It’s fitting that 2010 opens with the movie The Social Network, which depicts the founding of Facebook in 2004. We “liked” this burgeoning creation known as social media, and we especially liked that we could access it from our couches, or on a school bus ride home at the end of an exhausting day. The here-and-now sensibility we’ve learned from social media extended to YouTube and, eventually, to movie watching. Kids at college even stayed in their dorm room on a Saturday night to huddle around a screen for movie-watching.
So, streaming movies became a ‘thing’ in the 2010s, but movie theaters held their own. Movie theaters are also now poised for a comeback post-pandemic. According to the US Telecom, Media & Entertainment division of Deloitte Consulting LLP, the average number of movie tickets purchased by Americans each year has declined from 4.2 in 2009 to 3.4 in 2019. Still, 68% of consumers want to watch at least some movies in theaters once the pandemic is over, according to an October 2020 Deloitte survey. The report also indicates that although we’ve gotten cozy with home entertainment, streaming all movies is not the obvious path forward; it’s not what people want, and it’s not the answer for studios who are more focused on developing their own distribution channels these days.
In 2010, another big change hit; The Academy expanded the best-picture field to include up to ten nominations—that’s five more than the prior limit. The move spurred the nomination of more exciting and diverse movies, including sci-fi blockbusters, animated hits, comedies, and more movies directed by women, Blacks, Asians, and Latinos. The change sparked more movie-going, too, because the presumption that more movies could be nominated helps them “become more widely seen and discussed,” points out New York Times journalist Kyle Buchanan.
There’s no shortage of great movies to choose from in the 2010s. Diversity, originality, and the brilliant craft of storytelling touch every movie genre. The 2010s also became richer and more diverse because of the decade’s movies. Important themes, like racism and classism, were brought to the big screen in new ways (Get Out, Roma, Parasite). Philosophical questions deepened movies about childhood (Tree of Life, Boyhood), romance (La La Land), and marriage (A Marriage Story) and gave us pause in our own lives. It’s the kind of pause we want more of in our “go, go, go” digital age. Take a look at our round-up of the best movies of the 2010s.
So ICYMI, you should definitely go back and watch these critically acclaimed movies from the 2010s:
Best 2010s Drama Movies: Tree of Life (2011)
Directed and written by Richard Curtis, this charming ode to love also instantly became directed by Terrence Malick. This American epic drama portrays the meaning of life through one man’s reminiscences of his childhood during the 1950s and a narrative that weaves in spirituality and cosmic imagery, including the origins of life on Earth. Starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler, Jessica Chastain, and Tye Sheridan, this movie tops the critics’ list of best films of the 2010s. It’s easy to see why. The movie tells the story of the O’Brien family: a warm and thoughtful mother (Jessica Chastain), a strict and sometimes bullying father (Brad Pitt), and their three sons. The family lives in Texas, and the details of family life are closely observed. The mother says at one point, “people must choose to follow either the path of grace or the path of nature.” The movie captures life’s undercurrents, whether one is searching for grace or not, which makes the movie haunting and powerful. A tragedy besets the family when the main character, Jack O’Brien is a teenager. The movie shifts back and forth between present and past as Jack (Sean Penn as the adult Jack) comes to grips with his childhood and this tragedy. The director’s family endured a tragedy in Terrence’s childhood, and this movie has autobiographical threads in it.
Movie tickets sold: Tree of Life was a huge success earning more than $61 million worldwide; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2011 was $7.93.
Where to watch Tree of Life: Buy or rent on Amazon
Best 2010s Drama Movies: Manchester By the Sea (2016)
Directed by Kenneth Lonergan, this independent tragedy film became a critical and box office success. It stars Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, and Lucas Hedges. Set in the eponymous town on the North Shore of Boston, the film follows a depressed loner Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) who, after his brother dies, becomes the legal guardian of his brother’s teenage son, Patrick Chandler (Lucas Hedges). The 16-year-old boy loves his uncle and they go out on the boat together in this fishing village. But Patrick senses his uncle’s emotional distance. In flashbacks, we see the source of Lee’s depression, which is persistent and profound grief. When his own children were young, Lee forgot to put the fireplace guard up after a night of partying with his friends. His wife Randi (Michelle Williams) had gone to bed, and the house burned down, killing his three young children but his wife survived. They divorced, and Lee went into freefall. He’s the picture of walking grief–grief and guilt that are inconsolable. The plot and performances are wrenching. Lee’s unfolding relationship with his nephew and Lee’s encounter with his ex-wife also show the nuances of living with long-term grief. The movie is an honest and unflinching exploration of tragedy that speaks to people unable to “move on,” as our culture often suggests.
