2010 feels like a long time ago. In that year, we were all in the cinema watching Inception or Toy Story 3. Marvel’s Cinematic Universe was still in its infancy. Most people still hadn’t heard of Breaking Bad, while Game of Thrones was still a year away. On top of that, Sad Keanu was breaking our hearts, Michael Cera was skipping, and double rainbows were outstaying their welcome. And that’s just 2010. The decade that followed has been one of turmoil and general shittery. But in the realms of entertainment and pop culture, we’ve been having the time of our lives.
We’ll each be picking the best film, TV show, game, and comic of the twenty-tens. Only one pick each. No ties.
Our picks might not strictly be the best of the decade in critical terms – they might very well just be the ones we enjoyed the most.
Film – Drive (2011)
Based on James Sallis’ 2005 novel of the same name, Drive is a perfect film. Blending a pulpy plot with an arthouse ideology, fist-pumping crazy person Nicolas Winding Refn made a film that is truly unique and, above anything else, so damn cool.
Ryan Gosling is the unnamed hero, a stuntman by day and getaway driver by night – with the best movie jacket ever put to screen. He falls in love with his neighbour, a fantastic Carey Mulligan, and soon finds himself helping her husband in a dodgy heist. The plot makes it sound like a hundred different films, but it’s so different to what you might be expecting. It’s calm and subdued, chilled out – until it isn’t. The film features a number of scenes of startlingly shocking violence, the famous elevator scene being the notable one.
But it’s about the relationship at its core. It’s a love story. And Gosling and Mulligan are a delight together. For my money, the scene in the elevator (specifically the kiss before the head stomp) is possibly the most thrilling, poignant moment in cinema. Seconds before everything comes to a head and erupts, the world falls away and these two characters are together. On top of this, the film is aided by a retro synth-pop throwback soundtrack that is just incredible.
Drive is an example of a film and all of its parts – director, stars, soundtrack, atmosphere, style – working together to make something outstanding. You couldn’t take any element away, they’re all vital and rely on one another. And though NWR has tried his best, Drive has yet to be topped.
TV Show – The Walking Dead (2010 – Present)
Watching The Walking Dead progress has been a roller-coaster ride this past decade. Starting out as one thing, the show has evolved and changed through the years – mostly for the better, but sometimes not. I’m not saying this show is the best show we’ve seen these past ten years, but it’s definitely my favourite – through good and bad – and is the one that I’ve become the most invested in. It’s the Lost of this decade.
Based on the comics of the same name by Robert Kirkman (which came to an end this decade) the show follows Sheriff Rick Grimes as he traverses a post-apocalyptic America with his family and a colourful cast of characters. Throughout it’s tenure, the show has been buoyed by very strong performances – from Andrew Lincoln to Melisa McBride, Jeffrey Dean Morgan to David Morrissey – as well as stellar direction and some very imaginative set pieces, helping to put a fresh spin on the stale zombie genre.
It’s also not been afraid to take risks, which I love it for, often playing around with flashbacks and other narrative conventions, and using music and other stylistic flourishes. And though Game of Thrones received the most attention for it’s willingness to kill its characters (initially at least) no show has killed more of its main cast than The Walking Dead – often in very controversial ways.
It suffered a slump towards the end of the decade, with a war against Negan being dragged out a little too long. But it’s a sign of the show’s quality that it’s bounced back, and then some, reinventing itself into something else entirely and becoming the best show on TV once again.
Game – Bioshock Infinite (2013)
Bioshock was probably the game of the previous decade, offering a smart and thought-provoking game, masquerading as a first-person shooter. So, Ken Levine is two for two in my eyes because I’m naming the follow-up the best of this decade.
Bioshock Infinite is far more personal than the first game, preferring to tell a nuanced story about two characters, rather than deconstructing objectivism and the works of Ayn Rand. It still tackles some lofty themes, like racism and nationalism, (and has a hell of a lot to say about America) but it’s far more concerned with Booker and Elizabeth. And a healthy dose of head-scratching quantum mechanics. This is a thoroughly sci-fi story.
