Top Ten Films [2003 -2013]

Top10

A while ago a friend and I were discussing the somewhat persistent belief that recent films just don’t match up to those from previous decades. It’s been a while since we talked about that, which has given me plenty of time to compile this list of my pick of the best films from 2003 onwards. Before we get to the Top 10 however, here’s a handful of films that came very close to making the list, but which ultimately didn’t quite reach it. Here are the runners up:

Runners Up

OK, and now for the actual list. In tenth place is…

Oldboy10. Oldboy (2003) – This is the first of several revenge films that have made this list, but Oldboy must be the most extreme of them all. This Korean film can be tough to watch at times but is definitely worth the effort. The upcoming American remake has a lot to live up to, and I’m doubtful that it will match this one if I’m going to be honest, despite Josh Brolin being cast as the lead. My advice is to see this one first, then catch up with the remake once its released.

Swan9. Black Swan (2010) – Featuring Natalie Portman’s best performance, Black Swan is a bold film and it’s easy to see why some people didn’t get along with it. For me though this is easily one of the most impressive films that I have seen over the past ten years, and it instantly jumped to mind when compiling this list. Also, be sure to check out Cinematic Corner’s post here if you have already seen the film. It’s a pretty eye opening page that demonstrates just how many hidden images, and subtle tricks are present in this film. It’s definitely worth a look!

VolverF8. Volver (2006) – I’m still discovering Almodóvar but I saw Volver very recently and it’s already become one of my all time favourite films, let alone one of my favourites from this decade. I want to say very little about this one for fear of spoiling anything, but if you haven’t already seen this then I do urge you to seek it out. I’m confident that you won’t regret it.

BiutifulF7. Biutiful (2010) – Javier Bardem has quickly become one of my favourite actors working today, and this is the film which introduced me to him. Simply said he is phenomenal here, and that performance alone would be enough to put this film in my top ten, but the rest of the film’s elements also hold up and make for powerful, difficult viewing.

Devil6. I Saw the Devil (2010) – Another revenge film on this list, I Saw the Devil is a pretty outstanding take on the classic theme of a good man potentially becoming as monstrous as the monster that he is hunting. I actually came to this film very recently, after having read many comments and posts about it on other blogs, and I was so glad that I did chase it up. Everything about this film is handled very well, and it just demands to be watched.

Kill5. Kill Bill (2003) – Kill Bill is easily one of my all-time favourite films, it’s so much fun, and the final showdown is in my opinion perfect cinema. The amazing craft that went into making this film is beyond impressive, and the result is a movie which I can see endless times and still thoroughly enjoy!

CountryF4. No Country for Old Men (2007) – The second Javier Bardem film on this list, No Country made quite an impression on pretty much everyone when it was first released, and it still holds up now. Bardem’s terrifying presence in this film helps to make this the huge success that it is, but there is fantastic work put in by everybody else from the Coen brothers, Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Kelly Macdonald and others, which all come together to make what’s easily one of the best films from this last decade.

Lost3. Lost in Translation (2003) – I can re-watch this film endlessly; Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson both give great performances here, to the point where it’s now a joy just to see the film again in order to revisit Bob and Charlotte. It’s perhaps easy to joke that this is a film where very little happens, but really it’s rare to see such a well observed and acted onscreen relationship develop, and the film is far stronger for focusing on this, rather than throwing in unneeded big plot developments. Lost in Translation is a special film.Drive2. Drive (2011) – This Ryan Gosling film just gets better with every re-watch, and after every discussion. It very nearly made the top spot on this list, and a large part of my brain keeps screaming that it should be there. Still though, second place is a good spot for Drive to occupy. It’s not the slick car chase film that it was advertised as, but instead is more of an exploration of the action film genre. If you go into it with an open mind, then it’s pretty likely that you’ll end up loving Drive.

