My Top 101 Movies of the Decade

stills from The Florida Project, Inside Out, BlackKklansman, The Wolf of Wall Street, Get Out, Loving, Arrival, mother!, The Artist, Rust & Bone, Moonlight, and La La Land

I watched a lot of movies this decade – approximately 1,600 films released in the 2010s, according to Letterboxd. Well, that sounds like a lot, but it’s not even a quarter of every film released in UK cinemas this decade; when you consider those going direct to DVD or streaming as well, it feels like barely a drop in the ocean. As someone who lives in a suburban location, there’s a heavy bias towards multiplex releases; I try to catch almost everything that plays at my local ten-screen Cineworld, but more limited releases I have to catch up with on disc or internet. As such, there are many, many independent, arthouse, non-English language and/or documentary features I wish I had found time or money to see, but have not yet. There’s a bias towards major, white-male-directed, US- & UK-produced features here that I wish I had been able to better correct.

Caveats aside, of those 1,600, these are the 101 I enjoyed the most.

Commiserations, first, to twenty-five close-runners: the brutal and haunting 12 Years A Slave; the poignant grief of A Ghost Story; Black Swan‘s psychological torture; the surprisingly profound reflection on trauma and obsession Brigsby Bear; the jaw-dropping Catfish; The End of the Tour‘s fascinating conversation between David Foster Wallace and Rolling Stone contributor David Lipsky; the controlled explosion of First Reformed; feel-good comedy-drama The Fundamentals of Caring; Good Time‘s good times gone bad; The National-inspired and -soundtracked short film I Am Easy to FindI, Daniel Blake‘s portrait of the UK’s broken welfare state; If Beale Street Could Talk‘s piercing character study; the jaw-dropping revelations of The Imposter; the charming and beautiful Isle of Dogs; the steadily-encroaching horrors of It Follows; The Kids Are All Right‘s magnificent portrait of marriage; twisty sci-fi Looper; Mid90s‘gritty coming-of-age; the sun-drenched horror of Midsommar; Once Upon a Time In Hollywood‘s tribute to ’60s Hollywood; the warm-hearted Paddington; The Place Beyond the Pines‘ tragic crime story; Shame‘s portrayal of sexual addiction; the brutal boxing drama Southpaw; Thunder Road‘s (and Jim Cummings’) remarkable emotional range; and Top Five‘s sharp celebrity satire.

Now, the list proper..

101. How to Train Your Dragon

(2010, d. Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois)

The first in the magnificent animated fantasy trilogy; Viking teen Hiccup befriends dragon Toothless, thus beginning one of the decade’s strongest screen partnerships. Unlike so many of the decade’s tentpole CG flicks, adventure and drama are prioritised over cheap laughs.

100. Sorry We Missed You

(2019, d. Ken Loach)

Loach returns to the gritty realism of I, Daniel Blake with an even stronger indictment of working conditions in zero-hour-contract Britain. The stringent demands of parcel delivery and emotional labour of social care do their best to break the Turner family.

99. Blue is the Warmest Color (La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2)

(2013, d. Abdellatif Kechiche)

Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux deliver remarkable turns in this three-hour marathon of lust, passion, and sexual release; the infatuation of first love is catalogued and documented in breathtaking, relentless detail.

98. Her

(2013, d. Spike Jonze)

Director Spike Jonze and leads Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson nail the tone of this sci-fi romance: an introvert falling in love with a virtual assistant is funny, sweet and sad all at once, and Her delivers on the raw vulnerability and warmth the story calls for.

97. Creed

(2015, d. Ryan Coogler)

Everything a modern Rocky spin-off should be; an uplifting, inspirational boxing drama that takes story cues from its predecessors, while developing its characters in more fascinating, specific ways than anything else in the franchise.

96. Western Stars

(2019, d. Thom Zimny & Bruce Springsteen)

Springsteen brings his country-inspired record “Western Stars” to life in a literal barnstormer, performing the album in full with a bar band while reflecting on the light, dark and shades of grey in his life and career to date.

95. The Hate U Give

(2016, d. George Tillman Jr.)

YA fare with a difference; the red-raw rage of this police-shooting drama threatens to spill right off the screen. Attacks racist institutions head-on; lead Amandla Stenberg is magnetic, her protagonist Starr Carter fighting back hard as wrongs are whitewashed.

94. Wild Rose

(2019, d. Tom Harper)

Jessie Buckley’s titular aspiring singer is one of the decade’s most winsome characters, a Glaswegian with a passion for Nashville and a criminal past she’s trying hard to move on from. Her journey – backed with country performances aplenty – is an stirring joy.

93. Any Day Now

(2012, d. Travis Fine)

Overlooked study of institutionalised homophobia; Alan Cumming and Garret Dillahunt are perfectly cast as two gay men looking to become guardian of an abandoned teen with Down syndrome. Warm-hearted, with a real eye for detail.

92. Patti Cake$

(2017, d. Geremy Jasper)

The crackling energy of the titular aspiring rapper – played by the revelatory Danielle McDonald – her friends, and her mother (an on-form Bridget Everett) propel this familiar tale to new heights; the desire is palpable, and the freestyles are fierce.

91. Inception

(2010, d. Christopher Nolan)

Mind-bending kinetic visuals bring this Russian doll, sci-fi puzzle box to life. Nolan juggles reality, dreams, and dreams-within-dreams in this high-wire act, a challenge to the very notion of what a blockbuster could be.

90. Three Identical Strangers

(2018, d. Tim Wardle)

A stranger-than-fiction documentary that chronicles three adopted 19-year-olds’ discovery that they were born as a set identical triplets. A compelling, surprising meditation on identity, with some distressing narrative turns.

89. Detroit

(2017, d. Kathryn Bigelow)

A sensational ensemble tackle this 50th anniversary dramatisation of the Algiers Motel incident during Detroit’s ’67 12th Street riot. Juggles multiple characters and storylines, placing us at the heart of not just the violence and aggression, but the horrifyingly racist climate of the time and place.

88. The Diary of a Teenage Girl

(2015, d. Marielle Heller)

A darkly amusing film, following 15-year-old Minnie as she begins a sexual relationship with her mother’s boyfriend. It’s a brave expression of an extremely muddy area, never judgmental or censorious, rather letting the viewer make up their own mind on this most taboo setup.

87. Another Earth

(2011, d. Mike Cahill)

Haunting science fiction that finds the humanity and heart in dark apocalyptic fantasy. Brit Marling chills as the young astronomer who fate draws into the path of an accomplished composer on the same day a duplicate, “mirror” Earth is discovered.

86. Django Unchained

(2012, d. Quentin Tarantino)

In some ways the natural climax of Tarantino’s career to this point: the ultimate in revenge fantasy, a phenomenally entertaining revisionist take on race and slavery in the Old West and Antebellum South. The pace and structure may be the film’s biggest win: the scope of a sprawling epic, the focus of the finest character drama, the story parcels out its joys at a gratifying clip while the viewer can’t help but beg for even more.

85. Kick-Ass

(2010, d. Matthew Vaughn)

A frenetic, cacophonous frenzy of bright, blinding violence, pitch-black comedy, and profanity unbound; this tale of school-age superheroes is at turns gleeful, audacious, sleazy and hilarious.

84. Arrival

(2016, d. Denis Villeneuve)

Science-fiction has never been averse to political metaphor, but Arrival‘s portrayal of a linguist attempting to find connection with an extraterrestrial being before tensions lead to catastrophic war, feels particularly relevant. A profound, thoughtful treatise on the power of communication; Amy Adams excels.

83. Brooklyn

(2015, d. John Crowley)

Saiorse Ronan stuns as young Irish immigrant Eilis, looking to find happiness in 1950s New York, but unable to fully break away from the ties that bind her to Enniscorthy. Deftly wrangles with matters of the heart: the fluttering eyelashes of young romance, the weighty loyalties that can keep us from fully embracing change.

82. The Florida Project

(2017, d. Sean Baker)

Candy-cane cinematography juxtaposes with the scraping-by lifestyle of a rebellious single mother and her well-meaning but mischievous daughter. Their motel sits just outside Disneyland, drawing obvious contrasts, but this is no simple them-and-us tale: it’s compassionate, three-dimensional filmmaking, with love for all of its characters.

81. Chef

(2014, d. Jon Favreau)

Street-ready food porn collides with authentic family drama in this winning, light-hearted gem from, and starring, Favreau. His amiable adventure in food truck frippery is uncommonly welcoming, imbued with casual swagger; there’s a clear preference for sense and authenticity over Instagram-friendly perfection.

80. Call Me By Your Name

(2017, d. Luca Guadagnino)

Lustrous-looking, lusty period romance: in 1980s Italy, 17-year-old Elio and 24-year-old Oliver fall hard for each other. Their relationship feels vital and vigorous, their secret passion conspiring with their interests and surroundings to recall the great romances of classic literature.

