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SDG’s Top Films of 2010

Was it the worst movie year ever? Some standout films left an impression.


| Posted 1/14/11 at 11:00 AM

Paramount Pictures and Focus Features

Was 2010 “The Worst Movie Year Ever,” as Joe Queenan argued at a while back? Or at least, bracketing art house and world cinema fare, was it Hollywood’s worst year ever? For most of the year, it sure looked plausible. What was there all spring, other than Iron Man 2? What highlights did summer bring, other than Inception and Toy Story 3?

Every year has its share of A-list duds. But in what other movie year was the collective star power of Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon and Sylvester Stallone and practically every living action icon used to so little effect as in Knight and Day, The Tourist, Robin Hood, Eat Pray Love, Green Zone and The Expendables, respectively?

That’s not counting Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman (The Switch), Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher (Killers), Liam Neeson (The A-Team) or Benicio del Toro (The Wolfman), because, well, you have to draw the line somewhere. Meanwhile, who exactly decided that the next generation of action stars included Adrien Brody (Predators), Jake Gyllenhaal (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) and Sam Worthington (Clash of the Titans)? Okay, apparently, the answer to the last question is James Cameron. Duly noted.
Dumb, crude comedies are a Hollywood staple, alas — but have we ever been subjected in a single year to the likes of Grown Ups, The Other Guys, Dinner for Schmucks, Get Him to the Greek and Hot Tub Time Machine, etc.? Has there ever been anything like a convergence of two artificial conception comedies (The Switch and The Back-up Plan), a lesbian marriage/parenting dramedy (The Kids Are Alright) and a Sex in the City sequel?

At least family audiences didn’t do too badly. In addition to Toy Story 3, animated offerings included How to Train Your Dragon, Despicable Me, Tangled and Megamind; there were also a few decent, if unspectacular, live-action family films: Ramona and Beezus, Flipped, Nanny McPhee Returns and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Of course, the year did bring Marmaduke, Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore and Yogi Bear.

And I haven’t even gotten to Alice in Wonderland, The Last Airbender, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, Tron: Legacy, Jonah Hex, Gulliver’s Travels ...

Of course, there were good films in 2010, though you had to go a bit further to find them. In particular, it was a great year for documentaries; at one point, I noticed that nonfiction movies made up fully half of my unofficial top 20. I’ve diversified since then, but there are still plenty of good documentaries out there. Here, in alphabetical order, are 10 films that made the biggest impression on me in 2010.

10 Films That Stood Out

10 Runners-up

Unlike 2009, this year my runner-up list isn’t rife with films that could just as easily have gone in the top list. That’s partly because the strongest films of the year are so outstanding — but also clearly because 2010 was a weaker movie year (certainly for me). Even so, I’m excited about each of the films below and warmly recommend them all.


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Steven D. Greydanus is editor and chief critic at Decent Films. He also blogs at