Best movie of 2010? That's subjective—or is it? Boxoffice Editor Amy Nicholson, contributing writer Todd Gilchrist and guest Nick Schager of Slant Magazine, Village Voice and Time Out New York hash out their Top Ten lists (and get in a few elbows at each other). Along the way, they ask if Inception got a fair shake, compare the remakes of Let the Right One In, Lolita and Psycho, and ponder the big, dark question: is anyone really going to remember this year's movies in 2025? (Answer: One.)
Click below to listen.
Editor, Boxoffice Magazine
1) Let Me In
In this quiet, controlled chiller, adults barely register—like Dracula designed by Charles Schultz. What matters is immediate—the film exists in that margin between kid and teen when every day is a drama and every tumble is a catastrophe. But Let Me In is wise beyond its years, even if only the grown-ups in the audience bear witness to pain that the preteen stars can't see.
2) Life During Wartime
Todd Solondz's semi-sequel to Happiness is a merciless melodrama. Ten years ago, Ciaran Hinds was locked up for pedophilia. Not that life's any better for his three kids, ex-wife and flock of sisters-in-law. With its formal performances and sloppy emotional honesty, it's bracing, mature, and the best film of Solondz's career.
3) The Illusionist
Loved the wordless first third of WALL*E? Sylvain Chomet's hypnotizing cartoon about a travelling French magician and a social-climbing Scottish girl rarely speaks, and when it does, it mumbles. But even the supporting characters—an angry rabbit and a sad ventriloquist—are as finely drawn as if they'd been nattering about themselves on Twitter 24/7.
4) Please Give
A small, perfect film like, well, everything by Nicole Holofcener, doesn't demand awards. But it deserves them just the same. Holofcener's comedy of death and greed looks as offhand as a YouTube video of a sleeping cat—it's simple, subtle and powered by big ideas.
5) The Square
A relentless Australian thriller about an everyday husband trying to skip town with his mistress. Roadblocks include: a blackmailer, her thug boyfriend, a hired arsonist and even his dog. Is it karmic noir about consequences, or a nihilistic warning that even a simple scheme can't be controlled? Either way, it's wicked fun.
6) Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
A 112-minute entertainment contraption, celluloid that shapeshifts its frames into video games, comic books and sitcoms. But under the chaos, it beats with empathy for the too-human mess we make of relationships. Everyone has loved, everyone has lost and everyone has been the villain to another hero (or heroine). That's the game of life, and we're all playing.
7) The King's Speech
Mechanical perfection, but the agony in Colin Firth's eyes gives it life.
Like a wisp of a pop song, Sofia Coppola's near-silent study of a movie star lingers longer than you'd expect. When you're hooked, you're hooked. An actor playing an actor, Stephen Dorff is getting robbed by awards groups who can't quite respect that he's acting—he and Joaquin Phoenix should share a bottle of Makers Mark and gripe.
Cute, sure. But this globe-spanning French documentary had the smartest editing of the year. (I loved the cat torture montage.) Optimistic, earnest and all-embracing, it's this year's "We Are The World." And hey, ease off on the San Francisco yuppies—they're doing their best.
10) The Tempest
If Julie Taymor didn't exist, the stage and screen would suffer. We need artists willing to gamble—and we need to double down in our trust when one of Hollywood's only auteurs takes a risk. The payoff is a wild, gorgeous Shakespeare that's as alive and immediate as Baz Lurhmann's Romeo + Juliet.
1) Rabbit Hole
Not a single moment is wasted in director John Cameron Mitchell's adaptation of David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning play about a married couple dealing with the death of their young son. Nicole Kidman, Dianne Wiest and especially Aaron Eckhart deliver devastating performances that linger in the memory long after the film is over.
2) The Social Network
Comparisons to Citizen Kane are not far-fetched. David Fincher's masterpiece turns the rise of an Internet tycoon into a compelling drama that will live on even if Facebook dies off.
3) The Ghost Writer
In the case of Roman Polanski there really is such a thing as bad publicity. The director's latest wave of legal problems overshadowed the best thriller of the year. Beautiful cinematography, an air-tight script and dead-on performances by Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams and Tom Wilkinson make for a memorable experience.
4) Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
We really do need more filmmakers like Oliver Stone. He's not afraid to throw everything he's got at the wall, even if some of it doesn't quite stick. This necessary sequel has the balls to say that things probably won't get better when it comes to the economy. Bubbles will keep bursting, and the thieves responsible for maintaining the status quo will only become more cunning and evil.
5) True Grit
The Coen Brothers slip into Western mode with ease. These guys are firing on all cylinders and their latest effort is one for the ages.
6) Blue Valentine
Writer/director Derek Cianfrance's look at a disintegrating marriage is painful to watch. There are no easy answers and no forced emotions.
7) The Kids Are All Right
One of the best scripts of the year is acted to perfection by Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo and Mia Wasikowska.
8) 127 Hours
Danny Boyle manages to make a movie that's both subtle and nuanced and completely intense. He switches gears with the confidence of a director in total control of his voice.
9) Never Let Me Go
This Fox Searchlight release landed with a thud in theaters. It's a shame, because it really is one of the most unique moviegoing experiences of 2010.
10) The Fighter
The title could easily be changed to The Christian Bale Show. Bale helps elevate what could have been just another boxing biopic.
Contributing Editor, Boxoffice Magazine
1. Exit Through the Gift Shop
Easily the smartest documentary since F for Fake and also very funny.
2. I Love You, Phillip Morris
Oh, that all men could be providers like Jim Carrey's iffy conman. The clash of family values and gay Ewan McGregor is a freakin' revelation, as is the scene with the Dove Chocolates.
3. Red, White and Blue
Simon Rumley's shambling horror flick starts off all American Indie and morphs sharply into a hostage horror of sadistic and depraved proportions. Breathtaking.
4. Biker Fox
This doc is the biggest mind-f**k I've seen since graduate school. Who is Biker Fox? Car parts salesman? Unknown male Oprah figure? Am I laughing at him or with him? Will I go to hell for it? Not a lot of movies out there make you question eternal life. I'm just saying.
5. Audrey the Trainwreck
Frank V. Ross is known for his portrayals of the modern working class and his mumblecore associations, but what he captures in his films is far more than space invading shakey-cam or partial stories about partial people. Audrey the Trainwreck, which features neither a character named Audrey nor any trains, is like watching Charlie Brown grown up but with more swearing, smoking and attention to the things that make adulthood both abstract and meaningful.
6. Lovers of Hate
Chamber plays are typically slow, but Lovers of Hate throws a battle of brothers into the war of the sexes and transforms a fancy ski lodge in Park City into a pressure-cooker--which is funny because not one of those characters needs help being a body of barely contained chaos.
7. Jackass 3D
This was my first D-Box experience, and while I've never been a fan of rumbling chairs there's nothing like watching a donkey buck a 40 year old man in the tighty-whities and feeling the recoil of that hoof. Call it subconscious retribution but dear God is it funny. If you don't laugh yourself sick, wait until they bungee a full port-a-john with Steve-O in it; it'll get you queasy one way or another.
8. Four Lions
While the humor is merciless, the aspiring terrorist at the film's heart are lovably bumbling baddies--think McKendrick's The Lady Killers but trade "the Top" for Paradise. Scripted by a few of the guys responsible for the BBC comedy The Peep Show, it's the only thing funnier than Jackass 3D.
9. Flooding with Love for the Kid
A very loyal retelling of Rambo First Blood starring writer/director/producer/editor/special effects director Zachary Oberzan, Flooding with Love for the Kid was entirely shot in one Manhattan apartment. The film earns cult status with every cent of its $97-odd production budget. When Oberzan uses his bathtub for the creek scene and you see his hygiene products, it transforms the stuff a kid could do with a camcorder into a totally different beast. A shampooed one.
10. The Last Exorcism
Far be it for me to offer love to another found footage horror (especially after Paranormal Activity seemed to hammer that long-overdue nail in that old coffin), but this one, like my other favorites Exit Through the Gift Shop and Biker Fox, lampoons the faith and credibility we offer film just for being onscreen. On top of that, it's as smart as it is scary.