79. Horrible Bosses

(2011, d. Seth Gordon)

The straight-up comedy is sometimes given short shrift in lists like these, but generating guffaws is a harder task than might be expected. Bosses delivers its share of laughs and then some, as the screwball plot – in which three friends seek to murder each other’s bosses – bounds and careens, dispatching character comedy, verbal repartee and slapstick.

78. Begin Again

(2014, d. John Carney)

An ebullient, winning gem: Keira Knightly’s an absolute joy as singer-songwriter Gretta, who, discovered by an ex-record label exec, embarks on a plan to record an album outdoors in New York City. The songs, by Gregg Alexander, are the key here: authentic, striking, and catchy.

77. Gone Girl

(2014, d. David Fincher)

A twisty, compelling story of a woman disappearing and the spotlight placed on her husband in the aftermath; it’s the perfect material for Fincher to sink his teeth into, and his regular cinematographic and soundscape co-conspirators enhance the unnerving experience.

76. Straight Outta Compton

(2015, d. F. Gary Gray)

Fiery recreation of the rise and fall of gangsta rappers NWA: candid about their flaws; celebratory when it comes to their achievements; reflective on what might’ve, should’ve been. Rough at the edges and weighed down with baggage, in the best possible ways: sidelines in the broader African-American experience in ’80s USA work perfectly.

75. Prisoners

(2013, d. Denis Villeneuve)

An attention-grabbing setup – two girls are abducted in plain sight on a cold Pennsylvania Thanksgiving – gives way to introspective and restrained storytelling, one whose thrills stem more from an escalating dread. Jake Gyllenhaal’s detatched persona is the perfect counterpoint to Hugh Jackman’s bouncing-off-walls desperation, and Roger Deakins’ dark, stark, snowy cinematography is perfectly suited.

74. The Sessions

(2012, d. Ben Lewin)

A remarkably candid study of a man with polio who hires a sex surrogate to lose his virginity; its forthright discussion and navigation of incredibly difficult topics is brought to life by a career-best Helen Hunt and a brave, intelligent John Hawkes.

73. Blindspotting

(2018, d. Carlos López Estrada)

A rugged comedy-drama that skips and trips through genre as it confronts the complexities of African-American life in contemporary Oakland, CA, through the eyes of a young parolee who witnesses a police shooting three days before freedom.

72. The Wolf of Wall Street

(2013, d. Martin Scorsese)

An indulgent, grandiose bacchanal of the highest order; darkly comic exposé of horrible, horrible men and their horrible, horrible schemes. Jordan Belfort’s Wall Street corruption, fraud and debauchery are brought to life by a brilliantly game cast.

71. The Mule

(2018, d. Clint Eastwood)

Clint Eastwood’s spent a good couple of decades examining older men who struggle with the world changing around them, but this is up there with the best of them: Earl Stone, renowned horticulturist, falls into drug-running while seeking a new source of income. Despite the high concept, it plays out with calm and restraint.

70. It Comes at Night

(2017, d. Trey Edward Shults)

A nightmarish journey to the deep, dark depths of paranoia, and an unsettling portrait of the lengths people will go to for the sake of saving their own. Joel Edgerton’s patriarch of a rural family living in a world terrorised by an unnamed threat is fascinating.

69. The Shape of Water

(2017, d. Guillermo del Toro)

The decade’s most unlikely love story – between a mute cleaner and a captured amphibian-human hybrid – unfolds with remarkable warmth and sparkle, a deeply emotional journey told through del Toro’s ever-stunning trademark visual grammar.

68. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

(2017, d. Martin McDonagh)

Frances McDormand’s fiery performance anchors this jet-black comedy-drama about Mildred Hayes’ anger at local police’s failure to identify a culprit in her daughter’s murder. Leans into controversy, a scathing indictment of institutional injustice that still attempts to find humanity in our worst people.

67. The Martian

(2015, d. Ridley Scott)

Matt Damon struggles to survive alone on Mars in this most crowd-pleasing of blockbusters, science-fiction heavy on the science but grounded in that most universal of emotions: the desire for company, for connection. Amusing, thrilling, and never dry.

66. Nebraska

(2013, d. Alexander Payne)

Home to a bountiful array of performances both comedic and dramatic, an old-school father-son road movie joy. Stark, beautiful black-and-white cinematography enhances the down-to-earth vibe, and the compelling, witty screenplay allows room for its characters to breathe.

65. Wrinkles (Arrugas)

(2011, d. Ignacio Ferreras)

Simple, expressive animation suits this Spanish-language study of the residents of a retirement home. Broaching quietly upsetting topics, but retaining a warm and welcoming ambience, it offers profound insight into subjects rarely broached in mainstream features.

64. We Need to Talk About Kevin

(2011, d. Lynne Ramsay)

Tilda Swinton is the fracturing core of this distressing, gripping psycho-drama. The story is inherently strong, but her turn as long-suffering Kevin’s mother turns this take on the threatening-teenager novel into something truly exceptional: agitation turns to desperate sadness.

63. Blue Valentine

(2010, d. Derek Cianfrance)

This juxtaposition of early courtship and the crumbling marriage that would follow is a devastating watch: Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play the doomed couple to perfection, buoyant then bleak. Partially-improvised dialogue and explicit sex scenes enhance the heart-wrenching authenticity.

62. A Star is Born

(2018, d. Bradley Cooper)

Bradley Cooper’s retelling of the iconic story is revelatory: both he and co-star Lady Gaga electrify the screen, the chemistry between his aging rock star and her young up-and-comer palpable. Oscar-winning “Shallow” is the showstopper, but there’s no shortage of moments of movie magic; the inevitable denouement is devastating.

61. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

(2011, d. David Fincher)

Sinister and brutal, David Fincher’s perfectly-cast take on the Swedish novel is a pulpy treat. The intriguing story that develops between journalist Mikael Blomkvist and young hacker Lisbeth Salander is enthralling, despite the chilly darkness.

60. Four Lions

(2010, d. Chris Morris)

A razor-sharp satire of Sheffield terrorist jihadis; as ever, Chris Morris is quietly incendiary, finding comedy in the most unlikely places and never going for easy laughs. The ensemble cast are expert at wringing humour from mundanity.

59. Short Term 12

(2013, d. Destin Daniel Cretton)

Tender and sensitive drama that tackles the world of the caring professions directly and authentically: Brie Larson is breathtaking as the supervisor of a group home for at-risk teenagers, while the storytelling is life-affirmingly empathetic.

58. Under the Skin

(2014, d. Jonathan Glazer)

An all-consuming waking nightmare, like the bastard child of David Lynch, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and rural Scotch drama Shell. Scarlett Johansson is entrancing as an alien wandering Scotland, luring men into her van, but Mica Levi’s score is the first among equals here, a bubbling, eerie and haunting soundscape of disorientation and disconnection.

57. The Gift

(2015, d. Joel Edgerton)

A cat-and-mouse thriller that keeps tension heightened right up through the final frame: Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall are haunted by a ghost from high-school past, threateningly portrayed by Edgerton, who’s also on nervy directorial duties.

56. Get Out

(2017, d. Jordan Peele)

To see Get Out unfold for the first time is to witness a gobsmacking thrill ride, a high-stakes social satire that gradually morphs into something liable to scare you stiff, freeze you to your seat. Daniel Kaluuya’s Chris Washington, a black man meeting the parents of his white girlfriend for the first time, is a star-making role.

55. Lady Bird

(2017, d. Greta Gerwig)

Saiorse Ronan’s Lady Bird may the decade’s definitive pop culture adolescent: witty and erudite, but alienated and difficult. This tale of her travails at home and school in early-2000s California is wistful, poignant and authentic: every line feels real and every scene hits hard.

54. BlacKkKlansman

(2018, d. Spike Lee)

Spike Lee’s acute commentary on 21st century America, told through the kinda-true-life story of Colorado Springs’ first African-American police detective and his attempts to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan. Shifts neatly between tension you could cut with a knife and provocative political humour.

53. Hell or High Water

(2016, d. David Mackenzie)

This neo-western, following two bank robbers and the rangers who pursue them, finds its greatest joys in the ambience: all Texas heat and smaller-than-small town elegy. Giles Nuttgens’ cinematography is masterful.

52. Spotlight

(2015, d. Tom McCarthy)

Surprisingly taut retelling of the Boston Globe’s investigation into systemic child sex abuse by Catholic priests. Old-school filmmaking: well-told, sensitively-performed tribute to process, both in journalism and in filmmaking; subtle yet ultimately hard-hitting.

51. The Artist

(2011, d. Michel Hazanavicius)

Elegant, precise, and formally flawless, this black-and-white Academy-ratio silent film is a magical love letter to the cinema of days gone by. But the real win here is just how funny it is: it’s rare that a 21st Century Best Picture winner delivers this many laughs.

