The 2010s have been great years for cinema. Movies changed and evolved and got bigger with each passing year. Huge blockbusters were no longer far and in-between, but literally every year! Studios competed against each other to bring to audiences the best and most interesting movies, never leaving space for boredom. Amidst all this, we must remember and celebrate the actual power behind all these incredible projects, the actors.
Without actors, we wouldn’t have movies. It’s that simple. Actors make the movie; they are the heart and soul of the story and how we perceive it. Think of your favourite movie; what if we change the actors in it with other actors? Would it still feel the same? Would you still get the same emotions? Would you still see the story in the same light? Probably not.
The actor brings a piece of themselves to the film they’re making. They reflect their own personality and their own heart into their character, making it their own. That’s why films do not exist without the actors that make them. That’s why actors deserve the rights they ask for and deserve to have their voices heard.
The Most Successful Actors of the Decade
As the 2010s ended and we are now almost in the middle of the next decade, we would like to look back and acknowledge the actors and actresses who shaped our movies. These actors (and many more) have been the face of the 2010s. It’s almost impossible to think of cinema without having their faces pop in your head. They are not only some of the most successful actors of the decade but also the ones who made the 2010s films so memorable and dear to our hearts.
Important question before we start ranking actors: How do you measure success? Do you measure success by the amount of money one makes? Or by the impact they have? In this list, we decided to measure success by the power these actors held over us during the 2010s, their fingerprints on our hearts, and the impact they had on the film culture of the past decade. So, without dragging this any longer, here are the most successful actors of the 2010s.
Robert Downey Jr.
There are very few successful “rising from the ashes” stories in Hollywood. Once society and audiences shun an actor, they’re usually done for. But not Robert Downey Jr. After an unfortunate incident that led to his early career crumbling and him ending in prison, RDJ came back to become one of Hollywood’s most successful actors in history.
Landing the role of Iron Man in 2008 helped RDJ take his career to unfathomable highs during the 2010s. He led the MCU to global popularity, making himself Hollywood’s highest-paid actor for multiple years in a row. His mastery in playing Tony Stark for more than ten years made him and the character one and the same. There is Tony Stark without RDJ, and vice versa.
But playing Iron Man was not all that Robert Downy Jr. did in the 2010s! He gave us genius films such as the comedy Due Date (2010) and the drama The Judge (2014), and, of course, he brought Sherlock Holmes back to the screen in A Game of Shadows (2011).
Even though being part of the MCU took most of his time during the past decade, RDJ did not let that keep him away from dipping his toes in other projects. It’s easy to call him one of the most successful actors of the decade, and we’re sure he will show up again this decade as well! If you don’t believe us, just check out his work on Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Oppenheimer (2023).
Scarlett Johansson is one of Hollywood’s most successful actresses and one who proved her talent time and time again. Hollywood marketed her as a sex symbol and tried to confine her in roles that only showed that part of her, but Scarlett Johnason refused to be only that person and chose her own journey. Her unstoppable career only grew when she joined the most successful franchise in history.
Even though she had been acting for almost fifteen years when the 2010s began, this decade was the real launching point of Scar Jo’s career. She began the decade by winning a Tony Award for her role in A View From a Bridge (2010), which is already a strong start! But she made another great choice that launched her into global stardom, joining the MCU as Black Widow. Throughout the 2010s, Scar Jo portrayed Black Widow in eight movies, crowning her journey with a solo film in 2021.
Just like RDJ, Scar Jo could have spent the decade making money through the MCU and called it a day. But she did not! She gave us masterful performances in movies such as Her (2013) and Lucy (2014). She also received two Academy Award nominations in the same year for her roles in Marriage Story (2019) and Jojo Rabbit (2019)! Even though she didn’t win, we’re sure an Oscar is in the future of Scar Jo. As Hollywood’s highest-grossing star of all time, it’s not hard to see why Scarlett Johansson made our list of most successful actresses of the decade!
If you want to see what Scar Jo is up to these days, then check out her latest role in Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City (2023), which will be screening at this year’s Venice Film Festival.
We might all have first known him as Jack, the lover boy who drowned on the Titanic. But since then, Leonardo Dicaprio has proven that his career was only starting and his myriad of incredible roles is only beginning. As a recurring member of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors, it’s safe to say that Leo Dicaprio is one of Hollywood’s most successful actors.
