Subscribe to our newsletter


The 50 best films of the decade (2010-2019)

We’ve reached the end of 2019 and, with it, the decade draws to a close. With Oscar winners a-plenty, Far Out Magazine revisits the standout moments of cinema over the past ten years.

The decade, which has seen the major establishment of filmmakers like Wes Anderson, Yorgos Lanthimos, Denis Villeneuve and more who have delivered some of the best works of their careers, has also a number of independent pictures achieve international success.

Here, Far Out Magazine writers Monica Reid, Calum Russell and Lee Thomas-Mason define the very best of the decade.

See the full list, below.

50 – Benda Bilili! – Renaud Barret and Florent de La Tullaye, 2010.

This inspiring documentary gives a global voice to the otherwise voiceless, following a group of five paraplegics and a young able-bodied teenager whose homemade instruments take them to perform in front of an audience of 8000. 

It is personal, fly-on-the-wall filmmaking, and will quickly encase you within the whirlwind of positivity and enthusiasm that the band exudes. Loving, humble, honest filmmaking.

49 – Nebraska – Alexander Payne, 2013.

The absolutely minimal storyline, of a man taking his elderly, cranky, somewhat confused father on a road trip to cash in a lottery ticket, is merely the framework for the real and powerful story of a father and son finally making a connection.

Bruce Dern is brilliant and touching as the declining but tenacious old man, and Will Forte as his son works with him perfectly.

48 – Albert Nobbs – Rodrigo Garcia, 2011.

A lovely performance by Glenn Close (earning her ten Best Actress nominations and three wins) as a Victorian woman who passes for a man in order to gain employment and a level of independence unavailable to women of the time.

The eccentric and naive Nobbs searches for a way to a better and more open life.

47 – BlacKkKlansman – Spike Lee, 2018.

Based on the memoir of Ron Stallworth, a black Colorado police detective who successfully infiltrated the local Ku Klux Klan, at first by telephone, then with the help of a white stand-in.

Spike Lee’s colourful, slightly burlesque adaptation adds comedy and timely critique to the curious account.

46 – Rubber – Quentin Duplex, 2010.

Down the back alleys and side streets of the cinematic landscape, is where you would find a film like Rubber. Following a homicidal car tyre on a rampage around deserted rural America, the film breathes and inhabits its space and environment, it’s exactly the kind of absurd story you could imagine actually happening in an odd alternative universe. 

Entirely original and hysterically funny, Rubber is filmmaking at its most bizarre, most refreshing and most honest. As spoken at the start of the film in a bizarre rambling speech to a small audience of people, a police chief states “the film is a homage to the no reason.” So sit back and don’t think.

45 – Apostasy – Daniel Kokotajlo, 2017.

This dark, brooding family drama from debut filmmaker Daniel Kokotajlo is a disturbingly accurate account of one’s faith acting in conflict with one’s morals, following a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses who begin to question their faith when one of them falls ill.

Fantastic performances elevate the potentially subdued narrative into something, squirming, suitably unpleasant and unfortunately non-fiction. It’s gripping, humble filmmaking that leaves a longing impression. 

44 – Ruby Sparks – Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, 2012.

Screenwriter Zoe Kazan, who also plays the title character, has created an inventive, intriguing story which is fun as well as thought-provoking and unusual. Ruby Sparks is a magical realism tale which essentially turns the Stepford Wives theme on its head.

Paul Dano plays Calvin, a brilliant but self-centred writer who discovers that his fictional ideal girlfriend has come to life. He is at first delighted, but finds himself facing real-life relationship problems, and is forced to confront his own flaws, and question his concept of a perfect woman. While primarily a comedy, the film moves from whimsical to very dark in certain scenes, as questions of power and personal autonomy are explored.

43 – The Raid – Gareth Evans, 2011.

In many ways, as the Bourne trilogy redefined the standards of the mainstream action blockbuster. The Raid though, has brushed, polished and elevated these standards further. As a SWAT team raids a building of flats deep in the Jakarta slums, they become quickly outnumbered and outgunned, leaving a barebones team left to take out the manic gang.

It just so happens that the lead SWAT team member left is ‘Rama’, a Pencak Silat master, with the ability to seemingly be able to dismantle anybody, with kicks, punches, slaps and any sharp object in his vicinity. This is slick, terrifically choreographed action filmmaking at its very best, which has forced a new standard of action fight-scenes. Less blurry shaky-cam confusion and more clear and meticulously planned sequences.

