The 34 greatest movies from the 2010s you forgot about

(Image credit: RLJE Films)

The 2010s will go down in the entertainment history books as the decade when mainstream movies got unfathomably big and online streaming supplanted cable and home video. But with so many more movies released than ever before, what films actually slipped under the radar? Better yet, what 2010s movies have we collectively all forgotten about?

As tentpole franchises with budgets amounting to hundreds of millions apiece choked out theaters, a number of smaller movies with comparatively leaner price tags made their way to various streaming and Video on Demand platforms. While some of these “smaller” movies still drew attention, not all of them kept a lasting place in the wider consciousness. Sometimes, it feels like these movies were wiped from memory, even when they’re still right there on your streaming queues. 

Despite whatever critical acclaim and box office revenue they might have generated, these are 34 of the greatest movies between 2010 and 2019 that you might have forgotten about until just now.

34. Sleight (2016)


(Image credit: Blumhouse)

Lurking beneath the dominance of superhero blockbusters in the late 2010s, director J.D. Dillard made his feature-directing debut with his microbudget genre-bender Sleight. Teenager Bo (Jacob Latimore) lives a double life as an L.A. street magician - dazzling pedestrians with his tricks of levitation - and a low-level drug dealer for a crime kingpin. Eventually things escalate, and Bo must use his magic tricks to fend off his bloodthirsty crime boss (Dulé Hill). A riveting picture that effortlessly blends crime/revenge stories with coming-of-age and superhero origin conventions, Sleight is a quality experience that is no illusion.

33. Love & Mercy (2014)

Love and Mercy

(Image credit: Lionsgate)

From director Bill Pohlad, Love & Mercy is a stunning, sympathetic biopic about Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson and his well-documented battles with severe mental illness. Paul Dano and John Cusack together play Wilson at different times in his life, with Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti co-starring as Wilson’s second wife and psychologist respectively. Set during both the making of the Beach Boys’ hit album Pet Sounds and Wilson’s therapy in the ‘80s, Love & Mercy immerses audiences beyond the recording studio and into the warped soul of one of rock music’s most easy going artists. While creative liberties are taken, Wilson has gone on record saying the movie is "very factual" in a 2015 interview with Chicago Tribune.

32. Legendary (2010)


(Image credit: Samuel Goldwyn Films)

Before his mainstream Hollywood stardom, John Cena split his time between championship reigns in WWE and cutting his teeth as a screen actor. In just his third movie, Legendary, released in 2010, Cena is thrust into a dramatic light as a fresh-from-prison ex-convict who coaches his estranged younger brother (Devon Graye) after he joins the high school wrestling team. Although Legendary is painfully maudlin and uninspired, with even prestigious supporting actors like Patricia Clarkson and Danny Glover set to autopilot, it’s notable for featuring a deadly serious John Cena still learning to grapple the nuances of his secondary, post-WWE craft. 

31. Bone Tomahawk (2015)

Bone Tomahawk

(Image credit: RLJ Entertainment)

Written and directed by S. Craig Zahler in his feature debut, Bone Tomahawk stars Kurt Russell as an Old West sheriff who leads a rescue mission to help townsfolk being held hostage by cannibalistic Native Americans. Despite how much Zahler’s movie plays with dated tropes about indigenous Americans, Bone Tomahawk is an exceptional example of Western and horror genre hybrids. Its haunted and moody atmosphere compliments its characters’ desperation for answers in an increasingly hostile open wilderness. Russell is especially great here, along with a cast that includes Patrick Wilson, David Arquette, and Matthew Fox.

30. Water for Elephants (2011)

Water for Elephants

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Released during the height of Robert Pattinson’s Twilight-era fame, Water for Elephants features Pattinson co-starring in a handsome yet woefully overlooked period romance with an enchanting, if admittedly mismatched Reese Witherspoon. Based on a 2006 novel, the movie tells of a young med school dropout (Pattinson) who hops aboard a circus train and becomes engrossed in the circus world, as well as falling for one of its beautiful performers (Witherspoon). Though Witherspoon and Pattinson lack the precise chemistry for Water for Elephants to quench thirst, it is still a sweet romantic gem to remedy all who are lovesick.

29. About Time (2013)

About Time

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Rachel McAdams seems to have a thing for falling for men who control time. After starring in 2009’s The Time Traveler’s Wife but before appearing in 2016’s Doctor Strange, McAdams was the object of affection for Domnhall Gleason in 2013’s About Time. The movie, from director Richard Curtis, follows a young man (Gleason) who travels in time to engineer his happily-ever-after with a beautiful woman (McAdams). While critics and audiences found About Time’s loosey-goosey grasp with time travel frustrating, it still succeeds as both a delightful rom-com and a warning against playing with fate. 

