20 Best Black Music Albums of the Decade (10-1)

And here are the top 10 albums of the decade.

10. The Internet – Hive Mind (2018)
Ego Death was about as dope a leveling up as an artist has done in the past decade. But Hive Mind deepened and strengthened The Internet’s sound into something cleaner, so it feels to me like the slightly stronger album of the two. The fusion of electronic and traditional instruments is so seamless, it’s often hard to tell which is which. Syd’s voice is stronger and the lyrics have a more vulnerable, open quality that is thrilling. 

9. (tie) Beyoncé – Lemonade (2016) / Solange – A Seat at the Table (2016)
In many ways, the story of Black music in the 2010s is the story of the slow, wondrous creative maturation of Beyoncé and the rise of Solange as an avant garde dynamo. Certainly 2016 was their year. Lemonade is the fulfillment of the promise we’d seen begin on the messy 4 and Beyoncé. It is the album I’d been waiting for Beyoncé to make since her incredible, but flawed, debut. An album that is a complete listening experience, an artistic statement, and a sonic leap forward. Solange’s A Seat at the Table is the most remarkable protest album of the new millennium. It’s the most inviting and open “fuck you” to whiteness I’ve ever heard. There’s a lightness that is paradoxically hard as a rock. She never sounds angry. Not for one minute. What she is is unbelievably clear about who she is as a black woman. And that’s where the power lies.

8. AZ – Legacy (2019)
AZ is, for me, one of the five best emcees of all time. But, outside of his debut album Do or Die, he’s never been an album artist. So it was an incredibly pleasant surprise when he dropped Legacy, a compilation of old freestyles, leaked songs, and a handful of new joints that is actually one of the best hip-hop albums of the decade. But that’s what actually happens when you focus on greatness, rather than padding out an album as most emcees do. AZ’s laser-focus on Legacy is astonishing. It’s 11 short tracks with stellar production that serves as a reminder that AZ is one of the best to ever do it.

7. Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 – Black Times (2018)
It is very difficult to be the child of a visionary artist. Ask Sean Lennon. So it’s particularly wonderful to see Seun Kuti step into his own greatness as the lead singer of his father’s band Egypt 80 with Black Times. Afrobeat has always invited us to consider the wider plight of the diaspora as we dance. Seun is no different as he fills every song with enough space for the grooves to drive you to the dancefloor. But it truly is the lyrics where he shines, updating Afrobeat political concerns to the present. There’s caution to African youth not to fall prey to American culture’s propagandist images of blackness and progress on “African Dreams” and the critique of corporatist greed in “Corporate Public Control Department (C.P.C.D.).” Black Times is a vital addition to the Afrobeat tradition and a triumph for Seun as an artist.

6. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN (2017)
Kendrick is hands down the most important emcee of his generation and he had an absolutely stellar decade, capped magnificently with the release of DAMN in 2017. He stacks his albums with references to his past, his hometown, his relationships. And yet there is an open, contemplative quality to them. It’s like you are literally listening to Kendrick processing how to make sense of his life and our society at that very moment. I find DAMN to be the most accessible, and yet the most dense, writing he’s yet done. That virtuosity here is truly remarkable.

5. Janet Jackson – Unbreakable (2015)
Janet hadn’t released an essential album since Damita Jo. For us lifelong fans, we assumed perhaps she had run out of things to say. So it was a beautiful surprise when she dropped Unbreakable – her finest, most sonically diverse and adventurous album since her creative apex, The Velvet Rope. Here we have Janet concerned again about the world (“Black Eagle” and “Gon’ B Alright”) and processing the death of her brother Michael (“Broken Hearts Heal) in glorious fashion. Unbreakable reminded us that the greatest pop album artist of her generation still had a lot left in her to give us.