42 – Amy – Asif Kapadia, 2015.

A modern master of the autobiographical documentary, Asif Kapadia’s touching account of the life of Amy Winehouse is an exemplary piece of filmmaking.

A tragedy on the saddest of scales, Winehouse’s downfall is well known, though Kapadia rightly prefers to focus on her lesser-known uprising, the story of a humble singer finding success from the most unlikely beginnings. Her story is heartbreaking as it spirals out of control, though this is never sensationalised, her tale bookended with grace and affection.

41 – Sorry to Bother You – Boots Riley, 2018.

Writer, director, actor, and musician Boots Riley put together a strange, unpredictable, completely original story that combines reality and fantasy in a weird but compelling way.

Taking a last-resort job as telemarketer leads underemployed Cassius Green (LaKeith Stanfield) down a rabbit hole into the imaginary, sharply allegorical, the behind-the-scenes reality of corporate institutions.

40 – Hard to Be a God – Aleksei German, 2013.

Hard to Be a God eradicates any concept of a 4th wall, passerby’s stare into the camera and a mixture of mud and faeces is flung at the camera on a constant basis, so much so that it’s incredibly easy to become absorbed within the world of ‘Arkanar’, a distant planet stuck in the middle-ages. 

Taking a total of thirteen years from the first day of production to its release, Hard to Be a God is a three-hour trip into another world and the closest cinema has ever come to extraterrestrial contact.

39 – Meek’s Cutoff – Kelly Reichardt, 2010.

Brilliant director Kelly Reichardt uses the template of a traditional Western to construct a tense drama, part adventure and part mystery, about a group of settlers travelling across Oregon to reach their homesteads.

Threatened by the harsh desert landscape and increasingly uncertain of their guide’s expertise, they must decide whether to continue following the guide or trust in unfamiliar sources of help. The film diverges from conventional Westerns by including the perspectives of typically background characters, the local ‘wild Indians’ and the womenfolk, adding interesting layers to the story.

38 – The King’s Speech – Tom Hooper, 2010.

This comedy-drama dealing with George VI’s intractable speech impediment and the man who helps him overcome it goes on the list more or less automatically.

It won four Oscars, seven BAFTAs, and countless other awards, and remains one of the most popular films of the decade. It has a great cast, with a particularly good performance by Geoffrey Rush, and is a well organised, well made, highly entertaining film.

37 – The Imposter – Bart Layton, 2012.

Around the start of the current true-crime drama craze, The Imposter remains the best contemporary film to challenge the genre. Bart Layton’s docu-drama format terrifically recreates the bizarre tale of a man who claims to be a missing 16-year-old boy, three years after his disappearance. 

What follows is a gripping thriller that plays more on paranoia and insanity, rather than violent crime, creeping into your mind and lingering long after.

36 – American Honey – Angela Arnold, 2016.

It was about the turn of the decade that saw Shia Labeouf evolve from an irritatingly ‘edgy’ star of sub-par films, to someone far more mature and measured, worthy of the recognition he has recently garnered. American Honey, Andrea Arnold’s youthful ode to the classic American road movie, was just one of his most impressive roles, heading up a band of forgotten youths travelling across the Midwest.

Despite its tough looking exterior, American Honey is as sweet and charming as the title suggests, following a girls route from adolescence to childhood and the fluctuation between the two. 

A terrific lead performance from newcomer Sasha Lane elevates this film to vibrant life, sailing through its lengthy runtime with pleasure.

35 – Calvary – John Michael McDonagh, 2014.

A priest, threatened with death during a confession, battles to address the darkness shrouding his parish as he journeys from person-to-person in John Michael McDonagh’s dark, brooding black comedy.

Packed with philosophical and emotional gravity carried by fantastic lead performances from Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly and Aidan Gillen, Calvary is a brutal odyssey through a small town and its mentally crumbling inhabitants.

34 – The Chambermaid – Lila Aviles, 2018.

Writer and director Lila Aviles’ first dramatic feature, this somewhat underrated film offers a crystal-clear insight into a working-class life through a simple, documentary-style portrayal of one day in the life of a hotel chambermaid.

There is little dialogue and minimal action, but every scene is perceptive and spot-on.

33 – Embrace of the Serpent – Ciro Guerra, 2015.

