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The best movies of the last decade

We're about to enter a brand new decade of pop culture, and while 2020 has some seriously great movies on the horizon, there's no denying that there were plenty of incredible movies that came out between 2010 and the end of 2019. From outstanding animated outings and over-the-top action set pieces to quiet dramas and Marvel movies, this decade boasts some extraordinary films — so much so that narrowing the list down at all was a fairly difficult feat.

Ultimately, we had to whittle down the huge list of films released in the past ten years, and while that was no easy feat, this list is a pretty definitive selection of the films that, well, defined the entire decade, made artistic strides, and cemented themselves in cinematic history. From superhero flicks that redefined the genre to arthouse films and psychological thrillers, these are the absolute best movies that came out in this action-packed decade. Some spoilers for these films to follow!

Inception (2010)

After reinventing the superhero genre with his Batman trilogyChristopher Nolan continued his celebrated cinematic streak with 2010's Inception. An original story written and directed by Nolan (and produced alongside his wife Emma Thomas), Inception tells the twisting, turning tale of Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), an "extractor" who can explore people's subconscious states and pull information for his clients. When faced with a job from Mr. Saito (Ken Watanabe) that could clear his criminal record and let him return to his wife and children, Cobb assembles a crack team, including Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Ariadne (Ellen Page), and Eames (Tom Hardy). From there, they must break into the mind of Robert Michael Fischer (Cillian Murphy) and convince him to dissolve his father's company.

With a cast rounded out by accomplished actors like Michael Caine, who plays Cobb's father-in-law, and Marion Cotillard, who plays Cobb's long-lost wife, Inception employs incredible practical effects mixed with classic Edith Piaf songs and a cleverly written story that leaves viewers wondering about the truth long after the movie ends (that purposefully vague spinning top remains one of cinema's greatest mysteries). All in all, thanks to Nolan, the decade was already defined by stellar films like Inception.

Toy Story 3 (2010)

The first Toy Story set a standard in 1995 — not just for Pixar films, but for all animated movies — and though a sequel probably seemed unnecessary at the time, Toy Story 2 was released to universal acclaim in 1999. Though it took over ten years for Toy Story 3 to hit theaters, it was well worth the wait.

Toy Story 3 took an entirely different approach to the now-familiar narrative about beloved toys Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack), and more, envisioning a time when their loving owner Andy (John Morris) doesn't need them anymore. As Andy sets off for college, his toys end up accidentally donated to a local daycare, where they're tormented by manic children all day. When they try to escape, it proves more difficult than they thought — including a harrowing and emotional sequence that sees everyone's favorite gang of toys heading for an incinerator at the end of a trash chute — but luckily, the story ends happily. Ultimately, the toys find their way back to Andy, allowing him to introduce each toy to his neighbor's young daughter, finding a new home for his lifelong friends and providing emotional, satisfying closure for both the film's characters and for the audience. Toy Story 3 might have felt unnecessary, but in the end, it felt like a perfect closing chapter for the original trilogy (though Toy Story 4 would follow years later in 2019).

The Social Network (2010)

When most people saw the first trailer for The Social Network, the origin story of Facebook written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by David Fincher, it seemed almost ridiculous to make a "Facebook movie," but once the film hit theaters in September of 2010, naysayers were immediately proven wrong. A nominee for Best Picture (which would eventually go on to win Oscars for Adapted Screenplay, Editing, and Original Score), The Social Network starred Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard student who inadvertently strikes social media gold just by trying to get back at an ex-girlfriend (Rooney Mara, in a small yet powerful role). However, as Facebook gets bigger and bigger, he finds himself corrupted by power and players like Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), eventually ruining his friendship with Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield, in his breakout role).

From its innovative framework, which flashes back to the founding of Facebook between two future lawsuits against Zuckerberg (one by Saverin and one by the Winklevoss twins, both played by Armie Hammer) to its outstanding script, direction, and performances, The Social Network remains more relevant than ever, even topping several best of lists for not just the 2010s, but the 21st century so far. All in all, early ten years later, it has cemented itself as one of the defining films of the entire decade. 