4. Joi – S.I.R. Rebekkah HolyLove (2018)
We waited over a decade for S.I.R. Rebekkah HolyLove and it was worth the wait. Joi has long been ahead of her time as a visionary, self-possessed Black woman artist. And she outdid herself again with an album that serves up another helping of her patented funk/soul anthems. Joi is one of the most beautiful lyricists of her generation. She’s one of the most confident artists we have, but she suffuses her music with a profound vulnerability that makes her totally relatable. Only Joi would lament being single while never forgetting that she is a Queen (“Kingless Queen”) or would write a tearful (yes – it sounds like a good cry) contemplation of murdering an abusive boyfriend (album standout, “It Is Best”). Joi is a Black music treasure, an icon, and she turned out one of the finest albums of the decade.

3. Raphael Saadiq – Jimmy Lee (2019)
Raphael Saadiq has spent the better part of the last two decades as one of our greatest musician/producers, working with everyone from icons like D’Angelo and Mary J. Blige to funk queen Joi, soul siren Jaguar Wright and the ever-evolving Solange. So it was a pleasant surprise when he dropped Jimmy Lee last year. A concept album that grapples with the myriad ways drug addiction affects families and the world, Jimmy Lee is the greatest album he’s ever recorded as a solo artist. Ray Ray has never been this focused, passionate, and clear-eyed as an artist before. But what’s particularly striking is that even with songs like “This World is Drunk” and “Rikers Island,” the album is more resolute and contemplative than a downer.

2. Rahsaan Patterson – Bleuphoria (2011)
Wines & Spirits, Rahsaan’s 2007 masterpiece, is known for its sharp turns and its sonic ambition. His follow-up, Bleuphoria, is his first album where he handles most of the production duties himself. And the results are glorious. It’s his first album to really flirt with the vocal processing that you hear nearly everywhere else. But Rah uses it to accentuate what he’s already doing as an artist. Take “God” where the vocal production achieves an otherworldly quality the song demands or “Insomnia” where the entire song is meant to sound a bit disorienting like a dream. But when his voice is unadorned as it is on “Miss You” and “Goodbye”, there are few other Black male singers who can knock you out with the sheer beauty and emotional depth of their voice. With Bleuphoria, Rahsaan confirms his status as the finest Black male artist of his generation.

1. D’Angelo – Black Messiah (2014)
Black Messiah benefits from a double emotional throughline – one, his struggles with addiction; the other, Black politics – that provides a steely spine to the album. D clearly had some things to get off his chest. He does so (and nothing more). It’s tight and focused. Sonically, D’s funkier with the music and smoother with the vocal arrangements in ways that insinuate themselves into your consciousness. There’s no knockout single like “Untitled” or “Cruisin.” D is much more interested in constructing an album statement where all the pieces fit together into a cohesive whole. Black Messiah was the first prominent album of the decade to grapple with what’s going on in Black communities. And it is the best album of the decade and the culmination of the great promise D’Angelo merely hinted at before. 

20 Best Black Music Albums of the Decade (20-11)

20 Best Black Music Albums of the Decade (20-11)

I don’t know that I can sum up the 2010s for me with respect to this list other than to say this list is very much my own. It’s totally reflective of what moves me as a lover of Black music, as a 40-year old Black SGL man, and as someone who has always preferred been moved most by albums that make a complete statement. As a bit of a snob.


A closeup of Trey's face with raindrops in the foreground

20. Trey Songz – Passion, Pain & Pleasure (2010)
Trey Songz is both the most creatively interesting Black male R&B singer of his generation and the most frustratingly inconsistent. Passion, Pain & Pleasure then is his finest, most complete, work to date. Coming after his commercial breakthrough, Ready, Trey had something to prove with his fourth album. And he proved it with an album that expands, complicates, and deepens what a Trey Songz album is supposed to be. The songs here are sturdier, more vulnerable, and masterfully arranged around the limitations of his uniquely compelling voice. That he hasn’t matched the album’s greatness is unfortunate, but nothing can diminish what he’s accomplished here. It remains the best male R&B album of his generation.
Read my original review.

where's vivian cover photo

19. LastO – Where’s Vivian (2013)
LastO, who retired shortly after this album (his first after two mixtapes) dropped, was far ahead of his time. An emcee who chafed at all the limitations – both self-imposed and external – that being a “gay rapper” meant, LastO’s work completely obliterated so many of assumptions about what gay rap music should sound like. This is neither hardcore street rap, nor something crassly commercial. Where’s Vivian is the perfect distillation of all the things that made LastO the first great gay emcee and a perfect example of what is possible for gay rappers. The album is vulnerable, passionate, pleading, and a little sad. No other gay rapper has made anything nearly as good, before or after.
Read my original review.

