10 Best Films of the Decade (And Where to Watch Them)

As the 2010’s come to an end, film lovers across the globe are compiling lists of their favorite films from the decade.  What follows is Kyle’s picks (in no particular order) along with a few honorable mentions.

American Honey

Andrea Arnold picked the majority of the cast by interviewing drunk teenagers and loners while prowling spring break locations.  Sasha Lane was chosen to lead as Star, with her intricate performance being memorable for her ability to balance sexual mystique, danger, and conviction all while battling the uncertainties of adult life.  She’s supported by Shia LeBeouf, who gives the performance of his career as Star’s forbidden lover, Jack.  This is a story about the forgotten, and LeBeouf throws his soul into his portrayal, using the hardships of his career to show Jack as a hungry street hustler whose armor of cool protects a lonely and restless heart desperate for an escape; an errant Peter Pan for a social media Neverland.  His chemistry with Lane is scorching, with some of the most raw and poignant love scenes ever filmed.  It’s easy to see how these two hearts find one another, as they both yearn for more amidst the reefer smoke, and yet, submit to a continual charade of hard partying and felonious behaviors as a welcome distraction from the world outside the van.  Arnold’s dissertation on the absolute chaos of our youth is hypnotic, while the revelations are horrifying and yet, there is always an undercurrent of natural beauty and freedom at work, dancing between the shadows of the bonfire in the film’s unforgettable final scene. (Available on Netflix)

Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer creates a spiderweb of emotional mystery with every single frame. Daniel Landin's cinematography is so real, so intimate, that you're hugging your knees during every sequence, desperately hoping to escape the fate that awaits you upon the film's conclusion. There's essentially no wrong way to interpret this film. Is it about how we as humans connect to one another or is it a meditation on sex? Is it horror or science fiction, or more importantly a love story? It is entirely up the viewer to decide and that is what makes this a film like no other.  An absolutely terrifying examination of what it means to be human. (Available on Netflix) 


The witching hour, in the mind's eye of our youths is after midnight on a Friday night when forgotten horror films were broadcast on outlaw channels by celluloid conjurers.  Within the shadows of this wondrous time lie broken memories and shattered dreams, an amalgam of cold war paranoia, psychedelic experimentation, and a realization that the dreams of our forefathers were illusions.  However, as these truths reveal themselves, life continues on, evolving, creating, and destroying.  It is destruction, more specifically unimaginable bereavement that is the centerpiece of Panos' Cosmatos' twin masterworks Beyond the Black Rainbow and his latest feature, Mandy.  Where Rainbow is an exploration of power, control, and escape, Mandy is the karmic opposite, delving into a tangible, all too American hell where the concepts of rage, loss, and love are vivisected on an altar of bibles and bodily fluids.  (Available on Shudder) 

Song to Song

Terrence Malick weaves expected strings of Biblical imagery throughout his Austin musical parable, with Michael Fassbender's villainous turn being the demonic core.  His Cook is a lecherous music executive with a voracious appetite for pleasures of the flesh and narcotics; and Fassbender's performance is a nefarious delight: A modern day Lucifer in the conservatory of Eden.  He walks with an alluring gait of self-serving apology, counterfeit brotherhood, and unchecked avarice with panache only the devil himself could conjure.  This thundering performance is bolstered by Emanuel Lubezski’s dreamlike cinematography, capturing the four principals at various times throughout their tragic and wondrous lives.  While many would put Tree of Life above Malick’s more experimental films, there is something about Song that is so intrinsically human and approachable that it becomes a living rhythm, tethered to the viewer’s soul. (Available on Amazon Prime) 

Why Don't You Play in Hell?

