Today marks ten years since Blueprint: Review launched itself into the world. The site was conceived after Darren, who runs the Blueprint group and was my boss at the time, noticed I (David Brook, in case you can’t see the author info) had been writing film reviews in my spare time on my own blog (Dave’s Film & DVD Reviews) and had developed it to a stage where I was getting sent a few screeners to review and attracting a little attention from commenters. Darren suggested Blueprint set up a review site to help promote the brand and wondered if I’d be happy to run it and start posting my reviews there instead. I agreed and we drafted in some more contributors to flesh out the content.
10 years and numerous contributors, on-and-off podcasts and short-lived features later, we’re still here. It may not be a long time in the grand scheme of things, but for a film review blog, it’s fairly impressive. So I thought we should celebrate the occasion by getting our writers to post a few past-decade themed lists (everybody loves a good list!) To kick things off, here’s a collection of the Blueprint: Review contributors’ favourite films of the past 10 years. I’ve also added a list of some of my favourite Blu-ray/DVD releases during the period. You can find this right at the bottom alongside the list of my favourite films.
I hope you enjoy all the posts over the next week or so and thanks for visiting the site. I’ve grown incredibly fond of it over the past decade and devote far more time to it than I should, given it’s all done for nothing other than piles of screeners that clutter up my house.
A great thank you also goes out to my many contributors, who have given up so much of their time to review my cast-offs and write/record wonderful features and podcasts. I really appreciate all the help I’ve had over the years and I couldn’t have kept it going without you all.
* in no particular order
Nightcrawler (2014) – A bold film that shows the underrepresented side of Los Angeles. A compelling tale that is always criminally overlooked with one of the decades greasiest villains. A great character study on the perils of encountering someone with psychotic determination.
12 Years a Slave (2013) – When I came out of the cinema after watching 12 Years a Slave, I remember having the feeling of knowing I watched a piece of work that was important. Years later and it still feels important. An unforgettable film.
You Were Never Really Here (2017) – A punishing and traumatic 90 minutes of spectacular cinema. Lynne Ramsey and Joaquin Phoenix have created brutal magic here. Despite the plentiful amount of violence, it still causes the viewer to look within themselves.
Moonlight (2016) – An unavoidable masterpiece and the perfect use of triptych storytelling. One of the most vulnerable films of the decade. A gorgeous piece of filmmaking that stays with you.
Carol (2015) – A timeless story that is as fragile as it gets. Mara and Blanchett are compelling in their elegant performances as we painstakingly join them on their journey. Carol is a film that touches you.
The Master (2012) – An ugly chess match of a film between our two leads has Paul Thomas Anderson take us on a purposefully infuriating journey that is just visually stunning with two leads at the height of their abilities.
Burning (2018) – A film about the small details has you mesmerised throughout. A beautiful film that switches its intent without you even realising it until it is too late. A type of film that as a viewer you take from it what you bring in, leaving those important questions up to you to answer. Wondrous.
Disobedience (2017) – A true underappreciated gem of a film that focuses on the sense of loss. Our three leads portray the theme of loss excellently focusing on losing one’s family because of religion, losing the chance to go pave your own path due to being groomed into a role and the loss of the chance to live the life you really wanted. This is a confident film from Sebastián Lelio and one of if not the best performance of Rachel McAdams career.
A Separation (2011) – A film that really took me by surprise when I saw it and stayed with me many years after the fact. We see people who are usually good people fall to the wayside morally, but in efforts to keep things right for others. It is such an empathetic film that leaves the audience bring their own moral thoughts to the plate by the time the credits roll.
The Descendants (2011) – This is a wholly personal pick from me here. Were there better films released in the decade than The Descendants? Of course, but none that connected with me the way The Descendants did on that one and only viewing. My mother passed away a couple of years prior to a long illness and The Descendants just hit me like a rock. I felt that family’s pain.
