Five Film Trends in the Last Five Years

While the past decade has boasted higher ticket prices at the theaters, the art of film, or plainly stated, the box office records, have show some major trends in movies over the past five years. While this list can easily exceed five trends, these are ones I have noticed and researched.

5) Dystopian book-to-film adaptations on the rise

Recently, I published a post on a comparison of The Hunger Games (2012) and Divergent (2014) films. Those two movies are part of only two of the major book-turned-film franchises to hit the box office over the past five years. Most film fans are no stranger to the dystopian film genre. The Matrix (1999) series started in the late ’90s. Tom Cruise’s film The Minority Report (2002) was based on Philip K. Dick’s short story. Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990), and Twelve Monkeys (1995) are only three offerings of the genre we were offered in the 1980s and ’90s. But in the past five years (2010-2014), I have noticed many dystopian books get a movie deal.


The first one in the past five years I thought of was Never Let Me Go (2010), a British sci-fi drama that focused on the lives of three clones who exist for the purpose of donating their organs to others. Another popular, although unsuccessful film, is Atlas Shrugged Part 1 (2010), a dystopian film based on the controversial novel by Ayn Rand. One book that, while may not be considered dystopian in nature, nevertheless has its film adaptation fit well enough into the dystopian genre is World War Z (2013), starring Brad Pitt. Two other noteworthy films to include in this category are Dredd (2012) and Oblivion (2013), each based off graphic novels, the latter inspired by Joseph Kosinski’s unpublished manuscript of the same name.

Of course, the most well-known dystopian book-to-film adaptations include the box-smashing The Hunger Games series, with the final two movies getting released this year and 2015; Divergent, the movie based on the popular YA series written by Veronica Roth; The Giver, an unsuccessful film adaptation that didn’t sit well with critics, yet was inspired by a prominent book written in the early ’90s (you can see my review of the movie here); and The Maze Runner, the the first of three popular James Dashner novels that will be released next month in theaters.

4) Female protagonist films lead the box office

In the 1950s and ’60s, there were women-centered films and female protagonists. They were marketed in a much more sexist way then, but the times have changed, and more films have starred women. But in the last five years, films with female-protagonists have led the box office. According to Time‘s article “5 Things We’ve Learned in 5 Years of Box Office Reports,” published just this past April, the year 2012 included three movies in the top eight that starred women: The Hunger Games, starring Jennifer Lawrence; Breaking Dawn Part 2, starring Kristen Stewart; and Brave, starring the talented voice work of Kelly Macdonald. The same article notes that last year, three of the top six films had female protagonists (Sandra Bullock in Gravity, Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and Indina Menzel in Frozen).

Perhaps the most notable fact that supports the idea that female protagonist films are leading the box office is that 2013’s highest-grossing film was the Jennifer Lawrence-starring film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the first movie since 1965’s The Sound of Music (starring Julie Andrews) to fill that top spot.

Of course, The Hunger Games franchise are not the only female-starring movies to make a splash at the box office over the past five years. Salt (2010), Hanna (2011), and Haywire (2012) were all female-led movies that obtained positive scores with both critics and viewers alike, with Angelina Jolie’s action film leading the box office with over $100 million.

3) Comic book movies no longer niche genre

When Sam Raimi’s first Spiderman (2002), I thought it was a special case. Personally, I loved that movie. My family regularly rented it from Blockbuster. It was the first superhero movie I had seen that wasn’t about Batman or Superman. The first Batman movie was released in theaters in 1966. I was amazed how odd it was that in 2002, it wasn’t considered a usual thing for a movie to be based on a comic book character, unless it was Superman or Batman. Blade 2 (2002), Daredevil (2003), Hulk (2003),  Hellboy (2004), and Catwoman (2004) were all released in the next three years following Raimi’s first Spiderman, just a few of the comic-based movies to get released in the early 2000s. It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized the first X-Men film, directed by Bryan Singer, was released in theaters in 2000.

