Flip Screen’s ‘Best of the Decade’ List – 2010s

Late December is not just ‘holiday season’ but ‘self-reflective season’ – a time when many look back at the year gone by, highlighting the highs and lows of that time. Now at the end of 2019, we have a double-whammy in that we’re not just entering a new year but a new decade. So with this in mind, we tasked the writers at Flip Screen to rank their 10 favourite films of the decade, collating all the results to present the top 20 films of the decade.

20. The Turin Horse (2011) – Dir. Ágnes Hranitzky and Béla Tarr

This submission may not be for everyone, but if quiet reflection on the meaninglessness of human existence is your bag, then look no further than Ágnes Hranitzky and Béla Tarr’s The Turin Horse. Named after the horse whose defiance despite public whipping caused the mental breakdown of legendary philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, the film revolves around a Hungarian father and his daughter. They lead a dreary and repetitive life farming potatoes and their horse’s stubborn refusal to eat or work signals the beginning of the end. Beautifully shot in 30 long takes, Hranitzky and Tarr linger on despair. As The New York Times’ A.O. Scott writes, the film’s ending brings “a measure of relief… which may sound like a reason to stay away, but is exactly the opposite.” – GF

19. Dusty Stacks of Mom: The Poster Project (2013) – Dir. Jodie Mack

Despite only being 43-minutes, Jodie Mack is able to deliver a lot in this documentary/musical performance. Following her mother’s failing rock and roll merchandise business, the film incorporates the inclusion of stop motion animation as well as personal filmmaking and rock opera. Using many posters, postcards and other materials that were commonplace in her mother’s business, the piece adopts the form of a popular rock album reinterpreted as a cine-performance. – JP

18.  Annihilation (2018) – Dir. Alex Garland

Smart Sci-Fi, this time with a pinch of horror thrown into the mix – think Predator meets Arrival (basically Alien: Covenant but good). An object crashes into Earth from space and begins radiating an ever-growing dome of genetic altering energy dubbed the shimmer. After her partner Kane (Oscar Isaac) goes missing in the shimmer, veteran and cellular biology professor Lena (Natalie Portman) joins an all-female team of armed scientists to find the epicentre of the anomaly that threatens to encircle the world. Another instant Sci-Fi gem from Alex Garland (Ex-Machina misses out on the top 20 but it made the Flip Screen top 100), Annihilation is a perfect blend of body horror, supernatural sci-fi thriller and personal drama. Branded as one of the biggest box-office bombs of 2018, it is criminally underrated as far as we’re concerned – it is a brave, thoughtful and affecting film that stays with you long after the mind-bending final act wraps up. – GF

17. Frances Ha (2012) – Dir. Noah Baumbach

Shot on black and white, this American comedy follows Frances Halladay (Greta Gerwig), a 27-year-old dancer living in New York struggling to find a permanent apartment or a permanent dancing job. Throwing herself into her dreams, and unable to deal with her best friend Sophie’s (Mickey Summer) opposite life plans, Frances is the perfect protagonist for a New York independent comedy. Although more of a hidden gem at the time of its release, Frances Ha has gained more acclaim as Baumbach and Gerwig’s careers escalated within the last few years. Frances Ha may be the most ideal collaboration between these two creatives, with an impeccable script written by both. – JP

16. The Lobster (2015) – Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos

Absurd, darkly comedic and completely enthralling, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster is one of the most creative films of the decade. In a dystopian society where single people must find a partner in 45 days or else be turned into an animal, David (Colin Farell) finds himself desperate to pair up, searching for a shared trait with anyone else residing in this hotel for loners. Lanthimos’ bold and inventive screenplay earned him an Oscar Nomination, ultimately losing out to Birdman for the top spot. The film shines a sickly light on our society’s obsession with partnership and rejection of self-fulfilment and joyous singledom. – GF

15. The Social Network (2010) – Dir. David Fincher

Arguably one of the finest screenplays this century from one of the finest writers (Aaron Sorkin), made all the better when matched with Fincher’s equally brilliant directing. A fast-moving, rhythmic biopic looking at Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) creating the social networking site Facebook. Moving back and forth between the idea being created as well as the two law cases between Zuckerberg, the twins (Armie Hammer) who claim he stole their idea, and his co-founder (Andrew Garfield). It’s an incredible story looking at one of the strangest and brightest minds in the world. Given the news events Facebook has been involved with during the last couple years, The Social Network 2 may be closer than we imagined. – JP

