After well over a year of writing and after weeks of research, days of watching movies, and hours upon hours of writing these pieces, the Decade Decathlon has finally reached its conclusion. It’s been an absolutely crazy ride and when I initially made this pitch in January of 2019, I had no idea the sheer amount of work that would go into this. But now that we’re here, all that’s left for me to ask is what did we learn? Or more aptly, what did Hollywood learn over the course of the decade?
Short answer, absolutely nothing. Oh sure, there have been plenty of success stories over the past decade, but it seems like the film industry only succeeded despite itself. Great ideas were pitched, they became popular, then Hollywood decided to suck all of that ingenuity dry until there was nothing left. But while the whole may be rotten and not all that great, there’s no denying the quality of the films that were released over the past decade, to the point where some of them quickly became cinematic classics. Historians like myself will look back at these movies as milestones for the industry that truly pushed the art form forward more than the copious amounts of junk that were shat out into theaters.
But now that we’ve broken each year down into its base elements and examined the most notable movies for each year, it’s time for us to dole out some awards. Which movies, genres, companies, or trends redefined the industry for the best, and which took several steps back in the face of quality/progress/taste? Who were the winners… and who were the losers?
If you haven’t been reading up on the Decade Decathlon so far, here are links to all ten entries for your perusal, organized by year:
Also because I’m shying away from general movies, here were, in my opinion, the best movies of the decade, with one notable exception that we’ll get to later. I tried to separate my personal opinions to keep this list as objective as possible. All of these movies are wonderful and deserve your time and effort and I would consider them the definitive films of the 2010s:
The Social Network, Black Swan, Skyfall, Django Unchained, Gravity, Frozen, Blue is the Warmest Color, The Wolf of Wall Street, Whiplash, Oculus, Inside Out, Zootopia, The Nice Guys, Moonlight, The Witch, Get Out, Lady Bird, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, Roma, Knives Out, Parasite
Now with all of those formalities out of the way, let’s end this retrospective with a look at the five winners and the five losers of the decade, alternating as I go along, before announcing the ultimate winner and ultimate loser of the decade.
LOSER – Star Wars
If there was one franchise over the past ten years that completely and utterly went down the drain, look no further than Star Wars. No, I’m not talking about the overall quality of the films since those are HIGHLY subjective, but rather the toxicity that has emerged since the middle of the Sequel Trilogy.
While fans were uproarious in joy in 2015 thanks to the impressive release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, after 2017’s The Last Jedi, the final two years of the decade were filled with the Star Wars fanbase just being the absolute worst. Look, I will admit that I’m a fan of the franchise. A casual fan who only saw all of the movies for the first time in the lead up to Episode VII, but a fan none-the-less, and I think that the majority of fans can admit that the way that certain sectors of the fanbase have been acting has been inexcusable. The immediate aftermath of The Last Jedi was ugly to say the least, with any discussion on Star Wars eventually devolving into how Disney, Kathleen Kennedy, or women in general were ruining Star Wars. Frankly, it’s pathetic, and the damage caused by the fanbase has irreparably hurt the brand moving forward.
Disney had numerous plans for spin-offs thanks to the recent resurgence, but due to Solo underperforming, Disney decided to halt future spin-offs for a couple of years and instead reworked The Rise of Skywalker as an apology to fans that were hurt by The Last Jedi, except it forced the movie to undergo several rewrites, many key plot points were left out of the movie, and taking the bold risks from the previous movie and throwing them aside for something far safer, far lamer, and far, far more boring. It wasn’t film making by committee, where corporate heads decide what a movie or franchise’s direction should go in, but film making by mob mentality, where the masses demanded change or else threaten further damage to Disney’s precious brand. Disney relented and made an apology movie that only seemed to incite further debate and ridicule in the community, effectively making a no-win scenario for Disney.
Star Wars isn’t going to go away anytime soon. It’s too big to fail at this point, but years from now people are still going to look at just how chaotic and downright shameful the franchise and its fans became towards the end of the 2010s.
WINNER – Foreign Films/Directors
Foreign films have never been an anomaly in filmgoers rotations, but the 2010s gave us several landmark moments for the acceptance and normalization of foreign films being seen by mainstream audiences and allowing more recognition for foreign filmmakers.
