Editor’s Picks: The Ten Best Films of 2010

One of my favorite non-starters for articles is the very bland “as you may know.” There’s no doubt in my mind that you’ve seen me use it in the past (I’m doing it again right now). So when I thought about how to begin this year’s top ten article, I wanted to begin by saying “as you may know, one of my great honors around here is to deliver my list of the ten best films of the year.” But you may not know how much of an honor that really is. In fact, it’s difficult for me to put into words how honored I feel to have anyone read this at all, let alone the scores of readers we see on a daily basis here at Film School Rejects. It’s safe to say that I speak for everyone here when I say that I am deeply honored by the opportunity just to write about film. You, the reader, offer that to us every day with your patronage.

So my hope is that I can do you proud, dear reader, as I present my list of the ten best films of 2010. This year saw a great deal of personal turmoil for me, meaning some movie-watching blind spots. But some late-year scrambling has pushed my total films seen number well north of 200. And of those 200 or so eligible films, whittling it down to ten wasn’t quite as difficult as it’s been in recent years. Does that mean that 2010 was a big letdown? Not really. In fact, you’ll likely find that there are plenty of good (even great) movies that didn’t make my list. I was simply blessed with seeing a handful of films that simply stuck with me all year. So when it came time to put together my big year-end list, it wasn’t all that bad. That is, until I got around to the ordering. Don’t even get me started.

Without further ado — because I know how little you enjoy ado — here is my walk through the best of 2010’s cinematic landscape…

The Honorable Mentions:

These eight films wouldn’t exactly comprise #11-18 on my list — that’s not what honorable mentions are about in my eyes. This is about spotlighting a few films that have had a lasting impression on me this year. Films that deserved your attention, and probably didn’t get it. I would not waste such space on films that you know are great, such as Toy Story 3 (which would definitely be in that #11-18 range, I’m sure). These are the films I’m happy to have seen, even if only a few others did as well…

Kick-Ass // Alright, the paragraph above was a lie of sorts, because this would be #11 on my list if it ran that long. In fact, I may look back next year when compiling my list of previous year lists and kick my own ass for not putting Matthew Vaughn’s riotous comic hero story in my top ten. The rewatchability on this film is through the roof. It’s got action, romance, a killer soundtrack and a little girl with a propensity for using bad words that rhyme with “blunt.” Blunt as in the instrument of entertainment — the hero flick known as Kick-Ass.

Best Worst Movie // In the year of the geek (or another year of the geek), it was nice to see that it wasn’t all comic book fiction and remake-a-thons that hit with the niche. How about a charming, odd documentary about the worst movie ever made? That worked wonders in the circles of nerd-dom. Full of charming (and ridiculous) characters and a story that would be fiction if we didn’t have proof that it’s true, Best Worst Movie is a wonderful homage to the world of cult cinema and the passionate people who are its beating heart.

Animal Kingdom // So few crime dramas ever aspire to be as atmospheric and raw as Animal Kingdom. Fewer still succeed in part, let alone find success on so many levels. The startling performance of Ben Mendelsohn anchors a story that is unpredictable and relentless. The deliciously evil performance from Jackie Weaver elevates it to another level. And director David Michod’s keen eye for subtlety before explosion lock it in as one of the best crime dramas of the year, if not in recent history.

Exit Through the Gift Shop // Street artist Banksy got a lot of attention for his movie — is it a prank? Or is it a genuine anomaly of chaos and chance that propels his subject, happenstance artist extraordinaire Thierry Guetta, to overnight stardom. Prank or not, Exit is one of the most playful and outlandish journeys committed to video this year. And whether you find in it deeper meaning (it’s there) or surface-level shenanigans, you’re sure to find something either way.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale // Thanks, filmmaker Jalmari Helander of Finland. You’ve forever altered my list of must-watch Christmas-time movies with your twisted take on Santa Claus and the children that worship him so. Creepy and delightful don’t often go hand-in-hand so easily, but you make it happen with your devious, imaginative and spirited tale. We’ll never think of jolly ole’ St. Nick the same way again.

Barry Munday // Too few critics ignore the merits of quality comedy these days. In fact, in a landscape of high drama it’s easy to overlook a seemingly simple film like Barry Munday. But unlike the surface-dwelling comedies that struck gold at the box office this year, this relationship tale gets boat-loads of substance from two wonderful leads, Patrick Wilson and Judy Greer, and an honest take on what it means to finally grow up and be someone worthy of parenthood. Think Knocked Up, but even more honest.

Blue Valentine // A few films that made my top ten list may very well earn the adjective “heart-stopping,” but I can’t say that any of them can also add “soul-crushing” as well. An affecting and often torturous examination of an imploding marriage, Blue Valentine features two of the most intense performances of the year from Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Two heart-stopping, soul-crushing, career-defining performances.

HIGH School // Again with the comedy. This time it’s of the stoner variety, as director John Stalberg puts Adrien Brody into his most unusual (and ridiculously fun) role of his life. He’s a psychotic drug-dealer who is bamboozled by two high school students (Matt Bush and Sean Marquette), leaving him no choice but to bring the whole system down. It’s an imaginative take on a genre that hasn’t received much imaginative care lately. And it’s full of high-concept absurdity. My hope is that you’ll get the chance to see it sometime in 2011.

Click here to see my Ten Best Films of 2010 >>

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet. As of yet, no one has stopped him.

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