It was a big decade for the film industry. Streaming platforms, which got their start in the early 2000’s, took off to a whole new degree in the 2010’s when people realized that streaming was far cheaper and more convenient than cable TV networks. Now that we’re in the era of the “streaming wars,” it’s easy to say that streaming will likely take over the entertainment industry going into the 2020’s. For the 2010’s, though, it was a far more simple time. In 2010 Disney did not own Star Wars, Netflix did not make and release original content, and the media was still praising Weinstein for his contributions to the industry in the pre-#MeToo era. Things are much different now, and here are ten films that will likely define what film was like during the 2010’s.
Ten Films That Defined The Film Industry In The 2010’s
Alice In Wonderland (2010)
Hear us out here. While we don’t necessarily think that Alice In Wonderland is worthy of a place on this list on its own, it does mark the first of a long decade of live-action Disney remakes (well, unless you count the live-action version of 101 Dalmations from back in the ’90s) that virtually no one asked for in the first place. What makes Alice In Wonderland particularly noteworthy, aside from being the first, is that it was also one of Disney’s most disappointing of all. In theory, a Tim Burton remake of the classic Lewis Carroll tale should have been a match made in heaven, but the oversight of the family friendly Disney brand clearly kept Burton from fully embracing just how creepy this movie should have been, with a mediocre script on top of it all.
Unfortunately, that set the standard for just about every live-action remake to come from Disney over the next decade. More recently Dumbo, another brainchild of the Burton/Disney collaboration, received mixed but mostly negative reviews after it was released this spring. Also on the list of disappointing remakes: The Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast. Disney is set to continue the live-action remake trend well into the 202o’s, but we’re hoping they ring in the new decade by doing a good job doing it for once.
Super 8 (2011)
If there were any highly specific trend of mainstream film in the 2010’s that will be remembered, it’s the obsession with 1980’s period pieces about groups of children that come across monsters. The 2010’s seems to be obsessed with 1980’s science fiction, and using children as the stars of the films gave them a family-friendly edge that opened them up to audiences of all ages. Super 8 was one of the first films to spark this trend. The J.J. Abrams film tells the story of a group of kids that uncover a massive mystery in their small town while filming a movie on a super 8 camera. While the movie garnered mostly positive reviews, it also served as a catalyst for projects like Netflix’s Stranger Things and the remake of the IT franchise.
The obsession came to a climax during the summer of 2019, when seemingly every brand on earth wanted to cash in on the aesthetic of the 1980’s.
Spring Breakers (2012)
In the EDM era there is only one thing that college students want: spring break forever. That sentiment, while reflective of a new-age generation of partygoers where misguided nostalgia for the Woodstock era defined the millennial/gen z culture, is all wrapped up nicely in Harmony Korinne’s bubblegum pink crime film Spring Breakers. You know, the one where Selena Gomez does drugs with Riff Raff and then goes on a crime spree in Florida. The millennial obsession with music festivals has sparked hundreds, if not thousands, of think pieces and profiles in publications like The New York Times, Forbes, and Vulture.
While Spring Breakers is not technically about music festivals, is takes the mentality and aesthetic of festival culture and turns it into every parents worst nightmare of what will happen when their child goes to college. Plus, it’s super campy and shows women for what we truly are:
absolutely savage crime lordsmulti-faceted human beings! If the 2000’s were obsessed with petty cat fights and romantic comedies about shopping (required reading: Mean Girls, Confessions of a Shopaholic), then the 2010’s were obsessed with portraying women in less flattering, more realistic roles. I dream that one day we will see screen shots of this film in history museums that describe women in the early 21st century in the same way that I grin when I think of the fact that there are framed bras on display at the historical home of Henry Flagler, one of the great American industrialists of the early 1900’s
Spring Breakers was also an A24 release, along with some of the decades biggest hits like Midsommar, Euphoria, Hereditary, Lady Bird, and Moonlight.
We could have listed any of the abysmal Toy Story sequels to come from Pixar in the 2010’s, or we could have listed Coco—one of the only recent Disney films to tackle a foreign culture without butchering it, but we feel it would be an injustice to list anything but Frozen—the film that had every parent in the world wanting to rip their hair out after listening to “Let It Go” approximately 7,000 times. It would be hard to look back on animation in the 2010’s and not immediately think of Disney’s sleeper hit, Frozen, which told the story of a young princess that had to learn to love herself in order harness her magical powers.
Within the world of Disney Princesses, Elsa is one of the few who’s story does not end in being saved by a male character, so we will give it some credit where credit is due. The film seems to have ushered in a generation where young girls see something of a role model in a Disney princess, rather than being able to pick and choose which of the classic damsel in distress stories is their favorite. Just when we thought we would be able to escape the wrath of Elsa’s musical numbers Disney began the marketing circulation for Frozen 2, which hits theaters this November. Parents, this one goes out to you.
Few films seemed to have hit Sundance with the ferocity that Boyhood did during its time at the film festival in 2014. The Richard Linklater experimental film takes the “coming of age” genre to a new level. Filmed over the course of twelve years, the story follows a young boy (Ellar Coltrane) throughout his childhood in Texas. There isn’t much more to the story beyond the natural ebb and flow of life, but the production is what earned Boyhood a place in dozens of “best of” lists since its release. The project filmed for a couple of weeks each summer, and despite being a fiction the story was heavily reflective of Coltrane’s childhood, as it intertwined with much of his life during these formative years.
Never before had a film been shot over the course of over a decade, using the same cast of actors each year. Critical acclaim began pouring in as soon as Boyhood premiered at Sundance in 2014, eventually earning the film a handful of Academy Award nominations in 2015, including a nomination for Best Picture. If anything, Boyhood represents a new era for film, where experimental productions make their way into mainstream media.