Skyfall (2012)

Ever since Daniel Craig took over the role of James Bond in 2006's Casino Royale, the 007 films have gotten sleeker and harder-hitting, and 2012's Skyfall (directed by Sam Mendes) remains a serious highlight in the Bond oeuvre. With Javier Bardem as the film's villain, Raoul Silva, Skyfall finds Bond fighting against an attack on MI6 by the dastardly Silva, who once worked for the British spy agency. As Silva tries to kill M (Judi Dench), the leader of MI6 and Bond's intrepid boss whom Silva believes betrayed him, Bond must work alongside fellow agents Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) to save her. Luckily, they're also joined by Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), a new addition to the franchise, who takes over the job of M from Dench, whose appearance in Skyfall is her last in the Bond series.

Beyond plenty of positive reception from critics upon its release, Skyfall also struck gold during awards season and at the box office. At the 2012 Academy Awards, British songstress Adele took home a statue for the film's original song, also titled "Skyfall," and when all was said and done, it became the first Bond movie to pass one billion dollars at the box office. Casting a classically trained actor like Craig as 007 was definitely a smart choice, and it paid off, giving audiences the highest-brow Bond in decades and elevating the entire franchise to prestige status. 

Gravity (2013)

Director Alfonso Cuarón made his mark in the early aughts with films like Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and his first big film in the 2010s, Gravity, continued his successful creative streak. A hugely ambitious film set during a dangerous space mission, 2013's Gravity starred Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as Dr. Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalski, respectively, who find themselves completely stranded in space after debris strikes their space shuttle and kills everyone else on board. As the pair float through space and try to find their way to any remaining space shuttles that could return them safely to Earth, they discuss their personal lives and form a bond, which is tragically broken when Matt sacrifices himself so Ryan can live — which she does, eventually crash-landing back on Earth.

Gravity was, ultimately, an astounding cinematic accomplishment, combining groundbreaking special effects and an intimate, personal story told by just two actors, and its huge scope and touching story worked perfectly together. The film received widespread acclaim, with some even calling it the best movie of the year, and it was richly rewarded during the 2014 awards season, receiving ten nominations at the Academy Awards (including Best Picture). It left the ceremony without the top prize but won seven statues, including Best Director for Cuarón and Best Cinematography for Emmanuel Lubezki, and remains one of the best space movies of the modern era.

Her (2013)

Throughout his career, Spike Jonze has made a name for himself with risky, boundary-pushing projects like Being John Malkovich, Adaptation., and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and his 2013 outing Her fits in perfectly with the rest of his films. Starring acclaimed actor Joaquin Phoenix in a performance that requires an astonishing amount of solo work, the film tells the futuristic story of Theodore Twombly (Phoenix), a lonely Los Angeles man who buys an operating system that houses a virtual assistant that adapts to its user. Theodore chooses a female voice and the name Samantha, and the AI, voiced by Scarlett Johannson, ends up becoming his closest confidante and unlikely lover, all while Samantha continues to grow and evolve. Eventually, she leaves him for another AI, revealing that she has multiple human and AI "partners," leaving Theodore bereft but changed.

A film that explores human intimacy, deep emotion, and the difficult concept of connection, Her remains a career highlight for Jonze, and at the 2014 Academy Awards, the auteur won the award for Best Original Screenplay (though the film only took home one statue, it was also nominated for Best Picture). As technology continues to advance rapidly, Her feels more and more real, and remains wholly relevant, particularly as new developments in social media and AI complicate human connection every single day.

