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The Big Picture: Top Movies of the Decade

by Thomas Mcnulty

As we march boldly toward 2020, many Montclair State University students were also prompted to look back at their favorite movies of the past decade. These are just a handful of the hundreds of amazing films that were released in the 2010s.


Christopher Nolan kicked off the decade with “Inception,” a follow-up to his 2008 blockbuster “The Dark Knight.” “Inception” featured both a star-studded cast, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page, and a mind-bending sci-fi plot that left many viewers’ heads spinning.


A French film starring Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Artist” is an incredibly unique comedy-drama. Taking place in Hollywood in the late 1920s, the setting is strongly translated through filming in the style of a black-and-white silent film.

Wendy Faria, a senior English major and teacher education student, explained why “The Artist” is so unique.

“This decade has two huge movies for the arts, ‘The Artist’ and ‘La La Land.’ They explore the importance of music, dance and song in connecting people in the modern day,” Faria said. “The use of black-and-white again in ‘The Artist’ was amazing and extremely unique.”



One of Disney’s first animated features of this decade was “Wreck-It Ralph,” centered around the villain of an arcade game who dreams of being a hero. The movie features voice work from Hollywood stars such as John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman.


“Wreck-It Ralph” was one of Disney’s first hit films of the decade.
Photo courtesy of Disney.

Junior humanities major Brian Hernandez cited “Wreck-It Ralph” as his favorite movie of the decade.

“I like movies that revolve around the concept of ‘the self,'” Hernandez said. “Ralph wants to be a good guy, but in being the bad guy, he gives the game purpose. Like Zangief said in the beginning of the movie, ‘You’re the bad guy, but that doesn’t make you a bad guy.’ I just loved that idea, and it made me love villains a lot more.”



The past decade has seen the rise of many new horror movie franchises. One that particularly stands out is 2013s “The Conjuring,” directed by James Wan. The first film in the franchise, “The Conjuring” was highly praised for its strong performances and terrifying atmosphere.


2013’s “The Conjuring” kicked off an entire horror franchise.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Freshman English major Sierra Schiff explained why this movie is so important to the horror genre.

“I feel like it’s one of the most realistic and relatable horror movies released in the last decade,” Schiff said. “Most horror movies nowadays are so predictable and cheesy, but this one establishes an average family’s struggle without all of the extra, unnecessary details that most horror movies have.”



Directed by Dan Gilroy and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, “Nightcrawler” uses Los Angeles as a backdrop and is a grisly and visceral look into the world of crime, journalism, consumerism and mental illness.

Focused on Gyllenhaal’s character Louis Bloom, a desperate cameraman who films violent crime and sells the footage, “Nightcrawler” treats both Louis and Los Angeles as equally important characters. The performances are stellar, the cinematography is excellent and the script is quite possibly the strongest of the decade.



2015 saw Tom Hardy star as Max in George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The writer’s choice for the best movie of the decade would be “Mad Max: Fury Road,” starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron. A scenic, heart-pounding tour through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, “Fury Road” goes from 0 to 100 within the first 30 seconds and doesn’t slow down for two hours. Hardy and Theron give fascinating and nuanced performances as Max Rockatansky and Imperator Furiosa, and they cement themselves as incredibly skilled action stars. The diverse use of color throughout the film’s landscapes make “Fury Road” both beautiful and unrelenting.


One of this decade’s major film movements is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which began in 2008 with “Iron Man” and has consistently dominated the box office for the last decade, culminating in this year’s “Avengers: Endgame.”

One standout Marvel film is “Doctor Strange,” released in 2016 and starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the eponymous character.

Sophomore history major Matthew Baker cited “Doctor Strange” as his favorite movie of the decade.

“Benedict Cumberbatch is amazing, and so are Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton and Chiwetel Ejiofor,” Baker said. “All of the characters are so well-written. The effects are also stellar, probably the best out of any Marvel movie that I have seen.”



“Get Out,” directed by Jordan Peele and starring Daniel Kaluuya, was an amazing release from a first-time director. The film is equal parts horror, comedy, fantasy and social commentary. Racial tensions and prejudices are explored, dissected and inverted throughout this exciting thriller, offering audiences a number of exciting surprises and twists.

Senior communication and media arts major Mitchell Layne shared their thoughts on why “Get Out” was so important.

“It’s a huge metaphor for society, and issues that have really defined this decade,” Layne said. “Equal rights, and equal treatment for everyone, is such an important issue. ‘Get Out’ does an excellent job of addressing those issues in such a natural way.”



Another excellent horror movie, and another directorial debut, came from Ari Aster’s “Hereditary.” With a highly praised performance from Toni Collette, the movie tells the story of a family that is torn apart by a tragic event. However, not all is as it seems, and it seems that a curse may run in the family.

Hernandez mentioned “Hereditary” as one of his favorites, alongside “Wreck-It Ralph.”

“It’s so unsettling and atmospheric,” Hernandez said. “Instead of jump scares, they scare you using imagery and suspense to keep you on the edge.”



This year was full of many excellent and exciting releases, many of them reviewed by our very own Montclarion staff. One recent release was “Joker,” based on the Batman comic book villain and starring Joaquin Phoenix.

“Joker,” directed by Todd Phillips, stood apart from other comic book movies by embracing an R-rating and taking inspiration from Martin Scorsese films such as “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy.”

Faria commented on why “Joker” was so fascinating.

“It was so intense and engaging,” Faria said. “Phoenix is amazing, and the character’s deteriorating mental state makes you question whether every scene is real or just a fantasy. It’s brutal.”

These are just a few of the best films released in the past 10 years. Now that we have looked back and appreciated these works of art, it is also exciting to look toward the future. There will be plenty of amazing films coming in the 2020s, and The Montclarion will be here to review them over the next 10 years.

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