Following our ranking of the best television shows from the past decade, today we are going over our selections for the top movies from the 2010s. Most films from the list are from the first half of the decade.
10. The Social Network (2010)
Of course, The Social Network is not a 100% factual documentary, but the David Fincher film (screenplay by Aaron Sorkin) is still incredibly fascinating as it dives into the start and rise of Facebook under now-billionaire Mark Zuckerberg—and, while the memorable and easily-quotable dialogue is probably slightly over-the-top, the story is regarded as largely accurate. In 2010, when the movie was released, Facebook was worth under $50 billion; a decade later, the social-media giant is worth over $500 billion; but the film is timeless. The Social Network ranges from funny to emotional in one of the best dramas in history, and Jessie Eisenberg as Zuckerberg and Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin are as good as it gets.
9. Django Unchained (2012)
Jamie Foxx (Django) and Christoph Waltz (Dr. King Schultz) star in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, and the longtime director delivers quite the adventure in a pre-Civil War in the South. Both Foxx and Waltz (along with Kerry Washington as Django’s long-lost wife Hildi and Samuel L. Jackson as the loyal servant Stephen, among others) were excellent, but things really pick up when Leonardo DiCaprio makes a rare appearance as a villain, playing plantation owner Calvin Candie to perfection. Django made over $425 million at the box office, the most of any Tarantino film.
8. Moneyball (2011)
The Fighter (along with a few other films starring Christian Bale, including the recently released Ford v Ferrari) and Warrior are among the sports films that could have made the cut for best movies from the past decade, but Moneyball is tough to top. Brad Pitt was arguably robbed of an Oscar win while playing Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, and Jonah Hill had a strong performance complementing him as Peter Brand. Beane delivers valuable lessons in leadership, while the film gives an inside look at how things work in the big leagues, from trade negotiations to sending a player down the minor leagues—specifically for a salary-deficient team that utilizes analytics (and now basically every team uses analytics in some form).
7. Prisoners (2013)
The movie is led by Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, but all of the acting is crazy good in Prisoners—from top to bottom, perhaps the best acting of any film from the decade. The subject matter is somewhat disturbing and might be hard to get through for some viewers, but it is a realistic story where the lines are blurred between heroes and villains, and the fine line is more than crossed when trying to bring two families back together. An overarching theme of the film is “how far is too far?” when seeking justice and attempting to obtain information.
6. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
One of the wildest films in history, The Wolf of Wall Street earned its R rating with a record number of f-bombs and a relentless pace that doesn’t get boring for its three-hour runtime—but the cursing and craziness is not what makes the film one of the best of the 2010s, as it was true to the life of Jordan Belfort and his brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont. Leonard DiCaprio (as Belfort) and Jonah Hill (as Donnie Azoff) lead a deep cast that also includes an appearance from Matthew McConaughey, but Margot Robbie exceeded expectations in her breakout performance as Naomi Lapaglia alongside DiCaprio, quickly becoming one of the world’s biggest stars in the last several years of the decade.
5. Interstellar (2014)
Critics were lower on Interstellar, but most fans enjoyed the space drama starring Matthew McConaughey. Like every film on this list, the casting is exceptional, with Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, Wes Bentley, and Casey Affleck—along with perhaps the best cameo appearance of the decade with Matt Damon as Mann—all complementing McConaughey’s heartbreaking performance. It can get confusing and somewhat unrealistic according to some (it’s hard to say when no human has actually been to where they go in the film), but the consensus is that Interstellar should be alongside 2001: A Space Odyssey as the best “realistic” sci-fi films in history.
4. The Irishman (2019)
Until now, every movie listed was from 2014 or earlier, so we do not believe this is recency bias for the next two films from this year. Shutter Island (2010) arguably could have joined the list, too, but The Irishman is ranked with The Wolf of Wall Street as two Martin Scorsese films among the best of the decade. Despite a runtime of a whopping 210 minutes, The Irishman does not feel slow or dragging on like you just want to get through it, and it’s awesome to have Robert De Niro (Frank Sheeran) and Joe Pesci (Russell Bufalino) together for perhaps the last time, with Al Pacino—who was outstanding as Jimmy Hoffa—working with Scorsese for the first (and perhaps last) time. As you would expect from Scorsese, the attention to detail is fantastic, with a perfect and deep cast for a true story that plays out over decades.
3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)
Like Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino gets two of his three movies from the 2010s on our list of the best movies of the decade. And like The Irishman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is currently getting some criticism from people that thought it was too long, boring, or pointless—but Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, set in the eventful year of 1969 and around the Manson murders, has been praised for being the most “mature” of Tarantino’s films, and the combo of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt (seen as a near lock to win his first Oscar as an actor) as Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth is the best duo in a movie in some time. It’s a fun ride throughout, ranging from drama to comedy to suspense, but things really pickup in the action-packed final 30 minutes.
2. Inception (2010)
The script for Inception took Christopher Nolan nearly ten years to complete, and it shows in the quality of the 2010 classic. Incredibly complex yet not a chore to keep up with everything, Nolan makes Inception feel infinite with limitless possibilities as he dives deep into the human mind and dreams within dreams. The layered story is masterfully executed by a sensational ensemble led by Leonardo DiCaprio (Cobb) and Marion Cottillard (Mal) fully explaining things and diving deeper into the backstory with flashback scenes. There are not enough good heist films today, but Inception packages a heist into a mind-bending, action-filled thriller with one of the best movie endings in history.
1. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
He benefited from being able to take on Batman starting in the previous decade, but Christopher Nolan gets three films among our top ten from the 2010s, as the finale to his take on the Caped Crusader stuck the landing with a movie that somehow lives up to the standard previously set in Batman Begins and (especially) The Dark Knight, with—after a completion of the final scene from the predecessor in the form of a brief prologue—The Dark Knight Rises picking up several years later in a Gotham City made better by Batman taking blame for the death of Harvey Dent in the previous chapter of the saga. Redemption, rebirth, truth, and justice are among the themes and influences in TDKR, and Christian Bale kills it as an unretired Batman, combatting a formidable physical presence in Bane (Tom Hardy), who is immediately introduced in an ambitious opening scene. The final couple of scenes are a rollercoaster of emotions, as the epic trilogy gets a fitting and chill-inducing conclusion.