Welcome back to Set the Tape’s Top 25 Films of the 2010s countdown! Yesterday, we did a whole opening spiel and ran through #25 – #16 of our list. Today, we’ll finish off the rest of the countdown. As always, share this list, as well as your own personal lists in the inevitable likelihood we’ve missed something off, in the comments and on the socials.
An epic journey to the stars that only Christopher and Jonathan Nolan could have come up with.
Interstellar proved to be not only a glorious tribute to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, but also a thoughtful original science fiction epic that put as much stock into its characters as it did on spectacle and world building.
Backed by Hans Zimmer’s magnificent score, the film is a wondrous widescreen epic, filling every inch of the silver screen, taking its audience on an intelligent journey to the cosmos, but also putting the most emotional relationship in all of Nolan’s output front and centre. – Eamon Hennedy
READ MORE: The Biggest Horror Films of the 2010s
14] Blade Runner 2049
Blade Runner was underrated for its day, so no surprise that its sequel thirty-five years later suffered the same fate.
Denis Villeneuve’s belated follow-up opened to basically zero box office and little hype, but who cares about that when the movie is otherwise, miraculously, a worthy successor to Ridley Scott’s genre redefining original?
The beautiful cinematography which finally won Roger Deakins his Oscar, the haunting performances – shout out to Ana de Armas who completely stuns as Joi – the suffocating atmosphere, and philosophically rich examinations of purpose and self. More years-later nostalgia sequels should aim for 2049’s level of vitality. – Jenn Reid
The maddest meditation on the end of a relationship since Possession sees Ari Aster follow up Hereditary with a sunlit nightmare that’s proved divisive but is undeniably one-of-a-kind.
An already customarily great Florence Pugh stars as a young woman grieving a terrible family tragedy who encounters a sinister Swedish nature cult in the midst of a mad festival.
As comfortable with eliciting incredulous laughter as it is with creeping dread and whiplash revulsion, Midsommar turns the fish-out-of-water horror into a psychedelic smorgasbord that is one of the most singular and unforgettable viewing experiences of the decade. – Kevin Ibbotson-Wight
12] Lady Bird
The tail end of the decade saw the emergence of Greta Gerwig as an incredibly talented writer and director.
Making her solo directorial debut with the very personal coming-of-age tale Lady Bird, and her first collaboration with Saoirse Ronan, the film was one of several such incredibly well put together tales that defined the decade.
With the 2002 setting, Lady Bird offered a nostalgic look back at a recent past, but it’s the understated, realistic and superbly portrayed relationship between Ronan’s titular character and her mother, a magnificent Laurie Metcalf, which gave the film an emotional edge that made it undeniably and subtly powerful. – Eamon Hennedy
READ MORE: The Witcher (Netflix) – Soundtrack Review
11] Inside Llewyn Davis
Who else but the Coen brothers could come out with potentially their greatest work 20 movies and 30 years into the game?
Inside Llewyn Davis explores a part-fictionalised version of New York’s famous Greenwich Village circa 1960s, right when culture is about to explode.
Our titular character, down and out following the death of his bandmate, struggles to go on creating music despite this vibrant surrounding scene.
Oscar Isaac leads a stacked cast through the morose and the musical which is at once bitterly hilarious and bluntly affecting; one of the Coens’ most layered and brilliant character studies. – Joel Thornton
First witnessing Hereditary will go down as a generational experience for those lucky/unlucky enough to walk in blind to the traumas awaiting.
Ari Aster’s familial nightmare dropped anchor at home, forcing you to feel like a stranger in what should be the comfort of your own living room.
A film that understands the horror genre to such an extent it knows to split its conventions down the middle; take half and spin them to destabilise the mood, and leave some to feel like respite while we prepare to hurt our audience again.
And it’s all led by Toni Collette delivering the mother of all horror turns as the unravelling head of this most unfortunate family unit. – Joel Thornton
READ MORE: The Lighthouse – The Real Life Inspiration
09] John Wick
It’s been nearly six years since John Wick first burst onto the scene and I’m still in awe of just how fucking phenomenal Chad Stahelski & David Leitch’s revolutionary debut is.
How compact and purposeful its storytelling is. How writer Derek Kolstad elegantly constructs an entire world operating outside of our narrow viewpoint of a dramatically compelling tale about a man wrestling with grief.
How legitimately balletic its alternately graceful and vicious action is, thanks to gorgeous neo-noir cinematography and a pulsing techno-indebted score. How much it revitalised Keanu Reeves’ stock with such a captivating physical central performance.
How so many other action movies in the years since have been badly trying to emulate the look and feel of this one film. All achieved by a movie where a man rampages against the Russian mob because they killed his dog. – Callum Petch
08] Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Into the Spider-Verse is something we thought we’d never get to see: an utterly perfect comic book movie.
Everything about it is spot on.
The stylized CGI works beautifully. The action is fast, fluid and engaging. The performances are universally brilliant. The story is relatable and believable even as it tosses in multi-versal theory, a pig in a spider suit and gives knowing nods and winks to the audience with the fourth wall often in perilous danger of collapse.
The soundtrack from Daniel Pemberton is a thing of absolute beauty and deserves to be singled out for special praise (especially for tracks involving The Prowler). For my money, Spider-Verse is the best superhero movie that’s ever been made. – Shaun Rodger
07] Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road, the film that spawned a thousand memes involving lovely days and things being shiny, chrome and mediocre all at once.
