Since 2010 there has been an overwhelming abundance of superb cinema released around the globe. Everyone has their favourites, and for some of you, these aren’t always the most popular predictions. When it comes to producing top ten of the year lists the majority of people’s choices tend to highlight more obscure releases, encouraging their friends or readers to seek them out in hopes that the year’s underseen films will receive more recognition.
However, there are also much discussed and recurring films which so many speak highly of; sometimes their reputation and popularity withstands, and they go on to become landmark films, perhaps lingering far longer than the other terrific films people saw due to their cultural impact or frequent recitement.
The ten films raised here are likely to do exactly that – to attract more and more audiences each year, demanding more praise as they age. Of course, everyone will have their own opinions, and most pieces of this nature are subjective. Although, that being said, ranking films through personal preference of quality will not be the method of approach – all being very good films – but in terms of which is the most likely to achieve such status.
10. Our Little Sister (Hirokazu Koreeda, 2015)
Based on a manga series by Akimi Yoshida called Umimachi Diary, Hirokazu Koreeda’s tale of sisterly love is a beautiful and life-affirming piece of work; conscientious and lyrical in it’s evocation of family life. It was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, but sadly lost out to Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan, an inferior but nevertheless engaging film.
Our Little Sister tells the story of three sisters: Sachi, Yoshino and Chika. They grew up in their grandmothers home after their parents separated and left them, forcing them to become even more supportive of one another as they learn and grow.
With the announcement of their father’s death, they attend the funeral to depart from the man whose fifteen-year absence has shaped them, and their lives are again changed when they meet their fourteen year-old half sister, Suzu Asano. She is left abandoned, just as they were, so Sachi assures her that she can live with them, forming a beautiful bond between the four.
It’s a really lovely film, expertly dealing with themes of human strength and the importance of family. Koreeda achieves great performances from the entire cast, and spends appropriate time with all of them so that the audience can invest in every minor detail that threatens the numerous aspects of their lives. They are all experiencing change, struggling to make amends with the past to welcome a promising future, relying on sibling support to carry them through and assure them that their futures can be brighter if they work together.
The characters allow us to be uplifted, to assess our only family life, but also to feel pain – something that although seeming harmful, is essential and constructive. This is a film that many will look back on at the end of the decade and remember fondly, and upon reviewing, will adore even more. Hopefully this will be remembered as a classic in many years, because as an inspirational family-drama it offers perfection.
9. You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay, 2017)
The fourth directorial-feature from Scottish born filmmaker Lynne Ramsay may very well have confirmed her as one of the best British filmmakers currently working – something that many have been predicting to be the case since the release of her very first film: the heartbreaking Ratcatcher.
Her directorial-debut and her follow-up feature Morvern Callar received considerable praise, allowing her great creative freedom with her third effort and first film to be set in America, 2011’s We Need To Talk About Kevin; a unique and impressive adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s Orange Prize winning novel of the same name. A lengthy six years later, You Were Never Really Here reminded audiences of the filmmaker’s exceptional talents, announcing that even after over half a decade, her work is worth the wait, rewarding our patience with a piece every bit as striking as her previous efforts would suggest.
Joaquin Phoenix delivers yet another phenomenal performance in the role of Joe, a disturbed war veteran who works as a hired gun tasked with rescuing young girls from kidnappers and traffickers. When a job reveals itself as a convoluted plot of government corruption and deep-seated abuse of power, Joe must fight to rescue a young girl and the remnants of his own fast-diminishing mental state.
Phoenix’s character is fascinating, and Ramsay shows the audiences flickers of his past in order for us to understand that his loyalty to the job means much more than simply pleasing the client. He is a man tormented by visions of his past which manifest themselves in his everyday life, punishing him with feelings of responsibility and guilt. His duties give him a purpose, and yet it becomes even more complicated than this; his urgent attempts to rescue childhood innocence and restore balance lend themselves to the reflections of his own childhood, which he was unable to save, and as a result, unable to forget.
As many have noted, there are comparisons with Martin Scorsese’s 1976 classic Taxi Driver, however, this feels very much like a Lynne Ramsay film in its distinct stylistic choices and slick direction, never wasting a second of the viewers time. Admittedly, certain scenes feel in place to stump us and make us think about much more than the otherwise straightforward narrative at hand – scenes which reveal the complexities of the film’s central character, informing us that Joe’s silence is hiding a wealth of deep thought.
You Were Never Really Here has been praised by critics and audiences alike, and while it may feel a little too inaccessible to become a classic, it is likely that allowing more time to process the sheer skill that the film exhibits will result in further worship, especially as Ramsay’s career continues to grow.
8. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)
It really is difficult to award Paul Thomas Anderson with any praise which he has not already received. He is a modern master; Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood can all be considered masterpieces, and all for different reasons, yet they are all helmed by the same magnificent individual. It’s possible that many are right when they argue in favour of him being the greatest American filmmaker of the last twenty years – it is equally as difficult to ponder an alternative.
Some would say Christopher Nolan, and while he is a significant and sensible choice, he hasn’t quite made anything that has burrowed its way to the very core of humanity in the way that Magnolia has, or achieved the character study of something like The Master, yet another of the director’s staggering achievements.
Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman have never been better than in the respective roles of Freddie Quell – a naval veteran uncertain of his path – and Lancaster Dodd, the leader of the cult that recruits him.
The direction, cinematography and surrounding elements of production are as impressive as one would expect from a P.T.A. film, but it is the performances which manage to elevate this 2012 effort into something so much more than narrative would suggest. Their performances feel historical, and personally, this is likely to be the most-remembered role of Hoffman’s honourable career; he is astonishing here, and it’s honestly heartbreaking that he is gone. However, he has left behind a legacy that this film has already helped to cement – and yes, he will always be one of the greats.
The Master is by every measure of the definition a great film. It is one that can be debated and revisited because it is so rich in depth and meaning thanks the the character study at its foundation, and that is why it will be remembered. In a nutshell, this may just be eternal cinema, looked back on in decades to come as the filmmaker’s Barry Lyndon, getting the true credit it deserves much later in its lifespan.
7. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016)
Great comedy films are rare, and when they do come along you must cherish them. Arguably, Maren Ade’s third feature is one of the very best of the last few years. Maybe it’s because it sets out to be so much more; whether approached as an unconventional family-drama, or perhaps as an important reminder to never take ourselves too seriously. Fundamentally, it will resonate regardless of which of its many takeaways acts to best personally summarise its charming hospitality.
Sandra Huller stars as Ines, a hard-working, stressed corporate worker who shows no signs of switching off. One day, however, her routine is thrown into disarray when her father turns up at work to begin mending their estranged relationship. The only issue is that he hasn’t come as himself – he has instead come as his new alter-ego, Toni Erdmann, armed with a set of ridiculous novelty teeth and a rock-star wig.
Her father, Winfried (Peter Simonischek) is an aged practical joker who finds amusement in confusing those around him, whether this be the mailman or complete strangers. He has reached a point in his life of reflection, realising that his presence in his daughter’s life is bordering on non-existent.
It becomes clear that he must deal with this the only way he knows how: with humour. His ubiquity as the ridiculous cheese-grating Mr. Erdmann is a clear act of desperation, but also, of love, and his increasing efforts help this hilarious film unfold into a beautiful narrative about the rekindling relationship between a father and his daughter; two opposites who need the other in their lives.
Ade’s film really is a remarkable achievement. It is a comedy film which almost pushes three hours in length, and against all odds, manages to be funny, uplifting and perceptive for its entire duration. Although it was only recently released, the character of Toni Erdmann is escalating into something bordering on iconic, as there is even a planned remake to star Jack Nicholson in the works. No matter how successful this sudden retread will be, it’s clear to predict which one we will be watching for years to come.
6. Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)
Some were quick to criticise Richard Linklater’s childhood-chronicling epic when it was released in 2014, claiming that the film’s twelve-year filming method was an awards hungry gimmick; this is clearly ridiculous.
The director would never have to rely on marketing ploys, and has consistently proven himself as one of the most beloved and celebrated directors in modern US cinema. The “Before” trilogy and Dazed and Confused are terrific examples of the filmmaker’s warmhearted and observational style, and Boyhood stands as yet another commendable instance of the man’s devotion to his craft.
Boyhood chronicles Mason’s (Ellar Coltrane) journey through childhood and adolescence, beginning the film with his early childhood and departing with his arrival at college; his rebirth into a new and temporary life, away from those he loves and who we have grown to love over the course of the narrative.
The cast and crew filmed over the course of eleven years, spanning forty-five days of shooting which began in 2002 and commenced in 2013. Coltrane was just seven years old when work on the film began, and was nineteen when it finished.
Although it doesn’t immediately result in the film’s success, such an approach to storytelling is unquestionably admirable, as we are given the chance to see the actor age with his character right before our very eyes. It makes our commitment to following him through the stages of his life – through socialisation, learning curves, education and first-time employment – that little bit more meaningful and special. Of course, even with such methods, the film could have been a total bore, and yet, Linklater makes the experience feel enlightening, surrounding his protagonist with such real and sympathetic characters.
Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette deliver beautiful performances as Mason’s parents, delivering the kind of dialogue we have come to love and expect from Linklater: informative, inspirational, and honest. Although a minority have dismissed the film, the majority of audiences have appreciated the crew’s determination to deliver a cinematic rarity, and one that will no doubt be remembered in many years time as a true twenty-first century classic.