28. Apostle (2018)


(Image credit: Netflix)

In this mesmerizing goth action-horror from Gareth Evans, Dan Stevens plays a man from 1905 trying to rescue his sister from the clutches of a mysterious Satanic cult. While Apostle first appears to be fashioned in the style of most austere folk and cult horror movies, like The Wicker Man, The Witch, and Midsommar, its later explosions of violence reminds you that Evans was also the mastermind behind some of the greatest martial arts movies of the 2010s: The Raid duology. Evans’ surreal mixture of the two flavors combines into a fine instance of cinematic cuisine, conjuring both scares in its horror and fist-pumping excitement with its gruesome action.

27. Joshy (2016)


(Image credit: Lionsgate)

An understated comedy-drama meditating on grief and inexplicable heartbreak, Thomas Middleditch plays a lonely man haunted by the sudden suicide of his fiance (Alison Brie in a “cameo” appearance) on his birthday. Months later, on the weekend that would have been his bachelor party, Josh’s friends try their best to give their buddy a new lease on life. While Jeff Baena’s Joshy has been mostly forgotten in the grand scheme, it is a tight movie about the blurry lines separating love and resentment, and is overstuffed with comedy talent including Adam Pally, Nick Kroll, Brett Gelman, Jenny Slate, Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson, and even Paul Reiser.

26. Hold the Dark (2018)

Hold the Dark

(Image credit: Netflix)

In this snow-frosted action-thriller from Jeremy Saulnier, Jeffrey Wright plays a wolf expert who is asked by an Alaskan woman (Riley Keough) to seek out the wolves supposedly responsible for the disappearance of her young son. Things get more complicated - and far deadlier - after the woman’s husband (Alexander Skarsgård), a soldier, returns home from Iraq. Originally set for release by A24, and indeed the movie fits that studio’s established house style, it wound up being exclusive to Netflix, which perhaps explains its muted reception among subscribers who didn’t stumble upon it due to algorithms. 

25. Columbus (2017)


(Image credit: Sundance Institute)

From film essayist Kogonada, his minimalist feature directing debut charts two passing souls, played by John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson, who meet in Columbus, Indiana, a working class town infamous for its concentration of modern architectural wonders. Methodical and beguiling, and powered by a soothing score from Hammock, Kogonada conjures a rare cinematic experience that raises burning questions about identity, familial relationships, and what to do when we stand at the crossroads of life. Kogonada’s film gets a helpful layup from the city of Columbus itself, its famous buildings elegantly framed inside Kogonada’s lenses to foster feelings of wonder and introspection like few movies do. 

24. Rush (2013)


(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

It’s hard to deem Rush a “forgotten” movie, being a critically acclaimed dramatic tentpole release that did modestly well at the box office. But with other race-oriented movies overtaking its place on the winners’ podium - movies like Ford v Ferrari (2019) and Ferrari (2023) - Rush doesn’t feel so fast and furious anymore. Still, it’s a worthy picture detailing the real-life rivalry of Formula One drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, played by Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl respectively, whose professional animosities leave them inhaling each other’s smoke during the 1976 season. With breakneck racing sequences and an enthralling story about one upmanship, Rush can still get the adrenaline running.

23. Beginners (2010)


(Image credit: Focus Features)

In a galaxy far away, Ewan McGregor is the great Jedi Obi-Wan. But in a world closer to our own, he’s Oliver, a graphics illustrator haunted by broken relationships. While Oliver comes to grips with the death of his father (Christopher Plummer), who spent his remaining years out of the closet as an openly homosexual man, he meets and starts falling for a French actress (Mélanie Laurent), herself informed by her own personal issues. Heartfelt and tender, Beginners shows that it’s never too late for any of us to start all over.

22. As Above/So Below (2014)

As Above, So Below

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

At the tail end of found footage studio horror movies, brothers John Erick and Drew Dowdle collaborated on their impressively muscular supernatural flick As Above, So Below. Set in the sprawling Catacombs of Paris - you know, those creepy tunnels with all the human skulls - the movie follows a group of young adults, led by aspiring archaeologist Scarlett (Perdita Weeks), as their hunt for ancient relics awakens something evil. In its blend of Indiana Jones-style adventuring with Satanic horror, As Above, So Below rises above low expectations to serve as one of the last times Hollywood-produced found footage horror films raised real scares.

