Best of 2010-2019: 20 to 11

This is the third part of my list of the top 40 movies of the decade. Go here to see the first part of it, which includes details of my selection criteria. Here’s the second part, and the final part

This part of the list counts down from 20 to 11, including a number of alternate choices that didn’t quite squeeze onto this list of 40, but that would make a solid double-feature with the chosen picture, something else in the past decade by the same director or adjacent in the genre. Click on the titles to read my original reviews, where they exist on the blog. 

Only Lovers Left Alive Jim Jarmusch’s unearthly cool continued through this decade, even with the recent, haphazard The Dead Don’t Die, but Only Lovers Left Alive was the stylish high point, his ne plus ultra rock and roll vampire romance, with the perfect casting of Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, and John Hurt. Alternate: Jarmusch’s philosophical ode to ordinary life, in Paterson, or try Neil Jordan’s feminist bloodsucking tale, Byzantium

A Fantastic Woman Chilean cinema has earned serious plaudits in the past few years, with storytelling masters Sebastián Lelio and Pablo Larrain at the forefront. Lelio’s Academy Award-winning effort tells the story of a transgender woman managing grief after the death of her lover along with the bigotry of her dearly departed’s family, while also trying to hold down a job. This is present tense activism, remarkable and moving. Alternate: Lelio’s follow-up, Disobedience, set half a world away makes for a lovely companion piece, or for something slightly icier, but still remarkable, Todd Haynes’ Carol

Personal Shopper  French writer-director Olivier Assayas reteams with his The Clouds Of Sils Maria star  and former sparkly teen vampire Kristen Stewart for an uncatagorizable genre mash-up that simply shouldn’t be as beguiling as it is—a character study/murder and supernatural mystery/workplace drama that never commits to one phase for long. Alternate: Assayas’ almost as wonderful The Clouds Of Sils Maria

Green Room A powerful, unexpected white-knuckle thriller from Jeremy Saulnier, starring the late and much-missed Anton Yelchin, about a punk act touring the Pacific Northwest who get a gig from hell, and end up witnessing a murder done by Nazi drug kingpins led by Patrick Stewart. Alternate: Saulnier’s terrific thriller about the consequences of violence, Blue Ruin, or his favourite actor Macon Blair’s directorial debut, I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore

Blade Runner 2049 Quebecker Denis Villeneuve took on the toughest job in science-fiction film since Peter Hyams made a sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, a follow-up to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. As a tone piece, it matches and builds on the original, while exploring the same themes, and still allowing a certain amount of ambiguity around the original’s key controversy: Is Deckard a replicant? I expect film fans will continue to argue the point years hence. The only reason this didn’t bust into the top 10 is that despite the remarkable world-building, there are times its male gaze feels a little retrograde rather than forward-looking. Alternate: For an eye-catching but far pulpier sci-fi where the humanity of the lead is also in question, consider Oblivion

Beginners  Mike Mills’ sadly beautiful ode to his own father’s late-arriving coming out is really about how it’s never too late to embrace your truth and figure what really makes you happy. It’s also a sweet romance, starring Christopher Plummer, Ewan McGregor, and Mélanie Laurent. Alternate: Mills’ more recent semi-autobiographical charmer, 20th Century Women

The Favourite Upending any possible stuffiness in the costume drama, Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos tells the story of three women wrestling for power, and moment to moment makes us root for one, then the other, then the other, while falling for all three. Alternate: Another example of a genre turned on its head, the wonderful musical experiment, London Road

The Square The seething guilt of privileged white men and women  made for some interesting films in the past decade, especially out of Europe. Ruben Östlund’s The Square also takes swipes at performance art, our universal tech addiction, class issues, and men. It’s deeply funny and bitterly grim often in the same scene. Alternate: Östlund’s exploration of the myths of masculinity, Force Majeure, or Maren Ade’s long but brilliant Toni Erdmann

Stories We Tell The best Canadian filmmaker of the past decade (sorry, Xavier Dolan) is Sarah Polley—and that’s true even though she hasn’t made a feature since 2012—this remarkable documentary is mix of memoir and reconstruction, exploring the filmmaker’s origins and family secrets. Alternate: Polley’s heartbreaking story of love’s destruction, Take This Waltz

Interstellar A film that gets richer with every screening, it feels truer to the ethos of Star Trek than any of that franchise’s movies or television series this century—science fiction compartmentalized with science fact, with a no less optimistic message that love will help the human race achieve its greatest potential. Alternate: Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival was almost as ambitious a story of how we might save ourselves, with a little help from beyond

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.