Movie tickets sold: Manchester By the Sea received critical acclaim and earned nearly $78 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2016 was $8.65.
Where to watch Manchester By the Sea: Amazon
Best 2010s Drama Movies: Lady Bird (2017)
Directed by Greta Gerwig, this coming-of-age, comedy-drama is set in Sacramento in the early 2000s. It tells the story of 17-year-old high school senior Christine, aka Lady Bird, (Saoirse Ronan) and her difficult relationship with her mother (Laurie Metcalf). The movie is loosely semi-autobiographical and based on the director’s relationship with her own mother. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Timothee Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Lois Smith, the film was considered by many critics to be one of the best films of the 2010s. Saoirse Ronan as self-proclaimed Lady Bird is captivating as the sharp, restless senior who wants to break free of her controlling, critical Mother, and her stifling hometown, in favor of an East Coast College. She navigates boys and high school with her charming best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) and pushes onward with pluck. This film gets emotional details just right, and it feels deeply personal and universal all at once.
Movie tickets sold: Lady Bird was a big hit earning nearly $79 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2017 was $8.97.
Where to watch Lady Bird: Netflix
Best 2010s Drama Movies: Boyhood (2014)
Directed by Richard Linklater, this coming-of-age film is considered an American epic by filming a boy from ages 6 through 18 to show the true sweep of childhood. Linklater puts his original concept to work brilliantly as he films his character Mason Evans Jr (Ellar Coltrane) and his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director’s own daughter) as they grow up in Texas with divorced parents (Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke). The project began without a completed script—only loose plot points—and the director sketched out future scripts based on changes he noted in the actors and trends he saw in re-watching the previous year’s footage. He also let the actors contribute to the writing by incorporating their real-life experiences into the script. The adults in the movie demonstrably mature, too. Boyhood packs both an emotional and philosophical wallop. It captures the “real deal” of life—the small intimate moments and the poignancy of childhood passing all too quickly. Ethan Hawke, who plays Mason’s father, said his own experience of watching Ellar Coltrane grow and change was like “watching time-lapse photography of a human being.” It’s captivating how Linklater compresses and captures one boy’s life. But it’s Linklater’s humanism that joins with his naturalism that makes this movie a stand-out emotional success. When Mason (Ellar Coltrane) goes off to college, we feel the gut punch that his mother (Patricia Arquette) feels.
Movie tickets sold: Boyhood was a hit earning over $57 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2014 was $8.17.
Where to watch Boyhood: Amazon
Best 2010s Drama Movies: Marriage Story (2019)
Directed by Noah Baumbach, this movie boasts an all-star cast led by Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Merritt Wever, and Julie Hagerty. After its theatrical release, this film went straight to Netflix, a platform that seemed fitting for this movie that burrowed into both our hearts and homes. The movie is an intimate portrait of the marriage between Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver) that unravels for small and big reasons, the way so many marriages do. Even intact couples felt the frisson of recognition watching this movie. Noah Baumbach himself is divorced from Jennifer Jason Leigh, and his parents divorced when he was young. This inspired his movie The Squid and the Whale (2005). For Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach used his own material as well as reports from divorced friends, lawyers, judges, and mediators; it’s also been suggested that Laura Dern’s performance was inspired by celebrity attorney Laura Wassner who represented Dern in her own divorce — and, coincidentally, Jennifer Jason Leigh in her divorce from writer/director Noah Baumbach. Because the movie captures the emotional minefield and maneuvering seen in many divorce proceedings, prominent New York divorce attorneys like Faith G. Miller agree that this movie is an accurate portrayal of the concept of winners and losers in divorce, particularly when child custody is involved. The plot and performances are subtle and affecting, and we never lose sight of how much this couple once loved each other. “What I love about Nicole” and “What I love about Charlie” are lists that each spouse writes about the other; the lists are read aloud at key moments. This movie, while heart-wrenching, gets and gives a lot of love.
Fun Fact: #TheatersAreBack means more than just opening post-COVID-19. For Marriage Story, Netflix leased the legendary Paris Theatre, the last single screen theater in New York City, to show Marriage Story exclusively. Going forward, Netflix says it will use the theater for “special events, screenings, and theatrical releases of its films.”
