It’s no stretch of the imagination to profess that it’s a great time to be a nerd. The debut of Iron Man in 2008 heralded a veritable explosion of genre movies, both in quantity and quality, and unofficially kicked off a renaissance for sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero fans. At the close of the 2010s, your friends at The Geek Embassy are back to give you our top ten movies of the past ten years. As you can imagine, we have an enormous list to cull and some movies just can’t make the cut. So since Dante has the day off work, we’re giving you not just one but TWO top ten lists. First, we’ll delve into the best movies by year and we’ll follow it up immediately with the top ten movies overall; hopefully, we’ll get to all of your favorites! Without further adieu, let’s jump right in!
Best Movies of the Decade by Year
This was the best genre movie of 2010 and it’s not even close. I’m sure you already hear the foghorn in your head and see the slow-mo truck falling over the bridge. This was a genre-defining movie that had everyone talking for years after it released, and demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that science-fiction movies can be brainy, thought-provoking, well-acted, and worthy of top-notch talent. Inception continues to boggle viewers to this day and is one of the best sci-fi movies of all time.
Honorable Mentions: How to Train Your Dragon, Scott Pilgrim vs the World
2011: Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 2
There’s no way that Harry Potter can be omitted from this top ten. Say what you want about JK Rowling, but her creation of wizards and witchcraft is a cultural touchstone and captured the imagination of the entire planet. Deathly Hallows part 2 was the tour-de-force we all wanted for the conclusion of the Harry Potter saga. In a certain sense Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint all grew up with us. Watching their final adventures unfold and culminate in the epic battle of Hogwarts was a dream come true. As much as I personally love Captain America: The First Avenger, great endings will always beat a solid beginning. Deathly Hallows part 2 gave us everything we wanted to conclude the HP film series, and no other movie in 2011 could hope to top it.
Honorable Mentions: Captain America: The First Avenger, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, X-Men: First Class
2012: Marvel’s The Avengers
It can’t be done. The Avengers are unfilmable. X-Men are the better bet for an ensemble superhero movie. I said all of those things in the past. I could not have been any more wrong if I tried. 2012 brought the world a film that defied even Disney’s wildest expectations. Seeing that iconic shot of Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hulk, Hawk Guy, and Iron Man facing down an alien invasion still makes me squeal. Our star-studded cast worked so well together on screen despite sparingly interacting with each other’s previous movies. We got an after-credits scene that set up the next seven years worth of MCU movies with the nameless debut of Thanos, the Mad Titan. We had Marvel Studios movies before The Avengers, but it wasn’t until the film debuted that we really believed that we had a bona fide Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Honorable Mentions – Dredd, Looper, The Hunger Games
2013 was just disappointing for genre movies. We had a lot of promising blockbusters that ended up as duds. Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, The Lone Ranger, Pacific Rim, The Wolverine, and Man of Steel all either financially flopped or bombed with fans. In a year where the best genre movies were only okay, an animated Disney film rose to the top. Frozen was all over the box office and (unfortunately) all over our radios for years to come. It’s a genuinely cute movie with one song that we all love to hate and some clever subversions of Disney movie genre tropes, including true love’s kiss. I’m sure you’re all going to @ me, but let’s be real. Am I really going to pick The Desolation of Smaug over this? No, no, I will not.
Honorable Mentions: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
2014: Guardians of the Galaxy
This was the last time I ever called into question any decision from Marvel Studios. When GOTG was announced, even fans like me who’d been reading comics for decades were scratching their heads. The Guardians were D-list, the bottom of the barrel heroes that nearly no one cared about. I thought this was going to be the beginning of the end of the MCU. I could not have been more wrong. Leave it to James Gunn to make the world fall in love with a talking tree and his best friend, a raccoon with a machine gun. This action-comedy set the stage for the cosmic side of the MCU and brought Thanos into the spotlight for the first time. Paired with a killer soundtrack, Guardians of the Galaxy reinvigorated zest for the MCU and showed that Marvel Studios could truly spin yarn into gold.
Honorable Mentions: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Lego Movie, Edge of Tomorrow, Big Hero 6
2015: Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road was the movie that none of us knew we wanted but we all fell in love with anyway. We have a movie with the barest of bare-bones plots that still has people yelling “Witness me!” nearly 5 years later. Charlize Theron shines as Imperator Furiosa, a sniper-rifle wielding badass with one robot arm and zero f***s to give. This surprisingly feminist action movie somehow billed Tom Hardy’s rendition of Mad Max as the main character when it was all Charlize Theron from the minute she walked on screen. I heard this movie described as Mario Kart from Hell, and I can’t say that description is wrong. This is one of the best action movies of all time and rightfully deserves the top slot for 2015 over the only other movie that had a chance.
Honorable Mention: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I hate, hate, HATE to sideline my beloved Captain America for a third time on this list, but it had to be done. Deadpool was incredible and might never have been made if the test footage hadn’t been leaked. Before 2016, studios had been afraid to make R-rated superhero movies for fear of them being less profitable since they excluded kids, a key demographic. With the undeniable and stupid amounts of success generated by Deadpool, we opened a door for the future of comic book movies going forward. Ryan Reynolds basically plays himself in a red leather costume and lifts Deadpool straight off the pages complete with a demolition of the fourth wall and toilet humor that somehow worked in 2016. Is this a perfect movie? No, but it was a landmark for pushing the limits of genre movies forward and proving that superheroes aren’t just for kids.
