For the first time since 2007, a wide-release movie -- one that has played nationwide on hundreds of screens, rather than an independent, foreign, or "arthouse" film -- has captured the title of best-reviewed movie of the year. The Social Network95, David Fincher's chronicle of the founding of Facebook, is also just the fourth movie since 2000 to achieve a Metascore of 95 or higher.
That high level of acclaim is also manifesting itself on the awards circuit, where The Social Network is dominating the awards and nominations on its way to scoring what is sure to be a large number of Oscar nominations later this month. Unsurprisingly, the film is also turning up on more critics' year-end top 10 lists than any other 2010 release.
However, what was a good year for The Social Network wasn't necessarily a good year for Hollywood as a whole, at least by one measure. In 2010, just 30 films met or exceeded the 81 Metascore threshold that indicates "universal acclaim" from critics. That is well below 2009's total of 37 highly-acclaimed films, and you have to go back to 2006 to find a year with fewer great movies. On the bright side, only three 2010 releases were awful enough to drop below a Metascore of 20; compare that figure with nine terrible films in 2009 and 12 the year before that.
Overall, 45% of 2010 films received positive reviews from critics, a hair shy of the previous year's mark of 46% and a few percentage points short of the decade's best mark, 49%, set in 2007. Yet the average Metascore for all 2010 films ticked up from the year before, from 56.4 to 57.2. If we consider only those films that received a wide release, 26% received positive reviews (the same figure as in 2009), and the average Metascore of all wide release films was 50.2.
Over the next few pages, we'll explore the best and worst wide releases and limited releases of 2010. First, let's look at some of the best overall movies of the year in various categories.
2010's Best-Reviewed Comedies (English-Language, Live Action)
For this and all tables in this article, only movies with seven or more reviews released between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010 were considered. Re-releases are excluded. The Metascore is a weighted average of scores from top professional critics, on a scale from 0 (bad) to 100 (good). Although scores have been rounded to the nearest whole number, movies are ranked prior to rounding.
On the next page, we take a deeper look at the past year's biggest films.