I love that this last decade gave us new Star Wars films. And the explosion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe basically shot superhero films into the stratosphere and led to nearly every major studio trying their hand at creating their own cinematic universes. Much like with my Best Arthouse and Best Games lists, trying to narrow the decade down into only ten movies is an impossible task and a lot of fantastic movies that fell into honorable mentions territory could easily swing up into the top ten on any given day. So my top ten Blockbuster movies of the decade – at least at this moment in time – are as follows:
10. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Mad Max: Fury Road is admittedly a film I haven’t thought about too much since first seeing it in theaters but That Wannabe Film Class recently dedicated an episode of the podcast to it and it reminded just how visually stunning that film was. I never saw the original Mel Gibson films so I had no particular affinity for the series but people were singing its praises so I think me and my girlfriend at the time saw it as a sort of date night movie and I’m pretty sure I enjoyed it way more than she did. George Miller had an incredible vision for the film he wanted to make and executed brilliantly. And sure, Tom Hardy is fine as Max but Charlize Theron was the real standout as Furiosa.
9. The Avengers (2012)
I almost can’t believe The Avengers is this low on my list. When it came out back in 2012, I remember seeing it three times that opening weekend and being blown away by the idea that Joss Whedon had managed to actually make this idea of tying together four different franchises into this team-up film work. And work as well as it did. How young and naive we were, given the path that the MCU has traveled since.
8. Logan (2017)
While the MCU was thriving, Fox’s X-Men franchise spent the decade wildly flailing around at various levels of quality but when they let James Mangold give Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart a send-off to the characters they’d been playing for 17 years, in a standalone film that wasn’t concerned about fitting into any of the series’ timelines, the result was a truly special film. 2016’s Deadpool may have paved the way for the R-rated approach, but Logan took the ball and ran with it, delivering an incredible tale about family that would be just as impactful even if it didn’t center around a couple of characters with metal claws and healing abilities. Jackman and Stewart give their finest performances in the franchise and newcomer Dafne Keen shines as Laura, doing a lot with a little with regards to her dialogue.
7. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
The earliest entry on this list, I often described Scott Pilgrim as the best video game movie, even though it’s not actually based on a video game. Edgar Wright infuses the film with so much of his care and style that I can’t help but have a good time, even while recognizing that Scott himself is like a total dick. A wonderful cast of characters, great visual style, and a phenomenal-as-always Edgar Wright soundtrack combine to make for an all-around great time.
6. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Building off of the entry for The Avengers, the first four years of the MCU took us from Iron Man to the first team-up The Avengers, told over six films. The next four years that took us to Civil War gave us the world-altering revelation that SHIELD had long been infiltrated by Hydra (it kills me that Winter Soldier doesn’t make this list) and took us to the cosmic side of Marvel with the Guardians of the Galaxy but it was the Phase Three kickoff that saw the iconic Civil War storyline adapted for the MCU that shook things up the most, both in universe and behind the scenes.
Marvel and Disney managed to used their far-too-powerful clout to work out a deal with Sony allowing the studios to share Spider-Man for some movies so we got the debut of arguably the best on-screen iteration of Peter Parker here in Civil War. Black Panther also gets a great introduction and the real heart of the film centers around the changing ideologies and allegiances across our core heroes that has been told over the course of about a dozen films at this point. The airport sequence is one of the MCU’s all-time greats, perfectly blending Marvel’s brand of action, comedy, and pathos but for me, it’s the understated third act that brings the focus back down to Tony and Steve and Bucky’s relation to them both that really sets this film apart (and makes Zemo one of the most effective villains in all of the MCU).
5. Thor Ragnarok (2017)
From one of Marvel’s most epic outings to one of their weirdest. After Thor: The Dark World, most people had written off Thor standalone films. Chris Hemsworth was always fun in the role, as was most of his supporting cast but Marvel couldn’t seem to really crack the nut on a story for him. Enter Taika Waititi and Marvel finally letting loose the creative reigns that seemingly stifled Age of Ultron and led to Edgar Wright’s departure from Ant Man.