In the early 2000s, there’s a sense that many film critics didn’t take the comic book based film as seriously as other film genres, such as dramas, biopics, and comedies. But times have changed, and there has been a new acceptance of comic-based films as Marvel has mapped out its future in movies for at least the next six years. (This is a fun article worth checking out, Marvel fans.) DC seems to take note of Marvel, now working on its own agenda for a Batman vs. Superman movie along with a Justice League film franchise in the works.

While it isn’t perfect, I found a list that compiles every superhero movie released, both on TV and in theaters, including both animated and live-action films. A quick view of the list would prove that comic book movies are no longer niche, but far more commonplace as they have found a place at the movies, considerably expanding its audience. I would personally credit Christopher Nolans’s The Dark Knight trilogy for giving audiences and critics a darker, more serious adaptation of comic based films, proving that just because the movie is based off a comic book character, doesn’t mean it can’t be a stylistic, entertaining, and bold film worthy of praise.

2) Sequels and remakes lead the way

Perhaps this trend has existed more than just in the past five years, but I imagine most anyone can agree that few original screenplays make it to the big screen today, and if they do, they usually do not sell the most tickets or perform as successfully. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, such as 2010’s Inception, the original screenplay penned by Christopher Nolan, but let’s get back to the point.

Fan art that just makes you laugh 🙂

Here is a non-exclusive, incomplete list over the past five years of major sequels, prequels, remakes, and reboots that premiered each year:

2010: Clash of the Titans (sequel), Why Did I Get Married Too? (sequel), A Nightmare on Elm Street (remake), Iron Man 2 (sequel), Shrek Forever After (sequel), Sex and the City 2 (sequel), The A-Team (remake), The Karate Kid (remake), Toy Story 3 (sequel), The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (sequel), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (sequel), True Grit (remake)

2011: Scream 4 (sequel), Paranormal Activity 3 (sequel), Fright Night (remake), The Hangover Part 2 (sequel), Rise of the Planet of the Apes (reboot), Kung Fu Panda 2 (sequel), Transformers: Dark of the Moon (sequel), Fast Five (sequel), Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (sequel), Cars 2 (sequel), Happy Feet 2 (sequel), Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (sequel)

2012: The Dark Knight Rises (reboot, sequel), The Amazing Spider-Man (reboot), The Expendables 2 (sequel), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (sequel), Men in Black 3 (sequel), Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (sequel), Prometheus (prequel), Wrath of the Titans (sequel), Total Recall (remake), G.I. Joe: Retaliation (sequel), The Bourne Legacy (sequel)

2013: Iron Man 3 (sequel), Carrie (remake), Despicable Me 2 (sequel), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (sequel), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (sequel), Kick-Ass 2 (sequel), Man of Steel (reboot), Monsters University (sequel), Red 2 (sequel), Evil Dead (remake), Scary Movie 5 (sequel), The Great Gatsby (remake), Star Trek Into Darkness (reboot, sequel), The Hangover 3 (sequel)

2014: Annie (remake), 300: Rise of an Empire (sequel), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (sequel), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (reboot, sequel), Godzilla (remake), X-Men: Days of Future Past (prequel, sequel), How to Train Your Dragon 2 (sequel), Transformers: Age of Extinction (sequel), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (reboot, sequel), Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (sequel)

What’s even funnier about it is that if you google “remakes and sequels for the year [fill in year],” every year for the past five years contains articles similarly titled to “[insert year]” is the year of remakes and sequels!

1) A billion dollars isn’t a billion dollars anymore

A quick check at recent box office records, or the same Time‘s article I’ve been citing throughout this post shows that the billion dollar list, James Cameron’s Titanic (1997) becoming its first entry, has now grown to a whopping 19 movies, including both last year’s Iron Man 3 and Frozen.

List of Highest Grossing Films

Image taken from Wikipedia’s page “List of Highest Grossing Films.” Green indicates the film is still playing in theaters around the world.