10. Mad Max: Fury Road
9. The World’s End
8. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
7. Avengers: Endgame
6. Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse
5. The Grand Budapest Hotel
3. Paddington 2
2. The Martian
1. The Lego Batman Movie
10. Avengers Infinity War (2019) and Avengers Endgame (2020) – Just had to include the legendary 2for1 MCU epic
9. Django Unchained (2012) – Tarantino at his best
8. Inception (2010) – Fantastic sci-fi at its best
7. 12 Years A Slave (2013) – another incredibly moving story and harrowing tale
6. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri (2017) – incredibly moving story
5. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) – amazing tour de force based on true story
4. The Martian (2015) – powerful story, acting and setting – all the ingredients
3. The Social Network (2010) – perfect storytelling and fascinatingly relevant topic
2. Black Panther (2018) – my second best movie – this one almost became a movement.
1. The Shape of Water (2017) – my top movie – this is no less than a pure work of art!
Gravity (2013), Arrival (2016), Get Out (2017), Joker (2019), Wonder Woman (2017), Hidden Figures (2016), Green Book (2018), Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), Theory of Everything (2014), Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)
When choosing my top 10 films of the last decade, I made the painful decision to not include animated films. This is partially due to the fact that I have written a list elsewhere on the site focusing on the best animated films of the decade so my opinions are available there. However, this doesn’t seem like sufficient reason to exclude animated films from this list as it surely contributes to the critical marginalisation of a medium that is already persistently intellectually ghettoised. I therefore feel it necessary to point out that animated films are not included here because I hold them in higher rather than lower regard than live action cinema so my top 10 here might well have been identical to that which I’ve written in my animated films review. I therefore offer my top 10 live action films of the last decade with the following emphatic caveat: ANIMATION RULES!
Top 10 Films of the 10s
10. BRIDGE OF SPIES – Though there were a great many more acclaimed, adventurous and important films on my shortlist, I find myself coming back time and again to this Steven Spielberg historical drama. I feel in such safe hands with Spielberg’s reassuring directorial presence and while others may be tempted to damn it with the faint praise of calling it solid, I already feel like it is classic.
9. CAROL – Todd Haynes’s ravishing romantic drama saw him returning to the style of classic 50s melodrama in order to tell the story of a forbidden affair between two women in 1952. Carol shares a similar beauty with Haynes’s previous Far From Heaven but pushes the gay themes briefly explored in that film to the forefront. The Christmas setting also accentuates the considerable beauty of the film’s visuals.
8. LITTLE WOMEN – Having enjoyed Greta Gerwig’s previous work as an actor, writer and director, I was somewhat disappointed to hear that her next film was going to be yet another adaptation of Little Women, foolishly expecting the promising director to find herself trapped by the same chocolate box cliches with which previous adaptations have had to wrestle. How wrong I was! I was entirely unprepared for how hard I would fall in love with this inventive, playful, modern-minded yet still faithful adaptation. That Gerwig received no Oscar nomination for Best Director was a major oversight, as I’d very probably have given her the award.
7. PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE – 2020 has been the year I fell in love with Celine Sciamma. Having seen all four of her features in quick succession, it became immediately apparent as I fell deeply for each film that Sciamma was a writer/director whose work hits at the very heart of what I love about cinema. Although there were things I loved about all of them, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is the one that has stayed with me the most, from its gorgeous visuals to its perfectly pitched storytelling, its exquisite central performances and, of course, one of the most emotionally resonant final shots I’ve ever seen in a film.
6. TRUE GRIT – The Coen Brothers are my favourite directors so, as I would later do with Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, I winced at the news that they were planning a new version of True Grit. The original True Grit is not a film to which I had that strong a reaction and after seeing the Coens take a rare misstep by absolutely mangling The Ladykillers, I thought I’d prefer them to steer clear of paths already cinematically trodden. But then True Grit came out and I absolutely loved it, at first just a normal amount and then more so with each watch until it became my favourite Coen Brothers film of the decade.
5. MARRIAGE STORY – I’ve long been a fan of Noah Baumbach and often rated his films more highly that other critics so when Marriage Story came out I was confident I would like it. I remember watching it for the first time and progressively getting more and more exciting by just how brilliant it was. By the end of it I had already chosen my frontrunner for that year’s Best Picture Oscar and, having now seen the whole slate, I still think it was the strongest film that year and should at least have won the Best Original Screenplay award.