Movie tickets sold: Marriage Story was a critically acclaimed hit for Netflix (which does not disclose its financial numbers), and was deemed an accurate portrayal of the unravelling of a marriage and the complexities of divorce. It’s reported to have made more than $2.3 million in its 30-day theatrical release and is the first one the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2019 was $9.16.
Where to watch Marriage Story: Netflix
Best 2010s Drama Movies: A Star is Born (2018)
Directed by Bradley Cooper, this American musical romantic drama was a huge critical and box office success. Starring Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliot, Andrew Dice Clay, and Dave Chapelle, the film’s soundtrack was also a sensation. It received seven Grammy nominations and won four. The song “Shallow” won Best Original Song at the Academy Awards, where the movie was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Actress (Lady Gaga), and Best Supporting Actor (Sam Elliot) categories. The film follows the intense but tortured romance between Jackson “Jack” Maine (Bradley Cooper), a famous country rock singer who meets budding singer-songwriter Ally (Lady Gaga) at a club one night after his show. He hears her sing an Edith Piaf tribute and becomes obsessed with her. Their relationship is challenged by Jack’s alcoholic addiction and his envy of her career as she takes off as a pop star. They marry nonetheless and Ally is devoted to his care as he spirals downward. Their love is far from shallow, it’s true, and this movie’s deep impact stems from its masterful blend of music and emotion.
Movie tickets sold: A Star is Born was a major hit earning nearly $432 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2018 was $9.11.
Where to watch A Star is Born: Amazon
Best 2010s Drama Movies: Birdman (2014)
Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, this comedy-drama stars Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, and Amy Ryan. A critical and box office success, the film was praised for its originality and strangeness — plot points open to multiple interpretations. The film follows Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), a has-been actor who was famous for playing a superhero named Birdman. Riggan wants to reclaim the critics’ respect by writing, directing, and starring in a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carner’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” Riggan hires his daughter Sam (Emma Stone) as his assistant. Riggan also tries to reconnect with Sam who is a recovering drug addict. Twitter plays a role in their relationship— Sam knows how to use it to boost her father’s success; as he trends on Twitter, he rises in her estimation of him. His previews for his play are fraught with drama, however. To make matters worse, Riggan struggles with a critical “inner voice,” his superhero persona Birdman. The movie is an absorbing story that raises questions about the pressures of achievement and the demands of love.
Movie tickets sold: Birdman was a favorite among movie critics and earned more than $103 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2014 was $8.17.
Where to watch Birdman: Amazon
Best 2010s Drama Movies: The Irishman (2019)
Directed by Martin Scorsese, this epic crime film is based on the 2004 nonfiction book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt. Starring Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, and Harvey Keitel, the film was a huge critical and streaming success on Netflix. Critics and viewers were wowed by the de-aging technology used on Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, who came out of retirement for this film. The film follows Frank Sheeran (Robert DeNiro), a truck driver who becomes a hitman involved with mobster Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and his Pennsylvania crime family from the 50s through the 70s. Bufalino has ties to the powerful Teamster Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), and Sheeran begins working for Hoffa as his bodyguard. The film is told from the perspective of Frank Sheeran in a nursing home reflecting on his time as Hoffa’s bodyguard and friend; his tight relationship with Bufalino; “painting houses,” a euphemism for contract killing; and the shifting landscape of the Teamsters through the Kennedy and Nixon years. Sheeran’s daughter Peggy (Lucy Gallina, Anna Paquin), with her keen observation and conscience, anchors viewers watching the criminal underworld in action.
Movie tickets sold: Thanks to its powerhouse cast, The Irishman was a cult favorite released on Netflix, after a very limited release in theaters (under the title I Heard You Paint Houses), which earned just under $1 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2019 was $9.16. In that same year, Netflix hiked its basic streaming costs from $10.99 to $12.99.
Where to watch The Irishman: Netflix
Best 2010s Drama Movies: Phantom Thread (2017)
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, this historical film is set in 1950s London. It stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock, an haute couture dressmaker, Lesley Manville, and Vicky Krieps. This is Daniel Day-Lewis’s last role before his retirement. The movie, with its sumptuous costume design, was a critical and commercial success. As always, it’s fascinating to watch Daniel Day-Lewis, and this performance showcases his obsessive genius. Woodcock creates fashions for high society, including royalty, and his talents are matched by a controlling, perfectionistic personality. Woodcock meets a young waitress (Vicky Krieps) who he brings home to be his muse. Their relationship, with its dark psychological twists, contrast with Woodcock’s easy intimacy with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) and the aesthetic values of 50s haute culture–all of which make this movie absorbing to watch.
