We’ve spent the last few days carrying on about the worst films of 2010 and the biggest disappointments in the hopes of healing our and your collective psyches from the damage sustained after watching inane movies like Jonah Hex or Furry Vengeance (*shudder*).
Now we turn our attention to the high points of 2010 – namely, the movies that met or exceeded our expectations and entertained us enough so as to earn a permanent spot on our personal favorites films list.
While a favorite movies list does not strictly correspond with a best movies list (case in point – flicks like Citizen Kane or The Seventh Seal aren’t traditionally considered proper choices for a fun Saturday night viewing), there’s certainly a good deal of crossover between the two. A number of this year’s critical darlings were not only aesthetically and technically proficient pieces of cinematic artistry, but made for an overall memorable two or so hours of entertainment as well.
Here are seven of our favorite films of 2010 (as agreed upon by our staff), followed by some additional choices from individual members of the Screen Rant team:
Screen Rant‘s Favorite Movies of 2010
Yeah, you saw this one coming, but what can we say? Inception is a thrilling, thought-provoking blockbuster that utilizes some of the most innovative and breathtaking filmmaking techniques of the year to produce a truly creative action pic. Engaging performances, an intellectually stimulating plot, astonishing practical effects mixed with CGI – Christopher Nolan’s latest has it all.
It’s the manner in which Inception weds the modern Hollywood popcorn flick with art house cinema that is truly impressive. Nolan’s big-budget production succeeds at being a beautifully-shot heist movie in the vein of classics like Heat or the original Italian Job and serves as a reminder that filmgoers can handle a movie that demands their attention. Rest assured, none of us will ever trust our dreams or look at hotel hallways the same way again.
Leave it to Joel and Ethan Coen to not only prove that there’s life left in the western genre, but once again deliver a film filled with dark humor and rich characters. True Grit boasts a star-making debut for Hailee Steinfeld as the plucky Mattie Ross; another memorable turn by “The Dude” himself, Jeff Bridges; picturesque cinematography by the incomparable Roger Deakins; impeccable production design; and something that the Coen brothers’ work sometimes lacks – heart.
There are few filmmakers currently active that are as prolific, diverse, and accomplished as the Coens and True Grit is certainly proof of that. Not to mention – who else in Hollywood could come up with a character as memorably odd as “The Bear Man”?
Toy Story 3
Another obvious choice, but Toy Story 3 really is one of the best films that hit theaters in 2010. Combining everything you could want from a movie – exciting action, genuinely funny dialogue, a well-written story – with beautiful animation and colorful characters, the final installment in Pixar’s first and most-loved franchise is arguably the company’s best film ever – and that is saying something.
Pixar is the undisputed modern king of cinematic animation and it has yet to release a movie that is universally acknowledged as being an artistic failure. Toy Story 3 kept the studio’s win streak alive and also demonstrated that even a computer-generated flick that revolves around a plastic toy cowboy, spaceman, and their plaything associates can be as moving and emotionally-touching as the average drama featuring flesh and blood stars.
That’s right – a true-life tale about a guy who spends several days with his arm stuck under a rock before he decides to lop the sucker off was one of our favorite movies released in 2010. 127 Hours proved that it takes nothing more than an intriguing premise and unique storytelling strategy to engage the audience. Danny Boyle fearlessly plays with the medium and employed a dynamic visual style to recreate the reality of mountain climber Aron Ralston’s life-changing experience.
What really distinguishes 127 Hours is how it delves into the depths of genuine emotion without alienating or manipulating moviegoers via insincere sentiment. This is a true tale of survival that reveals not only how far a person will go to survive, but what drives them to stay alive. Take that, Jigsaw.
The Social Network
This time last year The Social Network was universally referred to as “The Facebook Movie,” and most moviegoers were highly skeptical of the idea that a story that revolves around a public figure who could be considered (pardon the term) the ultimate nerdball, Facebook co-creator Mark Elliot Zuckerberg, would be anything but a bore. So how did this project go so right?
Director David Fincher combined his deliciously dark visual style and meticulous filmmaking technique with Aaron Sorkin’s script, which crackles with witty, hip dialogue throughout, to make The Social Network a film to remember. That’s on top of the great supporting performances by the likes of Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake – along with Jesse Eisenberg, who turned Zuckerberg into one of the cleverest, most complicated geek badasses to grace the big screen in years.
The Fighter is an interesting picture that demonstrates how sometimes a story itself isn’t always as important as the voice of who’s telling it. This true-life account of boxer Micky Ward’s heroic rise inside and outside the ring looked like yet another conventional inspirational sports drama on paper, and yet the film plays out like anything but that.
