Cinema Fanatic’s Favorite Fifteen Films of 2010

So we’ve gotten to the end of the year, which, of course, means end-of-the-year lists. I don’t think 2010 was the worst year ever, but it pales in comparison to 2009. Last year I was in love with so many films – starting very early in the year and continuing into January of this year with the films I wasn’t able to see before ’09 ended. I really just think 2010 will go down as a mediocre year. I did, however, still manage to come up with a list of my 15 favorite films of the year. I’d like to emphasize that this list is based on my favorites and not necessarily a “best” list. I’d  also like to note that, unlike last year, I was able to see almost all of the 2010 releases I was interested in seeing before the New Year. There were three, however, that I missed that I wish I could have seen before making this list: The King’s Speech, 127 Hours and Blue Valentine. There’s no guarantee those would have made the list anyhow, but I still wish I could have seen them. Regardless, I did manage to see fifty-five 2010 releases this year, a personal record for new releases. I’d also like to note that I’ve seen over 500 new-to-me films this year, but I’ll make a proper round-up post for that tomorrow (I’m watching movies til Midnight tonight!).

The list is after the cut, because I think my #1 is a little shocking and I want to keep up the suspense.

1. Somewhere (dir. Sofia Coppola)

I was surprised how much I loved this film. Usually I have a love/hate relationship with Sofia Coppola and her films. But this film just really struck a chord with me. I related to Johnny Marco, something I’d never done with any of her characters before. I’ve read a lot of articles and blog posts and rants from people about this film. Why should they care about this privileged person and his sorrows? Why should we care about a spoiled white girl? (Yeah, I really  read that somewhere). Johnny is going through a deep sadness and his daughter Cleo is feeling abandoned. They might have a lot of money, but they are still human and they still feel as deeply as we “common people” do. I think if we’ve learned anything from Citizen Kane, it’s that money and happiness do not go hand-in-hand. This film is one of the best I’ve seen that explores what it is to be truly sad and lonely, regardless of your status in life.

2. Rabbit Hole (dir. John Cameron Mitchell)

This film is also about sadness and loss, in this case of an only child. It’s also about how you continue living after you lose someone close to you. For a film with such a depressing premise, it’s actually quite funny. That’s not to say that it’s a comedy; it’s just full of real, everyday type humor. Nicole Kidman gives one of her best performances in years and Aaron Eckhart gives, what I think, is a career-best performance.

3. Inception (dir. Christopher Nolan)

I think this is the only film I saw in theaters more than once this year (I saw Star Trek last year five times). I loved it even more the second time I saw it. I’m not really sure what I can say about it that you probably don’t already know. I thought it had one of the best ensembles of the year. I wouldn’t say it changed my perception of reality or cinema or anything, but I found it entertaining from start to finish. Also, the scene with the levels and the car falling for an hour (or was it 30 seconds?) is definitely one of the coolest scenes I’ve seen in ages.

4. The Social Network (dir. David Fincher)

I will say that part of my love of this film stems from being a very early adopter of Facebook (I joined in fall of 2004) and my memories of when it really was exclusive to those who were a) in college and b) whose college had a network. But my love goes beyond the novelty of the nostalgia it evoked. I don’t think there was a bad, or mediocre for that matter, performance in the whole film. I love to hate (and still kind of admire) this fictional version of Mark Zuckerberg. While I’m still kind of bitter that Fincher’s Zodiac got absolutely zero love from the Academy, I do so hope Fincher gets himself an Oscar for this film.

5. Shutter Island (dir. Martin Scorsese)

Probably the biggest loved-it-or-hated-it film of the year, I am in the loved-it camp. I was completely duped by the plot-twist when I first saw it and thought, upon repeat viewings, that it made the film even more interesting to watch knowing how it ends. The set decoration, costumes and color palette were just so lush and beautiful; it kind of reminded me of the a Wong Kar-Wai film, color-wise. Leo’s performance in this film would rank among both my favorite of the year and my favorite of his career. It’s shame this film came out so early and there were so many great performances towards the end of this year.

