The 2010s have drawn to a close. Time to take stock, then, of where geek culture has taken us this decade. There’s been a lot going on.
We’ve seen Doctors Who come and go, console wars start up again, Marvel take over cinema, Harry Potter take over the world and Disney take over multiple universes. And lots lots more.
To mark the end of a packed decade we’ve gathered together the most significant, game-changing, ground-breaking and sometimes just purely joyful moments in TV, games and film the last ten years had to offer. Enjoy (and please feel free to add your own in the comments).
The Doctor Regenerated… thrice! (April 2010, August 2014 and October 2018)
Here’s an Only Connect question in the making: what do Doctor Who Confidential, One Direction and the 2017 Wimbledon Men’s Final all have in common?
Quite right, they were all backdrops to casting announcements for the next Doctor. Matt Smith’s name was unveiled on the companion show in January 2009, Peter Capaldi was announced in a truly torturous live show hosted by Zoe Ball that included a painful live link-up with One Direction for reasons unfathomable, and Jodie Whittaker was unveiled on BBC One after Roger Federer’s victory on the court over Croatia’s Marin Cilic in July 2017. Three new Doctors in a decade, generating roughly 30 billion opinions from fans. We love all three.
Black Mirror smashed it (December 2011)
The prime minster has sex with a pig – an exciting new franchise is born. Not the ‘pig-minister chronicles’ but a sharp look at the not too distant future through the lense of plausible future (and sometimes current) technology. Charlie Brooker’s dark satirical series was a critical hit for Channel 4 when the three ep first season landed. Another series and a Christmas special followed, but it wasn’t until the series was acquired then released on Netflix in 2016 that the show became massive and even more ground breaking. Two six-episode-long series, with longer runtimes and then at Christmas in 2018 high-concept choose your own adventure feature ‘Bandersnatch’ landed opening up the series to new worlds of possibilities. We don’t have word on what a series six might look like but exec producer Annabelle Jones reckons the sky’s the limit: “we could do one-offs, we could do an ongoing story, we could do spin-offs.”
Harry Potter ends and then becomes even more massive (July 2011)
The beginning of the decade was the end of an era for Potter fans with Deathly Hallows Part 1 landing in 2010 and Part 2 closing off the series in 2011. Potterheads desperate for more from the Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry were given a lifeline – JK Rowling launched Pottermore, a website full of news, interactive features and original writing expanding the Potterverse. It closed this October and has since been replaced by wizardingworld.com.
But that’s not all. Spin-off film Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them was announced, then it was announced as a trilogy, and later fans were told they’d be getting five film. Then the two part play The Cursed Child arrived, smashing numerous records and winning a heap of awards. And let’s not forget the highly regarded WB Studio tour which allowed muggles to get up close and personal with the sets and props from the films. Far from ending the Harry Potter extended universe is bigger than ever, including as much merch as you can eat, and it’s only going to grow in the next decade.
Sherlock fell off a roof… and survived (Jan 2012)
On Sunday the 15th of January 2012, approximately 8 million people watched Sherlock Holmes swan dive off the roof of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. On Monday the 16th of January 2012, approximately 8 million people spent the day in the office arranging desk pens and pencil sharpeners into a diagrammatic explanation of exactly how he managed to survive the fall.
It was all down to the angle of impact, a crash mat and a rubber ball, you see, or a lookalike corpse, a cyclist and a rubbish truck, or possibly it was all thanks to Molly Hooper, a parachute, a tin of condensed milk and the entire reserve bench of Leyton Orient FC Under 15s. Everybody had a theory.
Many took those theories online, armed with screengrabs and the throbbing glow of the self-righteous. They’d freeze-framed, they’d clued for looks, and they’d worked out the definitive answer to how it was all done. Except, no they hadn’t, because (as the red herring-filled series three opener proved) even Sherlock’s creators hadn’t worked out a definitive answer. Was fun to guess though.
James Bond met the Queen (July 2012)
The Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics was a whole lot of fun for a whole lot of reasons, but one skit from Danny Boyle’s epic event was particularly joy-inducing for movie geeks: we’re talking, of course, about the BBC-produced video in which Daniel Craig’s James Bond picks up her royal highness Queen Elizabeth II and escorts her to the ceremony.
The video, which has since racked up over 3 million views on YouTube, is intensely adorable, and not just because it contains 007 walking through fancy corridors flanked by cute corgis. There’s also a great moment at the start where a boy, wandering off from a school trip, witnesses 007’s arrival at Buckingham Palace. (It is a shame that Boyle still hasn’t made a fully-fledged Bond film, isn’t it?)
