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Top 15 Best Films of 2010

2010 proved another good year at the movies with the likes of David Fincher’s The Social Network, Pixar-Disney’s Toy Story 3 and Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

George Clooney also had a great year with two classics, while there were positive returns from Ben Affleck and Nicolas Cage among the year’s greats. But which – if any – of these films make our list of the top 15 best of the year?


Micmacs

15) Micmacs

Starring: Danny Boon

What’s the story? Video store clerk Bazil (Boon) is hit in the head with a stray bullet while witnessing a gun battle. Fortunate to survive, Bazil is nevertheless left homeless and jobless, but is taken in by a misfit group of scrapyard dwelling eccentrics who each boast a set of extraordinary skills. Seeing an opportunity, Bazil begins to plot an extravagant revenge plan against the weapons manufacturers responsible for making the bullet.

Why so good: Essentially a revenge drama with both Looney Tunes and Pixar inspired tomfoolery, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Micmacs is an absolute gem of a movie: a visual treat that’s intelligent, thought-provoking and often hilariously funny.

Read our review l Jean-Pierre Jeunet interview l Photo gallery


Romain Duris in Heartbreaker

14) Heartbreaker

Starring: Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis, Andrew Lincoln

What’s the story? Alex is a professional heartbreaker who promises to bring an end to any relationship within weeks – but only if the female targets of his endeavours are unknowingly unhappy. When he’s hired to prevent the beautiful Juliette (Paradis) from marrying the man of her dreams (Andrew Lincoln), he is thrown into an action-filled race against time, taking him through the sun-drenched streets of Paris to the fast cars and high fashion of Monaco.

Why so good: From its mischievous premise to its breezy execution, French hit Heartbreaker is a brilliant romantic comedy that has plenty to appeal to both sexes. Best of all, the film simply isn’t interested in following the natural conventions of a romantic comedy, opting instead to throw in elements of heist movies, slapstick comedy and – believe it or not – Dirty Dancing. The result is, hands down, one of the funniest and most consistently charming experiences you’re likely to have in the cinema this year.

Read our review l Romain Duris interview l Photo gallery


Lebanon

13) Lebanon

Starring: Yoav Donat

What’s the story? Set during the opening 24 hours of the first Lebanon war in 1982, and inspired by the director’s own horrific experiences and guilt, Lebanon follows a lone tank crew comprised of four new recruits and headed up by a similarly fresh gunner (Yoav Donat). When they take a wrong turn and end up in a remot hostile town with little support, they come to realise the dangers involved in modern combat.

Why so good: Like Wolfgang Petersen’s similarly acclaimed sub drama Das Boot, Lebanon takes place almost solely within the confines of the Israeli tank. Views of the outside world are only really offered via what the men inside can see from within, yet appear no less harrowing as a result. The result is hard-hitting, draining stuff that’s guaranteed to leave an imprint upon your brain. But equally, it’s a film that should not be missed, for this is a breathtaking feature debut that heralds the arrival of a significant new talent.

Read our review


Splice

12) Splice

Starring: Sarah Polley, Adrien Brody, Delphine Chanéac

What’s the story? Pioneering genetic engineers Elsa (Polley) and Clive (Brody) successfully create their own life form by splicing together the materials from several animals, including a human being. The creation in question, nicknamed Dren (and played by Chanéac), subsequently grows at an increased rate and tests the parenting skills of its creator… enabling them to make discoveries all the time, while raising demons from their own past.

Why so good: Vincenzo Natali is one of Hollywood’s most consistently under-rated filmmakers, following the little-seen but critically-acclaimed likes of Cube and Cypher. Splice is another excellent entry on his CV, a superior creature feature that has the intelligence to back its ‘yuk’ factor, and which comes with the backing of Guillermo Del Toro (who produces)… Crucially, it’s on the intellectual side that Natali’s film works best, tapping into issues of cloning, parental and sexual abuse, and corporate greed that are both thought-provoking and likely to inspire furious debate afterwards.

Read our review l Vincenzo Natali interview l Photo gallery


Winter's Bone

11) Winter’s Bone

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Garret Dillahunt, John Hawkes

What’s the story? 17-year-old Ree Dolly (Lawrence) is a plucky teenager who is struggling to look after her younger brother and sister while her mum struggles with depression. Her predicament is instantly made worse, however, by a visiting local sheriff (Dillahunt), who informs her that unless her absentee father, Jessup, attends his approaching court date, the family home will be repossessed. Ree subsequently resolves to find her dad.