50. Inside Llewyn Davis

(2013, d. Ethan & Joel Coen)

A week in the life of Oscar Isaac’s Llewyn Davis, a struggling folk singer in 1961 Greenwich Village. Perhaps the Coen brothers’ most melancholy meditation yet: originally intended to be shot in black-and-white, it wallows in the greys.

49. Dallas Buyers’ Club

(2013, d. Jean-Marc Vallée)

Matthew McConaughey stars as an AIDS patient diagnosed in an era in which the disease was heavily stigmatised, and the medical-industrial complex worked hard to make medication as inaccessible as possible. Strikes an impressive tone; a beautiful, melancholy balance between sentiment and good humour.

48. Silver Linings Playbook

(2012, d. David O. Russell)

A murderer’s row of great on-screen talents escalate this study of mental health and the impact it can have on interpersonal relationships: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert de Niro and Jacki Weaver were all Oscar-nominated for their work here, and they make for a magnificent ensemble, often funny without compromising the dramatic stakes.

47. 127 Hours

(2010, d. Danny Boyle)

Almost certainly James Franco’s strongest work: he really becomes Aron Ralston, the mountain climber who became trapped in a rural Utah canyon for five days. A harrowing and brutal spectacle, unafraid to press the severity and desperation of the situation, demanding the viewer share in his nightmare.

46. Greta

(2019, d. Neil Jordan)

Isabelle Huppert is gloriously menacing in this theatrical thrill-ride about a young woman stalked by an older widow who has become obsessed with her. The growing tension between Huppert’s Greta, and her prey,  Chloe Grace Moretz’s Frances, is fantastically compelling.

45. Eighth Grade

(2018, d. Bo Burnham)

The final weeks of Kayla Day’s middle school life are the basis for this sincere and generous coming-of-age tale; Day’s social anxiety and social-media fixation see temporary respite in friendship with her designated high-school shadow. Uncommonly candid and open.

44. Brad’s Status

(2017, d. Mike White)

Writer-director Mike White’s portrayal of baby-boomer ennui is one of the decade’s most overlooked films. Ben Stiller is Brad Sloan, taking his son – Austin Abrams – to visit colleges while going through a mid-life crisis, of sorts. Expectations of the future and ghosts of the past collide; introspective and self-pitying, a big-screen National anthem.

43. Headhunters (Hodejegerne)

(2011, d. Morten Tyldum)

Director Tyldum expertly blends dark Nordic noir with sparky black comedy in this enthralling Jo Nesbø adaptation; a twisty cat-and-mouse tale of art theft gone awry. The Coens on crack.

42. Unsane

(2018, d. Steven Soderbergh)

Soderbergh has had a remarkable decade, but Unsane‘s iPhone-shot practicum in pressure is its highlight, a thrilling portrayal of Sawyer Valentini’s (Claire Foy) escalating battle to discover the truth about her stalker, while involuntarily committed.

41. That’s What I Am

(2011, d. Michael Pavone)

A gentle, heart-rending study of schoolchildren in ’60s California that dares to quietly battle with complex issues; authentic set-design and warm character comedy warm the tenor. Relegated to a single weekend in ten US cinemas and ignored by critics, this is a welcome addition to the coming-of-age canon, a heart-on-sleeve gem.

40. Paddington 2

(2017, d. Paul King)

2015’s Paddington was a lovable, amiable joy of a film, but its sequel is even better: stakes are higher, thrills are greater, and the emotional weight is far heftier. Picture-book visuals and winningly theatrical performances (especially from Hugh Grant) perfectly suit this tale of Paddington’s present-buying gone awry.

39. The Big Sick

(2017, d. Michael Showalter)

Based on screenwriters Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon’s real-life romance, this culture-clash comedy-drama uses Emily’s unforeseen illness as a jumping-off point for exploring the interpersonal relationships of stand-up comedian Kumail and Emily’s complicated, hard-edged parents. It’s extremely funny and profoundly affecting; Ray Romano shines as Terry, Emily’s father.

38. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

(2012, d. Stephen Chbosky)

Chbosky’s adaptation of his own novel, a chronicle of Charlie Kelmeckis’ travails in freshman year, as anxieties, depression, and past sadness prove speedbumps on the way to lasting friendships. Sincere and genuine, its stellar cast – led by Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson – ably deliver a screenplay that wears its heart on its sleeve.

37. Loving

(2016, d. Jeff Nichols)

Mildred and Richard Loving were the plaintiffs in the groundbreaking lawsuit against state laws that forbade interracial marriage; Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton do their bravery justice in this understated, dialogue-light recreation that finds valour in tragedy.

36. The Big Short

(2015, d. Adam McKay)

The 2007 financial crisis, and the housing bubble that preceded it, are brought to unexpectedly bubbly life in this convention-busting, fourth-wall-breaking explainer-entertainer.

35. Adult Life Skills

(2016, d. Rachel Tunnard)

An overlooked entry in the quirky coming-of-age annals, Jodie Whittaker is endearingly eccentric as twenty-something Anna, living in the garden shed of her parents’ and struggling to balance the realities of adulthood with her freespiritedness.

34. Pain & Glory (Dolor y gloria)

(2019, d. Pedro Almodóvar)

A riveting study of a man (Antonio Banderas’ Salvador Mallo) in decline, still working through the emotional labour of past experiences. Memories of childhood, reappearance of past loves, and present-day ill-health collide. Salvador, a director, and a clear conduit for director Almodóvar, wrestles with a creative well run dry and a life full of unexpected speedbumps.

33. Toy Story 4

(2019, d. Josh Cooley)

Having found renewed life with franchise torch-recipient Bonnie, Buzz, Woody and co are joined by homemade toy spork Forky, and head out on a road trip with Bonnie’s family. It doesn’t quite hit those rattling emotional highs of the third installment, but 4 more than justifies its existence with fine spirits, exciting adventure beats, and a beautiful, stirring climax that really feels like a capper for this franchise.

32. The Way, Way Back

(2013, d. Jim Rash & Nat Faxon)

Charming indie coming-of-age flick that deftly alternates comic setpieces with penetrating emotional insight; protagonist Duncan’s battles with his stepfather and connection with his boss at the water park feel remarkably raw. Faxon and Rash’s screenplay captures the misfit adolescent spirit, prioritising mood over plot.

31. Like Crazy

(2011, d. Drake Doremus)

A fragmented collage of lyrical romance. Director Drake Doremus and cinematographer John Guleserian bestow upon the film a bittersweet, instantly-nostalgic look, that really suits the intoxicating material. Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin are a magnetic pairing.

30. Cemetery Junction

(2010, d. Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant)

Gervais and Merchant triangulate ’70s working-class Britain, unfiltered coming-of-age nostalgia, and the dead-end towns of Bruce Springsteen’s greatest work to deliver the underappreciated jewel in their post-Office crown.

29. Jeff, Who Lives at Home

(2011, d. Mark & Jay Duplass)

The Tree of Life for the mumblecore set: an offbeat portrait of a naive young stoner who seeks greater meaning in the grab-bag pot pourri of life. Jason Segel’s Jeff, whose journey here begins when he sets out to buy some wood glue for his mother, is eminently plausible; the way his story unfolds is rather more unexpected.

28. The Hateful Eight

(2015, d. Quentin Tarantino)

Three hours in the company of eight strangers seeking solace from snow post-American Civil War; racial, sexual and social tensions boil over, as a trademark Tarantino ensemble allow chaos to unfold over a stunning Panavision backdrop and a haunting Morricone score.

27. mother!

(2017, d. Darren Aronofsky)

Uninvited guests at a couple’s woodland home are the catalyst for a rollercoaster of  mixed metaphor: as Aronofsky’s screenplay threatens to run right off the rails, we consider the multitude of mythical mothers; Mother Earth, Adam and Eve, Mary and Joseph. Gaslighting, communion, the failures of organised religion, original sin, vanity and self-obsession, what it means to give life: all wrapped up in a two-hour major studio thriller.

26. Anomalisa

(2015, d. Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson)

Charlie Kaufman’s experimental, experiential approach to cinema collides with middle-aged malaise; a stop-motion-animated, Kickstarter-funded study of loneliness and the way sparks of connection can knock down, and rebuild, our entire world.

25. Untouchable (Intouchables)

(2011, d. Olivier Nakache & Éric Toledano)

Omar Sy and Francois Cluzet make for one of the warmest screen partnerships in recent memory. Their exploits in this real-life-inspired take on a classic Odd Couple setup are at turns funny and moving. While the direction and cinematography are certainly solid, this is the kind of film that lives or dies on the cast’s ability to connect with the material: thankfully, they stun.

