The Best Films of 2021

Top 10 of the Year

1. The French DispatchWes Anderson
2. The Tragedy of MacbethJoel Coen
3. The Green KnightDavid Lowery
4. DuneDenis Villeneuve
5. The Underground RailroadBarry Jenkins
6. The Card CounterPaul Schrader
7. C’mon C’monMike Mills
8. Nightmare AlleyGuillermo del Toro
9. SpencerPablo Larraín
10. The Power of the DogJane Campion
The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion)

Best Film

The French Dispatch. Some are calling it Wes Anderson’s most ‘Wes Anderson’ film, as if that were a negative thing. It’s not – Anderson is one of the boldest working directors, unrelenting with his cinematic vision and frequently rubbing up against accusations that his style is too stilted and unnatural. The French Dispatch isn’t going to convince anyone otherwise, though it would be tough to argue that he demonstrates anything less than a thorough understanding of cinema’s full potential here. This is his tribute to storytellers, or more specifically those journalists who pick up on odd stories in small towns, and with his anthological structure he constructs a dazzling formal cinematic statement, alternating between black-and-white and colour much like the magazines his characters produce. With a keen comedic sensibility and astounding visual flair, The French Dispatch will undoubtedly go down as one of Anderson’s finest works.

Most Underrated

The Tragedy of Macbeth. As one of the greatest displays of mise-en-scène in a year full of beautiful films, it is clear this is a huge miss on behalf of the critical consensus, sitting outside 2021’s top 25 films on the TSPDT 21st century list. It is a bold new direction for Joel Coen who has already spanned so many genres – neo-noirs, westerns, comedies, crime films, and yet this is the first to dig so deeply into expressionistic influences of older European directors like Fritz Lang and Ingmar Bergman. The deftness and intelligence of the script goes without saying, though obviously the credit for this must go more to Shakespeare than Coen. It is in the visual direction where he takes this classical narrative to transcendent heights, creating a claustrophobic world of shadows, fog, and barren landscapes that reflect the same decrepit darkness that resides within Lord and Lady Macbeth.

Nightmare Alley (Guillermo del Toro)

Most Overrated

Drive My Car. Ryusuke Hamaguchi draws on a Haruki Murakami short story to craft a three-hour epic drama based in Japan’s contemporary theatre industry, additionally using the works of playwrights Chekhov and Beckett as springboards into examinations of grief and companionship. This is currently sitting at #1 of 2021 on the TSPDT list, and I might be closer to #25. It is a very fine film, slow and meditative in its pacing and backed up by a strong script, but from a direction standpoint there is far less going on here than a number of other films that I have ahead of it. Hamaguchi is evidently a good filmmaker, but Drive My Car doesn’t push its cinematic style or form enough to earn its #1 spot.

Best Directorial Debut

Passing. Rebecca Hall makes the leap from acting to directing with a complex examination of racial prejudice and identities in 1920s New York. She carries a bit of Paweł Pawlikowski’s style in her blocking of actors on the edges of her frames and her choice to shoot in black-and-white, but it is especially in her use of shallow focus to obscure our perception of this hazy world that she dedicates the film to a specific aesthetic and follows through on it to the end.

Passing (Rebecca Hall)

Gem to Spotlight

The Green Knight. Its release on Amazon Prime came right before awards season kicked off, but it is a major artistic breakthrough for David Lowery. It calls back to Arthurian legend in adapting the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and it thankfully doesn’t compromise its fantasy with attempts to ground it in historical realism. It doesn’t waste time trying to explain itself, but rather compels us to engage with it on a symbolic, mythological level, basking in its marvellously creative production design and otherworldly cinematography. The closing twenty minutes of this film may just be the best of any in recent years.

Best Male Performance

Oscar Isaac is one of the most consistently great actors currently working, but the performance he gives in The Card Counter is an achievement that rivals his career-best work in Inside Llewyn Davis. He is morose and austere, gazing out at the world from beneath heavy lids with an unblinking focus, and is perfectly suited to Paul Schrader’s deeply self-reflective character study of regret, self-discipline, and atonement. Timothée Chalamet proves he can lead blockbusters as much as he can indie dramas with Dune, and carries the archetypal character of Paul Atreides with great emotional weight, as does Dev Patel in The Green Knight with his grand medieval quest, facing up to the consequences of his own rashness. Bradley Cooper is the perfect showman and con artist in Nightmare Alley as Stanton Carlisle, but he also knows when to turn it down, making for a particularly haunting delivery of his final line. If Joaquin Phoenix‘s contorted performance in Joker was expressionism, then his role as the awkward uncle Johnny in C’mon C’mon is pure realism – a very purposeful shift on his part that shows off his range, proving he can play sweet and wholesome just as well as he does dark and intense. Benedict Cumberbatch claims a mention for The Power of the Dog, playing against type as Phil, a gruff, menacing rancher, then peeling back the layers to his vulnerability. Lastly, Denzel Washington deserves a nod for The Tragedy of Macbeth, delivering a take on the titular Shakespeare character with great verbal dexterity and aplomb.