In the past decade, we’ve had more foreign filmmakers win Best Director than in any other decade which is a stellar achievement. For as much as I may dislike Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist, the man won Best Director and The Artist, a French movie, went on to win Best Picture in 2011. Other stand-out directors include Alfonso Cuaron, who won two Best Director wins for Gravity and Roma, Alejandro Inarritu won Best Director for Birdman (which also went on to win Best Picture) and The Revenant, and even Guillermo del Toro, who had achieved previous success with the Hellboy movies, claimed further recognition thanks to his surprising wins with 2017’s The Shape of Water. All of these foreign film makers created wonderful stories that audiences lapped up and loved, regardless of their directors’ country of origin.
Now, originally I was going to make this category solely for Mexican filmmakers, since Cuaron, Inarritu, and del Toro are all Mexican filmmakers, but the success of 2019’s Parasite was too big to ignore. Against all odds, Parasite became the first foreign film to ever win Best Picture at the Oscars and director Bong Joon Ho was the first South Korean to ever be nominated and win Best Director. Foreign films have become more widely accessible and even language barriers between these movies are falling away. Sure, you’re going to have the few people who will refuse to watch any movie with subtitles, but the vast majority of people are more welcome to and accepting of subtitled foreign movies as long as, you know, the movies are good.
LOSER – 3D Movies
What started as a gimmick in 2010 continued to be exactly that for the rest of the decade. It might give off some colorful and cheap thrills, but it does more to hinder moviegoers than help them. Sure, you have movies like Hugo that attempted to flesh out 3D beyond just a simple gimmick, but the vast majority of films utilized it only for surface level entertainment. First and foremost, if you want to see a movie in 3D, you had better be prepared to shell out some extra money, which at a time when movie tickets are already expensive, isn’t an easy sell. If you were to buy your tickets ahead of time and had to choose your seats for reservations, just look at the differences between 3D screenings and 2D ones. Chances are there are going to be far more vacancies in 3D ones.
Most movies don’t take full advantage of the technology and rarely do anything noteworthy. The best that you’re going to get out of a 3D movie is maybe having some of the action pop out on screen, or emulating some cheap horror kills that would be at home in the 80’s. Nearly every action blockbuster that releases day almost always has a 3D screening available to coincide with it, and there are never any notable differences between them. In reality, 3D screenings actually limit your ability to watch movies since if you take off your glasses, the movie becomes nigh impossible to view. If you’re wondering why you would ever take off your glasses at a 3D screening, I can speak for myself when I say that as someone who wears glasses, having two pairs of glasses on for several hours is uncomfortable, they slide off easily, and force you to remain motionless or risk having your pair slide off.
It’s so much of a worthless gimmick that back in 2017, IMAX said that they would be limiting the number of 3D screenings and instead focus more on 2D experiences. Theaters aren’t that interested in screening 3D movies anymore since they occupy theaters and people are less inclined to see movies that are more expensive and offering very little incentives to encourage people to go to them over 2D versions. If you need another reason to declare that 3D movies were mistake, we can actually blame 3D on why 2012’s Dredd failed at the box office, since Lionsgate mandated that the movie would be primarily shown in 3D and 2D screenings were next to impossible to find. Way to go 3D, you killed the potential for an awesome action franchise. Hats off.
WINNER – The MCU
The meteoric rise of the MCU may in fact be one of the most defining stories of the 2010s. What started as an insane plan to created an interconnected film franchise slowly but surely became the most popular film franchise of the past decade, if not of all time. Of course there were shared universes before the MCU, but no one did it quite as big or quite as well as Marvel did. Spanning over twenty movies released over a decade, the MCU came across as well crafted, well thought out, and most importantly, varied.
If this was just one massive action blockbuster franchise, then I don’t think the MCU would have been as well regarded as it was. Each movie may fall under the tentpole of being an action movie, but all of them easily distinguish themselves by having different genres and tones. Spider-Man: Homecoming feels like a teen comedy, the Captain American movies are political thrillers, Guardians of the Galaxy are space adventures, and none of them ever feel the same. All of the movies have a unique identity to them and serve to tell a larger story, one which culminated in what is still the highest grossing movie of all time.
