, with a massive set of custom-made vehicles. Mad Max creator George Miller is clearly drawing upon everything he’s learned over the course of his career to make this film work, and the amount of discipline on display is clear. Despite the cult-classic status of the previous three Mad Max films, Tom Hardy surpasses Mel Gibson to give us the definitive version of Max Rockatansky, and Charlize Theron arguably outshines her co-star as Imperator Furiosa, proving a welcome addition to the franchise. Beyond that, it’s just a mind-bogglingly fun thrill ride that instantly ingrained itself into the cultural psyche and earns the title of best film of the decade.