Oscar Isaac in The Card Counter (Paul Schrader)

Best Female Performance

Kristen Stewart takes the number one spot of the year, and it isn’t terribly close. Before Spencer it was a common misconception that she is a poor actress, but she proves all the doubters wrong in her portrayal of Princess Diana, playing the doomed royal not as how history has recorded her, but as a subjective rendering of her own unstable psychology. Cate Blanchett is a perfectly ice-cold femme fatale in Nightmare Alley, and Frances McDormand wields a skilful control over the weighty and loquacious material of The Tragedy of Macbeth. It is very much a return to her theatrical roots, and Lady Macbeth is an incredibly natural fit for her. Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga are paired here for their equally excellent performances in Passing, playing a pair of old friends set on very different paths in life. Very gradually, both crack under external and internal pressures around their identities, and the two actresses movingly uncover their characters’ compelling complexities. Lastly, Thuso Mbedu pulls off a great feat in carrying The Underground Railroad through its heaviest, most punishing moments, and keeping that stamina up throughout the entire series.

Kristen Stewart in Spencer (Pablo Larraín)

Trends and Notables

After a disappointing down year, the film industry came roaring back in 2021 with many postponed films finally getting their release. The French Dispatch is notable among these – had it been released according to its original schedule, 2020 might have been able to lay claim to at least a single masterpiece. No Time to Die also made headlines as the first major film to have its release date pushed back, going for the complete opposite strategy as Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, and it was clearly the smarter decision in terms of making a profit. Ridley Scott makes a big mark in having both House of Gucci and The Last Duel come out this year as well, the latter of which was rescheduled from 2020. The other big double-up of the year comes from Ryusuke Hamaguchi, who enters the archives with both Drive My Car and Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy.

Spider-Man: No Way Home tops the box office, grossing a staggering $1.8 billion and bringing a jolt of life back to cinemas during the COVID pandemic. No Time to Die, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Eternals are also deservedly up there, but Dune is the defining blockbuster of the year where artistic quality and popularity collide. It is Denis Villeneuve’s highest grossing film yet, and further sets him up as an auteur for a generation.

The Green Knight (David Lowery)

Streaming services were the saving grace of 2020, and they remain strong here. The Tragedy of Macbeth is the first time Apple TV Plus has produced a film of this quality, and Amazon Prime Video has continued to get behind bold visionary auteurs with The Green Knight and The Underground Railroad. Netflix is also in the game, picking up Rebecca Hall’s stunning debut Passing and bringing back Jane Campion after her 12-year break with The Power of the Dog. Adam McKay also concludes his freakout trilogy (The Big Short, Vice) on Netflix with Don’t Look Up – the weakest of the three but still worthy of praise for its editing and performances.

2021 showcases the first crop of films produced in the difficult era of COVID with reduced cast sizes and closed-off sets. Maybe this is the reason so many harken back to theatrical roots, or perhaps it is just coincidence, but either way it was a big year there. We have three great classical auteurs working in the realm of Shakespearean tragedy (The Tragedy of Macbeth, West Side Story, House of Gucci), and the works of playwrights Anton Chekhov and Samuel Beckett play significant roles in Drive My Car, where productions of Uncle Vanya and Waiting for Godot are featured. When it comes to musicals, we have West Side Story, Tick, Tick… Boom!, Cyrano, and Annette.

Annette (Leos Carax)

Black-and-white cinematography has had a resurgence of late, but with The Tragedy of Macbeth, C’mon C’mon, Passing, Belfast, large sections of The French Dispatch, and the ‘Vision in Darkness and Light’ cut of Nightmare Alley, 2021 proves to be a particularly significant year here. I would hesitate to put the influence solely down to Roma from 2018, but its impact is certainly at least felt in the rise of memory pieces based on directors’ childhoods, with both Belfast and The Hand of God explicitly crediting Alfonso Cuarón’s recent masterpiece.

Lastly, Jonny Greenwood is at the height of his musical powers, composing three very different scores for Licorice Pizza, The Power of the Dog, and Spencer. His work on the last two are particularly impressive, with Spencer standing tall as a landmark of his illustrious career. Hans Zimmer contributes his extraordinary talents to No Time to Die and Dune, the latter of which would not be the same film without his epic score. Nicholas Britell is also very active in this space in composing for Don’t Look Up, though as always it is his collaboration with Barry Jenkins that is especially remarkable – the music for The Underground Railroad stands proudly alongside Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk as one of the best film scores in recent history.

Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson)

Best Cinematography

TitleCinematographer
1. The French DispatchRobert Yeoman
2. The Tragedy of MacbethBruno Delbonnel
3. The Underground RailroadJames Laxton
4. The Green KnightAndrew Droz Palermo
5. Nightmare AlleyDan Lausten
6. DuneGreig Fraser
7. West Side StoryJanusz Kaminsi
8. The Power of the DogAri Wegner
9. PassingEduard Grau
10. SpencerClaire Mathon
The Underground Railroad (Barry Jenkins)

Best Editing

TitleEditor
1. C’mon C’monJennifer Vecchiarello
2. DuneJoe Walker
3. Last Night in SohoPaul Machliss
4. The French DispatchAndrew Weisblum
5. The Underground RailroadJoi McMillon
6. Licorice PizzaAndy Jurgensen
7. The Green KnightDavid Lowery
Last Night in Soho (Edgar Wright)

Best Music Scores

TitleComposer
1. DuneHans Zimmer
2. SpencerJonny Greenwood
3. The Underground RailroadNicholas Britell
4. The French DispatchAlexandre Desplat
5. The Power of the DogJonny Greenwood
6. The Green KnightDaniel Hart
7. Parallel MothersAlberto Iglesias
8. PassingDevonte Hynes
Parallel Mothers (Pedro Almódovar)

