MY TOP 10 MOVIES FOR 2011

Click on the titles for the original reviews.

1.  The Artist

Directed by Michel Hazanavicius – Starring Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell

It takes chutzpah just to make a silent movie in 2011. The fact that the film appropriates the vocabulary of the silent era so beautifully, is just icing on the cake. As a period piece, it brilliantly captures the early age of sound, but the plot also presents a searing emotional drama about ego and the transitory nature of fame. In a word, it’s stunning.

2.  The Muppets

Directed by James Bobin – Starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones

The Muppets is sarcastic, hilarious, self knowing, adult and nostalgic but also warm, tender, sweet, childlike and modern. The dialogue zings with a love of life rarely seen in modern cinema. It’s almost as if the film was created in a simpler, more innocent time.

3.  Attack the Block

Directed by Joe Cornish – Starring John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh

This amalgamation combines imaginative science fiction, fast paced action, genuinely humorous bits, and a brilliant character study. There is an unexpected sense of warmth that emanates from the genuine camaraderie amongst these characters. That’s a rarity in horror movies. You LIKE these people and don‘t want to see them die. When was the last time you gave a care for one of the victims in a Saw film?

4.  Drive

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn – Starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks

There’s something decidedly 80s about Drive. From the “Purple Rain” font of the titles to the Giorgio Moroder-ish score, this feels like some recently discovered movie from that decade. The retro vibe gives this action thriller an artistic sheen that makes the drama exciting. Drive is a stunning triumph of minimalism over gaudy extravaganza.

5.  Moneyball

Directed by Bennett Miller – Starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright

Moneyball isn’t a sports movie, fundamentally. Baseball informs the narrative and there are many rousing scenes of the sport in action but it’s telling that the most exciting scenes of Moneyball aren’t the competitive games, but the back and forth trading of players. It’s the film’s biggest shock that the business of Baseball could actually be made more exciting than the game itself. It’s masterfully written.

6.  Bridesmaids

Directed by Paul Feig – Starring Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy

It isn’t easy to play an individual that is graceless, pathetic and awkward, but also sweet, likable and sympathetic. Don’t ask me how she does it, but Kristen Wiig imbues her character with all of these qualities. We side with her even when she’s acting unreasonable. When her character Annie toasts her best friend at the engagement party her back and forth one-upmanship with rival Helen is one of the most hilarious things I’ve seen in a long time.

7.  Midnight in Paris

Directed by Woody Allen – Starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kurt Fuller, Mimi Kennedy

So much of the script is based on the unadulterated joy of nostalgia, a sentimental yearning for a previous time period. It intelligently explores the concept from the outlook of someone who shares the point of view while also admitting the inherent pitfalls of the feeling. Woody Allen’s most sweetly innocent film in decades.

8.  Rango

Directed by Gore Verbinski – Voices of Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Stephen Root, Abigail Breslin

This cartoon is atypically irreverent. The script alternates between jokes only a knowledgeable film buff would get and those no child could possibly understand. The picture is a cinephile’s dream come true, but I think what pushes Rango to the next level is the subversiveness of it all.

9.  Young Adult

Directed by Jason Reitman – Starring Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser

Young Adult is a mesmerizing no-holds barred expose of a woman dissatisfied with life and her bizarre determination to make things right. Mavis Gary is a woman you won’t soon forget. Despite her visible beauty, her personality is disgusting and Charlize Theron deserves kudos for her brazen work here.

10.  Insidious

Directed by James Wan- Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Barbara Hershey

Like the greatest scare fests, director James Wan wisely highlights creepiness and mood over outright gore. The narrative is intensely scary. It earns its chills honestly, mining real fear out of seemingly simple things: a pair of shoes sticking out of some curtains, a shadowy figure outside the window, unidentifiable voices whispering through the baby monitor. It’s the kind of feeling that will cause you to jump many times throughout the picture.