Movie tickets sold: Phantom Thread was a hit earning almost $49 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2017 was $8.97.
Where to watch Phantom Thread: Amazon
Best 2010s Drama Movies: La La Land (2016)
Directed by Damien Chazelle, this American musical romantic comedy-drama was a blockbuster. Starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, Finn Wittrock, and J.K. Simmons, this film is an ode to artists and lovers and the city of Los Angeles itself. LA appears magical, and the musical score and dance numbers dial up the city’s transcendence. Critics and the audience were obsessed when the movie opened and, months later, still found themselves singing tunes like “City of Stars” or “Another Day of Sun.” We even looked at traffic jams differently! In this film, struggling actress Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) and jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) meet, fall in love, and pursue their artistic careers, but not without a few challenges. The movie features lovely dancing on old Hollywood lots, whimsical dialogue, and the portrayal of authentic dilemmas. The dream-sequence surprise ending had everyone talking—still talking…along with singing and dancing.
Movie tickets sold: La La Land was a massive success earning a whopping $445.6 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2016 was $8.65.
Where to watch La La Land: Amazon
Best 2010s Historical Movies: BlacKkKlansman (2018)
Directed by Spike Lee, this American biographical black comedy crime film is based on the 2014 memoir Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth. Starring John David Washington as Stallworth, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, and Topher Grace as David Duke, the movie follows the true story of Stallworth, an African American detective in Colorado Springs’ police department who infiltrated and exposed the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the 70s. He did so with the help of a white undercover cop who posed as Stallworth in person, but Stallworth handled the outlandish phone conversations, including one to David Duke, the Grand Wizard at the time. Duke processed and signed Stallworth’s membership in the KKK. In this movie, Zimmerman (Adam Driver) is the white co-worker, and he and Stallworth (John David Washington, son of Denzel Washington) handle the investigation brilliantly. The movie is powerful; its ending, to take it one step further, is prescient. As we now know, much of law enforcement were shocked by the Capitol riots, but white supremacists themselves are surprised only that they’re considered domestic terrorists, and now treated as such.
Movie tickets sold: BlacKkKlansman was a critical success earning more than $93 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2018 was $9.11.
Where to watch BlacKkKlansman: Amazon
Best 2010s Historical Movies: Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, this American thriller portrays the nearly decade-long manhunt for Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The search leads to the discovery of his compound in Pakistan and the military raid where bin Laden was killed on May 2, 2011. Starring Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Reda Kateb, James Gandolfini, Kyle Chandler, and Chris Pratt, the film shows the dedication of fictional CIA intelligence analyst Maya (Jessica Chastain). Her quiet intensity is perfectly calibrated and matched to the task at hand. The film also shows controversial torture tactics used by the CIA to gain information. More than anything, this film gives us a powerful glimpse into a world we wanted to decipher after the world we knew changed irrevocably.
Movie tickets sold: Zero Dark Thirty was a major hit earning almost $135 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2012 was $7.96.
Where to watch Zero Dark Thirty: Amazon
Best 2010s Historical Movies: Selma (2014)
Directed by Ava DuVernay, this historical drama is based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches directed by James Bevel and led by Martin Luther King Jr., Hosea Williams, and John Lewis, the living legend and Congressman from Atlanta who died in July 2020 at age 80. The film stars David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr., Carmen Ejogo, Common, and Martin Sheen. The film follows the tumultuous years of the mid 60s. Dr. King wins the Nobel Peace Prize but civil rights are under attack, including voting registration, and the Ku Klux Klan are a dominant presence. Four Black girls die in a Birmingham Baptist church when the Klan bombs the church. President Johnson initially ignores Dr. King’s pleas to allow Black citizens to vote unencumbered. Civil rights activists then organize a march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama, and as they cross the Edmund Pettis Bridge, they encounter troopers who attack the peaceful protestors with clubs, tear gas, and other weapons. The attack is shown on national television. White protestors join the second attempt to walk in peaceful protest, and Dr. King hesitates after praying on it. President Johnson finally speaks to Congress to ask for swift passage of the Voting Rights Act (1965) to eliminate restrictions on voting. The walk to Montgomery takes place, and Dr. King gives his famous “How Long, Not Long” speech on the State Capitol’s steps. The film brilliantly captures the insidious racism of society and the courage of the activists who led the way to a new era.