21. Ode to Joy (2019)

Ode to Joy

(Image credit: IFC Films)

Based on a true story reported by This American Life, Jason Winer’s Ode to Joy stars Martin Freeman as Charlie, a man stricken with cataplexy, a rare condition that leads to fainting from feeling strong emotions - in this case, joy. Life for Charlie gets difficult when he meets a beautiful free-spirited woman (Morena Baccarin). Although critics didn’t pass out from Ode to Joy, Freeman proves himself a capable leading man in a rom-com that makes us believe love is worth, quite literally, falling for.

20. Bunraku (2010)


(Image credit: ARC Entertainment)

A stylish under-the-radar action movie with an arresting color palette and a star-studded cast, Guy Moshe’s Bunraku (a title sourced from traditional Japanese puppet theater) tells of a cowboy without a gun (Josh Hartnett) and a samurai without a sword (Japanese rock star Gackt) who team up on a quest of revenge against a feared crime lord known as “The Woodcutter” (Ron Perlman). Woody Harrelson, Kevin McKidd, and Demi Moore round out the movie, playing equally colorful characters who are as exaggerated as the movie’s unusual mise-en-scène. While Bunraku is a multi-genre hybrid blending Westerns, samurai, and crime epics - and a healthy dosage of pulp aesthetics - it is still so singularly original, a movie that stands on its own two feet.

19. The Belko Experiment (2016)

The Belko Experiment

(Image credit: Orion Pictures)

In this gory workplace satire from writer James Gunn and director Greg McLean, an American office staff working abroad in Colombia are suddenly forced into a violent challenge where they must kill each other until the last one stands - or else, they will all die. Think Mike Judge’s Office Space crossed with Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale, and you’re just about there. While not as provocative or insightful as it probably should be, The Belko Experiment makes for one hell of a good time in how much it sprinkles real gooey blood over our dead-end office jobs. John Gallagher Jr. leads an ensemble that also includes Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona, Sean Gunn, David Dastmalchian, and Michael Rooker. 

18. Ruby Sparks (2012)

Ruby Sparks

(Image credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Flipping the script on manic pixie dream girl archetypes, Ruby Sparks is a delightful rom-com fantasy in which a novelist, Calvin (Paul Dano) is stunned to find that his overly idealized, unrealistic fictional character is suddenly a real person (played by Zoe Kazan, who also wrote the movie). After the excitement wears off, Calvin comes into conflict with Ruby’s increasing independence from her own, pardon the word, “creator.” In discussing the movie’s themes, Kazan said in a 2013 interview with Irish Times that Ruby Sparks is about “being gazed at but never seen.” 

17. Logan Lucky (2017)

Logan Lucky

(Image credit: Bleecker Street)

During the first year of Donald Trump’s U.S. presidency, Steven Soderbergh emerged from retirement to focus his cameras on a blue collar family living in the Bible belt who plan a heist around a championship NASCAR race. A top-tier cast including Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Hilary Swank, and more fill out what Soderbergh himself described as a thematic counterpart to his more glammed-up Ocean’s Eleven movies. While Logan Lucky was popular among critics and did well at the box office, it has been eclipsed by the continued stardom of all of its actors who’ve gone on to even bigger projects.

16. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

(Image credit: Kino Lorber)

In Ana Lily Amipour’s stunning directing debut, the vampire movie genre gets relocated to modern day Iran with a vigilante vamp (Sheila Vand) who uses her monstrous powers to target inappropriate men. Harnessing feminine rage against sexual violence before the critical mass of #MeToo, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night subverts convention and expectations to deliver a creepy, satisfying experience that expands our collective image of vampires. Touching on themes like power, agency, and the inherent sexuality of vampire myths, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is worth sinking teeth into.

15. Yes, God, Yes (2019)

Yes, God, Yes

(Image credit: Vertical Entertainment)

Awkwardly and hilariously putting the “coming” in coming-of-age storytelling, Yes, God, Yes stars Natalie Dyer (Stranger Things) as Alice, a devout Catholic schoolgirl who fears eternal damnation when she develops inappropriate feelings after a spicy AOL chat room encounter. (Did we mention Yes, God, Yes is an early 2000s period piece? Talk about nostalgia!) After being sent to an abstinence camp, Alice is challenged even more when she meets a hot stud of a small group counselor. Hilarious and touching - emotionally, we mean - Yes, God, Yes is a darling movie that has us all at our knees.

