1. 127 Hours
  2. This was a very controversial film, and understandably so. It features a sequence that transcends explanation. It’s ground-breaking in it’s graphic depictions, but it’s part of what makes the film so perfect. This story of a man pinned between two rocks just wouldn’t have worked without this sense of raw, organic realism. Additionally, Franco’s searing performance is pitch-perfect and I couldn’t possibly imagine anyone else being able to pull it off so beautifully. This better win an Oscar for best editing.

  3. Toy Story 3
  4. How could you not like this film? It’s charming, funny, heartbreaking, intense, but most importantly, real. This is a film that sent tears storming down my face. A fine conclusion to the indelible series.

  5. Inception
  6. I don’t think I really need to explain this one. It’d be too difficult. The music, the action, and the editing. Nailed on the head.

  7. A Prophet
  8. As good as gangster films get. Raw, gritty, and real, it sheds light on a dark corner of society most of us actively avoid. Go see it now.

  9. Buried
  10. A tremendous feat of filmmaking, the seemingly insurmountable obstacle of filming a 90 minute motion picture entirely within the confines of the coffin is entirely demolished with this seminal pic. Ryan Reynolds completely sells the paranoia of being buried alive. I have no interest in ever being buried alive.

  11. The Social Network
  12. Easily one of Fincher’s best, this is a true testament to modern filmmaking and the digital age that swallows us whole with each and every breath we take. The editing, the acting, the cinematography, but most importantly, the music are all spectacular. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one sweep the Oscars.

  13. The Fighter
  14. This is one of those sports films that makes you want to stand up and cheer as it comes to a close. It host’s fantastic performances all around and is a sure-fire crowd pleaser. Additionally, the cinematography is surprisingly evocative of late 80’s-early 90’s boxing. Great stuff.

  15. True Grit
  16. A little easy on the quirkiness that trademarks most of the Coen Brother’s work, True Grit is by and large their most accessible work. I’m more of a fan of their off-the-wall pics, but this was still a stellar production. Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Hailee Steinfeld are all fantastic.

  17. Restrepo
  18. This is a powerful drama about the volatile Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. Told from the viewpoint of actual soldiers who we get to witness under real duress, it makes for a story that gets you as close to war as you could ever want to be. Essential viewing for everyone.

  19. Let Me In
  20. I must say, I was pretty surprised by this one. I absolutely adore Let the Right One In, so I went into this remake with pretty low expectations. What I received was an equally compelling retelling with strong performances, a great score, and the best car crash sequence ever caught on film.

Kyle Kogan is a film critic living in Chicago.

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