4. PRIDE – Matthew Warchus’s Pride is a film that many dismiss as just another one of those feelgood British films that pop up periodically but this true story of an unlikely alliance between gay activists and striking miners perfectly blends an excellent script with a terrific cast, a carefully picked pop soundtrack and a thrilling sense of emotional uplift to make it one of my most rewatched films of the decade and one I already can’t wait to revisit.
3. BOYHOOD – Richard Linklater’s unique Boyhood is undoubtedly a phenomenal achievement but it is more than that; it is an excellent film too. Being able to watch a story in which the cast ages for real before your eyes and period details that could not have been predicted at the beginning of shooting are incorporated into the film is utterly invigorating and, while Boyhood manages to tell its own charmingly loose story, it also captures an era that has yet to be adequately documented without the baggage of retrospective nostalgia. A true cinematic landmark.
2. A SEPARATION – The first time I saw Asghar Farhadi’s gripping drama A Separation I said “That is one of the best films I’ve ever seen” and long after that first viewing I still stand by that statement. An extraordinarily ethically complex film in which the clear-cut rights and wrongs that pervade lesser films are nowhere to be seen, A Separation keeps the viewer debating as to how they would cope in the shoes of each and every character.
1. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL – As a long time Wes Anderson fan, I’ve loved every film he has directed thus far but for me The Grand Budapest Hotel stands as his undoubted masterpiece. Anderson ups the ante of his trademark visual beauty here and the starry cast, most of whom appear in fleeting cameos, are wonderful but two things keep me coming back to this joyous film more than anything else. One is Anderson’s hilarious script, which excels at tuning into the nuances of language that are so much funnier than artificially crafted jokes, and the other is Ralph Fiennes’ absolutely perfect central performance which is one of my favourite performances ever and which I couldn’t quite believe didn’t earn him an Oscar nomination. He hits every laugh exactly right, he brings out the necessary pathos in the character without sentimentalising him, and he swears with the most eloquent precision I’ve heard this side of Withnail and I. I had some doubts and anxieties whittling down this list to just ten films but I was never in any doubt as to what would top it. The Grand Budapest Hotel, I adore you!
9. Mad Max: Fury Road
8. Train To Busan
7. The Babadook
4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
3. What We Do In The Shadows
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
1. Avengers: Endgame
Top 10 Films of the 10s
10. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – The 2010s saw the long-awaited continuation of the Star Wars saga so, being a huge fan of the original trilogy I was eager to see how Disney would handle the sequels and spin-offs. In the end, the results were largely decent but on rewatch it was Rogue One that stood out above the rest. It works as a visually impressive and thrilling action film as much as it does a Star Wars movie, which plays very much to my tastes, so I love it.
9. Moonlight – A rare case of the Academy getting things right (eventually, after the infamous blunder) in granting this the Best Picture award at the Oscars. It’s a poignant masterclass in subtlety that tackles sensitive issues without preaching messages or morals.
8. One Cut of the Dead – This wonderful Japanese gem is a hugely enjoyable and warm ode to low budget filmmaking. Come for the ambitious long take opening and stay for the surprises and clever storytelling that follows.
7. How to Train Your Dragon 1 & 2 – I’ve cheated here (and several times later) in picking a double bill of films. I simply couldn’t separate the first two How to Train Your Dragon films that I adore. It helps that my kids love the franchise too now, but I think the first two films are beautifully made, with impressive visuals, thrilling set-pieces, enjoyable characters and a strong story anchoring everything. The third film is decent too, but I didn’t feel it was quite impressive enough to include in this list.
6. The Raid 1 & 2 – Another duo comes in the Raid films. The first is my favourite, offering a stripped-back, ludicrously intense thrill ride with some brutal action and dynamic direction. Its sequel widened the scope to make a more ambitious crime saga, which didn’t always work in this respect, but the fight scenes and visual artistry were strong enough to justify its inclusion here.
5. The Favourite – I’ve admired all of Yorgos Lanthimos’ films that I’ve seen, but The Favourite was where all the ingredients perfectly melded together to form a masterful work. Also pushing this above his other films is a genuinely moving love story at its core between Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz’ characters. It looks stunning too, with natural light, impressive locations and production design used to create images worthy of renaissance paintings.
