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.
Inception (Christopher Nolan)
With so many misses this year, it was refreshing to see a film that could thrill, surprise and intrigue without recycling the same old ideas that make up the usual summer blockbusters. Christopher Nolan’s Inception dares to challenge the intelligence of the audience with complicated ideas about perception and the dream state seamlessly interwoven into a carefully controlled plot. The CGI was awe-inspiring, the acting some of Leo DiCaprio’s finest, and the originality of the story was exciting. Inception has earned a spot in the Best Picture nominations despite its stigmatic high profile and high grosses. – Josie M.
Kick-Ass (Matthew Vaughn)
When Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) first openly wonders why no one has ever tried to become a costumed superhero before, he takes on a familiar role: the loser/underdog that everyone loves to cheer for. However, even with his enthusiasm and bravery, he does not overcome all odds in clichéd style; as Kick-Ass, he really gets his ass kicked, almost mortally so. There is a sense of real danger to what he is doing, with severe consequences, which is rather refreshing. Chloe Moretz’s Hit-Girl steals the show with her vicious kills and foul-mouthed dialogue, coming unexpectedly from her disarmingly sweet appearance. Moretz also has a great chemistry with Nicolas Cage as a father-daughter team, creating some of the more comical and endearing scenes. It can also be argued that the real star of the film is violence, and that Matthew Vaughn went for a “hard R” in a very satisfying way with some really great kill scenes. – Kristen C.
Middle Men (George Gallo)
If you’ve been missing the good old days of fast dolly shots, quick pans swivels and just generally kinetic Scorsese style filmmaking like Casino and Goodfellas, then look no further and seek out Middle Men. The story centers on a group of men who stumble upon a goldmine of an idea during the burgeoning days of the internet by coming up with a scheme to charge for pornography anonymously. Featuring an ensemble all star cast, Middle Men is the surprise hurricane cinematic force to wake you up from your dreary summer drudgery. – Raffi A.
Mother (Joon-ho Bong)
One of the real cinematic gems to come out this year was the emotionally complex Hitchcock-esque murder mystery Mother. Directed by the very-talented Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho (The Host), the film balances a fine line between dark humor and tense suspense. Anchored by a phenomenal performance by Hye-ja Kim, Mother is an intelligent examination of how far the bonds of between a mother and son can be tested. The film just landed on Netflix Instant Queue so now there’s no excuse to miss this taught thriller. – Raffi A.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (Edgar Wright)
Adapting Bryan Lee O’Malley‘s six-volume comic series to film, Edgar Wright essentially gave us a live-action comic book. It’s got the funniest performances and moments of the year, a razor-sharp script, and some of the most propulsive editing I’ve ever seen. My God, the editing. You could literally write pages and pages about how amazing the editing in this movie is. Even without that, it also has a lot of heart and gives you moments that will feel completely real, even when a character breaks out into a Bollywood-style dance. It may go on a little too long, but when we get to spend time in a world as fun as this, criticisms of the length just feel like complaining. Edgar Wright is batting 1.000, and it doesn’t seem like that will change soon. – Nick N.
The Secret In Their Eyes (Juan José Campanella)
With The Secret in Their Eyes, co-writer and director Juan Jose Campanella shows an obvious love for genuine storytelling, as he masterfully combines a riveting murder mystery with beautifully crafted love story. The emotions generated by lead actors Ricardo Darin and Soledad Villamil are among the most affecting that 2010 has offered to date. In a story that spans 25 years, Darin and Villamil – as well as key supporting actors Pablo Rago and Javier Godino – are physically and emotionally convincing during every second of their portrayals. The fact that this film beat out both A Prophet and The White Ribbon for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar shows how lasting its impact is. Additionally, who would have thought that this modest, sincere production would also contain one of the year’s most arresting action sequences? – Danny K.
Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese)
There are many elements at work that make Shutter Island interesting to watch. First is the source material and story. Based on a novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, it’s a psychological thriller with two federal marshals (Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo) investigating a missing persons case on an island mental institution. Once on the island, they’re stranded in a storm. Add a dubious head psychiatrist (Ben Kingsley) and a number of trauma-related flashbacks and soon the lines between reality and delusion blur. Scorsese blends a variety of cinematography styles, which are both beautiful and interesting. There are also plenty of references to Hitchcock and genre films to keep the cinephiles engaged. – Kristen C.
Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich)
The first Toy Story was groundbreaking and changed the entire face of typical animated films. The second story expanded the world, the characters and the technology to create a vivid and exciting world. In the final installment, Pixar has seemingly done the impossible and created a third film that not only sits comfortably on the shoulders of its predecessors but also transcends them thematically. Effectively wrestling with the concept of death, Toy Story 3 is a heart wrenching and hilarious adventure that examines our greatest fears with levity and depth. – Raffi A.
Valhalla Rising (Nicolas Winding Refn)
Valhalla Rising just may be the manliest film ever made. Mads Mikkelsen is One-Eye, a mute Viking who is so uncontrollably masculine, he first appears onscreen chained to a giant wooden dick in a muddy fight to the death against two men. He escapes his captors and joins the Christians, barbarians who eat their own god, in their quest for the holy land. They get lost in a fog and find themselves in hell. Meanwhile, One-Eye has bloody visions of the future. Oh, and he may or may not be Jesus. Filmed entirely in Scotland, Valhalla Rising is visually both minimalistic and stunning. There’s way more to this movie than unflinchingly realistic gore and beautiful landscapes, though. Luckily, sparse dialogue gives the audience plenty of room to appreciate the view and contemplate its loads of symbolism. Don’t let another year go by without seeing this film. – James B.
Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik)
This dark drama was a welcome chill in this summer season. With a shoe-in Oscar nomination for newcomer Jessica Lawrence, this noir mystery had all the right ingredients. Capturing the bleak, but connected Missouri landscape anchored by a stellar script, director Debra Granik proves yet again with devotion and discipline you can make, and sell, a shining indie gem. – Jordan R.
What are your favorites of the year?