The fact that the actual Queen herself was actually up for appearing in the scene remains absolutely awesome, and her acting skills were also surprisingly good. Craig does a good job, too, seeming unfazed by the fact that he is sharing a scene with his actual monarch. And who could forget the hilarious suggestion that the queen parachuted into the Olympic Stadium? Amazing stuff.
Disney buys Lucasfilm, then Fox (2012 and 2018)
There’s nothing mouse-like about the empire that Disney has built and last decade it only got bigger. After its acquisition of Marvel in 2009 which helped the MCU become the monster it is today, Disney continued to snap stuff up for billions. First was Lucasfilm in 2012 for a cool $4.05 billion, allowing the studio to own the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Not content with that, next it set its sights on Fox, finally nailing down a deal in 2018 to the tune of $71.3 billion. This acquisition means Disney now owns a massive range of franchises. We’re not just talking Fox Marvel, which includes X-Men and Fantastic Four but also a whole host of big bankable titles including the Alien franchise and Planet Of The Apes. Disney has already made noises about some of the properties its planning to resurrect – be that as theatrical films or content for its new screening service Disney+ – which includes Night At The Museum, Diary Of A Wimpy Kid and good grief, Home Alone.
The Arrowverse kicked off (October 2012)
It may not have seemed significant at the time, but The CW’s launch of Arrow in October 2012 set the stage for a whole interconnected universe of DC Comics television, paving the way for the huge ‘Crisis On Infinite Earths’ crossover that is currently going on. From one vigilante drama, something truly massive was born.
Arrow started simply enough, copying the homework of The Dark Knight trilogy to represent Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen as a gritty, brooding vigilante with a bloodsoaked backstory that took five years of flashbacks to explain. Who would’ve guessed, back when Ollie was wanging on about his “five years in hell” and brutally murdering everyone on his dad’s shit-list, that he’d eventually be chatting to cosmic beings and trying to save an entire multiverse?
The Hobbit arrives in 48FPS. No one likes it. (December 2012)
Peter Jackson is an excellent film maker who has made a significant impact on cinema as a whole throughout his career. And some people really like The Hobbit films, as films. But his decision to shoot at twice the normal frame rate – 48 frames per second rather than 24 – in order to make the 3D experience more immersive actually did the opposite. The picture was so clear and sharp that it felt like you were on set in New Zealand with Martin Freeman, rather than allowing you to believe you’re watching Hobbits in Hobbiton. It didn’t exactly take off in Hollywood.
Another cinematic technical innovator, Ang Lee, shot his 2016 war drama Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk in an even higher frame rate – 120FPS – which he again employed for 2019s Gemini Man. Neither films were critical or commercial successes. There’s innovation here but the 2010s won’t be remembered as the decade that nailed HFR.
House Of Cards made Netflix a whole big thing (February 2013)
Before House Of Cards became tinged by association with the sexual harassment and assault allegations made against lead actor-producer Kevin Spacey, it was famous for two things: 1) being the first season of a Netflix drama released in its entirety on the streaming network. And 2) being the first ‘Netflix Original’ to demonstrate Netflix’s now characteristically cavalier approach to the word ‘Original’ by in fact, being a remake of a British show. (An original remake, we grant you.)
The political thriller bowed out last year after a shortened eighth season without Spacey’s involvement. In it, he’d played the cunningly deceitful southern Congressman Frank Underwood, a man whose ambition for power is matched only by that of his wife Claire, played by Robin Wright, who took centre stage after Spacey was removed. A turning point for the industry in more ways than one.
Game Of Thrones’ wedding bloodbath (June 2013)
If you knew what was coming, you waited for it like you wait for Christmas – strung out, counting down and trying desperately not to spill all your secrets to loved ones in a big whoosh of I’ve-got-you-that-jacket-you-wanted-and-oh-my-god-they’re-going-to-murder-Lady-Stark-and-sew-Grey-Wind’s-head-to-the King-in-the-North’s-body!!!
If you remained unsullied by George R.R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire books and didn’t know what was coming, then ‘the Red Wedding’ was a monumental TV event. If the execution of Ned Stark in season one had stripped the main Game Of Thrones characters of their plot armour and left them as naked and vulnerable as… the female Game Of Thrones characters, then this doubled down on that. Tripled down, if you count Talisa Stark. Quadrupled down if you count Talisa and Robb Stark’s unborn child. It was nasty, brutal and made the people of Westeros tremble forevermore at the sound of a wedding ‘save the date’ landing on their castle doormat.
