The past five years have seen the release of dozens of great films (and more than a few duds as well) as the decade made its way to its halfway point. While many of these films received their due at the Academy Awards, others were left to stand the test of time to prove their worth.
1. The King’s Speech (2010)
Many films are billed as inspirational, but few succeeded in meeting expectations to the extent of “The King’s Speech.” David Seidler perfectly balanced humor and drama in his Academy Award-winning screenplay. Colin Firth gave a career-defining performance as the stammering King George VI, and supporting actors Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter were in top form as well.
2. 50/50 (2011)
This semi-autobiographical comedy penned by then-first time film writer Will Reiser featured the perfect combination of levity and sentimentality. Joseph Gordon-Levitt excelled as a radio journalist diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer, giving a beguiling and nuanced performance. Seth Rogen also shined as the crude, foul-mouthed, yet fiercely loyal best friend.
3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2010)
Based on Stieg Larsson’s bestselling novel, this Swedish import was as viscerally exciting as it was intellectually captivating. The incredible quality of the acting in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (especially Noomi Rapace’s star-making turn) was only surpassed by the film’s phenomenal direction and riveting screenplay. The plot was engaging from start to finish, and there were plenty of thrilling twists and turns along the way.
4. The Avengers (2012)
“The Avengers” stood not only as the best film of 2012, but also as the greatest superhero film to date. Whedon’s script was funny and engaging, with not one of the movie’s many jokes falling flat. The film was also masterfully shot, with the long take of all of the Avengers combining their abilities with one another particularly standing out. The entire cast put their talent on full display, with Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, and Tom Hiddleston giving especially standout performances.
5. The Artist (2011)
Few directors could have made a black-and-white silent film as endearing to modern audiences with the skill that Hazanavicius did. With a natural affinity for the style of silent era cinema as well as a fantastic eye for detail, Hazanavicius made “The Artist” a visual pleasure. Even without the sound of his voice, Jean Dujardin conveyed his character’s myriad emotions so convincingly that he was able to earn a Best Actor win with only one line of spoken dialogue.
6. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
This quirky and heartfelt coming-of-age tale is easily one of Wes Anderson’s stronger efforts, if not the strongest. The film was imbued with Anderson’s trademark style, and his script was witty and charming. Young leads Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward gave veteran performances, and quickly endeared audiences to their peculiar characters.
7. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Director and co-writer Edgar Wright’s wildly fun graphic novel adaptation was a non-stop ride of action and laughter right from the first scene. “Scott Pilgrim’s” visuals were the main attraction, with visual effects, direction, and cinematography all working in concert to produce a fantastically unique style. The film’s script was also on point with amusing dialogue for each character, no matter how small their role was.
8. Her (2013)
In this melancholy and extremely topical romance, a window to the not-to-distant future was opened and through it the audience played voyeur to the life of a downhearted personal letter writer. Joaquin Phoenix gave an expertly understated performance in that role, as did his love interest/operating system Scarlett Johansson (who never actually appeared onscreen). Spike Jonze pulled double-duty directing and writing “Her,” with his bitingly realistic dialogue standing out as the highlight of the film.
9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011)
The culmination of one of the most consistently entertaining franchises of all time did not disappoint. The seven previous films served as a makeshift acting school for the young leads, who were afforded an amazing opportunity to hone their talents in a manner certainly that paid off in the ultimate installment. “Deathly Hallows – Part 2” also delivered plenty of spectacle, with its Battle of Hogwarts sequence keeping moviegoers on the edges of their seats.
10. The Imitation Game (2014)
Anchored by a career-best performance from Benedict Cumberbatch, this World War II drama eschewed the battlefield to focus on the codebreakers who not only helped win the war, but also pioneered the field of computer science. Full of intrigue, tension, and fantastic acting, “The Imitation Game” was an all-around showcase of filmmaking acumen.