Crime is one of the earliest genres in film history dating back to The Great Train Robbery, often listed as one of the earliest narrative films ever. Since, the genre has persisted, going through different phases like film noir in the 40s-60s. Today, the genre is still pumping out new material and the following 20 films are the best that the 2010s have had to offer to the genre.
20. New World
Audiences are always looking for an invigorating crime drama and director Hoon-jung Park delivers with this hyper-stylized feature. Following the basic conventions of a crime thriller, Park keeps the movie refreshing with excellent action set pieces and engaging narrative intrigue.
On the surface, New World looks like a standard crime drama, ripe with themes of deception and corruption but beneath the surface is a thought-provoking morality tale that finds the main character at odds with what is in his best interest: to honor his duties as a cop or continue to put himself and his family in mortal danger. South Korea has been known to produce crime flicks with over-the-top violence and extravagant set pieces and New World is another example of such a movie checking all the right boxes.
19. Animal Kingdom
Like many other movies on this list, Animal Kingdom takes a mob family as its subject. However, the movie manages to stay original by never dramatizing the story to something unbelievable. It remains grounded in reality and thus creates characters that the audience can believe might actually exist. Earning enough critical and commercial acclaim to spawn a TV series, Animal Kingdom’s unique and uncompromising voice within its genre cements it as truly one of the better crime films of its decade.
18. Cold Fish
Cold Fish is a hard movie to classify as it blends comedy, horror, and crime thriller all into the mix. Gleefully reveling in its absurdity, Cold Fish delivers the heart-pumping suspense with hard-hitting gore to make for a truly unique movie-going experience. The crimes of the movie create the horror and it only makes the audience more uncomfortable when presented with the fact that it is inspired by true events.
17. End of Watch
An interesting movie that takes the cop movie conventions and adds tremendous style and realism. Content with not giving the audience what it wants and earning far more emotional resonance because of it, End of Watch marked the beginning of director David Ayer’s transition into the mainstream. He has since come nowhere near the stylistic originality of End of Watch, instead making critically panned features like Suicide Squad and Bright. This is unfortunate as those now overshadow what is easily the director’s best effort to date and one that remains one of the best crime movies of the 2010s.
Bullhead is a movie not content with a simple story structure as it incorporates a plethora of different plotlines and tangents. This doesn’t take away from the film’s effectiveness however; rather, the film feels more thought-out and detailed because of it. It’s a largely overlooked movie (in America at least) that should be sought out by fans of the crime genre. Containing elements of murder mystery, mob inner workings, and personal redemption, Bullhead stands out in its genre as a superior effort.
15. The Place Beyond the Pines
The Place Beyond the Pines takes an interesting narrative approach by illustrating the lives of 3 generations of a family, all of whom get involved with criminal activity. However, the movie’s approach to crime and violence isn’t typical and is it is shown from the perspective of the criminal and attempts to provide a moral justification for his actions.
Ryan Gosling plays a father reduced to robbing banks for his wife and child and the movie plays around with the morality question of if providing for your family through unlawful activities is justified. When society turns its back on people, should those people be beholden to the consequences or should they fight back? It’s an interesting perspective within the crime genre and a satisfying indie movie as well.
Headhunters follows the path of other movies on this list by infusing some dark comedy into its otherwise grisly subject matter. The movie follows a headhunter who steals artwork to further support his upper-class lifestyle. Other people are after the painting too, though, and begin to come after him to get it. It’s a cat and mouse thriller but done with far more effective style and substance resulting in an impactful ending that’s likely to linger in the minds of viewers after the credits have rolled.
Nightcrawler is a taut crime thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a crime reporter who wants to be the center of his own stories. The movie makes statements on journalism and celebrity culture, critiquing people’s desire to do anything for fame. It’s a smart crime thriller that doesn’t follow the classic conventions of the genre but successfully takes on a unique stylistic voice of its own. Fans of the genre should like the refreshing approach and the technical prowess of the film only serves to expand its appeal to a wider audience.
12. Good Time
Those familiar with Martin Scorsese’s After Hours will find plenty familiar in this thriller-ized version of it. Good Time follows the similar arc of characters who over the course of one night have nothing go right for them. The Safdie brothers make the naturally comedic concept tense and stylish with the residual humor becoming a more dark irony.
The directors are able to craft a film that is intense but not without intelligence. It doesn’t resort to needless violence, rather, it always reminds the audience of the emotional side of the story. The movie is able to get the audience to truly care about the characters and want them to succeed because although their actions are immoral, their intentions may not be so much.
11. Big Bad Wolves
Quentin Tarantino famously labeled this movie as his favorite of its year and it’s not hard to see why. Grisly, brutal violence combined with dark, tongue-in-cheek humor fill much of Tarantino’s movies and Big Bad Wolves has plenty of such too. The story structure is also reminiscent of the likes of Pulp Fiction as it follows a bunch of different characters who end up in the same place through differing circumstances. However, for all of the influence Tarantino’s movies have had on this, it never comes across as not having a voice of its own.
There’s plenty of singular vision to this movie in both style and execution and the audience is fully enthralled in its conflict. Even with some humor, the movie is still unrelentingly grim but audiences with the will to stomach it may find themselves in for a rewarding experience.