Ciro Guerra’s haunting epic chronicling the friendship of two scientists and an Amazonian shaman in their search for a sacred healing plant is a poetic journey through space, place and time. 

Ripped from a psychedelic fever dream, Embrace of the Serpent feels very much part of documented historical fact, rich in cultural and political subtext. Come its hallucinatory climax, it is clear what an insightful trip, Ciro Guerra’s visual experience has been. 

32 – Another Year – Mike Leigh, 2010.

Master of British social realism, Mike Leigh brings humble humanity to this evocative ensemble drama following the relationship between a married couple and their friends and family over the course of a year. 

The honesty and efficiency to which Leigh captures everyday life is astonishing, led by fantastic performances from Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen, but stolen by the heartbreaking Leslie Manville. This is a story so raw, so tangible, that it feels as if it could exist, right now in your neighbourhood.

31 – Mommy – Xavier Dolan, 2014.

Widowed mother Diane (Ann Dorval) accepts custody of her mentally ill, sometimes violent teenaged son Steve (Antoine Olivier Pilon), to prevent his transfer to a more restrictive institution.

Their situation is shown with a gritty realism that avoids romanticizing either Steve’s condition or Diane’s dedication to him; Steve is erratic, offensive, dangerous, and often hateful, and Diane is crude, impractical, and willing to exploit others to get what she needs. Donal, along with powerful performances by both lead actors, captures the genuine, tender bond between mother and son, but Diane’s love and determination only make her hopeless efforts more painful to watch.

An absolutely heartbreaking film.

30 – Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller, 2015.

What may well be recognised as an icon of action cinema in years to come, Mad Max is an absolute joy to watch, a diesel-powered thrill ride through desolate madness in the post-apocalyptic outback. Essentially an extended action chase movie, the lonely traveller Max (Mad) helps lead a group of repressed women into pastures new, whilst evading himself the ravage madness of Immortan Joe’s savage gang. 

Fabulously bonkers, Fury Road is an ode to the 1980s action, where rules didn’t apply, ingenuity was embraced and stunts were done for real. 

29 – Dogtooth – Yorgos Lanthimos, 2010.

Perhaps the most significant director of the previous decade, Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth kick-started his career, establishing a pitch-black tone of comedy that would underline each of his following films.  

Disturbing and erratic, Lanthimos’ first wide release follows the life of three teenagers living under the controlling, over-protective rule of their parents, forced to stay until their dogtooth falls out. Shocking, hilarious and profoundly sad, Dogtooth explores the abuse of power to spread misinformation and form a blissful ignorance.

28 – Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson, 2014.

Wes Anderson’s now-iconic comedy stars an ensemble cast with the likes of Bill Murray, Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Tilda Swinton and, of course, Owen Wilson all sharing the acclaim.

Set in a fictional war-torn European country in the 1930s, Anderson takes his unique visual aesthetic to new heights as he tells the tale of a unique friendship who get wrapped up in a framed murder case… among other adventures, of course.

27 – The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro, 2017.

This seemingly unlikely Oscar winner is Del Toro’s risky, audacious reimagining of a 1950s monster movie, reshaped into an extravagant fantasy love story and adventure, with the roles of hero and villain, monster and victim, completely flipped.

Sally Hawkins is wonderful as the mute custodian who befriends an imprisoned humanoid sea monster, and Doug Jones is unrecognisable but both frightening and pitiful as the magical aquatic creature. Artistic recklessness pays off for once.

26 – Django Unchained – Quentin Tarantino, 2012.

Tarantino’s ultimate revenge fantasy is a pre-Civil War Western, the story of a slave (Jamie Foxx) returning to the American south to find and rescue his wife, who forms a partnership with a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz).

The film combines Tarantino-esque extreme violence, themes from German opera, romance, social commentary, a buddy adventure, comedy, tragedy, an eclectic modern music soundtrack, outrageous villains, and, of course, revenge, in what ought to be a chaotic mixture, but which blends perfectly.

25 – Like Father, Like Son – Hirokazu Koreeda, 2013.

Cinematic heir of Yasujirō Ozu, Hirokazu Koreeda sculpts tales of the family dynamic, of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, with a deft touch and an incomparable affection. Though his Palme d’Or winning film Shoplifters threw him sharply into the limelight, it’s his 2013 outing Like Father, Like Son which truly epitomises his sentiment for the family drama. 