Everybody hated finales (September 2013 – ongoing)
Lost’s conclusion had its critics, and there were grumbles about the conclusions to House and Heroes, but the decade’s first big ‘everybody agreed it sucked’ finale fail was 2013’s Dexter. The serial killer show’s season eight capper showed just how far this slick, smart series had fallen from its heyday. When Showtime aired the final scene, in which Michael C. Hall’s lead character was revealed to be [redacted for spoiler-reasons], fans said ‘Huh? Really?’ and critics said the equivalent of ‘Huh? Really?’ in chunks of roughly 800 words.
Other disappointments followed, and then, in 2019, came Game Of Thrones. For many, the HBO show’s finale season tarnished what was more of an obsession than a TV show. The pacing, the lighting, the deaths, the romantic choices, the dangling plot threads and the ultimate resolution all came under fire from fans. It was undeniably epic, but few called it satisfying.
Doctor Who turned 50 (November 2013)
2013 saw a BFI season dedicated to classic Doctor Who episodes, the Mark Gatiss-written docudrama An Adventure In Space And Time about the birth of the show on the BBC, as well as an extended episode that aired in cinemas, brought both David Tennant and Billie Piper back to the TARDIS, introduced a new Doctor, and welcomed a cameo by Tom Baker. It’s fair to say that the anniversary did not go unmarked.
Alongside all the official hoopla, the fans also did their bit. There were one-off school-made fanzines, fan-made books, events welcoming classic series producers, Doctor Who-themed plays at that year’s Edinburgh Fringe, fan-cut trailers, a memorabilia celebration at Bradford’s National Media Museum, quizzes, cosplay, mass cinema outings and more. It was a party, in short. And everybody who’d ever loved the show was invited.
Oscar gets some things wrong, other things right (various)
Despite being the most important awards in the film industry, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has quite a tricky time of it trying to stay relevant. While this is the decade that saw Kathryn Bigelow become the first female director to win the Oscar for Best Director at the 2010 awards, finally gave a Best Original Song to a Bond theme (twice – Skyfall in 2013 and Writing’s On The Wall in 2016), as well as giving a Marvel movie the top accolade when Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse won best animated feature in 2019, Oscar also made a few memorable mistakes.
The announcement it would introduce an Academy Award For Outstanding Achievement In Popular Film in August 2018 was quickly swept under the carpet and not heard of again. Then there was the massive f-up in 2017 when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway accidentally announced the wrong winner for the Best Picture award, saying it had gone to the favourite, La La Land, and not in fact the winner, Moonlight. But our very favourite Oscars gaffe of the last decade. And one of our actual favourite MOMENTS of the last decade, was John Travolta forgetting Idina Menzel’s name in spectacular style. We can’t do this justice with words. Watch. Enjoy.
The PS4 and Xbox One reignite the console wars (2013)
As decades in gaming go, the 2010s had one of the most sizeable leaps ever in terms of visual quality. This great graphics-based upgrade began on 15 November 2013 with the launch of the PS4, which initially hit the market at the price tag of £349.99. A big step forward for Sony’s series of consoles, the PS4 did nonetheless come with that weird touchpad on the controller that very few games knew what to do with.
The Xbox One wasn’t far behind, with Microsoft launching its rival console with an eye-watering £429 price tag on 22 November 2013. That high price initially put some people off, but Microsoft later won a lot of people back over with Xbox Game Pass. The latest sales numbers seem to suggest that over 90 million PS4 consoles and 50 million Xbox One consoles have been sold to date.
The Ward twist in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. (April 2014)
When Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. first kicked off in 2013, it had a hard time matching up to the standards of its big-screen relatives from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Early reviews of the ABC show weren’t all that kind, but little did we know that something pretty special was coming. Flash forward to April 2014, and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. was ready to drop its first major overhaul.
Tying in with the cinematic release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the showrunners behind S.H.I.E.L.D. masterminded their own twist based around the idea that HYDRA had infiltrated the show’s eponymous spy organisation. This twist revealed Grant Ward as a bad egg, allowing actor Brett Dalton to flex a whole new set of muscles as the show’s newest baddie. This run of episodes proved how much potential the show had, and it also seemed to endow the creative team with the confidence to pull off even bigger ideas in later seasons.
“Yeah, I’m thinking I’m back…” (October 2014 onwards)
Keanu Reeves had more moments this decade than most of us manage in a lifetime, with his cinematic rebirth as a gritty action hero kicking off in earnest with the US premiere of John Wick in October 2014. Although a mishandled release meant that viewers in the UK had to wait until April 2015 to see the suited Keanu going to great lengths to avenge a dog, the film still had a massive impact all around the world. For one thing, it pretty much changed the way that Hollywood does action scenes.