Why so good: Debra Granik’s raw, powerful Winter’s Bone has deservedly emerged as one of the best reviewed films of the year thanks in no small part to a mesmerising lead performance from Jennifer Lawrence. Set among the woods of Missouri’s harsh Ozark Mountains and adapted from the 2006 novel by Daniel Woodrall, the film is a bleak, uncompromising affair that keeps you gripped from start to finish.

Read our review l Photo gallery


 A Prophet

10) A Prophet

Starring: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup

What’s the story? Arab teen Malik El Djebena is sent to prison for six years for an unspecified crime and given a quick and brutal initiation into the prison’s criminal system and hierarchy. He soon proves himself to be an astute learner and allies himself with a veteran Corsican crime lord who affords him protection and gradual influence, allowing Malik to patiently ascend the hierarchy to become a formidable player inside and outside of the prison walls.

Why so good: Jacques Audiard’s prison thriller A Prophet is an instant classic. Intelligent, thought provoking and genre re-defining, the film tears down as many prison clichés as it embraces, as well as the stereotypical portrayals of Arabs to emerge as a searing crime drama in its own right. Somewhat ambitiously, it even combines spiritual and supernatural elements with a harsh sense of reality that’s, by turns, volatile, violent, often corrupt and prone to betrayal. Rahim excelled in the lead role, while veteran actor Niels Arestrup also excelled as a Corsican crime lord and mentor.

Read our review l Tahar Rahim interview l Photo gallery


The Kids Are Alright

9) The Kids Are All Right

Starring: Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo

What’s the story? Two teenagers (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) attempt to find and bring their sperm donor father (Ruffalo) into the lives of their family (represented by Julianne Moore and Annette Bening’s parents) with predictably chaotic results.

Why so good: Artificial insemination has given birth to three movies already this year (including The Back-Up Plan and The Switch) but Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right was by far the most intelligent and enjoyable of the lot. Wittily scripted, insightful and poignant, the film drops viewers into the lives of one very dysfunctional family and consistently entertains as they attempt to work out the problems that ensue. Mark Ruffalo, in particular, shines in a cast that’s on top form.

Read our review l Lisa Cholodenko interview l Premiere gallery


The American

8) The American

Starring: George Clooney, Violante Placido

What’s the story? Following an unsuccessful attempt on his life, a hit-man (Clooney) is asked to lay low in Italy while building a specialised weapon for a fellow assassin. While in hiding, he meets a beautiful stripper who offers him a shot at a different life… so long as he can find out who is trying to kill him.

Why so good: The pairing of George Clooney with Control director Anton Corbijn for hit-man thriller The American was always going to be a fascinating affair. That it rates as one of the best films in the genre is tribute to the talents of both men involved. The film also offered a very different role for Clooney… one that relied on the power of expression more than charisma and words. It was deliberately slow paced, evoking the memory of classic European filmmakers such as Sergio Leone, but maintained a nice sense of tension and culminated in a memorable conclusion.

Read our review l Anton Corbijn interview l Violante Placido interview l Photo gallery


The Town

7) The Town

Starring: Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm

What’s the story? Doug (Affleck) is a career criminal and expert bank robber who wants out. Having narrowly got away with their latest haul, Doug has begun to see the writing on the wall and wants to avoid the same fate as his dad, now a prison lifer. But key elements want him to stay, while he is also romantically drawn to a kindly bank teller (Hall), even though she has ties to his gang that could also bury them.

Why so good: Ben Affleck’s second directorial offering was a genre thriller in the style of Heat that continued to underline what a burgeoning talent he is becoming behind the camera. It also offered him a powerful leading role. But with expert support from the likes of Jeremy Renner (as a fellow robber) and Jon Hamm (as the cop on their trail), The Town combined involving character drama with slickly orchestrated set pieces and a knowing sense of the genre. It may not have strived to be different but it packed a powerful punch and deserved to stand alongside many of the classics it is seeking to emulate.

Read our review l Photo gallery


Monsters

6) Monsters

Starring: Scoot McNairy, Whitney Able

What’s the story? Kaulder (Scott McNairy) is an American photojournalist working in Central America who is asked to pick up his boss’ daughter, Sam (Whitney Able), from hospital and ensure she gets back home to America safely. But after a series of mishaps, the pair are forced to trek through ‘The Infected Zone’… an area of Central America that has become populated by aliens brought back to Earth by a failed NASA experiment.

Why so good: Gareth Edwards’ Monsters is not only one of the best directorial breakthroughs of the year, it’s also hands down one of the best films of the year. A low budget masterpiece that incredibly boasts big budget trappings as well as cool indie values, it’s a tour de force for all concerned. It’s to be applauded for placing its two characters to the fore and its creatures very much to the background. For in doing so, audiences can come to care about their travel companions, while Edwards cleverly builds a mounting sense of tension.