Few science fiction productions seem to canonize themselves in the way that Interstellar has. Expanding on an overall societal fear of the impact of climate change, Interstellar follows the story of a former NASA astronaut (Matthew McConaughey) going on one final journey: to find humanity a new home after Earth has become all but inhospitable. If anything, the film forces us to ask one important question in between stunning shots of the cosmos: what will we do once we’ve run out of natural resources?
If you managed to watch Interstellar without spiraling into an existential crisis wherein you attempt to make sense of the spacetime continuum—good for you. For the rest of us, Interstellar was just as much a horror film as it was a science fiction drama.
The Force Awakens (2015)
It’s hard to decide whether or not The Force Awakens or Avengers: Endgame deserved a place on this list. While the latter may have become one of the highest grossing films of all time, it offers little in the way of major changes to the film industry in the 2010’s other than highlighting the obsession we all seem to have with superhero movies regardless of the fact that they all have the same exact plot. The Force Awakens, however, represents the first film in the Star Wars universe after Disney purchased the franchise in 2012. When the news of the acquisition broke many fans were divided—some felt that Disney’s presence in Lucasfilm would save the franchise, but many worried that the Disney brand would ruin the magic of the Star Wars universe by making it too family friendly.
Luckily, it managed to save the brand. Less than a decade later Star Wars land is open at Disneyland, representing the first full-world addition to Walt’s first park in decades. Disney must have a lot of faith in the franchise, otherwise it would not have given it such coveted real estate in the Disneyland park. The final chapter in this trilogy of Star Wars films is set to open before the end of the year, marking the end of another part of the Star Wars era—but not for long, as Disney plans to milk the franchise as long as it possibly can.
Beasts Of No Nation (2015)
Like we said before, the 2010’s represented a new era for the entertainment industry with the arrival of streaming services like Netflix that have all but fully taken over Hollywood. Once Disney released Disney+ next week, it’s likely that even more people will be ditching cable in favor of streaming once and for all. Netflix was one of the first streaming platforms to become a household name, and the arrival of its first Netflix Original Movie, Beasts Of No Nation signaled the company’s venture into an entirely new sphere. While the company began releasing original shows back in 2013 with the arrival of House of Cards and Orange Is The New Black, Beasts Of No Nation was the first feature-length film to be released as a Netflix Original.
Today, Netflix has a heavy presence in film festivals like Sundance, where it seems to have scooped up most of the independent productions in 2019. Many filmmakers are concerned about Netflix’s presence and potential negative impact on the film industry. But others, particularly those with backgrounds in television, have welcomed in the trend with open arms.
Beasts Of No Nation tells the story of a bloody civil war in a nameless country in West Africa. A guerrilla war lord (Idris Elba) preys upon a young orphan to train him to become part of his army. Critics praised the raw portrayal of manipulation upon weaker people in desperate situations, calling the film “Impossible to forget” (Rolling Stone).
Get Out (2017)
In Jordan Peele’s first foray out of comedy and into horror, he nearly won the Academy Award for Best Picture (it lost to The Shape of Water, though Peele did take home the award for Best Original Screenplay). The film provides a scathing commentary of modern racism in America without distracting too much from the thrill and horror of the story as a whole. Starring Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams, each scene of the film has been carefully dissected by dozens of bloggers since its release, explaining everything from the symbolism of the costumes to why Williams’ character eats her From Loops the way that she does.
In a post #BlackLivesMatter world, films like Get Out are important to launching the discourse of what racism looks like to the people that may not understand the nuances of its damage. Beyond that, the film quickly made Peele one of the most acclaimed horror directors of the 2010’s, alongside names like Ari Aster—who has also been praised for his ability to make a heavy commentary in his horror films. In the 2010’s the horror of the horror genre was not in jump scares and gore, but in the tragedy and terror of the human experience.
The Current War (2017 & 2019)
It would be hard to create a list that highlights the most pivotal film moments of the 2010’s without somehow managing to tie in the Weinstein scandal of 2017 that changed Hollywood forever. When dozens of sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein, founder and CEO of the now defunct Weinstein Company—one of the biggest distributors in Hollywood from the early 2000’s to the late 2010’s, came to light in the fall of 2017 it marked the real launch of the #MeToo movement. The movement aims to bring to light the ways in which women are harassed and exploited—particularly in the entertainment industry—today. The Weinstein Company was at the heart of the scandal, revealing that Mr. Weinstein used his power in the film industry to take advantage of women and obtain sex. The scandal marked the end of the company, and brought dozens of other powerful men down along with it.
What makes The Current War prolific is not necessarily in its content (though the 2010’s seems to have loved a good period drama. The film, which has an all-star cast with names like Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon starring as Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse as they race to become the biggest electricity company in history (sort of like the race to the moon, but about light bulbs). The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival just weeks before the Weinstein scandal broke in 2017, sending the company into a state of despair and the film into a state of limbo.
What premiered at TIFF was, apparently, a botched result of a rushed deadline enforced upon the filmmaker, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, by The Weinstein Company itself. The film earned less than spectacular reviews at the film festival, but was already slated for a massive international release to ride the coattails of the success of The King’s Speech. Weinstein, who was apparently famous for re-cutting films at the last second, rushed the film to meet a Thanksgiving deadline that never came.
The film was finally released just weeks ago under a new distributor, 101 Studios. This proved to be a blessing in disguise for Gomez-Rejon, who was then allowed to re-cut the film to go as intended—though it’s still earned pretty dismal reviews on websites like IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. The Current War would have likely been the very last film to come out of The Weinstein Company, canonizing it into 2010’s film history by default.