6. True Grit (dir. Joel & Ethan Coen)

I had actually seen the 1969 version of True Grit for the first time earlier this year. I’d say I enjoyed both films, but both films have different tones and aren’t really comparable. This was another great ensemble, though for me the two stand-out performances were Hailee Steinfeld (here’s to hoping she’ll be a big star) and Barry Pepper. Cinematographer Roger Deakins once again created some beautiful imagery. Deakins will surely get yet another nomination from the Academy, but he keeps losing and I don’t think he’s been around long enough to get a “he’s overdue” win. Maybe in another ten years.

7. Never Let Me Go (dir. Mark Romanek)

This was another film where I read a lot of negative reviews that made me go, “Huh?” I do not for one minute think this film was detached and emotionally empty. There were a lot of deep ideas brought about in this film and maybe they aren’t answered, but I think that’s the point. You pose a question and you leave it out there for the viewers to ponder on their own. Having read the book, I think the casting was absolutely perfect. While Keira Knightley is a pretty well established A-lister, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield are  relatively new to the game. If  their performances in this film are any indication of what’s to come, they’re at the beginning of what I hope will be long and prosperous careers.

8. The Fighter (dir. David. O. Russell)

There were just so many great ensembles this year and this film was another one of them. While Christian Bale’s performance is the flashiest (and one of his best), the whole cast is great. I was surprised at how great Mark Wahlberg was in this film. His is a subtle performance and probably my favorite from the film. I think I’ve said this before, but I think Wahlberg is at the top of his game when he works with David O. Russell. I hope the two of them continue to work together in the future.

9. Toy Story 3 (dir. Lee Unkrich)

Pixar is on such a roll and this film was just so wonderful. It may very well be my favorite of all their films. I had always enjoyed the Toy Story films, but I had never loved them before this one. Maybe it’s because I was 9 when the first film came out and now I’m in my post-college years. The scene that caused the biggest emotional response from me this year was the one at the end of this film, where Andy wistfully looks back before driving away and says, “thank you” to his toys. Boy can I relate to that.

10. Ondine (dir. Neil Jordan)

This was one of those films I feel like no one saw but me (and maybe three other people). I wish it had made a bigger splash than it did. Neil Jordan is one of my favorite directors and my love for Colin Farrell knows no bounds, so I had high hopes for this film. While the end of the film is not as good as the build-up, it doesn’t ruin the film altogether. Here’s to hoping Jordan and Farrell work together again some time soon.

11. I Love You Phillip Morris (dir. Glenn Ficarra, John Requa)

This was my favorite comedy of the year. It’s another film few people saw. The distributor just didn’t know what to do with it and the commercials I saw on television portrayed this film as a gross-out slapstick farce. While it is a little slapstick-y, it’s also tender and one of the best romances of the year. Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor have wonderful chemistry and give some of their greatest performances to date. Maybe once it comes out on DVD more people will discover this little gem of a film.

12. Greenberg (dir. Noah Baumbach)

I’ve come to the conclusion that I tend to love Baumbach’s films, but generally dislike his characters. Although, I do kind of like Greenberg (the man). Or at the very least, I can relate to him. This is the best performance I’ve seen out of Ben Stiller; I wish he’d make more films like this and less like Fockers.

13. Winter’s Bone (dir. Debra Granik)

I thought this was a top-notch thriller, filled with some really great performances. I hope we see more great performances from Jennifer Lawrence, who will more than likely get an Oscar nomination for this break-out role. John Hawkes gives one of my favorite performances of the year in this film. He’s just so intense.

14. The Town (dir. Ben Affleck)

I have been a fan of Ben Affleck for more than half my young life now, and I’m just so glad it’s okay to like him again. While I don’t think this film is as great as Gone Baby Gone, it is a fine heist film and once again a great ensemble piece.

15. Black Swan (dir. Darren Aronofsky)

The more I think about this film, the more it reminds me of Suspiria, only with one’s own ambition as the villain rather than a closet coven of witches. Both films are dark and twisted, though I do think Natalie Portman’s performance elevates this film a bit. I would say, I think of this film more of as a psychological horror film with dramatic elements, rather than a drama film with horror elements.

So that’s my list. Some of these films are already available on DVD and can be purchased or pre-ordered here. What do you guys think of my picks? What are your favorite films of the year?


About Marya E. Gates

Cinephile to the max.

Posted on December 31, 2010, in Top List and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Your list is you, too! =D

  2. I think your list is interesting – in the sense that it made me interested in one or two of the movies I had not seen. Thank you. I would like to see Winter’s Bone and Somewhere now.

