First of all, my headline is a lie. Sorry. There are 11 movies on my top-10 list because I've spent my whole life putting off tough decisions and I think this list ought to reflect my character flaw.
The other part of the headline is the truth. You will find no independent films here, no brilliant art house dramas, no documentaries. I'm dismissing all "small" movies that deliver a "big" message.
I realize what it means for a movie critic to ban these films from his top 10 - imagine a list of the top books of all time that excluded every author except John Grisham and Jackie Collins. ("Hey, cool...The King of Torts is the 8th best book ever"). But I'm forging ahead, setting a minimum budget of $10 million to qualify for the list. That means you won't find great films like The Kids Are Alright, Winter's Bone or Inside Job. Sure, they're better than just about every film on this list, but at least your cousin Earl has seen a few of these movies. And as a bonus, these movies will be easier to find at Blockbuster (does Blockbuster still exist? Or has it gone the way of bold innovations created and subsequently discarded, like cigar bars and banks).
I exclude indies for two reasons. First, I'm sending a shout-out to my oldest friend, Dan Hamilton, a law professor at the University of Illinois. Dan loves going to the movies, but he has little tolerance for small, low budget "triumphs of the human spirit," as we critics like to write. When Sin Nombre and Sugar, two Spanish language films, made my top-10 in 2009, Dan asked if I enjoyed "any movies that aren't achingly painful tales of immigrant woe."
Dan is perhaps the only guy in America who had a child - then started seeing more movies. "Hey, Mary-Ann," I'd say when she answered the phone, their beautiful infant daughter Katie crying in the background. "Is Dan around?"
"No," she'd say cheerfully. "He went to the movies." We should all have a wife like that.
Reason two for leaving out indies - I'm lazy and this is easier. Also, I daydream about being "America's Populist Film Critic."