The Best Films of 2010: My Process

It’s 2011. If you’re a film nut such as myself you’ve been reading all the Best Of lists cropping up online and in various periodicals. When I once hosted a radio show about movies I’d assemble my own picks, but invariably my list didn’t come out until late January. It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I live in Halifax. Critically acclaimed films released elsewhere in late 2010 often don’t get screened here until January. One of the best movies of 2008, The Wrestler, didn’t open here until the third week of January 2009. It was #2 on my list for the 10 Best of 2008. 

So, though I have a long list in the works, I will withhold my final choices until I’ve seen 127 Days, Blue Valentine and Somewhere, all of which could appear on my list.

My criteria is particular so I should say a bit about that. I know it isn’t a word, but “rewatchability” is big thing for me. I like the idea of movies that capture mood and tone, and when I revisit them, I revisit that tone. Maybe I see things I missed the first time. That’s also the product of a clever script, sharp directorial choices and evocative performances. Sometimes, it can just be about sound and image. But I’m looking for movies that this time next year I’ll want to see again, or show to friends. Does that mean the more harrowing the film, the less likely it’ll make my list? Not necessarily. Cache (Hidden) was grim and shocking in places, but was my favourite film of 2005. The intense Northern Ireland prison drama Hunger made my list last year.

I’m also excited by seeing something new, something that surprises me. I’m a big fan of genre films, but the directors need to show me something fresh within the established structure.

Another thing to consider: film festivals. I saw many movies at the Atlantic Film Festival in September, but if the films I saw there did not get distribution in North America in 2010 they won’t appear on my list. Which means the amazing Daydream Nation and the Danish film In A Better World are on hold, and may appear on my Best of 2011 list.

And a movie that never saw release in 2009 in Halifax and I only caught up to on DVD in 2010, Bronson, won’t make it either. It’s just too far past the release date for me to be cool with adding it to the long list.

So, about that long list. Here are 22 movies in consideration, aside from those handful I mentioned above, and a couple more I’m still waiting to see. These are all movies that, in my estimation, range from above average to excellent. My final picks will still be a little while coming, so hang tight.

The American
Barney’s Version
Black Swan
The Book of Eli
Despicable Me
Ghost Writer
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
I Am Love
The Illusionist
The Kids Are All Right
Never Let Me Go
Nothing But The Truth
The Secret In Their Eyes
The Social Network
The Town
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Valhalla Rising
Winter’s Bone

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.