Published on
January 5, 2011

This post was originally meant to be published yesterday, but I took a trip to Houston that left me without a computer so it had to be postponed. That's alright considering I didn't have much planned for today given the trip back, so it's good that I now have something to fall back on.

I've decided that when Mondays roll around, should I have nothing else of significance to post online, I'll just talk about movies. This is something I'm already very into, yet I strangely don't say much about here in blog form, so I figured I should remedy that. It seems appropriate that given the beginning of the year just started, I might as well do what everyone else is doing and recap my top ten movies of last year.

It should be noted that all these are, of course, a matter of opinion. I'm not a film critic. I'm just a struggling actor who likes to watch a lot of movies. That said, there will be noticeable absences as I wasn't able to see all the movies I wanted to last year (ala: 127 Hours, Black Swan, or The Fighter) all of which, according to many other lists, were top contenders for best of the year. That said, even if I had seen them, that's not to say they would make it here.

I tend to choose movies I love by how they make me feel. To be honest, the technical elements of a movie could be spectacular on every level, but if I general just didn't enjoy it then it won't be considered a favorite. Here I tend to grade on whether or not it made me feel good, was I enthralled or captivated, or did it engage me on an emotional level. Frankly, if a movie can't make me feel anything, then it's probably not worth mentioning. So take into account that though most of these movies are probably considered good on a critical level, that's not necessarily why I chose them, and it does not mean everything here can be similarly compared.

10. Shutter Island

I had this movie figured out pretty early on; I love trying to predict where a movie is going because it makes me feel smart, but I also hate it when it's a contrived formula. The good thing about Shutter Island is that though I was able to know the main twist, it did little to help me understand the actual details (filling in the "how" and "why") and it threw me for such a loop that I changed my decision multiple times throughout the movie (at least three during the final reveal.) Scorcese does an excellent job of giving us a thriller that does more that simply thrill us. The tragic story of our main character Teddy, played by Leonardo Dicaprio, is the thread that holds this movie together, so that on repeat viewings the audience doesn't have to rely on the elements of the stories construction to keep them interested; instead Teddy's experience is what is most important here.

I loved that this movie made me second guess my predictions. I loved it more that it broke my heart. It's probably not something that I would consider a classic or timeless, but the fact that I couldn't forget about it is something worth mentioning.

9. Love and Other Drugs

There was actually another movie I was going to place here (just so you know, numerical does not mean any of these movies are better than the other) but since my girlfriend would be pissed off if I didn't mentioned this movie I was obligated to include it.

I don't know what it was about this movie, but the way it was shot I really didn't feel like I was watching a regular romantic comedy, if a movie at all. I felt like I was experiencing it; something about it felt raw (an element I hear is major in the upcoming Blue Valentine; which I am excited for.) This is probably attributed to the performances of Jake Gyllenhall and Anne Hathaway, both actors that I love. There were scenes that literally struck me (they are obvious) and others that just made me laugh. I didn't expect to enjoy this movie as much as I did. Granted, I did have my gripes, it's still a romantic comedy through and through, but I can forgive it for that since the performances got to me.

8. Robin Hood

I rented this movie not wanting to like it. After having read "The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood" I saw the trailer and was opposed to this movie right off. I didn't feel like they were capturing the real essence/tone, of Robin Hood, and that Russell Crowe was a horrible fit to play the titular character. This was just another destruction of a well beloved property, and I didn't want it.

Then I saw the movie, and I loved it. They took their liberties, I'm sure, but I was surprised to find that this movie was a lot more good natured then they marketed it to be, and I'm glad for it. No, it's not the same story of Robin that I've grown to love, but their origin story does introduce him in an interesting way, so that my only gripe leaving the film was that by the end, when we saw the true Robin as we know him, I wanted more and was sad for it to end. Beyond that, this movie gave me a lot more than I expected, and I immediately wanted to own it. If perhaps you wrote this movie off as just "Gladiator 2" like I initially did, I suggest giving it another shot, because you might be surprised.

7. The King's Speech

The best things I can say about this movie mostly have to do with the amazing performances by Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth. I want to say that you have to see this movie for those alone, as it's their characters relationship that this entire premise revolves around. Surrounded by a terrific cast (Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, and Michael Gambon, to name a few) and involving a strangely original but true story, I couldn't tell you how immersed I was into this film. As I've heard it said, this movie is definitely about the power of speech, and you don't want to miss this unique experience.

6. True Grit

Westerns began their return commercially a few years back with the acclaimed remake of "3:10 to Yuma". Unfortunately, since then, there hasn't been much good on the western front since, at least until this remake of the acclaimed "True Grit" starring John Wayne. This updated version instead features an equally ground breaking performance by Jeff Bridges; or perhaps I'm mistaking him with the real star of this movie, in her debut movie, Hailee Steinfeld. Either way, going into this you won't be disappointed. Take into account that the Coen brothers, with hit after hit, have crafted another master western to add to your collection, and you have yourself a winner. There's heart, there's adventure, there's revenge, and there's humor. I also loved Matt Damon's character in this, which is saying a lot considering I haven't liked any of his characters in a while.

Go watch it now. You won't regret it.

5. Scott Pilgram VS The World

There's not much to say about this movie that hasn't already been said. It's basically a geeks ultimate dream. Whether you're a lover of games, anime, music, martial arts, or anything between, then this is a movie for you. There's the humor that comes courtesy of Edgar Wright and a cast lead by Michael Cera, but also a well crafted love story that is greatly indebted to the original graphic novel of the same name. Visually this movie is a treat, and the sole reason you should check it out if the above doesn't interest you, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the fight scenes alone; which is a breath of fresh air given the amount of unwatchable action scenes in recent years. Scott Pilgram is fanservice at its best, and has garnered a large cult following because of it. If you haven't seen it, you're missing out.