14. MacGruber (2010)


(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Originating as an SNL sketch series that spoofed ‘80s spy action shows, MacGruber (directed by Jorma Taccone of The Lonely Island) stars Will Forte as the titular inept special ops agent who comes out of retirement to find a nuclear warhead stolen by his arch-nemesis. While MacGruber bombed hard in theaters, and not in a funny way, it has found new life as a quotable cult classic. Although many who’ve seen it swear it’s the funniest movie they’ve seen in decades, MacGruber stays lurking in the shadows, waiting to be rediscovered en masse. 

13. Locke (2013)


(Image credit: A24)

A minimalist thriller with maximum impact, Locke stars Tom Hardy as a construction foreman who spends the night driving and holding phone conversations with a series of other characters. Hardy’s character is the only character who appears on screen, and almost the entire movie takes place inside a BMW X5 driven by Hardy. Locke ascends far beyond its gimmicky set-up to be an enthralling saga about lies and loyalty, with Hardy flexing the full might of his acting abilities in a pressure-cooker psychological drama. While Locke was critically acclaimed upon release, it remains overlooked as Hardy’s stardom has grown tenfold through movies like Mad Max: Fury Road and the Venom series.

12. Midnight Special (2016)

Midnight Special

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

In a rare turn for Michael Shannon portraying “good” characters, the decorated actor plays a father who runs away with his son - escaping the reach of both the government and a religious cult - after they learn his son possesses strange alien powers. Like a superhero movie crossed with Amblin-era movies like E.T., Midnight Special breathes fresh air into worn-out genre tropes, paying homage to nostalgic sci-fi movies while grounding them in authentic artistic maturity. Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, and Sam Shepard round out the cast in a movie that woefully performed poorly in theaters.

11. Colossal (2016)


(Image credit: NEON)

In Nacho Vigalondo’s second English-language feature film, an alcoholic writer (Anne Hathaway) moves back into her childhood home and reconnects with an old friend (Jason Sudeikis). In a bizarre twist of fate, Hathaway finds she’s psychically connected to a giant monster stomping its way through South Korea. An outlandish fusion of kaiju movies with surrealist dramas in the spirit of Being John Malkovich, Colossal is all about female agency, how men can make women feel small, and how monstrous alter egos can be a source of strength.

10. Mayhem (2017)


(Image credit: RLJE Films)

Just before Samara Weaving asserted her action film prowess with Ready or Not, she took part in Joe Lynch’s still underrated B-movie homage Mayhem. The Walking Dead’s Steven Yuen stars as Derek, a newly unemployed lawyer in a building suddenly quarantined for a dangerous virus that is inspiring everyone to act out their impulses. Aligning himself with a desperate client, Melanie (Weaving), Derek makes his way to the top floor to settle the matter of his unemployment, all whilst fighting off his former colleagues who are after a reward for his death. With a powerhouse Steven Yuen in what is basically 9-to-5 meets The Purge, Mayhem delights with exquisite, cathartic carnage.

9. Free Fire (2016)

Free Fire

(Image credit: A24)

One of the most forgotten movies in the A24 library, Free Fire is a stylish action-comedy built around the simple premise of “everyone shoots each other.” Brie Larson takes center stage in a film set in 1978, in which a black market deal goes belly up and everyone on all sides takes aim at one another. With a cast that includes Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley, Babou Ceesay, Sam Riley, and more, Free Fire may not amount to much more than its back-of-the-Blu-ray summary. But it’s got its moments, including one of the most hilarious John Denver needle drops of any movie. 

8. They’re Watching (2016)

They're Watching

(Image credit: Amplify)

Years before The Curse lampooned the exploitative nature and artificiality of HGTV-like home programming, there was They’re Watching. From co-directors Jay Lender and Micah Wright,  the crew of a home improvement television show travel to a remote European village and accidentally interrupt a private cult ritual. This incurs the wrath of supernatural forces, turning their production into a genuine nightmare. Beyond its amusing premise, They’re Watching impressively apes the format of home improvement shows, delighting in contrasting its alarmingly cheery vibes with the dark undercurrents of something truly evil.

7. Bad Words (2013)

Bad Words

(Image credit: Focus Features)

In actor Jason Bateman’s directing debut, the chaotic black comedy Bad Words stars Bateman as a 40-something grump who, thanks to a poorly phrased loophole, enters a national spelling bee competition to finish a quest of spiteful revenge. Darkly hilarious, abrasive, and gleefully offensive in ways that are increasingly rare to find in mainstream movies, Bad Words illuminates how there are not really bad words, only bad intentions.