2021 Archives

TitleDirectorGrade
A HeroAsghar FarhadiHR
After YangKoganadaHR
AnnetteLeos CaraxR
A Quiet Place Part IIJohn KrasinskiR
Barb and Star Go to Vista del MarJosh GreenbaumR
Being the RicardosAaron SorkinR
BelfastKenneth BranaghHR
BenedettaPaul VerhoevenR
BenedictionTerence DaviesR
Bergman IslandMia Hansen-LøveR
Blue BayouJustin ChonR
C’mon C’monMike MillsMS
CyranoJoe WrightR
Don’t Look UpAdam McKayR
Drive My CarRyusuke HamaguchiR
DuneDenis VilleneuveMS
EternalsChloé ZhaoR
House of GucciRidley ScottR
Judas and the Black MessiahShaka KingR
King RichardReinaldo Marcus GreenR
LambValdimar JóhannssonR
Last Night in SohoEdgar WrightHR
Licorice PizzaPaul Thomas AndersonHR
MemoriaApichatpong WeerasethakulR/HR
Nightmare AlleyGuillermo del ToroHR/MS
NitramJustin KurzelR
No Sudden MoveSteven SoderberghR
No Time to DieCary Joji FukunagaR
Parallel MothersPedro AlmodóvarR/HR
PassingRebecca HallHR
Petite MamanCéline SciammaR
PigMichael SarnoskiR
Red RocketSean BakerR
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten RingsDestin Daniel CrettonR
SpencerPablo LarraínHR/MS
Squid GameHwang Dong-hyukR
The Card CounterPaul SchraderMS
The DigSimon StoneR
The Eyes of Tammy FayeMichael ShowalterR
The French DispatchWes AndersonMP
The Green KnightDavid LoweryMS/MP
The Hand of GodPaolo SorrentinoHR
The Last DuelRidley ScottR
The Lost DaughterMaggie GyllenhaalR
The Power of the DogJane CampionHR
The Souvenir Part IIJoanna HoggHR
The Suicide SquadJames GunnR
The Tragedy of MacbethJoel CoenMP
The Underground RailroadBarry JenkinsMS
The Worst Person in the WorldJoachim TrierHR
Tick, Tick… Boom!Lin-Manuel MirandaR
TitaneJulia DucournauR
West Side StorySteven SpielbergHR
Wheel of Fortune and FantasyRyusuke HamaguchiR
The Tragedy of Macbeth (Joel Coen)

Documentaries

FleeJonas Poher Rasmussen
Flee (Jonas Poher Rasmussen)

The Best Films of 2020

Top 10 of the Year

1. I’m Thinking of Ending ThingsCharlie Kaufman
2. NomadlandChloé Zhao
3. MankDavid Fincher
4. Small AxeSteve McQueen
5. Promising Young WomanEmerald Fennell
6. Pieces of a WomanKornél Mundruczó
7. The FatherFlorian Zeller
8. MinariLee Isaac Chung
9. TenetChristopher Nolan
10. WolfwalkersTomm Moore, Ross Stewart
Nomadland (Chloé Zhao)

Best Film

I’m Thinking of Ending Things. There are not many years in movie history that lack a clear masterpiece (as defined by being top 1-3 of the year quality). The last one before 2020 was 1987 (topped by Full Metal Jacket), and before that 1935 (Bride of Frankenstein wins the year there). Fortunately, this is not a result of untalented contemporary filmmakers, but rather of many movies originally slated for 2020 being pushed to 2021 due to the pandemic. None of this should undercut Charlie Kaufman’s achievement in I’m Thinking of Ending Things though. It is his most visually audacious work yet and a formally experimental play on traditional horror conventions, eroding all sense of time and character identities. All of this builds towards a surreal psychological drama meditating on ageing, isolation, and lost potential. Cryptic, elusive, and intensely moving in unexpected ways – not many screenwriters-turned-directors explore the cinematic potential of their intelligent scripts as well as Kaufman does here.

Most Underrated

Pieces of a Woman. The Father is another one that is currently missing from the TSPDT 21st Century list, but Pieces of a Woman also has a disappointing 66 Metacritic score and thus deserves the slot here. The camerawork belongs among the best of the year, and not just in that astounding 22-minute long take of the heartbreaking home birth near the start of the film. The script is driven by powerfully emotional melodrama, but it is also so formally sound in the abundance of metaphors (the bridge, the apple seeds) and grounded in an incredibly strong performance from Vanessa Kirby.

Most Overrated

Never Rarely Sometimes Always. This is a film that winds up at #3 of 2020 on TSPDT, but doesn’t find a spot in my top 10 here. It is a fantastic piece of social realist cinema about a pregnant teenager travelling to New York to find a Planned Parenthood clinic, and the struggles around that. There is also a scene in it that displays the talents of young actress Sidney Flanagan, whose facial expressions tell an entire story that words alone could never express. Eliza Hittman makes the smart decision to hang on her face for five whole minutes here, but besides this the film’s artistic achievement is relatively modest compared to the films ahead of it on my list.

Best Directorial Debut

Promising Young Woman. Emerald Fennell comes out firing with this captivating and acerbic revenge thriller. It took me a couple of viewings to put it in my top 10, but I’m there now – it is a complex balance of conflicting tones possessing a powerful narrative drive, and her use of pastel colours and symmetrical compositions reveals a director with an already developed style.

Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell)

Gem to Spotlight

Small Axe. Many arguments have been had all across the internet on whether to classify this as a miniseries or several distinct films. There isn’t much arguing against its cinematic power as a whole though, and with a director like Steve McQueen at the helm it easily transcends every other piece of television from 2020. The strength of this anthology is the gorgeous Lover’s Rock instalment, but even in the weakest there is plenty to appreciate. Small Axe is McQueen’s ode to the West Indian communities living in London in the 1960s to 80s, making small acts of revolution, reform, and celebration that each build on each other to reveal the slow, spinning wheel of progress across decades.

Small Axe: Lover’s Rock (Steve McQueen)

Best Male Performance

Gary Oldman comes out on top with one of the best performances of his career in Mank. It isn’t easy handling such a wordy script of double entendres and witticisms, but he takes charge of this character study, delivering allegorical monologues with drunken confidence and theatricality. Behind him, Anthony Hopkins earns a spot in becoming a vessel for our heartbreaking, disorientating journey into the mind of a dementia patient in The Father. John Boyega also commands another character study in Red, White and Blue, an instalment of Small Axe about Leroy Logan, a founding member of the Black Police Association in the UK who attempted to reform the police from within its own ranks.

Best Female Performance

As mentioned above, Vanessa Kirby’s performance in Pieces of a Woman is simply gut-wrenching, and she exerts such fine control over both the subtler moments of depression and the passionate outbursts of a distraught mother. Frances McDormand’s understated work in Nomadland is masterfully subtle, as is Jessie Buckley in the ever-shifting persona of the “Young Woman” in I’m Thinking of Ending Things. This list isn’t complete without mentioning Carey Mulligan either. She is wry, intelligent, funny, and heartbreaking in Promising Young Woman – a mess of emotions she sorts through effortlessly.

Vanessa Kirby from Pieces of a Woman (Kornél Mundruczó)

A disappointing down year for cinema, for reasons already mentioned. No masterpieces, and disappointing depth in quality. Fortunately, I was able to round out my top 10 without dipping into those films worth a simple ‘Recommend’. The upside of Hollywood’s postponing of many blockbuster films is the increased spotlight on smaller arthouse films, including one gorgeous indie animation in Wolfwalkers.

In terms of great established auteurs, we have new films from David Fincher, Steve McQueen, Spike Lee, Sofia Coppola, Charlie Kaufman, and Christopher Nolan to carry us over. Five of these were distributed on streaming services, and praise must be given to Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV+ for picking up such bold auteurs, as well providing a viewing alternative while cinemas were closed.

Nolan is the outlier here. His decision to stick by releasing Tenet in cinemas during the COVID pandemic was disastrous in terms of box office, and its divisiveness certainly didn’t help. It is no doubt a flawed film with a lot of heavy exposition, though its artistic ambition in its action choreography and reverse photography is admirable.

Nomadland is the well-deserved Best Picture Winner at the Oscars this year, and Soul marks one of Pixar’s greatest achievements in animation as well. In spite of the state of the industry, there is clearly still plenty of great cinema to appreciate in 2020.

Tenet (Christopher Nolan)

2020 Archives

TitleDirectorGrade
Another RoundThomas VinterbergR
AntebellumGerard Bush, Christopher Renz R
CutiesMaïmouna DoucouréR
Da 5 BloodsSpike LeeR
Emma.Autumn de WildeR
I’m Thinking of Ending ThingsCharlie KaufmanMS
KajillionaireMiranda JulyR
MankDavid FincherMS
MinariLee Isaac ChungHR
Never Rarely Sometimes AlwaysEliza HittmanR
NomadlandChloé ZhaoMS
On the RocksSofia CoppolaR
Palm SpringsMax BarbakowR
Pieces of a WomanKornél MundruczóHR
Promising Young WomanEmerald FennellHR
RelicNatalie Erika JamesR
Shiva BabyEmma SeligmanR/HR
Small AxeSteve McQueenHR/MS
SoulPete DocterR
TenetChristopher NolanHR
The Devil All the TimeAntonio CamposR
The FatherFlorian ZellerHR
The Invisible ManLeigh WhannellR
The NestSean DurkinR
The Queen’s GambitScott FrankR
UndineChristian PetzoldR
UnorthodoxMaria SchraderR
We Are Who We AreLuca GuadagninoR
WolfwalkersTomm Moore, Ross StewartR/HR

Documentaries

Dick Johnson is DeadKirsten Johnson

Short Films

If Anything Happens I Love YouWill McCormack, Michael Govier
Wolfwalkers (Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart)

