The 32 most successful movies of the 2010s

Social thrillers, fantasy blockbusters and superhero hits - we revisit the most successful films of the 2010s

L-R: Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road; Zendaya and Tom Holland in Spiderman: Far from Home; and Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The 2010s was the decade of Avengers films taking over the box office, of vast technical advancements in cinema, and of several hugely successful franchises coming to an end.

It was also the decade where horror films began to be taken more seriously, not least due to the popularity of a new, independent production and distribution company, A24. More people going to the cinema meant more money at the box office, and 2010 was the first year with two films passing the billion-dollar milestone in ticket sales.

From the highest-grossing animated films ever to the Oscars mix-up that went down in history, we revisit the 2010s in film, tracing the most successful movies - both in terms of box office success and critical acclaim.

The 32 most successful movies of the 2010s

Get Out

Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out.

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Jordan Peele was inspired to cast young British actor Daniel Kaluuya after watching a pivotal scene of him in Black Mirror, and made him the protagonist of the self-described social thriller Get Out in 2017. Tackling white liberalism and race, the film was a huge commercial and critical success, resulting in Peele being nominated for a Best Picture and Best Director Academy Award, and winning one for Best Original Screenplay.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Jennifer Lawrence.

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Released just a year after the adaptation of the first The Hunger Games book hit cinemas, the sequel, Catching Fire was a major commercial success, grossing over $865 million worldwide and becoming one of the highest-grossing films of the year. It is still the highest-grossing film of the franchise, and its success, along with that of the first film, likely inspired other young adult dystopian releases such as the Divergent series.

Avengers: Endgame

Thanos in Avengers: Endgame.

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Avengers: Endgame is the 22nd film in the expansive Marvel Cinematic Universe, and followed one of the biggest shocks of the franchise (spoiler alert!): in Avengers: Infinity War, antagonist Thanos wiped out half of all life on earth with the snap of his fingers. In the next film, Endgame, the Avengers assemble to reverse this tragedy, resulting in the death of Tony Stark, whose standalone story Iron Man was the first of the 32 films in the MCU.

Endgame is the most successful superhero film of all time, and for a short while took the top spot from James Cameron as the highest-grossing film ever, before Avatar was re-released and took the record back. It is now the second highest-grossing film of all time, and is the only entry in the top four - Avatar, Endgame, Avatar: The Way of Water, and Titanic - not directed by James Cameron.

Star Wars

Daisy Ridley in Star Wars.

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The 2010s saw huge commercial success for the new iterations of Star Wars films, with new advances in technology allowing for even more ambitious storylines. While three films from the franchise were released in the decade, 2015's The Force Awakens was particularly notable for its immense box office success, becoming the highest-grossing film in the franchise, and the third highest-grossing film of all time at its peak.

The Lion King

The Lion King (2019).

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While live-action movies based on Disney animated features have been around since the 90s, the 2010s and 2020s saw a resurgence in the trend, likely due to the technical advances that allowed for impressive adaptations. After directing the live-action The Jungle Book in 2016, Friends and Marvel star Jon Favreau took on The Lion King, which is described as a ‘photorealistic animated remake’ (considering the original Lion King features no humans, its remake could never really be called live-action).

The film was a huge success and is now the highest-grossing animated film of all time. A sequel, directed by Moonlight director Barry Jenkins and focusing on the origins of Simba’s father Mufasa, will be released in 2024.

Jurassic World

Chris Pratt in Jurassic World.

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The original Jurassic Park is one of the highest-grossing movies of the 90s, and remains Steven Spielberg’s most successful film, so it was no surprise that Jurassic World, a sequel released in 2015 and set 22 years after Jurassic Park, would be a similar success. With a different group of directors and producers at the helm, Jurassic World is the second highest-grossing film of 2015, and for a time was the third highest-grossing film ever, with its 2018 sequel being the second most expensive film ever made.

The Avengers

Jeremy Renner, Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson in The Avengers.

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The sixth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the highest-grossing film of the year, is 2012’s The Avengers. Featuring characters such as Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk and Black Widow, The Avengers’ success paved the way for the dominating success of Marvel films that would continue for the next ten-plus years; it was the first Marvel feature to pass the billion-dollar mark at the box office.

