Let’s clear up the confusion right away. Overall, I watched approximately 210 films this year. This is the list of the 20 best films of those. It’s not the 20 best films of 2010, but the 20 best films I saw in 2010. Each film will be accompanied with a “pocket” review. I hope you enjoy.

*Note: Rewatches of films from previous years do not count.

20. Solaris (Tarkovsky, 1972)

This quiet, moody film is at times brutally heart breaking, and always stoic and contemplative in the typical Tarkovsky fashion. Among the unforgiving setting of space the main character is forced to struggle with his ideas of what constitutes life, love, and faith.

19. The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (Fassbinder, 1972)

A heartbreaking portrayal of desperate human dependency, and self loathing. The empty possessiveness of Petra is both frightening and fascinating, all while Fassbinder masterfully shoots the entire film in one room.

18. Pierrot Le Fou (Godard, 1965)

This is a whimsical, colorful, pointed smirk at media (film and television specifically but not limited too) and how it skews our perception of love, crime, beauty, and death. The film has an aired free-form which complements the splashes of color and music.

17. A Serious Man (Coen, 2009)

The Coen brother’s darkly humorous look at a crisis of faith never hits a sour note. Michael Stuhlbarg is perfect as the man pushed to the limits of his perception of ethics. The film is provocative in its charming fumblings, and rather poignant in its loose look at a clash of cultures and understandings.

16. The Fearless Vampire Killers (Polanski, 1967)

A light hearted bit of slapstick that calls to mind the greats of The Marx Brothers and The Three Stooges. Lost among the comedic fun is how beautiful nearly every frame of the film is.

15. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (Herzog, 2009)

In Bad Lieutenant Werner Herzog creates a completely irreverent and gleefully over-the-top drama, that toys with the cliché world of crime dramas. The strangest aspect of the film is the allegorical relationship the film has with the events of the Katrina disaster.

14. The Shanghai Gesture (Von Sternberg, 1941)

Von Sternberg is always interesting in his ability to fill every frame with as much garishness as possible. Every scene in The Shanghai Gesture is almost too much to digest, and it perfectly complements the sexy story of deception.

13. Playtime (Tati, 1967)

Jacques Tati literally built a cold world without expression for his characters to comically move through, as he subtly and not so subtly details man’s struggle to cling to his soul among the flat monochrome surroundings of progression.

12. The White Ribbon (Haneke, 2009)

At times this beautifully shot film is horrific as it casts forth a wicked mystery that questions an entire village’s moral ground during the first murmurs of World War I.

11. Crimes and Misdemeanors (Allen, 1989)

Sometimes you’re the only one in on the joke, and sometimes the joke is on you. Sometimes we’d give or do just about anything just to hold on to the status quo or to merely catch a glimpse of the greener side of the hill.

10. Claire’s Knee (Rohmer, 1970)

The main character of Jerome is a knight in shining armor who never notices how ill-fitting his armor is. Rohmer delicately pieces together a portrait of the desperation and misperceptions of seduction.

9. Nosferatu The Vampyre (Herzog, 1979)

This, along with Suspiria, is the most beautiful horror film ever made. Herzog manages to take what has always been a brooding, menacing, story, and turns it into a romantic, almost sad, sympathetic view.

8. Maelstrom (Villeneuve, 2000)

This film is so playfully bizarre, with a hint of morbid darkness. Water is the theme, specifically the ocean, and its ability to wash away memory and mistakes in this spinning world of strange coincidence and enraptured grace.

7. Lola (Fassbinder, 1981)

A colorful, and comical allegory of post-war Germany. Every character seems to dance onto the screen, whether it be to a sad ballad or a triumphant victory song they all sway the same, like delusions brought on by the mild sedation of willed optimism.

6. Bright Star (Campion, 2009)

Romance is not dead, and the proof lies in Jane Campion’s visually beautiful portrayal of star crossed lovers and their charming fumblings with strange new emotions.

5. On The Silver Globe (Zulawski, 1988)

I’m going to kind of cheat with this one and use a “pocket” review I wrote previously for this film.

There is an incredible beauty to this film that I can’t define. It is fractured and fragmented, with amazing bursts of wild creation and life, and dark caverns of ugly human nature. Zulawski explores the absurdity of our human instincts, and the cold opportunistic refuge found in worship. It is a blunt look at the current state of life on earth, god without love, war without reason, life as a jangled mix of pain and anger, with a vain, desperate attempt to make sense of how significant or insignificant we are.

4. Love is Colder Than Death (Fassbinder, 1969)

In his film debut R.W. Fassbinder dove in with a brave ferocity. He embraces all his inspirations with almost a naïve zeal which adds to the infectious energy of this New Wave-esque crime drama.

3. La Collectionneuse (Rohmer, 1967)

Here is a glimpse into the games our idle minds will instinctively play. The main character of Adrien finds the unexamined life not worth living, though he staunchly denies this, and refuses to believe his games are anything but the bored flutterings of an idle man.

2. In The Mood for Love (Wong Kar Wai, 2000)

In The Mood for Love is a relentlessly bittersweet film that snakes through the tantalizing dynamic between two characters who are so far away from the emotions they so long to embrace.

1. Stalker (Tarkovsky, 1979)

I’m cheating on this one too.

This film is so unflinchingly beautiful as the multicolored, tumbling snowball of faith, science, art, and mortality. It is constantly fascinating how faith can mold and shape an artistic expression, particularly when the artist is clearly wrestling with said faith. This is precisely what makes Tarkovsky so great. Stalker, is the quiet brooding doubt we all feel in some form or another, that pinhole of wonder that occasionally invades our thoughts of a loving relationship. It’s that spark of a question that strikes us in our times of loathing. Stalker is the embodiment of these doubts, played out by the artist, the scientist, and the man of faith. All three must stare down their fears and find cold proof of their very being.

Honorable Mentions

A Woman is A Woman (Godard, 1961)

Ivan’s Childhood (Tarkovsky, 1962)

Black Swan (Aronofsky, 2010)

Spirit of The Beehive (Erice, 1973)

Girly (Francis, 1970)

The Five Worst Films

The Prowler (Zito, 1981)

World’s Greatest Dad (Goldthwait, 2009)

Home Movie (Denham, 2008)

The House by The Cemetery (Fulci, 1981)

Cashback (Ellis, 2006)