24. Nightcrawler

(2014, d. Dan Gilroy)

A captivating, can’t-look-away thrill ride. Jake Gyllenhaal’s career-best performance here is skin-crawlingly dark and unsettling; his amoral freelance videographer is nimble in the most disquieting way. Part dark media satire, part nighttime road movie, part offbeat character study.

23. Room

(2015, d. Lenny Abrahamson)

Emotionally tumultuous portrayal of an abducted woman, living in an enclosed space with only her son – born in captivity, the product of rape – for company. A claustrophobic opening gives way to a wrenching catharsis, as the two seek freedom, but face unforeseen challenges on the outside.

22. Moonrise Kingdom

(2012, d. Wes Anderson)

Wes Anderson’s filmography isn’t short on beautiful-looking features, but Moonrise might be the most stunning of them all, every frame worthy of framing. Following a young Scout who runs away with his pen-pal love interest, it’s a coming-of-age tale perfectly suited to Anderson’s sensibilities: fanciful and eccentric, with a heart of gold.

21. The Social Network

(2010, d. David Fincher)

Fincher’s striking direction and Aaron Sorkin’s razor-sharp verbiage are in true waltz time here, as Jesse Eisenberg’s enthralling portrayal of Facebook magnate Mark Zuckerberg leaves the individual viewer to mull over the rights and wrongs of his path to success. A wry and witty portrait of the decade’s most fascinating technology figure.

20. Rust & Bone (De rouille et d’os)

(2012, d. Jacques Audiard)

Audiard blends fervent romance with wrenching tragedy in this tale of love between a whale trainer and an unemployed father. Emotionally intense yet never succumbing to the saccharine, Cotillard and Schoenaerts’ performances in this devastating work are blisteringly good.

19. Baby Driver

(2017, d. Edgar Wright)

Classic rock and glam sets the cadence for this propulsive, driving, criminal thrill ride. Ansel Elgort’s titular Baby is the tinnitus-plagued getaway driver, forced into working with bad people while dreaming of a better life with his diner-working love; Edgar Wright directs the kinetic, frenetic beast with metronomic precision.

18. Manchester by the Sea

(2016, d. Kenneth Lonergan)

Lee Chandler’s older brother has died, naming Lee as sole guardian of his son, Patrick. An incredibly reluctant father figure confronting demons past and present, Lee’s battery of mixed emotions churn away underneath a steely surface. Casey Affleck proffers a pained, restrained performance that sits among the decade’s best; while Lucas Hedges and Michelle Williams each deliver blistering performances in support.

17. Another Year

(2010, d. Mike Leigh)

A melancholy, tragicomic gem; Mike Leigh weaves another compelling, character-driven kitchen-sink drama, through four seasonal vignettes and delivered by a murderer’s row of great English performers. Lesley Manville’s desperate Mary particularly captivates.

16. Moonlight

(2016, d. Barry Jenkins)

Three acts in Chiron Harris’ life: a troubled childhood, a teenage sexual awakening, a twenty-something struggling to define who they are. A full-bodied character study that reckons directly with little wins and major losses, seeking to understand black male identity in contemporary America, thoughtfully shot and (later on) languidly paced.

15. Take Shelter

(2011, d. Jeff Nichols)

The apocalyptic visions of Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon) leave him questioning which danger is the greater: that of the impending storm he hallucinates, or the threat of LaForche himself. The escalating dread is so palpable, so all-consuming, you begin to think you can’t bear it a second longer. Threatening imagery and sound complement the screenplay perfectly.

14. The Babadook

(2014, d. Jennifer Kent)

As struggling widowed mother Amelia battles with her son’s fear of a monster in the house, director Jennifer Kent bravely draws parallels between mental illness, past trauma, and supernatural horror. Ratcheting up the tension early on before grabbing hold of your psyche and not letting go, it’s a film that paralyses the viewer with fear in the most unexpected ways.

13. A Simple Favour

(2018, d. Paul Feig)

A thoroughly game, crackerjack cast – led by a winning Anna Kendrick and a campily enthralling Blake Lively – drive this captivating patchwork of genres, a dark comedy about class struggles and Joneses that segues into a more sinister missing-person mystery. Twists abound; it’s a jaw-agape jaunt that leaves you breathless and begging for more.

12. Boyhood

(2014, d. Richard Linklater)

A three-hour treatise on what it means to grow up – but for that sprawling scope, Linklater realises that what matters is the small stuff. The mise-en-scene that breathes life into the film, the pop culture ephemera that permeated our own childhoods, the outside-world constants that give our characters something to latch onto in a volatile home. It’s about how our formative years are formed, the way in which we become the sum total of our caregivers, friends, surroundings and opportunities.

11. Exporting Raymond

(2010, d. Phil Rosenthal)

Phil Rosenthal’s attempts to get his hit sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond adapted for a Russian audience make for fish-out-of-water gold, as culture clashes and attitudinal differences rear their heads in the most surprising ways. Rosenthal has a knack for making compelling viewing out of the most unusual situations.

10. Inside Out

(2015, d. Pete Docter)

In the mind of 11-year-old Riley reside five emotions, Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger, each seeking to lead her through life, balancing her reactions and categorising memories. It’s a clever concept that suits Pixar’s sensibilities, as the profound screenplay navigates the ups and downs of growing older with characteristic deftness of touch. The candy-coloured visuals are enchanting, and the emotional beats – Bing Bong! – are remarkably traumatic.

9. La La Land

(2016, d. Damien Chazelle)

Taking all the right cues from the great Hollywood musicals of old before shapeshifting into a more world-weary revision of same: artifice and authenticity collide. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are the archetypal screen partnership in this love letter to the city of stars, their chemistry palpable in those initial meet-cutes and chance encounters, progressing through infatuation, love, and the gut-wrenching of growing apart: the fools who dreamt, trying to restart that fire.

8. The Tree of Life

(2011, d. Terrence Malick)

Inflected with the sepia-tinted memories of Terence Malick’s rural Southern upbringing, a film that seeks to visually demonstrate how one person’s life fits into the context of the world-at-large. It takes time to acknowledge the personal importance of the most arcane memories, before demonstrating the ultimate insignificance of our time on this Earth. A majestic construct, pulled off with aplomb.

7. The Muppets

(2011, d. James Bobin)

A shot of pure joy, a life-affirming tonic, and easily my most-watched film of the decade. Jason Segel, Amy Adams, and Muppet superfan Walter lead a spirited attempt to get the old gang back together again, packing both honest nostalgic punch (“Pictures in My Head”) and classic Muppet-y joy unbound (“Life’s a Happy Song”). It’s rare for a franchise revival to deliver such generosity of spirit.

6. Drive

(2011, d. Nicolas Winding Refn)

Every frame of Nicolas Refn’s neon-drenched, synth-saturated masterpiece glistens. Ryan Gosling’s performance here is a marvel; he fully inhabits the role of the titular (getaway) Driver, the ultimate in post-modern detachment, forever towing the line between quiet contemplation and devastating ultra-violence, struggling to find room for personal connection is his most anonymous life.

5. Before Midnight

(2013, d. Richard Linklater)

Nine years from Before Sunset, we meet up with Jesse and Celine once again. Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke’s mastery of naturalistic dialogue is at an all-time high, as our protagonists wrangle with the challenges of long-term commitment. The marvellously-shot Peloponnese peninsula is the perfect backdrop for the most conflicted of the trilogy.

4. Blinded by the Light

(2019, d. Gurinder Chadha)

Javed Khan, of Pakistani origin, is a teenager in 1987 Luton, an English city bearing the brunt of Thatcherite policy. An aspiring writer, he wrestles with questions over his identity and his family’s conservative values, eventually finding solace in the music of Bruce Springsteen one stormy night, changing his life for good. An utterly joyous film with a tremendous, heart-on-sleeve spirit – one scene involves singing “Badlands” at a gang of racist bullies – that plays as part wish-fulfillment jukebox musical, part grounded, gritty, coming-of-age character study.

3. Toy Story 3

(2010, d. Lee Unkrich)

Pixar’s most affecting work to date, a second sequel timed perfectly to devastate those who grew up with entries one and two. The toys of a now-college-bound Andy are accidentally donated to a daycare center; as they fight their way back, the laughs sit neatly alongside astonishingly hard-hitting emotional beats. The head-on confrontation of death is stunning, but it’s the adolescent torch-passing that gets me on repeat viewings.

2. Whiplash

(2014, d. Damien Chazelle)

My first viewing of this still rates as the most visceral moviegoing experience of my life, a masterclass in escalating intensity. The spark between Miles Teller’s drum student and JK Simmons’ terrifying instructor is fuel for an explosive electricity. As their relationship worsens, every word of dialogue unsettles and every hit of the drum feels like a gunshot. A 90-minute high-wire act, ever on the precipice of ignition – jazz drumming never felt so dangerous.