Looking at that list, you’ll notice that only three of those movies were released in the 1990s. Twelve of those films entered the list during the 2010s. But what’s most interesting about the list is that it isn’t adjusted for inflation, which changes everything, especially the list of highest-grossing films:

Highest Grossing Films Adjusted for Inflation

Image taken from Wikipedia’s page “List of Highest Grossing Films.”

Now it’s your turn, folks. What trends have you noticed in film in the past five years? Which trends do you find to be most dominant? Have some trends lasted longer than others? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts! 

20 thoughts on “Five Film Trends in the Last Five Years

  1. Great analysis and observation Kris! I think remakes/sequels have been around for much longer than 5 years, but it does seem to get more and more abundant!

    I’m getting bored w/ dystopian book-to-film adaptations, esp those YA adaptations. I mean no offense but they start to look and feel the same y’know, the novelty’s worn off long ago. Funny you mentioned Never Let Me Go as I never put that in the same vein as Hunger Games, Divergent, etc. as it’s much more intimate and emotional, the tone is entirely different which is more refreshing as well as heartbreaking.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ruth! Yeah, the remakes/sequels thing had been happening for a VERY long time, but it seems to still be going strong these past few years.

      I can understand that. It seems like it’s the trendy thing to do now. Some of the book series seem to be good, but they all seem to be getting adapted to film after the success of Harry Potter and Twilight, two series that were never dystopian in nature. It seems to be all about what sells and gets people to go to theaters.

      Yeah, I remember learning that Never Let Me Go was based off a dystopian book. I really enjoyed the movie, thought the cast was great. I think it is a richer story that wasn’t inspired by several teen-related female trilogies, haha.


  2. Is it just me, or do recent sequels and remakes seem to be an all or nothing kind of thing? In the past, it seems we universally accepted sequels to be mediocre movies with hints of the original (with some exceptions… Terminator 2, anyone?). Now, sequels seem to be either really great or really bad… for movies I’ve seen from your list for 2014, I don’t see any I would classify as “middle of the road.” I haven’t seen 300:Rise of an Empire or Godzilla yet, so maybe those exemplify the mediocrity we have expected in the past?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Matt! I don’t think it’s just you. Typically, I feel blown away by a sequel (and consider it better than the original), or it’s usually pretty awful. You’re right, there are exceptions. I actually thought Iron Man 2 was VERY mediocre . . . not terrible, but certainly nothing special to balk over.

      Regarding the ones you specifically mentioned . . . 300: Rise of an Empire got terrible reviews, if I remember correctly. And I’m not sure about Godzilla, but it seems pointless to make yet another remake of that movie, considering the original one was such a feat to accomplish in the first place.

      Really good point, Matt. Thanks for sharing!!


  3. The onslaught of sequel after sequel and remake upon remake is really getting to me now. Sure, some of those I will watch. But I really am crying out for an original film, with an original screenplay that’s not adapted from a book or comic or anything. Something completely original. It feels like we’re losing a part of cinema.

    Sure it’s great that the niche genres are huge now, but I think that’s given studios, almost the permission, to make these big money winning films.

    A trend I have noticed recently is the slight decline in 3D films, or at least more of an option to watch 2D as well. I remember there was a time when it was 3D or nothing. SO glad that trend has changed. And so quickly!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, it’s just continued to get old, I would agree. Truth is, I think that the few original screenplays that get very far in the process don’t get made because no studio or producer wants to take a chance on a film that isn’t going to boast millions or billions in profits. I feel like it’s all about the money, less about art or what people want to see. It seems to be about meeting the target demographic and raking in the cash.

      Ooo, that’s interesting, Jaina. I hadn’t thought about that. It feels like that was such a long time ago. Good point! Definitely a different trend that I hadn’t noticed as much of! Thanks for stopping by!!


