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7 best 2010s crime movies, ranked

Jake Gyllenhaal holding a flashlight in Nightcrawler.
Open Road Films

The 2010s were a great time for the crime genre, which saw some of the grittiest, most entertaining, and most creative stories hit the big screens. The decade would see some memorable protagonists with morally questionable actions and goals in realities where violence, destruction, and greed are part of the norm.

From the incredibly bleak narrative in Prisoners to the unbelievable true story told in The Wolf of Wall Street, the best 2010 crime movies showcase the diverse range of entries that impressed both critics and fans. All of these films have become modern classics in their own right, with each one being essential viewing for anyone who wants to dive into the criminal underworld from the comfort of their couch.

7. Uncut Gems (2019)

Adam Sandler holding a necklace in Uncut Gems.

The Safdie Brothers’ Uncut Gems is a thrilling crime movie that follows the charismatic New York City jeweler Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) as he scrambles to escape a risky situation. Howard’s penchant for high-stakes gambling leads to a spiral of debt and risky schemes, with his latest idea of acquiring a rare black opal putting him in some dangerous waters next to violent people.

Adam Sandler delivers one of the best performances of his career, with his dramatic turn as the flawed Howard being exactly what the stressful film needed. With this compelling character leading the way, the A24 movie’s frenetic pacing and palpable tension result in a wholly unique viewing experience. It’s almost as if Uncut Gems hopes to inspire frustration, dread, and anxiety in audiences, leaving no room for comfort all the way to its explosive ending.

6. The Irishman (2019)

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino stand in a deli in The Irishman.

With a filmography full of crime classics like Goodfellas and The Departed, it was fitting for director Martin Scorsese to release what felt like his most personal gangster film to date before the end of the 2010s. Reuniting Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, The Irishman is an epic movie that spans decades and explores Frank Sheeran’s (De Niro) life and experiences as a mob hitman and his involvement with the Bufalino crime family.

At 209 minutes long, The Irishman is the longest feature film in Scorsese’s career so far, and it uses the runtime to present a contemplative story about organized crime. It does so in a wholly unromantic way, exploring the toll those kinds of choices can take in the long term. It’s apt that De Niro is at the center of it all, with the 2019 film acting as a love letter to his career full of mobster roles.

5. Nightcrawler (2014)

Two men walking in Nightcrawler.
Open Road Films

Nightcrawler revolves around Los Angeles-based Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), initially presented as a small-time thief looking for ways to make cash. When he stumbles upon the idea of becoming a stringer or a freelance videographer, he becomes obsessed with capturing graphic footage of crime scenes and accidents to sell to news stations. In an effort to be the go-to for local stations, Lou crosses ethical boundaries and begins manipulating situations to get the most sensational footage.

Directed by Dan Gilroy in his feature film debut, Nightcrawler depicts some of the darkest results of unethical journalism. It’s a disturbing reflection of an industry where ruthlessness and sensationalism can often go hand-in-hand. It’s also a must-see Jake Gyllenhaal movie, with the actor delivering a spine-chilling performance as the unnerving Lou, who will stop at nothing for the money shot.

4. Sicario (2015)

Emily Blunt standing in front of a house in Sicario.

Director Denis Villeneuve is now known for his visually stunning sci-fi movies like Arrival, Blade Runner 2049, Dune, and, most recently, Dune: Part Two. Before these blockbusters, the Canadian filmmaker was making incredible crime films, with one of the most popular being Sicario. Starring Emily Blunt as the naïve FBI agent Kate Macer, the 2015 movie depicts her experiences after she is enlisted by a government task force led by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro). Their job is to combat drug cartels along the US-Mexico border.

Blunt’s character serves as a stand-in for viewers as she learns about the murky world of operations along the border, with the small-scale story ultimately commenting on the war on drugs as a whole. Morally gray areas and questionable tactics become the norm in Sicario, with each brutal and dangerous event chipping away at Macer’s idealism.

3. Knives Out (2019)

Lakeith Stanfield, Noah Segan, and Daniel Craig in Rian Johnson's whodunit Knives Out.

It isn’t an overstatement to say that director Rian Johnson revitalized the whodunit subgenre, with Knives Out sparking renewed interest in these types of crime and mystery films. Featuring an impeccably cast ensemble led by Daniel Craig as the famed detective Benoit Blanc, the 2019 movie portrays his investigation of the death of a wealthy patriarch, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), who has left an odd will.

With stellar performances from Craig alongside Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Toni Collette, Knives Out quickly gained popularity and successfully re-introduced whodunit to the modern era. The film balances witty humor, a twisty story, and moments of suspense with ease, never wasting a single second as it tells its clever tale. It’s not surprising it received a follow-up with 2022’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery and even has another sequel in development.

2. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Leonardo DiCaprio stands near a microphone in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Paramount Pictures

A crime film based on an unbelievable true story, The Wolf of Wall Street chronicles the rise and fall of stockbroker Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio). Tired of his entry-level job at a brokerage firm, he starts his own, with Stratton Oakmont soon earning obscene amounts of money thanks to criminal practices by Belfort and his associates. As they continue to defraud investors, the SEC and FBI soon start to pay attention.

Directed by Martin Scorsese, the three-hour-long biographical movie is a comedic portrayal of the excesses that Belfort enjoyed, especially as he felt he would never be penalized for his actions. The protagonist’s story also serves as a sharp satire of Wall Street culture, with his hedonistic pursuits representing the moral bankruptcy that’s commonplace for those who can afford to get away with it. DiCaprio embodies the greedy and ambitious Belfort with relentless charisma, with the 2013 film showcasing some of his strongest work.

1. Prisoners (2013)

Hugh Jackman holding Paul Dano by the jacket against a car in Prisoners (2013).
Warner Bros. Pictures

Certainly director Denis Villeneuve’s best crime movie so far, Prisoners is a critically acclaimed 2013 film centered on the lives of two families, which are shattered when their young daughters suddenly disappear on Thanksgiving Day. As the police investigation led by Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) hits dead ends, one father, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), takes matters into his own hands. He resorts to extreme measures to find his daughter, making some shocking decisions along the way.

Prisoners is a gritty, intense, and suspenseful movie that can simultaneously entertain and cause discomfort as its unsettling story unfolds. There are no heroes here, and so many morally ambiguous characters make it hard to root for anyone. Hugh Jackman is particularly unforgettable in his serious role as a desperate father who will do anything to save his daughter, with his performance alone inspiring dread and fear, especially for any parents watching the renowned crime-thriller.

Editors' Recommendations

Saab Hannah
Saab whips up SEO-optimized articles as a writer for Digital Trends and updates top-performing articles on Collider.
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