While there's no shortage of film critics "best of" lists this time of year, it's a lot to take in for all but the most obsessive cineastes. To cut to the chase, here's an aggregated list ranking the best-reviewed movies — according to Entertainment Weekly, The New Yorker, New York, Time, and The Onion's A.V. Club — using a weighted scoring system:
1. The Social Network
David Fincher's fictionalized retelling of the creation of Facebook topped many critics' lists, and is likely to be a strong contender for Oscar glory come February. This "fantastic, caustic and superbrainy" film is a "high-IQ movie that gives viewers an IQ high," says Richard Corliss at Time. Jesse Eisenberg, who stars as Mark Zuckerberg, gives "the finest performance by an actor this year," says Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly. His delivery "has you hanging on every rudely intoxicting word" of Aaron Sorkin's "genius" screenplay.
2. Toy Story 3
The third instalment in Pixar's animated trilogy about toys who come alive when their owners' backs are turned captivated adults and children alike this summer. This "story of aging impermanence" was truly "one of the summits of Pixar's art," says David Edelstein at New York, affecting and humorous in equal measure. It's "almost preposterous that a kids' film could be this challenging, moving, and heartfelt," says The A.V. Club. While conceived for a family audience, Pixar's movies "rival anything else in theaters for sophistication...."
3. Another Year
Veteran British director Mike Leigh's latest was little-seen, but that didn't stop critics from extolling its portrayal of an aging middle-class couple in suburban England. This "pure and moving" film was anchored by a "great funny performance" from Lesley Manville as a "tippler with outdated dreams," says Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly. "Another Mike Leigh gem," adds New York's David Edelstein.
4. Winter's Bone
Debra Granik's independent movie tracks the efforts of a teenage girl to find her meth-dealer father and, in turn, prevent her family from losing their house. This "harshly beautiful" portrayal of life in backwoods Missouri is "by leagues the best movie of 2010," says David Edelstein at New York. It's a "bloody, nightmarish odyssey" that no true film fan should miss. As the 17-year-old protagonist Ree Dolly, says The A.V. Club, "Jennifer Lawrence gives one of the year's standout performances."
5. Black Swan
Though dismissed as "kitsch" by some critics, this dark tale of a ballet dancer still made many "Best Of..." lists. Although its symbolism is "amazingly aggressive," says Richard Brody in The New Yorker, director Darren Aronofsky's "extraordinary visual coherence" and the "alluring opacity" of Natalie Portman's lead performance make the movie work. Its "heady themes" could have become "painfully pretentious," says The A.V. Club, but Portman's "wounded" acting helps make Black Swan "an experience as much as an exploratory essay."