Movie tickets sold: Selma was a hit earning nearly $67 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2014 was $8.17.
Where to watch Selma: Buy or rent on Amazon
Best 2010s Historical Movies: Dunkirk (2017)
Directed by Christopher Nolan, this war film depicts the Dunkirk evacuation of World War II from three perspectives: land, sea, and air. Starring Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Mark Rylance, and Tom Hardy, the film is short on dialogue but heavy on suspense, sound effects, cinematography, and historic boats and airplanes. It’s the highest-grossing World War II movie and critics call it one of the greatest war films. We see the war from the perspective of the soldier—soldiers frequently in despair because Dunkirk is not a battle of victory but rather of evacuation. The film captures moment-by-moment mayhem and dire decision-making. A shell-shocked young soldier, civilians making rescue attempts in their own boats, and soldiers walking into the ocean in desperation; this film does an exceptional job portraying the hell of war through both story-telling and large-scale action.
Movie tickets sold: Dunkirk was a fan favorite earning more than $519.4 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2017 was $8.97.
Where to watch Dunkirk: Hulu with STARZ
Best 2010s Historical Movies: 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Directed by Steve McQueen, this biographical drama gives us a stark view of the atrocities of 19th century, pre-Civil War slavery. Adapted from Solomon Northup’s memoir titled Twelve Years a Slave, the movie stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, a man born free in New York in the early 1800s who was kidnapped and sold into slavery by two conartists. The film tells the story of Solomon Northup’s life in bondage on Edwin Epp’s (Michael Fassbender) Louisiana cotton plantation for 12 years before his eventual rescue. While there, he befriends a young female slave named Patsey who Solomon Northup describes in his book as “a joyous creature, a laughing light-hearted girl…with an air of loftiness in her movement that neither labor nor weariness, nor punishment could destroy.” Slaveowner Edwin Epps routinely rapes and brutalizes Patsey — often to the point of near death — and is spurred by his jealous wife, Mary (Sarah Paulson). The film also stars Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfre Woodard, Michael K. Williams, Paul Giamatti, Quvenzhané Wallis, Michael K. Williams, Chris Chalk, Dwight Henry, Adepero Oduye, and Kelsey Scott. Nominated for nine Academy Awards, 12 Years a Slave took home three of them including: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Lupita Nyong’o’s brilliant and memorable performance as Patsey.
Movie tickets sold: 12 Years a Slave was a critical success earning nearly $181 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2013 was $8.13.
Where to watch 12 Years a Slave: Buy or rent on Amazon
Best 2010s Historical Movies: The Black Panther (2018)
Directed by Ryan Coogler, this American superhero film is based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Many critics consider it one of the best Marvel films. Viewers agreed; it became one of the highest-grossing films of all time. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, the movie stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis. It’s the first Marvel film with both a predominantly black cast and a black director. The film follows T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) who is crowned king of Wakanda after his father’s death. T’Challa is challenged by Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) who jockeys to launch a global revolution that’ll compromise Wakanda. As T’Challa leads his people, the movie blends technology and superpower in a thrilling universe that leaves us reexamining our own world. It’s a Marvel masterpiece.
Movie tickets sold: The Black Panther was a massive box office success earning more than $1.34 billion at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2018 was $9.11.
Where to watch The Black Panther: Disney+
Best 2010s Historical Movies: Spotlight (2015)
This film is a gripping portrayal of the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team of investigative reporters who broke the story on the Catholic Church’s systemic coverup up of child sex abuse perpetuated by priests in the Boston area for decades. The Globe Spotlight team consisted of reporters Matt Carroll, Sacha Pfeiffer, and Michael Rezendes, and editor Walter V. Robinson. The story follows the team as they uncover details of the scandal, including how the hiding of and moving around of priests was systemic, and went all the way to the highest levels of the Vatican. Once the Spotlight team’s original story broke back in January 2002, it inspired hundreds of followup stories in the Boston Globe telling the stories of more and more survivors who came forward to share their own stories of abuse and neglect by the church. The original story also broke open coverup stories in cities, towns, and countries around the world. Written by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, the movie starred Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Stanley Tucci, Liev Schreiber, Billy Crudup, and John Slattery with McCarthy also directing.