14. Arrival (2016) – Dir. Denis Villeneuve

One of the smartest sci-fi films in recent memory, Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival is a masterclass in narrative structure, thematically and functionally challenging our perceptions of time. A mysterious alien craft hovers ominously over Earth, and Louise Banks (Amy Adams) must decipher their message before hotter heads prevail, leading her on a mind bending journey of self-realisation and heartbreak. Arrival succeeds where “smart sci-fi” so regularly trips up, in that it’s complex themes are grounded in deeply affecting personal drama – without ruining anything, Amy Adams delivers one of the best performances of her career, balancing her characters instinctive academia with deep heartache, effortlessly. The film received Oscar nominations for best picture, director and adapted screenplay, winning best sound editing, rounding out eight total nominations from the Academy. – GF

13. BlacKkKlansman (2018) – Dir. Spike Lee

Some may call him inconsistent, but Spike Lee is one of the finest filmmakers this generation and BlacKkKlansman is most definitely one of his finest films. Based on a true story, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is the first African American police officer from Colorado Springs and successfully manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan over the phone. With the help of another officer Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) meeting the ‘organisation’ face-to-face, they are able to stop attacks from one of the most dangerous hate-groups in America. It’s an outstanding piece of work from Lee, making us feel a whole spectrum of emotions in this racial crime drama. This film also provided us with the key highlight of last year’s Academy Awards when Spike Lee catapulted himself at Samuel L. Jackson after winning Best Adapted Screenplay. – JP

12. The Florida Project (2017) – Dir. Sean Baker

A heart-breaking view into the lives of a young mother and her daughter struggling to get by, The Florida Project transports audiences into the mind of a child in a way most films cannot touch. Six-year-old Moonee (Brooklyn Prince) lives in Magic Castle, a motel just outside of Disney Land Florida, with her young mother Halley (Bria Vinaite). After losing her job as an exotic dancer for not having sex with a client, Halley is forced to babysit for stolen meals, eventually turning to prostitution to make rent. All the while her daughter makes mischief with the other children at the motel. Critics loved the performances of Prince, as well as Willem Dafoe who plays Bobby the Motel owner, praising his ability to offer hope and level-headedness “in a world markedly short on both.” Director Sean Baker garnered praise for protecting the child’s sense of wonder at the heart of the film in spite of its dark overtones. – GF

11. Parasite (2019) – Dir. Bong Joon Ho

Joon Ho delivers another informative masterclass in storytelling with Parasite, once again looking at the theme of classism. Already being labelled as the film of the year, Parasite tells the story of the unemployed Ki-taek family who one by one get hired by the wealthy Park family. However, as they get further into their lives, they get entangled in an unexpected incident with life-changing consequences. Winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year (being the first South Korean film to do so) as well as gaining nominations for the Golden Globes and SAGs, Parasite may just make history next February for being the first international film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. – JP

10. Get Out (2017) – Dir. Jordan Peele

Jordan Peele’s feature debut Get Out was an unexpected venture into psychological horror for a performer best known for his work in sketch comedy. We now recognise Peele as a modern horror icon after the success of his most recent film Us. Commenting on the lesser acknowledged racism of white liberals, Get Out wowed audiences back in 2017 with chilling visuals and eerie symbolism. Evoking the slave auctions of old, Peele exposes the fetishisation of ‘blackness’ with old white people shopping for young black bodies in which to implant their own consciousness. As thematically resonant as Get Out is, it doesn’t lack in the scare department, balancing commentary and chills with a deft touch. – GF

9. The Nice Guys (2016) – Dir. Shane Black

With the neo-noir genre receiving less popularity in modern movies, it’s refreshing to see a writer like Shane Black still firing on all cylinders with a style he knows all too well. Set in 1977 Los Angeles, a mismatched pair (of course) of private investigators investigate the disappearance of a missing girl as well as the mysterious death of a porn star. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe have immeasurable chemistry as the leading pair, with Gosling delivering the best comedy performance from the last few years. What makes The Nice Guys so great however is Black’s ability to further world-build and expand on the characters that aren’t just the leading pair. Angourie Rice, playing Ryan Gosling’s inquisitive daughter, gives much more nuance to the usual Shane Black black-comedy. – JP

8. The Master (2012) – Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

Paul Thomas Anderson’s story of Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), a broken veteran struggling to adapt to post-war America, subsequently indoctrinated into a quasi-Scientologist cult led by Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is the director’s proudest achievement to date, and for good reason. Phoenix, Hoffman and Amy Adams (making her second appearance on our list), all earned Oscar nominations for their craft, and Anderson’s direction is as flawless as ever – purposefully masking some of the darker notes of this film before exposing its underbelly. – GF