Furious 7

Paul Walker in Furious 7.

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The seventh instalment in the Fast and Furious franchise, Furious 7, saw Paul Walker in his final film role before his tragic death in 2013; his filming was completed with stand-ins such as his brother, Cody Walker. A tribute to Walker was weaved into the film’s narrative, and at the time of its release, Furious 7 was the fourth highest-grossing film of all time. The film also held the record for the second-highest opening weekend, which has now been surpassed by its 2017 sequel.

Frozen 2

Frozen 2.

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Anyone who has spent any time with children - or adults - in the past ten years will undoubtedly have heard the dramatic ballad “Let it Go”, sung by Idina Menzel in the original Frozen film from 2013, so widespread was the film’s influence. The sequel, released in 2019, is the eighth highest-grossing film of the 2010s, contributing towards Disney’s dominance of the decade’s most successful movies.

Little Women

Greta Gerwig promoting Little Women.

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While not the first adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel, Greta Gerwig’s 2019 vision of Little Women is among the most well-loved and respected. Starring Saoirse Ronan as protagonist Jo, Timothée Chalamet as Laurie, Florence Pugh as Amy and Laura Dern as the March matriarch Marmee, the film grossed over $200 million worldwide and received almost universal praise.

Among its Academy Award nominations were Best Actress for Ronan, Best Supporting Actress for Pugh, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture; Greta Gerwig is currently the only director to have every one of their solo feature films (Lady Bird, Little Women and 2023’s Barbie) nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

The Incredibles 2

The Incredibles 2.

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Considering the commercial and critical success of Brad Bird’s The Incredibles in 2004, the 2018 sequel had a lot of people to impress. Luckily, the film set the record for the best opening weekend for an animated film, making it the second highest-grossing animated film for a time, and retaining its record as the fourth highest-grossing film of 2018 (a particularly competitive year for box office figures).

The original cast - including Bob Odenkirk, Holly Hunter, Samuel L Jackson and director Brad Bird as the Anna Wintour-inspired costume designer Edna Mode - are joined by even more big names such as Isabella Rossellini and even Usher, in a rare example of a sequel that might even be better than the original.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Zendaya and Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Far From Home.

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The 2010s were big for Spiderman movies: not only did the first two solo Spider-Man features with Tom Holland taking on the character appear on the list of highest-grossing films of the decade, but the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse also became a huge commercial and critical hit. Holland’s second appearance as Peter Parker in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and first as the film’s protagonist, Far From Home, saw two more sequels follow and was also the setting for the start of his relationship with Zendaya.

Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3.

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The original Toy Story film, released in 1995, was undoubtedly groundbreaking: the first feature film from Pixar was also the first computer-animated film ever, and is highly regarded as bringing in a new era of animation, as well as being one of the best animated movies of all time. So it’s no surprise that the third instalment of the trilogy, released in 2010, was the highest-grossing animated film of all time until Frozen in 2013, and remains the first animated film to gross $1 billion at the box office.

It was also the third and last animation to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars - just nine years after the first Academy Award for Best Animated Feature was awarded (a gong which Toy Story 3 also took home).

Bohemian Rhapsody

Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody.

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While it wasn’t incredibly well-received by critics, the Rami Malek-starring biopic of Queen frontman Bohemian Rhapsody was the sixth highest-grossing film of 2018 and took home several Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Malek, Best Sound Editing and Best Film Editing. For five years, Bohemian Rhapsody also held the record for the highest-grossing biopic ever made, before Christopher Nolan’s Oscar-winning Oppenheimer took its place in 2023.

Black Panther

Chadwick Boseman at the premiere of Black Panther.

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2018 was one of the most important years for box office success at the movies. It was the year that Avengers: Infinity War was released, which at one point was the fourth highest-grossing film of all time, and it also saw huge commercial successes for several of the films on this list, including Incredibles 2,  Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and of course, Black Panther. Starring the late Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther is the highest-grossing film directed by a Black filmmaker and became known for its cultural significance.

Following Boseman’s death, producers confirmed they would not be recasting his character T'Challa, and a sequel, released in 2022, saw Letitia Wright taking over as the new Black Panther following her character’s brother’s death.