You play as disgraced ex-Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt as as he ventures to Columbia, an annexed state that is suspended in the air with giant balloons. It’s my all-time favourite videogame location. It’s gorgeous and fully realised, feeling bustling and lived in, but with something nasty bubbling under the surface. The first time on the skyhook is still one of the most thrilling moments in videogame history, as you zip around the city like a rollercoaster.
But it’s the performances that give it an edge. Troy Baker is masterful as Booker, and Courtnee Draper is perfect as Elizabeth. She’s the rare AI companion that feels genuinely useful and alive, even if she’s just chatting to you or throwing you a gun. Together, the two have a very different sort of relationship than you might expect.
The ending proved a little controversial, and I’ll admit it takes a couple of playthroughs to understand. But it’s an ultimately rewarding experience.
Comic – Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (2012 – Present)
Saga is a breath of fresh air. In the current state of the world, seeing something this colourful, progressive, and full of heart is a joy to read. It’s got an edge to it too. But as with the best mature comics (like Preacher) the characters are definitely the good guys, despite the horrible things happening around them. Characters that you care for are the most important thing, and Saga has some of the best characters I’ve ever read.
The story follows an alien couple and their new-born cross-species baby. The two races are at war, making their relationship very dangerous, and their baby a secret neither side wants getting out. It’s a giant space opera basically, with different aliens and planets and science fiction ideas. And it all feels extraordinarily unique. Partly this is down to the fantastic art by Fiona Staples. She draws some really weird stuff, and not one design is boring.
If science fiction action is your thing, there’s plenty of it. But the heart of the story is in that familial relationship – and the bizarre team of outcasts and misfits that begin to form around them. And despite the fantastical trappings, Saga deals with some very real issues that face lots of families, like drug abuse, miscarriage, and the struggles of being a parent.
Brian K. Vaugn says that the story is half finished, and at the time of writing the comic is currently on hiatus. If the second half is as beautiful as this, expect to see it here in 2029.
Film – Rush (2013)
Based on the true events of the famous rivalry between Formula 1 racers James Hunt and Niki Lauder, this film is a…ahem rush of excitement. I was very pleasantly surprised by Rush. I am no way at all into racing, but you just don’t need to be to enjoy this film, as its flashy cuts, deep character studies and high tensions keep you enthralled.
The ever-charismatic Chris Hemsworth (also known for his popular role as Thor in the Marvel franchise) is fabulous, and he works well with star of the show, Daniel Brühl, who is absolutely fantastic as Lauder. I heard that Brühl spent some time talking to the real Lauder to learn his mannerisms and his experiences in preparation for filming – and, if that is true, it really paid off. Whether you know the story well, or if it is completely new to you, I am sure you’ll get a lot out of it.
TV Show – Bojack Horseman (2014 – 2020)
Many a time I have tried to convince people not in tune to the geeky world I live in to give Bojack Horseman a go and many a time I have failed. People see ‘animated’ and they see ‘animal people’ and they either think it is too weird or they think it is for kids. Ok, so it is a little weird, but in no way is this for kids. And everytime someone says they’ll give it a pass, I cry a little inside just because I know what they’re missing.
This. show. is. phenomenal. If you’ve not seen it, watch it. I actually believe it helped me grow as a person, like these people…animals…characters are my friends and I love them and they break my heart.
Bojack Horseman is a parody of Hollywood that follows half-man, half-horse, Bojack (voiced by Will Arnett – incredible). Of course, him being half horse is completely ok because the whole world is filled with anthropomorphic animals. Stay with me. He is the star of an old TV show, and he has now become one of those “famous” people clinging on their lives and identities. He is an alcoholic, he has depression and his life is essentially going to shit as he struggles to deal with all of the mess going on. Ah-hah, didn’t expect that from an ‘animation’ did you?