Encompassed within a surreal tale of two babies being swapped at birth, Koreeda questions parental responsibility in reference to the timeless nature/nurture debate and does so with heartbreaking warmth and passion.

24 – True Grit – Ethan and Joel Coen, 2010.

The Coen Brothers remake the 1969 John Wayne classic Western about a girl who hires a derelict bounty hunter to track down her father’s murderer, giving it new life and perspective, a distinctive look, and a bit of humour and edge.

Great performances by Jeff Bridges as bounty hunter Rooster Cogburn, and Hailee Steinfeld in her first feature role.

23 – Nocturnal Animals – Tom Ford, 2016.

An intense psychological thriller told through two parallel stories.

A woman is horrified by her ex-husband’s violent crime novel, which seems to include herself and their daughter under fictional names. The film alternates between reality and a portrayal of the novel’s gruesome plot, slowly revealing his message. Intensely suspenseful.

22 – Personal Shopper – Oliver Assayas, 2017.

A film somewhat difficult to describe. Personal Shopper is a combination of ghost story, murder mystery, and existential exploration. Maureen (Kristen Stewart) is a self-described medium, grieving over her recently deceased brother and determined to contact him.

The film draws us into Maureen’s solitary life, working as a personal assistant to a fashionable woman in Paris but driven to focus on the otherworldly, unable to move on. The situation becomes ominous when, following a suspicious death, Maureen is stalked by mysterious texts from an unknown source.

A fearless, unconventional, and fascinating film.

21 – The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos, 2017.

An outlandish dystopian fantasy about a future society which strictly regulates people’s love lives, requiring that everyone be part of a couple. Newly single David (Colin Farrell) must check into an institution that facilitates his forming a new partnership, on pain of a very strange penalty. 

Lanthimos uses a deadpan presentation and stilted, formal acting style to reinforce the fairy-tale quality of this admirably bizarre story. 

20 – Boyhood – Richard Linklater, 2014.

Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age drama starring the likes of Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, and Ethan Hawke is nothing short of a wonderfully committed cinematic masterpiece.

Filmed over a twelve-year period from 2001 to 2013, Boyhood began without a script and instead focused on the theme of growing up, following young actor Ellar Coltrane as he matured through his childhood.

Nominated for six Academy Awards upon release, Boyhood remains a project for the ages. A once in a life-time film.

19 – Arrival – Denis Villeneuve, 2016.

Based on a short story by SF writer Ted Chiang, Arrival tells the story of the first meeting of humans with aliens, in a unique way. The central character, linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams), is conscripted to help the government translate the speech of newly arrived aliens, and determine whether they are hostile or benign.

The cryptic storyline gradually reveals the unexpected effects of the contact on the human race. Production design contributes a great deal to the film’s effectiveness, particularly in the partial views of the aliens themselves, and of their hovering, egg-like spaceships.

18 – 45 Years – Andrew Haigh, 2015.

Andrew Haigh’s haunting romantic drama follows a married couple who receive momentous news ahead of their wedding anniversary celebrations.

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay lead this harrowing tale with tremendous affection and warmth, forming a wholly believable relationship which wades through a quagmire of love, grief and nostalgic mourning. 

17 – Force Majeure – Ruben Östlund, 2014.

Ruben Östlund’s recent trajectory from modest indie director to Palme d’Or winning elite has been remarkable. Whilst you could easily make a case for his disturbingly powerful 2011 film Play being his best of the decade, it is instead his nod to the everyday conflict of the family dynamic in Force Majeure which remains entirely powerful.

Devilishly perceptive, Ostlund perfectly captures the absurdity of contemporary life as the film follows the relationship of a family broken apart by the threat of an avalanche. 

16 – A Separation – Asghar Farhadi, 2011.

A modest tour de force of the cinematic world, Iranian cinema has produced some of the screens greatest works, from Kiarostami’s close-up to Jafar Panahi’s Taxi Tehran, often humble works with a serious methodical punch. 2011’s A Separation is no different, a sincere account about a married couple, tied between moving away for the benefit of their child, or staying in Iran to look after their deteriorating parent. 

The most human of films, Farhadi’s screenplay taps perfectly into the psychology of the everyman, studying the act of the individual when their morals and actions are questioned.

15 – Her – Spike Jonze, 2011.

A high concept film, and multiple award-winner for Jonze’s groundbreaking screenplay, involving a lonely man, Theodore, (Joaquin Phoenix) who forms an emotional attachment to his highly advanced operating system (voice of Scarlett Johannson). 

