From Boyhood to Get Out – why the 2010s is my favourite film decade

The last seven years has given us career bests from visionary veterans and a horde of hungry up-and-comers ready to drag Hollywood into modernity. The death of cinema? We’ve never had it so good

•Read the rest of My favourite film decade

The faint whiff of something rotting at the back of the fridge has attached itself to cinema in recent years. A feeling that movies are on their way out, past their best. It’s a view endorsed by Martin Scorsese (“Cinema is gone”), Ridley Scott (“Cinema mainly is pretty bad”) and Jane Campion (“The really clever people do television”). Thing is, they’re wrong.

Okay, this decade hasn’t slam-dunked the greatest film ever made, not yet. But the past seven-and-a-bit years have given us vital movies, movies that matter.

Out in the real world, a generation of social activists – feminists, LGBTQ campaigners, the Black Lives Matter movement – are ramming equality into the mainstream. Films, too, are doing their bit. The late critic Roger Ebert’s elegant description of films as “empathy machines” never felt more true. Moonlight, Lady Macbeth, Carol, Call Me by Your Name, Girlhood, God’s Own Country, The Florida Project, Mustang – these movies put us inside characters who are not straight white men. What does it feel like to live their lives, dream their dreams? (For those of us who don’t already live or dream them.) In the 2010s the movie empathy machine has cranked into overdrive.

Blazing a trail … Alex Hibbert and Mahershala Ali in Moonlight.
Blazing a trail … Alex Hibbert and Mahershala Ali in Moonlight. Photograph: David Bornfriend/AP

I admit there is a bit of rose-tinting here. The cold hard fact is that when it comes to the lack of women and ethnic minority film-makers, things are no better today than 10 years ago. The #MeToo and Time’s Up movements show how much work Hollywood needs to do to fix its problem with women.

But while female film-makers account for a small percentage of directors (roughly 11% in the US; 13% in the UK), movies by women this decade are making an outsized impact. Name a lady who’s made a film you’ve loved since 2010. Céline Sciamma (Girlhood). Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl). Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird). Deniz Gamze Ergüven (Mustang). Julia Ducournau (Raw). Mia Hansen-Løve (Things to Come, Eden, Goodbye First Love). Maren Ade (Toni Erdmann). Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night). Haifaa al-Mansour (Wadjda). Claire Denis (Let The Sun Shine In). Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty, Detroit). Jennifer Kent (The Babadook). Sarah Polley (Take This Waltz, Stories We Tell). Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman). That’s 14 without the need of Google.

And everywhere you look there’s a young and sickeningly talented director making movies like there’s no tomorrow. Damien Chazelle arrived on the scene at 29 with Whiplash then made La La Land. The French-Canadian wonderkid Xavier Dolan bashed out six feature films by the time he was 27. Ryan Coogler, the director of Black Panther, which has passed the $1bn barrier at the box office, is 31.

And the directors who’ve been round the block a few times? They’ve been busy knocking out their best work in years. The 2013 vampire romance Only Lovers Left Alive is one of veteran hipster Jim Jarmusch’s best movies. Richard Linklater’s career-topper Boyhood earned him his first best director Oscar nomination. Martin Scorsese is in his 70s, but The Wolf of Wall Street felt like it could have been directed by a slip of a lad. Paul Verhoeven made an almighty comeback with Elle. Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life is a stunning achievement. (Okay, so he should have quit right then and there).

Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin.
Grand ambition … Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin. Photograph: Allstar/Film4

For a jolt of pure cinema we’ve had wildly beautiful experimental films like Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives from the Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Leos Carax’s crackers Holy Motors, Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin and Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void. Documentaries are on a roll (Stories We Tell, The Act of Killing, Amy, I Am Not Your Negro).

Perhaps it says something about how much we have to fret about at this point in time that the sci-fi movie is in such rude health (Her, Gravity, Ex Machina, Arrival, Mad Max: Fury Road and, just this week, Annihilation). Oh, and three of my top 10 horror films were made this decade: The Babadook, It Follows and Get Out.

So, reports of cinema’s death have been exaggerated. I haven’t got round to A Great Beauty or the staggering holocaust drama Son of Saul. Or Manchester By the Sea or 12 Years a Slave. Or blockbuster juggernauts like the Star Wars franchise. And who knows, we’re still nearly two years away from the 20s – maybe the tennies has got a few more doozies up its sleeve.

Contributor

Cath Clarke

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The 100 best films of the 21st century
Gangsters, superheroes, schoolkids, lovers, slaves, peasants, techies, Tenenbaums and freefalling astronauts – they’re all here in our countdown of cinema’s best movies since 2000

Peter Bradshaw, Cath Clarke, Andrew Pulver and Catherine Shoard

13, Sep, 2019 @5:00 AM

Article image
The Braddies 2017: Peter Bradshaw nominates his films of the year
The Guardian’s film critic presents his shortlist of the year’s movies, directors, actors, writers and screenplays he considers most awards-worthy

Peter Bradshaw

04, Dec, 2017 @9:00 AM

Article image
From Nosferatu to The General – why the 1920s is my favourite film decade
Chaplin and Keaton made millions laugh, but silent cinema’s greatest classics were the fruit of wild European fancy … and then Hollywood invented the talkies

Pamela Hutchinson

04, Apr, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
From The Naked City to Double Indemnity – why the 1940s is my favourite film decade
War changed everything, destroying whole film industries and heralding a new era of realism, grit and shoots on location

John Patterson

28, Mar, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
From Blow-Up to Bonnie and Clyde – why the 1960s is my favourite film decade
Rebellion against ‘le cinema du papa’ was the rallying cry of new waves worldwide in this golden era of studio-funded oddness

Steve Rose

30, Mar, 2018 @6:00 AM

Article image
From The Wizard of Oz to Top Hat – why the 1930s is my favourite film decade
Depression-era audiences escaped into a whirl of glamour, fantasy and monsters in a decade that ushered in Hollywood’s golden age

Alex von Tunzelmann

02, Apr, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
From Don't Look Now to The Godfather – why the 1970s is my favourite film decade
While Jaws and Star Wars spawned the blockbuster, groundbreaking film-makers pushed cinema to the limits with edgy drama and sparkling comedy

Ryan Gilbey

03, Apr, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
From Hidden to In the Mood for Love: why the 2000s are my favourite film decade | Peter Bradshaw
Featuring Coen brothers masterpieces and an astonishing run by Michael Haneke, this was the decade in which film rediscovered its history – and explored its future – thanks to digital technology

Peter Bradshaw

26, Mar, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
From Top Gun to Stand By Me – why the 1980s is my favourite film decade
It was the best of times for action, romance, teen and time-travel movies. It was also surprisingly liberal and diverse. But most of all it was fun

Hadley Freeman

27, Mar, 2018 @5:00 AM

Article image
From Godzilla to Some Like it Hot – why the 1950s is my favourite film decade
The decade that invented teenagers and giant radioactive lizards also gave birth to the melodramas of Douglas Sirk, the wry satires of Billy Wilder and saw Hitchcock at his finest

Wendy Ide

05, Apr, 2018 @5:00 AM