18. Bilal – Airtight’s Revenge (2010)
Airtight’s Revenge came nearly a decade after Bilal’s debut. It’s insurgent, passionate, thrilling music that exceeds the work that he did on 1st Born Second. It’s a masterwork of tremendous musicianship, thoughtful lyricism, and stunning vocal production. When it dropped at the start of the decade, it felt as if we were getting a vital piece of a much larger puzzle making up Black music. Bilal’s recorded a few things since, but Airtight’s Revenge looms quite large over his catalog.
Read my original review.

17. Rashad, The Quiet Loud (2015)
2015 was really a turning point for Black music this past decade. After the emergence of Black Lives Matter, Black artists became newly (re-)engaged with more socially substantive concerns. You can hear all of that in Rashad’s sophomore album, The Quiet Loud, which is concerned about equally with affairs of the heart and concerns of the community. The album is at once fresh and a throwback, a balance that Rashad strikes almost effortlessly across the album’s 15 tracks. Sonically it sounds a bit like a cross between Dilla and Teddy Riley. It’s just Rashad, the most refreshingly interesting Black producer to emerge in the 2010s.

16. Mint Condition, 7… (2011)
Mint Condition has been on a roll since Living The Luxury Brown. 7… is their finest work of the decade – and probably my favorite album they’ve ever released. It came 20 years after their debut and represents a perfect distillation of everything that the Mint does well. There’s a beautiful instrumental “Bossalude” in the center, a stunning duet ballad with Kelly Price (“Not My Daddy”), exciting electronic fusions like album standout “Can’t Get Away,” and of course Stokely’s flawless voice pulling it all together. It’s the shortest Mint Condition album to date and in that it feels like the tightest, most confident thing they’ve ever done.

15. Miguel – War & Leisure (2017)
All four of Miguel’s albums are stellar, but it’s War & Leisure where I feel like his talent is in full bloom. He’s in fuller command of his voice; the arrangements display this to great effect throughout. The songcraft is sturdier. And the lyricism feels a lot less self-conscious. You don’t hear the sweat as much. This is a more confident, assured Miguel and it’s glorious. And he’s never done something as purely gorgeous and smooth as “Come Through and Chill” (produced by the peerless Salaam Remi). For that song alone really, this is his finest album and one of the best of the decade.

14. Nakhane – You Will Not Die (2018)
Nakhane is a queer South African singer who feels like a cross between David Bowie and Marvin Gaye. The songs on You Will Not Die sound at once operatic and soulful. The themes here – identity, love, sexuality, religion – are rendered as confession. It’s an album that feels like the album one makes when their very life is on the line. And yet Nakhane isn’t asking for permission. He’s asserting his full humanity. You Will Not Die is a masterwork of unflinching vulnerability and emotional clarity. Nakhane hasn’t broken yet in America, but he’s one of the most exciting artists to emerge this past decade.

13. Kele Okereke – Leave to Remain (2019)
Every single one of Kele’s 6 solo releases came out this past decade. But it’s the one that he released in early 2019 that is his most important. Leave to Remain is an album version of a musical about an interracial gay love affair that he co-wrote and produced in the UK this year. It’s a fusion of African music and the electronic dance music that has driven much of his work outside of Bloc Party. It’s remarkably compelling from the deceptively infectious lead single “Not the Drugs Talking” to the purely danceable (and yet heartbreaking) “The Lies We Tell.” I imagine the music takes on even deeper meaning to those who were able to see the musical (it’s only been staged in the UK). But even without the book this is powerful stuff.

