Decade Disruptors: 11 Movies That Shook Up The Film Industry In The 2010s

By Andreas Wiseman, Tom Grater

Shutterstock; Netflix

Deadline has highlighted 11 movies that had a transformative impact on the film industry and/or the wider world in the decade of the 2010s. The non-exhaustive list includes movies from across the globe and considers their effect on box office, careers, companies, industry trends and cultural conversation. Our list includes movies released between 2010-2019.

The King’s Speech (2010)

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A case can be made that The King’s Speech is the most successful independent British film ever. Made for a budget of around $15 million, the film went on to make north of $415M and score an array of awards, including the Best Picture Oscar (among 12 Academy nominations). The film typified the hard-fought way British independent films get made (although unusually there was no BBC or Film4) and, whether we like it or not, helped cement a global fascination for all things British aristocracy and royal family. The film propelled careers (Tom Hooper and current Focus Features president Robert Walak among them) and companies including See-Saw, Momentum Pictures, FilmNation and a string of indie distributors. The film’s U.S. distributor The Weinstein Company would dominate much of the decade, for better and worse.

Bridesmaids (2011)

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Beyond the many accolades and vast box office, Bridesmaids helped break the mold for female-fronted comedies. It proved that a rambunctious film about women’s friendships could go beyond everyone’s financial expectations and had studios scrambling to replicate the film’s success. Raunchy, fearless and very funny, the Paul Feig-directed film presaged a wider movement around gender diversity in Hollywood. It also transformed the careers of Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson, among others. Producer Judd Apatow followed up with HBO smash Girls. Later in the decade, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman would also break new ground by proving that a female-fronted, female-directed superhero flick could draw audiences and major box office the world over. In a different but related vein, a special mention should go to 2012 drama Wadjda, which was not only the first Saudi movie to break out on the international stage but also the first Saudi film by a woman. Director Haifaa Al-Mansour had to film parts of the film from the back of a van due to Saudi’s strict controls on women. The bravely feminist festival favorite, picked up by Sony Pictures Classics, helped break barriers in a country that has undergone major change in recent years.

The Intouchables (2011)

The Intouchables was a game-changer in modern French cinema and drew record crowds worldwide on its way to a staggering $427M. The buzzed-about buddy comedy became the second highest-grossing non-English movie and still sits at No. 3 among highest-grossing films of all time in France. Like The King’s Speech, the film was transformative for many involved. The film was also unusual in garnering massive global box office as a non-English-language movie fronted by a black actor. The recent U.S. remake with Kevin Hart gave STX its first film to hit No. 1 at the box office.

The Invisible War (2012)

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This Oscar-nominated film’s impact went far beyond the industry. Kirby Dick’s investigative documentary about the epidemic of sexual assault within the U.S. military created genuine change. In his 2014 memoir Worthy Fights, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that watching The Invisible War was one of the main factors that influenced him to take action on the issue. Marine Corps top brass screened the film and soon after unveiled new plans to combat sexual assault. In 2013, President Obama introduced new legislation to address the issue. A notable mention should go to Blackfish, the 2013 Sundance documentary about captive killer whales. The animal-rights film became a cause celebre and had a major impact on theme park Seaworld, which saw attendance and revenue dip after the film’s release and prompted a string of operational changes.

The Avengers (2012)

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Marvel’s first $1 billion movie spawned a truly game-changing franchise that has dominated the decade’s box office. All four movies in the series are in the all-time top 10, including this year’s Avengers: Endgame at No. 1. The Avengers became the third highest-grossing movie of all time after its release and currently sits at No. 8. The critically appreciated fan-favorite took superhero ensembles to a new level of star and character power. It cemented Kevin Feige’s position as Hollywood’s most bankable producer and kicked off a decade of Disney (and Marvel) domination. In terms of ground-breaking blockbusters of the decade, a special mention should go to Gravity, released a year later. The film garnered 10 Oscar noms, $723m global box office and is often cited as the most impressive feat of VFX of the decade (shout out to Life Of Pi and Inception, too). VFX firm Framestore spent more than three years creating most of the film’s visual effects, which make up more than 80 of its 91 minutes.


