With 2014 quickly coming to a close, I think it’s safe to say that (despite the endless reboots, remakes, sequels, franchises, and so on) the past five years have been lush with cinematic wonders. Now that the decade is nearly half over, we are left with some passing time to reflect on the past five years and look towards the next five. Where did the movies take us? And where will they take us in the future? Will we laugh as hard as we once did? Or will we experience something like we never have before? No matter where we go, the movies will always be there, to entertain us, to teach us, to captivate us, to inspire us. The reel just keeps on spinning.

And here are, in my opinion, the best films of the decade (so far), starting with the top ten, with the rest in no particular order…

1. “The Master” (directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)
Just like he did with “Punch-Drunk Love” and “There Will Be Blood” in the 2000s, Paul Thomas Anderson continued to further his status as the greatest living American director working today with 2012’s “The Master.” Melding the epic, widescreen scope of Hollywood classics to the scorched intimacy of chamber dramas (while also working within and manipulating some of the tropes and ideas of film noir), the film ends up being wholly Anderson’s vision. It also ends up being his most complex, mysterious, and, yes, difficult films to date, layered in elements of psychology, power dynamics, religion, and on and on. As its poster hints, “The Master” is something of a Rorschach test, an artistic achievement loaded with meaning and room for interpretation. Adding to its status are the stunning visuals and the brilliant performances from Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams, who coil around one another, like shifting pieces in a strange puzzle. Like “There Will Be Blood,” “The Master” ends up being a film with something to say about America, honing in on the American drifter who is constantly in search of some kind of meaning. Is there a better film to define our times?

2. “The Social Network” (directed by David Fincher, 2010)
Back when there were rumblings about the “Facebook movie,” we never would’ve guessed that it would end up being such an important and definitive film. The somewhat disparate styles of director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin turned out to be a match made in heaven, resulting in a film that runs like a well-oiled machine with an overall thrilling sense of forward momentum. In telling the story of the founding of Facebook, “The Social Network” tells a tale of modern alienation, centered around Jesse Eisenberg’s revelatory performance as Mark Zuckerberg, Fincher’s cool, polished visuals, and Sorkin’s near-perfect script. At once witty, biting, and deeply sad, “The Social Network” illustrates that some empires are built upon the rubble of petty human emotions.

3. “Upstream Color” (directed by Shane Carruth, 2013)
What is it? What’s happening? Who’s he? Is it sci-fi? Is it a romantic drama? If you’re one of the many people who sat and furiously tried to figure out the labyrinthine, heady plot of “Upstream Color,” stop wasting your time. The film isn’t meant to be understood. What I tell people is that it’s better seen as a series of impressions, an audiovisual experience rooted deeply in human feeling. The haziness of the overall plot reflects the uncertainty that plagues many of us every single day. “Upstream Color” is much more concerned with the details, the emotions, and the relationships, resulting in a work about what it means to find yourself and find your way to others in the fog of everyday life.

4. “Under the Skin” (directed by Jonathan Glazer, 2014)
Easily my favorite film of 2014, “Under the Skin” was an instantly recognizable masterpiece, an elusive cinematic achievement that, ahem, gets under your skin. Those expecting something in the same vein as sci-fi trash like “Species” are in for a rude awakening. Scarlett Johansson gives an astounding, chilling performance as an alien being who takes the form of a beautiful woman in order to seduce and prey on human men. Aside from that, there aren’t really any traditional signifiers of plot or character to latch onto, forcing you to let the Kubrick-esque visuals and haunting score (already iconic) wash over you. What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be a human woman? It asks these questions and so much more, all lingering beneath the surface and waiting to be answered.

5. “The Tree of Life” (directed by Terrence Malick, 2011)
From a Texan family in the 1950s to the eldest son’s crisis in his adult life to the beginnings of the universe and human life and beyond. “The Tree of Life,” like its title suggests, doesn’t just want to tell one story, it wants to tell all of the stories, somehow hoping to cover the entire scope of human life, experiences, and emotions. And it largely succeeds, stitching together and juxtaposing all of these disparate elements to create a film that truly tries to discover the meaning of life. The visuals from master cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki are sublime, designed to overwhelm and tower over us. Deeply philosophical yet also very heartfelt and personal, “The Tree of Life” is a culmination of all of Terrence Malick’s past work, pet ideas/themes, and hopes. If not the meaning of life, it leaves us with something quite close.

