PEOPLE Picks the 20 Most Memorable Pop Culture Moments of the Decade
1. William and Kate Ushered in a New Royal Era
The April 29, 2011, wedding of the future King of England and Kate Middleton, a businessman's daughter, fulfilled the public's hunger for a House of Windsor reboot. Let Charles, never really beloved and a bit eccentric in his pursuits, find contentment with Camilla after his tempestuous, tragic history with Diana: Will and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, were young, well-behaved and conscientious about performing their endless duties. True love had been crowned with a true royal sensibility.
2. An Heir Was Born
Prince George, the decade's most keenly anticipated baby, royal or commoner, arrived July 22, 2013, promising a smooth line of succession into the future. (Does the Queen ever say, "Phew"?). The adorable little prince was quickly followed by two siblings, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.
3. Frozen Debuted
The 2013 animated feature reinvented the Disney princess for the age of girl power — what's more magical than being your own person? — and launched the ultimate earworm anthem, "Let It Go." The sequel grossed $750 million in less than a month.
4. Divas Reigned in Music
In a previous age we'd have one or two megastars (see: Cher, Barbra). But in this decade music was dominated by women — Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Adele, Lady Gaga, Carrie Underwood, J.Lo. They delivered their sound for maximum parting-of-the-waves effect. Their success seemed to have been ordained.
5. True Crime Hit It Big
From Netflix's Making a Murderer to podcasts like Dirty John, investigative tales of grisly wrongdoing were devoured like gruesome snacks.
6. Netflix Reshaped TV
Introducing streaming in 2007, it created an audience of binge-watchers.
7. #MeToo Roared
Bringing years of sexual harassment and assault to defiant light, the movement toppled the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer.
8. Fifty Shades Heated Up
E.L. James's novels about a woman discovering the ecstasy of S&M brought bondage into the mainstream.
9. George Clooney Settled Down
While the actor was never exactly a playboy — he was too socially and politically enlightened for that — he was for years Hollywood's most famous bachelor. That came to an end Sept. 27, 2014, when the then 53-year-old star wed Amal Alamuddin, then 36, a human-rights lawyer. (They now have 2-year-old twins, Ella and Alexander.) The sighs of dashed romantic fantasies can be heard to this day.
10. Donald Trump Was Elected President
The former reality host, who upended politics with his divisive style and blunt use of Twitter, faces impeachment as the decade ends.
11. The Superhero Universe Expanded
Tina Turner was wrong: We do need another hero. Lots and lots of heroes. Comic-book mythology has been around for decades — Superman was introduced to readers in 1938 — but in the 2010s superheroes seemed to conquer the world. The whoppingly successful Marvel-based movies filled our heads with the stirring, exciting adventures of Thor, Black Panther, Ant-Man and more. Star Wars's Millennium Falcon rose from the dust for a new trilogy. It wasn't a bad time to be a supervillain, either: 2019's dark, revisionist Joker was an enormous hit.
12. Melissa McCarthy Ruled
As a comedian, she's a once-in-a-generation talent, already up there with Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball. She became a big star with her wild performance in Bridesmaids ("I met a dolphin ...") and a box office champ with The Heat and Spy. Then she changed her game by getting an Oscar nomination for the profoundly unhappy Can You Ever Forgive Me?.
13. HGTV Surged
The Danish have hygge, the concept of cozy domestic pleasures. We have HGTV, the addictive reality-programming channel dedicated to lifestyle and design, house hunting and home rehab. The network produced several stars: Chip and Joanna Gaines (Fixer Upper) and Property Brothers' Jonathan and Drew Scott. (Meredith publishes the Gaines's Magnolia Journal; Reveal, a magazine with the Scotts, will debut in January.) Home is where the heart is.
14. Influencers Shaped Taste
YouTube and Instagram were the breeding grounds of a casual new brand of salesperson: the influencer. The best-known was PewDiePie, with 120 million followers across social media.
15. Women Stormed Capitol Hill
The 2018 midterms brought a record 117 women legislators to Washington, D.C.
16. Late Night Changed
These stars rose as the new generation of late-night hosts: Jimmy Kimmel (ABC), Stephen Colbert (CBS) and Jimmy Fallon (ABC).
17. Harry and Meghan Wed
Like William and Kate, Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle were greeted as figures out of a storybook romance when they wed on May 19, 2018. But they've steered their own course. In a controversial 2019 TV documentary, they both expressed frustration with the endless public and press scrutiny — she's the most obsessively watched royal since Diana.
18. Hamilton Combined History and Hip-Hop
In an age of long-running musicals like Les Misérables, Lin-Manuel Miranda's hip-hop smash about Alexander Hamilton struck like lightning and rejuvenated American theater.
19. U.S. Women's Soccer Won Big
With some glorious work on the field by cocaptain Megan Rapinoe, the U.S. women's team beat the Netherlands 2-0 in France in 2019 — its second consecutive title. With crowds cheering "Equal pay!" the victory was a rallying point in the women's campaign to be on equal financial footing with male players.
20. The Kardashians Became a Brand
The transformation from family to entity began with the E! reality hit Keeping Up with the Kardashians, which established the clan's individual personalities. It was followed by cultural milestones (Kim's marriage to superstar Kayne West, her stepfather's gender transition to Caitlyn) and the reaping of profits: Kylie became a billionaire.