As we spend more time with Bojack, we get to know the other people in his life: his agent, a single cat with a hectic work life who decides she wants to become a mother; a human ghost-writer of his autobiography who wants to become a big-time journalist but she has her own personal issues to deal with; and Todd… who is just, Todd – he is voiced by Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), which is just an added bonus; among others. Every character is intricately written, and each plot thread weaves beautifully around the other in an exciting and passionate dance. Just… just go see it. *cries*
Game – The Sims 4 (2014)
Since Sims 2, I have been a Sims fool. As in I walked right into EA’s well-oiled palm and bought practically every Sims expansion pack. So yes, I am a lotta biased.
You know the drill, the Sims allows players to create people (called Sims) and control their lives as they go to work, live at home, make babies and generally live their lives. I found that the Sims 4 base game mechanics brought something new (and needed) to the franchise with a new ’emotions’ element that changes the way your sims react to people and objects. They have also been steadily introducing more fantasy elements into the game (werewolves, vampires, witches), but I tend not to buy into that.
The Sims 4 is the perfect game for people that aren’t gamers (and people that are). I’ll start again. Sims 4 is the perfect game for everybody. It teaches you about life, you can force people to do your will without being immoral, you can chat up the Grim Reaper! The game is your playbox to do as you will, with only the little inconvenience of having to make sure your Sim doesn’t die of hunger – unless of course that is your intention. My favourite is having an elder “woohoo” when they’re tired, which causes them to demise as they reach the precipice of bliss. How nice.
Comic – The Flintstones (2016 – 2017)
I like being pleasantly surprised. In fact, I will go as much to say I adore being pleasantly surprised. I like to know absolutely nothing about my media before I consume it like a ravenous predator, and this is exactly how I went into reading The Flintstones. And I was so surprised that the brilliance of this comic shone like the shiniest star that ever shined in my skies.
The Flintstones is packed with some beautiful writing and great, on-the-nose satire. Its so satirical its dripping with the stuff and I love it. It is also extremely poignant. Never have I been sadder at the thought of a bowling ball being separated from his friend vacuum cleaner, and never will I again I imagine!
I watched a bit of Flintstones as a child, so it was feeding into my nostalgia a little bit – so perhaps you wouldn’t get as much out of it if all you had seen of these characters before was from Viva Rock Vegas. But, it still has its merits for Flintstones virgins just for the pure meaning hidden behind each line.
Film – Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
I don’t think I could have predicted at the beginning of the decade that my favourite movie 10 years later would be a PG-rated family film from New Zealand but here we are. Part heartwarming comedy, part coming of age drama, and part crazy Kiwi road movie; Hunt for the Wilderpeople is undoubtedly one of the finest films released in the 2010s.
Based on the Barry Crump book Wild Pork and Watercress (Crump is a household name over in New Zealand), Hunt for the Wilderpeople follows abandoned juvenile delinquent Ricky Baker as he is shipped off to a new family by the child welfare services. Reluctant at first, Ricky soon bonds with his foster mother Bella, despite the grumpiness of her husband Hec. Soon though, Bella suddenly and tragically drops dead and Ricky runs off into the bush, rather than being left with the grieving and angry Hec. This doesn’t sound like the synopsis of the funniest film of the decade but believe me, it is. Julian Dennison as the hoody wearing, gangsta-rap loving Ricky is a revelation and his chemistry with Sam Neill’s ‘southern man’ Hec, is brilliant and beautiful. Like a lot of director Taika Waititi’s work, the film perfectly nails that difficult balance of funny and tragic, sometimes in the same scene. Bella’s funeral scene is a perfect example of this. Sam Neill perfectly portrays a devastated man struggling to articulate his grief, while in the same moment Waititi himself plays a hilariously eccentric vicar giving the eulogy.