Movie tickets sold: Spotlight was a major hit worldwide pulling in nearly $91 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2015 was $8.43.
Where to watch Spotlight: Netflix
Best 2010s Historical Movies: 1917 (2019)
Directed by Sam Mendes, this British war film is partially based on stories told to Sam Mendes by his paternal grandfather Alfred about his service during World War I. Starring George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch, the film was a huge critical and box office success. The film shows the horrors of war right up close as it follows two British soldiers Will Schofield (George MacKay) and Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman). They have a mission to deliver an important message to Colonel Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch) to call off a doomed attack scheduled for the next morning. The attack would jeopardize the lives of 1,600 men, including Blake’s brother Joseph (Richard Madden). The movie is filmed as though it’s a single cut–it’s unrelenting. We share in the soldiers’ urgency and fear, we live in the trenches and dodge tripwires with them. The film powerfully captures the brutal war of attrition that defined World War I.
Movie tickets sold: 1917 was a popular hit earning more than $367 million worldwide at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2019 was $9.16.
Where to watch 1917: Buy or rent on Amazon
Best 2010s Historical Movies: The King’s Speech (2010)
Directed by Tom Hooper, this British historical drama stars Colin Firth as the future King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as the Australian speech and language therapist who helps the new king overcome a stammer to deliver his first wartime radio broadcast when Britain declares war on Germany in 1939. Ascension to the throne is thrust upon “Bertie,” as King George VI is known to his family. Eldest brother King Edward VIII abdicates the throne in order to marry a twice-divorced American woman. So Bertie hires Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who gets to the emotional root of Bertie’s stammer and, through unorthodox methods, cures him of his stammer just in time for his soaring speech. The film explores the upbringing of King George VI and follows the friendship of Bertie and Lionel at this pivotal time in history. This film is inspiring to anyone who wants to overcome a hardship.
Movie tickets sold: The King’s Speech was a major hit earning over $430.8 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2010 was $7.89.
Where to watch The King’s Speech: Buy or rent on Amazon
Best 2010s Culturally Significant Movies: Get Out (2017)
Directed by Jordan Peele, this American horror film is a total original that knocks your socks off. Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Lil Rel Howery, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Lakeith Stanfield, and Catherine Keener, the film was a major hit praised for its originality, performances, use of black comedy, and examination of social themes. The film follows a young black man Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) who goes with his white girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) to meet her family in upstate New York. There, things go from strange to terrifying as Chris discovers a secret about Rose’s family. The film does a great job mixing racism, social oddness, paranoia, and psychological horror. As Chris puzzles through the family and their strange housekeeper and groundskeeper, we too are guessing and twitching with dread. The film is a must-see and sparks provocative conversation afterwards.
Movie tickets sold: Get Out was a smash hit earning $252.5 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2017 was $8.97.
Where to watch Get Out: Amazon
Best 2010s Culturally Significant Movies: The Social Network (2010)
Directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin, this biographical drama film was a major critical and commercial success. It’s adapted from the book The Accidental Billionaires and stars Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, along with Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, and Rooney Mara. The film portrays the founding of the social networking website Facebook, while Mark Zuckerberg is a sophomore at Harvard University, and the lawsuits that follow. Zuckerberg allegedly stole the idea for Facebook from the Winklevoss twins, classmates who’d approached him about creating the early incarnation of Facebook for Harvard students. Zuckerberg goes on to create a broader version of Facebook, aimed at all of the Ivy League schools, with a friend. Later, Zuckerberg tries to dilute the shares of this friend and co-founder once Zuckerberg is able to find a wealthy investor. The film captures Zuckerberg’s brilliance and his ruthless business sense. Zuckerberg’s exciting rapid-fire speech seems to mirror the brave new world we’re all trying to keep up with. We also see in this film the irony of gathering loads of “friends” in a carefully constructed social world, while a lonelier reality lurks right behind this facade. Zuckerberg’s college girlfriend, who’d also felt his harsh treatment, refuses to “friend” him on Facebook.
Movie tickets sold: The Social Network was a popular hit earning close to $225 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2010 was $7.89.