(in alphabetical order)
Mike Leigh's finest since 1996's Secrets And Lies. His improvisational filmmaking style draws raw emotion and superior acting in a drama that rings all too true.
The most devastatingly honest and gut-wrenching story of a man in freefall. Javier Bardem is in a class by himself.
Dark, twisted and totally unexpected psychological horror film with a career performance from Natalie Portman and brilliant direction by Darren Aronofsky.
The Ghost Writer
The first great film of 2010 remained one of the best. Under duress Roman Polanski is a master filmmaker showing how it's done.
Dazzling and innovative, no movie showed the possibilities of film for surprise and imagination better than Chris Nolan's sci-fi fever dream of an experience.
The King's Speech
Warm and blessedly accessible period piece that defied the odds of its very specific genre to entertain, enlighten. Delight and move us. Exceptional acting was the icing on this cake.
That rare current example of a cinematic adaption of a Broadway play made for first rate and very intimate drama. Nicole Kidman's finest hour, the best work by an actress this year.
Another early 2010 entry became Scorsese's most successful picture and as an homage to Hitchcock, one of his most memorable with another great Leo Di Caprio performance and great atmosphere.
The Social Network
The combo of Aaron Sorkin's extraordinary dialogue and David Fincher's inventive visual palette made this a movie to rank with the greats and a film born out of, and for its time.
Toy Story 3
11 years after the first sequel, Pixar proved these toys could be as engaging and fun as ever. What we didn't count on—and got—was a wonderful life experience that transcended the form.
1. The King's Speech
Forget about The Social Network. Zeitgeist hype will wear out over time—director Tom Hooper's telling of King George VI's struggle with stuttering set against the backdrop of abdication, impending war and the King's tempestuous relationship with his therapist is classic British cinema at its best. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush define what great screen acting is all about.
Essentially an Israeli-Palestinian version of Crash, the Oscar-nominated film's dazzling tapestry of stories all set in one ethnically and religiously diverse neighborhood is the kind of powerhouse storytelling Americans have largely forgotten how to execute.
3. Rabbit Hole
A terrific play, an even better movie thanks to the immensely talented John Cameron Mitchell who here shows as much directorial restraint as he showed flourish in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Emotionally brutal but enormously rewarding.
4. Mother and Child
Writer/director Rodrigo Garcia's best film to date boasting staggering performances from Annette Bening, Naomi Watts and Samuel L. Jackson, among others. Like Ajami, an Altman-esque tapestry of interlocking stories, this time centered around parent-child relationships, both in the moment and across generations. Magnificent in all respects.
5. The Way Back
Peter Weir's epic adaptation of Slavomir Rawicz's acclaimed memoir, The Long Walk, which details his escape from a Soviet gulag during World War II and subsequent flight to freedom across the Himalayas, is one of the great survival films of all time. Incredibly, the film's distribution is one of the great catastrophes of the decade, ending up in the hands of tiny Newmarket who has failed utterly to give the film the push and exposure it so desperately deserves.
6. Made in Dagenham
Director Nigel Cole returns to Calendar Girl form to tell the story of the brave women whose 1968 strike at a Dagenham Ford plant upended labor laws throughout the British isles. Sally Hawkins and Bob Hoskins have never been more endearing.
7. Animal Kingdom
Director David Michod emerges from the shadow of his friends, the Edgerton brothers, to deliver one of the best crime films in recent memory. Jacki Weaver steals the day as the matriarch of a terrifyingly violent and treacherous Australian criminal brood, but the chills flow liberally throughout.
8. Another Year
Yet another humanistic masterpiece from Mike Leigh. Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen are a happily married couple whose radiance is eclipsed only by the pained loneliness of their friend Mary, played to perfection by Leigh regular Lesley Manville.
9. It's Kind of a Funny Story
Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck segue from the artier efforts of Half Nelson and Sugar to this delightful melancholic comedy based on the Ned Vizzini novel. Keir Gilchrist's affecting turn as the suicidal teen whose life literally turns around during a week at a hospital psych ward is one of the best of the year. Emma Roberts is radiant. Zach Galifianakis is a revelation.