The 2010s were by no means Leo’s start. By the time the decade started, Leo Dicaprio was already a powerhouse in Hollywood with films like Titanic, Catch Me If You Can, and Blood Diamond under his belt. But Leo was on a mission to land an Oscar, and an Oscar he got! Leo started this decade with a lead role in Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010). He followed by playing the villain in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012) and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (2013).
But working with all these incredible directors still didn’t land Leo his coveted prize, which he more than deserved by now! He pushed his body to its limits in his role in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant (2015), and the Academy finally said, “Fine! Here is your Oscar!” This award was only the cherry on top of Leo Dicaprio’s already amazing career. With or without it, he is one of the most successful actors of the decade.
These days, Leo is getting ready to premier his latest collaboration with Martin Scorsese, Killers of the Flower Moon (2023).
Johnny Depp is one of Hollywood’s best-recognised actors. No one else looks like him, acts like him, or has his unique personality. He uses everything he has to make sure his characters are as unique as him and just as unforgettable. His career boomed before the start of the decade as Captain Jack Sparrow, and the 2010s were Johnny’s time to prove he can do more.
Already having played Captain Jack Sparrow in three movies, Johnny started the 2010s reprising his globally-loved role in the fourth film, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011). Before sailing the familiar waters, Depp brought the classic character of Mad Hatter to life in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010) and played a lost tourist opposite Angelina Jolie in The Tourist (2010)—already a great start for the decade for our drunk pirate!
He went on to star in films such as The Rum Diary (2011), The Lone Ranger (2013), and Into the Woods (2014). He reprised his role as the Mad Hatter in Alice Through The Looking Glass (2016) before he joined the Wizarding World as Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) and its sequel, The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018).
Depp ended the 2010s as one of the most successful actors of the decade before he had to begin his new decade in court opposite his ex-wife. However, whether that will affect his career in the future, we’ll have to wait and see. For now, you can catch Johnny Depp in his latest film, Jeanne du Barry (2023).
We might now know her as the iconic Barbie, but before that, the 2010s gave Margot Robbie an explosive start to her wonderful career. A star from the very first time she was on screen, Margot Robbie’s talent took her from one successful project to another. From acclaimed films to superhero flicks, Margot is the star the past decade gifted us with.
The Australian beauty made her film debut in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) opposite Leonardo Dicaprio—a strong start for an actress who has so much to give to the world of cinema. The recognition that the film got her landed her the iconic role of Harley Quinn in the DCEU, starting with Suicide Squad (2016). From there, it was the world of Margot Robbie, and we were just living in it!
She earned her first Academy Award nomination for her in the biopic I, Tonya (2017) and another nomination for Bombshell (2019). Between these two films, she received BAFTA nominations for her roles in Mary, Queen of Scots (2013) and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019). The powerhouse actress and producer is one of the most successful actors of the decade, and for her, this is only the beginning! To prove how big Margot is growing, her latest film, Barbie, is already the biggest film of 2023!
The 2010s were the time to find one iconic role and stick to it, and Emilia Clarke did just that! It’s not every day that an actress can say they started their career playing the Mother of Dragon and leading one of the most popular TV shows of all time. Emilia Clarke, though, can say just that! This decade loved Emilia, and we bet Emilia loved it back.
2011 saw Emilia start her fresh career as she landed the role of Daenerys Targaryen in HBO’s highly successful series Game of Thrones. Emilia might not have known what this decade had in store for her, but Game of Thrones launched the young actress into international stardom immediately! Playing the Mother of Dragons took most of Emilia’s time during this decade, but she managed to sneak in some other roles in between.
In 2018, she joined the Star Wars franchise as Qi’ra in Solo: A Star Wars Story. She then went on to show us her sweet side as she made two romantic films, Me Before You (2016) and Last Christmas (2019). Even though, as the GoT lead actress, Emilia couldn’t take part in many projects during the 2010s, her limited roles were enough to make her one of the most successful actors of the decade. It’s not the quantity but the quality!
Today, you can see Emilia in Marvel’s Secret Invasion or her latest film, The Pod Generation (2023), with Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Handsome, charming, talented and surprisingly hilarious, Ryan Gosling went from Disney child star to Hollywood heartthrob in front of our very own eyes. The 2010s were very nice for Gosling. They helped him build into the career he started as a child and turn his raw talent into a critically acclaimed power that earned him a spot as one of the most successful actors of the decade.
The 2010s gave Ryan Gosling a very successful start with films such as the romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011), the political drama The Ides of March (2011), and the action drama Drive (2011). Each of these movies was a mainstream success that launched Gosling into the audience’s hearts. He later went on to star in Adam Mckay’s The Big Short (2015) and Shane Black’s The Nice Guy (2016) opposite Russell Crowe.
In 2016, Ryan Gosling starred in La La Land with Emma Stone. The film received a lot of critical acclaim and a viral moment at the Academy Awards when it was falsely announced as the winner of Best Picture —Moonlight was the actual winner!
Ryan’s role in La La Land earned him an Academy Award and a Golden Globe nomination as Best Actor. Gosling finished his successful run of the decade with his roles in Blade Runner 2049 (2017) and First Man (2018).
This year, Ryan Gosling is getting a lot of Oscar buzz for his amazing role as Ken in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie (2023).
Hollywood’s darling Emma Stone started her career just before the 2010s began. In a couple of years, the super-talented actress proved herself as a household name and face you want to see in as many movies as possible. From drama to comedy to superhero films, Emma Stone has done it all!
Emma started the decade with her classic comedy debut as a leading lady, Easy A (2010). The film showcased Stone’s power and her ability to carry a movie by herself. It also earned her her first Golden Globe nomination as Best Actress. She then went on to star in Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) opposite Ryan Gosling and the critically acclaimed film adaption The Help (2011). Launching herself further into the hearts of millions worldwide, Emma starred as Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spider-Man (2012-2014).
She went on to get her first Oscar nomination for her role in Birdman (2014). In 2016, her leading role in La La Land earned her her second nomination and first win of an Academy Award for Best Actress. Her third nomination came from her role in The Favorite (2018).
As the decade came to an end, Emma reduced her workload, taking fewer and fewer projects to focus on her personal life. Her insane run in the 2010s made Stone surely one of the most successful actors of the decade.
This year, Emma is making her comeback with a new movie directed by renowned director Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things (2023). The film debuted on Rotten Tomatoes with a 100% score!
It’s hard to think of a time when Andrew Garfield was not popular. These days, the man cannot go to an award show without being the centre of attention. From his raw talent to his gorgeous face, Andrew Garfield is the past, present and future of Hollywood.
Andrew started his career in England until the start of the 2010s when he landed the role of Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network (2010). The Social Network launched Andrew’s career into unfathomable heights. It introduced him to the global audience as the next up-and-coming talent.
In 2012, Andrew made his debut as the one and only Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man. He later reprised his role as Peter Parker in 2014. Playing Spider-Man raised Andrew’s popularity worldwide. He became the name on everyone’s tongues.
After achieving popularity, it was time for critical acclaim. Andrew’s role as a soldier who refuses to kill in Hacksaw Ridge (2016) gained him his first Academy Award nomination. He got his second nomination as Jonathan Larson in Tick, Tick… Boom! (2021). Andrew Garfield’s career boomed in the 2010s, making him one of the most successful actors of the decade. And he sure is not done yet!
Depending on how old you are, your perspective of Matthew McConaughey’s career will be different. For us Millennials, Matthew McConaughey will forever be the uncontested king of the early 2000s romantic comedies. But for the ones who saw him in the 2010s, Matthew is a serious actor with a critically acclaimed filmography.
As much as we love early 2000’s Matthew McConaughey, 2010’s Matthew is on a whole different level. In 2013, Dallas Buyers Club introduced Matthew as a cowboy fighting AIDS. The movie garnered critical acclaim and earned McConaughey his first Academy Award nomination and win for Best Actor. Dallas Buyers Club was a hard act to follow, but not for Matthew, as he landed a role in Martin Scrosese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (2013).
Matthew went on to lead HBO’s crime series True Detective for its first season. He then landed the leading role in Christopher Nolan’s epic film Interstellar (2014) and Guy Richie’s The Gentlemen (2019). Matthew might not have started his career in the 2010s, but this decade saw McConaughey’s rise to the top of his game as one of the most successful actors of the decade.
The 2010s were an amazing time for cinema and have seen the rise of many actors who still grace us with their talent today. These actors and actresses have given their blood, sweat, and tears to this industry and to give us movies that speak to our souls. Besides the names we are lucky enough to know, there are thousands of other actors who work hard every day to give us the films and TV shows we love. Show your support to them by supporting the SAG-AFTRA strike and their fight for fair pay.