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The 2010s: The best films you didn’t see (but need to) – Part 1

There are so many wonderful films of the last decade.  But what about the amazing ones you’ve never seen?  Are they worth going back and giving a watch?  In this three-part series, we will take a look at the great unknown movies of the 2010s that deserve more recognition.  This part will focus on the decade’s thrillers and action films, or rather…


The Adrenaline Pumpers


7. “Free Fire” (2016)

A brisk 90 minutes is just enough time to entice audiences in this wildly entertaining action flick with a very simple plot about a group of arms dealers shooting at each other in a warehouse.  It’s Quentin Tarantino-lite and it knows it, too.  A lack of almost any plot comes at the benefit of witty characters and sharp, precise action that grasp viewers.  With a catapulting pace, “Free Fire” is unpredictable, colorful, and lively.


6. “Super 8” (2011)

This is a film a lot of movie fans have seen, but casual audiences seem to have missed out on.  It sits in the middle of Director J.J. Abrams’ filmography (“Star Trek”, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) and represents his best filmmaking effort to date.  Well before “Stranger Things” blew up in pop culture, “Super 8” has a group of nerdy kids chasing a mysterious monster in the late 70s/early 80s.  It is heartfelt, tension-filled, and stirs the right nostalgic feelings.  A love letter to Spielbergian storytelling and a true genre blender, “Super 8” will satisfy almost anyone who watches it.


5. “Split” (2016)

This movie from M. Night Shyamalan is likely the most known film on this list.  Nonetheless, it is often overlooked or disregarded.  In actuality, it is one of the most interesting and memorable thrillers in years, becoming the once-acclaimed-turned-maligned filmmaker’s most polished and humble work yet.  “Split” focuses on a trio of young girls kidnapped by a man with 23 different personalities, all of which have wildly different motivations.  As riveting as the thrills are, they never overshadow the tragic and eventually powerful arcs of the characters.  And if anything, “Split” is worth watching for James McAvoy’s defying and endearing portrayal of the troubled antagonist(s) which is undoubtedly one of the top performances of the decade.


4. “Searching” (2018)

Pioneering a new sub-genre of found footage, “Searching” is set entirely on computer monitors, iPhones, FaceTimes, and messaging apps.  What could become a distracting gimmick instead becomes an in-depth window into the lives of the protagonists.  The story follows a desperate father as he searches for his missing daughter using this technology.  The thrill never wears off as this format uses its boundaries akin to a horror film, tantalizing the audience with what they cannot see and continually upping the tension.  It is a testament to creative filmmaking and is so far the only one of its kind to reach critical and financial success.  And it just so happens to have a riveting narrative to boot.


3. “Chronicle” (2012)

A found-footage movie about a high schooler who develops powers and starts to become a supervillain, all told through a very realistic lens, is surprisingly one of the most interesting superhero stories to come out of the decade.  Everything the protagonists experience, all the ways they test their abilities are exactly how one would expect if someone developed superpowers in our world.  But the story of an outcast individual who is beaten down by everyone he knows and his slow descent into violent madness is what will really captivate viewers here and is executed much better than 2019’s “Joker”.


2. “Sicario” (2015)

Director Denis Villeneuve was on a spree in the mid-2010s with “Prisoners,” “Arrival,” and “Blade Runner 2049.”  In the midst of those more lucrative pictures, he released the grimy drug war film “Sicario”—and it does feel like a war film.  Succinct scenes of tension and violence, endless betrayals and shades of gray, and evocatively grim cinematography from legend Roger Deakins all create one of the most gripping films of the 2010s.  With potent characters played by stars Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro, “Sicario” will leave viewers shell-shocked long after the credits have rolled.


1. “Annihilation” (2018)

In all of the 2010s (and quite possibly longer), no film lingered on this film reviewer as much as “Annihilation.”  Admittedly, the story is not for everyone, as casual viewers expecting an alien action flick will be very disappointed; but, that’s because it is much more.  The plot is difficult to describe, especially without spoilers.  After a complex personal tragedy, the protagonist (Natalie Portman) joins a team of four other female scientists—all played with impeccable subtlety and mystery—to venture into a part of our world that is slowly mutating into something seemingly alien. Instead, what these protagonists find reveals more about their innermost humanity.  The story is mind-bending.  The tension is nail-biting.  The visuals are majestic.  And the score becomes an otherworldly opus on the soul-piecing themes.  It is also incredibly rewatchable, lending itself to new interpretations with every viewing.  If there is only one film on this list readers watch, let it be this one.


There they are; the best unknown adrenaline pumpers of the previous decade.  In part two, things will slow down, as we look at more reflective films for “The Serious Ones.”