The music for the film by the New Zealand-based band Moniker, is an absolute delight. It’s synthy beats channels the best 80’s scores by Tangerine Dream and makes the film feel timeless. The script by Waititi is hilarious and endlessly quotable (Bella’s ‘Happy Birthday Ricky Baker’ song will be stuck in your head for days) and delivered by the funniest people New Zealand has to offer. Frequent Waititi collaborator Rachel House is hilarious as the welfare officer chasing Ricky down and Rhys Darby’s cameo as ‘Psycho Sam’ is unforgettable. My opinion on the film has only gotten stronger since I reviewed it back in 2016. Do yourself a favour and check this one out. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the best and most majestical film of the decade.
TV Show – Fargo (2014 – Present)
There has been a multitude of fantastic television shows in the past decade as TV continued into its golden era. The sheer number of brilliant TV shows meant some got lost in the mix and were underappreciated (why is no one watching Watchmen??) and some got too big in an attempt to be the biggest thing on television (ahem, Game of Thrones) but quite a few left a lasting impact across their seasons, and stood out as the best of the decade. At the very top of the list is Fargo.
An anthology show based on the classic Coen brothers movie of the same name and helmed by author Noah Hawley, Fargo has no right being as fantastic as it is. And for the show to now have had three very different but equally brilliant seasons, is practically a miracle. The first season stars Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton and references the film in a few ways while still carving its own distinct path. The second season mixes things up completely, transporting us all the way back to the 70s where Patrick Wilson plays a state trooper who briefly appeared in the first series played as an old man by Keith Carradine. The third goes back to the present (well, to 2010) and has Ewan McGregor playing the dual role of twins. The good vs evil theme remains through all three seasons and Hawley proves himself adept at writing the Coen brothers’ particular brand of deadpan humour and shocking violence (sometimes at the same time).
The cast is phenomenal throughout all three series; there are just too many good actors to name the best (although Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst in season two are my personal favourites). The direction is some of the best and most inventive on TV and Hawley’s writing is both hilarious and profound. The show matches the Coen brothers’ original masterpiece and arguably, surpasses it.
Game – Mass Effect 2 (2010)
Claiming the best game of the decade is one released in it’s first few months is certainly a bold claim. In the following ten years has it never been bested? Not in terms of story? Or graphics? Or gameplay? Well yes, actually. In all of those ways Mass Effect 2 has probably been beaten. But no game has been as fun or as emotionally enthralling as Mass Effect 2 was all those years ago and still is to this day.
Following on from the events of Mass Effect 1, Mass Effect 2 starts with the series protagonist Commander Shepard losing his ship and all his crew and, well, dying. But all is not lost, as a mysterious company called Cerberus rebuilds Shepard and his ship better than ever. Its also a perfect opportunity for the player to rebuild whatever hideous Shepard you made in the first game. Although the character creation was still limited; my Shepard came out looking Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables 2.
The game’s real strength comes in it’s characters, and the diverse character specific missions who’s outcome determines the fate of Shepard, your crew, and the entire universe in the infamous final ‘suicide mission’. The shooting and biotic abilities are incredibly fun and the variety of skill load outs offer endless replayabilty. However, the real reason I’ve played the game so many times is the fantastic writing and dialogue and genuine real camaraderie between Shepard and his crew members. Even when I first played the game and did my mandatory edgy, ‘renegade’ play through, Shepard’s story was still one of the most engaging and emotional I had ever played (although a more balanced, paragon play through offers more emotional payoff, as I later discovered).
Maybe the game is goofy at times and sure, the sex scenes feel a bit gross in today’s climate – but the game is still a timeless masterpiece. The action is fantastic, the world and narrative is enthralling – which ever way you play it – and you are left wanting more. Here’s hoping for a HD remaster soon, so the game can reign supreme for another decade.
Comic – The Walking Dead (2003 – 2019)
Perhaps I’m cheating a bit, picking a book or comic that began at the beginning of the last decade. But it’s the last few issues I want to focus on here because 2019 was the year The Walking Dead comic ended. It was a groundbreaking comic throughout it’s entire run but the sudden and surprising way author Robert Kirkman wrapped things up is particularly exciting. Despite the promise of 200 comics in the series Kirkman decided to end it slightly short of this with issue 193 – and it wasn’t until this issue hit shelves that fans knew the series was ending.
Kirkman had always said the comic ends with Rick, it was his story. But fans were always optimistic his son Carl could assume the protagonist mantle in place of his father when the time came. Fans were still thinking this even when, in issue 192, Rick was gunned down by the annoying and entitled Sebastian Milton. They’d be forgiven however as Kirkman and the publishers Skybound, teased covers of the issues that followed when in reality, the next issue was to be the last.
Does issue 193 wrap up the whole massive, sprawling world of the comic? Well, not entirely. But that’s not really the point. We get to see the world 25 or so years later and what has happened to it and the characters we love within it. And despite Kirkman being ever the pessimist, the comic ends with a full-on happy ending. The world’s on the right track and Carl Grimes and everyone else who matters is happy. I’d have liked more Negan personally and it’s sad how Glenn’s kid turned out, but otherwise Kirkman does the impossible; he gives a near two-decade long journey a satisfying and final ending. And not many series can say that.
Film – Hell or High Water (2016)
Actor turned screenwriter Taylor Sheridan has had quite a decade, any of his movies could have easily been my choice for the best of the decade. The acclaimed cartel-based crime film Sicario and its sequel, and the massively underrated Wind River, in which both Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen delivered Oscar-worthy performances. But in my opinion, it’s Sheridan’s 2016 neo-western heist thriller, Hell or High Water, where he proves himself as one of the decade’s best storytellers.
Hell or High Water follows two brothers, portrayed by Chris Pine and Ben Foster, who are carrying out a series of bank robberies in an attempt to save their family ranch. Close on their trails are two Texas Rangers, played by an always great Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham. The main focus of the plot is on the brothers’ strained but loving relationship, Pine being the more relatable everyman and Foster as his ex-con older brother. The two actors give career-best performances and nail the mannerisms and casual joking that only siblings can have. As the Texas Ranger hunting them, Bridges shines, speaking in his ever so slightly unintelligible but still charming southern drawl. He manages to bring a level depth to the retiring lawmen cliché.
The direction and cinematography are top-notch, the multiple bank robberies being the highlights. These tense scenes are edited sparsely, and the impending violence happens quickly and out of the blue. Visually the film is a masterpiece, the Texan wilderness being as much an important part as the lead actors, with shots of the beautiful landscape looking as harsh and weathered as the characters who inhabit it.
I could write for a very long time about Hell or High Water. The characters, the writing, and the theme could easily fill a ten-thousand-word essay, but it would be easier for you to go watch the film yourself.
TV Show – Hannibal (2013 – 2015)
If Hannibal had anything going for it, it’s that it somehow made human meat look quite tasty. This could be due to the fact that these dishes were being cooked up by the most charismatic cannibal in fiction, Hannibal Lecter, portrayed perfectly by Mads Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen is Hannibal Lector now, and I’ll fight anyone who says there’s a better version out there.
Based of Thomas Harris’ horror novels, the show follows Will Graham, a troubled criminal profiler working for the FBI, (played by the fantastic Hugh Dancy) who befriends psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter (Mikkelsen). Lecter is intrigued by Graham’s unique ability to empathize with serial killers, and slowly starts to manipulate Graham into becoming a killer himself. It’s the relationship between these two characters that makes Hannibal so interesting. What starts as a professional partnership becomes a close friendship and ends in something else entirely. I won’t say anything else because the plot and characters never go where you expect, and you should definitely check it out for yourself.