6. “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” (directed by Don Hertzfeldt, 2012)
You may have never heard of this one, but it’s one of the greatest animated films of all time. It may be easier to think of it like this: “The Tree of Life” is to “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” as yin is to yang, in that the film also attempts to cover the scope of a human life, although with much different results. Bill is the main character here, a stick figure whose simple, minimal form may suggest an “everyman,” but his story is specific to him and his family. Combining traditional animation, in-camera, handmade special effects, live-action footage, and more, “It’s Such a Beautiful Day” barely resembles any other animated films that have come before, in both look and feel. It’s also one of the most realistic, sad, and incisive portraits of mental illness ever put to celluloid. It’s hard to shake this one.

7. “Drive” (directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011)
When it was released, the muted, existential art-house neo-noir of “Drive” was a breath of fresh air. Not since the ’60s and ’70s of “Le Samouraï” and “The Driver” has there been such a moody and quiet action movie with such visual flair. Ryan Gosling’s character (only known as “The Driver”) barely speaks, another strong, silent type to go down in cinematic history. The neon colors and sleek surfaces pop, the soundtrack electrifies, and the sense of romance is enough to make anyone swoon. And then there’s the violence, which cuts through all of this and splatters it with blood. A blood-spattered fairy tale equally inspired by John Hughes and “Le Samouraï.” What’s not to love?

8. “Her” (directed by Spike Jonze, 2013)
Who would’ve thought that a film about a man falling in love with an operating system would be so insightful about modern romance and relationships? Well, when it’s written/directed by Spike Jonze (who has a perfect track record) and starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson (who is irresistible and playful as Samantha, the OS), it’s not too surprising. While “Her” can be utterly romantic, it’s also a deeply lonely and sad film about a sensitive, melancholy man (played Phoenix) struggling to make a connection in a near-future, cream-colored Los Angeles. In the end, it’s not about the barriers technology builds between us or any kind of trite message like that. Rather, it’s the story of a man who seems to lose all of the women in his life because of his own inabilities, fear, and selfishness.

9. “Frances Ha” (directed by Noah Baumbach, 2013)
Brisk, smart, refreshing, hilarious… I could go on. This is my favorite comedy of the decade (so far) because it is without any kind of pretension, never elevates the protagonist’s “twenty-something” problems beyond what they are, and never wastes a single moment. At a brief 86 minutes, “Frances Ha” flies by, with every line revealing something about a character, with every shot filled with an energy equally inspired by the French New Wave and Woody Allen’s early NY films. At the heart of it all is Greta Gerwig (who also co-wrote with Noah Baumbach) as Frances, who gives a hilarious, fumbling, and versatile performance of considerable depth. I’m only twenty-two, but every time I watch “Frances Ha,” it somehow makes me feel young again.

10. “Exit Through the Gift Shop” (directed by Banksy, 2010)
The greatest documentary of this decade (so far) may very well not be a documentary. In fact, it may just be one elaborate prank by beloved street artist Banksy. Either way, it’s funny, thrilling, and entertaining in ways that documentaries rarely are. In very meta fashion, “Exit Through the Gift Shop” follows Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant who becomes obsessed with street art. He, in turn, attempts to make a documentary about street artists, leading him to Shepard Fairey and then Banksy. When Guetta desperately attempts to become a street artist and achieves fame, it becomes almost too good to be true in a hilariously punk-ish way. Whether or not the entire film is just a big laugh, there is still some truth to be found, questioning what makes someone a true artist or just another phony, a fan or a fool.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” (directed by Wes Anderson, 2014)

“Certified Copy” (directed by Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)

“Weekend” (directed by Andrew Haigh, 2011)

“Gone Girl” (directed by David Fincher, 2014)

“The World’s End” (directed by Edgar Wright, 2013)

“Nymphomaniac: Volume I” (directed by Lars Von Trier, 2014)

“Inception” (directed by Christopher Nolan, 2010)

“Holy Motors” (directed by Leos Carax, 2012)

“Martha Marcy May Marlene” (directed by Sean Durkin, 2011)

“We Need to Talk About Kevin” (directed by Lynne Ramsay, 2011)

“The Wolf of Wall Street” (directed by Martin Scorsese, 2013)

“Only Lovers Left Alive” (directed by Jim Jarmusch, 2014)

“Blue Is the Warmest Color” (directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)

“The Babadook” (directed by Jennifer Kent, 2014)

“12 Years a Slave” (directed by Steve McQueen, 2013)

Honorable mention goes to: “Black Swan,” “Spring Breakers,” “Stranger by the Lake,” “Bridesmaids,” “Before Midnight,” “The Act of Killing,” “Winter’s Bone,” “Dogtooth,” “Killer Joe,” “Looper,” “The Immigrant,” “The Guest,” “Blue Ruin”