Inception1. Inception (2010) –  It was tough to make this decision, but after a lot of thought I decided that Inception is my pick for top film from this decade. It’s the best heist film for years, the best sci-fi film, it has a fantastic cast, a completely immersive concept, and it’s executed nearly perfectly. I’ve written before about how this film is largely nothing but exposition, and yet it somehow manages to make that compelling to watch. I can shower this film with praise for a long time, so I’m going to hold back now,  but if you disagree with me then let’s argue it out in below!

Thank you for reading through this list, which films would make your top ten? Let me know below!

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86 comments

  1. Natalie P · · Reply

    Very interesting reading 🙂
    Inception is one of my favourite films, so I definitely agree with it being the top of your list! I haven’t seen many of the others,but am supposed to be seeing Drive quite soon.
    Return of the King would make my Top Ten though 🙂

    1. Thanks Natalie!
      Awesome, well I hope that you like Drive. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a really great film 😀
      Return came very close to making it in for me as well. Is it your favourite of the LotR films?

      1. Natalie P · · Reply

        I watched Drive last night, and I thought it was excellent! I couldn’t believe how much Gosling could express in the film without words, I really liked the choice of soundtrack, and some of the shots were so evocative. So I can see why it has a place on your list 🙂
        I think Return of the King is my favourite, it’s much more emotional and has resolutions, but it’s close in my affections with Fellowship.

        1. I’m really glad that you liked Drive so much Natalie! The beach shot is a particular highlight in my opinion. That mixed with the soundtrack makes for a pretty effective scene! Also Gosling is just fantastic in that film isn’t he. 😀
          Yeah I’m also torn between Fellowship and Return, maybe I lean slightly more towards Fellowship but it’s close!

  2. Very interesting post! I’m sure this was a tricky one to write as you had a lot to consider but it’s paid off. A real diverse range of films on show here too. Well done.

    1. Cheers! Yeah it took me forever to work out a rough list of about twenty films, then narrowing it down took a whole lot longer! 😀

  3. Excellent and very enjoyable post to read, some interesting choices there.

    1. Thanks buddy! Are there any on there that you particularly disagree with?

      1. Not really, I would probably add Casino Royale.

        1. That’s interesting about Casino Royale – it felt very odd for me to not be including a Bond film in this list, but if I were going to then that would be the one!

  4. Really strong list, good work! Not seen all of them, Biutiful is one I keep meaning to check out in particular. I wouldn’t know where to start with mine, must have been a tough process.

    1. Thank you, that means a lot as it was really tough to compile!
      Biutiful receives mixed reviews from people, but I think it is excellent.

  5. I have probably only seen about half of these films but Inception is one of my favourite films so I am definitely going to check out some of the other ones you have mentioned. Great post 🙂

    1. Thanks! It would be fantastic if you did check out a few of those films as I (obviously) think they are all great 😀

      1. Well the ones I have actually seen I love so I assume I will like the rest too!

        1. Great! 😀

  6. Inception changed my life. No joke. I am actually in the process of writing my review of it! Great list though dude. Ernie.

    1. Thanks man! I’ll be looking out for that review then 😀
      James.

    1. Man, it just missed the list! 😀

  7. Seems like 2010 was a pretty awesome year in movies for you! Only surprise for me was Lost in Translation, I just never latched onto that. Loved inception, and I’m becoming more of a fan of asian films so I may have to check out Oldboy. What did you mean it can be “tough to watch”?

    1. Yeah it was, I wasn’t aware of that until I made this list! 2003 is right behind it as well.

      I can see why you wouldn’t get along with Lost in Translation, in fact I disliked it the first time that I saw it. It was only after a re-watch that it began to really grow on me.

      Oldboy has several scenes of extreme violence; both physical and mental. There’s far worse out there, but I thought it was fair to put that line in just to warn people.