6. Color Out of Space (2019)

Color Out of Space

(Image credit: RLJE Films)

Color Out of Space may be eclipsed by other movies in Nicholas Cage’s late career renaissance, such as Mandy, Pig, and Willy’s Wonderland, but it’s an especially worthwhile descent into midnight movie madness. Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s short story of the same name, Richard Stanley’s Color Out of Space follows a farm family, led by patriarch Nathan (Cage), whose property is struck by a meteorite harboring an extraterrestrial organism that infects their minds and bodies. A harrowing hallucinogenic nightmare, Color Out of Space is simply far out with its combination of eerie Lovecraftian horror and a totally gonzo Cage contained inside a piece of B-movie pulp oozing with aggression.

5. Lucy in the Sky (2019)

Lucy in the Sky

(Image credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Noah Hawley is best known for his acclaimed television work, including shows like Fargo and Legion. But in 2019, Hawley made his feature debut with the divisive, but not uninteresting psychological drama Lucy in the Sky. Loosely inspired by the salacious story of NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak, whose career ended after her criminal actions following a torrid love affair, Natalie Portman plays an astronaut fresh from space who feels disconnected to her life on Earth. She loses more stable ground when she starts an affair with another hunky astronaut (Jon Hamm), and later feels betrayed when another (Zazie Beetz) enters the picture. While Lucy in the Sky was critically unpopular and grossed very little money in theaters, it’s a strange picture that dispels notions that love keeps us all grounded. 

4. The Night Comes For Us (2018)

The Night Comes For Us

(Image credit: Netflix)

A spiritual successor to The Raid series, The Night Comes For Us reunites The Raid’s Joe Taslim and Iko Uwais, with the two stars playing triad enforcers engulfed in civil war after one of them, Ito (Taslim) develops a conscience. Directed by Timo Tjahjanto, The Night Comes For Us is a white knuckle action fest soaked in crimson blood, boasting some of the most creative, cringe-inducing martial arts choreography in modern filmmaking. The Night Comes For Us is pure onslaught to the senses, an action feast that will make you wish the sun never comes up.

3. Ingrid Goes West (2017)

Ingrid Goes West

(Image credit: NEON)

Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen are finely attuned to director Matt Spicer’s wavelengths in Ingrid Goes West, a dark satire about the innate inhumanity of social media fame. After a Pennsylvania woman finishes her time in a mental health facility, she ventures to Los Angeles to engineer a “chance” meeting with her narcissistic Instagram idol Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). A movie all about the emotional pitfalls of chasing lout, Ingrid Goes West has aged incredibly well as social media keeps a suffocating vice grip over our daily routines.

2. You Were Never Really Here (2017)

You Were Never Really Here

(Image credit: Amazon Studios)

With mesmerizing direction from Lynne Ramsay and a dependably committed Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here is a sinewy, sinister hitman thriller with serious muscularity. Phoenix plays a psychologically haunted mercenary who uses his FBI-trained skills to rescue kidnapped girls from human trafficking networks. When a politician hires him to save his daughter, Phoenix is given permission to really bust heads and unleash hell, though not all is what it seems. Like a modern day Taxi Driver, You Were Never Really Here is arguably the movie Phoenix should have won his Oscar for instead of Joker a few years later.

1. Killing Them Softly (2012)

Killing Them Softly

(Image credit: The Weinstein Company)

Post-recession cynicism and the unfulfilled promises of “hope” and “change” under Obama profoundly imbues Killing Them Softly, a powerhouse crime thriller that is still something of a best kept secret. In Andrew Dominik’s picture, Brad Pitt plays a hitman who is roped into dealing with a Mafia poker game robbery. While the movie bombards its underworld characters with the 2008 zeitgeist, their world is a metaphorical microcosm for America, from its hedonistic culture to its collapsible capitalist economy. Simply put, Killing Them Softly goes way hard, its story and themes hitting like a bullet to the head.

Eric Francisco

Eric Francisco is a freelance entertainment journalist and graduate of Rutgers University. If a movie or TV show has superheroes, spaceships, kung fu, or John Cena, he's your guy to make sense of it. A former senior writer at Inverse, his byline has also appeared at Vulture, The Daily Beast, Observer, and The Mary Sue. You can find him screaming at Devils hockey games or dodging enemy fire in Call of Duty: Warzone.