Top Genre Movie Stories of the Decade

2:39 PM 12/20/2019

by Borys Kit, Aaron Couch, and Mia Galuppo

Jordan Peele redefined horror, Phil Lord and Chris Miller exited 'Solo' and Universal's Dark Universe became a nonstarter — and that was only in 2017.

The Force Awakens_Black Panther_Hunger Games_Split - Publicity - H 2019
David James/Lucasfilm; Matt Kennedy/Marvel Studios; Lionsgate/Photofest

The 2010s saw genre films dominate the box office and break into the awards conversation. Cinematic universes were born (and died), acquisitions meant big business and strides were made in diversity both onscreen and behind-the-camera.

Heat Vision breaks down the top movie news stories from the past decade in the world of all things geek.

  • 'Alice' Launches Disney’s Live-Action Model (2010)

    Disney turned to director Tim Burton for 2010’s Alice in Wonderland, a live-action take on the studio’s 1951 animated adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s fantasy novel. The movie turned into a runaway success, earning over $1 billion at the global box office. And while its sequel Into the Looking Glass did not fare as well, Alice officially kicked off Disney’s lucrative business of spinning its classic animation into A-list live-action tentpoles. From 2015’s Cinderella to 2019’s The Lion King, the live-action Disney features account for a collective $5 billion in box office receipts. 

  • 'The Avengers' Jumpstarts a Cinematic Universe (2012)

    When 2008’s Iron Man and the initial Marvel movies were released, they were seen as fun comic book movies. It wasn’t until 2012’s The Avengers that the whispered promise of disparate movies leading to one colorful extravaganza was fulfilled and the Marvel Cinematic Universe was born. The movie, which grossed over $1 billion, ushered in the modern era of Marvel movie dominance and all the effects, good and bad, that come with that. It was the true sign that the nerds had won the war as the entire world began to embrace comic culture.

  • Disney Buys 'Star Wars' (2012)

    Star Wars was over; 2005’s Revenge of the Sith hammered the lightsaber into the coffin, creator George Lucas said he was basically done with the movies and fans scattered to the galactic winds. Then in October 2012, Disney announced the acquisition of Lucasfilm, sending a jolt through fandom as the company revealed it was going to make, at the very least, a final trilogy to cap a saga that began in 1977. Fandom had a new hope. It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride since as Disney found out what it means to be the stewards of a modern myth even as the company reaps the rewards of Lucas’ creations and ends the decade with the unexpected glow of the popularity of Baby Yoda. 


  • 'Hunger Games' Leads the YA Boom (2012)

    The Hunger Games simultaneously christened Jennifer Lawrence as a full-fledged movie star and helped to launch a new franchise genre: dystopian young adult adventure. As budgets ramped up and box office tapered off, the Hunger Games films saw diminishing returns for its studio Lionsgate but still walked away with $1.4 billion at the domestic box office over its run of four films. Subsequent journeys into adolescent dystopia like the Maze Runner and Divergent series, as well as one-off ventures like The 5th Wave and the still unreleased Chaos Walking, did not fare as well as their predecessor and the genre proved to have less staying power than its stars.

  • Sony Hack Reveals 'Spider-Man' Plans (2014)

    In November 2014, a hacker group known as Guardians of the Peace attacked Sony Pictures, a crippling attack that caused the leak of company secrets, the firing of top executives and shook studios to their core. Among the revelations: a negotiation between Sony and Disney/Marvel about having the latter produce a Spider-Man reboot for the then-struggling studio. But talks had skidded out. While it’s unclear if the leaking of the emails and the subsequent fan outcry had a direct impact, negotiations soon picked up again and a rare inter-studio partnership was born. Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland, appeared in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, goosing that franchise to new heights and was the heart in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. Meanwhile, his own two movies rejuvenated the ailing Spider-Man movie brand.

  • Patty Jenkins Breaks the Superhero Glass Ceiling (2015)

    Jenkins signed on to Wonder Woman in 2015, becoming the first female director to tackle a superhero movie in the age of cinematic universes. The movie surpassed all tracking expectations and went on to gross $821 million at the global box office, making it the most successful live-action film directed by a woman. Since then, women have been more readily accepted as superhero helmers. Captain Marvel was co-directed by Anna Boden, while Cate Shortland helmed the upcoming Black Widow standalone, Cathy Yan tackled Birds of Prey and Chloe Zhao is in the director’s seat for The Eternals.



  • 'Ghostbusters' and the Rise of Toxic Fandom (2016)

    When it was announced that Paul Feig would direct a female-fronted Ghostbusters remake, the backlash was swift and immediate, with fans railing against a studio’s audacity to reimagine and genderbend a beloved IP. The vitriol continued to the point where the entire narrative in the lead-up to the film was co-opted by a toxic fandom as the film’s trailer became the most “disliked” video in YouTube’s history. Since then, Star Wars actor Kelly Marie Tran was bullied off of social media after an onslaught of racist and misogynistic comments. Ghostbusters became a cautionary tale for reboot-happy Hollywood studios and proved that online trolls can be militarized to the point where a movie can be derailed from its inception.  


  • Dark Universe Fizzles (2017)

    Before The Mummy opened, Universal announced ambitious plans to create a Dark Universe — a Marvel-inspired film series based on its classic monster characters who would appear in interconnected stories. The studio spent millions on development and dedicated buildings on the lot for the endeavor. In May, it released a cast photo featuring stars Russell Crowe, Javier Bardem, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp and Sofia Boutella, who were on board to star in films like The Invisible Man and Frankenstein. A month later, the universe imploded. The Mummy bombed and by November top franchise architects Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan had left for lighter pastures. Universal scrapped its grand plans and is now instead focusing on stand-alone monster movies, with Elisabeth Moss’ Invisible Man (Feb. 28, 2020), Elizabeth Banks’ Invisible Woman and Paul Feig’s Dark Army all on the way. The key takeaway: no studio other than Marvel has been able to unveil an ambitious slate of interconnected movies and actually pull it off.