The Best Films of the 2010s Decade

1. The Tree of LifeTerrence Malick, 2011
2. RomaAlfonso Cuarón, 2018
3. DunkirkChristopher Nolan, 2017
4. The Turin HorseBéla Tarr, 2011
5. The MasterPaul Thomas Anderson, 2012
6. BirdmanAlejandro Iñárritu, 2014
7. The RevenantAlejandro Iñárritu, 2015
8. Mad Max: Fury RoadGeorge Miller, 2015
9. La La LandDamien Chazelle, 2016
10. The Grand Budapest HotelWes Anderson, 2014
Cold War (Paweł Pawlikowski, 2018)
11. Cold WarPaweł Pawlikowski, 2018
12. The Social NetworkDavid Fincher, 2010
13. InceptionChristopher Nolan, 2010
14. IdaPaweł Pawlikowski, 2013
15. The FavouriteYorgos Lanthimos, 2018
16. Inside Llewyn DavisThe Coen Brothers, 2013
17. About EndlessnessRoy Andersson, 2019
18. MidsommarAri Aster, 2019
19. MelancholiaLars von Trier, 2011
20. MoonlightBarry Jenkins, 2016
Columbus (Kogonada, 2017)
21. Once Upon a Time in HollywoodQuentin Tarantino, 2019
22. Black SwanDarren Aronofsky, 2010
23. Moonrise KingdomWes Anderson, 2012
24. Ad AstraJames Gray, 2019
25. ParasiteBong Joon-ho, 2019
26. ShameSteve McQueen, 2011
27. Blade Runner 2049Denis Villeneuve, 2017
28. ColumbusKogonada, 2017
29. The IrishmanMartin Scorsese, 2019
30. BurningLee Chang-dong, 2018
A Hidden Life (Terrence Malick, 2019)
31. WavesTrey Edward Shults, 2019
32. Phantom ThreadPaul Thomas Anderson, 2017
33. A Hidden LifeTerrence Malick, 2019
34. WhiplashDamien Chazelle, 2014
35. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on ExistenceRoy Andersson, 2014
36. GravityAlfonso Cuarón, 2013
37. 1917Sam Mendes, 2019
38. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past LivesApichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010
39. We Need to Talk About KevinLynne Ramsay, 2011
40. PatersonJim Jarmusch, 2016
Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)
41. Little WomenGreta Gerwig, 2019
42. Marriage StoryNoah Baumbach, 2019
43. First ReformedPaul Schrader, 2017
44. HereditaryAri Aster, 2018
45. Mr. TurnerMike Leigh, 2014
46. Holy MotorsLeos Carax, 2012
47. 12 Years a SlaveSteve McQueen, 2012
48. Call Me By Your NameLuca Guadagnino, 2017
49. The Great BeautyPaolo Sorrentino, 2013
50. Good TimeThe Safdie Brothers, 2017
Son of Saul (László Nemes, 2015)
51. Django UnchainedQuentin Tarantino, 2012
52. Only God ForgivesNicolas Winding Refn, 2013
53. Certified CopyAbbas Kiarostami, 2010
54. DriveNicolas Winding Refn, 2011
55. Son of SaulLászló Nemes, 2015
56. The Neon DemonNicolas Winding Refn, 2016
57. VictoriaSebastian Schipper, 2015
58. The AssassinHou Hsiao-hsien, 2015
59. The Shape of WaterGuillermo del Toro, 2018
60. ClimaxGasper Noé, 2018
Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance, 2010)
61. The GrandmasterWong Kar-wai, 2013
62. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-VerseBob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, 2018
63. Spring BreakersHarmony Korine, 2012
64. Blue ValentineDerek Cianfrance, 2010
65. MommyXavier Dolan, 2014
66. Under the SkinJonathan Glazer, 2013
67. BoyhoodRichard Linklater, 2014
68. Portrait of a Lady on FireCéline Sciamma, 2019
69. Gone GirlDavid Fincher, 2014
70. The Ghost WriterRoman Polanski, 2010
Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2014)
71. CarolTodd Haynes, 2015
72. The LobsterYorgos Lanthimos, 2015
73. Before MidnightRichard Linklater, 2013
74. InterstellarChristopher Nolan, 2014
75. The Dark Knight RisesChristopher Nolan, 2012
76. A SeparationAsghar Farhadi, 2011
77. NightcrawlerDan Gilroy, 2014
78. The LighthouseRobert Eggers, 2018
79. A Girl Walks Home Alone at NightAna Lily Amirpour, 2014
80. If Beale Street Could TalkBarry Jenkins, 2018
Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, 2012)
81. SkyfallSam Mendes, 2012
82. HerSpike Jonze, 2013
83. You Were Never Really HereLynne Ramsay, 2017
84. The SouvenirJoanna Hogg, 2019
85. The Wolf of Wall StreetMartin Scorsese, 2013
86. Frances HaNoah Baumbach, 2012
87. SubmarineRichard Ayoade, 2010
88. Sunset SongTerence Davies, 2015
89. SilenceMartin Scorsese, 2016
90. The Big ShortAdam McKay, 2015
Uncut Gems (The Safdie Brothers, 2019)
91. Get OutJordan Peele, 2017
92. The ImmigrantJames Gray, 2013
93. SicarioDenis Villeneuve, 2015
94. Ash is Purest WhiteJia Zhangke, 2018
95. Uncut GemsThe Safdie Brothers, 2019
96. The Killing of a Sacred DeerYorgos Lanthimos, 2017
97. Shutter IslandMartin Scorsese, 2010
98. The Deep Blue SeaTerence Davies, 2011
99. Two Days, One NightThe Dardenne Brothers, 2014
100. ArrivalDenis Villeneuve, 2016
Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2014)

Top 10 Directors of the Decade

  1. Christopher Nolan
  2. Denis Villeneuve
  3. Steve McQueen
  4. Wes Anderson
  5. Alejandro Iñárritu
  6. Martin Scorsese
  7. Paweł Pawlikowski
  8. Terrence Malick
  9. Paul Thomas Anderson
  10. Nicolas Winding Refn
Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan)

Top 10 Male Performances of the Decade

  1. Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
  2. Michael Fassbender (Shame)
  3. Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis)
  4. Adam Driver (Marriage Story)
  5. Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
  6. Leonardo Di Caprio (The Revenant)
  7. Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
  8. Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049)
  9. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
  10. Michael Keaton (Birdman)

Top 10 Female Performances of the Decade

  1. Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
  2. Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road)
  3. Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia)
  4. Florence Pugh (Midsommar)
  5. Emma Stone (La La Land)
  6. Joanna Kulig (Cold War)
  7. Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin)
  8. Saoirse Ronan (Little Women)
  9. Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)
  10. Juliette Binoche (Certified Copy)
Joaquin Phoenix in The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson)

The Best Films of 2019

Pedro Costa’s meditative camera lingers in the decaying home and troubled mind of a recent widow, Bong Joon-ho takes a scalpel to South Korea’s class system, and Martin Scorsese’s epic gangster film wrestles with his long-time fascinations of sin and guilt.

The Best Films of 2018

Alfonso Cuarón cements his status as an all-time great director with a black-and-white memory piece, Ari Aster takes the horror genre to a new level with fresh artistic sensibilities, and the best animation in years arrives in a deconstruction of superhero stories.

The Best Films of 2017

Christopher Nolan shakes up the war genre in delivering a landmark of film editing, Denis Villeneuve astoundingly builds on a decades-old classic with a phenomenal sequel, and Paul Schrader’s cerebral, theological character study features Ethan Hawke in an intensely internal performance.

The Best Films of 2016

Damien Chazelle’s ode to Hollywood musicals becomes one of the genre’s best, Jim Jarmusch’s impressively formal work celebrates the beauty of routine, and Denis Villeneuve finds a new linguistic spin on the alien science-fiction film.

The Best Films of 2015

George Miller makes a high-octane, career comeback, Leonardo DiCaprio transforms into a spirit animal in Alejandro Iñárritu’s awe-inspiring revisionist western, and Adam McKay turns the Global Financial Crisis into an audacious, exciting piece of cinema.

The Best Films of 2014

Alejandro Iñárritu’s exceedingly sharp script drives his one-take wonder, Wes Anderson constructs an immaculate piece of pastel artistry, and Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age epic breaks new ground in realist cinema.

The Best Films of 2013

Polish filmmaker Paweł Pawlikowski delivers a haunting meditation on the long-lasting effects of the Holocaust, Richard Linklater ties off his Before trilogy with a marital sparring drama, and Nicolas Winding Refn’s violent, visual atom bomb heavily polarises audiences.

The Best Films of 2012

Paul Thomas Anderson creates an ambitiously formal and enigmatic work in his study of polar opposite characters, Wes Anderson perfectly merges style and form in a story of childhood love, and Sam Mendes delivers the most inspired James Bond film to date.

The Best Films of 2011

A landmark of transcendental cinema emerges in Terrence Malick’s most dazzling film of his career, while Béla Tarr and Lars von Trier both impress with heavy, philosophical films contemplating two different apocalypses.

The Best Films of 2010

Aaron Sorkin pens the greatest screenplay of his career in collaboration with David Fincher, Christopher Nolan blows minds with his most visually inventive film to date, and Darren Aronofsky crafts a horrifying character study of ambition and obsession.

The Best Films of 2019

1. Vitalina VarelaPedro Costa
2. MidsommarAri Aster
3. About EndlessnessRoy Andersson
4. Once Upon a Time in HollywoodQuentin Tarantino
5. Ad AstraJames Gray
6. ParasiteBong Joon-ho
7. The IrishmanMartin Scorsese
8. WavesTrey Edward Shults
9. A Hidden LifeTerrence Malick
10. 1917Sam Mendes
Midsommar (Ari Aster)

Film Archives

TitleDirectorGrade
1917Sam MendesMS
A Beautiful Day in the NeighbourhoodMarielle HellerR
A Hidden LifeTerrence MalickMS
About EndlessnessRoy AnderssonMP
Ad AstraJames GrayMP
BombshellJay RoachR
BooksmartOlivia WildeR
ChernobylJohan RenckR
Doctor SleepMike FlanaganR
El Camino: A Breaking Bad MovieVince GilliganR
Extremely Wicked, Shocking Evil and VileJoe BerlingerR
First CowKelly ReichhardtHR
Ford v FerrariJames MangoldR
Hearts and BonesBen LawrenceR
HustlersLorene ScafariaR
I Lost My BodyJérémy ClapinR
Jojo RabbitTaika WaititiR
JokerTodd PhillipsR/HR
KlausSergio PablosR
Knives OutRian JohnsonR
Little WomenGreta GerwigMS
Marriage StoryNoah BaumbachMS
MidsommarAri AsterMP
Once Upon a Time in HollywoodQuentin TarantinoMP
ParasiteBong Joon-hoMP
Portrait of a Lady on FireCéline SciammaMS
Richard JewellClint EastwoodR
RocketmanDexter FletcherR
Sound of MetalDarius MarderR
The FarewellLulu WangR
The IrishmanMartin ScorseseMS/MP
The Last Black Man in San FranciscoJoe TalbotR
The LighthouseRobert EggersHR
The Peanut Butter FalconTyler Nilson, Michael SchwartzR
The SouvenirJoanna HoggHR
The Two PopesFernando MeirellesR
Toy Story 4Josh CooleyR
Uncut GemsThe Safdie BrothersHR
UsJordan PeeleR
Vitalina VarelaPedro CostaMP
WavesTrey Edward ShultsMS/MP
About Endlessness (Roy Andersson)

Documentaries

American FactorySteven Bognar, Julia Reichert
HoneylandTamara Kotevska, Ljubomir Stefanov
For SamaWaad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts
FyreChris Smith

Short Films

NimicYorgos Lanthimos
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino)