Zero Dark Thirty/The Master/Spring Breakers (2012)

2012 was Annapurna’s coming-out party. Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty and acquisition Spring Breakers were among the year’s most talked-about movies. Lawless and Killing Them Softly were also on the docket. Off the back of these high-profile movies, Megan Ellison would go on to back a string of festival favorites and Oscar contenders and spark a decade of industry chatter about Annapurna investments and sustainability. Day-Glo fever dream Spring Breakers also helped launch distributor A24 on its path to becoming one of the most exciting new entrants of the decade.


Moonlight/La La Land (2016)

As films they could hardly be more different — one a shiny, all-singing, all-dancing romance, the other a searing, intimate portrait of a young African-American grappling with his identity and sexuality. But their fates will forever be intertwined after that Oscar Best Picture snafu that will go down as one of the most iconic in the Academy’s history. Of course, there’s plenty more to these movies than that fateful night. Moonlight, one of the best films of the decade, became the first with an all-black cast and a prominent LGBTQ theme to take home Best Picture. The win came one year after the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag kick-started a process of re-evaluation in Hollywood and the business more widely. Moonlight was also a phenomenal box office breakout, cementing the status of A24 as one of the decade’s most important new players on the indie scene and it transformed multiple careers. Co-producers Plan B had a phenomenal decade, garnering seven Best Picture Oscar nominations. Meanwhile, much-loved La La Land, which also catapulted careers, danced its way to a glittering $450M global box office. Not a bad consolation prize. Distributor Lionsgate had also hit it out of the park earlier in the decade with The Hunger Games franchise.

Get Out (2017)


Few predicted the huge breakout success of Get Out. Jordan Peele initially pitched the movie to his producer as “one you’ll never want to make.” After a buzzy Sundance premiere, Universal kicked off with a mighty $33.4M domestic bow and built to $255M global. Not bad for a $5M budget. The movie’s brilliant take on race relations struck a chord in newly post-Obama America and crucially reminded the industry, which was going through its own self-analysis, that audiences care far less about the color of an actor’s skin than they do about good movie-making. Get Out was also emblematic of a phenomenal decade for genre producers Blumhouse.

Wolf Warrior 2 (2017)

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The China boom was one of the defining themes of this cinema decade. Eight of the 10 highest-grossing non-English-language movies are Chinese, and all were released this decade. Local box office records have tumbled off the back of massive economic growth and cultural shifts, and Hollywood tie-ups have exploded. The local boom is perhaps epitomized by this big-canvas action epic, which smashed its way to a record $810M (RMB 5.7B). The film’s highly patriotic bent — “Anyone who offends China, must be exterminated,” read the tagline — was in keeping with a string of local box office hits this decade, and it became the second highest-grossing film of all time in a single market (behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens in North America). Many predict the overall Chinese box office will surpass that of the U.S. in 2020.

Black Panther (2018)


Wakanda Forever! A cultural and box office phenomenon, Black Panther catapulted slogans, careers and the reality that mainstream movies with non-white casts can win spectacularly the world over. Released in February 2018, the film received near-universal praise from critics, who cited it as a refreshing change just as superhero movie fatigue was setting in. After opening in January to a huge $200M bow, the film roared to $700M domestic and $1.3B global before sustaining its buzz until the 2019 Oscars, where it became the first ever superhero movie to get a Best Picture nod. The film is the highest-grossing movie ever by a black director. Crazy Rich Asians followed soon after and cemented a paradigm shift.


Roma (2018)

The lauded black-and-white, foreign-language drama from Alfonso Cuarón broke new ground for Netflix on its way to 10 Oscar nominations and sparked heated debate about the place of the streamer’s movies in the cinema ecosystem. The movie was a hot topic from early doors when it fell victim to the Cannes-Netflix impasse; it then caused a stir when it won the Golden Lion at Venice, which has subsequently become a hotbed for Netflix movies. Netflix’s first major festival and awards success paved the way for the streamer’s stunning domination of the awards season this year and potentially years to come.

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