Bob’s Top Ten of the 2010s

12 Jan

Top ten lists are difficult. I both love and hate making them. I started this with the idea of making a list of what I felt were the 10 best movies of the 2010s or tenteens or whatever we call the decade that just ended. That was excruciatingly difficult but that wasn’t the problem really. The problem was that it felt impersonal somehow. I asked Tyler if I could do a list of favorites instead which he happily agreed to. It was still hard to make and there’s certainly some overlap here but it made it feel like a personal list that I am much happier with. I came to the realization too that, “Wow! I really love big ensemble casts.” It also means that no one can tell me that I’m wrong because I can say, “It’s not a best list, it’s favorites! Ha!” Of course you can tell me that I’m wrong but whether you agree or not, I hope you enjoy reading it. So here we go.


I really liked “the eighth film from Quentin Tarantino” when I first saw it but it’s grown into love over the past 4 years and that love only continues to grow. A massive snow storm in Wyoming forces bounty hunter “The Hangman” John Ruth (Kurt Russell) to seek shelter with his bounty (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Reluctantly he allows a fellow bounty hunter (Samuel L. Jackson) and a man who may or may not be a nearby town’s new sheriff (Walton Goggins) into his carriage on their way to Minnie’s Haberdashery. Once there they are holed up with a group of strangers who Ruth doesn’t trust for a second.

The majority of the film takes place in a confined space where these devious characters tell stories as they size one another up. It features the kind of absorbing, often darkly hilarious dialogue Tarantino is famous for and gives wonderful actors an opportunity to elevate the writing even higher. Everyone is excellent here but Goggins is particularly fun as the kind of character who says things like, “Well, cut my legs off and call me Shorty!” The musical score by Ennio Morricone is easily my favorite this decade and it finally earned him his first long overdue Oscar. Ol’ Mary Todd is calling, so I guess it must be time for number 9.

9. THE WORLD’S END (2013)

The final film of the Cornetto Trilogy (following Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) is clearly the most personal for writers Wright and Simon Pegg. What begins as a pub crawl between a group of five long estranged friends ends with a robopocalypse. From the very first time we meet Pegg as Gary King we see all of his sadness, pain, and devilishness summed up in a single facial expression. Pegg is hilariously funny by playing the awful reality of the character’s alcoholism and inability to move past the age of 18. Gary is at once the film’s protagonist and antagonist and Pegg’s performance shows us every facet of him. We understand why despite his many terrible qualities his former friends come once again to view him as their leader although they also view him as utterly pathetic. Few actors are capable of playing someone so layered but Pegg makes it look easy. 

The World’s End also boasts an excellent supporting cast, most notably Nick Frost in his best performance. This is an outstanding film on every level of production. It’s very funny while never sacrificing character development or storytelling for the sake of a gag and there is not one moment in it that doesn’t entertain. Wright really never has directed a dull frame, which is an underrated accomplishment.

8. DUNKIRK (2017)

With its lean running time of just 106 minutes, Dunkirk is unrelenting in its intensity. Instead of being “epic” in scale and length, the film tells smaller personal stories about British combatants and civilians alike on a massive 70mm IMAX canvas. Splitting his film into three portions (land, sea, and air), Nolan uses non-linear storytelling to maximize the emotional effect. This extraordinary piece of filmmaking is one of the more unique war films ever made and possibly Nolan’s best work to date.


Despite having a general trust of Marvel given how good the vast majority of their films had been, there was still the concern that this would be too big for its own good somehow. That with so many characters involved and the expectation of the largest battle we have yet seen in one of these movies, that Avengers: Infinity War could end up an ultimately numbing behemoth of a movie. Add that to the sense that this is the payoff to everything that came before it and the filmmakers were facing a gargantuan- and historically unique- task.

At two and a half hours and featuring upwards of twenty major characters, Avengers: Infinity War almost miraculously avoids feeling clunky or overblown at any point. By all rights, it should collapse under its own weight with so many parallel story lines running at once. Instead, thanks to the character development that had been done so well in the previous films, the Russo brothers are able to balance everything masterfully. Taking degree of difficulty into account, Avengers: Infinity War absolutely would have warranted a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

6. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)

Speaking of well-deserved Best Picture nominations, George Miller’s fourth entry in the Mad Max series earned just that. In a decade with its share of jaw-dropping action films (Mission: Impossible – Fallout, The Raid, the John Wick series), Fury Road is the most artistic and emotionally involving of them all. Miller’s extraordinary vision is executed beautifully through exceptional stunt work and mind-blowing practical effects. The story is a simple one but that doesn’t make it any less effective and Miller tells it with essentially a 2 hour long desert chase. It’s nothing short of a masterpiece but I also seriously enjoy the fact that a movie with a character named the Doof Warrior who plays an electric guitar in a red onesie was nominated for Best Picture.

5. BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)

In the couple of years since its release and after a few viewings it’s become undeniable to me that this is a superior film to its 1982 predecessor. In terms of story, character development, and emotional connection (Roy Batty aside), Blade Runner 2049 is significantly stronger while continuing to develop the astonishingly detailed world masterfully created in the original film. Rather than pushing nostalgia, 2049 pushes forward and even gets us to the point where the question of whether or not Deckard is a replicant doesn’t really matter anymore. Blade Runner 2049 asks different questions and this is a movie that will be re-watched and discussed for years to come. It’s a discussion I will love being a part of.


With a tight, clever script by Taylor Sheridan and direction by David Mackenzie that is stylistic without calling attention to itself, Hell or High Water is a movie that examines the nature of responsibility and what price we are willing to pay for giving our families a better life, while managing to do it in a wildly entertaining and enthralling way. Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, and Gil Birmingham all give excellent performances as characters we care about in a dying, forgotten part of America. All of the correct emotional buttons are pressed in the right ways in a film that never puts a foot wrong.


When I first saw this in the theater I was impressed by the performances and the sense of atmosphere created by Tomas Alfredson but I felt as though the story was muddled. Something about it stuck with me though and two weeks later I went to see it again and I couldn’t have loved it more.

Based upon John le Carre’s 1974 novel, this slow burn story of an MI-6 mole hunt during an especially fascinating period of the Cold War took up residence in my head and stayed there. George Smiley (Gary Oldman in certainly his most reserved and arguably greatest performance) and others of his generation who have been on the Cold War’s front lines since its beginning are being pushed out by a younger generation with different ideas of how to deal with the Soviet threat. The already murky waters are muddied even further creating an internal mistrust in the ranks of MI-6. This has allowed a double agent to operate under their noses and it’s up to Smiley to figure out who it is.

Boasting an incredible ensemble cast, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a movie that benefits greatly from time and one that rewards repeat viewings. Give this one another look if it’s been awhile. 


Far and away Anderson’s most ambitious film to date in terms of its scope and it may just have the highest laughs per minute ratio of any of his movies. For all of Anderson’s beautiful window dressing there is a wonderfully entertaining story here with all of the heart that his naysayers accuse his movies of lacking. It’s a rare thing when an artistic triumph can make you laugh as hard and as often as this one does. That’s special.


There is not a lackluster frame here. I hadn’t felt so enthralled by any film to come out in several years and now several years later it remains my favorite of the decade. Despite its 2 hour and 18 minute running time it never for a moment felt long and I did not want it to end. It’s not often that I want a movie to just keep going simply to spend more time with it. Combining an infectious sense of fun with the energy and flair of Scorsese at his best, Russell has crafted a movie that could have gotten away from even a very good director. Russell displays his greatness by focusing on what really matters. He gets the audience invested in this complex story by focusing on its complex characters.

Russell and Eric Warren Singer’s script declares up front that, “Some of this actually happened,” and it is the perfect way to set up this film’s sense of humor and storytelling style. As sharp as can be and often hilarious, the writing provides a remarkable canvas for its cast to paint on. Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jeremy Renner not only bring their A+ games individually, they play off of each other with a rare electricity. The intricacies of the relationships between these characters are played so perfectly and there is wonderful subtlety beneath the surface of these energetic performances. Everyone here plays their parts both broad and subtle and the results couldn’t be better, though if there is a single MVP it’s Adams. Playing a deeply complex character who is in fact herself playing a deeply complex character, she is extraordinary, demonstrating once again why she is the actor of the decade.

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