the 2010’s really have been an amazing decade for film. It’s the decade when the superhero film reached its peak, the adult drama almost died, Pixar lost its way and found itself again, Disney animation began a second renaissance, and the #MeToo movement changed Hollywood forever. Let me explain.
This really is the decade of Marvel. Kevin Feige (the president and mastermind behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe) completely changed Hollywood, for better or worse. Now every studio has tried (and failed) to mimic their success by having a shared cinematic universe between films. Feige is the most consistently successful producer of all time. To my knowledge, he’s never produced a film that has lost money.
The mid-budget (around $30 million) adult-centric drama is almost dead. Studios are very hesitant to green light original dramas because they are currently the riskiest bet for their buck. Why? Because audiences refuse to pay to see them. There are lots of theories as to why this is (i.e. they get their dramatic fix from TV shows, home theaters are good enough that it takes an event movie to get them off the couch, etc.), but the truth is that we as a society killed that particular genre. Studios blame Marvel, but the real culprits are all of us.
In the last decade, Pixar has definitely lost their storytelling mojo, but thankfully seems to have found it again. When they made the decision to do sequels (I think from pressure their parent studio, Disney) it lost much of its creative juice. The few original films they did were not great, with the exceptions of Coco and Inside Out, and most of the sequels were not memorable. The reason for the loss of quality is probably because John Lasseter was spread too thin and was focusing his efforts at Disney Animation.
Speaking of Lasseter, under his guidance Disney Animation has had a HUGE resurgence this decade, starting with Tangled and Wreck-it Ralph. However, I think it might go down again because of Lasseter leaving. But we will see. I don’t really think that the Frozen films are that great, and their co-director, Jennifer Lee, is now the head of Disney Animation.
And of course there was the #MeToo movement, which affects all of this. John Lasseter is gone because of this, and Pixar and Disney Animation might both suffer as a result. And Harvey Weinstein is gone, which will change high brow cinema, for the better, IMO.
Which brings me to my list of my favorite films of the decade. Know that this is entirely subjective (like all of these lists are) and only represents my opinions. Film opinion is subjective and obviously the reader will have different opinions than mine.
10. THE WAY WAY BACK
One of the best coming of age stories I’ve ever seen, The Way Way Back also has the distinction of having Steve Carrell as an entirely unlikable villain and being entirely unfunny for the duration of the film. Sam Rockwell is the MVP as the glue that holds it together, but the entire cast is absolutely incredible. There’s absolutely nothing flashy about it (which is probably why it didn’t do that well at the box office) yet it is so well crafted that I cry at the end every time.
9. ABOUT TIME
This is probably my favorite romantic comedy of all time. It’s also the first of two British films on my list. It speaks to me more deeply because I am a father of three (with a fourth on the way) and relate to the awkwardness of its main character. In the end, even with the ability to time travel, About Time purports that nothing is more fulfilling than strong and loving familial relationships.
8. WRECK IT RALPH
I always maintain that Wreck-it Ralph is really a Pixar film because it fits the Pixar formula better than any of its contemporary Pixar films outside of Toy Story 3. It is such a sharp script with every moment having laser-like focus on world and character building meant to setup the climax, and it does so flawlessly and effortlessly.
7. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDERVERSE
I think that Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse is the world’s finest superhero film, at least in the modern era. Its animation is both unique and gorgeous. It also is the best example of organic intersectionality. It’s also hard for me not to love a movie that features Spider-Gwen, who is and will likely always be my favorite character in Marvel Comics.
6. PADDINGTON 2
It’s such an odd experience when the first film I watch in a year was also the my favorite film of the year. I don’t expect this to ever happen again, but it happened it Paddington 2. It is such a simple, well drafted story that focuses on how the kindness of one individual can indeed make the world of difference. It also is the odd film where the main character doesn’t have any growth, but focuses on the growth of those around them.
5. THE SOCIAL NETWORK
One of the great tragedies of the decade regarding the Oscars was The Social Network losing to The King’s Speech at the 2011 ceremony. Sure, the latter movie is good, but it has not aged as well and is not the masterpiece that the former is. The Social Network is Aaron Sorkin’s best movie script and has the best performances that all of the actors in it have ever given, in my opinion. The score is unique and brilliant as well.
4. WAR HORSE
I will get a lot of flack for including War Horse in this list at all, let alone this high. However, I do consider it to be Spielberg’s best film on this side of Catch Me If You Can. I also think it’s Spielberg’s most beautifully shot film to date. I eat up every minute of it. Spielberg is one of the finest storytellers of all time and for me this film showcases his skills better than any other of the decade.
3. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
I initially didn’t like this movie because of how uncomfortable it made me feel. It has two clear antagonists, but it shows how easy it is for societies and cultures to clash and for both of them to have good reasons to be in conflict. In addition, it shows how easy it is for one bad, charismatic leader to successfully lead a people to unnecessary conflict. It also has what I consider to be Michael Giacchino’s finest score.
2. TOY STORY 3
I do consider Toy Story 3 to be the finest Pixar film to date. The Mr. Potato Head/tortilla gag alone makes the movie amazing, but it’s also so cleverly crafted and deeply moving. It is the funniest animated feature of all time for me.
I have never had a better theatrical experience than when I watched Arrival for the first time. It was actually a spiritual experience, if I’m being honest. Its thesis is that life is worth it, even if it ends in tragedy. It’s a story so beautifully told that it’s actually hard for me to find the right words to describe how much it affected me.