12. Teedra Moses – Royal Patience…A Love Journey (2010)
Teedra Moses released her proper sophomore album, Cognac & Conversation, in 2015. But, for me, it’s a “mixtape” called Royal Patience she released on Valentine’s Day at the top of the decade that feels the most urgent this past decade. I’ve always thought of Teedra’s later “mixtapes” as albums since they are more cohesive than most proper album releases from other artists. That is particularly true of Royal Patience, which is the most complete release in her entire catalog. From the smooth opener “R U 4Real (freestyle)” all the way to the thrilling musicality of album closer “The Last Song (the jam session),” Teedra takes us through the many emotional peaks and valleys of a great love. And she does it with some of the best production and tightest melodies she’s yet given us.

11. Nas and Damian Marley, Distant Relatives (2010)
Nas has quietly become the most fascinating mainstream emcee of his generation. Nearly every release since Stillmatic has been stellar. This past decade, he put out only three releases. And it’s his collaborative album with Damian “Jr Gong” Marley that is his most essential. It’s filled with thoughtful meditations on the shared dreams and traumas of the many people in the African diaspora. And sonically, it feels like a thrilling fusion of Marley’s reggae roots, Nas’ classic NY hip hop production, and a wide array of African rhythms. And, most importantly, it’s not nearly as self-conscious or pretentious as it might seem. There’s a clarity, a humility that is truly awe-inspiring.

20 Best Black Music Albums of the Decade (10-1)

30 Best Films of the Decade (10-1)

And here are the 10 best films of the decade.

10. Get Out (2017)
The brilliance of Get Out is simple and yet so utterly profound. Take one of Black people’s deepest-seated suspicions – that even “nice” White people are horrific racists – and turn it into our worst nightmare. It’s remarkable that the film got made at all. Though, I still think Chris’ refusal to kill Rose is a copout (and weirdly undercuts the film’s smart observation that White women are often the most vile racists) that undermines the film tremendously. But even with that there’s no denying that Get Out is some of the smartest filmmaking of the decade.

9. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
In terms of sheer thrill and geek magic, no comic book film can top what Joss Whedon did with The Avengers. He figured out The Hulk, made Natasha a fully fleshed out character, and he found a way to make Clint important without being a drag. Most importantly, he made all the disparate pieces of the nascent MCU work. This is the first MCU film that feels like it was made by an auteur. With this film, it felt like we finally got the superhero film we’d been waiting for made by a filmmaker with a point of view. And because we did, nearly every other filmmaker working on these films afterward got to do a bit more than they likely would have been able to before.

8. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
In purely economic terms, Iron Man is the most important film Marvel has made. In purely creative terms, the Captain America trilogy within the MCU are the apex. Marvel figured out how to make Cap relevant, cast the perfect actor (Chris Evans, a revelation – man was i wrong? lol), and put their finest screenwriters and directors at the helm. The Winter Soldier is the finest of the three by a pretty wide margin. It’s the tightest, tautest film in the MCU with some of the most memorable setpieces of the decade. But what is most thrilling for me is the way the film takes seriously how a man like Cap would react to post-9/11 American foreign policy, imperialism, and technology. And that is what makes this film, in particular, perfect.

7. Creed (2015)
There are a fair number of films with Black men at the center. There are few as attuned to Black men’s inner emotional life as Creed. Ryan had to really understand what’s at the heart of the Rocky films in order to flip them and make one about a young Black man. And he did because he knows that, at their core, these films are about men who struggle with self-worth. By making a Rocky film with a Black man at the center, the film takes that core idea and deepens it. In Creed, this is about heritage. Roots. Black male self-definition.

6. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (2018)
Into the Spiderverse shakes up everything we know about Spidey by centering the film on Miles Morales. And by including multiple versions of Spidey, Into the Spiderverse makes textual what has always been subtext: anyone can be Spider-Man. Couple that wondrous bit of intersectionality with stunning animation and a simple, but emotionally resonant story and you get the best Spider-Man film yet made.

