1. "Inception."About as personal an art film as a summer blockbuster can be, Christopher Nolan's brainteaser is among the few contemporary commercial movies whose meanings really inspire debate.
2. "Toy Story 3." This series is as delightful as kids' movies get. By adding the element of passing time, Pixar's storytellers also manage a deeply moving take on how bittersweet growing up can be.
3. "127 Hours." So much more than "the movie about the guy who cuts off his arm," Danny Boyle's thrilling survival tale turned five days of claustrophobia into a never-boring character study.
4. "Bruce Conner: The Art of Montage." A retrospective mounted by New York's Film Forum offered a much-too-rare chance to see more than a dozen shorts by Conner, whose avant-garde collages paved the way for MTV (don't blame him) and remain a brainy turn-on today.
5. "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World." Unfairly hobbled by Michael Cera backlash, this oddball but inventive superhero-romcom made dazzling use of video game and other pop cultural imagery — a welcome change from flicks that reduce action films and shoot-'em-up games to their lowest common denominator.
6. "Black Swan." The go-for-broke psychological horror of a Dario Argento film, polished to an art house sheen and perfectly executed in front of and behind the camera.
7. "The Fighter."A finely balanced boxing film that emphasizes fantastic acting over manipulative underdog sports-movie clichés.
8. "The Social Network." The most overrated film of the year ("Winter's Bone" comes close) is not a "Citizen Kane" for our age, and really says nothing new about social media. But its portrait of a fictionalized Mark Zuckerberg and its chronicle of his divisive success turns dry depositions into compelling drama.
9. "Exit Through the Gift Shop."Whether it's to be taken at face value or not, the Banksy "documentary" brought street-art pranksterism to the big screen without dumbing down the philosophical questions surrounding it.
10. "Four Lions."The blacker-than-black terrorism comedy made its ambiguous sympathies a virtue; like the provocative Sundance entry "The Taqwacores," it dared to offend Muslims and non-Muslims alike in search of new ways of looking at a culture clash most films handle — if at all — with shameful superficiality.