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

The Coen brothers have been making acclaimed, award-winning movies for decades, and in 2013, one of their most thoughtful and beautifully-penned projects hit theaters. Inside Llewyn Davis, which stars future Star Wars star Oscar Isaac as the titular singer-songwriter, was written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen and tells the twisting, winding tale of Davis' struggles to make it in the music business after his bandmate commits suicide years before the film. Inspired by everything from James Joyce's Ulysses to the true story of musician Dave Van Ronk, Llewyn Davis chronicles a particularly difficult week for Davis. During this week, he discovers that his illicit, married lover Jean (Carey Mulligan) is pregnant, records a song with her husband Jim (Justin Timberlake) and novelty musician Al Cody (Isaac's eventual Star Wars co-star Adam Driver), and more, including an ill-fated trip to Chicago. Throughout the journey, Davis spends his time chasing an orange tabby cat on a cyclical journey — and in a particularly obvious nod to Joyce, the cat's name is eventually revealed as Ulysses.

Beyond the fascinating and emotionally fraught story, the film is rounded out by original music crafted by Marcus Mumford (of Mumford & Sons) and T Bone Burnett, the majority of which was performed by Isaac himself. Ultimately, the movie tells the story of broken dreams and a hardscrabble life, but still manages to provide an uplifting ending, making for an unforgettable filmgoing experiences still beloved years after its release.

Selma (2014)

This decade was jam-packed full of historical biopics, but few left quite as strong of an impression as Selma, the 2014 film that put director Ava DuVernay on the map. The true story of the 1995 marches from Selma, Alabama to the state's capital, Montgomery, Selma dramatized one of the United States' most important and fraught historical moments, giving one of the most important moments of the civil rights movement the respect and due it always deserved.

The film stars David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr., Common as James Bevel, Stephan James as John Lewis, and Wendell Pierce as Hosea Williams, the four public figures responsible for the march itself. The rest of the cast is fleshed out by talented performers like Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, Tim Roth as George Wallace, and Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon B. Johnson, among others, boasting an impressive amount of starpower. Ultimately, Selma builds to the moment King delivered his famous speech known as "How Long, Not Long" after President Johnson sided with the activists at the Alabama State Capitol. Nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 2014, the film made history for DuVernay as the first black female director nominated for Best Director, and it ended up winning Best Original Song in an award shared by star Common and singer-songwriter John Legend, who put the "O" in his eventual EGOT thanks to "Glory."

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Wes Anderson has been a cinematic staple for years thanks to his distinctive visual style and clever storytelling techniques, and in 2014, he outdid himself with his period piece The Grand Budapest Hotel. Using a multilayered narrative involving an author (played as a young man by Jude Law) who meets with an elderly hotel proprietor named Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), Anderson skillfully weaves the story of M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), who worked as a concierge at the historic and beautiful Grand Budapest Hotel in the 1930s, and his friendship with Zero (Tony Revolori), a lobby boy.

Gustave prides himself on his perfect service and impeccable care of the hotel, but after an affair with one of the hotel's older residents goes wrong, he is framed for murder and must go on the run. Before Gustave is imprisoned, he and Zero do manage to steal one of the deceased, wealthy woman's paintings, Boy with Apple, while her family searches for it fruitlessly. Ultimately, both of their stories end in tragedy; Gustave is killed by the army during a raid on a train, and Zero's wife Agatha (Saiorse Ronan) and young child fall ill and die. In the end, it turns out Zero is Mr. Moustafa, and he alone can tell Gustave's story. Nominated for Best Picture at the 2015 Academy Awards, The Grand Budapest Hotel is an exemplary example of Anderson's prowess as a filmmaker, and remains endlessly rewatchable to this day.

Boyhood (2014)

Plenty of films boast grueling and long-spanning filming schedules, but few movies have a behind-the-scenes process quite like Richard Linklater's Boyhood. This 2014 film took a whopping twelve years to make, with production and filming beginning in 2001 and wrapping in 2013 between Linklater and his stars Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane, and Linklater's daughter Lorelei. As Mason Evans, Coltrane filmed pieces of the movie every single year for those 12 years, chronicling his growth from a child to an adult as his parents divorce and he faces the typical teenage stumbling blocks. 