Now a well-respected movie trilogy, John Wick isn’t the only pop-culture phenomenon that put Mr Reeves in the spotlight this decade. He’s also had a massive 2019, boasting a hilarious cameo in Netflix’s Always Be My Maybe, an internet-breaking clean-shaven-ness on the set of Bill And Ted Face The Music, and a showstopping appearance at E3 to reveal his involvement in Cyberpunk 2077 (and tell a fan that they’re breathtaking). He’s pretty much the king of geek culture at the moment. Woah.
True crime killed it (December 2014)
True crime isn’t a new thing from the 2010s but it’s undeniable that this decade saw a major boom in interest in cold cases, miscarriages of justice and all round murder. In the podcast world – which has seen enormous growth this decade – it’s down to Serial. A single story told over multiple weeks from the producers of This American Life, Serial investigated the possible wrongful conviction of Adnan Syed for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999. The podcast took off massively breaking records for podcast downloads, and acted for many as a gateway into podcasting – there are hundreds of true crime podcasts with more popping up all the time.
On TV the big true crime event was Making A Murderer. Although documentaries like The Staircase and The Jinx had already been released by the time of its December 2015 debut it was this Netflix show that pushed the subgenre into the mainstream. Following the case of Steven Avery, a man wrongly convicted of sexual assault, imprisoned for 18 years, released and then convicted of the murder of Teresa Halbach, it was filmed over ten years and the incredible story really captured people’s imaginations. Since then loads of great documentaries have been released and the genre is booming.
Cinderella kicks off the massive resurgence in Disney live-action remakes (March 2015)
Ok 2015’s Cinderella wasn’t the first Disney live action remake – that honour goes to The Jungle Book in 1994 (and Tim Burton’s 2010 Alice In Wonderland, which felt less like a remake and more of a reimagining, still likely counts), but it was the first of the recent rush to turn the cartoons we loved as kids into living and breathing features.
Cinderella wasn’t exactly ground breaking in and of itself. Lily’s James’ ridiculously tiny waist (enhanced by the massive skirt) attracted some criticism – not a great aspiration for little girls but then this is a story about a woman marrying a guy she pretty much only just met. Still, Kenneth Branagh’s vision was romantic and colourful and it took more than $542 million off a budget of $95 and another massive revenue stream was born for Disney. Jon Favereau’s 2016 Jungle Book took $966 million, and his The Lion King redo comfortably cleared $1.6 Billion. Beauty And The Beast and Dumbo were also massive financial successes and we have a whole massive swathe more to look forward to in the next decade, including Mulan, The Little Mermaid, Snow White And The Seven Dwarves, Peter Pan, The Sword In The Stone, Pinocchio and The Hunchback Of Notre Dame. Quite the fairytale scenario for the House Of Mouse.
The Arkham Knight’s identity revealed (June 2015)
Three full games came out bearing the ‘Arkham’ brand this decade: Arkham City in 2011, Arkham Origins in 2013, and Arkham Knight in 2015. And when you look at those three Bat-games, there’s one narrative beat that really stands out as a ‘moment’: we’re talking, of course, about the show-stopping twist in Arkham Knight.
The game’s third act reveals that former Robin, Jason Todd, is the main villain of the piece. Eagle-eyed players and comic-book fans may have seen this twist coming, not least because of an earlier flashback the sign-posted the reveal, but this creative decision still made the final portion of the game that extra bit more interesting. It’s a shame that the game had some launch issues on PC and far too many Batmobile bits, because otherwise it could’ve been remembered as a true great.
So long Solo (December 2015)
This decade saw a new, and final, trilogy for Star Wars. There’s all sorts of discourse around the three films, and certainly enough for an article in itself, but if we had to call out one geek moment from the three films (which we kind of do) it would be Han’s demise at the hands of his son from The Force Awakens. It was a shock. It was the point at which we knew there was no happy redemption for Kylo. It was a goodbye to one of the most beloved characters from the original three. And it was a moment which saw audiences gasp. No one was safe in this new era of Star Wars, which the next two films went on to prove.
Batman finally fights Superman (March 2016)
In 2007 in the background of a sequence in Will Smith movie I Am Legend, we see a poster for Batman Vs Superman. In 2016 that vision became a reality. Ok, Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice might not have been a critical success but it did pit two comic-book behemoths against each other for the first time on the big screen – a geek cinematic event whether you loved the film or not. Ben Affleck’s Batman was older, angrier, more troubled than Batmen before, Henry Cavill’s Superman was selfish, petulant, actually killed people. The film itself was dark, gritty, cynical. Love it, or hate, it was a bold move. The DCEU floundered in the wake of Dawn Of Justice, and seems to have righted itself since with the lighter, more hopeful Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Shazam!, which link only loosely to the wider continuity. BvS was still a landmark and perhaps a lesson learned.