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Movies & TV

12th Dec 2023

Leading movie critic announces the ‘Top 10 films of the past decade’

Simon Kelly

Mark Kermode favourite movies

Kermode picked his favourite film from each of the last 10 years.

A few months ago, Mark Kermode – amongst the most famous film critics on the scene – stepped down from his mantle as The Observer’s chief film critic, handing the reigns over to Wendy Ide.

To mark his ten years at the helm, Kermode looked back at the last decade and chose his favourite film from each year, from 2013 up to 2022.

As we head into 2024, there’s no better time than to look back at the list and, with a bit of free time coming our way in the form of the Christmas break, maybe catch up on a few we missed.

Let’s dive in.

Mark Kermode’s top 10 films of the past decade.

2013: The Act of Killing

One of the most extraordinary films ever made, it’s no surprise that The Act of Killing made it to this list.

The experimental documentary, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, with Christine Cynn and an anonymous Indonesian director, challenges mass murderer Anwar Congo to recreate scenes of slaughter, alongside other former Indonesian death-squad leaders.

Kermode said of the film “It’s The Act of Killing that has haunted my dreams and nightmares since I first saw it, and tried to write about its awesome power.”

2014: The Babadook

The Australian psychological horror makes Kermode’s top choice as the best of the 2014. Following a widowed single mother and her son as they confront a strange monster lurking in their home, The Babadook explores multiple topics including parenting, grief, and the fear of insanity.

A horror in the truest of senses, in Kermode’s words, it “serves as a powerful reminder that horror is a metaphorical genre, the perfect playground in which to explore down-to-earth traumas and emotions.”

2015: Inside Out

While giving a nod to Irish studio Cartoon Saloon’s Song of the Sea, Kermode picks the brilliant animation Inside Out as his chart-topper for 2015.

The coming-of-age Pixar film tells the story of young girl Riley and her five personified emotions inside her head.

“The film is a joy, as profound as it is playful, delving deep into the bittersweet mysteries of childhood and adolescence,” notes Kermode.

2016: Under the Shadow

One of the lesser-known horrors of the past decade, Persian-language film Under the Shadow tells the story of a mother and daughter who fight against an otherworldly force in their Tehran apartment block during the War of the Cities in the 1980s.

Kermode says: “Anvari’s debut feature made you scared because you cared, conjuring a drama that worked equally well as a feminist fable, a fractured family drama and a full-on frightfest.”

2017: Raw

Coming-of-age body-horror from Titane director Julia Ducournau follows a young vegetarian’s first year at veterinary school, where she tastes meat for the first time and develops a craving for human flesh.

The film drew much praise for its direction and screenplay, but is definitely not for the faint of heart, it’s as graphic as it gets.

Mark Kermode says: “Raw combines the visceral intensity of a meaty horror movie with the tenderness of a timeless coming-of-age tale – a fable of sisterly rivalry that really sinks its teeth into its subject matter.”

2018: Leave No Trace

Kermode describes Leave No Trace as For me “the very essence of ‘show-don’t-tell’ moviemaking”, a movie following a PTSD-suffering father (Ben Foster) who lives in the Oregon wilderness with his daughter (Thomasin McKenzie).

2019: Bait

Described by Kermode as “the defining British film of the decade”, this drama follows a struggling Cornwall fisherman railing against the loss of his home to tourism and gentrification.

The visually distinctive direction and pertinent themes have made this a favourite amongst critics, with it retaining a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score since its release.

2020: Saint Maud

“I remember seeing Rose Glass’s astonishing feature debut alone in a pokey screening room one cold Tuesday morning and stumbling out in a daze, able only to say the words: ‘Fuck me!'”

Another psychological horror makes the list in the form of this A24 flick about a religious private carer (Morfydd Clarke) who becomes dangerously fixated with saving the soul of her patient.

Unsettling, tense and creepy, we’re seeing a clear theme emerge here from Kermode’s favourite flicks.

2021: Petite Maman

Mark Kermode’s pick for 2021 is  Céline Sciamma’s wonderfully enchanting tale of childhood friendship. Petite Maman follows  a young girl who finds a friends while building a hut in the woods near her mother’s childhood home.

“A U certificate masterpiece that stands as a testament to the universal power of cinema to transform, engage and ultimately redeem audiences. This really is as near to flawless film-making as I have ever seen.”

Keep the tissues on hand if you’re watching this one, it’s a proper tear-jerker.

2022: Aftersun

Finished out the list of Kermode’s favourite films of the decade is none other than Aftersun, the indie film that propelled Paul Mescal to global fame and handed him an Oscar nod to boot.

The beautiful coming-of-age story (another theme of Kermode’s list) tells the story of a young father and his daughter taking a trip to Greece for a bonding holiday.

The quiet and observational film, from director and writer Charlotte Wells, is a hauntingly heartbreaking look at the relationship between Mescal’s Calum and his daughter Sophie (the excellent Frankie Corio). It will leave you absolutely devastated.

Mark Kermode says: “Wells directs with piercing precision and endless empathy, creating a movie that plays upon the viewer like a forgotten memory.”

You can view the full list and Kermode’s reviews of the films here.

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