4. Tangled

I'm surprised this movie has made it as far along my list as it has. Truthfully, this is a return for Disney, in my personal opinion, to their classics of the past. I won't say it's just as good, but it definitely was a lot closer than The Princess and the Frog; which was a poor and rushed attempt in my eyes. At first I thought it was just the fact that I grew up, but with Tangled I found that there was something missing in their previous effort, I don't know what it was, but here Tangled found it. I loved the characters, the music, and the story. It was funny, touching, swashbuckling, and overall fun. If you are or were a fan of Disney, recalling days of Aladdin, The Lion King, and Beauty and The Beast, then this is a movie for you. As they say in the biz, it's family fun for all ages.

3. The Social Network

The Social Network is so much more than just "the facebook movie." In fact, some would argue that facebook isn't what this movie is about at all. I could talk all day about the performances of all the principal cast (Andrew Garfield, Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, and Armie Hammer) as well as the exceptional directing by David Fincher and script by Andy Sorkin. I could, but I don't want to. I will say that, if anything, this movie did something to me that I was definitely not expecting: it inspired me. I felt like I wanted to suddenly create something, to take an idea and expand it into a possible billion dollar idea, or just something as phenomenal as what facebook became. I loved the themes of this movie: friendship, heartbreak, betrayal, greed, and drive. The story was amazingly good; albeit exaggerated from actual events, but that's because the themes are more important here than the facts. Wherever Mark Zuckerberg is now, even if he isn't happy with this portrayal, he should be flattered that he could inspire such a fantastic film; an in turn inspire me.

2. Inception

I saw this movie in theatres twice. My girlfriend saw it in theatres three times. I bet you and those around you have similar stories. This movie was Christopher Nolan at his best, and with probably the best ensemble cast I could ever have imagined (Leo Dicaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Dileep Rao, etc.) I watched the movie for a third time last night, and it reconfirmed why I love it so much. The practical effects outshine any of the CGI in this movie and any other of the past. The action is unforgettable, but does not dilute this fantastically original story. This is what filmmaking is for, and after what seems like an infinite amount of remakes, reboots, adaptations and sequels, we are treated to a fresh new idea with storytelling as we've never seen before. Not only is this a movie that people will be referencing for decades to come, but it is a movie that I will probably inspire my own endeavors when I get into filmmaking. It's intelligent, fun, and an amazing original experience, everything you want when you walk into that dark theatre. To top it off, who doesn't enjoy a good heist film, not to mention one that flips the genre (literally) on its head and gives us more than we could possibly have bargained for.

1. How To Train Your Dragon

I'm sure before you saw that title you couldn't possibly figure what could beat out Inception for the top spot on my list. Now it all makes sense. How To Train Your Dragon was a movie I never expected to like. It looked contrived, childish, and incompetent (to Pixar.) Little did I know that I, and everyone else, was in for the most touching story of the year about a boy and his dragon.

Let me put it to you this way, the first flight between Hiccup and Toothless did for me what Avatar couldn't. It exhilarated me, and the connection there (a nice pay off thanks to some ample investment to the story and relationship beforehand by Dreamworks) between these two characters had me grinning from ear-to-ear. If this had been handled incorrectly then we could have been treated to another animated movie with formulaic storytelling (ala bashes in one paragraph); but instead we were given the most ridiculously fun movie in a while.

Then there's the action. David Chen on the slashfilmcast said it best when he said that the final action sequence of this movie was a "Tour-de-force". Like I said of Scott Pilgram earlier, it was a breath of fresh air. This is how action should be handled (and has been handled for years in lesser known mediums by writers I proudly call my peers) and I'm so glad someone finally got it right. It's a shame that a lot of other films for the next few years probably won't take the hint, but at least there's hope for the future.

Of course, when it comes down to it, this was all about the heart anyway. The relationship between this scared little viking boy and his new feisty dragon is where this movie thrives. I know it made everyone, including me, want a dragon of our own (thanks mostly due to the designers who made Toothless just too darn cute). The scene where they first come together, accompanied by the song "Forbidden Friendship" from the equally exceptional soundtrack by John Powell, will forever be a classic for me (besides that first flight scene). This is a movie I will return to year after year, and that is why it's gone down as my number one of 2010.

Honorable Mentions:

Easy A: Who knew a teenage comedy could be so funny and awesome at the same time?!
Toy Story 3: Enough said.
Book of Eli: You forgot about this movie, but I'm telling you not to.
City Island: You've never heard of this movie. It was surprisingly good. I recommended it to everyone when I worked at blockbuster.
The Town: Yes, Ben Affleck did a good job.
Never Let Me Go: Fantastic movie. Tragic story. Amazing performances. You'll love it despite how sad it is.
Harry Potter 7 Part 1: Best of the franchise, but will not hold up to repeat viewings. Too long. Still a watch.

Mattias is an actor, writer, filmmaker, and editor currently living in Los Angeles, CA. He often writes about his observations about life, the human condition, spirituality, and relationships. He also enjoys writing about movies, pop culture, formula one, and current events. Often these writings are 'initial thoughts' and un-edited, as authentic as possible, and should be considered opinions. If you're interested in commenting on his work, or continuing the conversation, you should consider following him on Twitter or share an article on social media, where he would love to engage even further. Consider subscribing via RSS for more.