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The 25 Best Movies of 2010

December 28, 2010  |  7:00am

Our 25 Best Movies of 2010 range from a Facebook biopic to a Western remake, from an animated story about toys to a war movie that hardly ever leaves the interior of a tank. There’s a Venezuelan story filmed in Austria, an Israeli film called Lebanon, an American remake of a Swedish movie, and films from Belgium, Australia, Argentina, Great Britain and Italy. Some are popcorn flicks, and others will change the way you think. But all are worth the $10 ticket, the $2 rental or the two hours you’ll spend enjoying them. Here are the 25 best films of 2010:

25. Lebanon
Director: Samuel Maoz
Though nominally concerned with the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, a more fitting title for this film would be Tank. The plot is simple, recounting the first 24 hours of the conflict 
entirely from inside a tank, where four soldiers (and a few other intermittent visitors) struggle through their first taste of war. Drawn directly from writer/director Samuel Maoz’s personal experiences in the Israeli army, the film is jarring and stressful, offering a unique anti-war message told almost entirely in first-person. Lebanon stumbles when it unloads some extremely pat metaphors and generalizations, a heavy-handedness likely owing to the first-time director’s inexperience. Still, even those clumsy moments have more than a hint of truth to them, and the film is too visceral for them to really blemish the rest of the chilling look at the nature of war.—Sean Gandert

24. Somewhere
Director: Sofia Coppola
Sofia Coppola has made ennui the focus of her first four films, including her latest, Somewhere. Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is an actor whose sole purpose is sleeping with whichever beautiful woman he meets, eating good food and enjoying a hedonistic lifestyle that gives him no pleasure until he’s suddenly left with his 11-year-old daughter (Elle Fanning). Coppola’s film rises above similar efforts by offering its protagonist redemption. Elle Fanning’s performance perfectly captures the joy of life and offers Marco an alternative path which, ultimately, he takes. Coppola really believed in the content here, and while she needs to tone down her metaphors and return to more realistic characters, her actors believed in her vision just as much as she did and are able to carry it through.—Sean Gandert Read full review.

23. The Secret In Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos)
Director: Juan José Campanella
For its first hour, The Secret in Their Eyes is a conventional crime thriller focusing on the investigation of a rape/murder case that goes awry in exactly the ways audiences have learned to expect: with a frame-up, red tape and bad luck preventing the suspect’s arrest. And then writer-director Juan José Campanella takes the gloves off and delivers one of the most virtuosic chase sequences ever filmed, followed by a steady trickle of new mysteries. New light is shed on previous events with the criminal’s arrest and subsequent release, effectively starting the film anew while questioning both Argentinean politics and the boundaries of ethical justice. Campanella’s classical style is assisted by a nuanced performance from his longtime collaborator Ricardo Darín, who brings gravity to the investigation and the somewhat-less-interesting love stories that surround it. Though slow at times, The Secret in Their Eyes recaptures the greatness of its genre, and does so without mimicking or replicating its predecessors.—Sean Gandert Read full review.

22. I Am Love
Director: Luca Guadagnino
The Recchi family, the powerful Italian clan at the core of Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love, is exclusive. Its wealth is nearly immeasurable, if not incomprehensible, and even marrying into it doesn’t warrant an invitation to its inner circle. Although Emma (Tilda Swinton) gave up her life in Russia—with the exception of her Russian accent, which she just can’t keep from tainting her Italian—in order to become a Recchi, she orbits the rest of the family in the Recchi villa, where the sense of propriety is nearly as tangible and cloying as its thick tapestries. I Am Love is a beautiful film, and a lesson in storytelling. It unfolds at a leisurely but lovely pace, taking time to revel in the details of the setting but never shifting focus from its many rich, complex characters. Swinton becomes Emma, her every pore and follicle embodying passion, guilt and grief with equal conviction. Even in its most tense moments, I Am Love is like the many dishes Antonio shows off in the film—painstakingly created and never overdone.—Ani Vrabel Read full review.

21. Exit Through the Gift Shop
Director: Banksy
When renowned graffiti artist Banksy took the camera away from the man shooting his biopic and decided that the subject would become the documentarian (and the documentarian, the subject), the zaniest doc in years was born. Was it Banksy’s own attention and the pressure of the film that motivated Mr. Brainwash to become an international sensation in his own right, with his inaugural show in Los Angeles becoming the largest and most profitable in street-art history? Or was the artist born, not made? Or is his whole career just part of the whole huckster atmosphere of the film? Banksy’s not saying. But it’s certainly a wild ride to watch.—Michael Dunaway Read The 20 Best Documentaries list.

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