5. Selma (2015)
Given how much we evoke Martin Luther King Jr’s name in America, it’s astonishing that it took nearly five decades for Hollywood to make a film about the civil rights giant. But man was it worth the wait! Ava’s Selma does important work here by telling one aspect of King’s advocacy, and in so doing, captures his brilliance far more usefully than a traditional biopic would have done. The Selma to Montgomery march was important not just because it led to the Voting Rights Act, but because King pursued it even though he had helped to secure a major win the year before – and crucially, in spite of resistance from allies like Johnson. It’s King’s most important lesson to us – that we fight for what’s right even when it’s inconvenient for our allies – and Ava’s film does a great job of showing us why.

4. Black Panther (2018)
I wrote two pieces on this blog about how I never thought the kind of Black Panther film we deserve would ever get made. Man – I have never been so happy to be totally wrong as I am here! Ryan’s Black Panther exceeded every expectation I had and is easily the best film in the MCU to date. What’s striking is that Ryan actually told a better story than most of the stories in the original comic. The repurposing of Killmonger. The reworking of Man-Ape into a scene-stealing delight. The Dora Milaje. And most importantly, an emotional contemplation of what all African-descended people owe to one another across the diaspora. 

3. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
I remember being mostly bored with the original Mad Max films. I mostly remember Thunderdome for the Tina Turner song. So when I went to see Fury Road, it was really just another film. I didn’t expect to see such a stunningly feminist film, to be reminded of the beauty of practical effects, or to be surprised by what the actors – all of whom have been great before – would do. Mad Max: Fury Road is classic moviemaking, the kind of which we just don’t get much anymore. 

2. Fruitvale Station (2013)
Fruitvale Station forgoes the usual biopic and Important Black Film narrative tricks by going small. Rather than tell us that Oscar Grant is Important, we simply get to spend his last day with him. Oscar is struggling, but he’s also trying to celebrate his mother’s birthday and spend some time with his daughter. What Ryan understands is that Oscar’s specialness lies in the mundane details of a young life, not the moment of his death. And that approach makes his death at the end more emotionally devastating than we realize. 
Here’s my original review of the film.

1. Moonlight (2016)
No film impressed or moved me more than Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight. There has never been a film to take Black masculinity this seriously and deconstruct it as expertly as Moonlight. We see a lot of movies about Black boys in the ‘hood. And we see what they “become,” but we’ve never seen so much of the inner life. Jenkins, heavily influenced by French director Claire Denis, takes a more elliptical approach to storytelling that thrusts us deeper inside Chiron’s psyche. There are few movies more beautifully shot. There are few movies that have this many well-crafted roles for Black male actors to play. And there is no film that was better than Moonlight in the 2010s.

30 Best Films of the Decade (30-21)
30 Best Films of the Decade (20-11)

30 Best Films of the Decade (20-11)

The list continues below.

20. Gone Girl (2014)
David Fincher’s masterful adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s book was my favorite thriller of the decade. Rosamund Pike was dynamite here playing up the ambiguity so masterfully that I had no idea what to think about Amy or Ben Affleck’s “Nick” (I still haven’t read the book). I’ve since watched it a few times and it still holds up even though I now know the twist and that’s thanks to smart direction by Fincher and Pike’s performance.

19. If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
Barry Jenkins is the first filmmaker to adapt a James Baldwin novel. His impressionistic, elliptical style is perfect for Baldwin, a writer you read for the way he tells the story. If Beale Street Could Talk is perfect for this moment a story as much about young Black love as it is about racist police abuse. And in Kiki Layne and Stephan James, Jenkins finds the perfect actors. They understand the close-up and interact wih each other and the space like dancers in every scene they share together.

18. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Christopher Nolan had an incredibly tough job to do following up The Dark Knight. The film is a bit overstuffed much the way all concluding chapters of film trilogies are. But there’s so much to love here from Joseph Gordon-Levitt to Gary Oldman’s tortured performance to the stunning Anne Hathaway, who is a total revelation here. The Nolan films in total are arguably the best comic book films ever made and it’s remarkable that Nolan stuck the landing.

17. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
The rebooted Apes films are perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the decade turning a dormant franchise into a sharp critique of mankind’s hubris. Rise of the Planet of the Apes reboot the franchise with style and heart. Dawn takes it to the next level with an emotionally resonant middle chapter that completely shatters you by the end. The opening sequence of the Ape community is technically and narratively brilliant. Andy Serkis’ performance here is the best he’s yet given (and he’s been dope for a very long time).

