In every era of filmmaking, certain films emerge as benchmarks, defying conventions and leaving a lasting impact on audiences. However, boiling down a decade of diverse cinematic offerings into a list of the “best” movies is a herculean and somewhat subjective endeavor.
Film, like any art form, resonates differently with each individual.
The following list seeks to touch on some of the most lauded and influential films of the last ten years (2012 to 2022), each one a gem in the endless ocean of cinematic creativity.
- Django Unchained (Director: Quentin Tarantino)
- Argo (Director: Ben Affleck)
- 12 Years a Slave (Director: Steve McQueen)
- Interstellar (Director: Christopher Nolan)
- Mad Max: Fury Road (Director: George Miller)
- The Revenant (Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu)
- La La Land (Director: Damien Chazelle)
- Joker (Director: Todd Phillips)
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Director: Quentin Tarantino)
- Tenet (Director: Christopher Nolan)
- Dune (Director: Denis Villeneuve)
- Don’t Look Up (Director: Adam McKay)
Django Unchained (Director: Quentin Tarantino)
In 2012, Quentin Tarantino delivered a vengeance-infused drama through “Django Unchained.” The movie, set in pre-Civil War America, explores themes of love, freedom, and revenge in a characteristic Tarantino fashion – think sharp dialogue, stylistic violence, and dark humor. Jamie Foxx as Django, the freed slave, and Christoph Waltz, as Dr. King Schultz, the German bounty hunter, share an intriguing camaraderie that carries the story through brutal yet somehow comedic landscapes. Their quest to rescue Django’s wife from a malicious plantation owner, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, is a blend of horrifying historic truths and exaggerated action sequences, embodying a wild ride through America’s grim past.
Argo (Director: Ben Affleck)
“Argo” showcases a riveting slice of history wrapped in Hollywood glitz. Directed and starred in by Ben Affleck, this dramatic thriller unfolds a covert operation to rescue six Americans from Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis. The plot thickens as Affleck’s character, a CIA exfiltration specialist, concocts a bogus film production as a disguise to bring the Americans home. Beyond its tense narrative, “Argo” subtly delves into the power of storytelling both as deception and salvation. With an Oscar for Best Picture, it’s a story of real-life heroics meshed with cinematic audacity, truly reflective of the phrase, “truth is stranger than fiction.”
12 Years a Slave (Director: Steve McQueen)
The harrowing reality of America’s dark past is brought to life through Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave.” Based on Solomon Northup’s memoir, this film thrusts viewers into an unflinching narrative of a free black man kidnapped and sold into slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s portrayal of Solomon provides a heartbreaking look into a cruel and unjust era. The brutal honesty of this film, coupled with stellar performances and impactful storytelling, makes it not only a cinematic masterpiece but a critical social commentary. Amidst its painful clarity, “12 Years a Slave” leaves a lingering essence of hope and resilience.
Interstellar (Director: Christopher Nolan)
In a league of its own, “Interstellar” embarks on a galactic voyage to find humanity a new home, reflecting on themes of love, sacrifice, and the uncharted realm of theoretical physics. Christopher Nolan’s exquisite storytelling melds with mind-bending concepts of time and space, leaving audiences both bewildered and enthralled. The relationship between Matthew McConaughey’s character and his daughter Murph (Jessica Chastain) is the emotional compass amidst the cosmic chaos. The adventurous yet emotional narrative paired with Hans Zimmer’s haunting score makes “Interstellar” a remarkable cinematic journey that explores human endeavors in the face of the unknown.
Mad Max: Fury Road (Director: George Miller)
Set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia, “Mad Max: Fury Road” is an adrenaline-fueled masterpiece by George Miller. With a narrative that’s sparse but compelling, the film thrives on its high-octane action sequences, whimsical character designs, and a grim yet engaging setting. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron deliver robust performances as they lead a fierce band of rebels against a tyrannical warlord. The surreal yet grounded design of the world, the relentless pace of the action, and the underlying themes of hope and redemption make this film an iconic representation of modern-day action cinema.
The Revenant (Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu)
Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “The Revenant” is a visceral tale of survival and revenge set against the backdrop of the American frontier. With breathtaking cinematography and a harrowing performance by Leonardo DiCaprio, this film immerses the audience in the merciless wilderness. The narrative revolves around a fur trapper, played by DiCaprio, seeking vengeance after being left for dead. Every scene brims with the raw brutality and the indomitable spirit of humanity, making “The Revenant” a unique cinematic experience that’s both grim and beautiful.