      • It is turning out to be more and more about the money. Of course, film is a business, and you have to consider it. But, sometimes I think, if the comic book genre wasn’t doing so well and not pulling in all these big bucks, would those big bucks being spent on them be spent on something else?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sure, every business, even ones that started out as an art, needs money to grow and thrive. And I can even understand why movie theaters have upped their prices (didn’t say I liked it though!) because fewer people are attending movies today compared to the past.

          That’s an interesting question to think about. I imagine they would be. It’s kind of funny how the world, or at least certain countries, have embraced the comic book film genre. If it weren’t comic book movies, I’m certain it would be something else, thrillers, actions movies, whatever becomes trendy at the time. At least, that’s my perspective.


  4. Great post Kristen. We’ve seen tons of dystopian films over the last few years. Never Let Me Go was very interesting and the first Hunger Games movie was pretty mind blowing – the sequel far less so for me. I also enjoyed How I Live Now.
    I’m getting quite tired of the comic book formula now though. I still rate The Dark Knight movies very highly but then there are only three of those. The Marvel formula on the other hand is getting much greater exposure and I’m personally starting to find it very dull. Guardians has the most potential and I’d like to see them stretch the boundaries a bit in more in terms of plot next time around.
    As for remakes, we’ve had some great ones with tons of imagination – like 21 Jump Street – and some lazy and disappointing ones – I’m looking at you Total Recall. I’m not against remakes and sequels, but I think they need lots of imagination and care if they’re ever to live up to their predecessors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, and thanks for the follow, btw! Hmm, I actually haven’t heard of How I Live Now. Is it very good? I should check it out!

      Oh yeah? For me, I have actually really enjoyed a lot of the Marvel films in recent years, although I try to balance the types of movies I watch so that I’m getting enough variety. Otherwise, I feel like it can really get old. Glad you like TDK series . . . they’re definitely near the top of my list for favorite comic book adaptations. I agree that Guardians of the Galaxy has a lot of potential, and I’m looking forward to what they’ll be doing with the sequel.

      Haha, I LOVE 21 Jump Street! I just thought it was such a hilarious and good remake for this generation of movie lovers. Yeah, I really didn’t like Total Recall either. Felt like it was very ehhh and unentertaining. I think the truth is, no matter what you do, there will always be sequels and remakes, because either everyone in the movie is out of ideas, or they like to make them because that’s what sells.

      Thanks so much for stopping by the site!


  5. Of all the big trends that have been happening with Hollywood lately, the one I’d love to see go away is the remakes and sequels. They happen just as often as the other great picks on your list, but they so rarely offer anything entertaining or good, or try to be as good as the prequel. I’d love to see fewer young adult dystopian novels getting adapted; not that I have a problem with coming-of-age stories but would love to see more adventures where one kid isn’t overthrowing a government. Great article! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Katy! Thanks for visiting All Eyes On Screen! Haha, I’m with you on that. It seems like Hollywood lacks originality these days. It’s too bad the majority of movies released are some form of a remake, reboot, sequel, or prequel.

      Yeah, the dystopian genre seems very “in” right now, and I imagine its popularity won’t be dwindling any time soon! Haha, well, it seems like one idea sells (like the HG franchise), they want to adapt every other similar book series to gain the success of its predecessors.

      Great thoughts! Thanks again for stopping by. I appreciate it!


  6. I was putting together my list of the new fall shows in 2014 and I noticed that the female protagonist role is becoming more and more popular on TV as well. Like, most of the power job White House CIA related series all have female leads. Or that’s what I noticed…
    But Speaking of the trends, I do like the first one, I mean the fifth, because I like dystopian a lot! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree – I think more and more shows have a female lead! I think it’s great to see more women getting opportunities to shine as the lead character on both the small and big screens.

      Haha, ya know, I like the dystopian trend a lot too! I think I wouldn’t mind if we had a better mix of protagonists for the genre (variety beyond the 16-year-old girl), but I can’t complain too much!

      Thanks so much for stopping by the site! I appreciate it. 🙂


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