The Social Network (#1)

Pure and simple narrative genius. Fincher knew just how to handle Sorkin’s script. Eisenberg plays himself, yes, and he’s awesome at it.—Matt Logan, LaFayette, GA

I have never been a David Fincher fan but I must admit that he has managed to direct two excellent films, Zodiac and The Social Network. Both films are dramatizations of true, complex events that had a significant impact on each of its generations. Fincher explores the complicated subjects of these films in vivid detail while laying clues to help the audience make sense of it all. The Social Network is extra special to me since it examines the people of my generation, Generation Y. Never has a film so accurately portrayed the intelligence, arrogance, obsessions and idealism of this high-tech generation. The film’s multitier observation of how these socially impaired people forever changed the way the world communicates is frighteningly pitch-perfect. Mix this with Aaron Sorkin’s razor sharp script, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s hypnotic score and a cast full of talented, young actors and you have the best movie of 2010.—Juan Olmos, Houston, TX

I was truly upset when this movie ended. I wanted more. I was in that world and didn’t want to leave.—Melissa Hanson, New York, NY 

Winter’s Bone (#2)

Debra Granik’s film does a good job of accurately portraying a sect of rough, desperate people, and the way their lives have become an endless cycle of hopelessness.—Chris Weseloh, Kansas City, MO

It is impressive in its uncanny ability to accurately depict the tone and characters of the rural South. Jennifer Lawrence is perfect in it.—Mike Odmark, Nashville, TN

A fascinating and unlikely setting for a P.I. flick. “Forget it Jake, it’s the Ozarks.”—RJ Tougas, Winnipeg, Canada

Black Swan (#3)

One of the most intense films I’ve seen, probably ever.—Regina Domeraski, Lyndhurst, NJ

Fitting for a movie that often focuses on the negative effects of the quest for artistic perfection, Black Swan is far from perfect, and thank God for that. It’s a movie that takes big risks, presenting an art form known for its majesty and grace in a gritty and utterly horrific manner, never offering a clear distinction between fantasy and reality.—Jon Marquis, Conesus, NY

Darren Aronofsky draws heavily on The Red Shoes, the greatest of all dance movies, which he then liberally and daringly crossbreeds with the psycho-thrillers of Roman Polanski, the surrealism of David Lynch and the “body horror” of David Cronenberg. But the film this most resembles is Aronofsky’s own The Wrestler, both in its theme of putting everything on the line for the thing one loves the most and for the handheld camera that constantly tracks his protagonists from behind, giving the impression the characters are being pushed forward to a tragic, inevitable destiny.—Michael Smith, Chicago, IL

Inception (#4)

Christopher Nolan is either a genius or a con artist, but the film is colossally entertaining, regardless.—Jeff Jewell, Howell, MI

Why is Inception being so acclaimed as a “mind game” and being called confusing? I was able to follow along with its so-called dream pretty well. When I see a dream film I expect it to be off the walls crazy and incoherent, like in a David Lynch film.—Patrick Dillon, Riverside, CT

True Grit (#5)

The Coens’ reboot is a wholly original experience, and all the hallmarks you expect are there—Deakins’ immaculate vistas, a panoply of perfectly pitched characters, and, most noticeably, a veritable thesaurus full of funny, flowery talk.—Stephen Brower, Santa Monica, CA

Carlos (#6)

A portrait of a man of action who didn’t accomplish one worthwhile thing.—Michael Annand, New Haven, CT

Not since Pialat’s Van Gogh has an appropriate film biography come out of France. The only thing the two films have in common is the irreconcilable drive of its subjects.—Roger Lonak, Chicago, IL

The Ghost Writer (#7)

One of the most suspenseful, haunting, and brilliantly acted films of the year. It had so many twists and turns, that you weren’t really allowed to catch your breath. Plus, the ending came completely out of nowhere.—David Hollingsworth, Fayetteville, NC

Roman Polanski’s extraordinarily assured The Ghost Writer is the best pop thriller in a long time. The plot, despite its topical references to politics and terrorism (specifically the Bush/Blair connection), is really just a MacGuffin. But the acerbic wit and sustained skill with which it is told add up to the best Polanski movie in more than 35 years.—Randall Byrn, New York, NY

Toy Story 3 (#8)

This one is purely a sentimental pick. The film feels like The Great Escape as performed by Happy Meal toys, and as such, gives audiences of all ages plenty of humor, fun, and heart to devour and enjoy. It also had me sobbing like a small child by the very end, which is the true mark of greatness. In short, it was the perfect ending to an iconic series.—Ben Storey, Bryn Mawr, PA

It’s not wrong to call Toy Story 3 a dark movie. Pixar is no stranger to darkness, from Sid’s house in the first Toy Story to Helen teaching her children about the nature of evil in The Incredibles to the heartbreaking montage in Up, not to mention the entire premise of Wall-E. Greater than the film’s darkness is all the joy it contains. This is a wildly imaginative movie, with inventive gags hearkening back to the days when Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton could masterfully transform any object into something else entirely through only visual cues.—Jon Marquis, Conesus, NY