Considered one of the frontrunners for Best Picture at the 2015 Oscars, Boyhood ended up losing to Birdman — though Arquette walked away with a well-deserved award for Best Supporting Actress — but its legacy is undeniable. After all, how many directors need a contingency plan for their film in case they die during a 12-year filming period? Boyhood might not have won Best Picture, but Linklater's ambitious project certainly paid off, placing him firmly on Hollywood's directorial A-list and remaining one of the most exceptional and unique films of the entire decade

Inside Out (2015)

Pixar's cinematic track record is pretty much perfect, but one of its very best films, especially throughout the 2010s, is Academy Award winner Inside Out, an original story conceived by Pixar stalwart Pete Docter, which gives the audience a glimpse into the complicated mind and memory of an 11-year-old girl named Riley. Inspired by his own daughter, Docter crafted a touching and deeply moving story about Riley's core emotions — Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) — as she transitions from a cheerful child to a more complex, confused pre-teen on the road to adulthood. When Sadness interferes with one of Joy's core memories, the two end up thrown into the vast and constantly changing landscape of Riley's mind, leaving them stranded until they can find their way back to their headquarters and help Riley get through a cross-country move and a new school.

Despite its seemingly sunny exterior, Inside Out is, at its core, a film that tells children and adults alike that it's okay to be sad, and as such, it's a relatable and emotional viewing experience for audience members of absolutely any age. Add in outstanding guest turns from actors like Richard Kind and Kyle McLachlan as well as ground-breaking animation, and you've got one of Pixar's finest turns since it broke onto the scene in the 1990s with Toy Story.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

An action movie spinoff of Mel Gibson's classic Mad Max franchise probably seems like an unlikely inclusion on this list — as well as a very unexpected Oscar contender — but George Miller's fourth movie in the Mad Max series, Fury Road, ended up breaking an astonishing amount of barriers in the aftermath of its 2015 release.

Starring Tom Hardy, who took over Mel Gibson's titular role, alongside Charlize Theron as Furiosa (one of the best action heroines in recent memory), this blazing, blindingly-paced action movie delighted critics and fans alike, with many calling it one of the best action films of all time. To the surprise of many, it even made its way into the crowded and prestigious pack of nominees at the 2016 Academy Awards, with an incredible ten nominations and six wins in technical categories (including an Editing win for Miller's wife, Marget Sixel), making it the biggest winner of the night. Though it seems like a true awards underdog on the surface, the truth is that Mad Max: Fury Road is both an outstanding dystopian action set piece and a perfect allegory for the modern world, bolstered by excellent performances, jaw-dropping visuals, and sharp direction that absolutely belongs on a list of the best films of the decade.

Midnight Special (2016)

An edgy science fiction outing from writer-director Jeff Nichols (who also directed the eerie 2011 film Take Shelter), Midnight Special reunited Nichols with his frequent collaborator Michael Shannon to tell the unsettling story of a child's abduction and the events that unfold afterwards. Shannon appears alongside other prestigious actors, including Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst, and the late Sam Shepard, and if you think you know where Midnight Special is going, you're likely wrong; this film takes several twists and turns before its final shot, which finds Alton, the kidnapped boy, entering into an entirely new realm. 

Even though Midnight Special was a small, independent genre film, it still attracted notice and positive attention from critics, receiving acclaim thanks to its leading performances by Shannon, Edgerton, Driver, and Dunst as well as its creative and original plot. Ultimately, Midnight Special is definitely one of the most creative films of the decade, leaving its mark as one of the most interesting science fiction outings in recent memory.

Moonlight (2016)

Moonlight had already earned plenty of fame and acclaim by the time the Academy Awards aired in early 2017, but this Best Picture contender is likely best known for the now infamous mix-up over the night's biggest winner. At the very end of the ceremony, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway presented Best Picture to La La Land, Moonlight's biggest competitor, only to cause an uproar when one of La La Land's producers turned the envelope towards the camera to reveal the actual winner: Moonlight, the 2016 coming of age film directed by Barry Jenkins.

