First of all, let me just say that I don't personally subscribe to the belief that 2010 was a bad year for film, which seems to be the widely held view. I happen to believe that 2010 birthed some truly stunning achievements, with several projects exceeding my expectations. For the record, I very much enjoyed The Kids Are All Right, Restrepo, A Prophet and I Am Love. They are just misses, even for my honorable mentions section. In the tier below those films would be 127 Hours, Enter the Void and Inception (for sheer ingenuity, if not necessarily execution). When I look at the aforementioned films that didn't make my list, 2010 looks pretty darn good from where I'm sitting. And I'm just as surprised as you are that the following films didn't make my top ten list.
15. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (dir. Edgar Wright)
I went into this with incredibly cold expectations and was shocked by how much I enjoyed it. It dips so deliciously into so many childhood videogame memories. I know that some found this aspect to be incredibly twee and gimmicky, but it got me--hook, line and sinker. The visual effects were worked so organically into the plot and had a uniformity and a vision to them that I really responded to. Certainly more than Iron Man 2 (seriously...the Academy nominated THOSE visual effects but ignored Scott Pilgrim?). And as I mentioned in my adapted screenplay citation, the film is so wonderfully quotable. A truly enjoyable experience.
14. Catfish (dirs. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman)
From my review: "Despite its documentary format, it unfolds very much like a character study in a traditional narrative. When Nev, his brother and their friend (Henry Joost, the other director) go to see this family, the interactions, the situations all feel incredibly heartwrenching and fascinating..." Very resonant indeed. I fought tears several times throughout this film, and as I've stated, it serves as a very interesting companion piece to The Social Network.
13. Rabbit Hole (dir. John Cameron Mitchell)
Even while much more in line with my sensibilities than Scott Pilgrim (at least on paper), this is a film that I expected to respect and like rather than love. It isn't perfect and the subject matter isn't exactly new territory to be mined, but the actors and Mitchell's uncharacteristically restrained direction brought so much to this piece. Nicole Kidman is absolutely radiant and she is supported by a cast of performers who are not just faded into the background for her awards submission. Everyone here feels alive and purposeful. I've found myself advocating for this film a lot, as it has sadly had trouble finding an audience.
12. Toy Story 3 (dir. Lee Unkrich)
As I stated in my review, I'm just as shocked as you are to find that Toy Story 3 didn't end up making my top ten list. It works as both a heartfelt swan song to a beloved franchise (please, don't ruin this film's power by adding sequels, Pixar) and a beautiful narrative that stands on its own without its predecessors. From my review: "For sheer tearjerking and tugging at the emotional heartstrings, few films this year touched Toy Story 3. I enjoyed it immensely and, like many, was reduced to a mess of tears by last frame."
11. Prodigal Sons (dir. Kimberly Reed)
From my review: "). Prodigal Sons, a documentary about director Kimberly Reed's return to Montana for a high school reunion marries the piercing emotionality of Tarnation with the polished, formal elements of Steve James or even Errol Morris. It's a wonderful combination. We watch as she attempts to reconcile her relationship with her very troubled adopted brother Marc." Personal docs immediately put up a red flag for me, but when they're done this well, the work speaks for itself. And while I very much liked Restrepo and appreciated Exit Through the Gift Shop, I would have rather seen more praise heaped upon Reed's piece as an example of a true outsider making a great documentary.
My Top Ten List...finally.