  8. Nice list. Here would be my top ten in alphabetical order.

    Amour
    Caché
    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    The Hurt Locker
    The Master
    No Country For Old Men
    A Separation
    There Will Be Blood
    The Tree of Life
    The White Ribbon

    1. That’s a strong list, although I would have to disagree about The Tree of Life. I really didn’t get along with that film – perhaps I should give it another chance at some point though. I’m glad that we have one cross over in No Country!

      1. The Tree of Life deserves multiple viewings to fully appreciate. I loved it the first time I saw it, and enjoyed it even more the second and third time. No Country For Old Men’s a masterpiece and is one of my all-time favorites.

        1. Well I will give it another shot then at some point. No Country is just a fantastic film, I came to it late because I didn’t believe the hype, but it lived up to it!

  9. Some great films on there without a doubt, James. I think I’d have to do a similar exercise to see what mine were… offhand, I’m not sure.

    Makes me want to see Volver and Biutiful though, if you’re putting them in such excellent company! 😀

    1. Yeah it’s tough to try and compile such a list offhand. Trust me, I tried 😀

      Both of them are worth your time, trust me!

  10. LOVE that you chose inception, a very brave choice indeed. I’d have chosen The Dark Knight but as long as Nolan is up there I’m happy 🙂

    1. Thanks man, I was pretty hesitant to put it that spot if I’m honest!

  11. Awesome list! No Country for Old Men is one of my favorite movies ever, so I definitely agree there and Inception will probably be a classic for years to come. There are several I haven’t seen, but I agree with all the ones that I have.

    Here’s a rough estimate of what mine would be (in no particular order really). I couldn’t narrow it down past these twelve:

    Pan’s Labyrinth
    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
    Inception
    Amour
    There Will Be Blood
    Children of Men
    Babel
    The Social Network
    Into the Wild
    Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (random, I know)
    The Tree of Life
    No Country for Old Men

    1. Thanks buddy! I’m glad that you like the list.
      The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a very good suggestion. I’m not really a fan of Children of Men though, sometimes it feels like I’m the only one who doesn’t love that movie!
      I haven’t seen Uncle Boonmee, but now I’ll try to get hold of it, thanks!

  12. Good God this list is sexy. So happy you included I Saw the Devil. That’s one of my most favorites ever.

    1. Haha, thanks man! Yeah I was so pleased that I finally listened to everyone and rented that film. I’ll be buying myself a copy soon so that I can rewatch it!

  13. Thank you for the link! Awesome list – I haven’t seen “I saw the Devil” yet, but I really have to now 🙂

    1. Thank you, and no problem! Thanks for putting out such great work 😀
      Yeah you really should see it, it’s very good.

  14. armanddc · · Reply

    Excellent list, James! I’m really happy to see Drive, Oldboy and I Saw the Devil make the cut. Great post! 🙂

    1. Cheers man! I always knew that Drive would make the list, there was no way that it was going to be forgotten 😀

  15. Oldboy? Black Swan? Volver? Kill Bill? No Country? Lost In Translation? Drive? Some amazing movies here. Your taste is flawless. Also you’re the one who recommended that I see Volver and you sure didn’t steer me wrong.
    I’m not the biggest Inception fan but I do see its merits. Great list, including the ones that missed out.

    1. Thank you very much! I’m really glad that you enjoyed Volver as well 😀 Have you seen much else of Almodóvar’s work?
      I figured that a few people would disagree with Inception being in first place, but I think it’s just a phenomenal film!

      1. I’ve only seen Volver and The Skin I Live In, but both are in my top 100 so that does say I need to get on it and see his other films.
        I’m one of the few people who wasn’t too impressed by Inception. But I don’t mention that in real life because that’s basically signing your death warrant. Can’t get me over the Internet. 😀

        1. Make sure you make ‘All About My Mother’ one of your first choices to check out 😀 I rate that one very highly too out of those which I have seen, possibly second after Volver.
          Yeah that’s a pretty good plan not to mention that in real life!