    My Favorite Top Ten 2010 Movies

    1) The Fighter, 2) Toy Story 3, 3) Inception, 4) The American, 5) Despicable Me, 6) Shutter Island, 7) Secretariat, 8) Eclipse, 9) The Social Network, 10) Morning Glory


    1) True Grit, 2) The Town

    Movies that I also liked – no order

    RED, Love and Other Drugs, Iron Man 2, Eat, Pray, Love, Wolfman, Deadly Hallows Part I

    Other movies that I enjoyed seeing – no order

    Tangled, The A-Team, The Expendables, The Back-up Plan, Prince of Persia, Leap Year

    Movies that disappointed

    Alice and Wonderland – It was just off somehow and empty
    Wall Street 2 – Too self-indulgent

    Movies I hated

    Robinhood – What was this? Exposition for the sequel? And please don’t mess with history and geography. Yuck.

    Kick Ass – I walked out and sat in the lobby until my companion was done watching it. Hated it 10 times more than Robinhood.

    Looking forward to the Awards Race

  3. This is a really fantastic list. 🙂

  4. This is a great list.

    Shutter Island is definitely one of my favorite films and I think in 10+ years I’ll still be able to say that it’s one of the best endings to a movie ever. That last line is perfection.

    I’m with you on Ben Affleck. I love him and am so thrilled at who he has become and how he has grown as a man, an actor and now a director.

    I’m not the type of person to make lists, so I always enjoy reading others, especially yours because I know that they are well thought out and heartfelt.

    Happy New Year, Marya, I look forward to discovering new movies through you in 2011 ♥

  5. Terrific list! The only two I’m not crazy about are The Fighter and Never Let Me Go.

    Love your pick of #1. Though it didn’t make my own list, I think it’s a great movie and it’s not gotten a fair shake from critics who should know better.

    Also happy to see a little shout out for Ondine, a movie that deserved more attention than it got.

    The only one I didn’t see was Phillip Morris. Maybe I should really correct that.

    • I was surprised at how little attention Ondine got, considering Neil Jordan isn’t exactly an “unknown” or anything. I definitely think you should give ILYPM a watch. The craziest thing about it is how most of it is true! One of those stranger than fiction type stories. But it also allowed Carrey to do the slapstick he’s so good at in a film that’s actually got some heart.

    • I will definitely check it out. It was on my list, but the year kind of got away from me here at the end.

      Ondine also friggin Colin Farrell had Christopher Doyle cinematography! What more do people need?

  6. Hmmm gives me a few films to track down as I have yet to see your numbers one and two along with two or three others!

    Nifty list – just added it to my year-end round-up on Thursday’s ‘Eveybody’s Talkin’ post.

    Happy New Year!

  7. We’ve already talked about most of these, so you already know I pretty much love your list, but a few things: I just found out that my mom accidentally never returned Ondine to a rental place and they charged her for it so now I own it! I’m irritated that I haven’t seen ILYPM because it was in and out of theaters so quickly (I never even knew it had come out). The only other thing on this list I haven’t seen is The Fighter, which I intend to remedy tomorrow or Monday.

    I love your love for Shutter Island and Somewhere. They seem like the most-often maligned entries on here, and I like seeing people stand up for them.

    • 1. that’s a crappy way to wind up owning something (well, for your mom anyhow), but yay! cuz now you can watch it over and over and bask in its beauty.

      2. I hope you can see ILYPM when it’s out on DVD. it was lucky to get even the limited release it got because the distributor that had it just didn’t know what to do with it. It was LOVED at the festivals and in Europe, but you know how American audiences roll.

      3. I will stick by my love of both of those films until forever because they are so great and so unfairly dismissed.

  8. Good films. Naturally, I don’t agree with everything 🙂 The film I would never include in my top favorite list is Somewhere. Was quite disappointed with it. I haven’t seen the three films you mentioned in the beginning of your post + True Grit and The Fighter. My greatest films this year are: #2 Black Swan (was blown away) and #1 Inception (was even more blown away).

  9. Great list! Going to see Somewhere tomorrow hopefully it’s as good as you say it is : –) Not a huge S Coppola fan me.

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