It’s also nothing short of a miracle that all of these movies are good. Some are most certainly better than others (I have yet to meet another human being to feverishly defend Thor: The Dark World), but when your worst movie is simply okay, that’s a huge mark of success. The MCU created landmark pop culture moment after moment, whether it was from the original Avenger’s releasing, to Black Panther becoming a breakout success and a culture touchstone for the people of color everywhere, to the entire world gasping in horror at the conclusion to Infinity War. Like it or not, the MCU became the definitive film franchise of the 2010s. It’s too bad that everyone else tried to copy Marvel’s success! Speaking of…
LOSER – Every Other Goddamn Shared Universe
As is always the case, if there’s a big popular trend, others are going to try and replicate it. What worked for Marvel must mean it can work for anyone else, and so of course we had several companies attempting to start their own shared universe projects in the 2010s and fail spectacularly at it. We’ve had three notable attempts at creating shared universes and while the jury is still out on one of them, I can safely say that two of them are now dead and buried, hopefully forgotten to all except the deranged like me.
Let’s start with the most embarrassing of the two, Universal’s Dark Universe. The pitch was simple; revive the Universal Monster series that features monsters like Dracula, Frankenstien, the Wolf Man, etc, and put them in a 2010s action horror universe! I can somewhat understand the idea behind this, but the important thing to make this franchise succeed was it needed to have good movies. Universal tried to launch it with 2014’s Dracula Untold, which failed horribly, so they tried it again with 2017’s The Mummy, only to fail even worse at it. They had announced a big cast of big named actors to portray classic monsters, like Johnny Depp as the Invisible Man, but after too many failures, they just canned the whole shared universe. With the release of 2020’s The Invisible Man with no sign of that dreaded Dark Universe logo, it’s safe to say that this shared universe died quietly and painlessly.
And then you had DC, who tried to create their shared universe in reaction to Marvel, only their plan was even more haphazard than Universal’s if you can be believed. The success of the standalone Man of Steel in 2013 sparked interest from DC to fast track their own shared superhero universe, which fans call the DCEU, only without any of the careful planning and consideration that Marvel brought to theirs. They went all in on big crossovers and big epics first, giving us Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, and Justice League all in a span of two years. All three movies were massive crossover events that introduced new takes on well established cartoon characters, and most of them turned out to be crap. The only DCEU movie that is regarded as being universally excellent is Wonder Woman, which had little to no connection with any of the other movies in the franchise.
Since 2018, no one really knows what the hell is up with the DCEU or its slate of releases. Aquaman starred Jason Mamoa’s depiction of the character and only had a few references to the DCEU. Shazam! had very few connections, Joker was its own separate entity, but this year’s Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) has several references to Suicide Squad and serves as a pseudo-sequel to that movie. So is the DCEU dead? Is it alive? From the look of things, DC is trying hard to make sure everyone forget about its attempt at a shared universe with more of a focus on standalone movies.
Bottom line, if you’re going to make a shared universe, it needs to be carefully planned and not rushed, and also have movies that are actually good. The Dark Universe and the DCEU failed at both of these elements, but the jury is still out on Legendary’s Monsterverse. It currently has three movies in it, Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters, with a crossover movie coming out later this year. Maybe this will be the one that works since most of the movies up to their point have been above average at worst, but all other attempts to overthrow Marvel have been doomed to failure.
WINNER – Netflix
If one company can get an award for disrupting the film industry the most, that nod has to go to Netflix. While the prominent streaming service has been around for decades, it wasn’t until the 2010s that they began to rattle Hollywood elites and redefine what it mean to be a production company.
Netflix works primarily in digital releases, eschewing releasing movies in theaters when necessary. It cuts out theater chains and instead gets its content directly to the people. While I believe that the Netflix model works best for TV shows, Netflix has been developing a hefty slate of original films that have not only gone on to become major successes, but fundamentally question decades of Hollywood defacto laws. In the past several years, many of Netflix’s original films like Roma, Mudbound, Dolemite is My Name, Marriage Story, and The Irishman had garned numerous awards and nominations despite barely having a theatrical run. Netflix only gave them a theatrical run to qualify for major awards, drawing tons of movie fans to see these limited engagements, similar to classic roadshows, with tons of press attention for how disruptive Netflix has become to the old paradigm.
This doesn’t mean that Netflix is perfect. One can easily accuse them of spending way more capital than they probably have, its numerous cases of geoblocking, how they tend to play the victim card to the big bad Hollywood elites when they themselves strongarm creators, and intentionally obfuscating viewership numbers to give the impression that all is well with the streaming giant when I’m almost certain that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Still, I can’t deny that a major disruption that is enough to put the Academy on edge is notable, especially how now nearly every company is creating their own streaming service to compete with Netflix and theaters. Bottom line, without Netflix we wouldn’t have streaming.