However, if that's the only reason you remember Moonlight, you may want to rewatch this incredible, moving film and let it stand on its own apart from the famous Oscars snafu. Many have ranked this three-part film as one of the best films of the decade, and it's not surprising why; the story of Chiron, nicknamed "Little," as he grows up and comes to terms with his identity and sexuality, is all-encompassing, highly emotional, and relatable to everyone who watches the movie. Mahershala Ali earned his first Oscar (for Best Supporting Actor) for the film, and ultimately, there's no question at all that the Academy really did make the right call by anointing Moonlight as the best movie of the year.

Lady Bird (2017)

As with Moonlight, coming of age stories are always a relatable way to reach an audience, and the 2017 film Lady Bird, directed by actress-turned-director Greta Gerwig, followed that same path. Gerwig and her leading ladies, Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, all received Oscar nominations — Gerwig for Original Screenplay and Director, and Ronan and Metcalf for Leading and Supporting Actress, respectively — and it's easy to see why when you experience this gripping, funny, and emotional film. Ronan, who plays the title role, perfectly portrays a willful and stubborn teenager who chooses to go by "Lady Bird" (rather than her given name, Christine) while trying to escape her California hometown and her well-meaning mother (Metcalf). The cast, rounded out by Beanie Feldstein, Timotheé Chalamet, and Tracy Letts, is exceptional, making this a pitch-perfect film for anyone who has ever struggled to find themselves growing up.

It's an unfortunate fact that very few women have won an Academy Award for Best Director — Kathryn Bigelow was famously the first ever winner for her 2008 film The Hurt Locker — so it's always a pleasant surprise when a female-led film earns its spot as one of the best films of the year. Gerwig, however, surpassed all expectations; Lady Bird, a movie directed by a woman and starring powerful women, wasn't just one of the best films of 2017, but one of the overall best of the entire decade. 

Get Out (2017)

Jordan Peele's directorial debut came as somewhat of a surprise, considering that the comedian turned director cut his teeth on the sketch comedy series Key & Peele, but by the time Get Out hit theaters in 2017, there were no doubts left about Peele's talent as a filmmaker. Written and directed by Peele, Get Out offers up a searing indictment of race relations and fetishism in modern America. The film seems simple at first: Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) goes with his girlfriend Rose (Alison Williams) to visit her family for the weekend, and while he's nervous about Rose introducing her black boyfriend to her white parents Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), everything goes pretty smoothly. However, it quickly takes a turn once he realizes that Dean and Missy have sinister motives — and beyond that, he isn't the first of Rose's boyfriends or partners to meet the same horrible fate they have planned for him.

Peele's social satire was an immediate hit thanks to its brilliant story, powerful performances, and sharp direction, and the Academy took notice. Though Get Out didn't win Best Picture at the 2018 ceremony, it was one of the nominees — Kaluuya also snagged a well-deserved nomination for Best Leading Actor — and ultimately, Peele walked away with Best Original Screenplay, making him the first African-American artist to win the award and confirming his status as a major talent to watch for years to come.

The Shape of Water (2017)

2017 was a solid year for cinema, with plenty of worthy nominees vying for the title of best film of the year, and according to the Academy, Guillermo del Toro's groundbreaking fantasy movie The Shape of Water was the best of the best. The star-studded cast features acclaimed actors Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Academy Award-winner Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, del Toro regular Doug Jones, and more, and tells the story of a mute government worker (Hawkins) in a secret facility who forms a, well, fairly unnatural attachment with a fish-human hybrid (played by Jones).

After the success of 2006's Pan's Labyrinth, it's no surprise that del Toro could produce another fantastical, otherworldly story, and audiences and critics alike took notice. Not only did The Shape of Water win the coveted Golden Lion award at the 2017 Venice Film Festival, but it earned a whopping 13 nominations at the 2018 Academy Awards, eventually winning statues for Director (for Del Toro) and Best Picture. In the end, this unconventional story of unlikely love, acceptance, and compassion is a tale for the ages, and del Toro's vision remains a classic.

