Ann Hornaday's top 10 films of 2010

By Ann Hornaday
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 18, 2010; 4:14 PM

There are great years in movies and bad years in movies, and by all accounts 2010 has been . . . pretty good.

As often happens when looking at the films that opened over the past several months, it wasn't difficult to come up with a list of the 10 best. If anything, in a year that included such standouts as "Rabbit Hole," "True Grit," "The King's Speech," "Black Swan," "Get Low," "The Fighter" and "Toy Story 3," it was difficult choosing what to leave off.

These are my 10 best films of 2010:

"The Social Network" This sharply written, subtly directed movie featured a lead performance as commanding as it was recessive from Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, a suitably ambiguous hero for an era when privacy, notions of personal vs. public space and relationships themselves have undergone radical re-thinking.

"127 Hours" Danny Boyle's portrait of real-life adventurer Aron Ralston imbued his inspiring story of survival with verve, excitement and profound humanism, anchored by a breakout lead performance from James Franco.

"The Tillman Story" Amir Bar-Lev's exquisitely crafted documentary about former NFL player and Army Ranger Pat Tillman not only put his story into crucial context, but also offered a provocative meditation on myth, propaganda and our abiding need for narrative neatness.

"I Am Love" Tilda Swinton starred in one of the most polarizing movies of the year, a mesmerizing throwback to the melodramas of Douglas Sirk and lush historical tableaux of Luchino Visconti in which sensual pleasures drenched almost every scene.

"Please Give" The neuroses of real-estate obsessed Manhattanites ricocheted with tone-perfect angst in Nicole Holofcener's comedy of contemporary manners, by turns a wry and wistful observation of the implications of love and family and neighbors and stuff.

"Inception" This ambitious head trip of a movie earned extra points for not being part of a franchise, based on a comic book or adapted from a play. Instead, writer-director Chris Nolan made that rarity in Hollywood: an original movie, in this case realized with vision and smarts.

"No One Knows About Persian Cats" Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi gave viewers a vital, progressive view of modern-day Tehran in this fact-based picaresque through the city's raucous, diverse underground music scene.

"The Kids Are All Right" Like the equally heart-rending "Toy Story 3," this funny family drama (or wrenching family comedy) centered on that bittersweet moment when that first kid leaves home for college; the fact that the parents letting go were two mothers was almost incidental, leaving audiences with a familiar, cheerful shrug: This is what family looks like.

"The Ghost Writer" This sleek, stylish political thriller of the old school from Roman Polanski starred Pierce Brosnan as an uncannily Tony Blair-like former British prime minister and created the ethereal world of the super-powerful with hushed, velvety verisimilitude.

"Fair Game" Doug Liman's concentrated, well-calibrated revisiting of the story of Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame Wilson avoided ax-grinding in favor of a taut drama that reminded viewers that even the most cynically stage-managed political theater possesses unseen human stakes.

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