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):

The Adjustment Bureau
Bill Cunningham New York
Higher Ground
Horrible Bosses
Jane Eyre
Limitless
The Lincoln Lawyer
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
War Horse
Warrior

Worst of the Year, starting with the most egregious:

1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1
2. Submarine
3. What’s Your Number?
4. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
5. The Hangover Part II

40 Responses to “MY TOP 10 MOVIES FOR 2011”

  1. Awesome list Mark!

  2. Great list! Surprised to see The Muppets so high. My personal favorite was Drive, but a few other films you mentioned made my list. Wasn’t a fan of Young Adult or Rango though. I still need to see The Artist.

  3. Great list. However I disagree with Young Adult. Glad Insidious made the cut.

  4. Awesome list! I must see more movies as one of my new year’s resolution…

  5. I dig your list. Really glad to see “Rango” and “Attack the Block” on the list, with the latter being one of the years’ most pleasant surprises.

  6. Great list Mark:) I agree w/some, disagree w/a few & need to check out a couple that I haven’t seen yet. Now I need to go through my list & we can compare later…

  7. That is a rather discerning list Mark! I’m pleasantly surprised to see Rango made your shortlist – I really enjoyed it, no one else here seemed to and it died a quiet death at the box-office in the UK. The Artist is only just opening this friday over here – I now have really high expectations!

    I have to say, I chuckled when I read that you were rooting for the cast of “Attack the block” – that is the direct opposite to what BillyQuick felt when he watched it!

    Great list though – one of the most balanced I have read so far.

    • Attack the Block was incredibly inventive. I loved it so much I was using the slang in my everyday language for a bit. Not really. But I wanted too. Thanks for the comments, my friend.

  8. Pretty great list you got here Mark. Loved your number one pick, even though “Drive” was my favorite film, I can’t argue with “The Artist” as the best of the year. It was (as you put it) stunning. I tend to agree with a lot of your picks here, especially the ones that made your worst movies list. Ps. Nomatter what you say I will never think much of “Bridesmaids” haha. pps. I think we are the only critics that put “Insidious” on our lists for best films. What does that mean?

    • That we have great taste in horror films, perhaps?

      As the biggest hit on this list, Bridesmaids proved sometimes the biggest moneymakers really are the best films. Thor and Rise of the Planet of the Apes gave me hope as well.

  9. 1. A masterpiece that would’ve been at the top of my list but two others topped it.
    2. One of the most enjoyable times I had this year that probably should’ve gotten an honorable mention.
    3. Surprisingly enjoyable British sci-fi action/monster movie
    4. Another masterpiece – again topped by 3 others (inlcuding THE ARTIST)
    5. A great film about the relativity of failure that made my “alternate top 10″
    6. Another surprisingly enjoyable film that should’ve been on my honorable mentions
    7. One of the year’s ten best
    8. The best animated film of the year hands down
    9. One of the year’s ten best and one of the most divisive films of the holiday season; for those who like their humor dark and bruising
    10. Genuinely scary but not really best film/hon. mention worthy for me
    Honorable Mentions:
    – TAB: One of the better films of the early year
    – BCNY: Haven’t seen (yet)
    – HG: Honorable mention worthy
    – HB: Honorable mention worthy naughty comedy
    – JE: Honorable mention worthy period drama/literary adaptation
    – L: Enjoyable action drama
    – TLL: Delightful and honorable mention worthy legal thriller
    – M:I – GP: Haven’t seen yet
    – WH: Haven’t seen yet
    – W: Surprisingly good family drama disguised as a mixed martial arts commercial
    Worst of the year:
    – TTS: BDP1 – Haven’t seen thank Christ
    – S: On this we shall have to disagree; vaguely pretentious film geek teen love story inspired by old British teen movies and Godard films was one of the most enjoyable films of the year for me; could’ve gotten my honorable mention
    – WYN?: Haven’t watched it (yet) but I hear bad things…glad I didn’t think it looked worth seeing
    – T: DOTM – Probably the worst film I saw this year; 154 (?!?) minutes of loud banging sounds and wretched “action” put through a meat slicer and then taped together tentatively into a “releasable” summer blockbuster – shameless moneygrubbing nonsense – a nadir for sure.
    – TH: PII – Another sequel that didn’t live up to the original but I actually, so help me, laughed at it most of the time because they found a formula and stuck to it – the details are vaguely altered but the basic film is the same. Not as good as the original but I won’t lie; I laughed. :/

    My blog contains my various lists in one nice neat package: http://capote12883.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/the-best-films-of-2011/ so I’d appreciate your perusal and feedback :) Happy 2012!