The Dark Knight Rises

Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises.

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Though the Heath Ledger-starring The Dark Knight is widely considered to be one of the best films of the century, its sequel, The Dark Knight Rises, is actually Christopher Nolan’s highest-grossing film and was also the third highest-grossing film of 2012. Unfortunately, the success of the film is also marred with the shocking incident that occurred at a Colorado midnight screening, which resulted in the deaths of twelve people, and was one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history.


Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood.

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Richard Linklater’s filmography is full of uniquely made classics which are loved by cinephiles - his Before trilogy, co-written with stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, is made up of three films each released nine years apart, revisiting the characters throughout their relationship. His 2014 film Boyhood was made in an even more uncommon way: the cast and crew started filming in 2002 and finished in 2013, following a child’s life from the ages of six to eighteen. The result is likely the only film which portrays its actors ageing in real-time, and it paid off, as Boyhood was nominated for six Academy Awards and received overwhelming critical success.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road.

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Australian director George Miller began his Mad Max franchise in 1979, with a sequel following just two years later. Thirty-six years after the first film, the fourth instalment, Mad Max: Fury Road, was released and was nominated for ten Oscars as well as being considered one of the best action movies ever made, and one of the best films of the 2010s. A prequel to Fury Road, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, was released in 2024, resulting in the franchise spanning an impressive 45 years.

La La Land

Damien Chazelle at the Oscars.

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La La Land, a modern musical set in Los Angeles with songs performed by stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, is tied with 1950’s All About Eve and 1997’s Titanic for the film with the most Academy Award nominations, at fourteen. Director Damien Chazelle also became the youngest winner of the Best Director Oscar, though the evening was mired in controversy when a mix-up with the announcement cards resulted in the makers of La La Land incorrectly believing they had won the award for Best Picture.


Mahershala Ali in Moonlight.

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Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight is widely considered to be one of the best films of the 2010s and even of the century. Along with The Witch, The Lobster and American Honey, all released in the same year as Moonlight, Jenkins’ film helped establish the independently owned A24 as one of the most revered and successful production and distribution companies in cinema.

Despite already being a success, Moonlight became even more well-known after the 2017 Oscars mix-up, in which Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty accidentally announced La La Land as the Best Picture winner. It was only after three members of the production team had made acceptance speeches that the mix-up was revealed, with producer Jordan Horowitz’s words - “There’s a mistake. Moonlight, you guys won Best Picture” - forever solidified as one of the most shocking and iconic Academy Award moments.

The Social Network

Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network.

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While most of David Fincher’s films have been highly successful, The Social Network is perhaps his best-known, starring Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg and tracing the early days of the Facebook founder’s business acumen. It won three Academy Awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Film Editing, and was nominated for several others, including Best Picture. The film is still considered one of the best movies of the 2010s and of the century, and Aaron Sorkin's screenplay was ranked as the third greatest of the 21st Century by the Writers Guild of America.

Breaking Dawn: Part 2

Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.

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Being the last entry in the immensely popular film franchise, it’s no surprise that Breaking Dawn: Part 2 was a huge box office success, being the sixth highest-grossing film of 2012 and standing as the highest-grossing film of the series. While Stephenie Meyer’s book “Breaking Dawn” was just one novel, the film was split into two parts due to how much there was to cover in the 756-page source material: a similar decision was made for other fantasy or science fiction franchises of the time, such as The Hunger Games and Harry Potter.

Gone Girl

Ben Affleck in Gone Girl.

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Based on the 2012 literary sensation by Gillian Flynn, David Fincher’s 2014 adaptation of Gone Girl was a huge success and became the director’s highest-grossing film to date, making almost $400 million. The film was praised for its production, score (composed by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross), and performances, particularly by stars Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck.

Fincher later explained his casting decisions by stating that the film (and book) pivots around a key scene where Affleck’s character is asked to smile next to a picture of his missing wife; Fincher decided to cast Affleck after he found several Google Images of the actor giving a decidedly uneasy and awkward smile, making him perfect for the part. Model and actor Emily Ratajowki claimed that she was cast as Affleck’s ‘mistress’ due to Fincher needing someone who ‘every man loved, and every woman hated’.


Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Inception.

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While it may only be Christopher Nolan’s fourth highest-grossing film - after The Dark Knight and its sequel, and Oppenheimer - 2010’s Inception was a huge critical success, and is now the first film from the decade to appear on the IMDb top 250. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Elliot Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the complex film is one of Nolan’s most well-loved and won four Academy Awards, as well as being the fourth highest-grossing film of the year of its release. 


Amy Winehouse.

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Asif Kapadia’s 2015 documentary about the late singer Amy Winehouse, Amy, is widely considered to be one of the best documentaries of the 21st Century and has a near-perfect score of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. Compiled of intimate footage and interviews with her closest friends and family, the documentary won the Best Documentary Feature Academy Award, and the success of the accompanying compilation album meant that Amy was nominated for her second posthumous Brit Award. 


Daniel Craig.

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Daniel Craig’s third appearance as James Bond came in 2012, with the box-office hit Skyfall, accompanied by a theme song sung by Adele. At the time of its release, Skyfall was the seventh highest-grossing film of all time, and it still stands as the second-highest-grossing film of 2012. Starring Javier Bardem as the Bond bad guy, the film was followed by 2015’s Spectre and 2021’s No Time to Die, with a new actor taking Craig’s place.


Toni Collette in Hereditary.

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Ari Aster’s feature debut Hereditary was distribution company A24’s highest-grossing release to date, before Everything Everywhere All at Once came out in 2022. Alongside the 2018 remake of Suspiria, It Follows, Get Out, A24’s own The Witch and Aster’s second film, Midsommar, Hereditary was one of the scariest in a spate of new movies known as ‘elevated horror’. 

Alice in Wonderland

Mia Wasikowska in Alice in Wonderland.

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Considering his penchant for quirky, often disturbing aesthetics and production, Tim Burton was the perfect choice to direct the 2010 remake of the iconic Disney classic Alice in Wonderland. The film grossed over $1 billion in cinemas and was likely the influence on Disney’s spate of live-action remakes that followed throughout the 2010s.

Leave no Trace

Leave no Trace.

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Though an unassuming, quiet film about an isolated family in rural Oregon, 2018’s Leave No Trace boasts a rare score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Featuring Thomasin McKenzie in her breakout role, the film was featured on plenty of critics’ lists of their top ten films from the year, including Mark Kermode and The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw.


Bong Joon-Ho.

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Parasite director Bong Joon-Ho had been directing films for a long time before his 2019 Oscar wins, releasing films such as 2017’s Okja and 2013’s Snowpiercer. But Parasite was an unexpected global commercial and critical hit, becoming the highest-grossing South Korean film ever made. The social thriller is also the first and only film not in the English language to win Best Picture, in the history of the Academy Awards. 

Despicable Me

Despicable Me.

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The first film in the highest-grossing animated franchise of all time, Despicable Me, was released in 2010, with Steve Carrell voicing the villainous protagonist Gru, who adopts three children and unwittingly becomes a reformed father figure to them. The film also introduced Gru’s dedicated swarm of ‘minions’, who were a focus of the following four sequels and prequels.

The Babadook

Noah Wiseman and Essie Davis in The Babadook.

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Recent horror films - many of them released or produced by A24 - have worked to improve the genre’s reputation, with horrors and thrillers of the past often not seen as ‘high-brow’ or nominated for the big awards. The Babadook, Australian director Jennifer Kent’s feature debut, was released to high critical acclaim, with its deeper message of a family struggling with grief resonating with audiences who were equally as terrified by the titular monster.

Hannah Holway
Shopping writer

Hannah is the UK Shopping Writer for woman&home. As a shopping writer, Hannah has written on everything from period pants to wine subscriptions, and is especially interested in sustainable alternatives to well-known products, as well as books and homeware accessories. 

Before she joined the team at woman&home Hannah headed up the social media accounts for Wonderland in 2019, where she was also a Contributing Editor for the magazine’s sister titles. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hannah also explored evolving shopping trends at New York Magazine’s The Strategist UK, researching everything from face masks to status candles and even pens.