A film that asked the question “Mel Gibson who?” and showed that director George Miller could still bring the THUNDER even after two movies about singing penguins and one about a sheep-herding pig.
Beautiful, brutal, bombastic, both a sequel and a re-imagining, and brilliantly feminising a highly masculine series in a way that works for all genders, this was the film that showed audiences that the story of “Mad” Max Rockatansky still had plenty to give. – Shaun Rodger
READ MORE: Star Trek: Picard – Our coverage
06] The Raid
An astonishing Indonesian martial arts masterpiece that made most other action efforts obsolete in one fell swoop.
The Raid is beautiful in its simplicity as a crack SWAT force and fight their way to the vicious drug lord ruling his roost from the top of a crumbling Jakarta tower block.
Choreographed like a grand-guignol ballet, directed with unflinching clarity by Welshman Gareth Evans, and creating an instant legend in leading brawler Iko Uwais, it stands as tall as its central location.
A sequel expanded on the scale and scope, but there’s nothing to top this initial, brutal adrenaline rush. – Kevin Ibbotson-Wight
“Were you rushing or were you dragging?”
If these words do not strike fear into you, pleases stop what you’re doing and watch Whiplash, so that you too may witness one of the most terrifying performances of the decade from J.K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher, whose torturous conducting methods seek to drive or destroy Miles Teller’s up-and-comer jazz drummer.
Made on a budget of $3.3M, Whiplash announced the arrival of writer-director Damien Chazelle with a brutal gut punch that’s both endlessly exhilarating and frighteningly rewarding.
Never has a cut to black inspired such an overwhelming sense of relief. – Nicholas Lay
READ MORE: Best Uses of the Word F**k in Movies
Denis Villeneuve’s run throughout the 2010s, which (thanks to UK release dates) included him releasing one brand new film every single year between 2013 and 2017 with all of them being great or better, is one that Best Director Ever legends are made on.
Arrival, his 2016 hard-sci-fi Ted Chiang adaptation, is the pinnacle of that run.
An aching, empathetic, soulful drama about communication, unity, the wide-scale effects of othering and distrust, and eventually the very concepts of fate and time themselves, it’s frankly the movie that Interstellar wishes it were, whilst Amy Adams and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s complete shunning at all major film awards for one of the best performances and scores (respectively) of the decade remain crimes which demand recompense post-haste! – Callum Petch
03] Get Out
Is Get Out the best debut feature of all-time? Perhaps.
It’s definitely the best debut feature of the decade.
A multifaceted affair perfect for repeat viewings, Jordan Peele brings the length and breadth of his influences – from 70s social horrors such as The Stepford Wives to the stand-up of vintage Eddie Murphy – to the big screen.
Masterfully blending thriller pacing with pack-a-punch jokes, creative horror set pieces and biting social commentary, Peele’s instant-classic also managed to capture the mainstream societal conversation like no other film of its ilk this decade. An essential for this list, for sure. – Joel Thornton
02] The Social Network
They say there’s no such thing as a perfect movie, but honestly? This might be one.
The Social Network is witty, intense, and heart wrenching with career best performances from Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Armie Hammer, not to mention the insanely brilliant score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
Directed with stylish borderline-paranoid verve by David Fincher and working from perhaps writer Aaron Sorkin’s best and most nuanced screenplay ever, it’s a masterpiece about tech and bro culture of the 2010s and how easy it is to lose sight of everything else but your piece of the pie. – Jenn Reid
If Christopher Nolan’s life motto is “you mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling,” then he certainly accomplishes it with Inception!
I know ‘masterpiece’ gets thrown around often – like consuming Tic-Tacs every couple of hours – but that’s exactly what Inception is. Even a decade on, the sheer awe and audacity of the film gets better with every watch. It’s like watching a magician at work, and this is Nolan in his directorial element, at his most ambitious, daring and adventurous.
Whilst The Dark Knight changed the way we viewed comic book movies, Inception re-defined the very concept of the ‘Summer blockbuster.’ Not only does he deliver on the spectacle – and, trust me, Inception carries some jaw-dropping examples deserving of the big screen treatment – but the cathartic substance it envelops serves as a reminder as to why you love cinema in the first place.
As an intelligent, mind-bending mix of science fiction, cinematic homages with a James Bond-ian crime heist re-imagined, Inception may feel complex, but it works precisely because of that, operating on a multi-layered labyrinth of invading dreams with a well-assembled cast who keep the tutorial-based concept grounded. While Nolan relies on his favourite trademark (time), as every element slowly converges into one simultaneous kick helped by Hans Zimmer’s brilliant ‘rock anthem’ score (which elevates the impossible while beautifully conveying the emotion) and Lee Smith’s suspenseful editing, its masterful payoff culminates in some of the most fantastical moments ever committed to film. And that’s without even mentioning the ending, one viewers are still debating over to this day and, depending on which theoretical direction you go, always seems to drive a new line of thinking.
The cinematic landscape may have moved onto franchise IP driven by the studios, but Inception still feels remarkably fresh in this climate. And clearly, it shows – we still remember this over The King’s Speech! (Yes, I’m still looking at you, Oscars). If any film has defined the decade with the same cultural status as The Matrix once held back in the 90s, then Inception is worthy of such an accolade. Trailers are still ripping off that iconic “BWAAAAAAAM!!” a full decade on! – Kelechi Ehenulo