10. Father of My Children
Leave it to the French to derail movie industry glamour myths. Mia Hanson-Løve wrote and directed this rough, raw and unsettlingly honest look at a film producer's disintegration and its impact on his family.
Honorable mentions: Biutiful, Harry Brown, Hot Summer Days, The Kids Are All Right, Mother, Sequestro (Kidnapping), Somewhere, The Square, Tangled, The American, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Illusionist, Henry-Georges Clouzot's Inferno, Hereafter, Kick-Ass, The Social Network, Mesrine, Carlos, The TIllman Story, Winter's Bone, Let Me In, I Am Love, Never Let Me Go, Toy Story 3.
Stinker: The Last Airbender—arguably one of the worst films of the last ten years, so bad that it trumped two more of the worst films in recent years: Furry Vengeance and When in Rome. Awful in all respects.
1. Four Lions
3. I Am Love
4. True Grit
5. Blue Valentine
6. The Fighter
7. The Social Network
8. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
9. The Ghost Writer
10. Exit Through the Gift Shop
Honorable Mentions: Rabbit Hole, Red, White And Blue, TRON: Legacy, MacGruber, Shutter Island, Winter's Bone
1. Animal Kingdom
3. 127 Hours
4. The Trotsky
5. Brighton Rock
6. True Grit
8. Soul Kitchen
1. Another Year
2. Black Swan
5. OSS 117: Lost in Rio
6. The Juche Idea
7. The King's Speech
8. The Social Network
9. The Tillman Story
10. Winter's Bone
1. Blue Valentine
Director Derek Cianfrance combines beautiful imagery with searing emotions in his powerful and artful drama of a working-class couple (Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling) falling in and out of love.
2. The Social Network
Director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin inspire breakout performances from their youthful ensemble including Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Arnie Hammer. In their hands, the story of Mark Zuckerberg and the founding of Facebook becomes the best studio drama of the year.
Olivier Assayas follows the fascinating life of the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal in a drama worthy of its epic length due to the scope of Assayas' magnificent storytelling and Edgar Ramirez' incredible performance.
Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos confirms his status as a rising auteur with this absurd, dark, twisted coming-of-age comedy set in an isolated suburban villa of a wealthy businessman (Christos Stergioglou) and his family.
5. Red Riding Trilogy
The three interlocking period films by Julian Jarrold (1974) and James Marsh (1980) and Anand Tucker (1983) tell an epic crime drama about the Yorkshire Ripper and bring alive the series by British writer David Peace. The Red Riding Trilogy is film noir at its most powerful.
6. Last Train Home
Chinese-Canadian director Lixin Fan captures the social phenomenon of 130 million migrant workers leaving China's large coastal cities and the factories that employ them to travel home to their rural villages for the New Year's holiday. Fan wades into the crowds and tells the story of Changhua Zhang and his wife Sugin Chen as they struggle to leave Guangzhou and travel home to Sichuan Province.
7. A Prophet
Epic in scope, riveting throughout and boasting a breakout performance from its young lead Tahar Rahim, French filmmaker Jacques Audiard's prison drama is the first true crime classic of the 21st Century.
8. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Director Edgar Wright makes a fast and furiously clever adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novels and offers twenty-something Michael Cera a scene-stealing lead performance as a wannabe lover, sometime fighter and aspiring rock star.
9. Daddy Longlegs
Brothers Benny and Josh Safdie make their co-directing debut with his poignant, emotionally rich, sometimes playful tale of fractured fatherhood in New York City. Ronnie Bronstein shines as Lenny, a divorced dad incapable of being a good father to his two young sons.
10. Mesrine: Public Enemy No 1
Jean-Francois Richet's second part of his epic gangster drama dazzles thanks to the explosive performance by Vincent Cassel as charismatic French bank robber, murder and media darling Jacques Mesrine.
Runners-Up: The King's Speech, Tiny Furniture, Restrepo, Fish Tank, Wild Grass
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
The Social Network
I Am Love
Of Gods and Men
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Ghost Writer
Made in Dagenham