1. The Social Network
This fictionalized account of how Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook is “one of the rare big-studio efforts that ravish the audience with sheer intelligence,” said David Denby in The New Yorker. Thanks to David Fincher’s deft direction and Aaron Sorkin’s fantastically clever script, The Social Network is a near-perfect exhibition of “observation, temperament, and wit.”
2. Toy Story 3
There’s a reason Pixar has become a staple on top 10 lists since the first Toy Story: It is “the gold standard of animation,” said David Ansen in Newsweek. The final installment of the studio’s signature trilogy finds Woody and his toy cronies dealing with the terror of abandonment as Andy, their owner, heads to college. An affecting tale that mixes “dark poetry” with “nonstop inventiveness,” it “managed to make grown men cry.”
3. Winter’s Bone
This atmospheric tale about a teenage girl’s desperate search for her fugitive father in the impoverished Ozarks was “by leagues” my favorite movie of 2010, said David Edelstein in New York. Debra Granik’s “harshly beautiful” adaptation of a Daniel Woodrell novel achieves “mythical intensity” as this proud, poor girl, played by a “remarkable” Jennifer Lawrence, steps up to save her family from dissolution.
Inception demands to be seen again and again, said the A.V. Club. Director Christopher Nolan’s tale about a mind invader (Leo DiCaprio) sweeps us away into an impressive dream world—and worlds of dreams within dreams—while offering “a thrilling, emotionally affecting film about desire, disappointment, and delusion.” The film keeps us intrigued and confounded until the end. Even the final shot is “a mystery never to be solved.”
5. The Kids Are All Right
The “smartest, funniest, sexiest” film of the year featured a nuclear family with a modern twist, said Lisa Schwarzbaum in Entertainment Weekly. In this dramedy from Lisa Chodolenko, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore star as lesbian mothers whose children want to meet the man who fathered them. The script so cleverly subverts sitcom-style conventions that it erases the “boundaries between ‘gay content’ and universal ‘family content.’”
6. The King’s Speech
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush put in “masterful performances” as a stammering King George VI and his speech therapist in this charming drama, said Joe Morgenstern in The Wall Street Journal. Director Tom Hooper has transformed a “footnote to English history” into “a resonant fable of challenge, achievement, and friendship across class barriers,” creating “a period piece that speaks eloquently to the present.”
7. Inside Job
Charles Ferguson’s “lucid, searing” documentary about the 2008 financial meltdown exposes the “fundamental delusions” of the chummy bigwigs who created it, said Richard Corliss in Time. This is a “true-life heist movie,” in which the thieves “not only got away with their billions, they’re still doing business.” Ferguson manages to stay calm when confronting the malefactors, but most viewers will “blow a gasket.”
A “dizzying blend of drama and history,” this five-hour biopic details the extraordinary career of the international terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal, said Andrew O’Hehir in Salon.com. A “forceful and dynamic” performance by Édgar Ramírez anchors French director Olivier Assayas’ “tale of violence, daring, and intrigue.” As soon as it was over, “I wanted to watch
9. Black Swan
Darren Aronofsky’s dark psychological fantasy “delights and disturbs,” said Christy Lemire in the Associated Press. Showing a “fascination with the minutiae of preparation” that will be familiar to his fans, the director of The Wrestler has spun a nightmare tale within the “seemingly gentle” yet fiercely competitive world of ballet. Featuring a “brave performance” by Natalie Portman, the movie is “at once gorgeous and gloriously nutso.”
10. 127 Hours
Only Danny Boyle could make this inspirational true story about a trapped rock climber an “edge-of-the-seat adventure saga,” said Claudia Puig in USA Today. In the latest from the director of Slumdog Millionaire, a virtuoso performance by James Franco and “stunningly kinetic” filmmaking put us inside the head of outdoorsman Aron Ralston, whose courage, determination, and will to live helped him survive a horrific, near-hopeless situation.
SOURCES: The Arizona Republic, Associated Press, A.V. Club, The Boston Globe, Chicago Sun-Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, LA Weekly, Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, New York, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, Salon.com, Slate.com, The Sun (Baltimore), Time, USA Today, The Village Voice, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.