1. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)
Holy Motors is not only the best film of the 2010s but the film of the decade, directly defying the mutual symbiosis between cinema and its spectators. Leos Carax’s surreal satire can be perceived in many ways, as a critique of the fallaciousness and duplicity of the Internet and social media, as a demonstration of society being incapable of self-reflection, or perhaps (more irreverently) as an exercise of cultural excess. Whatever the case, Holy Motors is utterly refreshing, a bleakly and brutally funny antidote to the creative stagnancy of commercial filmmaking.
2. First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)
For the past 40 plus years, Paul Schrader has continuously wedded the angst of Robert Bresson, familial strife of Yasujirō Ozu, and claustrophobia of Carl Theodor Dreyer with the violent tendencies of American cinema. During this time, Schrader has made many masterpieces, yet First Reformed is the strongest synthesis of his cinematic influences. A cross between the emotional strife of Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest and the political outlook of Ingmar Bergman’s Winter Silence (with the self-destruction from Taxi Driver thrown in as well), First Reformed is both bleak and uplifting, perhaps the most personal film Schrader has made in this point of his career.
3. No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman, 2015)
The final film by Chantal Akerman before her suicide is one of the saddest documentaries I’ve seen. Depicting Akerman’s final months with her mother before the latter’s death, No Home Movie is a look into Akerman’s soul and encapsulates the humanity that has defined her as a filmmaker.
4. Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)
The first (and thus far only) Michael Haneke film to receive widespread support from the general public (and being amongst the few non-English movies to garner Best Picture and Best Director nominations at the Oscars), Amour is the French-Austrian auteur’s most intimate piece.
5. Good Time (Josh and Benny Safdie, 2017)
Arguably the most nightmarishly warped cinematic portrayal of New York since Martin Scorsese’s heyday in the 70s, Josh and Benny Safdie’s tale of white male narcissism and greed is perhaps the best indictment of Trumpism American cinema has yet to offer.
6. Mysteries of Lisbon (Raúl Ruiz, 2011)
One of the final projects by the late Chilean master Raúl Ruiz, Mysteries of Lisbon weaves together the lives of multiple Portuguese in the early 19th century in about four and a half hours, but the picture is so enthralling in its intimacy that it will make you wish it went on twice as long.
7. Paterson (Jim Jarmusch, 2016)
Jarmusch’s strongest film since Dead Man epitomizes the director’s talent in exploring the beauty and idiosyncrasies of America. No movie from this past decade was quite as enjoyable as this one.
8. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016)
Funny without being comically grotesque and sentimental without being schmaltzy. A close second to Carax’s Holy Motors for being the best comedy of the decade.
9. Certified Copy (Abaas Kiarostami, 2010)
Though I considered putting 24 Frames here instead, Certified Copy exhibits Kiarostami at his best through its assessment of art, love, and cultural identity.
10. The Day He Arrives (Hong Sang-soo, 2011)
Admittedly a relatively recent watch (and at this point in time the only Hong Sang-soo picture I’ve seen, though that will soon be remedied) but one that really struck a chord with me.