Where to watch The Social Network: Netflix
Best 2010s Culturally Significant Movies: Moonlight (2016)
Directed by Barry Jenkins, this coming-of-age drama is based on the unpublished semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. It’s considered one of the best films of the 21st century and remains a landmark LGBTQ and African-American film as it features an all-black cast. The film stars Trevante Rhodes, Andre Holland, Janelle Monae, Ashton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome, Naomie Harris, and Mahershala Ali. The film unfolds in three chapters of the main character’s life: childhood, adolescence, early adult life. The periods are named “Little,” “Chiron,” and “Black”—the three names used to refer to the same person. The wonder of this movie is its subtle character development and deep emotional resonance without succumbing to melodrama. The main character is gay and suffers bullying at school and domestic abuse at the hands of his crack-addicted Mother. But his early life also features moments of grace: he meets a drug dealer who becomes a father figure to him; he’s able to express his conflicted emotions with a childhood friend. Toxic masculinity is set against wistful Miami beaches and sexual longing, and the effect takes your breath away. The iconic scene in the diner when the jukebox plays “Hello Stranger” (Oooh, it seems like a mighty long time) by Barbara Lewis is one of many scenes and images that stay with viewers in this poetically beautiful movie.
Movie tickets sold: Moonlight was a major hit bringing in more than $65 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2016 was $8.65.
Where to watch Moonlight: Buy or rent on Amazon
Best 2010s Culturally Significant Movies: Parasite (2019)
Directed by Bong Joon-ho, this South Korean black comedy thriller was a smash hit in this country and is considered by many critics to be one of the best films of the 21st century. It’s the first South Korean film to receive Academy Award recognition, winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Feature Film. The film stars Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, and Park So-dam. It tells a story of a poor family who insinuate themselves into a wealthy family by posing as unrelated individuals who have irresistible skills to offer each family member. The film stirs a range of emotions, especially dread, and it veers into excess at times (the director credits Tarantino as an influence). Yet the tightly crafted story, original story is breathtaking in its originality, close observation of human nature, and takes on classism.
Movie tickets sold: Parasite was very popular earning nearly $255 million worldwide at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2019 was $9.16.
Where to watch Parasite: Hulu
Best 2010s Culturally Significant Movies: Roma (2018)
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, this Mexican drama is set in a 1970 middle-class neighborhood of Mexico City, loosely based on Cuaron’s upbringing in the Colonia Roma neighborhood. Starring Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Fernando Grediaga, and Jorge Antonio Guerro, the film is shot in black and white, evoking memories. The film was an instant critical and commercial success, streaming on Netflix soon after it opened in the theater. Many critics say it’s one of the best films of the 2010s. The movie follows the life of live-in housekeeper Cleo Gutiérrez (Yalitza Aparicio) of a middle-class family. She’s loved by the family and feels part of the family, but she’s still the housekeeper at everyone’s beck and call and sometimes even the scapegoat when the family is stressed. The movie explores classism, the quiet suffering of women, chauvinism, and political movements of that time and place. It also shows what heroism looks like. Watch this beautiful movie and feel transported to the heart of life.
Movie tickets sold: Roma had a limited theatrical run, earning over $3 million at the box office before going to streaming on Netflix and is noted as one of the most watched subtitled movies of all time; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2018 was $9.11.
Where to watch Roma: Netflix
Best 2010s Action Movies: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino, this comedy-drama stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margo Robbie, Zoe Bell, Kurt Russell, and Luke Perry. The film is dedicated to Luke Perry (Beverly Hills, 90210) who died of a stroke soon after filming. The film was a huge critical and commercial success. It’s set in the gritty glamour of 1969 Los Angeles and follows a fading character actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they confront a changing film industry. Charles Manson’s tribe of lunatics gather in an intersecting story; the film becomes a modern fairytale honoring Hollywood’s golden age of narrative and visual glory. Brad Pitt plays Cliff with stunt-crew style, and his showdown with the Manson family displays Quentin Tarantino’s imagination at its best.
Movie tickets sold: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was a hit earning a staggering $377.4 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2019 was $9.16.
