Top 10 Best Pictures Of The 2010s

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With the decade nearing an end, it’s always interesting to take a look back at the history of cinema’s biggest award, and the ten films awarded Best Picture. While often controversial and disputed, these films will live on for a long, long time. So, here is my ranking for the top 10 Best Pictures of the 2010s.


10. The King’s Speech (2010)

The King’s Speech was the first Best Picture winner of the decade, and the second British winner in just three years, following Slumdog Millionaire’s win in 2008. However, while it proved hugely popular upon release, it’s far from the Academy’s boldest even pick for Best Picture.

The story of the reluctant ascension of King George VI to the throne in 1936, and his work with a speech therapist to overcome a debilitating stammer, the film has its moments, most notably a nail-biting and deeply powerful finale as the film concludes with the King’s address to the nation upon the outbreak of World War Two.

With that said, however, it’s a film that, to this day, feels like traditional and rather simple Oscar bait. Despite an excellent lead turn from Colin Firth (who won Best Actor for the role),  it’s a rather dry film that’s never really able to impart a strong historical signficance or strong emotion throughout, instead plugging along with a rather simple and generic biopic formula. It’s not a terrible film by any means, but certainly the decade’s least memorable winner.

Read a full review here.


9. Argo (2012)

Fighting off stiff competition from all directions, director Ben Affleck’s period thriller Argo is an enthralling and incredibly tense piece, following the story of the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979.

With a wide range of top-quality performances, as well as an excellent screenplay that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout, there’s no denying the strength of Argo in hooking you onto its story and keeping you there all the way through. And on top of that, its fascinating historical setting in the middle of the Iranian Revolution makes for riveting viewing.

With all that said, and while it’s an undeniably exciting watch, Argo has never been a film that’s really stood out in my mind as a real classic. While its screenplay works wonders for building tension, it never stands out as the most striking or cinematic thriller, and in comparison to some of its competition in 2012 – most notably the mesmerising Life Of Pi – it’s always seemed like one of the Academy’s stranger choices of the decade.

Read a full review here.


8. Green Book (2018)

Dubbed by many as the worst Best Picture winner since the ever-controversial Crash, it’s fair to say that Green Book‘s place as the very best film of 2018 is under serious contention, something that’s largely owed to its admittedly simplistic story and themes.

And while that’s a very vaild reason for why it shouldn’t have won Best Picture, I’ve still never been entirely able to hate on Green Book, simply because it’s such a nice, enjoyable movie. With two fun lead performances from Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, a good sense of humour, and a pleasantly traditional road trip vibe, it is a film that made me smile. It may be a little basic, but not every film has to change the world, and that’s why Green Book is still thoroughly worth the watch if you want something a little easier from the decade’s Best Picture catalogue.

With all that said, the title ‘Best Picture’ carries a lot of weight after 91 years, and for a film that takes what is undeniably a very basic and generic approach to its key theme of racism, it seems strange to be acclaimed as the very best film of the year. There’s nothing about Green Book that’s particularly special, and in comparison to some of this list’s more impressive entries, its worthiness as a Best Picture is certainly up for debate.

Read a full review here.


7. Moonlight (2016)

Pretty much as different to Green Book as is possible, director Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight is without a doubt one of the 2010s’ most unique and memorable Best Picture winners – a small yet emotionally astonishing piece that took the 2016 awards season by storm.

The story of three periods in the life of a man as he grows from childhood through adolescence and then into young adulthood, there’s a deep intimacy to Moonlight that’s so rare in Best Picture winners, with a small yet incredible cast that craft an electrifying and almost perfect coming-of-age story as young Chiron tries to find his place in the world.

With beautiful direction from Barry Jenkins that’s furthered by incredible cinematography, the film is a powerful and mesmerising watch, with an astonishing opening act that’s followed by a mind-blowing second vignette. Its only weakness? A final act that doesn’t live up to the power and emotional depth of the first two-thirds, unfortunately descending into mumblecore-esque dialogue that unfortunately draws the film to a rather underwhelming conclusion. Regardless, though, Moonlight is one of the decade’s most impressive and unique Best Picture winners, and one we might not see again for a long time coming.

Read a full review here.


6. The Shape Of Water (2017)

Speaking of unique and memorable, nobody expected a film like The Shape Of Water to take the biggest prize in film in 2017, yet with its stunning passion and incredible quirkiness, it surpassed competition from all spheres to win Best Picture.

From Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro, The Shape Of Water’s elegant blend of fantasy, romance, comedy, mystery, suspense and more makes it one of the decade’s most cinematic winners, complete with gorgeous cinematography and beautiful music that create the perfect atmosphere for what is simultaneously one of the strangest and most wonderful films you’ll have seen in years.

Complete with beautiful performances across the board, including a fantastic lead turn from Sally Hawkins as a mute woman who unexpectedly falls in love, there are few occasions that The Academy have dared to pick a film so strange and so unique for Best Picture. While it’s not quite a perfect film, and often struggles to tie its seemingly boundless combination of genres together, it’s certainly a memorable one among the crop of the Best Picture winners of the 2010s.

Read a full review here.


5. 12 Years A Slave (2013)

If there’s one movie in recent years that really stands out as a true, traditional Best Picture winner, then it’s definitely 12 Years A Slave. By far the most dominant winner of the category this decade, its historical setting, timely themes, true-to-life story, stunning performances and incredible emotional power are the perfect recipe for a classic Best Picture.