    • Thank you for that well written (and very thorough) comments list. With the exception of Submarine, it seems like we don’t disagree much at all. Happy you felt the same way about this year’s films.

      Bill Cunningham New York hasn’t gotten much publicity from anyone as far as I can tell, but it was an exquisitely made documentary. Obviously my favorite in a year that had many good ones: Project Nim, Senna, Tabloid, Cave of Forgotten Dreams to name a few others.

      I’ll check your list out. Thanks again, Eric!

  10. Nice list, Mark! Although I would never ever include your #3 and #10 on mine. And your #7 is my #1. Nice honorable mentions, too. Like I said yesterday, I think I’ll be doing my list just before the Oscars like I did last year, as there are still a lot of movies I haven’t seen yet. Damn Mexican theater chains!

    • I remember your reviews for Attack the Block and Insidious. I knew you didn’t like them and I’m still surprised, but hey – we agree on the rest so that’s a lot of overlap. As for placement, any one of those films could occupy a different slot. Putting them in numerical order is always difficult…..and subjective.

      Looking forward to seeing your list, Fernando!

  11. Drive was the movie of the year for me personally, I didn’t think moneyball was that great, and couldn’t decide if it were a movie or a documentary, but pitt did give a great performance.
    But, Bridesmaids? Seriously? you’ve seen our site’s worst list, yeah? lol

  12. i really have some catching up to do ..if possible.
    thank you mark for your well written and insightful reviews all the time.

  13. Thanks for this FFR. You inspired me throw a couple of these on my netflix cue.

    Really well written review of 2011. You put my grammar to shame.

    While I disagree with you on Insidious, we agree on a lot of other things (Drive, Bridesmaids, Midnight in Paris, and especially Young Adult!)

    • By the way, I LOVE your film recaps. I read them sometimes to understand a film I just saw (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy WTF?!?) You’ve helped me out more than you know. So thanks for that.

  14. I was impressed with your very short encapsulations of your top ten. Really made me think I had missed something in 2011. I’ll put several on my list to view . Thanks for limiting the field of worthwhile views.
    Nancy

  15. Wow, nice! I’ll make as much effort as I can to see all of these.

    I didn’t see many this year (only #7 and #10 from your list), but here’s my (ultimately blank) top 10:

    1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (I know, you only gave it three and a half stars, but I am a hopeless fan of the series, and I thought it came to a perfect conclusion)
    2. Warrior (a huge step up from recent cinematic boxing upsets such as Million Dollar Baby and Never Back Down)
    3. Midnight in Paris (with Annie Hall, I wasn’t so sure about Woody Allen, but now I feel I need to see more of him–in fact, I have it decided: on my next visit to the mall, I am buying Sleeper and Manhattan)
    4. Insidious (I keep forgetting this was 2011; I saw it on DVD, and since I had a Redbox rental, I was all in for watching it again the next day)
    5. The Help (I know you didn’t enjoy it, which I can understand; I think I would have felt the same way about it, had I not read the source novel beforehand)
    6. Super 8 (the kids in this film were unbelievable)
    7. J. Edgar (if you can get past the poor makeup, its easy to see how much better this is than other recent Eastwood films such as Million Dollar Baby and Invictus)
    8. Limitless (very thrilling, new, engaging)
    9. Mr. Popper’s Penguins (call me crazy, but its been a LONG time since I laughed so hard at a family movie)
    10. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (makes Bond look like Bland)