The madman auteur, Sion Sono’s loving tribute to the medium is a perfect example of his storied filmography.  Sono, unlike any other director alive has an uncanny ability to transport the viewer directly into his subconscious, exploring themes of violence, guilt, sex, love, and family all while tethered to the viewer’s own reality and the shadows therein.  This is a remarkable, one of a kind experience about a group of renegade filmmakers who attempt to film the greatest gangster film ever made by capturing an actual Yakuza standoff between two rival gangs.  In between gruesome swordplay and gunfights, Play reveals its true intentions: There is nothing comparable to magic of cinema. (Available on Shudder) 

Upstream Color

What draws us to one another?  How can you explain the feeling you get when you meet someone for the first time and it’s as if you’ve known each other your entire life?  Shane Carruth’s puzzling masterpiece, Upstream Color, is an artistic triumph, a one of kind exploration of the human condition that is a transcendent science fiction emotional epic.  What begins as a hypnotic violation transforms into a careful examination of desire and intimacy, using philosophical concepts and poetic visuals to impart a story about breaking the chains that confine relationships and embracing the basic connections that define humanity.  (Available on The Criterion Channel) 

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

One of the greatest pleasures of cinema is discovering something new.  A cult film at the bottom of a discount bin.  A restored print of a foreign classic previously thought lost.  Perhaps it's simply stumbling onto a new personal favorite film while perusing the endless wares of digital streaming.  Beyond these treasured delights exists a different experience: Discovering a film that is both visually and tonally remarkable but is also esoteric; filled with dangerous ideas and profane secrets.  John Hyams' fourth entry into the Universal Soldier franchise, Day of Reckoning is one of these ethereal entities.  A terrifying refutation of cinematic violence and masculine archetypes, Reckoning is a neo-noir horror hybrid that exists underneath a labyrinthine prison of throwaway action films.  Featuring surreal, back alley visuals, uncharacteristically shocking sequences of violence, and a subversive undercurrent, Hyams' masterpiece is a road trip into the hell of a faceless America, a wasteland of recycled ideas and shattered dreams. (Available on Crackle)

Let the Corpses Tan

Viewing a film by directing duo Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani is akin to having a near death experience.  Their two previous features, Amer and The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears were ultra-Giallo homages, filled with kaleidoscopic imagery, potent sexual overtones, and unrelenting surreal nightmares,  Their third effort, Let the Corpses Tan is nothing short of a masterpiece, shifting their artistic focus to the gritty Italian crime thrillers and spaghetti westerns of the 70's.  Featuring otherworldly visuals, hyper-kinetic shootouts, and celestial semiotics sprinkled throughout, this is one of the most unforgettable cinematic experiences of the decade.  (Available on Amazon Prime)  

Mad Max Fury Road

This is the action film's answer to The Thing (for Horror), to 2001 (for Sci Fi), and so forth. It is simply put, unparalleled.  George Miller’s magnum opus is quite possibly one of the greatest action films ever made, and is most certainly one of the most visually appealing.  Couple this with a strong female empowerment theme and the yield is a picture like no other, an art house actioner that transcended traditional viewer sensibilities to capture the hearts of both the high brow connoisseur and the average film goer.  This is a once in a lifetime happening, a bridge builder that marries jaw dropping stunt work, gorgeous visuals, and a deceptively deep thematic narrative. (Available for Digital Rental) 

Cold in July

The script, written by Jim Mickle and his longtime collaborator Nick Damici is a stripped-down examination of masculinity while also ruminating on the themes of brotherhood, violence, and friendship in post-Vietnam America. Some of the film's best moments are the calms between the storms where the heroic trio regroup at Don Johnson's (in the role of his career) pig farm to plan their next move. It's during these scenes the viewer is given the human side, the side worth fighting for. The other side of the film has the feel of a dirty mattress. Ryan Samul's cinematography captures the underbelly of the Texas night by focusing on visceral scenes of brutality coupled with the main trio's reactions to the evil around them. You're not just witnessing violent acts, you're a party to the death of innocence and the rebirth of a warrior.
These themes are further strengthened by Jeff Grace's low key, but haunting score. This is a film about men driving through the blackness of the void trying to set right the mistakes of their past. Dynatron's Cosmo Black is the centerpiece, a techno anthem that perfectly sets the tone for the looming showdown that awaits. 
Unforgiving in its delivery and malignant in its design, Cold in July is a film that begins as one thing, setting the rules and allowing the viewer to watch in comfort. Mickle then pulls off the blinders and changes everything halfway through, exposing the phantoms that lurk in the darkness just beyond our picket white fences. It's delivered so succinctly that you can't help but enjoy your time among the monsters, and those that hunt them. (Available for Digital Rental) 

Honorable Mentions

High Life, Suspiria, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Only God Forgives, The Killing of a Sacred Deer

--Kyle Jonathan