It’s not often that the best movie of the year is also the movie with the best box office numbers, but 2010 was one of those years. In fact, last year saw some of the most popular and most talked-about films became the best of the entire year. Check out the year’s 10 best movies after the jump.
The biggest head-scratcher of the year was also one of the most hotly anticipated and talked-about movies of last summer. If you managed to follow the film through its subconscious labyrinth without losing your head then we commend you. Even if you didn’t, it probably didn’t matter. Getting lost in this mind trip of a movie was half the fun anyway.
9. Shutter Island
The second best I’m-going-insane movie of the year, this one is set in an actual insane asylum, not the insane asylum of Natalie Portman’s mind. Overshadowed by Leonardo Dicaprio’s other 2010 movie (Inception), Shutter Island was finally released to theatres in Februrary after complications pushed the film from its original release date of October 2009. The wait was absolutely worth it, even if just for that brilliantly ambiguous ending.
8. The Kids Are All Right
The greatest thing about Lisa Cholodenko’s portrait of an unconventional family is that they’re really just like any other family, flaws and all. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore (in Oscar-worthy performances) craft the year’s most complex relationship, and though at times the cultural critic in me wanted the movie to make more of a commentary on sexuality, its perhaps the bravest thing the movie could do to paint the unconventional family as conventional.
7. Exit Through the Gift Shop
What is art? Whether you think you know or not, this documentary will make you reconsider all over again. The directorial debut of Britain’s elusive street artist, Banksy, is a captivating look at a bizarre man and his obsession with documenting street art. When the man eventually tries his hand at being an artist himself, Banksy and friends’ commentary on the bastardization of art in today’s culture is riveting stuff.
6. True Grit
When the Coen brothers play outside their own genre it’s not as distinctive (Fargo and Burn After Reading are undeniably Coen-esque), but with True Grit the siblings still concocted one helluva film. A remake of the 1969 John Wayne classic, True Grit refocuses the point-of-view of the novel to Mattie Ross. Played by Hailee Steinfeld in the year’s best breakthrough role, Mattie is a girl searching for revenge with the help of the “true grit” of Rooster Cogburn, played by Jeff Bridges in his funniest role since The Big Lebowski. The Coen brothers have further cemented themselves as one of film’s truest sure-things.
5. 127 Hours
Whether you could watch the scene or not – you know, the one where he cuts his arm off in an attempt to dislodge himself from a boulder and a canyon wall – there’s no denying 127 Hours was a quietly thrilling ride. If you thought the self-dismemberment in Saw was disturbing, you don’t know what you’re in for. The events in Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours are true (Aron Ralston is a real guy who really was stuck in an isolated canyon for five days), and knowing the outcome does not stop this film’s finale from being the year’s most powerful cinematic catharsis.
Female heroines are hard to come by. Female superheroes harder still. Female superheroes that are foul-mouthed eleven-year-old girls? Practically non-existent. But Kick Ass, Matthew Vaughn’s unapologetically violent romp of a superhero film, gave us Hit Girl (Chloë Moretz), the foul-mouthed eleven-year-old in purple tights who could take down a dozen armed men in a narrow corridor all her own. No movie was as heart-poundingly exciting. Or as ruthlessly bloody — ass officially kicked.
3. Black Swan
If you didn’t feel like you had caught some nerve-twitching illness while watching Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, you must have some kind of movie antibody. The film is a rivetingly feverish nightmare that you just can’t look away from. Aronofsky conceived of the film as a companion piece to the 2008 The Wrestler, which too was a masterful work of art with a powerful performance at its center. Natalie Portman portrays beautifully the insanity of pressure, and could walk away with an Oscar in February. You probably either loved it or hated it, but Black Swan is undeniably uncompromising filmmaking.
2. The Social Network
No movie was more relevant to life in the digital age than the one about that extension of ourselves we love to hate, and can’t help but obsess over. Labelled “the Facebook movie” from the get-go, anticipation was high and expectations were perhaps a little low for The Social Network: a former ‘N Sync member and a Michael Cera wannabe in the same movie? The only real selling points approaching its release in October were its director (Fight Club’s David Fincher) and the fact that the movie screamed relevance like no other – I challenge you to come up with a movie timelier than this. Based around the legal events of just six years ago, The Social Network plays like a thriller set to the landscape of a world run by greed and connections.
1. Toy Story 3
This was our movie. And the nostalgia was cranked to beyond infinity. Toy Story 3 plays like a bittersweet home movie: we were 5 when Andy was 5 in the first Toy Story and now Andy is departing for the real world, and – well, maybe we don’t want to think about the real world just yet. That’s precisely what makes Tory Story 3 so brilliant. Not only is it the funniest, most heartwarming movie of the year but it is a thrilling allegory for staying loyal to our inner child. Woody and Buzz aren’t just breaking out of the prison that is Sunnyside, but the confines of adulthood. Think of Lotso as the evil cane-walking elder who’s given up on childhood. Toy Story is an ode to childhood memories and staying young. This was our movie. And I’m not sure anybody but us can truly understand that.
Honourable mention: Blue Valentine, The King’s Speech, The Fighter, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Catfish, Easy A
Worst movies of the year: The Last Airbender, Conviction, Robin Hood, Dogtooth, Life During Wartime
How would you rank the movies of 2010?