You’ve read a hundred of these lists by now, so let’s keep this one real simple.
There was only one way to keep this honest, and that was to consider which movies I would most be willing (and eager) to watch again. That made it a lot easier, because as the list gets down to the top five, we’re talking about movies that I’ve already re-watched, that I’ve enjoyed all over again, that in a couple cases I’ve felt I wanted to own, and that I expect will become a part of my ongoing frame of reference.
If you have any interest in my opinions, I am grateful and I hope that you find the following rankings both revealing and worth pondering. If you don’t, of course I’ll listen to that too.
20. Let Me In [Read my review!]
I was as skeptical as anybody, but this is as good a remake of Let The Right One In as anyone who digs the original film could hope to see. It has a great cast, some terrific wintry atmosphere, and one of the best scores of the year, thanks to Michael Giacchino. Not only that, but in a sparse year for horror, this was a real life-saver. It’s spooky and effective, and many more people should see it.
19. Rare Exports [Read my review!]
You know what’s rare? An original idea, particularly around Christmas time. This mischievous take on the mythology of Santa Claus probably isn’t what you think it is, if you happened to see the trailers. It’s a bit more deceptively warm-hearted than that, which is what’s so special about it. Hopefully, as the Christmases of the future accumulate, more people will discover this fun movie.
18. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World [Read my review!]
I keep telling people that “this would have been my favorite movie when I was 19.” That’s no slight to what Edgar Wright & Co. have done here – I had great taste when I was 19! Unfortunately I wasn’t 19 during 2010, which is why this movie ranks lower on my list than it might. In addition to the many unfair oversights it suffered upon release, Scott Pilgrim is a casualty of the fact that I’ve had a rough couple years personally and my heart hasn’t been as light as it once was (and hopefully will be again). Scott Pilgrim is a movie for dreamers and romantics, and really, if you haven’t seen it already, you ought to.
17. Green Zone [Read my review!]
Honestly, it’s been a long time since I first saw Green Zone. I remember enjoying it, but more importantly, I remember respecting its aggressive attempts to engage a generally apathetic moviegoing audience with some very pertinent questions. It wasn’t a hit, and the movie is going to go overlooked in all kinds of ways, but it spurred a rare political stance from yours truly so it, for me, is probably worth revisiting.
16. The Social Network [Read my review!]
There’s not a single thing I can say about this movie that I didn’t say in my very exhaustive review. David Fincher is consistently one of my favorite working filmmakers, the score is brilliant, and the movie is quality throughout, but the occasional Sorkinisms and the fact that it forced me to say positive things about Justin Timberlake keep it from ranking higher for me. Sorry, America.
15. Black Swan [Read my review!]
This movie is terrific and my review positively glowed. But if you’ve seen it, you might understand why I’m not in a rush to see it again too soon. (Though I certainly will.)
14. The American [Read my review!]
The American is a movie for grown-ups. The promotional machine isn’t exactly geared towards grown-ups, and they sure didn’t go. But if you give this movie your patience I believe it will reward you. I shouldn’t have to mention that an amazingly beautiful woman is frequently naked throughout this movie, but if it gets you to renting, then that’s why I said it.
13. Jackass 3D [Read my review!]
Green Zone wasn’t the only movie in 2010 that got me talking about my personal politics. This one did also. It was a weird year that way.
12. Valhalla Rising
I never found the time to review this one, from the director of last year’s Bronson, but it’s a rare case where I’m not sure exactly how to describe it. It is an ultra-violent and beautifully-photographed movie about Vikings and their travels, but it plays like a weird, far-less-than-sober dream. It’s like a Terence Malick remake of The 13th Warrior. With some really addictive music playing behind it. Valhalla Rising is the definition of not-for-everybody, but it totally worked for me.
11. 127 Hours [Read my review!]
Really, that scene is not as tough as you would think. Have you ever seen a horror movie, or the 6 o’clock news? You can handle it. Don’t let fear or squeamishness keep you from seeing this excellent movie. The fact that it’s just outside my top ten is an indication that this was a year rich in movies for me.
10. Four Lions [Read my review!]
I’ve only seen this movie once so far, and I have no doubts that it rewards multiple viewings. I feel like I missed half the jokes because they kept flying so quickly and constantly. Seeing as how I laughed hysterically operating at my reduced mental speed, I can’t wait to see it again and catch everything I missed. As soon as you’re able, make space in your schedule for Four Lions, absolutely one of the bravest and fiercest comedies I’ve ever seen.
9. The Wolfman [Read my review!]
Yeah, that’s right. Maybe it’s not a popular opinion, but these are my favorites we’re talking about. You know I own this on DVD already. It’s a Universal Studios werewolf movie with make-up effects by Rick Baker. Many people have defended far worse movies for far weaker reasons.
8. Centurion [Read my review!]
This is a solid, unpretentious, impolite action movie. It’s got some interesting sociopolitical subtext, but who am I kidding, its priority is bloodletting. It’s a good story more than competently told – if you like sword-swinging and manly banter, this is what’s for dinner.
7. The Town [Read my review!]
It was a pleasure to see the critics supporting this one. It’s not a perfect movie (I know, I know; that final shot) but it’s tremendously genuine and that counts for everything with me. Please read what I wrote about it, because I think I did a thorough job of explaining what’s worth appreciating about Ben Affleck’s second feature.
6. Get Low [Read my review!]
This movie really resonated with me, in ways that I can explain and in ways that I can’t. It looks as if (fingers crossed) Robert Duvall may get some award-season recognition for his role in Get Low, which would be nice, and well-deserved, but especially valuable if it gets more attention for a movie that I feel like not enough people got to see. Get Low is a modest movie, but it shoots from the heart, and as I say, those are the ones with my respect and affection.
5. Monsters [Read my review!]
This definitely isn’t a horror movie and it’s just barely a science-fiction movie. It’s really a road movie in an apocalyptic setting that’s more recognizable than any I’ve seen before. This looks like life, if only giant alien beings were to land on earth and disrupt our own natural self-destruction. It’s an eerie but tender look at contemporary society through cracked-eyeglasses (or gas-mask eyeholes, as the case may be), and an unusually compelling character piece at the same time. Monsters is another movie that you may not have seen — or even heard of — yet, but you’ve heard of it now. Find it.
4. Winter’s Bone [Read my review!]
The best crime movie of the year, because it feels the realest. I felt like, happily, this was a stronger year than usual for movies made by women, and starring strong female characters, but none stronger than this one. And no other movie this year had John Hawkes, doing what he does in this movie, which is truly transformative without much at all in the way of make-up or razzle-dazzle. Boy, what a great movie. Not the easiest watch, but you’ll come out of it that much better for having seen it. Winter’s Bone will toughen you up, is what I’m saying.
3. The Other Guys [Read my review!]
Laughed my ass off. Needed the big ass-laughing-off laugh this year. And yes, it holds up to repeated viewings. And yes, Eva Mendes.
2. Inception [Read my review!]
There were movies that made more money in 2010, but none more talked about. And while many of the movies from 2010 will be forgotten by 2011, this one won’t. This one is going to be talked about for years. You might disagree at what level of achievement it may be, but you must agree that it’s a swing for the fences of originality in a time when few are pursuing that virtue. It’s a terrific and thrilling action movie that is immaculately composed, acted, scored, and filmed, and it’s even more interested in thoughts and ideas than any of those things. It was my favorite movie of the year, by a wide margin, until it was usurped very recently…
1. True Grit [Read my review!]
My favorite movie of the year. If you know me at all (and if you have read any of my stuff, you kinda do), then you know why. I felt at home in this movie. I could watch it all day. I may not always feel that way, but I do right now, and that’s all I ever have to go on.
(That’s just a clumsy collage I made of posters from 2010 — most of these obviously weren’t contenders. But a couple were…)
Also Considered: Best Worst Movie, City Island, Cyrus, Easy A, Exit Through The Gift Shop, Frozen, Greenberg, Harry Brown, Hereafter, How To Train Your Dragon, The Kids Are All Right, Please Give, Predators (really!), A Prophet (doesn’t really count as a 2010 movie), Shutter Island, Toy Story 3, TRON: Legacy.
Haven’t Seen Yet, Might Have Considered: Blue Valentine, The Fighter, How Do You Know, I Love You Phillip Morris, The King’s Speech, Never Let Me Go.