1. Take This Waltz

(2011, d. Sarah Polley)

Michelle Williams’ Margot is torn between her husband of five years (Seth Rogen), and the rickshaw driver who has moved in opposite (Luke Kirby). From that simple premise, director and writer Sarah Polley dives in deep. Lives unfold and unravel before our eyes; we are left to ache and ponder over each choice these characters make, and the sundry ramifications. The screenplay wrestles with big questions: Beauty is transient; does love have to be too? How does ageing affect us and how we perceive others? Which decisions play the greatest role in shaping our lives? What matters most in life? Williams is one of the great talents of her generation; she’s never shone brighter than here. Rogen demonstrates formidable dramatic chops, while the cinematography of Polley’s frequent collaborator Luc Montpellier brings Toronto to vibrant, vivid life.

My Top 101 Songs of the Decade

I listened to a lot of music this decade – scrobbling close to 180,000 plays of nearly 10,000 unique songs, if last.fm is to believed – but ultimately, I still didn’t venture as far from my comfort zone as I might’ve hoped. Heartland rock and indie pop dominated my habits, much as with the decade prior.

Perhaps that’s because, personally, it was a fairly stable decade, despite the tumult in the wider world. The 2010s mark my first full ten years with my now-wife, and nine years at my first job, which despite a number of shifts, mergers and acquisitions, I am still at now. It’s no surprise, then, to learn that this list is dominated by a handful of favourite artists, familiar faces who I return to time and again.

In a bid to broaden the field, I’ve restricted artists to five entries apiece. Ultimately, that didn’t affect matters too much, but it did mean my two favourites had an entry or two snipped: humble apologies to The National and The Gaslight Anthem.

Commiserations also to twenty-five close-runners: The 88‘s “At Least It Was Here”, The 1975‘s “Love It If We Made It”, Barenaked Ladies‘ “I Saw It”, Childish Gambino‘s “Kids (Keep Up)”, Danny and the Champions of the World‘s “Soul in the City”, Darker My Love‘s “Snow is Falling”, Dave Hause‘s “Paradise”, David Guetta & Sia‘s “Titanium”, Eminem & Rihanna‘s “Love the Way You Lie”, The Fratellis‘ “Slow”, Jimmy Eat World‘s “555”, Kanye West‘s “Devil in a New Dress”, Kip Moore‘s “Girl of the Summer”, Ludovico Einaudi‘s “Experience”, Magic Kids‘ “Candy”, Meat Loaf‘s “Going All the Way is Just the Start”, The Menzingers‘ “The Obituaries”, Morrissey‘s “Staircase at the University”, Ryan Adams‘ “I Just Might” and “Feels Like Fire”, The Shires‘ “State Lines”, Tim Minchin‘s “Thank You God”, Troye Sivan‘s “Strawberries & Cigarettes”, The War on Drugs‘ “Up All Night” and Will Echo‘s “Fly Away”.

As an addendum, I haven’t compiled a full blog post on my favourite albums of the decade, but I did put together a stripped-down, simple list: my top 101 albums of the 2010s is over at RateYourMusic.

Now, the list proper..

101. Patrick Wolf – House

(2011, from Lupercalia) – listen & watch on YouTube
“I love that here you live with me, gives me the greatest peace I’ve ever known”

Baroque electro-pop tribute to the simple beauty of the familiar; Wolf’s domestic imagery is a roaring fire, a home comfort.

100. The Magic Numbers – A Start With No Ending

(2010, from The Runaway) – listen on YouTube
“I’m just a boy pretending, and you’re just a girl pretending”

The band’s usual twee folk-pop shifts into power-pop territory here, but those gorgeous vocal harmonies are present and correct, as ever.

99. Jon Fratelli – The Band Played Just For Me

(2011, from Psycho Jukebox) – listen on YouTube
“In her room, I was petrified and tried my best to hide how she could use me”

Jon Fratelli’s first solo record ventures a little more bar-band than his full band ever dared; this tune’s rapid, swooning shift of tempo is instantly magnetic.

98. Beyoncé ft. Jay-Z – Drunk in Love

(2013, from Beyoncé) – listen & watch on YouTube
“We woke up in the kitchen saying, ‘How the hell did this shit happen?’ “

This seductive semi-sequel to the iconic “Crazy in Love” layers skittering trap beats, haunting moans, and Beyoncé’s magnificent yearning vocal.

97. Emmy the Great & Tim Wheeler – Home for the Holidays

(2011, from This is Christmas) – listen & watch on YouTube
“I pass the corner and the cinema we used to go to, it feels like nothing’s changed”

With commiserations to Kelly Clarkson, this is thr decade’s finest tribute to the Phil Spector Christmas record: nostalgic, reflective, and exploding with sound.

96. The Highwomen – Crowded Table

(2019, from The Highwomen) – listen on YouTube
“Let us take on the world while we’re young and able, and bring us back together when the day is done”

Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby and Lori McKenna team up on writing duties on this highlight from the remarkable country supergroup’s debut; its plea for strength in community is heartening.

95. They Might Be Giants – The Communists Have the Music

(2018, from My Murdered Remains) – listen & watch on YouTube
“The fascists have the outfits, but I don’t care for the outfits”

The Giants’ humorous take on the battle for substance over style, in which our narrator pledges allegiance to ideology for aesthetic reasons, is an instantly-memorable gem.

94. Steven Page – Clifton Springs

(2010, from Page One) – listen on YouTube
“I’m going back to the place where they laughed in my face”

Following his departure from Barenaked Ladies, Page’s first solo record tries its best to look forward, but this atypical breakup waltz might be its most beautiful-sounding.

93. Sky Ferreira – Heavy Metal Heart

(2013, from Night Time, My Time) – listen on YouTube
“When my body starts to work like a machine, I can feel the pulse of my heavy metal heart”

Edgy, brittle synth-grunge that gives way to a driving lyric with a big heart. Ferreira’s vocals are poppy, with a stuttering kick.

92. Nate Ruess – Great Big Storm

(2015, from Grand Romantic) – listen & watch on YouTube
“Though we’re cutting it close, we won’t let go”

Ruess’s post-fun. solo record sands the stylistic edges from that earlier project, zeroing in more heavily on 70s and 80s rock. This is big-hearted, big-arena pop.

91. Ryan Hamilton & the Harlequin Ghosts – Far Cry

(2019, from This is the Sound) – listen & watch on YouTube
“You’re a far cry, but for cryin’ out loud, just breathe”

It’s no surprise to learn that E Street Band vet Steve Van Zandt has taken these guys under his wing: this is pulsating rock with a beating heart, hints of Petty and Springsteen swirling and crashing.

90. The National – Not in Kansas

(2019, from I am Easy to Find) – listen on YouTube [live version]
“I’m bingeing hard on Annette Bening, and listening to R.E.M. again”

Stream-of-consciousness meditation; fragments smash into fragments as Berninger reflects and projects, meandering through the memories, experiences and popular culture that made him.

89. Sia – Chandelier

(2014, from 1000 Forms of Fear) – listen & watch on YouTube
“Keep my glass full until morning light, ’cause I’m just holding on for tonight”

Dancing on the edge of the party life; alcohol is the solution, until it’s the cause. Sia’s vocals are propulsive, pleading.

88. Alex Lahey – Awkward Exchange

(2017, from I Love You Like A Brother) – listen on YouTube
“I need you to go but I want you to stay”

Lahey reflects on the battle between her heart and her head in a realationship of questionable merit, as urgent power-pop crests and falls.

87. Band of Horses – Factory

(2010, from Infinite Arms) – listen on YouTube
“It’s temporary, this place I’m in, I permanently won’t do this again”

Our down-and-out narrator ruminates on the mundane – there’s a verse about cinema candy! – as the dramatic, string-drenched backing soars.

86. Barenaked Ladies – Ordinary

(2010, from All in Good Time) – listen on YouTube
“How a melody can make up your mind, take a memory, and leave it behind”

A plaintive, folky meditation on loss, that builds to an irresistably simple chorus. Some gorgeous vocal melodies here.

85. Darlene Love – Forbidden Nights

(2015, from Introducing Darlene Love) – listen & watch on YouTube
“Why did you kiss me with all of your mind?”

Written by Elvis Costello and produced by Steven Van Zandt, Darlene Love’s magnificent vocal traverses a soundscape straight out of 1960s Brill Building.

84. The Drew Thomson Foundation – Pace Yourself

(2018, from Stay EP/The Drew Thomson Foundation) – listen & watch on YouTube
“Diet Coke and lime, don’t know how I became that guy, but it could be a whole lot worse”

Thomson’s first solo record feels very much like the start of a new era; here, the newly-sober ex-Single Mothers frontman focuses on sobriety and the benefits it has wrought, in a surprisingly catchy singalong rocker.

