The 10 most underappreciated movies of 2010

Looking to discover some of the best films of last year that might just have flown under your radar? Here’s our round-up…

General consensus seems to be that 2010 was a solid year for English-language films. But, as usual, there were an abundance of movies that didn’t quite get the love they deserved.

Granted, our round-up this year kicks off with one that was a solid hit, but given that it’s still managed to avoid many people’s radar, we felt it deserved another push. As for the rest? Well, let’s just say it’s worth you digging out any of these…

10. Easy A

Okay, this one’s cheating a bit. It was a solid box office hit and reaped a fair bit of acclaim. Yet, we’re kicking off the list with it as it’s also a film that’s been overlooked by many who have pigeon-holed it without really giving it a chance.

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So, yes, Easy A is a teen comedy. That much is true. But for most of its running time, before it heads into its final act, it’s a smart one.

It’s got a lively, sharp script, with some killer lines, and it also boasts a terrific turn from Emma Stone. She’s now hard at work on the Spider-Man reboot, but Easy A has very much marked her as a talent to watch.

9. Centurion

It’s a toss up between this and Solomon Kane to work out which action-packed historical gore-fest got the nod, but Neil Marshall’s film just about prevails for us. His cast serve him well for starters, most notably the likes of Michael Fassbender and Dominic West, but it wins out for just being, quite literally, bloody good fun.

Marshall, it should be said, isn’t firing on The Descent‘s cylinders with Centurion, but he did deliver an entertaining British action movie. And there’s really not often that you see those words put together. Well worth checking out. Beer a welcome accessory.

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8. Black Dynamite

Looking for the overlooked comedy of 2010? Then look no further. Released in the US in 2009, but only making it to these shores last year, Scott Sanders’ blaxploitation spoof stars Michael Jai White in the title role, and manages to observe rule one for a comedy: being very funny, indeed.

Keeping its running time lean and the laughs frequent, the film didn’t even scrape $1m at the US box office, and it flew over most people’s radar here. But it’s ripe for rediscovery on disc, and it’s ripe for cult success. The DVD arrives in the UK later this month.

7. Tamara Drewe

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2010 wasn’t too kind on comic book movies, with only Kick-Ass managing to unite find both box office success and critical acclaim. However, Tamara Drewe showed us an alternative world that lay beyond superheroics.

Adapted from the serialised strip in the Guardian, created by Posy Simmonds, Tamara Drewe was directed by Stephen Frears, and starred Gemma Arterton, Roger Allam and Tamsin Greig, making it a real surprise that it didn’t ensnare the literate, middle class audience it so effectively captured in its tragicomic tale of racing pulses in a rural writer’s retreat.

Sure, its tone is a little muddled at times, especially in the broad caricaturing of Dominic Cooper’s boisterous rock star boyfriend, but we dare you to resist the film’s secret weapons, the bitchy teens played to high-pitched perfection by Jessica Barden and Charlotte Christie, who look on Drewe’s escapades with a mixture of extreme jealousy and hopeless, wide-eyed aspiration.

6. 4.3.2.1.

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Noel Clarke’s second directorial effort got a mixed response on its release in the middle of 2010, and it faced tough competition, being released amidst a clutch of Hollywood movies scuttling to get into cinemas before the World Cup started.

However, even though it’s far from a perfect beast (Clarke himself admits that it’s probably five minutes too long), it’s a terrifically ambitious British movie, that bursts out of the confines of being primarily shot and made in the UK. It’s served by a strong cast, and a terrific (and scarily prescient) cameo from Kevin Smith.

4.3.2.1 is often funny, always ambitious and ultimately impactful British blockbuster, which deserved to make more at the box office than it did (although it still notched up nearly £1m in UK cinemas). And sure, it has a few problems. But there’s no way you don’t get your money’s worth from it. Clarke remains a director very much worth following.

5. The Joneses

Considering the common complaint about the lack of originality in Hollywood movies, it’s all the more surprising that The Joneses, a film with a terrific idea at the heart of it, got overlooked by so many.

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Sure, the underwhelming final act of the film did it few favours, but that aside, this David Duchovny-headlined story of a seemingly perfect family moving into a neighbourhood and impressing those around them has a terrific central idea up its sleeve, and one it uses to make a fair few points about things as it does so. It gives Demi Moore her best role in years, too.

The less you know about the film the better. So we’ll shut up about it right now, to let you discover it for yourself.

4. Youth In Revolt

The Michael Cera movie that set most tongues wagging in 2010 was Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. And there’s some justification as to why that should be the case. But heck, that doesn’t mean that the terrific Youth In Revolt should be overlooked.

This is a much darker piece than Pilgrim and sees Cera playing two roles, in a deliciously dark comedy. Granted, it’s not the kind of film that’s going to be to everyone’s taste, yet as DoG writer, Karl Hodge, pointed out in nominating the film as one of his favourites of the year, “It’s like JD Salinger rewritten by Jerry Lewis. You should seek it out.”

Karl’s right.

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3. World’s Greatest Dad

Criminally overlooked and taking an age to get to UK cinemas, World’s Greatest Dad was one of the best, and darkest, comedies that saw the inside of a UK cinema in 2010. It’s the antithesis to the kind of films that Robin Williams was making a decade beforehand, relying on a dark twist and a terrific turn from its lead actor for its impact.

Plus, hats off to writer-director Bobcat Goldthwait, who hasn’t lost his knack of making films that defy expectations and leave audiences reeling.

Off the back of World’s Greatest Dad, we can’t wait to see what he, and Robin Williams, follow it up with.

In the meantime, if you want to see the kind of film that shows a named Hollywood comedy star taking genuine risks, and a film that happily goes anywhere but the beaten track, then this is your movie.

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2. Cemetery Junction

A film that deserved so much more than it got. Heading straight to DVD in the US and failing to register the commercial success it deserved in the UK (although again, it picked up £1.3m), Cemetery Junction was clearly a labour of love piece for writer-directors Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais.

It’s a step away from their work on Extras and The Office, instead being an occasionally funny drama set in the 1970s about a trio of young men who have choices to make in the middle of small town industrial Britain.

What we warmed to was the sheer level of detail here. Merchant and Gervais invest heavily in their characters and in getting the look and feel of the film right. And they wisely rest their film on the young shoulders of, particularly, the excellent Christian Cooke. Yet, the film is nearly stolen from underneath him by a superb turn from Emily Watson.

It might not be the comedy that many fans of Merchant and Gervais would have wanted. No. Instead, as it turned out, it was something just a little bit more.

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1. Down Terrace

So, Monsters was the low-budget, Brit-indie smash of the year. A deserved well done to Gareth Edwards and all involved, but we were seriously gunning for Down Terrace to experience a similar sort of breakthrough.

From veteran TV director Ben Wheatley, this feature debut mixed up gangster cliches with a wonderfully dour Brighton setting, playing out the disintegration of a family alongside the decline of their nefarious business, which, all too fittingly, involved running a local boozer with a profitable sideline in selling junk on eBay. 

It was a joy to see familiar faces in disarming roles, such as Michael Smiley’s unlikely hitman, or Julia Deakin’s unnervingly callous matriarch.

But it’s the film’s central pair, a father-son duo that is as odd as they come, that stood out, as 30-something Karl attempts to wiggle out from under his dad’s thumb. Which would be tough going in any typical mafioso epic, but with Bill, whose drug-frazzled youth has given way to wildly erratic behaviour, from impromptu blues jams to the out-of-the-blue pronouncement “Hey, I’m God!”,  things are, understandably, a little trickier.

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