  • Zack Snyder Exits 'Justice League' (2017)

    After watching the growing success of Marvel’s cinematic enterprise, Warner Bros. entrusted filmmaker Zack Snyder with its own in-house superhero and comic book characters and to help oversee its own slate. In 2014, then-Warners head Kevin Tsujihara announced a 10-movie plan that would take the studio to 2020 and beyond. That all came to a halt with Justice League. Snyder gave up his directing seat after the unexpected death of his daughter, with Joss Whedon coming on board to finish the movie. That effort proved futile as the expensive movie failed to excite audiences. In the aftermath, Warners walked away from this release plan, also giving up dreams of a strongly interconnected universe, setting the stage for more individualized fare such as Joker, an awards contender and a billion-dollar grosser. In the meantime, Justice League’s promise of what could have been continues to fixate a section of fandom who believe that vindication lies in the fabled and unseen "Snyder Cut."

  • 'Bright' Marks Netflix’s Entry to Tentpoles (2017)

    Just as 2017 was wrapping up, Netflix dropped its first foray into tentpole filmmaking with Bright. Yes, Netflix had made a few original features prior, but this was Scott Stuber’s first major swing as the streamer’s head of original film. Bright had Netflix’s largest budget to date ($90 million) with its biggest movie star (Will Smith). Critically derided, it nonetheless broke Netflix viewer records and let other Hollywood stars know that, yes, this steamer’s safe for you and let the studios know that, yes, Netflix was major competition. Now, the streamer has Michael Bay (Six Underground) and Zack Snyder (Army of the Dead) in its ranks.

  • Jordan Peele Changes the Game With 'Get Out' (2017)

    Every decade or so a single filmmaker can take a genre and completely upend it with their work. With Get Out, Jordan Peele, who was best known at the time for his sketch comedy work on the Peabody-winning Comedy Central series Key & Peele, changed the horror game. Get Out hearkened back to the filmmaking traditions of the classic horror thrillers, while also telling a uniquely contemporary narrative that tackled American race relations. The movie, which was made for $5 million, grossed a massive $255 million at the global box office. The film earned $79.3 million at the international box office, contradicting the long-held assumption that movies with nonwhite leads do not travel well overseas. After it was nominated for multiple Oscars, Get Out proved that genre filmmaking was awards worthy, with Peele taking home the award for best original screenplay.   


  • Phil Lord and Chris Miller Get Sidelined From 'Solo' (2017)

    Yes, there had been Star Wars firings before— Josh Trank and Gareth Edwards, to be more precise — but not like this, not while in actual production on the movie. But that is what happened with Solo: A Star Wars Story, as Lord and Miller were pink-slipped over creative differences and the movie was shut down. When it was revived many weeks later, Ron Howard was at the helm. In the end, it’s hard to say if the new director made a difference. Solo became the lowest-grossing Star Wars movie, by hundreds of millions of dollars. Was it Star Wars fatigue? Would the movie have fared better if it had opened in December and not May? Was it backlash against The Last Jedi? Debates inside Disney and fandom were waged. Solo effectively killed off the idea of the Star Wars spinoff as Disney pumped the breaks on other spinoff theatrical movies.

  • 'Black Panther' Breaks Boundaries and Records (2018)

    The broken records wracked up by the Marvel installment have their own dedicated Wikipedia page. The first MCU stand-alone to center on a nonwhite superhero became the highest-grossing domestic release of 2018 and the highest grossing non-Avengers superhero movie, ever, with Ryan Coogler becoming the highest-grossing black director. It became the first superhero film to receive a best picture Oscar nomination and won Marvel its first Academy Awards ever, for best costume and production design. Black Panther proved diversity— at the highest level for tentpoles — travels, sells and excels.

  • Stan Lee Dies (2018)

    For comic book fans, Stan Lee’s death was the end of an era — while a few creators who worked for Marvel in its 1960s heyday still survive, Lee was the last of a group of creators whose work invented and defined characters that have come to define pop culture over the past decade, following the death of Steve Ditko just months earlier and the 1994 death of Jack Kirby.

    By the time of his death, Lee had become one of those defining icons himself, with his cameos in superhero movies — and not just Marvel’s, as anyone who’s seen Teen Titans Go to the Movies can attest — making him an instantly recognizable figure across the world.

    It was a logical, fitting end point for a career that had seen him become the face (and voice, thanks to narration duties on cartoons like Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends or any number of video game appearances) of Marvel as a brand for the last five decades. If there’s any comfort to be found in Lee’s death, it could be that it happened at a time when he could see how beloved his characters become and how much his work touched people’s lives. He died, at the age of 95, knowing that he had, in his way, changed the world.

  • Disney and 21st Century Fox Merge (2019)

    Disney officially buys Fox, absorbing a storied Hollywood studio. It brings many outstanding Marvel properties back into the Marvel fold (X-Men, Fantastic Four and Deadpool) and is a key foundation in building Disney’s streaming operation, Disney+, which it launches in November. Following the culminating events of Avengers: Endgame — which saw the exits of Marvel mainstays like Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans — the Fox acquisition provides a much-needed infusion that could theoretically keep the MCU going for another 10 years of storytelling.