#1 – Moana (2016)
I really fought the urge to rank Disney’s Moana as my #1 film of the 2010s. I tried every other film in my top five at this position. The rational part of my brain told me I couldn’t call a movie in which the third lead is a chicken the best of the decade.
But ultimately the decision came down to one thing. If I were asked to create a list of my ten favorite movies of all time, I would put Moana on it. I would consider the other titles on this list, maybe even include one or two of them depending on my mood, but Moana would definitely be there. And therefore it’s here.
I don’t know if I can diagnose exactly why I love Moana so much. Of course, it has obvious strengths: the music, the visuals, the characters, the story, the themes. But beyond all that, I simply have a chemical reaction to this movie. Intense joy and satisfaction, an emotional high.
It doesn’t hurt that it’s a hero’s journey about a young woman. Having two daughters has made me permanently susceptible to those (a phenomenon that started with 2003’s Whale Rider, released a year after my oldest daughter was born).
Add in the incredible songs of Lin Manuel Miranda, whose Hamilton I saw on Broadway the spring before this movie was released. The half-dozen tracks he penned for this stirring musical are Broadway-worthy themselves.
Another plus: the setting. Moana came out a few months after my family visited Hawaii for the first time and fell absolutely in love with that part of the world. The film’s creators went to great lengths to represent and honor Polynesian culture and that loving attention to detail is evident in every frame.
The film also passes the cry test, with at least four scenes bringing me to the brink of tears each and every time I watch them. The ‘I Am Moana’ sequence (in which Moana is visited at sea by the ghost of her grandmother) is one of my all-time favorite scenes from any movie.
I’ve seen Moana more times than I can count and there is never a time I wouldn’t be perfectly happy to fire it up and watch it again.
After a decade of wonderful films — many represented on this list and many more that just missed the cut — this is the one I most treasure.
Thanks for joining me for this countdown. I’d love to learn about your own 2010s favorites in the comment section. We’ll do it all over again in 2030!