2010: Top 10 ‘Guilty Pleasure’ Movies of the Year

Sony’s “Karate Kid” remake was surprise hit and better than anyone expected — it wasn’t the only one this year (Hello Tom Cruise and Angeline Jolie)

Last Updated: December 31, 2010 @ 2:13 PM

"Guilty pleasure" is a loaded term. Just because I consider the movies on this list to be that doesn't mean they're not legitimately good films. It just means that the Internet tells me I should feel ashamed about liking them. All of the following films had sub-average (below a C-grade of 75) ratings on both Rotten Tomatoes and the more discerning MetaCritic.

1. THE KARATE KID – One would assume this PG-rated film would be strictly for kids and their parents, but oh how wrong they would be. Jaden Smith stepped out of Will's imposing shadow and gave a confident leading performance in a role that many questioned whether he was right for. Meanwhile, Jackie Chan has never been better as his mysterious mentor.


Never underestimate the power of true movie stars. Angelina Jolie spiced up "Salt," the rare spy flick to feature a potent mix of brains, brawn and of course, beauty. Originally conceived as a star vehicle for Tom Cruise, the script was revised to make the titular CIA agent a female heroine. Thanks to Jolie and screenwriter Kurt Wimmer, director Philip Noyce was able to deliver plenty of high-octane thrills and bone-crunching action. Speaking of Cruise, he elevated the formulaic "Knight and Day" into a legitimate crowd-pleaser simply by flashing his 1000-watt grin and flirting with charming leading lady Cameron Diaz.


Forget "Tron: Legacy," these were the best 3D movies of the year. Johnny Knoxville and his merry band of knuckleheaded friends (like Steve-O, pictured below) raised the stakes by making their third film an immersive experience that assaulted the senses. You couldn't help but laugh at the pain and embarrassment depicted onscreen. As for "Piranha," the film won this viewer over by never taking itself too seriously and maintaining a sick sense of humor amidst the co-ed carnage, which included a fish vomiting up a severed penis.


These two represent the visceral horror movies on the list. "Grave" was largely decried as a tasteless remake but I thought its villains were expertly cast and their deaths were increasingly clever, not to mention gory. Meanwhile, "Centipede" created a "you've gotta see this" mythos that cemented its status as an instant B-movie cult classic, with Dieter Laser giving a maniacal performance that ranked among the best villains of the year.


"Grown Ups" has been getting pummeled by the press, winding up on many Worst of 2010 lists, but I defy you not to laugh once during this movie. Sure, it has less than no plot and simply served as an excuse for Adam Sandler to hang out with his "Saturday Night Live" buddies David Spade, Chris Rock and Rob Schneider (plus Kevin James). But the bottom line is that I enjoyed spending 90 minutes with that group of guys. With "Macgruber," current "SNL" players Will Forte and Kristen Wiig took a one-note premise that barely stretched for a 2-minute sketch into a full-blown feature with plenty of laughs, including a memorable celery trick performed by Forte and co-star Ryan Phillippe, who hasn't been this good since "Crash."


While "Buried" may have won Best Original Screenplay from the National Board of Review, it was these two claustrophobic thrillers that packed the most powerful punch. While "Frozen" director Adam Green is best known for his "Hatchet" series, he proved he has serious chops with this tale of three twenty-somethings who are stranded on a chair lift during a skiing trip. The tension that develops and the questionable decisions they make to escape had me on the edge of my seat. "Devil" got booed during its trailers just for mentioning its connection to producer M. Night Shyamalan, but this chilling story about five strangers trapped in an elevator, one of whom may be the human personification of Satan, kept my interest and had enough chills to recommend to genre fans.


Paul Haggis' prison-break picture barely lasted 3 days in theaters but it was overlooked thanks to a marketing campaign that never figured out how to sell the movie. It's a thinking man's thriller about an average Joe willing to do whatever it takes to prove his wife's innocence. Russell Crowe (pictured right in the film) again shows why he is one of the most talented actors on the planet. It's not a showy role by any means and his chemistry with onscreen wife Elizabeth Banks isn't great, but his commitment to the character shows in his subtly-strong performance.


Sylvester Stallone united a motley crue of action stars from past and present for one ass-kicking extravaganza. The movie delivered everything it promised and more. In fact, if it was missing anything, it was probably the presence of Danny Trejo, who finally starred in his own studio movie after years of being a formidable character actor. "Machete" was a shotgun blast of exploitative fun with an important political message thrown in for good measure. Besides, what other Robert De Niro movie features a topless Lindsay Lohan engaged in a three-way pool sex scene with her mother?


Here were two very different movies starring two Oscar winners that I had very low expectations for, and much to my surprise, both were quite entertaining. Denzel Washington's presence elevated "The Book of Eli" above other recent post-apocalyptic action movies, while Nicolas Cage did an admirable job of anchoring the visual-effects driven "Apprentice," which made good use Jay Baruchel's awkward charm.


While Judd Apatow may not have had a movie in theaters this year, the stars of his past films came to play. "Date Night" was better than it had any right to be thanks to the winning comic performances and natural chemistry of its two leads, Steve Carell ("The 40 Year Old Virgin") and Tina Fey. "Superbad" star Michael Cera earned more attention for "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" but it was his dual turn in the indie comedy "Youth in Revolt" that proved he has the potential to stick around for a while. Finally, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" scene-stealer Russell Brand got his own Aldous Snow movie with the raucous buddy comedy "Greek," which also featured hilarious performances from Jonah Hill and Sean "Diddy" Combs. The movie went off the rails in its final act, but the first hour was a laugh riot.