Hey there, everybody! So, a few days ago, I put out an introductory statement regarding my first-ever Rankings Series, wherein I explained that I would be releasing (or re-releasing) my Top 10 Movies from each year in the decade of the 2010s, ultimately culminating in my final list in that series, the Top 10 Movies of the Decade. Work on that final piece has already begun and is continuing every day, but first, we have to start the journey towards that destination with our very first list. Ladies and gentlemen, here are the Top 10 Best Movies of 2010.
Like I said, I can only use movies that I’ve actually seen, and while this may not have made my “best of the year” list had I been as adamant a movie critic then as I am now, it was genuinely refreshing to see a super“hero” movie go full tilt with how over-the-top but somehow charming its bad guy was, and then turn him into the hero by the movie’s end. Plus, some great comedy riffing from Will Ferrell and Brad Pitt (in a seriously underrated vocal performance) gave this little animated charmer a serious boost of fun where it counted.
9. True Grit
I never saw the original John Wayne version of True Grit, but even without having seen that, this remake of the classic western flick impressed me when I first saw it, and continues to impress today. Josh Brolin, Jeff Bridges, and Matt Damon all turn in good-to-great performances for sure, but it’s the discovery of Hailee Steinfeld as a powerhouse actress that really sells this remake as being among the best of its kind. She is on fire here (as are the Cohen Brothers as the writing and directing duo in charge), and it’s a real shame that she didn’t really get to star in a more than mediocre movie after this until Edge of Seventeen.
8. 127 Hours
Danny Boyle is a solid director when he’s got the right story to work with and isn’t working with a cinematographer who switches to a dutch tilt every six minutes (seriously, did anyone else notice that in Slumdog Millionaire?). This was definitely the right kind of story for the Oscar-winning director to tackle, one that dealt with the resilience of the human spirit and showed us all that James Franco can still be a solid actor if he’s not busy being America’s eternal art school student. And that arm amputation scene? The stuff of legend in difficult scenes to get through.
7. Shutter Island
For the longest time, I thought this movie came out in 2011 (in fact, right up until I posted this piece). I’ve been happier to be wrong before, but not by much. Shutter Island is easily the strangest of the DiCaprio/Scorsese flicks in that it finds its home closer to horror than it does to drama, but it’s still a thrilling ride nonetheless. Watching DiCaprio attempt to figure out this mystery as he attempts to play detective as an escaped mental asylum patient whose memory continues to fail him is about as straightforward as you can get with a Scorsese horror flick, and even if the end result is a little more predictable than profound, it’s still a great movie all the same.
6. Toy Story 3
I’ll admit I do still have a bit of a chip on my shoulder (but I kid) where this movie is concerned considering it kinda stole the Best Animated Feature Oscar from How to Train Your Dragon on mostly nostalgia, but even I can’t deny the awesome powers of Pixar’s filmmaking prowess, so I can let it go if need be. Somehow, they managed to cap off a trilogy 11 years after its previous entry and make it all the way to the Best Picture nominations without sacrificing the heart and quality that has made their films so near and dear to so many people’s hearts. The notion that not only do we need to let go of our childhood toys, but that they also need to let go of us in order to give joy and life to a new child is bittersweet and heartwarming, and even though the Toy Story movies are no longer a trilogy, this was a near-perfect ending to a fantastic franchise.
The Disney princess movies had sort of been in hyper-sleep for a while when this movie came out (apart from the highly underrated Princess and the Frog), and considering its trailers weren’t all that impressive, it was gonna be difficult to convince everyone that this was something that needed to be seen. I even remember that I (wrongfully) refused to watch this one for a long time because I just didn’t think it looked very good, and my internalized misogyny that I needed to learn to grow out of wasn’t going to let me watch a Disney princess movie unscathed. But Disney princess classics were classics for a reason, and Tangled managed to not only bring that era of classic filmmaking into the CG animation era with rapturous comic flair, they gave the Rapunzel story a charming twist with a heartwarming script and dynamic characters voiced by fantastic actors. Zachary Levi as Flynn Rider/Eugene Fitzherbert will go down as one of the all-time great supporting characters in Disney animation history, and it was this boost of quality that the mouse house needed to unleash their greatest animated triumph yet (more on that in August).
4. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
I understand that this movie caters to a very particular type of movie-watcher, and perhaps that’s why it flopped so hard financially upon its initial release, but I guarantee if you were to re-release this Edgar Wright flick today, you’d walk away with upwards of $600m at the end of it all. Scott Pilgrim has to fight Ramona’s 7 evil exes in order to win her heart, yes, but the film has so much more to say about Scott than it does about the insanely creative video-game-themed battles he participates in. This isn’t just an action comedy by a writer and director at the top of his game, it’s a commentary on entitled man-children who think they deserve something from women they attempt to “win,” which really just makes them huge assholes. Add on to that the treatment of Knives by Scott and the reflection of his character is not one of a hero. That’s a brave narrative to stick into a film that’s mostly marketed to gamer bros, and the fact that not only is it brilliantly written, but wonderfully acted, and hugely comic, makes this Edgar Wright’s best flick ever.
I remember seeing Inception in theaters with my mom when it came out, and even though I didn’t quite understand what was happening most of the time as far as the layers of the dream sequence were concerned (I was 15, how was I supposed to get it?), I was still in sheer awe of the filmmaking power on display. The all-star cast of Dark Knight hold-overs and some new faces put on some of the year’s best performances, and I’m still convinced the biggest reason this movie got no acting Oscar nominations is because it’s such a tightly scripted ensemble piece. A crime thriller places inside dreams? That’s easily a winning formula, and people still use “-ception” as a suffix for when one thing is inside of another thing of the same type (even though that’s not what inception is but whatever). Leonardo DiCaprio has been my favorite actor for quite a long time now, and this was a great stretch for him to work in something a little less show-case-y regarding his filmography. Add in a brilliant story with some truly killer visual effects and editing, and you’ll have people hooked for years. Oh yeah, and he wasn’t dreaming at the end. The top starts to fall just as the screen cuts to black.
2. The Social Network
Between this and Inception, there were only two movies I cared about at the 2011 Oscars (of course this was before I knew everything that went into them), and even though I knew this movie was one of my favorites, I really do think it was probably the best of that year as well, upon reflection. The writing and directing combo of David Fincher’s dread-filled inevitabilities and Aaron Sorkin’s pin-sharp dialogue was a match made in heaven, and I still consider it the highest crime of the Oscars not to just give Andrew Garfield his award for Best Supporting Actor that he wasn’t even nominated for (although Jesse Eisenberg did walk away with a nomination so at least there’s that). The Social Network could have taken the form of a procedural drama but instead it shapes itself more as an inevitable tragedy, like a bottle being shaken up and just waiting to be opened. This may well be not only one of the best, but one of the defining movies of the 2010s, considering how it deals with the creation of one of the biggest social networks on the planet (if not the biggest), and the sharp increase in Facebook profiles after this movie came out is a direct testament to exactly how much power a great film can carry.
1. How to Train Your Dragon
But really, was there ever any question? (Actually, yes, The Social Network nearly took this spot.) If Toy Story 3 had come out just one year earlier or later, this would easily have taken the Oscar for Animated Feature on sheer originality alone. It’s a testament to just how brilliant this film actually is that they managed to make two successful sequels off of it and cap those off as their own fantastic trilogy, and easily Dreamworks Animation’s greatest success to date. It’s also a testament to the greatness of this movie that it manages to not have a central villain, instead making the changes to all the characters and Berk’s way of life the main challenge of the piece, and the voice acting is perfect all around, particularly from Jay Baruchel, whose Hiccup will go down as one animation’s most iconic characters. The animation on display here is also insanely good for being from 2010, and the HTTYD movies have only gotten more stunning to look at as the years have passed. And all this is nothing to say of the sheer creativity in the look and feel of the dragons themselves, which each have distinctive personalities and incredible charm, managing to make Toothless himself into easily the most iconic animated and recognizable movie animal since Simba. The writing is brilliant, the Oscar-nominated score by John Powell stands as one of the best of the decade to this day, and the movie always leaves you feeling a sense of pure joy when it’s over. I can hear the theme in my head right now. This is the movie I turn to whenever I feel down that brings me back up and makes me feel good again, and it holds that position for a reason. How to Train Your Dragon may not have “objectively” been the best movie of 2010, but it will always be my favorite.
And those were my Top 10 Movies of 2010! See any you liked? What are your favorite movies of 2010? Let me know in the comments section below! Thanks for reading, and keep an eye out for my Top 10 Movies of 2011, coming later this month!
- The Friendly Film Fan