The Best Films of 2018

1. RomaAlfonso Cuarón
2. Cold WarPaweł Pawlikowski 
3. The FavouriteYorgos Lanthimos
4. BurningLee Chang-dong
5. HereditaryAri Aster
6. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-VerseBob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
7. ClimaxGasper Noé
8. If Beale Street Could TalkBarry Jenkins
9. Ash is Purest WhiteJia Zhangke
10. AnnihilationAlex Garland
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman)

Film Archives

TitleDirectorGrade
A Quiet PlaceJohn KrasinskiR
A Simple FavourPaul FeigR
A Star is BornBradley CooperR
AnnihiliationAlex GarlandHR
Ash is Purest WhiteJia ZhangkeHR
Avengers: Infinity WarThe Russo BrothersR
Black PantherRyan CooglerR/HR
BlackkklansmanSpike LeeHR
BurningLee Chang-dongMS/MP
Can You Ever Forgive MeMarielle HellerR
CapernaumNadine LabakiR
ClimaxGasper NoéMS
Cold WarPaweł Pawlikowski MP
Crazy Rich AsiansJon M. ChuR
Eighth GradeBo BurnhamR
First ManDamien ChazelleR
Green BookPeter FarrellyR
Her SmellAlex Ross PerryR
HereditaryAri AsterMS
High LifeClaire DenisR/HR
If Beale Street Could TalkBarry JenkinsHR
Isle of DogsWes AndersonR/HR
RomaAlfonso CuarónMP
SearchingAneesh ChagantyR
ShopliftersHirokazu Kore-edaR
Sorry to Bother YouBoots RileyHR
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-VerseBob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney RothmanMS
SuspiriaLuca GuadagninoR
The Ballad of Buster ScruggsThe Coen BrothersR
The FavouriteYorgos LanthimosMP
The NightingaleJennifer KentR
ViceAdam McKayR
The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos)

Documentaries

Free SoloElizabeth Chai Vasarhely, Jimmy Chin
Period. End of Sentence.Rayka Zehtabchi
The Great Buster: A CelebrationPeter Bogdanovich

Short Films

BlueApichatpong Weerasethakul
Cold War (Paweł Pawlikowski)

The Best Films of 2017

1. DunkirkChristopher Nolan
2. Blade Runner 2049Denis Villeneuve
3. ColumbusKogonada
4. Phantom ThreadPaul Thomas Anderson
5. First ReformedPaul Schrader
6. Call Me By Your NameLuca Guadagnino
7. Good TimeThe Safdie Brothers
8. The Shape of WaterGuillermo del Toro
9. Get OutJordan Peele
10. You Were Never Really HereLynne Ramsay
Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve)

Film Archives

TitleDirectorGrade
A Fantastic WomanSebastián LelioR/HR
A Ghost StoryDavid LoweryHR
Baby DriverEdgar WrightHR
Blade Runner 2049Denis VilleneuveMS/MP
Call Me By Your NameLuca GuadagninoMS
CocoLee UnkrichR
ColumbusKogonadaMP
Darkest HourJoe WrightR
DunkirkChristopher NolanMP
First ReformedPaul SchraderMS
Get OutJordan PeeleHR/MS
Good TimeThe Safdie BrothersMS
Happy EndMichael HanekeR
I, TonyaCraig GillespieHR
ItAndy MuschiettiR
Lady BirdGreta GerwigR/HR
LoganJames MangoldR
Loving VincentDorota Kobiela, Hugh WelchmanR
MudboundDee ReesR
Paddington 2Paul KingHR
Phantom ThreadPaul Thomas AndersonMS
Star Wars: The Last JediRian JohnsonR
Sweet CountryWarwick ThorntonR
The BeguiledSofia CoppolaHR
The Big SickMichael ShowalterR
The BreadwinnerNora TwomeyR
The Disaster ArtistJames FrancoR
The Florida ProjectSean BakerHR
The Killing of a Sacred DeerYorgos LanthimosHR
The PostSteven SpielbergR
The Shape of WaterGuillermo del ToroMS
The WifeBjörn RungeR
Thor: RagnarokTaika WaititiR
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriMartin McDonaghR
You Were Never Really HereLynne RamsayHR
Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)

The Best Films of 2016

1. La La LandDamien Chazelle
2. MoonlightBarry Jenkins
3. PatersonJim Jarmusch
4. The Neon DemonNicolas Winding Refn
5. SilenceMartin Scorsese
6. ArrivalDenis Villeneuve
7. Hell or HighwaterDavid Mackenzie
8. Manchester by the SeaKenneth Lonergan
9. The Lost City of ZJames Gray
10. Everybody Wants Some!!Richard Linklater
Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)

Film Archives

TitleDirectorGrade
A Monster CallsJ. A. BayonaR
ArrivalDenis VilleneuveHR
DeadpoolTim MillerR
Doctor StrangeScott DerricksonR
Don’t BreatheFederico ÁlvarezR
Everybody Wants Some!!Richard LinklaterHR
Hacksaw RidgeMel GibsonR
Hail CaesarThe Coen BrothersR
Hell or HighwaterDavid MackenzieHR
Hidden FiguresTheodore MelfiR
Hunt for the WilderpeopleTaika WaititiR
JackiePablo LarrainR
Kubo and the Two StringsTravis KnightR
La La LandDamien ChazelleMP
LionGarth DavisR
LovingJeff NicholsR
Manchester by the SeaKenneth LonerganHR
MoonlightBarry JenkinsMP
PatersonJim JarmuschMS
RawJulia DucournauR/HR
SilenceMartin ScorseseHR
SplitM. Night ShyamalanR
Swiss Army ManDaniel Kwan, Daniel ScheinertR
The Lost City of ZJames GrayHR
The Neon DemonNicolas Winding RefnMS
The Nice GuysShane BlackR
Toni ErdmannMaren AdeR
Train to BusanYeon Sang-hoR
The Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn)

