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Credit: SYFY WIRE

The decade-long power ranking of the Chrises

Contributed by
Dec 30, 2019

The past decade of pop culture has seen an array of radical shifts that dramatically altered the direction of entertainment as a whole.

The Walt Disney Company's $71 billion acquisition of 20th Century Fox made it one of the most overwhelmingly powerful media entities on the planet. Netflix pioneered a new mold of consumerism through the streaming market and created the most sweeping changes to how audiences watch film and television. Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm became kings of the franchise beat, breaking endless box-office records and establishing the expanded universe mold of blockbuster filmmaking that the rest of the industry has desperately tried to keep up with. The role of China in the financial market became all-consuming, seeing studios often catering exclusively to the growing audience demographics in what quickly became the largest box-office pool on the planet.

Crucially, the concept of the A-List megastar, the kind of celebrity so universally popular that their mere presence in a venture could guarantee big sales, greatly diminished over the past 10 years. We still have stars with worldwide appeal and industry clout, but gone are the days when even Tom Cruise or Will Smith would ensure success, regardless of the project's quality. That didn't stop Hollywood from trying to birth a new generation of actors who could replicate the structures of old.

We've spent a lot of the past 10 years discussing four white dudes named Chris: Hemsworth and Evans and Pratt and Pine. They share many similarities, from looks to acting style to industry intent, and as the 2010s came to an end, we saw how this quartet came to stand in for Hollywood stardom of the past, present, and future. They were practically hand-made to be superstars in this system, and they have all become massive celebrities who are crucial parts of the new franchise blockbuster age where the property matters more than the names above it. They were the men Hollywood wanted at the forefront, even as that particular mold of celebrity was coming to an end.

As we come to the end of this decade of Chris-dom, it's only fair that we fill in the report card. Which Chris from the default quartet reigned supreme in the 2010s, the era that birthed the trend and set the path for the future? As with Highlanders, there can be only one, so we're counting down from worst to best.

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Chris Pratt Fallen Kingdom

Worst Chris: Pratt

Let's face it, you all knew who was going to be the Worst Chris. It wasn't even close. We've all known it for a while now and it doesn't look like our last place dude has much chance of crawling out of that pit. It wasn't always like this either. Indeed, at the decade's beginning, it seemed like Chris Pratt was the one to look out for.

Really, he didn't even become one of the quarter until 2014 thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy. Before that, he was the adorable comedy dork from sitcoms and the occasional movie who you liked and didn't think much beyond that. Then he got fit and became Star-Lord, opening the floodgates and sending him soaring to the top. He seemed great at first, a roguish kind of leading man with great comic chops who blended comedy and action well and nailed some of the more emotional beats of Vol. 2. The only problem is that that seemed to be all he was capable of doing.

Peter Quill's man-child hilarity was a lot less entertaining when transplanted into Jurassic World, a movie so staggeringly sexist that it's still hard to believe it came out this century. Passengers was skin-crawling in its gender politics and Pratt's performance didn't help matters. In terms of pure skill, Pratt is the Chris who lacks the range. He seems happy to be dime-store Harrison Ford without the deft touch or raw sex appeal, but so do a lot of the paying public who helped to make the Guardians and Jurassic World franchises mega-hits.

To put it bluntly, Pratt's status as Worst Chris is rooted more in his private life than his professional choices, although they certainly have not helped his case. His dedication to the Hillsong church, an organization with connections to gay conversion therapy, isn't exactly something you can sweep under the rug as a minor oopsie. He posts weird political poetry to Instagram and tries to sit out controversial topics even as he implicitly endorses the bigotry of his church. All that and he loves guns. Pratt is the Chris most likely to be talking to an empty chair at a political convention in 15 years' time. What wasted potential. Frankly, it's kind of questionable why we even keep him in the Chris quarter. Anyone got Messina's number?

Chris Pine Wrinkle in Time

Third Best Chris: Pine

I'm going to be honest with you, dear reader. If this list wasn't trying so dang hard to be semi-objective, Chris Pine would be at the top of the pack because he's my personal favorite. If you'd told me that a decade ago, I would have rolled my eyes. Pine entered the 2010s as the new Captain Kirk in the Star Trek reboot but he didn't exactly set the world alight with his decent but not especially inspiring performance. Sure, he's extremely handsome in an impeccably Disney-prince-meets-1940s-studio-hunk kind of way, but his projects didn't inspire or give us a sense that he could really compete with the Marvel Chrises until half the decade was over. Into the Woods helped to push him forward as the dark horse of the pack, playing on his old-school movie star handsomeness to subvert audience expectations and also let us all know that he's the Chris who can sing (he comes with Barbra Streisand's seal of approval!).

From there, things started to dramatically improve: Star Trek Beyond let him be the Captain Kirk we needed and deserved. He happily took a backseat as Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman, letting the heroines shine while playing a shamelessly female gaze oriented love interest. In A Wrinkle in Time, he went full dad mode with a beard that still leaves us a-fluttering. He even popped up in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse just to dip his toes into Marvel. Out of all the Chrises, I would argue that Pine is the best actor, the one who can do the most in terms of projects, genres, and roles. He's the character actor Chris in that regard.

Outside of acting, he's also easily the best dressed Chris. You don't see any of the other Chrises wearing dungarees or caftans or dressing to co-ordinate with his spouse! Pine's greatness may not be fully realized until the coming decade, and his strongest work is arguably outside of genre projects, so it's hard not to objectively rank him a little lower than I'd personally desire. He's the Chris of potential, and one who has defined his time in genre by working with women directors like Patty Jenkins and Ava DuVernay. He's the Chris we want more from, and we're sure he'll give it to us, preferably while wearing a caftan.

Chris Hemsworth Bad Times at the El Royale

Second Best Chris: Hemsworth

Chris Hemsworth just seemed destined for big things. He came to America from Australia and almost immediately started landing major projects, from the tiny role as Kirk's dad in Star Trek to Asgard's finest with Thor. He simply looked like a hero, especially the kind that Hollywood covets. Sure, Hemsworth has muscles for days and can bring down hammer time when the occasion calls for it, but the best of Hemsworth in the 2010s was defined by his impeccable comic timing. He was always funny as Thor ("Another!") but it felt like Marvel wasn't keyed into that fact until his hilarious turn in 2016's Ghostbusters and our beloved Taika Waititi's decision to let him go all-out goofy in Thor: Ragnarok. There are few things we love as much as a hot funny guy who doesn't take himself too seriously.

Hemsworth is the Chris who I would bet good money on sticking around as an A-List megastar for the longest. Other Chrises may want to step out of the spotlight and do smaller projects, but Hemsworth seems happy to stick to primetime for the near future. He's the Chris who seems the most aware of his image and how best to wield it for audience satisfaction, be it with the pure sex symbol bait of Ghostbusters or the tragicomic contradictions of fat Thor in Avengers: Endgame. Thor: Love and Thunder is coming soon and, frankly, we'd be happy with a ceaseless assembly line of Thor should Hemsworth wish to provide.

Chris Evans Infinity War

Best Chris: Evans

The 2010s was the decade of Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. He was the Boy Scout hero that the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the world at large needed in a decade that sparkled with hope in its beginning before descending into hellfire by its conclusion. We needed that injection of unabashed earnestness into our lives, the scrappy underdog who becomes the ultimate man but never forgets his roots or the value of what he's fighting for. As the decade continued, pop culture became overwhelmed with a misguided urge to lean into the dark and gritty tone and aesthetic or "serious movies," which paid off with varying results. Batman scowled more, the Joker lived in a society, and even The Mummy had to go grey. Evans' Captain America was a much-needed beacon of hope and vibrancy during this dirge.

Marvel's ever-expanding franchise may have dozens of characters that audiences loved, but Steve was the undeniable heart, one who earned his ending and then some. Evans did that. Plenty of actors big and small tried out for the part of Captain America, but none of them could take on the puppy dog sincerity he possesses that never feels out of step with his super-powered fighting abilities. Evans embodied the old man as much as the ever-youthful symbol of Americana that Steve had thrust upon him.

If Evans' entire decade was defined by nothing but Marvel, then the chances are he'd still come out on top of the Chris pile. The franchise took over the past 10 years that much and will probably continue to do so for the time being, only without Evans. Fortunately, Evans has been keeping us very busy this past decade with other roles, time on Broadway, and the best social media presence of any of the Chrises (and perhaps any man named Chris full stop). He made ragged white sweaters cool again in Knives Out, where he reminded us all of just how good he is at playing absolute f***ers. He grew a J. Jonah Jameson cop mustache for his stage debut in Lobby Hero and still made us think bad thoughts. His Twitter feed is full of strong progressive messages and pictures of his dog, and really, that's all we need from a Chris in this day and age.

More importantly, Chris Evans is the Chris who best exemplified the current age of stardom as it best intersected with the old ways. We needed something to cling to, both on and off the screen, and Evans stepped up to the plate. So shine on, Chris Evans. Steve Rogers lives on forever.