The film explores questions of humanity, reality, the future of technology, but in an unobtrusive manner, under cover of light humour and a slightly unreal look reminiscent of Jonze’s Being John Malkovitch. Great performances by Phoenix as Theodore, and by Amy Adams as a friend who tries to understand his plight.

14 – Son of Saul – Laszlo Nemes, 2015.

Director Laszlo Nemes’ first feature swept the film awards in 2015, including an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. It adds something new to the range of films dealing with the Holocaust, by making it an intensely personal story. Concentration camp inmate Saul (Geza Röhrig) discovers the dead body of his son among the corpses he is ordered to dispose of and is determined to somehow give the boy a proper Jewish burial.

The filming techniques add a great deal to the story, making Saul’s face the centre of almost every shot, the horrors of the camp occurring at the fringes as he strives to fulfil his single-minded goal.

13 – Certified Copy – Abbas Kiarostami, 2010.

This film is a quirky mix of romance, mystery, and reflection on life, circling the theme of original as opposed to reproduction in art. A couple, who supposedly have just met, tour the Tuscan countryside, their conversation oddly full of significance for a pair of strangers.

When a waitress mistakes them for a married couple, they jokingly play the part, but their charade grows deeper and more authentic until it is impossible to distinguish the reality of their relationship. The circumstances and temperament of both characters are gradually revealed, to a background of endless takes on the theme of real vs counterfeit. The legendary Juliette Binoche does a wonderful job with the main role.

12 – We Need To Talk About Kevin – Lynne Ramsay, 2011.

If you’re pregnant or heavily considering having children, We Need To Talk About Kevin is possibly the worst film you could watch. For anyone else, it’s a masterpiece. Following the relationship between a mother and her peculiar son, Lynne Ramsay forges a tale of horror, paranoia and grief with a concise screenplay perfectly executed from the terrific lead cast.

Ramsay is operating at the very top of her game, yet to falter in her filmmaking record. From Ratcatcher to You Were Never Really Here, she evokes a raw sympathy and emotional intimacy with her characters, a deft ability that few working directors can match.

11 – Toni Erdman – Maren Ade, 2016.

A surreal and surprisingly charming domestic drama, with flutters of uncomfortable, awkward humour, following a comedic father who spontaneously flies out to visit his uptight daughter.

Odd and at times inconceivable, the story meshes and culminates into something far more compact than its running time suggests. Though it’s the frequently surprising and strange nature of the screenplay that elevates this father-daughter drama into something far more charming. It’s a dad joke told so repeatedly and so well that it becomes hysterical.

10 – Inside Llewyn Davis – Ethan and Joel Coen, 2013.

This many-layered story of a talented, ambitious but self-destructive folk singer from the early 1960s is both a wonderful character study and a perfect, often satirical tribute to the folk music scene of the time.

Written, directed, produced, and edited by Joel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis handed Oscar Isaac his breakthrough role in a cast which included the likes of Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, and, of course, Justin Timberlake.

The soundtrack, it’s worth mentioning, is outstanding.

9 – The Act of Killing – Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012.

After a failed coup in 1960s Indonesia, over one million innocent people were murdered as a statement against communism, Oppenheimer’s bone-chilling documentary follows the, disturbingly celebrated individuals who were ordered to kill such people.  

Part straight documentary, bringing to light the awful atrocities of the Indonesian regime, and equal parts a bizarre theatrical drama, as these killers are asked to dramatise the horrific events and do so with lavish musical numbers.

It’s seriously disturbing filmmaking, though undoubtedly fascinating.

8 – Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig, 2017.

Few films have captured the typical adolescent combination of optimism, narcissism, and self-deception better than Lady Bird, but its real achievement is the hilariously recognisable relationship between Christine ‘Lady Bird’ MacPherson (Saoirse Ronan) and her loving but exasperated mother (magnificently played by Laurie Metcalf).

Through Greta Gerwig’s insightful storytelling, and Ronan and Metcalf’s perfect onscreen chemistry, Lady Bird’s naive pursuit of sophistication and culture, and thoughtless contempt of her own town and family are as relatable and funny as they are annoying.

7 – Melancholia – Lars Von Trier, 2011.