    And a few honorable mentions:
    -Kung Fu Pand a 2 (same explanation as #9–I saw this one quite unwillingly)
    -Paranormal Activity 3 (I know you didn’t like it, and it was an unnecessary sequel, AND Toby was an obvious knockoff of Tony from The Shining, but being a die-hard fan of the series, I loved it, and as long asthe plot doesn’t start to consist of Katie and Kristi being haunted as fetuses, I would love more prequels or midquels for some odd reason)

    • A well chosen and worthy list my fried. I’m surprised the final Harry Potter film hasn’t gotten more talk on people’s year end lists. I remember people raving about it when it came out. Plus it’s the year’s biggest hit. I’m not a huge fan of the series, but I feel it’s probably the best of the entire series, so not a bad choice at all for #1.

      I really don’t find much fault with the rest of your list either with the possible exception of Mr. Popper’s Penguins. A fairly odd choice for one of the best movies of the year. The thing is, I haven’t seen it so I can’t really criticize the choice. I have a feeling I wont like it though. But I give you points for originality.

      Great list Alexander!

  16. lol at your worst of the year list. I haven’t seen as many this year for reasons you know of, and plus, I think my tastes are REALLY veering more towards the indie and foreign; thusly the mainstream releases don’t seem to attract me anymore. I didn’t see ANY of the movies in your worst list, but I totally agree with you because I felt such repulsion for all of them that it would never occur to me to see any of them. As you know, I wasn’t a huge fan of The Tree of Life but it certainly wasn’t the worst movie made.

    How sad that out of your top 10 list, I’ve only seen one, Midnight in Paris which you know I thought was utterly charming? Of that list, The Artist, Drive, MoneyBall, Bridesmaids and the Charlise Theron one are on my list that will most likely be netflixed – I have high hopes for all.

    Of your honorable list, I only saw Jane Eyre. Of this list, I’m most interested in Higher Ground and Horrible Bosses as the rest don’t appeal to me.

    I really fell off the movie viewing circuit this year so I don’t have that much to reach into to come up with a list of my own. Sorry I didn’t have much to add to this discussion but I wanted to contribute to your blog so you know I’m following your work Mark.

    Our respective movies viewed this past year really were different with little overlapping, so my list would be different than yours. :)

    Looking forward to the Globes and then later Oscars. :)

    • Given your preference for independent film, I’m still somewhat surprised you disliked The Tree of Life. Many placed that film in the Top 10 for the year. I wasn’t ready to go that far, but I did enjoy it.

      Your turn. What would be in your Top 10? I’m dying to know! :-)

  17. My list is out if you want to check it out.

  18. No “Hugo?” Oh well, still a great list.

  19. This is the first list that I’ve seen (besides my own) that mentions Bill Cunningham, New York. Awesome to see that on there, even as an honorable mention. It really didn’t get all the attention it deserved. I actually put it at number eight on my list. I also loved seeing The Muppets up there. Good list!

  20. I’m really glad you have Rango on your list! Totally underrated.

  21. Really good list. No “Shame” or “Beginners” though?

  22. I slightly love your list. Im one of the haters of ‘The Artist’ that films is just blank, the only reason it got best picture is that it’s black and white and Harvey Weinstein, #2-Muppets, Im so glad that this film made high, even if i watched this 100times it would bore me,,#3-havent seen it, #4-Drive, another meh from me i didnt like this film, i dont know why,#5 –Moneyball! One of my favorte films of all time, simply mesmerizing my no.1 film and a close second to War Horse, #6 glad to see Bridesmaids, i love Melissa Mccarthy, but i though it’s overrated, #7 i fell asleep, or just i dont have enough sleep, but the second half was great!,#8glad to see Rango! One of 2011’s finest animated, #9 getting ready to see this, actually im watching it now while writing this, #10 glad to see insidious made the cut!

    • Thanks for commenting. Sorry you didn’t enjoy The Artist but it didn’t just do well at the Academy Awards. It received universal acclaim from just about everyone.

      If the only reason The Artist received the Best Picture is that it’s black and white and Harvey Weinstein then Sin City would’ve won Best Picture.

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