16. Top Five (2014)
I love Top Five so much. A talky relationship-oriented film for Black people. It’s literally the kind of film I’ve dreamed about. We so rarely get to see Black people having conversations where they reveal character, desire and vulnerabilities. Chris Rock has never been seen in quite this way on film and it’s been quite a long time since Rosario Dawson got to be this down-to-earth and beguiling. It’s a love letter to romantic possibility, to New York, and importantly, to hip-hop.

15. Weekend (2011)
Every once in a while a film comes along that is perceptive about the ways that gay men relate to one another. Andrew Haigh’s Weekend doesn’t soft-pedal anything, including casual drug use, but it is masterful in depicting the ways that gay men can fall in love almost in spite of themselves. Haigh understands that it’s one thing to reject heteronormativity; it’s another to know what to replace that with.

14. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
12 Years a Slave is a brutal film. Though I loved it, I haven’t watched it since that first time in the theatre. Some great films don’t need to be rewatchable to be great. I don’t know that I’d ask Steve McQueen to show less of the torture because I think it’s critical to the narrative. There are so many dimensions to American chattel slavery. And one aspect of it that is underexplored is the system of capturing freed Black people and putting them into slavery. It’s one thing to be born into slavery; it’s another to be kidnapped and enslaved. McQueen understands that and treats the material accordingly.

13. Inception (2010)
With Inception, Christopher Nolan confirmed his status as one of the best filmmakers of his generation. The film is thrilling with gorgeous visuals and the most original film – conceptually – on this list. Nolan films are experiences so I appreciate that Nolan doesn’t really talk much about the plots or the ideas of his films before they are released. 

12. Pariah (2011)
There are so, so few films about the coming of age experiences of Black girls. Fewer still films about queer Black girls. So much of the narrative about inclusion is gendered. It’s about Black men and boys. But what we are often missing are pespectives and images of Black femininity in all its variants. Pariah then is unique, and uniquely beautiful.

11. Big Words (2013)
Big Words was my favorite find of the decade. It’s of a piece with Top Five, but warmer. I only heard about it because I followed the filmmaker, Neil Drumming, on Twitter and saw him promoting the streaming release. I loved it so much. It’s a love story and a story about middle-aged Black men grappling with regrets. Dorian Missick has never been used as well as he is here. But the revelation for me is Gbenga Akinnagbe. It’s a star turn that is a wonder of stillness and steely gazes. He’s never played a character like this and it should have led to more romantic, leading man roles.

30 Best Films of the Decade (30-21)
30 Best Films of the Decade (10-1)

30 Best Films of the Decade (30-21)

The story that will be told about film in the 2010s is going to be the story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A massive gamble that paid off amazingly and gave comic fans some of the greatest film moments we never thought we’d ever get to see.

But the other story of film this decade for me is the rise of Black auteurs like Ava DuVernay, Dee Rees, Ryan Coogler and a resurgence in films made for, by and about Black folks.

All in all it was a pretty great decade for film.

Here are the 30 films that I loved most. 

30. Chronicle (2012)
There are so many things to love about Chronicle. The found footage conceit. The first glimpse of Michael B. Jordan’s movie star charisma and character actor chops. But it’s the story itself about a troubled, abused teen who gets superpowers and destroys everything that knocks you on your ass. It’s the kind of film that every first time director wishes that he could make.

29. The Best Man Holiday (2013)
I didn’t need a sequel to The Best Man. But since we got one I’m glad that it stayed true to the essence of each of the characters (and filled out characters played by Regina Hall and Sanaa Lathan who were relatively minor in the first film). The Best Man Holiday becomes shamelessly manipulative in the third act, but before that it’s astonishingly good. Every actor is remarkable. But the revelation here is Morris Chestnut. He has never been as good as he is here. He may want to have Malcolm D. Lee write for him all he time a la Spike and Denzel (or Michael B. and Ryan).