83. The Gaslight Anthem – Mae

(2012, from Handwritten) – listen on YouTube
“We work our fingers down to dust while we wait for kingdom come, with the radio on”

Brian Fallon’s take on “Thunder Road”: our narrator has one last chance to make it real. Beautiful imagery collides with an uncharacteristically slow-build sound for Gaslight, and it’s majestic.

82. Lorde – Green Light

(2017, from Melodrama) – listen & watch on YouTube
“All those rumors, they have big teeth”

Explosive dance-pop with a magnificent rush of a chorus; Lorde passionately sings of a breakup and her attempts to move forward, as Jack Antonoff’s production builds to catharsis upon catharsis.

81. Mark Morriss – Consuela

(2014, from A Flash of Darkness) – listen on YouTube
“I wish you’d just stop trying, or slip something in my drink”

The ex-Bluetones frontman delivers a straight, sharp shot of power-pop, with Latin rhythms lurking at the edges.

80. Los Campesinos! – Straight in at 101

(2010, from Romance is Boring) – listen on YouTube
“I think we need more post-coital and less post-rock”

A love of football and demanding dietary restrictions damage our narrator’s sexual relationships, in this comic pop joy from the masters of indie wit.

79. Jon Fratelli – Oh Shangri-La

(2011, from Psycho Jukebox) – listen on YouTube
“This jukebox won’t play no Sinatra, it just curses all night long”

The solo Fratelli swings hard for the retro here, drawing on ’50s doo-wop, ’70s rock and ’90s Britpop to triangulate an incisive, catchy gem.

78. Kanye West – Runaway

(2010, from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) – listen on YouTube
“I’m so gifted at findin’ what I don’t like the most”

It may not be my personal favourite Kanye song (that’s further down the page), but it is unquestionably the most Kanye song, nine minutes of raw self-examination with more production flourishes than most artists toy with in a lifetime. Deal, or run away.

77. Against Me! – White Crosses

(2010, from White Crosses) – listen on YouTube
“I don’t know what’s going to cure my unsettled stomach”

Hook after hook; the catchiest punk rock of the decade unfolds as Laura Jane Grace explodes with passion and frustration.

76. Better Oblivion Community Center – Chesapeake

(2019, from Better Oblivion Community Center) – listen on YouTube
“I was all covered in sound, ear plugs so it wasn’t loud”

Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst calmly juxtapose the corruption of the music industry with the innocent, pure joy of childhood concertgoing. Quietly heartbreaking.

75. Brandi Carlile – Sugartooth

(2018, from By the Way, I Forgive You) – listen on YouTube
“He was a liar, but not a fraud, living proof that there was no God”

Carlile’s warm and generous character study of a man unable to kick a drug habit is a heart-wrenching affair.

74. Butch Walker – Wilder in the Heart

(2016, from Stay Gold) – listen & watch on YouTube
“When our minds were young and we were wilder in the heart”

Walker’s Stay Gold record draws heavily on heartland rock, and that’s true most of all here, a Springsteenian reflection on the passing of passionate young love.

73. Pet Shop Boys – Memory of the Future

(2012, from Elysium) – listen on YouTube
“It’s taken me all of my life to find you”

Moody electropop meditation on fate, happenstance, and the role of free will in our lives; it’s weighty stuff, compacted into a four-minute pop song.

72. R.E.M. – It Happened Today

(2011, from Collapse Into Now) – listen & watch on YouTube
“I have earned my voice”

R.E.M.’s final record did, in hindsight, give us all the clues that the band was done, including this jangly, sunny tune that shifts from Stipe having “earned his voice” to an extended, cathartic, wordless outro.

71. Keane – Sovereign Light Café

(2012, from Strangeland) – listen & watch on YouTube
“You can run away, boy, but you won’t go far”

The underrated post-Britpop band offer their spin on “Girls in their Summer Clothes”, as Tom Chaplin finds solace in local attractions imbued with memories.

70. Bleachers – Rollercoaster

(2014, from Strange Desire) – listen & watch on YouTube
“It’s a hundred miles an hour on a dirt road running away”

This peppy synth-pop track lives up to its name, as Jack Antonoff’s cheery, giddy-in-love narrative careens through choruses at breakneck speed.

69. Brian Fallon – Watson

(2018, from Sleepwalkers) – listen on YouTube
“Watching detectives chase the one that got away”

Fallon references the Magnetic Fields, Elvis Costello and, yes, Sherlock Holmes in this emotional tribute to a lover he can’t live without. His vivid portrait of the elderly man seeking his old flame through London’s underground is top-tier songwriting.

68. The Echo-Friendly – Same Mistakes

(2012, from Love Panic) – listen & watch on YouTube
“My friends are all adults, I’m still a teenage girl”

This doleful portrayal of arrested development is simultaneously self-aware and sincere; music for anyone who’s ever felt stuck in a rut.

67. The Fratellis – Laughing Gas

(2018, from In Your Own Sweet Time) – listen on YouTube
“You and I know this joke soon will pass”

Rattles by at such a pace you fear the record may spin right off the turntable, a bouncing tribute to the lighter things in life with a chorus that burrows its way into your brain for days on end.

66. Laura Jane Grace & the Devouring Mothers – The Airplane Song

(2018, from Bought to Rot) – listen on YouTube
“All trips come to an end, some of them never begin”

The standout from Grace’s first solo record depicts a solo airplane rider, apparently post-breakup, still “torn between two lovers”. It ably leaps between trains of thought, as frantic guitar and drums drive to a frenetic climax.

65. The Magnetic Fields – You Must be Out of Your Mind

(2010, from Realism) – listen on YouTube
“I no longer drink enough to think you’re witty”

Low on electric guitar and synth-free, Realism is the Magnetic Fields’ most traditional-sounding album; this gorgeous, folky melody juxtaposes with the violent imagery lurking in the confrontational lyrics.

64. The National – Sorrow

(2010, from High Violet) – listen on YouTube
“I live in a city sorrow built, it’s in my honey, it’s in my milk”

Nails how all-encompassing depression can be; it pervades every fragment of every day. Berninger’s baritone is the perfect delivery method.

63. Hawksley Workman – Battlefords

(2018, from Median Age Wasteland) – listen & watch on YouTube
“They say that wealth is revealed in the teeth, that’s why we’re all wearing braces”

A wry and warm-spirited tribute to small-town Canadian childhood, Workman nails the specificity that makes this subgenre really click (“rocky road, and tiger tail, and bubblegum”).

62. Haim – Don’t Save Me

(2012, from Days Are Gone) – listen & watch on YouTube
“Take me back to the song how it used to go”

’80s influences loom large on this tremendous reflection on a relationship that has changed and shifted beyond repair.

61. The Gaslight Anthem – Orphans

(2010, from American Slang) – listen on YouTube
“We were orphans before we were ever the sons of regret”

Lost youth is a favourite topic of mine, and “Orphans” absolutely nails it, a careering freight train of reflections on what’s been lost to time: the “clothes I wore”, the “diamond Sinatras” we once were.

60. fun – Sight of the Sun

(2013, from Girls OST Vol. 1) – listen on YouTube
“For once there is nothing up my sleeve, just some scars from a life that used to trouble me”

A string-heavy indie-pop portrait of the moment at which a relationship becomes real, a genuine shot at “the one”.

59. Emmy the Great – Social Halo

(2016, from Second Love) – listen on YouTube
“I see you, sometimes when I’m in Soho”

Second Love sees Emmy experiment with broader soundscapes, and electronic haze of “Social Halo” is the perfect accompaniment to a narrator who’s having difficulty grasping the motivations of those she loves.

58. El Vy – Silent Ivy Hotel

(2015, from Return to the Moon) – listen & watch on YouTube
“Pool-water martinis and a towel under the door”

It may be from the National frontman’s side-project, but this still bears the distinctive fingerprints of Matt Berninger: specific imagery, ambiguous emotional headspace.

57. Deacon Blue – That’s What We Can Do

(2012, from The Hipsters) – listen on YouTube
“We trust, we change, we move from one place to another, ‘cos that’s what we can do”

Driving power-pop from the Scottish rockers; it’s all jangle and sunshine and buoyant pep.

56. Dr. Dre – Talking to My Diary

(2015, from Compton) – not available on YouTube
“I’m just staring at the sky, you probably thinkin’ I’m high”

Heavily associated with the contemporaneous Straight Outta Compton biopic, Dre reflects on his life and successes, paying tribute to those who helped along the way. A surprisingly emotional capper.

55. Bishi – Ship of Fools

(2012, from Albion Voice) – listen & watch on YouTube
“So why don’t you come with me, to the sea in the ship of fools?”