The King’s Speech (#9)

Pretty traditional, and I can see why people like it. Is life really like this?—Regina Domeraski, Lyndhurst, NJ

Shutter Island (#10)

A much better examination of parallel realities than the overrated, bloated Inception.—Jeffrey Wang, Fullerton, CA

A Prophet (#12)

Not your average prison flick, but something more gritty and visceral, with a hero/anti-hero who listens and learns but is opaque to the viewer (think Le Samourai). On the surface, the story is straightforward (and occasionally brutal) but simmering under are racial identity issues, father-son dynamics, a moral code of sorts, and possibly second sight. Never less than enthralling.—Art Stukas, Bundoora, Australia

White Material (#13)

Denis can do no wrong. The post-colonial dream turned living nightmare. The unnerving images of the children sneaking through the weeds with guns was one of the best scenes of 2010. Elliptical narrative poetry.—Kevin Dale Ringgenberg, Denver, CO

Equal parts wake up call and cosmic joke.—Andrew Gilbert, Belding, MI

The Kids Are All Right (#14)

The movie speaks beyond sexual orientation and looks at the strength of union between two halves of a couple. It’s a delicate look at how the thin cracks of a lengthy marriage can so easily, yet harshly come apart only to reveal a hidden strength within– a rare topic in Hollywood movies, which often hype the falling in love part of a relationship to end it there. Buoyed by fine performances all around, especially by the two actresses at the heart of the story, director Lisa Cholodenko knows where to find the drama in a long-term relationship.—Hans Morgenstern, Miami, FL

Greenberg (#15)

This may be Baumbach’s best film yet.—Mike Odmark, Nashville, TN

This is the story of an insufferable jerk. I don’t want to say, “who cares” about the Greenberg character, but as I was watching the film, I kept asking myself, who cares about this character.—Michael McGonigle, Philadelphia, PA

Dogtooth (#16)

Head and shoulders above everything else I saw this year, unlike anything I’ve ever seen.—Amy Sullivan, San Francisco, CA

Completely sullen, totally brutal.—Scott Davidson, Ferndale, MI

The great movie from this year, like Antichrist before it, that I will be selective in recommending.—Randall Yelverton, Camdenton, CO

Another Year (#17)

Exhilarating/debilitating.—Emmett Booth, Amherst, NY

Terrific performances by all; expected from a Mike Leigh film.—Paul Roppolo, Toronto, Canada

The Fighter (#18)

The biggest surprise. Much better than expected. Glad to see increasing range for Amy Adams.—William Garfinkel, Watertown, CT

I couldn’t take my eyes off of Christian Bale’s manic, smirking, menacing visage for one second. He completely inhabited this luckless drug addict and stole the movie from absolutely everyone else involved including the direct David O. Russell, whose style was subsumed by Bale’s unbelievable performance. The Addict would have been a more appropriate title!—Wayne Titus, Brooklyn, NY

Blue Valentine (#19)

The tale of two people falling in and out of love, right? Wrong. This is the tale of two people finding each other at a time when they most needed someone and fooling themselves into thinking it was love. It’s harsh, depressing, and brutally honest, but in all the best kinds of way. Gosling and Williams are both about as perfect as I kept hearing they were. They do a good job of portraying characters who never really change who they are; their perception of each other is what changes.—Chris Weseloh, Kansas City, MO

Cassavetes Light. Tastes great? Or less filling?—Kevin Dale Ringgenberg, Denver, CO

I Am Love (#20)

As soon as I read that Luca Guadagnino was a staunch supporter of Showgirls, I rushed out to see I Am Love. One thing that separates I Am Love from typical melodramas is the feel of a time gone by. Face it, nobody makes movies about the upper-class anymore—gone with Visconti, except for the occasional period-pieces used as Oscar fodder. But I Am Love breathes fresh air into the lives and loves of the not so idle rich.—Alan Hoffman, Cicero, IL

Wild Grass (#21)

Alain Resnais’s alternately sublime and ridiculous study of fantasy and obsession represents a return to the “wildness” of his early films and, for my money, is also his best film in decades. I really admire the way Resnais takes the premise of a generic romantic comedy (a typical meet-cute involving his regular players André Dussollier and Sabine Azéma) and continually undercuts the audience’s desire to “identify” with these characters.—Michael Smith, Chicago, IL

I’m still processing this one.—Andrew Gilbert, Belding, MI

The Town (#22)

I never thought I’d EVER say this: Ben Affleck is amazing here in all his many hats—writer, producer, director, and star—and this taut crime thriller is never boring. While not quite Animal Kingdom, it holds it’s own. Jeremy Renner deserves an Oscar for his supporting performance here—he is completely terrifying.—TC Kirkham, Revere, MA