28. The Bling Ring (2013)
I really love Sofia Coppola’s work as a director. She seems to be really fascinated with stories that allow her to subvert expectations about how White girls are supposed to behave. In The Virgin Suicides, the White girls kill themselves because they can’t bear the weight of expectations. In The Bling Ring, the White girls’ entitlement is so deep-seated that stealing from their idols seems like the most logical thing in the world to do. Emma Watson is unbelievably good here, giving one of the best performances of the decade. But it’s Coppola’s camera that makes the film. This isn’t satire and it isn’t glorification. It’s an indictment.

27. Girls Trip (2017)
Malcom D. Lee has a special way of making commercial films that have a deeper center than you’d expect them to have. The Best Man is deadly serious about Harper’s betrayal. And in Girls Trip, he tells another great story about friends who’ve hurt one another. The humor is outrageous – Tiffany Haddish earned every bit of her stardom – but the stuff at the center with Regina Hall and Queen Latifah is where the film soars. So much so that when the four women end up in a big fight toward the end of the film, we feel it deeply.

26. Blue Caprice (2013)
Blue Caprice is an independent film about the DC snipers. It’s both psychological study and a tragedy. The film builds a sense of dread and terror as John Muhammad manipulates Lee Boyd Malvo into becoming a killer. We get that there’s something missing from Lee’s life and we see how John zeroes in on that. The film conveys much of this silently and through smart direction. Tequan Richmond, as Lee Boyd Malvo, is astonishing in a role with very little dialogue. This role should have netted him awards and many more roles. It didn’t and its one of Hollywood’s biggest, most egregious mistakes this decade.

25. Beyond the Lights (2014)
One of my favorite small moments in film this decade comes relatively early in Beyond the Lights. Gugu’s Noni is performing and the rapper on stage with her starts to get too aggressive. Nate Parker’s Kaz is off stage and comes to her rescue … after a beat. They had caught each other’s eye and it’s almost like she gives him permission. It’s a small moment, but it’s really powerful. It’s in that moment that we see the trust Noni has for him. She thinks she doesn’t need him, until she does. Audiences have somewhat forgotten this film in the shuffle of wonderful Black films this decade, but they shouldn’t. It’s one of the few Black love stories we got in the last 10 years and it’s wonderful.

24. I Will Follow (2010)
Ava DuVernay’s first film remains, in many ways, her most emotionally complex. A film about loss and grief, it feels a bit like a tone poem. We drop in on Salli Richardson-Whitfield’s Maye as she’s packing up her recently deceased aunt’s home. As people come in and out of the house, we get to see Maye (and some of the other folks) process that death. And it’s at once overwhelming and inviting. There’s a warmth here that I’ve rarely seen on film. I Will Follow announced the arrival of a major talent in DuVernay.

23. Skyfall (2012)
Skyfall earns the title of the best James Bond film ever made because it does the one thing the films have never bothered to do before: make James Bond into a real person. The trick – that Sam Mendes mastered admirably here – is to not lose the essential cool, the spy of it all, in the process. It also helps that Daniel Craig seems engaged in the film (he’s the only Bond who seems to openly hate the role).

22. Attack the Block (2011)
Attack the Block never tells you explicitly that Black people would be left to their own devices should an alien invasion happen in their neighborhood. But in every way, you know this to be true. It’s in every frame. It’s a refreshing way to tell a story we’ve seen before in a different way. It introduced us to the great John Boyega and opened up a bit of the diaspora to those of us who hadn’t seen our Black British brothers in their own neighborhood before.

21. Mudbound (2017)
There have been so few films about the time in American history when Black folks were sharecroppers that a great deal of the pleasure of Mudbound is seeing us in such a different way. Everything about this time is tenuous and the film does a magnificent job of dramatizing it. From the friendship between Jason Mitchell’s Ronzel and Garrett Hedlund’s to the way the Jacksons are essentially destitute and beholden to the White McAllans. But the film is matter of fact about both family’s fortunes, not depressing.

30 Best Films of the Decade (20-11)
30 Best Films of the Decade (10-1)