Documentaries

13thAva DuVernay
Voyage of TimeTerrence Malick
The Lost City of Z (James Gray)

The Best Films of 2015

1. The RevenantAlejandro Iñárritu
2. Mad Max: Fury RoadGeorge Miller
3. Son of SaulLászló Nemes
4. VictoriaSebastian Schipper
5. The AssassinHou Hsiao-hsien
6. CarolTodd Haynes
7. The LobsterYorgos Lanthimos
8. Sunset SongTerence Davies
9. The Big ShortAdam McKay
10. SicarioDenis Villeneuve
Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)

Film Archives

TitleDirectorGrade
AnomalisaCharlie KaufmanHR
Bridge of SpiesSteven SpielbergR
BrooklynJohn CrowleyR
CarolTodd HaynesMS
Cemetery of SplendourApichatpong WeerasethakulR
Inside OutPeter DocterR/HR
Knight of CupsTerrence MalickR
Mad Max: Fury RoadGeorge MillerMP
Mountains May DepartJia ZhangkeR
RoomLenny AbrahamsonR
SicarioDenis VilleneuveHR
Son of SaulLászló NemesMS
SpotlightTom McCarthyR
Star Wars: The Force AwakensJ.J. AbramsR
Steve JobsDanny BoyleR/HR
Sunset SongTerence DaviesHR
TangerineSean BakerHR
The AssassinHou Hsiao-hsienMS
The Big ShortAdam McKayHR
The Danish GirlTom HooperR
The Hateful EightQuentin TarantinoR
The LobsterYorgos LanthimosHR/MS
The MartianRidley ScottR
The RevenantAlejandro IñárrituMP
The WitchRobert EggersHR
VictoriaSebastian SchipperMS
The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-hsien)

The Best Films of 2014

1. BirdmanAlejandro Iñárritu
2. The Grand Budapest HotelWes Anderson
3. WhiplashDamien Chazelle
4. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on ExistenceRoy Andersson
5. Mr. TurnerMike Leigh
6. Gone GirlDavid Fincher
7. BoyhoodRichard Linklater
8. MommyXavier Dolan
9. InterstellarChristopher Nolan
10. NightcrawlerDan Gilroy
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)

Film Archives

TitleDirectorGrade
A Girl Walks Home Alone at NightAna Lily AmirpourHR
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on ExistenceRoy AnderssonMS
American SniperClint EastwoodR
Big Hero 6Don Hall, Chris WilliamsR
BirdmanAlejandro IñárrituMP
BoyhoodRichard LinklaterMS
CalvaryJohn Michael McDonaghR
Ex MachinaAlex GarlandHR
FoxcatcherBennett MillerR
Gone GirlDavid FincherMS
Guardians of the GalaxyJames GunnR
How to Train Your Dragon 2Chris Sanders, Dean DeBloisR
Inherent VicePaul Thomas AndersonR
InterstellarChristopher NolanHR/MS
It FollowsDavid Robert MitchellR
John WickChad StahelskiR
Kingsman: The Secret ServiceMatthew VaughnR
MommyXavier DolanMS
Mr. TurnerMike LeighMS
NightcrawlerDan GilroyHR/MS
PaddingtonPaul KingR
SelmaAva DuVernayR
Still AliceRichard Glatzer, Wash WestmorelandR
The BabadookJennifer KentR
The Grand Budapest HotelWes AndersonMP
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ArmiesPeter JacksonR
The Imitation GameMorten TyldumR
The Theory of EverythingJames MarshR
Two Days, One NightThe Dardenne BrothersHR
What We Do in the ShadowsTaika WaititiR
WhiplashDamien ChazelleMS
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Roy Andersson)

The Best Films of 2013

1. IdaPaweł Pawlikowski
2. Inside Llewyn DavisThe Coen Brothers
3. GravityAlfonso Cuarón
4. EnemyDenis Villeneuve
5. 12 Years a SlaveSteve McQueen
6. The Great BeautyPaolo Sorrentino
7. Only God ForgivesNicolas Winding Refn
8. The GrandmasterWong Kar-wai
9. Under the SkinJonathan Glazer
10. Before MidnightRichard Linklater
Inside Llewyn Davis (The Coen Brothers)

Film Archives

12 Years a SlaveSteve McQueenMS
A Touch of SinJia ZhangkeR
About TimeRichard CurtisR
American HustleDavid O. RussellHR
Before MidnightRichard LinklaterHR/MS
Blue JasmineWoody AllenHR
Dallas Buyers ClubJean-Marc ValléeR
EnemyDenis VilleneuveMS
GravityAlfonso CuarónMS
HerSpike JonzeHR
IdaPaweł PawlikowskiMP
Inside Llewyn DavisThe Coen BrothersMP
Only God ForgivesNicolas Winding RefnMS
PrisonersDenis VilleneuveHR
SnowpiercerBong Joon-hoHR
The GrandmasterWong Kar-waiMS
The Great BeautyPaolo SorrentinoMS
The Great GatsbyBaz LuhrmannR
The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugPeter JacksonR
The ImmigrantJames GrayHR
The Wolf of Wall StreetMartin ScorseseHR
The World’s EndEdgar WrightR/HR
Under the SkinJonathan GlazerMS
Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn)