Mad Max: Fury Road
When George Miller’s cult franchise Mad Max was given the green light for a reboot starring Tom Hardy as the titular Max, there were plenty of sceptics in the world of film that were worried about how it might turn out. Fortunately, with Mad Max: Fury Road, the world was gifted with arguably the greatest action movie of all time that is undoubtedly one of the finest offerings from this decade.
It’s so rare that a film on this scale is able to consistently balance technical achievements, story, themes and characters whilst remaining utterly unique to anything ever seen on cinema before. The production design to create and build this post-apocalyptic landscape combined with the crazy vehicles and huge set-pieces is some of the finest crafting ever captured on-screen. The film’s plot is simple, essentially a really long car chase, yet each individual element woven into this plot is what makes Fury Road such a colossal achievement. John Seale’s cinematography, Junkie XL’s pulsating score, Margaret Sixel’s editing and Miller’s direction and writing are all of the highest standards and combine perfectly to create a wonderful, wonderful film.
Tom Hardy shines with very little words but it is Charlize Theron’s brilliantly badass Imperator Furiosa who steals the show and allows Miller’s themes to really shine through. Totally relevant, absurdly fun and utterly unique, Mad Max: Fury Road might just be one of the finest films of any decade, let alone this one.
La La Land
Nobody can forget the iconic Oscars mix-up with Moonlight winning Best Picture, but there’s no disputing that Damien Chazelle’s magical musical La La Land would have been an equally worthy winner. Oozing with charm, emotion and romance, La La Land is the greatest of the modern musicals and is a film that constantly basks in its remarkably gorgeous sun-soaked Hollywood backdrop.
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling combine effortlessly as Mia and Sebastian, an aspiring actress and jazz pianist trying to make their way in the world. Their phenomenal performances capture the hearts of the audience from the very start and the sheer believability in their love enables the film to pull off one of the most heart-shattering finales in cinema that has never failed to draw floods of tears from my weepy eyes. The original songs are as catchy as they are brilliant, varying from the upbeat, tongue-in-cheek bops like “Another Day of Sun” or “A Lovely Night” to the melancholic beauty found in “City of Stars” and “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”, all of which are brilliantly supported by Justin Hurwitz’s truly moving score.
Chazelle directs the film so confidently, easily balancing the story and its set-pieces, with the music and choreography intertwining with what’s playing out on-screen with such ease that makes this film so insanely enjoyable. It is sheer technical prowess on every level combined with an achingly romantic, sun-drenched story that will leave you feeling utterly euphoric. My film of the decade.
A very late addition to the list even though it technically hasn’t been released in the UK yet, Bong Joon-Ho’s Palme d’Or winning film Parasite is, like the other films on this list, perfection on every cinematic level. This scrutinisation of capitalism, wealth and class division that somehow flits between dark comedy, horror and drama whilst remaining constantly tense and imbued with total dread is a colossal achievement that is many peoples’ picks to win Best Picture at the upcoming Oscars.
Bong’s screenplay and direction are simply phenomenal, there is never a beat missed or a moment that doesn’t induce some form of emotional reaction from the audience and remains shockingly gripping throughout. As a working-class family infiltrate the lives of a super-rich family by working in various roles for them in their haunting, spectacularly designed house, the film’s social commentaries really begin to seep through the cracks. What’s remarkable is that this is a film entirely in Korean, with a big focus on Korean society and Bong’s own ruminations on this, yet it feels entirely relatable to every society, to every person and family in one way or another, transcending its borders into the minds and hearts of an audience that can’t help but feel angry about what they’re watching.
Every performance in this film is great, but Song Kang-Ho is the true standout as the down on his luck patriarch of the family who is just trying to give those he loves most the best life. His arc is perhaps best reflective of what Bong is trying to get across in Parasite, executed to absolute perfection in the film’s wholly thrilling and jaw-dropping final act. It’s quite incredible that there’s a film this good closing out the decade and it absolutely deserves its spot on this list, as it is truly a magnificent piece of cinema that works on every single level.
Words by Elliott Jones