LOSER – The Academy
Man the Academy just couldn’t catch a break this decade. At the beginning of the decade, faced with irrelevancy due to its exclusivity in award nominees, the Academy opened up Best Picture nominees from five to 10 in an effort to give more widespread appreciation to more films, but let’s be honest here. It was an attempt to nominate more commercial movies so people may actual tune in for once. In 2010, blockbusters like Inception and Toy Story 3 were nominated for Best Picture in a clear bid to get more viewership numbers, and that should have been that. But it feels like every year after that the Academy just gave people more and more reasons to throw them under the bus.
I could be here for days it I decided to explain ALL of the idiocy that the Academy displayed so effortlessly, but let’s just give a Cliffnotes version, shall we? #Oscarssowhite was used for the 2014 and 2015 awards to draw attention to how all of the acting nominees for both years were white people with no diversity whatsoever, not even for the LGBT community. The 2016 awards gave us the infamous gaffe of La La Land winning Best Picture because someone put the wrong card in the Best Picture envelope. The 2018 awards were a PR nightmare thanks to the Academy attempting to make a “Most Popular Film” award that made audiences feel like the movies they liked were relegated to a kids table so the “real” movies could be honored, Kevin Hart was fired as Oscar host due to decade old tweets, and even after all the fires were put out, they just had to give Best Picture to Green Book, aka the movie where a white man teaches a black man how to eat fried chicken to solve racism.
All while this was going on, The Oscars continued to have declining viewership since 2014, going from around 43.7 million to a sad 23.6 million for their most recent awards ceremony. Fact of the matter is, the Academy is out of touch with what people want. It doesn’t matter if you nominated Black Panther for seven Oscars if you’re just going to give the Best Picture win to the movie that represents the antithesis of what Black Panther stood for. The Academy just flails about every year to try and make people care about it, whether it be cringe worthy hosts, notable exclusions for no apparent reason, and snubs after snubs after snubs. When people say they don’t care about The Oscars or what the Academy does anymore, it’s hard not to agree with them.
WINNER – Mad Max: Fury Road
I know I said I wasn’t going to include individual films on this list, but I couldn’t help myself. If there was one movie that I think critics and fans can agree was the best movie of the decade, it would have to be Mad Max: Fury Road. As a matter of fact, we did name it our Best Film of the Decade here at Flixist! For reference sake, let me quote what we said back in January about Fury Road;
“While we’ve said many things about Mad Max: Fury Road since its release, what’s most striking about the movie is how it brought together all different groups of people in admiration for this movie. General moviegoers were entertained by the raw action almost completely done with practical effects on a scale that just hasn’t been seen before. Cinephiles were treated to ingenious cinematography, sound design, audio mixing, and editing. Writers could marvel at the less is more approach and how anyone could walk into Fury Road not having seen any other movie in the franchise and easily understanding it as well as grasping the complex symbolism and metaphors. At the end of the day, anyone and everyone can find something to be thrilled at in Mad Max: Fury Road.”
All of that is still accurate. I can’t think of any other film that managed to receive such universal acclaim from everyone. Even with the biggest releases, you can think of some negative criticism to them that prevent them from being called masterpieces but none of that exists for Fury Road. It’s honestly the closest to perfection a movie came this decade. It’s smart, subversive, adrenaline fueled, and a master class in sound design, cinematography, story telling, action… just a master class in how to make movies.
THE ULTIMATE LOSER OF THE 2010s – Reboots
If there was one trend that nobody asked for, one constant universal truth that audiences around the world agreed upon that Hollywood just didn’t understand, it was this one simple truth; NO ONE LIKES REBOOTS. Like, ever.
Hollywood went rampant with reboots in the 2010s like it was some kind of fetish for them, and they never ended well. They either were critically mauled, bombed at the box office, or both. Every couple of months, studios would present us with a reboot of a classic film or franchise that was set to ignite public interest, except it always looked terrible in comparison to the original. Power Rangers, Total Recall, Ben-Hur, The Mummy, The Amazing Spider-Man, Conan the Barbarian, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… these are just a few of the dozens of reboots that were forced upon audiences that no one went to see. Hell, even several of the movies we previously discussed in the Decade Decathlon were reboots of classic films or properties! Lone Ranger tanked hard at the box office and Razzie winner Fant4stic served as an abysmal reboot of a film franchise that seems cursed at this point.
