After a seriously slow start, film 2011 produced an impeccable year of cinematic delights from all kinds of genres. In fact, when Movie Fanatic sat down to draft our Top 10 Movies of 2011, it was a Top 25. But, settling on 10 is the mission should I choose to accept it (paraphrasing a famous phrase from honorable mention movie Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) and I have. Here are your Top 10 Movies of 2011.
Top 10 Films of 2011:
10. Tie: Midnight in Paris and The Artist
Woody Allen scored his biggest box office hit of his esteemed career with Midnight in Paris, not that tickets sold equals top movie of the year material. But, there is a reason that so many went to see Midnight in Paris in 2011. It is a fantastic film with clever humor weaved in with not so simple storylines that give lessons while simultaneously giving audiences joy beyond belief. Who would have thought that Owen Wilson could channel Woody Allen? He does so, impeccably.
Meanwhile, two French stars make the silent, black and white The Artist an amazing piece of work. Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo are two silent movie stars on the opposite end of the shifting fame stick. Silent movies are on their way out as talkies begin their climb to the movie-going norm. Dujardin’s George Valentin lets pride blind him as Bejo’s Peppy Miller ingests change and comes out the world’s biggest movie star. Filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius crafts a film in The Artist that is truly a piece of art.
Bridesmaids not only showed that a film starring mostly women could score at the box office, but that that piece of work could be the funniest movie of the year and one of its best overall. Kristen Wiig co-wrote and starred in a gem that will forever be copied but never in the same league of greatness.
Ryan Gosling smoldered in Drive and the L.A. story was also a study in extraordinary filmmaking at its very best. Drive managed to make Los Angeles a character in the story of a man (Gosling) who is a part-time stunt driver, part-time mechanic, part-time getaway driver and full-time individual who is keenly aware of his surroundings and secular place in the order of things. Albert Brooks shocked the world as a gangster who strikes fear on every level while the Drive story compelled, crushed and consumed us.
Not only did Seth Rogen give the performance of his career (hello Independent Spirit Award nomination) in 50/50, but the film featured one of the year’s most astounding scripts. The semi-true story of writer Will Reiser (inhabited on screen by Joseph Gordon Levitt) tackles the serious subject of cancer with a heavy hand of humor and life-affirming bravado.
6. The Help
Between Bridesmaids and The Help, the summer of 2011 belonged to the female-centric story when it comes to the best films of the year. With The Help, not only did writer-director Tate Taylor bring a beloved book effectively to life on screen, but he crafted a movie for the ages that can be witnessed a century from now and still possess the same power. The Help’s story of the women who raised the children of Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s resonates profoundly. It possesses all the ingredients for an important moment in movie history, but also entertains… period.
5. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is the best film about 9/11 and its aftereffects that Movie Fanatic has ever seen. The film starring Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks makes the tragedy more personal than any previous seen. Thomas Horn has a star-is-born moment as a young boy who is reeling from his father’s death in the Twin Towers. The story and Horn’s performance do the impossible: Make us forget that Oscar winners Hanks and Bullock are even in the movie.
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Was it a fitting conclusion to an epic series? Yes. Could David Yates have made more of a stellar film in 2011? No. Note to all filmmakers seeking to bring a satisfying and mind-blowing conclusion to an adored series: Follow Yates' model! Deathly Hallows Part 2 does the astounding in that it works as a stand-alone movie that is among the year’s most commanding. At its core is the battle between right and wrong. Regardless of the fact that it took seven previous films to get to this point, if seen on its own, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 will wow audiences in its wizardry on screen.
3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
One of the great mysteries of our time is actually so much more. A David Fincher film is worthy of a year’s top 10 attention regardless of its subject matter, merely on his talent merits alone. But author Stieg Larsson’s story has Fincher wielding his storytelling majesty with a novel that has enthralled millions. As such, Dragon Tattoo gives Fincher a palette to create one of his most astonishing pieces of pure cinematic beauty.
2. The Descendants
The Descendants is only the number two film of 2011 by a hair. The pure cinematic scope of our number one is why it is the top film. George Clooney rose to the occasion that was appearing in an Alexander Payne (Sideways) film, but exceeded expectations and will likely win a Best Actor Oscar. Clooney is a father trying to hold together his family after his wife and his daughters' mother lands in a life-threatening coma. He discovers that his wife was having an affair at the time of the accident from his teenage daughter (Golden Globe nominee Shailene Woodley) and the journey he and his family then go on throughout their Hawaiian homeland is powerful and precise in its ability to show audiences why we go to the movies.
The best of the best is what Hugo brings to the table. Our era’s best director, Martin Scorsese, has a story in Hugo that allows the auteur to spin a yarn that is pure platinum. At its heart, Hugo is a celebration of cinema. As such, Scorsese, the Dean of Moviemaking, is in his element and the recipient of that celluloid joy is the audience. Using 3D for the first time, Scorsese agonized over every frame and word out of his actors' mouths. The result is a movie experience that is not only the best of the year, but one of the best of the last decade.
Honorable mentions (films that almost made the top 10): Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Puss in Boots, Shame, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, War Horse, Margin Call, Super 8, The Muppets, Hanna, Jane Eyre, Moneyball, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Beginners.