La La Land (Director: Damien Chazelle)
The allure of dreams and the reality of love clash harmoniously in “La La Land.” Director Damien Chazelle crafts a visually stunning and emotionally resonant narrative that explores the whimsical journey of two aspiring artists in Los Angeles. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s on-screen chemistry, paired with memorable musical numbers, creates a nostalgic yet contemporary ode to dreamers. The whimsical atmosphere is juxtaposed with the pragmatic challenges of pursuing one’s passion, rendering “La La Land” a modern-day classic that resonates with a melody of love, loss, and the pursuit of dreams.
Joker (Director: Todd Phillips)
In a bold deviation from traditional superhero cinema, “Joker” delves into the dark psyche of Arthur Fleck, a man disregarded by society, spiraling into the iconic madman we know as the Joker. Todd Phillips presents a gritty, unsettling narrative steeped in realism. Joaquin Phoenix’s transformative performance brings a harrowing and empathetic dimension to a notorious villain, challenging audiences to reflect on societal apathy and mental health. The scene of Arthur dancing on the staircase, with the haunting score reverberating through, encapsulates the eerie celebration of a man embracing his darkest self. The critical discourse and conversations ignited by “Joker” underscore its significant impact, marking a daring and thought-provoking entry in the genre.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Director: Quentin Tarantino)
Amidst a changing industry and a bygone era, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” concocts a fantastical tale blending fact with fiction, marking Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to vintage Hollywood. The charismatic duo, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, navigate the final moments of Hollywood’s Golden Age with a blend of humor, nostalgia, and sharp dialogue characteristic of Tarantino’s style. The film whimsically reconstructs the tragic tale of Sharon Tate, juxtaposing humor with an impending dread. The climactic, revisionist finale highlights Tarantino’s penchant for rewriting history, offering a cathartic albeit fantastical resolution to a real-life horror.
Tenet (Director: Christopher Nolan)
Christopher Nolan pushes the boundaries of narrative structure with “Tenet,” a mind-bending espionage thriller interweaving time inversion and entropic reality. The cryptic narrative unfolds with meticulously choreographed action sequences and a complex yet engaging plot. Though audiences may find themselves tangled in the film’s temporal intricacies, the thrill of deciphering Nolan’s puzzle keeps the engagement alive. “Tenet” exemplifies Nolan’s audacity to challenge conventional storytelling, offering a cerebral adventure that resonates in a post-truth world.
Dune (Director: Denis Villeneuve)
Transcending the challenge of adapting a monumental sci-fi epic, “Dune” showcases Denis Villeneuve’s prowess in melding visual grandeur with profound thematic essence. The barren yet beautiful landscapes of Arrakis and the daunting socio-political intrigues immerse audiences in a richly constructed universe. Timothée Chalamet’s portrayal of Paul Atreides navigates the complex tides of destiny, power, and resistance. The grand scale of “Dune” sets the stage for an epic saga, leaving audiences yearning for the narrative to unfold in subsequent sequels.
Don’t Look Up (Director: Adam McKay)
Navigating through satire and existential dread, “Don’t Look Up” presents a sharp critique of societal indifference towards impending calamity. As a comet hurtles towards Earth, the absurdity of political bureaucracy and media spectacle unfurls, mirroring real-world complacency towards existential threats. The ensemble cast, led by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, brings a blend of humor and earnestness that amplifies the film’s satirical sting. Through laughter and looming disaster, “Don’t Look Up” holds a mirror to society’s ability to deny inconvenient truths, making it a timely, poignant piece of cinema.
With this list traversing through diverse genres, styles, and narrative forms, the last ten years have truly been a riveting ride in the world of cinema, etching indelible marks on the cinematic landscape. Each of these films not only entertains but also evokes thought, emotion, and a sense of wonder, showcasing the boundless potential of storytelling through the lens. As we revel in these cinematic marvels, the subjective nature of film comes to the forefront, reminding us of the myriad tastes and preferences that abound among movie enthusiasts. We invite you to share your reflections on this selection of films. Which movies resonated with you the most, and are there any other films from the past decade that left a lasting impression on you? Your insights and recommendations could unveil more cinematic gems awaiting discovery.
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