Game-changing Digital Art of the 2010s

From Christopher Nolan to Baby Yoda, these are the creative milestones of the last decade.

Our fourth and final retrospective of the decade runs down the pop culture triumphs of this ending decade.

We've ranked music videos, we've celebrated the best work in the branding and identity realm; today we sit back and toast the entertainment and creative tech which defined the last ten years in digital artistry.

VFX, illustration, animation, character design - it's all here in one very eye-pleasing rundown.

Most Creative Hollywood Movie

Inception (2010)

The decade began with what turned out to be Christopher Nolan's best film of the 2010s (although that's up for argument.) A high-concept film with suitably high effects to match, Inception's 'unfurling upside down city' spectacles went on to be copied endlessly in the last ten years, along with its bombastic punctuation of a score from Hans Zimmer.

Most Creative Independent Movie

Under the Skin (2014)

The Eraserhead of our generation, Jonathan Glazer's unclassifiable Scarlett Johansson vehicle will be remembered by generations to come as the starting point for a new kind of cult cinema.

You can already see its influence today, with the film's immersive, subterranean netherworld replicated across the likes of Get Out and Stranger Things. Under the Skin's truly out-there use of VFX still sends shivers down our spine, but it's best we say no more in case of spoilers.

Best Animated Movie

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

It's rare to see a visual artist as a main character in a film, especially in superhero cinema, and especially one as positively portrayed as Miles Morales is. If Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has any minor flaws, one of them would be the fact that it forgets Miles' street art work as soon as he gets his Spiderman powers (and only remembers it towards the end.)

Otherwise the film really did deserve its Oscar for Best Animated Movie, and will surely influence both cartoon and comic book cinema for years to come.

Best Kids Movie

Inside Out (2015)

Bing Bong, we're still mourning you in 2019.

Best Franchise

Toy Story

Sure sure, Marvel defined the decade, but how many franchises managed to deliver an effective sequel two decades on from when they began, bringing a whole new audience onboard whilst still satisfying the original fans and critics?

2010's Toy Story 3 was so good we were worried it was a one-off fluke, but then the fourth movie came out almost another decade later to steal our hearts all over again.

We'd like to see Marvel take a pause and pull off the same feat, to be honest, but it would just be impossible.

Best Comic Book Series

The Flintstones by Mark Russell (writer), Steve Pugh (art), Christopher Chuckry (colours) (2016-18)

Riddle me this - which household franchise is the only one to stretch from the boomer generation to now, but without any conservative, shareholder handcuffs holding it back creatively?

Hanna-Barbera is the answer, the home of Scooby Doo and many other classic cartoons, which has allowed its work to be remade for the Adult Swim generation, remixed for UK bank adverts and turned into surprisingly edgy comic book stories by the great DC Comics.

Of this decade's daring Hanna-Barbera/DC reimaginings, the best had to be Mark Russell's two volume saga of The Flintstones. Across twelve issues, we had the sad, bad truths of humanity laid bare, with bold punches thrown on everything from religion to capitalism to PTSD. The masterstroke? All this was done with a wry panache that always had you laughing no matter the gut punch, and by the end of it we wanted to stay in Bedrock just that little bit longer. A true modern classic in comics with some fantastic, affecting art.

Cape choices

Those of you looking for the best superhero comics this decade meanwhile would be best checking out either Grant Morrison's Batman Inc series (2010) or Scott Snyder's Black Mirror (2011), Court of Owls (2012) and Endgame (2014) arcs in the main Batman continuity.

There's also the excellent The Vision (2016) by Tom King, a tragic, tender take on the Avengers android.

Best Game

Hotline Miami (2012)

Hotline Miami started everyone's obsession with all things retro and synthwave this decade. That a game kicked off a whole scene in movies, music and art is no mean feat, and we're struggling to think of any other game that's achieved the same since the 1980s.

Best Creative Tech 

iPad (2010)

The iPad Pro may be the best creative tech for digital artists, but it all began at the dawn of the decade with Apple's 9.7" tablet, a revolution in mobile computing that paved a whole new avenue for digital artists and creative brands.

Best Illustrated Book

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and The Balbusso Twins (The Folio Society, 2012)

The imagery of Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel has inspired everything from Extinction Rebellion brigades to Noma Bar's popular vector identities for both a reissue and sequel in the 2010s.

Our favourite 2010s reissue of the book though - and our favourite illustrated book of the decade full stop - came from the ever-dependable Folio Society, the number one name in luxurious reissues of literature classics.

Teaming up with Italian illustration team The Balbusso Twins raised the bar even higher, giving Atwood's text the Futurist, Russian Constructivist look of its heady dreams. Like a fascist vision imagined by Dave McKean, this was absolutely breathtaking stuff.

Best Kids Book

Hildafolk by Luke Pearson (2010)

Six volumes, two Netflix seasons, one mobile game and even a theme tune courtesy of Grimes - who thought a graphic novel published by indie hipsters Nobrow would take over the whole world of children's lit and media? A well-deserved achievement for Luke Pearson and his distinctive, sparklingvision.

Best TV Show

Game of Thrones (2011-9)

Because no other show inspired so many great creative projects this decade.

Best Cartoon Series

Rick and Morty (2013)

This was a no-brainer.

Best Character Design

The Child (Baby Yoda, 2019)

It was a fight between Baby Yoda and Pusheen, and Baby Yoda kicked Pusheen's ass. What a cutie!

Best Animated Short

Paperman (2012)

Through its stunning blend of 2D/3D techniques, John Kahrs's touching short represented not only the best of digital art methodology, but also Disney creativity when the House of Mouse puts its mind to it.

Best Short

Too Many Cooks (2014)

Casper Kelly's bizarre short broke the internet back in 2014, leading to mainstream KFC rip-offs and Casper's just as beloved Cheddar Goblin sequence from the Nic Cage-starring Mandy.

It also put the spotlight back on the amazing creativity happening under the Adult Swim banner, whilst still remaining the weirdest, worrying thing to watch online besides Don't Hug Me I'm Scared.

Check out also our best music videos and metal MVs of the 2010s.

Read next: The 2010s' Most Creative Commercial Work

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