Black Panther (2018)

Marvel has made plenty of groundbreaking films ever since the Marvel Cinematic Universe officially launched in 2008 with Iron Man, but one of its most revolutionary ventures was 2018's Black Panther, a film directed by Ryan Coogler that features Marvel's first black superhero and a powerhouse cast of actors of color. Chadwick Boseman had played T'Challa, known as the Black Panther, in Captain America: Civil War, and in Black Panther, he is prepared to take the throne after his father's death, but before long, he ends up thwarted by his cousin Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), one of the MCU's best villains to date. With a cast rounded out by Lupita Nyong'o and Forest Whitaker alongside legends like Angela Bassett and newcomers like Winston Duke and Letitia Wright, Black Panther made its mark in the MCU, especially thanks to its smart script and direction from Coogler.

Ultimately, Black Panther set a new standard for not just diversity in superhero films, but superhero movies as a whole, thanks to its complex villain, perfect performances, and thoughtful direction. As one of the 2019 nominees for Best Picture (and the first superhero film to achieve that accolade), Black Panther was a huge step for both Marvel and the superhero genre, providing a big highlight for the MCU.

A Quiet Place (2018)

After his nine-season run on The Office as Dunder-Mifflin's lovable irreverent goofball Jim Halpert, nobody thought John Krasinski would end up making one of the best horror films of the decade — but in 2018, A Quiet Place proved that he had the chops to make an excellent and original thriller for the ages. Krasinski stars in the film alongside his real-life wife Emily Blunt, an accomplished talent in her own right, as the parents of a family in a dystopian world who must evade monsters that respond to sound of any kind. In this world, Evelyn (Blunt) and Lee (Krasinski) try to keep their children safe, but after their four-year-old son dies, they have to tread carefully, especially because Evelyn is in the final stages of her pregnancy.

From the film's innovative use of sign language and a prominent deaf actor (Millicent Simmonds, who plays the family's daughter Regan), A Quiet Place made significant strides for the deaf community as well as presenting a new and original horror story that can stand the test of time. Thanks to Krasinski's clever script and direction, A Quiet Place has earned its place as one of the best movies of the decade.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Since the start of the 21st century, some might argue that there have been far too many Spider-Man adaptations, but 2018's animated venture Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was certainly a welcome addition to the canon. The 2019 Academy Award winner for Best Animated Feature, Into the Spider-Verse is based on the modern-day Spider-Man comic book character Miles Morales, an Afro-Latino teenager who discovers his identity as Spider-Man amongst several other Spider-Men who join him from other realms. 

After another Spider-Man, Peter Parker (voiced by Chris Pine) tragically dies, several other figures appear to take up his mantle, including Morales, Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), Gwen Stacy slash Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), and superheroes who arrive from other dimensions, including Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), SP//dr: (Kimiko Glenn), and, of course, Spider-Ham (John Mulaney). Together, they must fight against forces like Olivia Octavius, or Doctor Octopus (Kathryn Hahn), crime boss Wilson Fisk (Liev Schrieber), and Miles' own uncle, Aaron Davis (Mahershala Ali), who masquerades as the Prowler. Between the film's varied and groundbreaking animation techniques and multi-layered storytelling, there's no doubt that it belongs in the top films of the decade, and audiences can only hope that future animators follow in its footsteps to tell their own stories.

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

Acclaimed director Spike Lee has been making great films for decades, but thanks to a seriously unbelievable true story, he struck cinematic gold in the 2010s with BlacKkKlansman. Telling the surreal yet true story of Ron Stallworth (played by Denzel Washington's son John David Washington), an African-American detective in Denver's police department who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan over the phone, most viewers probably would never believe that this story is based on an entirely true experience, but Lee adapted Stallworth's story from the detective's book Black Klansman, putting his own spin on the title.