The harrowing true story of a learned man who is abducted in New York and sold into slavery, the film recounts his twelve years spent toiling on the fields under the rule of a succession of plantation owners, while he encounters the realities of others who have found themselves in slavery. With a fascinating focus on racism in both a historical and equally context, 12 Years A Slave is undeniably enthralling, as it offers up both an engrossing overview of the nature of slavery in the pre-Civil War US, as well as fascinating and eye-opening accounts of facts that you may never have even considered.

Chiwetel Ejiofor’s lead performance is fantastic, so much so that it nearly saw him win Best Actor on his first nomination, while Lupita Nyong’o shines in what was her breakout performance, winning her Best Supporting Actress in the process. Director Steve McQueen’s passion and attention to detail here is what makes it such a striking and enthralling historical drama, and certainly a deserving winner of Best Picture.

Read a full review here.


4. Spotlight (2015)

Harking back to a genre of old with its grounded yet detailed approach to storytelling, Spotlight was certainly a surprise when it picked up Best Picture for 2015, but it’s a film that few have been able to find great fault with.

The true story of a team of journalists at the Boston Globe, the film follows their investigation as they uncover a harrowing trend of child sex abuse cases in the local area by Catholic priests. It’s a difficult and sensitive topic, yet Spotlight is a film that looks at the case in an objective and fascinatingly detailed manner, engrossing you to the point where you, too, feel like an investigative journalist uncovering something truly terrifying.

It’s certainly not the decade’s most unique or flashy Best Picture winner – particularly when compared to its 2015 competition in the form of The Revenant – however it gets the basics of filmmaking, acting and screenwriting absolutely perfect, with a fantastic leading cast backed up by a deeply enthraling screenplay. It may be slow and quiet, but its depth and detail are more than enough to have you glued to the screen for the entire duration.

Read a full review here.


3. The Artist (2011)

Of all the Best Picture winners this decade, The Artist seems to be the most polarising. A love-it or hate-it debate still rages over its triumph in 2011, but for me, there are few films in recent years that have been quite as striking or as wonderfully passionate as this one.

The fact that a silent, foreign-language film won Best Picture in the 21st Century is remarkable in itself, but I can’t say that there have been many movies that have entertained and impressed me quite as much as The Artist. With its passionate love for all things silent cinema, it’s a wonderful homage to a classic era, featuring two brilliant performances from Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo that bring such energy and life to the film’s relentless humour and excitement.

While it pays brilliant homage to silent cinema, The Artist is still very much a 21st Century film, with rapid pacing, quick-fire comedy and genuinely nail-biting thrills and surprises all the way along. At the outset, it may look like an elegant, classic romance, and it is – but there are few films out there that have surprised and thrilled me quite as much as The Artist, making it easily one of my favourite Best Picture winners of all time.

Read a full review here.


2. Birdman (2014)

Just sneaking a Best Picture win over its main competition, Boyhood, in 2014, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance) is another winner of the category that remains subject to intense debate, but for me once again, it’s the decade’s most memorable, impressive and arguably influential Best Picture winner of all.

Above all notable for its stunning cinematography, taking place in what looks like one take, Birdman’s influence can be seen to this day with the ever-growing use of long takes and dynamic camerawork in Hollywood. However, it’s more than just a pretty face, and as it tells the story of a washed-up actor (Michael Keaton) trying to salvage his career with a Broadway show, it proves a deeply enthralling and equally hugely entertaining watch.

Some dismiss it as pretentious, and while I can’t deny that the film is rather pretentious, it’s very self-aware in that regard, often taking that tag on in a very playful manner. With its parallels to real-world show business, it was an inevitable hit with Academy voters, and yet thanks to Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s exceptional directing, Emmanuel Lubezki’s jaw-dropping cinematography, and an ensemble of stunning performances from the likes of Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and more, it’s one of the decade’s most visionary and exciting films, and one that I will continue to enjoy for years and years to come.

Read a full review here.


1. La La Land (2016)

No, I’m not still bitter about it. Technically though, La La Land was announced as Best Picture, and held the title for all of three minutes.

Of course, Moonlight was a worthy winner of Best Picture in 2016, and disregarding the fiasco that unfolded in that year’s ceremony, it’s the film will live on as a Best Picture winner for all time.

However, in my heart of hearts, there’s no film that beats La La Land. The most beautiful, crowd-pleasing, exciting, passionate and powerful film of the entire decade, I could go on and on for hours about just how much I love La La Land (and just how much that Best Picture mix-up hurt).

Damien Chazelle’s direction is filled with love for cinema and storytelling, with bold ingenuity to bring the movie musical roaring back to the big screen in astonishing fashion, while the film is bathed in gorgeous cinematography, backed up by electrifying musical and dance numbers from beginning to end, not to mention the fantastic performances from Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling at the centre of the story.

Yes, La La Land didn’t win Best Picture in the end. However, what I think this proves more than anything is that, while Best Picture is the most lauded prize in all of film, it’s not the be-all-and-end-all of what makes a great movie. Even if your favourite didn’t win Best Picture, that doesn’t mean it can’t be your favourite anymore, and that’s why I’m sticking to my guns and saying that La La Land – no matter how short its reign was – is the best Best Picture of the 2010s.

Read a full review here.

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About Author

The Mad Movie Man, AKA Anthony Cullen, writes articles and reviews about movies and the world of cinema. Since January 1st, 2013, he has watched and reviewed a movie every day. This is the blog dedicated to the project: www.madmovieman.com