Multidisciplinary talent Bishi blends disparate sounds and styles; her live performances are magnificent multimedia showcases. “Ship of Fools” is her finest moment, a joyous fusion of Eastern and Western.

54. Jeff Rosenstock – Beating My Head Against A Wall

(2018, from POST-) – listen on YouTube
“Talk-talk-talk-talk-talking to you, but you don’t wanna hear me speak”

One-hundred seconds of spiky, abrasive punk that somehow packs an album’s worth of hooks.

53. The War on Drugs – Holding On

(2017, from A Deeper Understanding) – listen & watch on YouTube
“Hiding in the seams, I keep moving past”

The War on Drugs build expansive, immersive, landscapes that shift in and out of focus, simultaneously haunting and calming; this adds reassuring ’80s rock hallmarks to the mix too.

52. Travis – 3 Miles High

(2016, from Everything At Once) – listen & watch on YouTube
“We can’t come down, ‘cos we’d burst our little bubble on the ground”

Wistful rumination on the futility of it all, a brisk yet tender plea to live in the moment.

51. The Menzingers – Farewell Youth

(2019, from Hello Exile) – listen on YouTube
“I was always hanging out with the older kids”

It’s been a remarkable decade for these guys, traversing the shift from punk to rock as deftly as the Gaslight Anthem. Their career highlight to date: this devastating finale from their latest record, using an old friend’s wake as a jumping-off point to reflect on adolescence.

50. Brandi Carlile – Hold Out Your Hand

(2018, from By the Way, I Forgive You) – listen & watch on YouTube
“There will be colour and language and nobody wanting to fight”

Carlile is rousing and defiant in this call to empathy, the rat-a-tat verses the perfect contrast to the call-to-arms chorus.

49. Bruce Springsteen – Moonlight Motel

(2019, from Western Stars) – listen on YouTube
“Then it was one more shot poured out onto the parking lot, to the Moonlight Motel”

Heart-wrenching tribute to past times and lost love; its ambiguous conclusion ricochets and reverberates, long after the album-closer concludes.

48. The Gaslight Anthem – Desire

(2012, from Handwritten) – listen on YouTube
“Does it hurt you at night? Or does it keep you alive and set you on fire?”

Maybe as full-on pop as Gaslight ever got, a marvellous heart-on-sleeve rush of hormones, bravado and, yes, desire.

47. The Hold Steady – Big Cig

(2014, from Teeth Dreams) – listen on YouTube
“We power down and try to socialize”

Craig Finn’s nonpareil eye for detail is in fine fetter here, sketching a smoke-strewn portrait of a casual relationship skating by on fetishistic lust.

46. Katy Perry ft. Juicy J – Dark Horse

(2013, from Prism) – listen & watch on YouTube
“So you wanna play with magic”

Perry draws on trap and techno for her most impressive stylistic experiment to date, a mystical exploration of the point at which dark arts and sex intersect.

45. They Might Be Giants – Can’t Keep Johnny Down

(2011, from Join Us) – listen & watch on YouTube
“Beneath my dignity to flip off the guy, when he pulls up alongside to say my gas cap is unscrewed”

The downbeat narrative set to peppy pop is one of the Giants’ specialties, and “Johnny” is a quintessential example, as a grouchy protagonist moans about other people’s minor misdeeds to sun-drenched rock.

44. The National – The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness

(2017, from Sleep Well Beast) – listen & watch on YouTube
“We’re in a different kind of thing now, all night you’re talking to God”

At first fluttery, then stately, and finally heavy and brutalist, this is a song that careens and thunders through murky waters, ever on the precipice of something foreboding.

43. Danny and the Champions of the World – Talkin’ About the Weather

(2013, from Stay True) – listen on YouTube
“Talking about the weather is a waste of time”

Good old-fashioned country sets the scene for this rumination on outgrowing your surroundings (complete with a friendly jibe at Brits’ love of, er, talkin’ about the weather).

42. Butch Walker – Stay Gold

(2016, from Stay Gold) – listen & watch on YouTube
“While the locals all work for coffee, remember that you own this town”

Butch’s impassioned plea to stick out from the crowd skirts well-worn territory to come up with something genuinely fresh and inspirational; his portrait of small-town mundanity is magnificent.

41. Michael Kisur – Who You Wanna Be

(2011, from Dark Horse OST) – listen on YouTube
“Today is gonna be the perfect day to step into your life and make anything change”

A perfect partner to #42; an impossibly catchy anthem that empowers us to change, to be the selves we always were. Michael Kisur should be a household name.

40. Barenaked Ladies – You Run Away

(2010, from All in Good Time) – listen & watch on YouTube
“I’ll give you something you can cry about”

On their first record since Steven Page’s departure from the band, Barenaked Ladies struggle to reconcile their emotions; “You Run Away” is a defeated, dejected attempt to grasp the situation.

39. Brian Fallon – Smoke

(2016, from Painkillers) – listen on YouTube
“You just became something like some smoke that I tried too hard to hold”

A low-key stream-of-consciousness gem from Fallon that deals with the impossibility of reconciling early relationship magic with the drudgery of daily life.

38. The Shires – All Over Again

(2015, from Brave) – listen & watch on YouTube
“We’ve been too caught up in all that stuff we call life”

The Shires quickly became one of Britain’s all-time most popular country-pop acts, and this immensely likable treasure is probably their crowning gem. Swooning vocal harmonies abound.

37. Taylor Swift – Getaway Car

(2017, from reputation.) – listen on YouTube
“I knew it from the first Old Fashioned, we were cursed”

Crime scene getaway as a metaphor for painful breakup; Swift and producer Jack Antonoff work synth-pop magic, hooks and key changes that threaten to swallow you whole.

36. The Muppets – Life’s A Happy Song

(2011, from The Muppets OST) – listen & watch on YouTube
“Life’s a happy song, when there’s someone by your side to sing along”

A joyous tribute to partnership and companionship in life; a sweet and witty earworm. My wife & I’s wedding song.

35. Lady Gaga – The Edge of Glory

(2011, from Born This Way) – listen & watch on YouTube
“I’m on the edge with you”

Lady Gaga marries her irresistible disco-pop with a Springsteen-like structure and a Clarence Clemons sax solo; pure pop magic.

34. Kacey Musgraves – Happy and Sad

(2018, from Golden Hour) – listen on YouTube
“I’m the kind of person who starts getting kinda nervous when I’m having the time of my life”

Utterly nails that specific anxiety of anticipating the low while still cresting the high. Musgraves’ vocals are utterly heavenly.

33. The Fratellis – Baby Don’t You Lie to Me

(2015, from Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied) – listen & watch on YouTube
“You can kill me with your repartee, but baby don’t you lie to me”

Spirited rock’n’roll delivered with a cheeky grin – maybe the finest example of the Fratellis’ best-known stock-in-trade. A boisterous blast, both live and on record.

32. Better Oblivion Community Center – Dylan Thomas

(2019, from Better Oblivion Community Center) – listen & watch on YouTube
They say you’ve gotta fake it, at least until you make it; that ghost is just a kid in a sheet

Indie pop in the era of fake news, a sweet-sounding, acerbically-worded toast to the universal existential crises of 24/7 political pageantry.

31. Dave Hause – C’mon Kid

(2011, from Resolutions) – listen & watch on YouTube
“Everybody needs a hand sometimes, everybody needs a brother”

A personal pep talk with universal resonance and a killer chorus; Dave Hause is the great overlooked rock poet of our time.

30. Smallpools – Centerfold

(2017, from The Science of Letting Go EP) – listen & watch on YouTube
“Shamed, you’ve come to face your flaws, on the centerfold”

Drawing on ’80s synth-pop and ’60s psychedelia, surf pop trio Smallpools turn in the kind of record you swear you’ve known your entire life. The familiar sound and unusual turns-of-phrase instantly connect.

29. M83 – Midnight City

(2011, from Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming) – listen & watch on YouTube
“At night the city grows, look at the horizon glow”

Dreamy electro-pop that came to inspire the sound and feel of the decade’s synthwave movement.

28. Kanye West – All of the Lights

(2010, from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) – listen & watch on YouTube
“Turn up the lights in here, baby, extra bright, I want y’all to see this”

West layers vocal upon vocal, sound upon sound, creating intricate textures unmatched by any artist this decade, as he publicly reckons with the pressures of fame.

27. Jenny Lewis – Just One of the Guys

(2014, from The Voyager) – listen & watch on YouTube
“No matter how hard I try to be just one of the guys, there’s a little something inside that won’t let me”

Lewis considers societal pressures, gender stereotypes and the challenges of growing older in this swooning indie pop beauty.

26. The Gaslight Anthem – Blue Dahlia

(2012, from Handwritten – Deluxe Edition) – listen on YouTube
“Where’d you get them scars? How blue is your heart?”