As Stallworth, the first black detective in Colorado Springs' police department, gets further into his deception against the KKK, he enlists a fellow officer, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), to pose as him at KKK meetings while the hateful organization prepares for an attack in Colorado. In the meantime, Stallworth continues to curry favor with David Duke himself (played by Topher Grace), the Grand Wizard of the KKK, as he works to take the entire operation down. Lee might not have won Best Picture for BlacKkKlansman — though he was nominated — but he did take home an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, earning the lauded director his first competitive Oscar. Ultimately, this award proved that this outlandish yet extremely real story resonated with audiences and critics alike, making BlacKkKlansman yet another Spike Lee classic.

Us (2019)

After the success of Get Out, it seemed impossible that Jordan Peele could top his debut effort, but luckily for audiences, Peele didn't suffer from a sophomore slump. Two years after his first film, Peele released Us, a mind-bending tale of doppelgängers that also touches on poverty, class differences, and race in an all-encompassing story that provides laughs, scares, and thought-provoking scenes from one moment to the next.

Starring Lupita Nyong'o and Winston Duke — teaming up once again after 2018's Black Panther — as Adelaide and Gabe Wilson, a couple who vacation with their children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) in Santa Monica, Us immediately reveals that Adelaide suffered a childhood trauma at the Santa Monica boardwalk and is hesitant to return. Once there, they meet up with their wealthy friends Kitty (Elisabeth Moss) and Josh (Tim Heidecker) for a day at the beach, but by the time evening falls, both families are confronted by dangerous sets of doppelgängers clad in red jumpsuits, most of whom are mute. Adelaide's double, Red, is the only one who can speak, and eventually reveals Adelaide's dark secret as the Wilson family successfully evades their murderous doubles, even as the world crumbles. Thanks to another great concept by Peele and a truly powerful dual performance by Nyong'o, Us is another success for the brilliant director, whose two films in this decade have both made a huge impression on the cinematic landscape.

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is one of the biggest presences in film today, and as its third phase came to a close, Avengers: Endgame became one of the most anticipated films of the decade, especially after the cliffhanger left behind by its predecessor. In 2018's Avengers: Infinity War, half of the MCU's major characters fell prey to the "Snappening," when Thanos (Josh Brolin) turned half of the planet's living population to dust with a simple snap of his fingers, and in Endgame, the goal is to track down those missing heroes and return them to the human realm.

Eventually, after some pretty complicated efforts, Captain America (Chris Evans), Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), and their cohorts are able to fill out Thanos' Infinity Gauntlet themselves through some nifty time travel, but ultimately, a price must be paid. During the film's gargantuan final battle, Tony sacrifices himself by snapping the Gauntlet himself, demolishing Thanos' army and killing himself, ending Iron Man's arc in the MCU and providing a satisfying conclusion to this chapter of the franchise. Somehow, Endgame served as both a huge action movie and an emotional tentpole for the MCU, and as it bridged that gap, it also cemented itself as one of the best cinematic efforts of the year — as well as one of the highest-earning films of all time.

Parasite (2019)

Foreign language films rarely stand a chance in the North American box offices, but at the end of 2019, Bong Joon-Ho's Parasite made a huge splash, selling out screenings across the country and marking itself as a must-see movie thanks to its mysterious marketing and twisting, turning narrative. Upon its premiere in May of 2019 at the Cannes Film Festival, Parasite took home the coveted Palme d'Or with a unanimous vote, proving that it was the film to watch out for as the year continued.

The less that's said about Parasite's plot, the better — while some films can benefit from light spoilers, this is not one of them — but all that you need to know is that this exquisitely shot and carefully plotted film focuses on class differences between an impoverished family, the Kims, in South Korea and an extraordinarily wealthy family, the Parks, who end up hiring the entire Kim family as their servants. From there, the film takes several turns that we'd rather not reveal; ultimately, all that you need to know about Parasite is that once you see it, you're unlikely to forget it anytime soon, which is why it's beloved by critics and fans across the world.