Read our review l Gareth Edwards interview


Up In The Air

5) Up In The Air

Starring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick

What’s the story? Ryan Bingham (Clooney) is a management consultant who specialising in firing people, and whose work enables him to build up his frequent flyer miles. When placed under threat by a new recruit (Kendrick) who plans to introduce video links as a means of firing people, Bingham takes one last trip to try and persuade the newcomer otherwise, and to further his newfound relationship with the fellow flyer of his dreams (Farmiga).

Why so good: Jason Reitman’s comedy-drama was well observed, emotionally engaging and expertly performed, playing to the strengths of its leading man, while also revealing hidden depths. It also treated its potentially tricky subject matter (unemployment) with respect and never felt glib or naive about the emotional consequences involved. A first class experience!

Read our review l Jason Reitman interview l Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick interview l Photo gallery


Inception

4) Inception

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy

What’s the story? Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) is a corporate spy for hire who specialises in the art of extracting priceless information from people’s dreams. He’s also a man with a shady past: a father who cannot return home to his children in America because of the doubt surrounding the death of his wife (Marion Cotillard). Cobb is given a chance to right this wrong, however, when a Japanese businessman (Ken Watanabe) offers him the chance to achieve the holy grail of dream manipulation, by planting an idea into the rival businessman (Cillian Murphy), who is about to inherit an energy empire from his dying father (Pete Postlethwaite).

Why so good: Christopher Nolan cemented his position as the undisputed king of the intelligent blockbuster with Inception, a mind-bendingly brilliant existential heist movie that raises the bar in mainstream entertainment. Having blown just about everyone away with his last movie, The Dark Knight, Nolan resorted to original material for this unique, bold and extremely clever thriller that delivers on both spectacle and emotional impact. It is the type of film that makes repeat viewings almost essential, so as to allow the full intricate layering to unfold.

Read our review l Leonardo DiCaprio interview l Christopher Nolan interview l Photo gallery


Kick-Ass

3) Kick-Ass

Starring: Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Nicolas Cage

What’s the story? Teenage geek Dave Lizewski (Johnson) resolves to turn himself into a costumed vigilante superhero despite not having any super powers. His decision comes at plenty of physical cost but quickly turns him into an Internet phenomenon… until the town’s Mafia bos Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) decides to teach him a painful lesson. But it also attracts te attention of fellow crime fighters Big Daddy (Cage) and his teenage daughter Hit-Girl (Moretz).

Why so good: Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass was one of the most daring, violent and morally dubious comic book adaptations for some time. It’s also one of the year’s best! A witty adrenaline rush of gargantuan proportions, it tore into the comic book genre and redefined its boundaries much in the same way that Christopher Nolan did with The Dark Knight. Cage is back to career-best form as Big-Daddy (especially when channelling the spirit of Adam West) but it was Moretz’s film to walk away with… and boy did she!

Read our review l Mark Millar interview l Tarquin Pack interview l Character poster gallery


Toy Story 3

2) Toy Story 3

Starring: (The voices of) Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack

What’s the story? As Andy prepares to embark on adult life, his toys end up Sunnyside, an apparently idyllic day-care centre, where they may get to be played with and loved once again. But the dream turns into a nightmare when Sunnyside head toy Lotso (Ned Beatty) places the newcomers at the mercy of some tearaway kids, prompting Woody to come up with a desperate plan for escape.

Why so good: Toy Story 3 was, like its two predecessors and the Pixar creations that have come before it, another masterpiece… a fun, nostalgic romp that effortlessly entertained the kids, while providing plenty to keep the adults exhilarated too. What’s more, the studio’s newfound ability to mix laughter with tears is also in evidence once again, thereby ensuring that when Woody and company waved farewell at the end of another great adventure, there was barely be a dry eye in the multi-plex.

Read our review l Lee Unkrich interview l Photo gallery


The Social Network

1) The Social Network

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake

What’s the story? The story of how Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook and then was sued by his best friend.

Why so good: The Social Network has variously been described as a Faustian tale, the Citizen Kane of John Hughes movies and the movie of the moment that defines a generation. In truth, it encompasses all those things while retaining the ability to entertain on a mass scale. It’s a smart film about intelligent people that is also effortlessly cool. The credit for this lies predominantly with Aaron (The West Wing) Sorkin, whose script is one of the year’s finest: sharp, witty, incisive and divisive. It’s not afraid to live in the grey, to make people think and to challenge perception. But it is frequently dazzling, often dissecting modern society as well as the characters we see on-screen.

Read our review l Aaron Sorkin interview l Justin Timberlake interview l Andrew Garfield interview l Photo gallery

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