There are some cases where reboots did work. Depending on who you ask, Fury Road may be considered a reboot, though I would argue that the return of series director George Miller and the anthology approach the series already had was warrant it more as a sequel than a reboot, and the Ghostbusters reboot was infamously and unjustifiably panned by a sect of people that I’m sure don’t cross over with that Star Wars fandom in any way. There are positive stories, but the failures far, far outclass the successes.
Some companies are so dead set in rebooting franchises to cash a quick buck that it instead causes more irreparable harm to their brand than good. Terminator: Genysis was supposed to be a reboot that under-performed so hard that the next installment outright ignored it as it destroyed the franchise, maybe for good. Like I said before, The Mummy was meant to kick off an entire horror themed shared universe, but those plans died almost as quickly as they appeared. Speaking of horror movies, they had it just as bad as major studio releases! In a genre that is now well known for consisting of movies that are cheap and easy to make, even classic horror reboots failed pretty hard when left to their own devices. A Nightmare on Elm Street, Child’s Play, Carrie, and Poltergeist all failed to meet the same standards as their predecessor and make enough money to justify their existence.
Look, reboots are never going to go away. When there’s a fanbase to exploit and when they have disposable income, you better believe that a reboot is an eventuality. But what studios never learn is that these movies just don’t work. They’ve never worked. The odds that a reboot is actually going to surpass the original is astronomically slim and even if it does, it’ll serve more as a curiosity before people go back to enjoying the original. For never learning this lesson over the past decade, and STILL making the same mistakes year after year, here’s to reboots as being the ultimate loser of the 2010s. Just… no more.
THE ULTIMATE WINNER OF THE 2010s – Disney
If you’re at all familiar with my writing, you know that I have grown increasingly more negative towards Disney in recent years. They’re very nearly approaching a monopoly, most of their current releases don’t excite me and generally aren’t all that great, and the amount of tyrannical control they have over their brand is downright sickening. Let’s not forget that this was the same company that tried to trademark the phrases Dia de los Muertos and Day of the Dead for the release of Coco. They are not your friend and they know exactly how to manipulate people into a feverish brand loyalty that is downright uncomfortable at times.
And yet, despite all of that well earned ire from me and several others, I have to face the facts that if there was one company that controlled pop culture in the 2010s, it was Disney. There’s no disputable fact on this. Disney dominated headlines, box offices, and theater chains for a vast majority of the decade. At the start of the 2010s, Disney wasn’t in too hot of a position. To put it into perspetive, stock in Disney at the start of 2010 was valued at around $33. By the end of the decade it was around $145. That’s pretty impressive all things considered. Their 2000s output was middling to say the least. No one fondly remembers Bolt or Meet the Robinsons to put it lightly. For many people, myself included, Disney was always seen as “too kiddy” and I felt like I had grown out of them, ready to try more adult experiences.
But then as the decade began, Disney began to slowly gain more and more traction within popular culture once more. The MCU as we discussed earlier began in earnest, they began to release critically beloved movies like Frozen, Inside Out, Zootopia, and Moana, they bought the Star Wars license in 2012 that made them an ungodly amount of money, despite the negative fan backlash, made live-action adaptations of its animated movies that continue to print money, and expanded their corporation by outright purchasing 20th Century Fox. The expansion of Disney was slow, but man did it rock the world.
Over the past decade, Disney made billions upon billions of dollars at a rate that was unprecedented. 2019 alone had Disney release seven movies that made over a billion dollar at the box office. In the past decade, 19 Disney movies made over a billion at the box office, more than any other company in the history of film. Disney even regularly displays an absurd amount of power over average consumers that still boggles my mind. Sony legally has the rights to the character of Spider-Man, yet Disney could actually weaponize fans to make them forget that fact and make Sony into the bad guys! And it worked! The mad bastards made Sony buckle!
The amount of power that Disney has been able to amass over the past decade is frightening to say the least, but if there was one company that was able to take complete control over the film industry, then it was Disney. I may not like them, but when we look back at the past decade in film making, nearly all roads lead to them. For good and for bad, Disney became the face of the film industry in the 2010s. Good for us?
And now we’ve finally reached the end of the Decade Decathlon. To all of those who stuck with me through this all, I would like to thank each of you for reading these posts every month they came out. It was a ton of work and certainly took up way more time than I ever would have thought, but now our look back at the past decade of film is finally complete. Here’s to the past ten years, and here’s to the next ten years. I’ll see you next time for my next large scale project that is mind boggling in terms of scope. I’ve crossed the finish line, and now it’s time for me to rest.