It helps that indie director David O. Russell’s quirky sense of humor shows through the seams of this underdog story and that The Fighter features a scene-stealing turn by Christian Bale as Micky’s half-brother, Dicky, alongside solid supporting performances by actresses Amy Adams and Melissa Leo. Far from being Oscar bait, The Fighter is one of the more raw and stripped-down dramas that hit theaters in 2010.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
From the list of our shared favorite 2010 movies, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is the one we can all but guarantee won’t snag a Best Picture Oscar nod. It was a financial flop at the box office and appealed primarily to a small but devoted group of moviegoers – namely, either 20-somethings and/or those that spent the 80s reading comic books, playing video games, and engaging in other rather nerdy activities. That said – who exactly do you think makes up most of the Screen Rant team?
Even its detractors admit Scott Pilgrim vs. The World features eye-popping action, strikingly creative visuals, infectiously funny dialogue, and one of this year’s best soundtracks. Leave it to director Edgar Wright to deliver a movie in which Michael Cera gets to perform martial arts stunts that would’ve left Bruce Lee impressed.
Vic Holtreman – Owner/Editor-in-Chief
I’d never heard of the book “Flipped” by author Wendelin Van Draanen, but when I showed the trailer for the Rob Reiner-directed film to my daughter she exclaimed it was on of her favorite books. I was fortunate enough to see this wonderful little gem of a film about the coming of age of a young boy and girl – but sadly it never received a wide theatrical release. It was pitch-perfect in tone, story and the performances by the two lead actors Callan McAuliffe and Madeline Carroll.
RED always looked like it was going to be a fun little action movie, but it surpassed my expectations by a mile. Bruce Willis was at his best here, even though he played a personality opposite of John McClane from the Die Hard series: Calm and cool, even in the most extreme situations. The film had a stellar, older cast, wonderful dialogue, humor and great action to boot. Of course it received bonus points from me (an older guy) for portraying a bunch of supposedly over the hill actors (including Helen Mirren) as total badasses.
Kofi Outlaw – Senior Editor
Blue Valentine proved that a romantic drama can still move us when it’s done in a raw, truthful manner that reflects the reality of modern romance. The performances by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams prove they are two of the best actors of their generation. For more on this great film, read my full Blue Valentine review.
Ben Kendrick – Editor
Gareth Edwards’ thoughtful look at love, desperation, and fear of the unknown in a gritty world following an alien “invasion” quickly wracked up comparisons to Neill Blomkamp’s sci-fi drama, District 9. However, what makes Monsters a standout film of 2010 is that it successfully marries art-house indie drama with a fully-realized sci-fi landscape – proving that it doesn’t take headline actors, the studio system, or millions of dollars to make a compelling character-focused drama… featuring CGI aliens. Shot with only two principle actors and a skeleton crew, Monsters tells a quality human (and alien) story that isn’t dominated by the tropes of blockbuster aliens-invade-earth films.
While not an award-season favorite, Buried is certainly one of the most ambitious films of the year, as the entire 95 minute runtime is confined to the inside of a dark wooden box. Ryan Reynolds succeeds in playing off of voices at the other end of a glowing cell phone and director Rodrigo Cortés keeps the tension high through these disembodied characters – without ever having to show viewers the greater conflict outside the box. Despite the confines of the set, Buried manages to tell an intriguing and intense story that quickly invests audiences in the main character, the fight for his life, and his heartbreaking lack of options.
While 2010 provided some thrilling blockbusters, Mike Leigh’s subtle, affecting, and keenly observed seasonal drama Another Year was one of THE best films of the year for me.Using the convenient narrative structure of the four seasons, it takes us through the lives of a group of family and friends and how their actions – or lack thereof – affect one another. The film’s impact is helped largely by the performances from the likes of Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, and particularly Lesley Manville as a single alcoholic 40-something latching onto any sort of attention and love that’s thrown her way.
Do yourself a favor and seek out Leigh’s latest dramatic offering – I promise you won’t regret it.
Not many people have seen this action/period drama but those who have will tell you that Ip Man is quite possibly the best martial arts film to come out of Hong Kong in the past 10 years. Donnie Yen plays the title role of Ip Man, a Wing Chun master, living in 1940s China with his wife and son. Teaching the locals the ways of his Kung Fu, Ip Man is a pacifist, choosing only to fight when there is absolutely no other choice.
When Imperialist Japan invades and takes control of his village, Ip Man makes the decision to fight back – which leads to an intense battle of martial arts, pitting his Wing Chun against the Karate skills of a sadistic Japanese general. Beautifully shot, impressively choreographed and a compelling story all combine to make Ip Man my favorite movie of 2010.