Ragnarok clearly had a few big picture bullet points it had to set up for the upcoming arcs but it seems like Waititi and company were pretty much given free reign to play around and get really weird outside of that and the end result makes for arguably the funniest Marvel film to date. I love this film because there are so many scenes where the cast was clearly having a blast with each other and it even feels like you just know the camera cuts away the split second before they broke character and cracked up in real life. My only real gripe about the film was how quickly and nonchalantly it does away with most of Thor’s real ties to Asgard in the deaths of Odin and the Warriors Three but at least it replaces them with relationships with the Hulk, Valkyrie, and Korg that the creative team seems far more interested in exploring in the future. Oh yeah, it even succeeded in making us want more Thor movies so I, for one, cannot wait for Thor Love and Thunder.
4. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Back to the breathtaking feats of the Avengers team-up films. With the threat of Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet in full effect, how was Marvel going to bring together the characters from all of their different franchises to face off with this inevitable foe? With the fantastic work of the Russo Brothers, that’s how. Having proven themselves up to the task with the latter two Captain America films, the Russos deftly bounced from scene to scene with nary a moment to catch your breath and seeing the various pairings from across the – at this point – eighteen prior films was like taking that first Avengers movie and turning every moment up to 11. And even though a lot of us knew the film was likely going to follow the arc of the comic and end with the Snap, we didn’t know who that would take from us in the set up for the next film. Lastly, Josh Brolin brought such great presence to the character that it immediately shot Thanos into the upper echelon of Marvel villains.
3. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
We had a whole new trilogy of Star Wars films in the last decade (and a couple standalone films as well). Despite what the angriest voices on the internet would have you believe, it was a great decade to be a Star Wars fan. Force Awakens was a great re-introduction to the series after a lot of people had been soured by the prequel trilogy. Rogue One made a great case for the pitch of one off films to flesh out the universe. Solo, despite its issues, had a couple of great performances from Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover. And even if I wish The Rise of Skywalker had made a lot of different choices, it was still a Star Wars-ass Star Wars film.
But The Last Jedi stands out for its boldness in trying to respect what came before it, while also attempting to forge a new path that wasn’t as beholden to the weight of the Star Wars “legacy.” It attempts to explore much more of a grey palette compared to the traditionally very black or white storytelling the series had been known for. And the films has some of the absolute most breathtaking shots in all of Star Wars, as well as my all-time favorite lightsaber fight.
Porgs are still real dumb, though.
2. Avengers: End Game (2019)
The Russos Brothers set up the finale expertly and they managed to nail the landing as well. Avengers: End Game managed to bring to a close 21 movies worth of storytelling (that would get a slight epilogue in Spider-Man: Far From Home). Never before in cinema have we had an epic like that, and it’s unlikely we ever will again. And it managed to do it by focusing largely on the building blocks that it set up back in the first phase with a focus on the original Avengers. Where Infinity War moved at a breakneck pace, End Game had a bit more time to breathe and really show the characters living with the fallout of the previous film. The first act establishes the new status quo in a world post-Snap. The second act introduces a way to set things right, while also enjoyably revisiting moments of Marvel past. And act three is pretty much a fan-service filled victory lap that is earned in almost every sense because it’s not just fan-service for fan-service sake. The moments mean something to these characters and that heightens what it means to us when Steve Rogers is able to lift the hammer and prove his worth or finally delivers the iconic “Avengers Assemble” line. I haven’t sat through the whole film too many times since it was released on streaming platforms, but I’ve sat through that last hour a ton and enjoyed epic payoff after epic payoff.
1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
If you listened to my appearance on That Wannabe Film Class, you already knew this one was coming. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not only my favorite movie of the last decade, it is my favorite movie of all time (sorry Back to the Future, The Princess Bride, and Stardust). Every frame of the film is an incredible shot filled with love, care, and attention to detail. The story is phenomenal. It has an incredible soundtrack. The performances are top tier across the board. The blending of animation styles is amazing. And the overall message that “anyone can wear the mask” resonates so incredibly hard with what the core takeaway of a Spider-Man story is: Peter or Miles or Gwen or anyone else can get these incredible powers, but everyone has the power to stand up for what is right. I freaking love this movie so much.