As we enter the last week of 2010, and peer our eyes toward the inevitable blockbuster success of 2011’s sequels and spin-offs, including Spider-Man 4, Captain America, Thor, Transformers 3, and The Hangover 2, it’s time to take a look back at the top ten films of the year. The first year of the new decade started out slowly, and it wasn’t until March that we had our first $100 million movie, Matt Damon’s Green Zone, which barely cracked the mark with $110 million, outshining Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, which failed to capture audiences in large numbers, grossing a mere $77 million. Things began to pick up quickly later that month, with the critical disappointment Clash of the Titans, which nevertheless racked up a decent $127 million. Other films that reached the $100 million mark, but didn’t make quite enough to break the top ten? Predators ($127 million), Red Dawn ($75 million and counting — it’s in its second week), Tron Legacy ($133 million and counting), Dinner for Schmucks ($120 million) and Seth Rogen’s recently released Green Hornet, which looks to hit the $100 million mark, but barely.
Indeed, the 2010 box office was once again characterized by sequels — six of the top ten movies were sequels, while one was a remake of a beloved ’80s television show. Let’s get to the numbers — here are the top ten films of 2010:
10. The A-Team ($180 million) : No surprise, The A-Team wasn’t a hit with critics, but the curiosity factor nevertheless played a large role in The A-Team’s success, and Joe Carnahan perhaps did as well as he could given his campy source material. Unfortunately, Carnahan’s faux grit beat out camp value, which stole what was once so cherished about the series in the first place. It also turns out that Bradley Cooper does not an action star make, while Liam Neeson’s turn as Hannibal was just short of embarrassing. Still, with $180 million in the bank, a sequel seems all but inevitable, assuming they can pull a reluctant Neeson back into the fold.
9. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader ($185 million): Though the much troubled third movie in the Narnia franchise outperformed the second movie, thanks in large part to a massive marketing effort and a more obvious religious message (which brought out the church audience), The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was ultimately as empty and forgettable as Prince Caspian. It was well directed (by Michael Apted), but lifeless. It did have the advantage of a relatively lackluster December slate to compete with, especially compared to the massive December of 2009.
8. Inception ($190 million): Christopher Nolan’s July release, Inception, was something of a sleeper hit, if you could call a sci-fi action movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio directed by the director of the second biggest movie of all time a sleeper. I say that because Inception had only a modest $40 million opening, but was rooted in the top five for most of the latter half of the summer, steadily chugging along and picking up word-of-mouth audiences. That word of mouth, however, mostly revolved around what the hell Inception was about. Even having seen the entire film, most people still only have a vague idea of the story of Inception, but everyone has been wowed by how cool it was to watch. Better still, despite the success of Inception, it’s been the rare summer blockbuster that’s managed to avoid massive hype.
7. Salt ($212 million): Phillip Noyce’s spy thriller was as generic a summer blockbuster as they come, but for one saving grace: Angelina Jolie kicking ass better than any female action hero has since … well, Angelina Jolie in Wanted. Salt demonstrated exactly what it is about Jolie that’s appealing, an elusive quality that rarely shows up in her more serious films. Strap her in a leather pair of boots, and have her shit-kick her way through a subway train of baddies, however, and you get yourself not only a huge blockbuster success, but the sexual experience of the summer movie season.
6. Little Fockers ($220 million): The third movie in the Fockers franchise revisited familiar ground — Ben Stiller’s self-abuse, sophomoric humor, and the further humiliation of Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro and, now, Harvey Keitel, who got in on the paychecks that were handed out at the set, no acting required. No one thought it possible, but Little Fockers managed to be even worse than Meet the Fockers, but that certainly didn’t dissuade audiences from turning out in droves.
5. Knight and Day ($227 million): Tom Cruise solidified his comeback over the summer with his action comedy hybrid, Knight and Day, which — for two hours — reminded us of why we liked him at some point in his career. Cruise also wisely navigated the publicity circuit for Knight and Day by keeping his appearances mute and to a minimum, letting his movie speak for itself. It wasn’t what I’d call a masterpiece, but Knight and Day nevertheless epitomized what summer blockbusters should be about: Exhilarating escapist entertainment. It doesn’t have to be wildly intelligent, just not dumb and predictable. Knight and Day succeeded in that regard, and put Cruise back firmly on the A-list once again.
4. Twilight Saga: Eclipse ($280 million): Terrible fucking movie, so bad — in fact — that even the Twihards showed a few signs of weariness (not enough to prevent them from seeing it, but enough to keep them from seeing it five times). It became apparent why Summit wanted to push Eclipse up, only 8 months after the release of New Moon: There does seem to be an expiration date for the franchise, and the studio wants to birth all four movies before that date arrives. Eclipse was in line with New Moon box-office wise, but only because of a massive opening weekend ($98 million), after which it began to fade behind the rest of the summer’s blockbusters.
3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ($299 milllion): Audiences continued to turn out for the 7th movie in the Harry Potter franchise, in large part because they’d already seen six of them and felt obligated to finish out the series. Deathly Hallows was proficient, but felt like what it was: A bridge toward the final movie. If they keep making these movies as unmemorable as they are, however, audiences are going to completely forget what it was they loved about the books so much in the first place. In addition to that, the final movie is going to need a “previously on” prologue, which will effectively render Deathly Hallows Part I completely moot.
2. Toy Story 3 ($341 million): Pixar’s latest, the third in the Toy Story franchise, was exactly what we’d all expected: A brilliant, absolutely delightful animated movie that raised our spirits and even stole our hearts briefly. What else is there to say about Pixar? The studio did it again, finally topping Finding Nemo for the biggest Pixar hit to date, but unfortunately falling short of Shrek 2’s $440 million gross, still the highest for any computer animated movie.
1. Iron Man 2 ($356 million): Seven months after its release, and most of us are still on a collective high. How awesome was this movie? Robert Downey, Jr. delivered as only he can; Don Cheadle made us completely forget about Terrence Howard; Sam Rockwell finally (finally) catapulted himself onto the A-list; Mickey Rourke was deliciously loathsome; and for a few minutes, at least, we forgot why we hated Scarlet Johansson. Oh, and remember that thing with the thing? Ho.Lee. Shit. Jon Favreau killed, perfectly finding the right balance between creating the perfect sequel and setting it up for the eventual Avengers movie. You really just can’t say enough about how good Iron Man 2 was, and like The Dark Knight back in 2008 (and unlike Revenge of the Fallen in 2009), the box-office champion of 2010 actually feels deserved.