Film & TV

The Phoenix’s Top 10 Movies of the ’10s

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The decade is finally over, and that means it’s time to take a deep breath, relax and reminisce on all the great movies produced in the last 10 years. Obviously, the next step is to ruthlessly pit all the favorites against each other, scientifically comparing and contrasting them until a perfectly ranked list of the decade’s best emerges from the ashes. 

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Joel and Ethan Coen’s finest work since “Fargo,” “Inside Llewyn Davis” places Oscar Isaac’s sardonic folk singer Llewyn Davis into a dreary portrait of 1960s Greenwich Village, where the iconic filmmaking brothers spend 110 minutes sabotaging every aspect of Llewyn’s career and personal life. Critics of the 2013 film can argue the Coens’ bleak depiction of the ’60s folk scene is a revisionist portrayal of an optimistic, fun-loving era, but the Coens view the setting how Llewyn does: another in a long line of failures belonging to a meaningless life. No other film this decade portrays depression so accurately, but the film’s true achievement is its persuasive appeal for the power of small victories.

A Ghost Story (2017)

Discussing the plot of “A Ghost Story” without spoilers is tricky, but the film’s title explains enough. The 2017 film follows a ghost and his struggles to make contact with the people he left on earth. David Lowery’s underseen, contemplative masterpiece conveys humanity’s struggles with the inevitability of time through celestial visuals and a haunting score.

IT: Chapter One (2017)

The first film in director Andy Muschietti’s two-part adaptation of Stephen King’s epic killer clown novel, “IT: Chapter One” is the closest equivalent the 2010s have to the “Nightmare on Elm Street” films. The 2017 film is a breakneck-paced slasher set in 1988 in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. Centered around four teens struggling to defeat their town’s ancient evil, a variety of grotesque digital and practical effects complement expertly shot jump scares to make “IT” one of the decade’s most entertaining horror movies.

Night Moves (2013)

Kelly Reichardt’s thriller is too reflective and somber to be accurately described as a thriller, but too tense and harrowing to fit any other genre classification. Buoyed by a career-best performance from Jesse Eisenberg, “Night Moves” follows three radical environmentalists as they plot to blow up a dam. Reichardt’s 2014 film is far more interested in the logistics of purchasing thousands of pounds of fertilizer than it is any flashy action sequences, and more than any other film this decade, her characters feel the weight of their actions.

Snowpiercer (2013)

The best sci-fi action movie of the decade, Bong Joon-Ho’s post-apocalyptic “Snowpiercer” amplifies its array of brutally effective visual metaphors by refusing to leave anything in the subtext. The 2013 film’s bombastic visuals and dramatic performances would be wasted in a subtler film, and Joon-Ho knows being explicit isn’t the same as lacking nuance. Sometimes, audiences need to be shown what’s in those government-issued nutrition rations, and “Snowpiercer” understands that.

 The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

The only directorial debut to make this list, writer-director Kelly Fremont Craig’s coming-of-age dramedy “The Edge of Seventeen” stars Hailee Steinfeld as Nadine Franklin, a sarcastic 17-year-old high school student still reeling from the loss of her father. Furnished with all the parking lot make-outs, cafeteria awkwardness and emotional shouting matches of a typical high school movie, Craig’s 2016 film uses its familiar material to explore depression and grief more delicately than most teen drama.

 Moonlight (2016)

Writer-director Barry Jenkins’ film “Moonlight” is a gorgeous exploration of sexual identity, personal responsibility and masculinity in modern America. Taking place across three distinct stages in main character Chiron Harris’s life (and using a different actor for each stage), “Moonlight” lovingly encapsulates even the harshest aspects of life as a gay man. It tells a story marked by hardships, bigotry and setbacks without minimizing the positive role models, young loves and life lessons also present. 

 Personal Shopper (2016)

Written and directed by prolific French director Olivier Assayas, “Personal Shopper” is an eerie supernatural thriller starring Kristen Stewart as Maureen Cartwright, a medium trying to make psychic contact with her dead twin brother in France. Mixing paranormal scares with unnerving interpersonal drama, Assayas’s entrancing 2017 film embodies a young woman’s search for personal agency in her own spiritual worldview.

 The American (2010)

Director Anton Corbijn’s barebones spy film “The American” stars George Clooney as Jack, a gunmaker who flees to southern Italy after surviving an attack in Sweden. Corbijn’s 2010 film, adapted from Martin Booth’s novel “A Very Private Gentleman,” is a guilt-stricken look at the morality of espionage. Clooney’s Jack is a broken man, searching for love and fulfillment even in the midst of unravelling a conspiracy to take his life. Corbijn’s film is an achievement in isolation both visual and thematic, managing to make car chases and gun battles less emotionally stimulating than the image of a single butterfly drifting toward the sky.

 The Social Network (2010)

Written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by David Fincher, “The Social Network” has only become more relevant with age. While the film’s portrayal of Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg may seem like an underestimation, Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as college-aged Zuckerberg is a fine-tuned impression and masterful inference about what made Zuckerberg the man he is today. Predicated on the callous public figure and his cunning path to the top of a social media empire, Fincher’s film looks to the past as a way of forecasting the future. With its morally bankrupt recreation of the historically prolific social media company’s origins, the film remains insightful even as Facebook has continued to grow in popularity over the last 10 years. 

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