Where to watch Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: Amazon
Best 2010s Action Movies: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Directed by George Miller, this Australian post-apocalyptic action film is the fourth installment and widely considered the best in the Mad Max franchise. Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Riley Keough, Zoe Kravitz, Abbey Lee, and Courtney Eaton, the film is set in a desert wasteland where gas and water are rare commodities. The film follows Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) who flees in an armored truck with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a rebel soldier. They’ve rescued the five wives of tyrant Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and a lengthy road battle ensues with Joe and his army chasing Max and Furiosa through canyons and biker gangs and mines and swampland. While this Mad Max movie was a huge critical success, it didn’t light up the box office. Still, franchise fans say it’s hands-down the best Mad Max and critics say it’s one of the greatest action films of all time.
Movie tickets sold: Mad Max: Fury Road was a hit earning just shy of $367 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2015 was $8.43.
Where to watch Mad Max: Fury Road: Buy or rent from Amazon
Best 2010s Series Franchise Movies: The Hunger Games (2012), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 (2014), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 (2015)
“May the odds be ever in your favor.” This blockbuster franchise, based on the trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins, is a series of science fiction dystopian adventure films that had everything going its way, including a stellar cast. Starring Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, and Donald Sutherland as President Snow, the films (and books) had everybody obsessed. The first three films set records for opening-day sales at the box office, and the first film in the series is one of the highest-grossing film franchises of all time. (A prequel film The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is currently in development.) Jennifer Lawrence soared as the brilliant and nimble Katniss. Her heroism and love story with Peeta Mellark (Liam Hemsworth) carried the day and hooked loads of children and teens who needed just the right story to engage them in sustained reading, too. Like the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games opened a whole new world to kids and adults hungry for adventure. Happy Hunger Games!
Movie tickets sold: The Hunger Games franchise earned a whopping $2.9 billion at the box office and is noted as the 21st highest grossing franchise of all time.; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. ranged from $7.96 in 2012 to $8.43 in 2015.
Where to watch all of The Hunger Games movies: Amazon
Best 2010s Series Franchise Movies: Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens (2015), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2017), and Star Wars Ep. VIII The Last Jedi (2019)
The Star Wars sequel trilogy is the third trilogy of the Star Wars franchise and was released between 2015-2019 to the delight of Star Wars fanatics around the globe. The first installment of the trilogy, directed by J.J. Abrams — who also co-wrote the script with Lawrence Kasden and Michael Arndt — was particularly exciting for fans because Hans Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) all reprised their roles in the movie — and the trilogy, along with new cast members Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, and John Boyega. Overall, the Star Wars movies have become a cultural and moral force, and this trilogy is no different with its close look at learning handed down through the generations. May this force be with all of us.
Movie tickets sold: Stars Wars Ep VII was one of the top grossing films of all time, earning more than $2 billion at the box office; Rogue One and The Last Jedi brought in $1 billion and $1.3 billion respectively. The average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. from 2015 to 2019 ranged from $8.43 to $9.16.
Where to watch the Star Wars trilogy: Buy or rent Star Wars trilogy on Amazon
Best 2010s Drama-Comedy Movies: Home Again (2017)
Written, produced, and directed by Nancy Meyers, this is another movie where we fell in love with the home. Reese Witherspoon stars in this feel-good movie about a woman who is in the midst of some pretty major life changes. Following her recent move from NYC to CA with her two daughters, her character Alice goes out with friends to celebrate her 40th birthday where she meets three aspiring filmmakers with whom she develops a lasting friendship. Love, heartache, and complicated relationships are themes throughout Nancy Meyers’ movies, as is her talent for creating great stories, lovably flawed characters, and jaw-droppingly gorgeous homes that make us all feel like we’re living in the house, too, with all of her characters.
Movie tickets sold: Home Again was a big hit with audiences earning nearly $37.3 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2017 was $8.97.
Where to watch Home Again: STARZPLAY
Best 2010s Drama-Comedy Movies: The Intern (2015)
The Intern stars Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway, and was also written, directed, and produced by Nancy Meyers. Like her other iconic movies, this one has amazing set design featuring a gorgeous Brooklyn office space and a Brooklyn brownstone in a way that feels like they are other characters in the movie. In this movie, a retired and widowed salesman (Robert DeNiro) goes back into the workforce to stave off boredom and try new things. He finds work as a personal assistant to a young, successful, female entrepreneur (Anne Hathaway). The two develop mutual trust and respect, learn from one another, and find happiness in true friendship.
Movie tickets sold: The Intern was a huge hit, grossing nearly $200 million at the box office; the average price of a movie ticket in the U.S. in 2015 was $8.43.
Where to watch The Intern: Watch now on Amazon
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