Honorable Mentions: Captain America: Civil War, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
2017: Get Out
I’m not a big fan of horror, but it certainly fits into the overall umbrella of “genre movies” and Get Out most certainly deserves the top spot for 2017. This culturally relevant movie tackles racism and trauma in unique, compelling, and horrifying ways. The sci-fi inspired evil plan is simple but more terrifying than any of us expected. Get Out’s brand of psychological, cerebral horror captured hearts and minds in an era where a brighter spotlight shines on racial tensions and racial injustice. Daniel Kaluuya leads a cast of brilliant performances that left audiences unsettled, uncomfortable, and reflective. What else can we ask from a movie but to leave us talking about it?
Honorable Mentions: Logan, Wonder Woman
2018: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
It turns out that audiences never knew that they wanted a half-black, half Puerto Rican Spider-Man from an alternate universe on screen. Miles Morales and Spider-Gwen leapt off the page and into our hearts with a near-perfect movie. ITSV featured a killer soundtrack, unique & stylized animation, deep & rich characterization for all main characters, multiple displays of positive masculinity, and a compelling coming-of-age story that resonates across generations. The movie deftly balances story arcs for three main characters and two supporting characters, all while delivering a genuinely entertaining superhero story. Listen, I am entirely behind Black Panther, but ITSV just barely edges it out. I see you, T’Challa, and you’ll get your due, but my best movie in 2018 still solidly remains with Miles Morales.
Honorable Mentions: Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War
2019: Avengers: Endgame
In a year that’s all about endings, we got one that nearly everyone agreed was satisfying and deserved. Game of Thrones and Star Wars, you’re on notice. Endgame provided us with (mostly) satisfying endings to the core six Avengers we’ve loved for the last eleven years. Say what you want about Endgame‘s iteration of time travel, but it simultaneously gave us fan-service flashbacks as well as moved the plot along in a believable way. The Russos solidified their reputation for pacing and balancing a gargantuan cast of characters in a three-hour movie that didn’t feel nearly as long. With brilliant tear-jerker moments like “Avengers, assemble” and “I am Iron Man” there was something for everyone in this film. This was the payoff of all payoffs, and (apart from Black Widow) I think everyone got what they deserved in the end. No other movie in 2019 even comes close.
Honorable Mentions: Captain Marvel, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Spider-Man: Far From Home
Top Ten Best Movies Overall
The inherent flaw in doing a top ten by year is that some years have multiple movies that are just better than anything in another year. So to try to balance out my glaring omissions here are my submissions for the top ten overall best movies of the 2010s.
10. Get Out
The cultural relevance and brilliant writing propels Get Out into the top ten overall.
9. Wonder Woman
The first modern female-headlined superhero movie delivered in a huge way. Gal Gadot shone brilliantly as the titular hero. Wonder Woman is a landmark film, and will undoubtedly be the benchmark by which all female-led superhero films are measured. Did the movie’s third act devolve into a mess of bad supervillain monologuing and an uninspired CGI slugfest? Yes. Does that diminish this movie’s importance or cultural significance? I don’t think so, not even in the slightest. Wonder Woman absolutely is one of the top ten of this decade.
Sometimes penis jokes are good enough to get the job done.
7. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
No one hates Star Wars more than Star Wars fans, and nothing proves it more than this underrated entry into the Star Wars franchise. Jyn Erso and her motley crew of criminals, mercenaries, and spies delivered a great space heist movie. Rogue One‘s sole purpose was to fill the plot hole of the Death Star exhaust port. This had no reason being as good as it is. I loved this spacefaring heist movie despite the pushback from angry fanboys. Perfect? Negative. Fun? Absolutely. More non-lightsaber stuff in the Star Wars movies for me, please!
6. Mad Max: Fury Road
I never knew I wanted a superhero Western until I saw Logan. 2016’s Deadpool paved the way for Logan to exist and succeed in the modern “toys, toys, toys!” movie market. After 17 years of playing Wolverine, Hugh Jackman finally got to be the Logan we’ve clamored for since the first X-Men movie in 2000. Dafne Keen stole the show as X-23; if she never gets another stab at the role it’ll be a damn shame. Logan was a brilliant, bloody sendoff for Wolverine. This movie had heart and soul in its characters along with plenty of slice and dice. Despite not being an X-Men movie, this manages to easily be the best one, period.
4. Avengers: Endgame
This biggest of endings deserves the biggest of praise.
3. Black Panther
Wakanda Forever! What didn’t this movie have? It was more feminist than Wonder Woman, more culturally significant and racially diverse than any other genre movie we’ve talked out in this list, and had arguably the best comic book movie villain ever in Erik Killmonger. Could the CGI have used a little work? Yeah. Does that detract from the importance and relevance of this movie? Absolutely not. Every black and brown kid in the world got the hero they deserved in T’Challa.
2. Avengers: Infinity War
The only villain in all of comic book movies who could rival Black Panther’s Killmonger was Thanos, the Mad Titan. Portrayed masterfully by Josh Brolin, we all were mesmerized by the complexity and depth of the giant purple menace. Much credit to the Russos as well for their role in turning a genocidal maniac with delusions of grandeur into an empathetic character. We wanted a movie that raised the stakes and gave us the heft that we felt most MCU villains lacked. From the beginning massacre of the Asgardians to “Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good…” Infinity War gave us the emotional highs and lows that we asked for and then a barrel-full more.
1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
The rare blend of compelling music, rich characters, enjoyable plot, exceptional writing, and daring animation makes Into the Spider-Verse one for the ages. Not only is Into the Spider-Verse the best Spider-Man movie, but it is also the greatest genre film of the decade.
Alright friends, I’m sure you have so much to yell at me about. Let me know what you think @DanteInformal on Twitter and Instagram. You can also find me on those same platforms @TheGeekEmbassy! What did I snub, and how do your lists look? We’d love to hear from you, so please like, favorite, share, subscribe, and tell the world about us!
Until next time dear readers, get your geek on!