This is a film about the end of the world, not in the form of a disaster film but almost entirely in symbolic, mystical, or indirect form. The central fact is that a rogue planet is headed directly for Earth, but the impending destruction serves as continual background, and influence, on the human events taking place.

Expressive imagery and sound are far more important than dialogue in this film, beginning with a visual prologue introducing the film’s theme, over haunting music from Tristan and Isolde. Melancholia is almost too full of references to fully take in—to other films, to literature, to science, to the psychological condition of melancholia or depression, to the Bible. The coming apocalypse is at once a straightforward astronomical event, a multi-faceted symbol, and (as repeated hints suggest) destruction by a God who is disgusted by man. Beautiful, moody, and grim.

6 – Moonlight – Barry Jenkins, 2016.

Based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unpublished semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, Barry Jenkins created a coming-of-age film exploring themes of identity, sexuality and physical abuse in the youth of the Moonlight‘s main character.

Met by critical acclaim upon release, the project won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and, for Mahershala Ali, Best Supporting Actor—a victory which subsequently made him the first Muslim to win an Oscar for acting.

Pioneering in every sense, Moonlight became the first film with an all-black cast, the first LGBTQ-related film to win Best Picture and, while they’re breaking records, Joi McMillon became the first black woman to be nominated for an editing Oscar.


5 – Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen, 2011.

A clever, funny, modern fantasy tells of a writer visiting Paris, who finds the present day uninspiring and longs for the fancied genius of the Belle Epoque.

He finds a mysterious portal into 1920s Paris, where he meets his artistic heroes—portrayed as roughly accurate but often hilarious parodies of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and others—and in the process gains perspective on his own life. Both intelligent and fun.

4 – Parasite – Bong Joon Ho, 2019.

Rising South Korean director and screenwriter Bong Joon Ho, whose previous work includes films such as Okja and Snowpiercer, achieves a new high with this ingenious con game story which doubles as a biting commentary on wealth and social class.

Having been handed its world premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, Parasite has been quietly and consistently whispered around discussions of major critical acclaim as the topic of the Academy Awards’ coveted ‘Best Film’ category begins to circulate Hollywood.

Parasite is remarkable partly because it is so strikingly original; it doesn’t remind the viewer of any other film or category and doesn’t seem to mimic or borrow from anything else,” Far Out film writer Monica Reid said in her five-star review. “It is difficult even to classify; Bong has referred to it as a tragi-comedy, but it does not fit easily into any particular genre, defying categorisation and evading film conventions as easily as its storyline continually defies expectations. What’s more, while Parasite is a slightly challenging film, it avoids becoming a clever but inaccessible work of art; it is one of the most engrossing and watchable films of the year.”

An impoverished family uses trickery to find work in a wealthy household. Unpredictable and full of plot twists, and absorbing from start to finish. 

[MORE] – ‘Parasite’ review: Director Bong Joon-Ho delivers a brilliant social class commentary

3 – The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius, 2011.

Five Oscars and seven BAFTAs, among other awards, went to this innovative and stylish film.

The Artist is both a gorgeous, authentic-looking tribute to silent films of the past and a silent-era-style story in its own right, about the career and romantic life of an up-and-coming actor whose professional rise is threatened by the invention of talking pictures.

2 – Under the Skin – Jonathan Glazer, 2013.

Part sci-fi drama, part experimental horror, Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is a marvel of terror and bewilderment. The film follows the apparent birth of a seductive alien, played by Scarlett Johansson, as she stalks the streets of Glasgow searching for both prey and purpose.

What follows is a spellbinding audiovisual assault on the senses, a truly unique and inexplicably terrifying account of an alien invasion. This visually arresting masterpiece is an experience impossible to convey, inhabiting a space, not unlike Johansson’s mystical lair in the film. A dark, cosmic, ethereal piece of cinema, so good that it has instantly elevated both Jonathan Glazer and composer Mica Levi to the dizzying heights of cinematic acclaim.

1 – The Master – Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012.

This fictionalised account of the founding of Scientology—under the pseudonym of The Cause—is impressive for two reasons.

The first is Anderson’s dynamic directing style, well known from films such as There Will Be Blood and Phantom Thread, which in The Master makes clear how the charismatic leader of a wildly successful cult can also be a deeply unsound individual; and makes the most of every moment of suspense and insight.

The second feature is the epic pairing of outstanding actors Philip Seymour Hoffman as the erratic cult leader, and Joaquin Phoenix as his black sheep follower.