2010 was a big year for trashy dramas set in Boston, and The Town feels like the complimentary movie to The Fighter, one that details the life behind Mark Wahlberg’s character at an even more microscopic level. Not as good as Animal Kingdom, but still worth watching.—Ben Storey, Bryn Mawr, PA

Everyone Else (#23)

A true example of a cult classic. Not since the Korean film Camel(s) has there been a slow burning unhindered look at a man and a woman’s attempt at a relationship. The key to both films is location. Do men and women make sense together when filmed and scripted? No! Thankfully!—Roger Lonak, Chicago, IL

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (#24)

I’d love it if Scott Pilgrim inspired filmmakers to just go for it and have fun with their material. There were some problems with the film, no doubt, but it was just so much damn fun to watch! When I was a kid movies often felt like rollercoaster rides and Scott Pilgrim recaptured some of that feeling for me and I love that about it.—Becca Sayre, Missoula, MT

Utterly underrated. It celebrated youth culture while wittily subverting it.—Hans Morgenstern, Miami, FL

127 Hours (#25)

I would’ve liked to’ve seen a Coen Bros. version of this, but Danny Boyle’s was unique and riveting.—Matt Logan, LaFayette, GA

The most overpraised movie of the year.—Michael Martelli Jr., Hempstead, NY

Animal Kingdom (#26)

This astounding Australian crime film takes the notorious revenge/execution murder of two young Melbourne policemen in 1988 as its base and then writer/director David Michôd delivers us a film for the ages. By focusing on character and the interrelations of this creepy family responsible for the cop-killings, Michôd and cast show us a truly demented crime family, but like other mythically dysfunctional families, we can’t help watching.—Michael McGonigle, Philadelphia, PA

Exit Through the Gift Shop (#33)

Whether it’s a real documentary or an elaborate Banksy prank, Exit is thoroughly entertaining and hilariously flip.—TC Kirkham, Revere, MA

The Strange Case of Angelica (#36)

Does this film have a happy ending? At first I thought so, but now I’m not so sure. It stands to reason that a man over 100 years old would have death and the possibility of an afterlife on his mind. But clearly he also deeply regrets the thought of leaving the earth.—Michael Annand, New Haven, CT


Let Me In (#46)

I was a little skeptical on seeing this, since the original film is basically one of my favorite films of all time, but after it was over, I was just pleasantly floored. It was every bit as good, chilling, devastating, and poetic as the original. In the realm of horror remakes, this one ranks as one of the best, and that is a very rare thing.—David Hollingsworth, Fayetteville, NC

Boxing Gym

Wanted to join.—Julie Washko, Detroit, MI


Best lists are always written in a state of becoming. Blue Valentine seemed like a masterpiece when I was watching it, but upon reflection now seems like a well-intentioned experiment held together by two all or nothing performances. As I said many times towards the latter part of the year in conversation with fellow buffs, I was ultimately won over by films I could actually remember rather than films of vocal, yet failed, ambition. Inception was arguably the most shattering disappointment for me. I wish I had seen the uncut Carlos and look forward to catching up with it in 2011, but all in all, I long for a time when filmmakers had careers, hence my sheer love and admiration for Polanski and the continuing growth of Baumbach, et al., instead of just one or two breakouts and then a series of dying sighs.—Lee Hill, London, U.K.

If I made this list from all the films I saw in 2010, as opposed to restricting it only to films released in 2010, Summer Hours would have been my number one, and A Serious Man would have been my number two. However, neither film was distributed theatrically in my area. On the other hand, Dogtooth is now available for instant viewing on Netflix. While this is not the ideal format for me to watch it, I’m grateful I won’t have to include it as a lame honorable mention on next year’s list, like the aforementioned choices. I agree with Michael Koresky in the Jan/Feb issue that watching movies on a computer is the third-best option, but while he suggests this is destroying the sense of community among cinephiles, I argue it’s how I’m staying a part of that community.—Jeff Jewell, Howell, MI

I’m suspicious of any list that is entirely highbrow with no Hollywood productions or entirely mainstream with all English-language films. (Film Comment seems to skew towards over-the-hill, if not decrepit, auteurs.)—Jeff Vorndam, San Ramon, CA

To the only movie magazine that matters in English. Thank you for continuing to ignore your website and instead, focusing your many talents of film criticism on the more tangible and most outdated medium of publishing. Like that lovely tagline from The Wild Bunch: The land had changed. They hadn’t. The earth had cooled. They couldn’t. 2010 was as every year was before it and what every year will be from now on: good for cinema. I might have said otherwise in the past but all I needed was a slap to the face; many films sucker-punched me last year and for that I am grateful. As has been said about countless a love affair (and three-act drama): there is love, there is hate and finally there is acceptance. I’m cool with that, keep the movies coming.—Benjamin Roberts, Japan