Remarkably relegated to mere “bonus track” status, this Handwritten off-cut builds and builds to a monster chorus, as our narrator reckons with a history of broken relationships and his fears for a new one.

25. fun. – Why Am I The One

(2012, from Some Nights) – listen & watch on YouTube
“Why am I the one always packing up my stuff?”

The battle to self-preserve as a relationship slowly destructs, arguments become more frequent, and exhaustion sets in. Maybe fun.’s most majestic-sounding record: the strings add real drama.

24. Bruce Springsteen – Rocky Ground

(2012, from Wrecking Ball) – listen & watch on YouTube
“The floodwater’s rising, we’re Canaan bound”

Perhaps Springsteen’s most adventurous sonic experiment to date, a haunting union of tortured gospel and defiant hip-hop. A paean to the enduring power of the soul; a hymn of rare beauty.

23. Bleachers – I Miss Those Days

(2017, from Gone Now) – listen & watch on YouTube
“It feels like everyone is changing, and the storefront’s rearranging”

Jack Antonoff appears to wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before they were gone; he imbues this nostalgic trip with a Christmassy wall-of-sound vibe, ratcheting up those halcyon feels.

22. Against Me! – True Trans Soul Rebel

(2014, from Transgender Dysphoria Blues) – listen on YouTube
“You should’ve been gone from here years ago, you should be living a different life”

Laura Jane Grace reckons with the everyday challenges of life as a trans woman, and the spiritual and personal battles her coming out has brought with it. A profoundly powerful song, sung with winning defiance.

21. College & Electric Youth – A Real Hero

(2010, from Innerworld) – listen on YouTube
“You’re emotionally complex”

Most frequently associated with the movie Drive, “A Real Hero” stands on its own merits when divorced from that neon spectacle; enchanting synth-pop that lays haunting vocals against a driving rhythm.

20. CHVRCHES – The Mother We Share

(2013, from The Bones of What You Believe) – listen & watch on YouTube
“Come in misery, where you can seem as old as your omens”

Lauren Mayberry’s twinkling vocals crest against a towering wall of synths and keyboards. The central lyrics is ambigious; my preferred interpretation is that in which Mother Earth is being described.

19. Dave Hause – With You

(2017, from Bury Me in Philly) – listen on YouTube
“You clap in time, I’ll make it rhyme and we’ll pretend we’re in our prime”

Hause pays tribute to the power of shared experience: whether reliving youth at a rock concert or finding solace in lifelong companionship, he wants to do it with you.

18. Steps – Neon Blue

(2017, from Tears on the Dancefloor) – listen & watch on YouTube
“Come out, come out, and dance with me, if you’re down it’s a remedy”

Steps’ turn-of-the-century bubblegum pop soundtracked my childhood; their 2017 comeback record is everything one could want from the band two decades later. Highlight “Neon Blue” is a masterclass in pop production, packing a jubilant chorus and a strong message.

17. The National – Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks

(2010, from High Violet) – listen on YouTube
“All the very best of us string ourselves up for love”

The bloodletting that closes out the decade’s most stirring record: strings soar and drums boom as Matt Berninger presides over an outpouring of tears, howls, and catharsis unbound.

16. Lori McKenna – The Lot Behind St. Mary’s

(2018, from The Tree) – listen on YouTube
“We can’t get back to when September was our only adversary”

McKenna utterly nails the detail in this beautiful reflection on young love, aching and quavering with heart-wrenching nostalgia.

15. Jimmy Eat World – You With Me

(2016, from Integity Blues) – listen & watch on YouTube
“What makes our love so hard to be? Is it you – or is that, you with me?”

Jim Adkins muses on the battle to keep relationships vital; change is the only constant here, both lyrically and musically, as the angelic opening gives way to jittery pop-rock.

14. The Fratellis – Rock’n’Roll Will Break Your Heart

(2013, from We Need Medicine) – listen on YouTube
“I’m the man who shot the moon and cried, ‘Let those thieves and bastards all collide'”

Jon Fratelli gets a little more introspective on the band’s crowning achievement from a strong decade: our narrator seeks redemption in hard living, but comes up short. A minor epic.

13. Barenaked Ladies – Odds Are

(2013, from Grinning Streak) – listen & watch on YouTube
“But it’s twenty-three or -four to one that you could fall in love by the end of this song”

For their many forays into adult-contemporary and folk-country, it’s shamelessly shiny, wordy pop where BNL shine best. “Odds Are” may be their best yet: Ed Robertson finds hooks where none should live, every phrase another earworm.

12. They Might Be Giants – Canajoharie

(2011, from Join Us) – listen on YouTube
“Don’t look at me, look at where I’m pointing”

The chug-a-chug rhythm of a steam train drives this earworm about the way location and memory intersect, become inextricably linked. Like most TMBG songs, the specifics are up for debate, but few could deny the irresistible pull of the chorus.

11. Bleachers – Like A River Runs

(2014, from Strange Desire) – listen & watch on YouTube
“I will remember your light”

Echoing drums and pained backing vocals propel this stadium-ready assault on the senses, a sad depiction of a narrator haunted by romantic ghosts. Sia’s haunting cover version is also beautiful.

10. Childish Gambino – All the Shine

(2011, from CAMP) – listen on YouTube
“No matter how far the hood seems, we all still got hoop dreams”

Newly on his path to mass media domination, Donald Glover raps about the struggle to be taken seriously in the hip-hop scene. The backing music swirls and spins as Gambino puns and rhymes his way through a surprisingly heartfelt mission statement.

9. Against Me! – Because of the Shame

(2010, from White Crosses) – listen on YouTube
“Because of the shame I associate with vulnerability, I am numbing myself completely”

A gut-wrenching tribute to a departed Springsteen-loving friend, Laura Jane Grace is  direct with her phrasing, dealing head-on with unresolved spectres of the past throughout a breathless four minute reimagination of “No Surrender” on uppers.

8. Brian Fallon – A Wonderful Life

(2016, from Painkillers) – listen & watch on YouTube
“Most of this life’s been a drag of a high, and lows like a blow in a paid, thrown title fight”

Fallon sets a new heartland rock standard for the 21st Century, an instantly-memorable tribute to seeking out the treasures in life, replete with handclaps, glockenspiel and “whoa-oa” backing vocals.

7. Butch Walker – Spark: Lost

(2016, from Stay Gold) – listen on YouTube
“Now you’re leaving LA for Nashville, with Georgia on your mind”

Walker draws on country-Western soul, sound and mise-en-scene to populate this lovelorn tribute to a relationship gone South. There’s an entire novel contained within these four pained minutes.

6. Emmy the Great – Phoenixes

(2016, from Second Love) – listen on YouTube
“My screengrab beauty queen, typing something out in green, like we were seventeen”

Emmy uses the Phoenix siblings as a jumping-off point to reflect on teenage dreams, the passage of time, and shifts in communication technology. She paints a magnificent portrait, projected through a widescreen soundscape wherein music and space commingle.

5. Steven Page – Over Joy

(2010, from Page One) – listen on YouTube
“Things get easier when I’m not there”

My favourite exploration of depression in rock music this century; direct and honest, its catchy pop burrows its way into your brain as Page acknowledges and confronts his battles with mental health.

4. Danny and the Champions of the World – Every Beat of My Heart

(2011, from Hearts & Arrows) – listen on YouTube
“I’ll be the one of that crazy night bus home, head inside a Bucketfull of Brains”

Bar band rock doesn’t get any better than this: a passionate, pounding tribute to the joy of communal music, the memories you make along the way, and the desire to recreate those seminal moments.

3. Band of Horses – Dilly

(2010, from Infinite Arms) – listen & watch on YouTube
“It really took a tall one to see it, two to believe it, three to just get in the way”

In some ways, the definitive ’70s soft-rock anthem – that just happened to arrive four decades too late. Band of Horses blend their trademark alt-country with doo-wop and pop to create something quietly majestic, as vocals and keyboards pile up on resigned country swagger, our narrator seeking answers at the bottom of a bottle.

2. The Gaslight Anthem – The Diamond Church Street Choir

(2010, from American Slang) – listen on YouTube
“They know the meaning of staying out very, very late”

Fallon and co remind us not to forget where we came from, in this triumphant tribute to their hometown. It’s all finger-snapping, cheery riffs, and impassioned salute to those who were there on the way up. Tremendously spirited and entirely unforgettable.

1. The National – England

(2010, from High Violet) – listen on YouTube
“Someone send a runner through the weather that I’m under, for the feeling that I lost today”

Stately eulogy for a lost relationship, yes, but also for a departed state of mind; Berninger’s rainy London and distant England serve as metaphor for the unreachable. His message gets more wrought, more confused, as the tight, taut orchestra build from reflective calm to unforgiving storm. A majestic cacophony, unsurpassed this decade.