The 100 best movies of the decade

10. Dunkirk

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Year: 2017 | Director: Christopher Nolan

Nolan brought his unique perspective to this WW2 epic, tackling the turning- point evacuation of the titular French beach. Examining the action from air, land and sea, Dunkirk had a complex but elegant structure based around three timelines. The practical approach to the effects (real boats, real planes, real beach) popped on IMAX, and Hans Zimmer's tick-tock score cranked up the gut-churning tension, but heartfelt performances provided emotional heft beneath the carnage. Matt Maytum

9. Arrival

(Image credit: FilmNation)

Year: 2016 | Director: Denis Villeneuve

Proof that smart cerebral concepts and heart-tugging emotion can sit side-by-side, Arrival was a grippingly intelligent sci-fi drama following linguist Louise Banks' (Amy Adams) attempts to break down the language barrier with an alien species that communicates in circular symbols. Understated but ambitious, Arrival made sentence structure as gripping as intergalactic warfare. When Banks' immersion in the alien language alters her perception of time, minds were blown and hearts were broken. Matt Maytum

8. Inside Out

(Image credit: Disney/Pixar)

Year: 2016 | Director: Ronnie Del Carmen

Pixar's 15th feature was quite the head trip, as the emotions of Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) fought for control over the mind of 11-year-old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias). And if that wasn't enough to noodle the noggins of viewers of all ages, we were taken into every corner of Riley's brain, including Abstract Thinking, Facts, Opinions and Dreams. Jamie Graham

7. The Tree of Life

(Image credit: Plan B Entertainment)

Year: 2011 | Director: Terrence Malick

"Ambitious" doesn't quite cut it. Not content with making a film about life, the universe and everything – from the Big Bang to the end of the world – Terrence Malick used his epic canvas to paint a tender family portrait around a single moment of grief. It might be known as one of cinema's loftiest displays of philosophic grandstanding, but the real staying power of Malick's film lies in its humanity. Paul Bradshaw

6. Mad Max: Fury Road

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Year: 2015 | Director: George Miller

The action spoke much, much louder than the sparse dialogue in Miller's loooong-awaited fourquel, an adrenaline-fuelled chase movie that never once took its foot of the gas. Hardy comfortably filled the leather jacket vacated by Mel Gibson, but the real standout was Imperator Furiousa, a brand-new character played by Charlize Theron on badass form. Iconic imagery abounds, but it's the jaw-dropping stuntwork that really lingers. The greatest action movie of the decade, bar none. Matt Maytum

5. Under The Skin

(Image credit: BFI/Film4)

Year: 2013 | Director: Jonathan Glazer

The most alien of sci-fis, Glazer's slow stalk through the mind's eye of a man-eater has an apt title – oozing eerie sounds and images under your skin until it feels like you're sinking into a bath of creepy black soup. Scarlett Johansson has never been better, Mica Levi's score was a revelation and Glazer directed with Kubrickian verve – less a film you watch than a film that watches you. Paul Bradshaw

4. Boyhood

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Year: 2014 | Director: Richard Linklater

A coming-of-ager like no other, Linklater's experimental drama charted the life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from 6 to 18, as he aged in real-time. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke were career-best as Mason's divorced parents. Zooming in on the smaller moments, the epic structure allowed for character development on a massive scale, cyclical behaviour that felt painfully authentic, and one of the best expressions of adolescence ever captured on film. Matt Maytum

3. Whiplash

(Image credit: Blumhouse)

Year: 2014 | Director: Damien Chazelle

Snare-drum tense and pounding at a restless tempo, Whiplash was more thriller than music movie, as prodigious drummer Andrew (Miles Teller) clashes with merciless band leader Fletcher (J.K. Simmons, on Oscar-winning form). No interest in jazz was needed to be utterly gripped, as Andrew finds his dedication to music strained by Fletcher's psychotic methods. The musical performances thrilled, but the ambiguous ending left you evaluating the cost of untrammelled ambition. Matt Maytum

2. La La Land

(Image credit: Lionsgate)

Year: 2016 | Director: Damien Chazelle

Chazelle's heartfelt update of the Golden Era musical utilised Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling's electric chemistry to charming and heartbreaking effect. An aspiring actor and wannabe jazz club owner, fall in love, and spur each other on to achieve their ambitions, even if the price paid is a heavy one. The superlative songs (by composer Justin Hurwitz and lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul) underscore the drama perfectly. Pure magic. Matt Maytum

1. Inception

(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Year: 2010 | Director: Christopher Nolan

Conclusive proof that blockbusters can respect their audience's intelligence while also thrilling with spectacular set-pieces, Inception was a truly remarkable achievement. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an 'extractor' who normally steals sensitive ideas from his targets' minds but must now must plant an idea in the head of his latest mark. As the narrative operated on several levels simultaneously, so did the filmmaking, layering metaphysical ideas with startling visuals and a grippingly propulsive narrative. Inception is a film not afraid to dream much, much bigger. Matt Maytum

The Total Film team are made up of the finest minds in all of film journalism. They are: Editor Jane Crowther, Deputy Editor Matt Maytum, Reviews Ed Matthew Leyland, News Editor Jordan Farley, and Online Editor Emily Murray. Expect exclusive news, reviews, features, and more from the team behind the smarter movie magazine.