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Our 20 Favorite Films of 2010 [Pre-Oscar Season]

Written by on August 31, 2010 

We did it last year and now its time again. With awards season gearing up, here at TFS we have come up with 20 of our favorite films of the year. For all the naysayers saying the year has been disappointing, I challenge anyone to watch the following and stand by that statement. These are films that have had at least a limited US release in 2010. No order, just 20 films that are more than worth your time. Check them out below and let us know what you’ve enjoyed the most this year.

A Prophet (Jacques Audiard)

Taking what could have been a simple crime movie and making it a two-and-a-half hour epic, director Jacques Audiard has made one of the best gangster films of the past ten years with A Prophet (or Un prophète). Telling us the story of Malik (Tahar Rahim), a young man put in a jail for a crime he may not have even committed, and showing us every step of his journey to a crime lord while in prison, we become an observer of his time in jail and get to know him like few films let us do. At the end of it all, you may be exhausted from his long transformation, but you’ll be satisfied. Don’t let the subtitles scare you away (they never should), as this is certainly one of the best films of the year. – Nick N.

Animal Kingdom (David Michôd)

On the coattails of A Prophet, first-time feature director David Michôd impresses with this Australian gangster movie, offering an intimate glimpse into the Melbourne underworld through one crime family’s domesticities. One of the standout performances, amongst a stellar cast, comes from Jacki Weaver, whose character appears first to be the loving, doting grandmother protagonist Joshua (James Frecheville) is in need of, and then reveals her dark, manipulative side when the need for self-preservation arises. With many twists and turns, this psychological drama holds the viewer captive until the bitter end. – Kristen C.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed (J Blakeson)

The Disappearance of Alice Creed is the oddest type of thriller, a surprising one. With only three characters in practically one setting it could have gone horribly wrong. Instead, it’s a tight and tense 90 minutes. It doesn’t hit the cliche moments like you’d expect it to and it keeps you on your feet. It’s also entertaining as hell. – Jack G.

Dogtooth (Giorgos Lanthimos)

Dogtooth is one of those movies that are easy to miss, but impossible to forget. The premise of Yorgos Lanthimos‘ Greek film is simple enough: a middle-aged suburban couple keeps their children imprisoned within their home and pretends everything is normal. The kids, raised to believe that the world outside the tall fence at the edges of their yard is full of fearsome creatures, are told they are only ready to leave once their dogteeth fall out. With graphic depictions of sex, incest, and animal cruelty, Dogtooth isn’t exactly family friendly. More than a few paying viewers walked out of the theater mid-movie when I saw it. But don’t let their closed-minded reactions drive you away. Yes, it’s a downright uncomfortable film to watch, but like a chew toy for your brain, Dogtooth will keep you thinking long after the credits roll. – James B.

Exit Through The Gift Shop

Exit Through the Gift Shop is a testament to the art scene – a film about art, the life of artists and how the creation of a piece of ‘art’ is as questionable as the artist himself. But what makes it so special is not that it sheds light on the art industry, but rather that it plays upon the idea that nobody is exempt from the neverending consumption of good and bad art. Acclaimed artist Banksy influenced filmmaker Mr. Brainwash, who in turn exploded into the art scene with works that required nothing more than an understanding of photoshop. Was Mr. Brainwash real? Or was he a hoax created by Banksy to show us how easily influenced we are by hype rather than talent? Ironically, the questions of its legitimacy as a documentary is what makes Exit Through the Gift Shop one of the most compelling films of the year. – Josie M.

Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold)

Michael Fassbender has been delivering terrific performance after terrific performance (he even managed to look good in that disaster Jonah Hex). But the real star of Fish Tank is newcomer Katie Jarvis. It’s her first performance, and a triumphant one at that. Both Jarvis and Fassbender characters easily could have come off despicable, and yet they both couldn’t be more sympathetic and understanding. Fish Tank is a realistic and hopeful coming-of-age tale that’s both beautifully acted and directed. – Jack G.

Flipped (Rob Reiner)

A film not made for today’s audiences, Flipped has unfortunately come and passed without any attention this summer. Rob Reiner‘s perfectly-constructed tale of young love is one of the most heartwarming experiences this year. It’s blast of nostalgic bliss pulled my emotions in a million different directions. One day it will get the adoration it deserves, but not this year. – Jordan R.

The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski)

Sometimes it’s hard to separate a celebrity from what they’ve done in their personal life. Director Roman Polanski is an example of that. But, if simply viewed for what’s on the screen, The Ghost Writer becomes one of the most compelling thrillers in years. Pierce Brosnan plays a slimy former British Prime Minister with an air of authenticity, and Ewan McGregor handles the thinly-written titular character with a feeling of justified paranoia and fear. For all that it does well, there are some uncomfortable allusions to real life that don’t feel as subtle as they should. But, with Polanski giving off atmosphere as he often does so perfectly, the film leaves you excited to see what’s going to happen next like any great thriller should. – Nick N.

Greenberg (Noah Baumbach)

When Greenberg was released, most of the attention went toward Ben Stiller and his unexpectedly exceptional dramatic turn as the titular character, Roger Greenberg. Though Stiller’s performance is indeed excellent (and let’s not neglect Greta Gerwig, a truly unique actress in her most mainstream role yet), that’s not why the film made this list. Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) made Greenberg a poignant study of youth, aging, life and disappointment. It may not be one of the year’s most exciting movies, but it is one of its most memorable and it’s definitely worth your time. – James B.

How To Train Your Dragon (Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders)

Toy Story 3 had some stiff competition this year as Dreamworks surprised audiences with their exquisitely crafted tale of friendship. Boasting stunning cinematography and perfectly composed score, this animation set a new standard for the studio. With Lilo & Stitch and this, DeBlois and Sanders have become an force to reckon with. – Jordan R.

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