The Best Movies of 2011 (So Far)

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As we hit the end of the summer movie season 2011, let’s look at who’s in the running for achieving the title of best film of the year. Thus far, it is been an interesting year on screen with inspiration and film fortitude coming from some surprising places. Now, as Movie Fanatic is in Toronto, home of the Toronto Film Festival (also known as the place that produces Oscar winners), we look back at the best that is the best before the films of fall take over and dominate the top ten of the year charts.

Thus, this list will likely contain few if any films that land on our best of 2011 list come year’s end as fall's films enthrall -- but you never know.

Best movies of 2011 (so far):

10. Super 8
Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams combine forces and they had us at hello. But, Super 8 actually delivers on so many levels. Abrams manages to pay tribute to Spielberg’s early work such as Close Encounters and E.T. while still crafting one of the most original stories of the summer.

The Kids of Super 8

9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
It is a rarity in film that a series as long as Harry Potter could reach a pleasing and satisfying end. David Yates did just that and more as Harry and his friends’ final battle against he who shall not be named was exhilarating and epic.

8. The Debt
The Debt possesses both tense action and is a politically important film. Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain are mirrors of each other as both exude an intense power as they play the same character, Rachel, thirty years apart. Chastain’s Rachel is a Mossad agent and part of a team who ventures into East Berlin to capture a Nazi war criminal. Mirren’s Rachel is still dealing with the ramifications of that mission as the truth could not only alter Rachel’s life, but Israeli history. 

7. Tie: African Cats and Born to be Wild
Nature films had two triumphs so far in 2011: African Cats arrived from Disney while Born to be Wild was one of Warner Bros’ most heartfelt films of the year. Each took audiences where no cameras have gone before -- inside the world of two women on opposite sides of the world who live to help orangutans and elephants in Born to be Wild and literally into the lion’s den in African Cats.

6. Midnight in Paris
Woody Allen didn’t have his highest grossing film of his illustrious career without it being an utter gem. Midnight in Paris is his best film in decades. If you had asked the legion of Woody Allen fans a year ago if Owen Wilson could embody an Allen film hero (most of his are modeled after his neurotic self), they would have scoffed. But in Midnight in Paris, Wilson channels his inner Allen perfectly. And Rachel McAdams plays against type and scores her best performance since The Notebook. The film is part love letter to Paris, part adoring tribute to the artists that inhabited the City of Lights in the 1920s and all Allen classic.

Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams in Midnight in Paris

5. Jane Eyre
Starting with the casting, Jane Eyre scores. Mia Wasikowska is Jane Eyre and Michael Fassbender could not be a better choice to capture Charlotte Bronte’s literary legend of Mr. Rochester. Both Wasikowska and Fassbender deserve Oscar nominations for their portrayal of 19th century lovers whose journey to love is seriously complicated while incredibly emotionally compelling.

4. Bridesmaids
Seriously, I have not laughed so hard in a per minute manner over 90-plus minutes as in Bridesmaids. Judd Apatow has always killed in the laughs department, but he has yet to score with a cast solely made up of those of the female persuasion bringing the funny. Score one for him and the entire team that brought Bridesmaids to life, especially star and writer Kristen Wiig and her co-writer Annie Mumolo.

3. The Help
Sugar-coated history treatment of the American South of the early 1960s… maybe, but all a powerful time at the movies just the same. The Help was something of an anomaly in that it scored with both critics and audiences and should easily score a coveted Oscar nomination for Best Picture.

2. Beginners
Beginners is one of the most touching and endearing family relation films of the year. It is probably the best role Christopher Plummer has played in years as a man who, at 75, mourns the loss of his wife and comes out of the closet. Ewan McGregor is his son, someone possessing his own issues that arise from the loss of his mother. The pair make an impeccable father-son combination and will go down in our books as one of the greats.

Saoirse Ronan in Hanna

1. Hanna
A Grimm fairy tale is not only featured as one of the locales in the film Hanna, it also serves as the film’s raison d’etre. Saoirse Ronan rivets as a child raised by Eric Bana for one thing: Freedom through revenge. The soundtrack by the Chemical Brothers is one of the year’s best and audiences, up until this point, will not have seen anything like it visually, sonically or performance wise all year.

So, we want to know: What are your favorite movies of the year so far?

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