  16. Ah, I remember this discussion. I think whenever people say films aren’t what they were, they’re just saying it to say it, you know? Like it’s an easy sort of reactionary cliché to fall back on. But we’re lucky enough to live in an era in which: art films are semi-mainstream hits (Drive; the Coen Brothers, &c.); action & sci-fi flicks are done by really clever people like JJ Abrams or Joss Whedon; they’re making actually good superhero films for the first time ever; Bond’s going through a seriously decent phase (Skyfall beats Casino Royale, by the way); heck, even romantic comedies are clever (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, which actually might have made my list, the more I think about it). & I know a Hell of a lot of shit gets made, & there’s stuff that does annoy me, but even within the shit, I quite like the fact that high concept[Edit] movies are pretty huge. That’s fun, & cool & stuff. Sorry about the ramble.
    O, & Children of Men makes my list.

    1. *sorry, “high concept” not “high premise”, why isn’t there an Edit button?

      1. Unfortunately I can’t put an edit button up for people for some reason. Still, I’ve fixed that for you.

    2. Yeah it’s a particularly annoying cliché as well, because as you just pointed out, we live in a great time for film at the moment.
      Skyfall and Casino Royale are really close for me, as in 3rd and 4th place on my Bond film list. Perhaps when I see Casino again I may rank Skyfall higher. I re-watched Seeking a Friend for the End of the World last night, and although I enjoy it. It definitely wouldn’t make my list. Would Skyfall be on your list by the way?
      You know Children of Men wouldn’t have made my list, not by a long way!

  17. This list is seriously awesome. Not crazy about the inclusion of Drive, but having my two favorite films (Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Volver), as well as Biutiful, Black Swan and Inception is an A+ in my book!

    1. Haha, thanks man! It’s a shame that you don’t go in for Drive so much, but I thought that me having both Volver and Kill Bill in this list would please you 😀

      1. It definitely did! 🙂

  18. Fantastic choices here, Drive is definitely #1 for me. Still haven’t seen Old Boy and that’s got to change ASAP. Loved his work in Stoker.

    1. Thank you, it certainly took a while to compile!
      You have to see Oldboy soon, I haven’t seen Stoker yet but I take it I really should 😀

      1. Stoker is EXCELLENT!

        1. Awesome! I’ll have to rent it at some point soon then!

  19. Great idea for a post and a very cool list. Loved seeing Adaptation and Head On get honourable mentions – they are two of my favourites from this period. Drive would be very high on my list, which would probably be headed by The Tree of Life.

    1. Thanks! Yeah it’s a shame really that they didn’t make the final list – both are great films!
      I figured that several people would mention The Tree of Life, and I can see why. But that film just didn’t do anything for me I’m afraid.

      1. I totally get that. As much as I love The Tree of Life, can understand people not being into it.

        1. Well I plan on re-watching it at some point soon, maybe it will grow on me… I remember really liking the performance’s in the film, so I have that as an incentive to revisit it!

  20. Great list. When I saw Old Boy, I thought to myself, “Mmm, I’d maybe drop that for I Saw The Devil.” And then I read a bit further, and saw that you’d included I Saw The Devil. Haha.

    I think the other film I’d drop is probably Inception. As much as I like it, I think I prefer Nolan’s The Prestige.

    1. Haha, they are both great films!

      I do like The Prestige, but I prefer Memento. Memento is my second favourite Nolan film.

  21. Damn solid list. I love all of these films. I truly think Inception will be remembered as one of the great science fiction films of all time.

    1. Thank you, that’s good to hear!
      Inception surely will be remebered for a while yet. I really hope that it becomes a classic of the sci-fi genre.

  22. Good list. 🙂 Have to agree, though, that films don’t tend to be as good anymore. Very few films from the past decade would make my list of my all-time favorites. :-/

    1. Thanks, and thank you for stopping by despite this site being very quiet at the moment!
      See there are many on this list which make my all time favourites list! Which few do you think would?

