RANKED! The Best Movie Years of the 2010s
The 2010s have been an interesting decade for film. While the medium saw massive advancements in the filmmaking techniques used to bring stories to life, it also increased reliance on pre-established properties to stay relevant. Even though it’s easy to look at prior decades through the lens of nostalgia, it’s also easy to forget how many amazing films came out in the 2010s. Simply put, the past decade has seen a massive shift in not only the type of stories that are being told but also how they were being told. With that in mind, here are our rankings for the best movie years of the 2010s.
Cover Photo: Pixar
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Notable Releases: The Tree of Life, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Help, Drive, Bridesmaids, X-Men: First Class.
Although 2011 saw a decent assortment of quality films, it also saw the release of a few stinkers. From Green Lantern, Battle: Los Angeles, and Abduction to Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star, Your Highness, and Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1, the bad far outweighs the good. Ultimately, nothing brings this year down in the rankings more than the Adam Sandler atrocity known as Jack & Jill.
Notable Releases: Avengers: Endgame, Booksmart, The Irishman, Parasite, Toy Story 4, Jojo Rabbit, John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum.
2019’s place on this list speaks less to the quality of the movies themselves and more to the fact that they haven’t really had time to settle in the public consciousness. With that in mind, there have also been several high-profile disappointments, at least on a creative level, including Glass, The Upside, Serenity, Hellboy, Wonder Park, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, The Hustle, and The Curse of La Llorona. There were a ton of creatively bankrupt movies that came out this year, and that’s only in the first half of the year.
Notable Releases: Moonlight, Zootopia, Arrival, Deadpool, Silence, Hell or High Water, Kubo and the Two Strings.
2016 had a decent number of quality genre films, dramas, and animated fare to choose from. At the same time, it also saw the release of too many terrible sequels, remakes, and adaptations to count. However, the year simply doesn’t have enough variety and depth within each genre for it to rank higher.
Notable Releases: 12 Years A Slave, Gravity, Before Midnight, Inside Llewyn Davis, Under The Skin, Her, Fruitvale Station.
2013 was an excellent year for those who don’t necessarily like blockbuster filmmaking with tons of indie hits and prestige films. Although films like Her, 12 Years a Slave, and Inside Llewyn Davis are arguably some of the best films of the decade, it unfortunately also featured duds like Grown Ups 2, After Earth, and the critically-reviled Movie 43. Ultimately, there aren’t enough good genre movies released within 2013, and this imbalance makes it hard to justify ranking it higher.
Notable Releases: Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse, Annihilation, A Quiet Place, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Black KKKlansman, The Favourite, Eighth Grade.
2018 was a great year for genre filmmaking. While movies like Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War solidified Marvel Studios’ decade of box office dominance, Sony quietly went and made the best superhero film of the decade with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Among instant genre classics such as A Quiet Place and Mission: Impossible – Fallout, there were tons of non-dramatic films. Aside from the lack of straightforward dramatic material, the fact that 2018 movies are still so fresh makes it hard to rank this particular year higher.
Notable Releases: The Master, The Avengers, Django Unchained, Looper, Moonrise Kingdom, The Place Beyond the Pines, Cloud Atlas.
Even though 2012 had its fair share of absolutely franchise-killing clunkers such as Alex Cross, Underworld: Awakening, and Pirahna 3DD, it also saw the release of several films that would change the Hollywood landscape as we know it. While the overall quality of movies wasn’t necessarily the best, it also saw the release of four massive sequels that all grossed over $1 billion: Skyfall, The Hobbit, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Avengers. In this respect, 2012 is perhaps the most critical year of the decade in terms of its influence on Hollywood’s business model moving forward.
Notable Releases: Inception, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, Black Swan, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Exit Through the Gift Shop.
2010 was easily one of the most balanced and dynamic years of the decade. Not only did it provide some of the best work from the decade’s best filmmakers, but it also offered one of its most underrated documentaries with Exit Through the Gift Shop. On top of this, it managed to provide one of the decades most rewatchable films in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Pixar’s best sequel in Toy Story 3. Ultimately, if The Last Airbender hadn’t come out this year, it honestly might have been in contention to top the decade.
Notable Releases: Boyhood, Grand Budapest Hotel, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Lego Movie, Whiplash, Birdman, Gone Girl.
While some might argue that 2014 is the best of the decade, it was also perhaps the most balanced with great genre fare that includes a trio of fantastic superhero movies, cerebral action films, excellent thrillers, and an all-time great science fiction film in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Throw in the masterpiece that is The LEGO Movie and a handful of exciting dramas, and you get an impressive overall year for movies. Unfortunately, the year also saw the release Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and, of course, the Nicolas Cage classic known as Left Behind.
Notable Releases: Get Out, Lady Bird, Three Billboards Over Ebbing, Missouri, Blade Runner 2049, Baby Driver, Logan, Coco.
As the first round of movies developed during the beginning of the Trump era to see release, it’s no surprise that 2017 was a reaction to the shifting social and political landscape of the United States and the world as a whole. Aside from this political context, there’s no doubt that the year was an absolute powerhouse for movies. While it saw a nice variety of blockbusters, 2017 also featured several smaller films that are bound to become modern classics that form up-and-coming filmmakers. Even though the year also saw the release of literal crap like The Emoji Movie, it’s hard to deny the influential nature of this year in particular on the industry as a whole. Much like the later years of the decade, however, it’s too soon to judge the real staying power of many of the movies released in 2017.
Notable Releases: Mad Max: Fury Road, Inside Out, The Martian, The Hateful Eight, Spotlight, Sicario, The Big Short.
Although 2015 features a smaller quantity of incredible films, the concentration of quality between them is hard to deny. While Mad Max: Fury Road and Inside Out are arguably two of the decade’s best films, the year also featured the best variety of objectively outstanding films across the board. The interesting thing about 2015 is that, despite seeing several terrible films throughout the year, none of them had high expectations to begin with. As a result, movies like Fantastic Four, Mortdecai, and Entourage aren’t able to outweigh all of the superb films that saw release throughout the year.
2015 may not have the most depth in terms of great blockbuster movies, and some other years throughout the decade might be a little flashier. However, it also features a series of instant classics that are bound to stand the test of time. More than anything, 2015 is the last great year for what we know as “classic cinema” before the invasion of the IP and streaming wars that would dominate the latter half of the decade.