55 essential movies to watch from the 2010s

Posted at 8:01 PM, Dec 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-28 22:34:45-05

(CNN) — Ten years ago, “The Avengers” hadn’t yet assembled on the big screen, and the idea of a superhero movie being nominated for a Best Picture Oscar seemed unthinkable. We were so busy deciding between Team Edward and Team Jacob that we didn’t see “The Chris Wars” looming on the horizon — or the transformation of Netflix from simple streaming service into formidable awards season competitor.

So, while it might be easy to dismiss the 2010s as the decade when franchises and superhero stories were the only movies that mattered, it would also be inaccurate — and for a few reasons.

For one, the 2010s was the decade when Hollywood was forced to reckon with some of its systemic inequalities, from the struggle to produce diverse storiesto the lack of recognition for that work; to the pervasive accusations of gender discrimination, sexual harassment and assaultwithin the industry. You saw this reckoning play out on the silver screen, as we devoured content from storytellers like Ava DuVernayJordan PeeleAlfonso CuarónGreta GerwigRyan Coogler; and Barry Jenkins. And you saw it off-screen, too, as we collectively watched some of the industry’s power players begin to topple under the weight of disturbing allegations.

Yet there’s also the fact that franchises and superhero stories are no longer the critical anathema they once were. From installments of the “Harry Potter” and “Hunger Games” franchises, to the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, to the record-setting Marvel movies, the past decade saw genres once treated as basic popcorn fare cement their status as opportunities for filmmaking excellence.

All of which means that if you wanted to do a movie marathon based on the last 10 years, you’d have a lot of ground to cover. So here’s a place to start: The 55 films from the 2010s that were featured in CNN’s Original Series “The Movies.”

Chosen for their cultural impact, skilled performances, memorable stories and more, these titles will give you a sweeping overview of the cinematic decade that was. (And if you want to go even farther down the rabbit hole, you can watch “The 2000s” episode of “The Movies” on CNNgo.)

One thing you’ll notice is that this list ends at 2018 — and that’s because we want 2019’s most essential movies to be named by you. Think back on all of the films you’ve seen that were released in the past 12 months and let us know which one you think should make this list using the form below.


  • “True Grit”
  • “The Social Network”
  • “Black Swan”
  • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”
  • “Winter’s Bone”
  • “The Kids Are All Right”


  • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”
  • “Bridesmaids”
  • “Thor”
  • “Captain America: The First Avenger”


  • “Django Unchained”
  • “Lincoln”
  • “The Master”
  • “Moonrise Kingdom”
  • “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
  • “Zero Dark Thirty”
  • “Silver Linings Playbook”
  • “The Avengers”
  • “The Hunger Games”
  • “Good Deeds”


  • “Fast & Furious 6”
  • “The Heat”
  • “Gravity”
  • “American Hustle”
  • “12 Years a Slave”
  • “Fruitvale Station”


  • “Boyhood”
  • “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
  • “American Sniper”
  • “Guardians of the Galaxy”
  • “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
  • “Selma”


  • “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation”
  • “Spy”
  • “Joy”
  • “Ant-Man”
  • “Creed”
  • “Tangerine”
  • “The Revenant”
  • “Straight Outta Compton”


  • “La La Land”
  • “Doctor Strange”
  • “Moonlight”
  • “Fences”


  • “Spider-Man: Homecoming”
  • “The Shape of Water”
  • “Mudbound”
  • “The Florida Project”
  • “Lady Bird”
  • “Get Out”
  • “Wonder Woman”


  • “Avengers: Infinity War”
  • “Black Panther”
  • “Crazy Rich Asians”
  • “Roma”


Tell us which movie impacted you the most this year: