The 5 Marvel Movies that Broke the Movie Industry in the 2010s

Although the 2000s saw superheroes break onto the big screen in a major way, the 2010s solidified comic book movies as an unstoppable force. Just before the decade began, 2008 releases Iron Man and The Dark Knight paved the way for everything that followed. So let’s take a look at the five Marvel movies — both from Marvel Studios and otherwise — that broke the movie industry over the last 10 years.

Chris Hemsworth at the premiere of 'Avengers: Endgame'
Chris Hemsworth at the premiere of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

5. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (2014)

Prior to this James Gunn-directed film, the MCU was mostly focused on developing its core Avengers line-up. Now it’s easy to forget Guardians of the Galaxy was a relatively obscure property before the cosmic team got the big-screen treatment.

Suddenly, audiences were so invested in the MCU that they were willing to check out a quirk-laden film starring a gun-toting raccoon and a tree. In addition, the first Guardians was one of Marvel’s first times letting an auteur take hold of a project, following only Shane Black’s Iron Man 3.

4. ‘Deadpool’ (2016)

Fox’s X-Men films were instrumental, especially in the 2000s, in proving that superheroes could be handled seriously. But by the time the studio got around to this Marvel character, they threw caution to the wind. And fans, in turn, got what they’d been clamoring for.

The result was a self-aware superhero movie with extreme violence, foul language, and the hard-R rating to prove it. Just as critics were beginning to decry the MCU formula, Deadpool changed everything. Ryan Reynolds was redeemed for Green Lantern, and Fox got its most successful X-Men film.

3. ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ (2018)

Thanks to the MCU, shared universes became the name of the game in Hollywood. Sony had already agreed to share Spider-Man custody with Marvel. But with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse brought the multiverse into the mix in a visually inventive, smartly written and poignant way.

After three live-action incarnations, Into the Spider-Verse brings arguably the best version of Spider-Man to mainstream audiences. For its trouble, the film earned an Academy Award and has a sequel on the way. A win for creativity, representation, and pure artistic vision, Sony truly outdid itself.

2. ‘Black Panther’ (2018)

2016’s Captain America: Civil War introduced T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) to moviegoers. Yet, Black Panther formally inducted them into the awe-inspiring nation of Wakanda. Audiences were excited to see what co-writer/director Ryan Coogler would do, but no one expected this.

With the first leading black superhero since Blade, Black Panther delivered a compelling personal story about legacy and responsibility. But Coogler’s film also touched on issues facing the African-American community. In the end, Black Panther earned a Best Picture Oscar nomination and $1.3 billion.

1. ‘Marvel’s The Avengers’ (2012)

If Iron Man gave Marvel Studios to blank check to pursue its craziest creative aspirations, this is the movie where Kevin Feige and his team cashed it. Superheroes had come to life on the big screen before, but The Avengers was an entirely different beast. Writer/director Joss Whedon united four separate franchises in a way that not only fit but felt like a natural extension of each character’s arc. Just like on the page, audiences began to see their favorites hero duke it out, team up, and triumph together.

If The Avengers hadn’t become the critical and commercial success it did, the MCU’s endless plans for the future certainly wouldn’t exist as it does today. Sure, the one-two punch of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame is overall a more ambitious undertaking. But those two films follow a template laid out by this film. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes didn’t just save New York from an alien invasion. They shaped the future of comic book movies and, by extension, cinema itself.