It’s a shame that Hannibal was cancelled after only three seasons due to low ratings, but somehow series creator Bryan Fuller managed to tie all the plot threads together and leave us with a fulfilling ending. Hopefully someday we’ll get a revival, just so I can continue getting strangely hungry watching Mads Mikkelsen cook a meal with what is likely someone’s leg.
Game – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt isn’t just the best game of the last ten years, it’s arguably the best game of all time. A massive fantasy RPG on the scale of Skyrim with hundreds of quests and activities, but at the same time has a quality of writing rarely seen in the games industry. It has issues, as all games do, though they are so small and insignificant that they don’t make this game any less of a masterpiece.
You play as Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter and all-around badass. He’s searching for his adopted daughter, Ciri, who is fleeing from the otherworldly Wild Hunt. Geralt’s search pits him on an adventure across a diverse and dangerous fantasy world. You’ll explore dangerous swamps and marshlands, bustling cities, and a Viking-based archipelago, and in these setting’s you’ll meet a whole cast of well written and deep characters who will send you on fantastic quests. This is where The Witcher 3 differs from the majority of RPGs: Every single quest is in this game is interesting and full of surprises. There are no fetch quests, and you’re never asked to go kill twenty rats for a reward. A small quest early on in the game has you helping an old woman retrieve her stolen frying pan, a relatively easy and uncomplicated quest, but even this has a slight twist at the end, revealing a more sinister and complex situation. The writers nailed the novel’s themes perfectly, with the stories and character motivations never being black and white.
Aside from the fantastic writing, everything else in The Witcher 3 is perfect or near perfect. The combat works great as a slightly simplified versions of Dark Souls’ dodging and rolling system. Graphically the game is stunning, even though nearly five years old, the game outshines many new AAA releases. I’ve also got to give praise to Doug Cockle, who voices and performs motion capture for Geralt, as one the best performances in a game to date. He manages to bring depth and emotion to an already great character and expertly nails the witcher’s dry humour.
It was tough to choose a best game of the decade. With the likes of Red Dead Redemption, Red Dead Redemption 2, Grand Theft Auto V, and The Last of Us, but the quality of the hundreds of hours of content The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt gives you, not even including it’s two incredible expansion packs, makes this the best game of the last ten years.
Comic – Batman: Damned (2019)
If I mention the name Batman: Damned to anyone who is slightly knowledgeable about comics, there’s a high chance they’ll say, “Yeah, isn’t that the one with Batman’s schlong?”. And, yes they are right, this comic does contain Batman’s Bat-penis, it also is a fantastic comic containing some beautiful art and some intriguing ideas.
Starting with Batman severely injured in the back of a speeding ambulance after a deadly showdown with the Joker on a bridge, we find out that our hero may have broken his one rule and killed the clown prince of crime. Helped by John Constantine, Batman goes on a wacky and violent journey into the supernatural underbelly of Gotham, and through flashbacks we discover events in his childhood that made him the man he is in the present.
It’s far from a perfect comic in many ways. The ending, for example, doesn’t make much sense, and you never really know for sure what’s actually happening. And as you’d expect from Azzarello the writing is dark and somewhat edgy, which I adore but know some will be put off by the swearing and nihilistic outlook. The artwork too is likely gonna be love or hate it too, it’s realistic and grounded, which makes the violence and out-there imagery all the more disturbing.
Just like Brian Azzarello’s Joker, Batman: Damned isn’t for the weak of heart. It’s an edgy, violent comic, with some quite disgusting imagery. But if you’re interested in the more magical side of DC comics, this could be for you. I doubt Batman: Damned is on many people’s best of the decade list, there are very likely many better comics out there. But none are as interesting as Batman: Damned.
So that’s it! Bring on 2020, and whatever the next decade throws at us. And the roaring twenties are back, baby. The Jazz Age: Part 2. So start learning the Charleston, stir the bootleg gin in your bathtub, and watch a few talkies. (But let’s leave out the blackface and fascism this time around).
Fingers crossed the blog will still be hanging around for part two of this article in 2029.
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