4. Toy Story 3 – My favourite of the wonderful Toy Story franchise, it perfectly brings the original trilogy’s story full circle. Touching, exciting and hilarious, it’s a fabulous example of Pixar’s genius at crafting near-perfect family entertainment. It also has one of the darkest moments in any of their films with the furnace sequence.
3. Mark Cousins’ Story of Film: An Odyssey & Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema – Not only am I cheating by lumping two films together that aren’t actually sequels, but some might argue these epic documentaries are TV series, due to how they’ve been screened in some countries. However, I’d argue they are intrinsically linked and have screened at film festivals. Regardless, the two films are incredible treasure troves of the magic of cinema that unveil the myriad wonders of what the medium has to offer and how it has developed over the years. Both are remarkable achievements and intoxicating to watch.
2. Inside Out – This takes a high concept that could easily have been a confusing mess of ideas but turns it into a beautiful, hugely entertaining and deeply moving story that is part coming-of-age drama and part visualisation of mental health issues. It’s Pixar’s finest hour in my opinion and gets me in floods of tears every time I see it.
1. Roma – Alfonso Cuarón’s quiet, often slow-paced black-and-white drama didn’t appeal to all tastes, but I thought it was a stunning work of art that hasn’t been bettered this decade. With meticulous sound and production design, as well as expert use of long, wide shots, it’s a carefully crafted masterpiece that has a quietly devastating story at its core. What seems slight at first hits hard when it reaches its climax. I loved Roma when I first saw it, but a rewatch on Criterion’s pristine Blu-ray release only cemented the fact it was one of the finest films made in a long time.
Boyhood, Whiplash, The Punk Syndrome, Coco, Paddington 2, Looper, Victoria, Anomalisa, The Adventures of Tintin, Manchester by the Sea, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Dunkirk, Bait, The Avengers, La La Land
Top 25 Blu-Rays of the Year
10. Takeshi Kitano Collection – BFI
9. Zatoichi – The Blind Swordsman – Criterion
8. Sam Fuller at Columbia 1937-1961 – Indicator
7. The Koker Trilogy – Criterion
6. The Wonderful Worlds of Ray Harryhausen, Vol 1 & 2, and The Sinbad Trilogy – Indicator
5. The Essential Jacques Demy – Criterion
4. Five Tall Tales: Budd Boetticher & Randolph Scott At Columbia, 1957-1960 – Indicator
3. Cinema of Conflict: Four Films by Krzystof Kieslowski – Arrow Academy
2. Oldboy/Vengeance Trilogy – Arrow Video
1. Of Flesh and Blood: The Cinema of Hirokazu Koreeda – BFI
I chose Of Flesh and Blood because the consistent quality of the films included, added to the quantity and standard of the special features was very hard to beat. It was a close call between the top 3 though.
Tsukamoto: Killing / Haze / The Adventure of Denchu-Kozo – Third Window, Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films, 1954–1975 – Criterion, Family Values: Three Films by Hirokazu Kore-eda – Arrow
Single Title Releases
10. From Bedrooms to Billions – Special Edition – funstock.co.uk
9. Blood and Black Lace – Arrow
8. Don’t Look Back – Criterion
7. Touch of Evil – Eureka
6. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia – Arrow Video
5. Ugetsu – Criterion
4. Mishima: A Life in 4 Chapters – Criterion
3. The Complete Monterey Pop Festival – Criterion
2. The Fabulous Baron Munchausen – Second Run
1. A Brighter Summer Day – Criterion
My winner here was never under question. The film is incredible, it looks great on Blu and the features are impeccable. For one, you get the wonderful near-two-hour documentary on the New Taiwan Cinema Movement, Our Time, Our Story, but also you get Tony Rayns’ incredible 4-hour commentary, which is an achievement in itself. It’s vital listening to best appreciate the epic film.
Honourable mentions –
Apocalypse Now – Final Cut – Studiocanal, Hedwig and the Angry Inch – Criterion, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure – Studiocanal, Night Tide – Indicator, Roma – Criterion, Bait- BFI, Repo Man (1984) – Eureka, Videodrome – Arrow, Miracle Mile – Arrow