7. You Were Never Really Here (2017) – Dir. Lynne Ramsay

Lynne Ramsay unleashed her inner seventies for this psychological action thriller. Starring Joaquin Phoenix as the traumatized veteran turned mercenary Joe, the film explores the dark psyche of someone unafraid of violence and how they can use this attitude for good. Joe tracks down missing girls for a living but when a job spins out of control, Joe has to overcome his personal demons or face his own downfall. It’s been a phenomenal decade for Phoenix, giving multiple performances that could all be argued as the best of the decade. However, we’re ranking You Were Never Really Here over Phoenix’s other performances this decade. – JP

6. Eighth Grade (2018) – Dir. Bo Burnham

Bo Burnham’s directorial debut Eighth Grade wowed Sundance attendees with its honest and unflinching portrayal of the anxieties and unique struggles of the iGen. Kayla (Elsie Fischer) is at the terminus of her middle school epoch, and despite being an anxious, romantically and socially awkward teen, she creates a life coaching blog for an audience smaller than most nativity scenes (seasonal, right?). The film is packed with relevant themes as Kayla navigates consent, mental health and, crucially, the church of social media. Fischer’s portrayal of Kayla garnered much deserved praise from fans and critics alike, with Burnham’s self-reflective screenplay earning plaudits from academics for its genuine and unapologetic depiction of modern teenage issues. – GF

5. Whiplash (2014) ­– Dir. Damien Chazelle

Cut-throat abusive mentors have been portrayed in the military, in dance academies and in Wall Street, so why not for jazz as well? Chazelle’s adoration of jazz is as common as J.J Abram’s lens flares, and Chazelle can take pride in knowing he’s inspired a new generation of film enthusiasts to deep dive into the works of Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker. Whiplash summarises the perfect relationship between an unlikable talented drummer (Miles Teller) and a volcanic music instructor (J.K. Simmons) that may explain the toxicity that goes into realizing someone’s true artistic potential. Shots of blood vibrating off of cymbals and blistered knuckles soaking into buckets of ice are just some of the powerful images that represent Whiplash’s message: “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job.” – JP

4. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – Dir. George Miller

After a turbulent, stop-start production at the turn of the century, George Miller’s Mad Max series made its triumphant return with Fury Road in 2015. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron star as Max and Imperator Furiosa respectively, each bringing solid performances to an action-packed wild ride that knows exactly what it wants to be. Expertly directed and choreographed, the film is essentially one long desert car chase as Furiosa and Max flee the tyrannical Immortan Joe with his five wives. Fury Road won Oscars for set, costume and production design, which is almost an understatement considering the masterful execution of the stunt work, exceptional vehicles and apocalyptic costumes on display. – GF

3. Lady Bird (2017) – Dir. Greta Gerwig

Another A24 film in this ranking just goes to show the dominating presence this independent film company has had on awards and film-lovers alike. Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut Lady Bird was a critical and commercial success, earning five Oscar nominations and $79 million from a $10 million budget. The plot centres around Christine (Saoirse Ronan), a senior at a Catholic high school in Sacramento, California who’s nicknamed herself ‘Lady Bird’. She longs to attend college in a city with culture and wants to move as far away from her hometown as humanly possible. Due to her family’s financial struggles, she longs of a richer and more sophisticated upbringing, even though her constant arguments with her mother (Laurie Metcalf) bring attention to her being ungrateful for what she has. It’s a beautifully written coming-of-age story about longing for something else while knowing you can never lose where you’re from. – JP

2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) – Dir. Phil Lord and Chris Miller

At a time where the superhero genre was more saturated than ever, Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s latest collaboration: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, hit our screens with eye-popping visuals and creative storytelling, breathing new life into a franchise gone stale. Fans of the comics were delighted to see Miles Morales as spidey on the big screen, and were not disappointed in the slightest after his long-awaited debut. Spider- Verse won the Oscar for best animated feature, fending off worthy competition from Incredibles 2 and Isle of Dogs. – GF

1.Moonlight (2016) – Dir. Barry Jenkins

With only a budget of $1.5 million, Moonlight’s snowball effect has been quite literal in the recognition it has received over the last several years. Initially an indie gem when it premiered at Telluride Film Festival, there was no doubt about this film being an instant classic. Barry Jenkin’s coming-of-age drama, based on an unpublished play, focused on three stages in the life of our main character, when he has to face his sexuality, identity and enduring abuse. Set in Miami, Florida, Moonlight is one of the most gorgeous and telling stories of the decade. It gave notice to a whole range of stars including director Barry Jenkins. It won several accolades including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali at the Academy Awards. As well as topping our list, it topped IndieWire’s best of the 2010s too, proving that the love for Moonlight is universal across the film community. – JP