Stephen Millburn Anderson wrote and directed this indie crime-drama starring Sean Bean and Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth in his first American made film ever (Star Trek was his first to be released but Ca$h was the first one he made). Bean plays twin brothers, one who commits crimes brashly and the other, Pyke Kubic, who does things smoothly and under the radar. When the spoils of a robbery commited by Pyke’s brother end up in the hands of Sam Phelan (Hemsworth) and his wife, Pyke enters their life to recover every last cent – and together, the trio takes a wild trip that reveals aspects of their inner selves that none of them knew existed.
Sean Bean, as always, is fantastic in Ca$h and is one of the main reasons, besides the interesting story, why this movie succeeds.
Inception may be my favorite film of 2010, but Black Swan is the best. Darren Aronofsky’s thriller is a genre-merging work of art that features one of Hollywood’s brightest starlets turning in her best work since she was a young girl in The Professional. Every aspect of the film lived up to my own hype and gave me something to chew on for days after I left the theater.
Few movies leave you completely surprised and ready for round two like Kick-Ass. It is full of adrenaline, humor and never-before-seen ass-kickery that deserved a place on the big screen. Chloe Moretz needed no introduction, but those who were unfamiliar with her work before Kick-Ass are now sure that she is one of most promising child actors in Hollywood today.
Here’s indisputable proof that Gone Baby Gone was no fluke. Ben Affleck is a bona fide filmmaker and The Town is the real deal. While it has all the familiar trappings of a typical heist movie, it’s elevated by a smart script, solid performances, and Affleck’s confident direction.
One of the only films I saw this year that literally made my jaw drop several times. I knew almost nothing about the movie going into it and was completely blown away by Debra Granik’s direction and Jennifer Lawrence’s performance. This is a gut punch of a film that I was still thinking about for weeks after I’d seen it.
This intriguing documentary, with its mysterious and “too crazy to be true” plot divided many critics, but I believe that no film to date has better captured the incredible power and influence of social media technology in our lives. In their film, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman do more than expose an intriguing mystery – they shine a light into the seedy underbelly of our Web-obsessed culture, where you can become anyone you want with few ramifications.
How to Train Your Dragon
DreamWorks Animation’s superb film about a boy and his pet dragon was an unexpected surprise. Not only was the animation breathtaking – rivaling the riveting flight sequences of James Cameron’s Avatar – but the story was well-written and offered an engaging plot with characters that you actually cared about. For years, Disney/Pixar has dominated original animation in Hollywood. With How to Train Your Dragon, DreamWorks indisputably proved that it belongs in to conversation too.
Bay Rong (Clash)
Despite the ridiculous, overly sentimental nature of the story and the fact that said story shamelessly rips off both Ronin and Kill Bill and seems to exist, at least in part, to sell some strange Vietnamese energy supplement called Enervon…despite all of that, I’ve rarely enjoyed myself more at a movie theater than I did at Clash.
Clash‘s martial arts scenes are so brutal and real and raw that you’ll be gasping and squealing with every landed punch, kick, headbutt, and MMA move, of which there are many. Watch any American action movie from the last few years, then watch this – the difference is palpable. And sad. Action scenes should hurt and make your teeth chatter like they do in Clash. Maybe one day, Hollywood.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
I was one of those guys who said, “Why are they splitting the seventh Harry Potter movie in half when a good forty percent of the book depicted Harry, Hermione, and Ron wandering around aimlessly in the wilderness?” How wrong I was.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 isn’t an action-adventure movie, but neither is it supposed to be. Rather, it’s an emotional journey. It’s about the characters more than anything else. It’s a survivor-horror movie where the protagonists manage to survive, just barely, because of the bonds and friendships they’ve made along the way.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried like a big, fat baby when Dobby the House Elf died in Harry Potter’s pale, ghastly, ghoul-like arms. Hell, I’m kind of proud.
[END SPOILER ALERT]
The King’s Speech
The Kings Speech is not the story of a man fighting for his throne in the face of invaders and spies. This is a man fighting to belong in a position that was never meant for him and that he never would have chosen. A man reconciling himself to his own limitations, both perceived and legitimate. A King with a speech impediment in a time of war, only able to offer one thing to his subjects – a comforting, unifying word.
The raw vulnerability of Colin Firth’s performance is mesmerizing; the humor, joy, and understated depth of feeling that exists in the relationships in the film is beautifully crafted; and the story offers a vision of humanity that is as perplexing and nonsensical as it is beautiful.
That’s it for us. What was your favorite movie that hit theaters in 2010?