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The ten highest-grossing movies of 2010, and what that says about America

The top grossing movie of 2009 was, of course, Avatar, and this year the title goes to Toy Story 3. We're calling that social progress, although there's something a little too futuristic about computer-animated movies taking the crown back-to-back -- we're pretty sure it means there will be a robot overthrow within the next ten years. As for the rest of the top ten, more kids' movies and even more sequels. And only two of them were among the 10 best reviewed movies of the year, which is disheartening if you're a movie critic. Not surprising, however. America does not have a history of voting for quality with its dollars. After the jump, the full rundown.

10. The Karate Kid In so many ways, this movie is 2010 incarnate: A remake for '80s babies, a fourth sequel, a Will Smith offspring in popular culture. Totally unfaithful to the original, which we actually appreciate, but nevertheless not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination.

9. How To Train Your Dragon This is one of the more encouraging entrants in the top 10 this year. It had the lowest opening weekend by far for any of the movies on this list but hung around forever because it's fantastic. What's interesting is that it's a very straightforward story, and you can more-or-less deduce the ending from the title. But it's so perfectly executed, from the animation to the characters to the dialogue, that it became something more than the other bajillion animated movies that come out every year. This would be the first of the two movies where critical consensus was met with box office success.

8. Shrek Forever The first one was funny but hasn't held up well at all, and now we've gotten to the point of self-parody. Irony and adult-only jokes in kids movies is nearly extinct, yet this franchise continues to churn out condescending sequels. It's a simple formula: Establish a brand, and shove it down everyone's throats until you've destroyed your legacy and worn out your welcome with even the die-hards. Now, let's not encourage this behavior by buying $240 million worth of tickets, America.

7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 And at last, Harry Potter is the highest-grossing franchise of all time. Another example of banking on safe and watching it pay off. There's something especially lame about these movies in their inscrutable faithfulness to the books. Movies, as it turns out, are different from novels, and the right move would be to adapt the story to accommodate your medium. Instead, we have this, where everyone goes out of nostalgia for the books.

 

6. Despicable Me Another animated movie we have nothing mean to say about. The lesson here? Now more than ever, making money in any kind of creative field is about knowing what audience will still pay. Kids can be very persuasive, and mom and dad have to get tickets, too.

5. Inception Christopher Nolan followed the insanely great The Dark Knight with another winner and came up with a relic in the box office supremacy. Dystopian thrillers made big money in the 90s, but the people who went to those have kids now, and the current generation of teens doesn't seem quite so angsty about Big Brother now that they're all walking around with GPS in their cell phones. Call this one a rare throwback.

4. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse We're not even going to dignify this with any commentary.

3. Iron Man 2 Robert Downey Jr. is more than capable of carrying these movies, but this one was working on the strength of the first movie. A whole lot of exposition here and not much payoff, so hopefully The Avengers will redeem the franchise.

2. Alice in Wonderland Doesn't seem possible that this did so well, does it? Not sure what this says except maybe that everyone could imagine a scenario where this movie would appeal to them. Maybe you liked the book, or maybe you like Tim Burton, or maybe you like drugs so you went, but no one seems to have been particularly thrilled with the outcome.

 

1. Toy Story 3 Pixar is the most consistently excellent studio in the country in any genre. Even when they do a sequel (a third sequel, even), they do it with, among the films on this list, unparalleled respect for their audience.

A Few Fun Facts 1. Seven of these are remakes or sequels 2. None are rated higher than PG-13 3. Avatar had nearly double the ticket sales of Toy Story 3 4. It is incredibly important to note that historic box office numbers have a lot to do with rising ticket prices. Just ten years ago, the average price of a movie ticket was just over $5. In 1980 it was $2.69. Today it's $7.95.


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