      1. Which ones do I think make your best all-time list?? Well, Kill Bill since you said it does. 😉 And I would assume the top ones – Inception & Drive. Interesting to think about – I kind of know my all-time 100 favorites or so & already know very few are from the last decade. First one to pop to mind is The Prestige and that would be VERY high. 🙂 And WALL-E and probably most other Pixars since 2003 other than Cars. The Lives Of Others, The Artist, the Dawn Of The Dead remake… Possibly even The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. Oh, and also Kill Bill probably! Okay – maybe a few more than I thought. Lol. But still mostly much older films.

        1. Haha, yes you’re right they would make my list!

          Some very good choices there 😀 I think perhaps you should reevaluate your statement about films not being as good anymore! 😉

  23. Very nice list and good to see some Korean movies on there. Liked both Old Boy and I Saw the Devil. I suggest you also try to check out No Mercy which I think you will also like. Happy to see Black Swan mentioned too, which is my all time favorite movie (followed by Mr. Nobody which I would also like to urge you to see if you haven’t).

    1. Thanks man, and thanks for the two recommendations, I haven’t seen either so will definitely be taking you up on those.
      Good to hear that you like Black Swan so much, I know several people who didn’t rate that one very highly at all, but I thought it was excellent!

  24. Drive is just one of my all time favourites! Couldn’t get any better, good list!

    1. Thank you, Drive is a great film isn’t it!

      1. Story, score and cinematography master-class!! 5/5 for sure!

        1. Oh absolutely! I have a suspicion that it should have come first on this list!

          1. I would second that, you seen only god forgives?

          2. No I haven’t yet seen it – I really want to though!
            What did you make of it?

          3. I thought it was great, take It for what it is though if you do see it, never the best story but technically flawless! It’s art, Ryan Gosling is great too, made my Top 10 of the Year!

          4. Ryan Gosling is one of my favourite actors so I am excited to see him in it!
            I just saw it is on there, I’m going to have to check it out at some point!
            Have you seen Bronson?

          5. He’s quickly becoming mine too, got The Place Beyond The Pines to watch this week and yeah not too recently though I remember liking it! Brutal film!

  25. A really good list, Mr Rumsey. A lot of those films I’d forgotten about already; which I think says more about our 21st century attention span than it does about the quality of films in a decade. But certainly Kill Bill 1, Lost In Translation and Inception would’ve made my list too without much deliberation needed. I just wanted to point out, however, that you’ve clearly ‘forgotten’ Star Wars Episode III! That MUST have been a mistake, not a deliberate mission 🙂

    1. Hey man, good to see you!
      Cheers, I would like to think so as some of these are future classics in my eyes. Drive being one for example.

      Haha I know your passion for that one, but it just really doesn’t stand a chance on my list!

      1. I’d be interested to see you do a similar list of other decades too, when you’ve got the time. Your 80s list would be very interesting.

        1. I’m working on it! (Very slowly)
          Work is keeping me very busy but eventually a 90’s list will be made. Then onto the 80’s!

          It’s hard work as I really go to town on catching up with films that I have missed.

          1. Understood, dude.

            I look forward to seeing it though. And then you’ve also gotta sit through all twelve Star Trek films at some point:) That’s a lot of work – good luck!

          2. Great, thanks for saying so!

            Christ, that will take some doing! I’ve never seen a single one of them before.

          3. You’ve never seen Wrath of Khan?! I envy you – you’ve still got that to come in your life 🙂

            Tom Hardy’s in ‘Nemesis’, by the way – you’re a fan of his, right? He’s very good in it.

          4. Haha, I look forward to it!

            Yeah I am and that one will be my first one I think, purely because of him.

  26. Another great Top 10 list. Lost In Translation is one of my most repeated viewing movies ever. It makes me feel better somehow losing myself in it (pun not intended). I LOVE Drive, too…took me completely by surprise – it is mesmerizing.

    1. Thanks! Those are great films although I’ll be doing a similar list soon which has a few changes.

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