My Top 10 Films of 2011

As 2011 has come to a close I have began putting together a list of my favorite films of this year, and even though I did not see quite a bit of what was offered this year I still managed to get to plenty of movies this year and I have actually reviewed 22 films since I started this blog in April. While I was not able to review quite a few of the things I saw in 2011; several of the movies I reviewed will make the list. Overall it has been a solid year in film, but not an exceptional one due to all of the focus on the brand. This year hit an all time high with almost every major blockbuster release being some sort of sequel, prequel, remake, reboot, or somehow related to a brand. There were plenty of good films, a few great films, but very few truly exceptional films that I saw this year. Here is my pick for the top 10 films I saw this year. Enjoy!

10. Hanna

In my initial viewing of Hanna I took a really big issue with the main story and Cate Blanchett’s performance which left a bad taste in my mouth for the film as a whole. Upon repeat viewing I have been able to look past the film’s weaknesses to see just what this film really has to offer. The film does some really cool and innovative things with its editing, soundtrack, and even writing. The soundtrack in particular has grown on me as I have at times pulled up certain selections from the internet. Director Joe Wright certainly isn’t one of my favorite directors, but I do applaud him for the very unique and distinct style he brings to the table. This movie may not be the greatest, but it did many really cool and interesting things which is why it made it onto my list. Hopefully other directors will look to this film in the future as an example of different types of action in movies.

Read review here

9. The Muppets

Rarely will you see a family film in any lists of mine, but the Muppets did an exceptional job bringing the Muppets to a modern audience while also sending those of us who grew up with the Muppets on a nostalgia trip. The movie has a great and memorable sound track with “Man or Muppet”, “We Built this City”, and the barbershop version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as some of the standout tunes of the movie. The characters of Kermit, Piggy, Fozzy, Gonzo, Stalter, and Waldorf are still as charming as ever in this great family comedy.

Read review here

8. Mission Impossible IV: Ghost Protocol

Mission Impossible IV: Ghost Protocol delivers the best action movie experience of the year as it somehow balances a dense plot, great cast of characters, and a multitude of stunning set pieces without feeling to unrealistic, overstuffed, or too complicated for its own good. Sure the movie suffers from having a plot more complicated that it should be, but the pacing is really what saves it as the movie never feels like it slows down until the very end. The team led by Ethan Hunt(Tom Cruise) is at its best here as we get some really fun and memorable performances from Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, and Paula Patton. Brad Bird brings a fantastic direction to the table in his first live action film that lightens the tone of the film from the slightly darker and edgier MI3. The movie has several of the best set pieces of the year with the tower in Dubai sequence being simply breathtaking and intense. Everything from the great directing to  the excellent fighting choreography to the great special effects oozes of entertainment. This movie has everything I’d want from a great action movie(minus a great villain).

Read review here

7.  Drive

Drive is another movie that upon repeat viewing seemed to have grown on me in the sense that I had a better understanding of just what the movie was trying to do. Drive is a throwback to old car chasing flicks like Bullitt and The French Connection; and at times I’m convinced that Drive was able to top the movies it was paying homage to. Ryan Gosling stars as the films nearly silent protagonist, a stunt driver whose name is never revealed. The movie has a very slow but deliberate plot that gives us moments more intense than anything Fast 5 could deliver with all of its loud and over the top chases. The beauty of the car chases is that they are realistic and used sparingly so that they can be effective. The movie has a great cast with Ron Pearlman, Albert Brooks, and Bryan Cranston all filling in supporting roles. The movie also has a great director with Nicolas Refn delivering some beautiful cinematography, great editing choices, and a style more distinct than anything else I’ve seen this year. Drive may not be for everyone, but it is without a doubt one of the coolest and most unique car chase movies I’ve seen in years.

Read review here

6.  The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau is a movie that seems to have flown under quite a few people’s radar as it is a really great low key sci-fi movie. I probably should avoid putting it in the sci-fi category because it is also a romance, a fantasy, and a philosophical drama. The movie deals with a man who is pursuing a woman at any costs because he believes that she is the one even if “destiny” or “the plan” says they are not meant to be together. The movie seamlessly blends several different genres together to create a movie that has a very fresh and distinct style on its own. Writer/Director/Producer George Nolfi crafts a tale of love, free will vs destiny, and even sometimes theology which results in a movie that has plenty to offer for a wide range of people. If you throw in the great chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, you get a really great movie that moved me in several different ways all at the same time.  The Adjustment Bureau may be the most underrated film of 2011 by both critics and audiences.

5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was without a doubt the biggest surprise of the year for me as I went into the film with the expectation that it would be a mediocre sci-fi movie trying to cash in on the brand. After seeing the movie I was nothing short of amazed with how well this movie turned out with a terrific(and often overlooked) performance from Andy Serkis as Caesar and some of the best character writing of the year. The movie is about Caesar as he grows up and struggles to find out just who he is and where he fits in with the rest of the world as an ape more intelligent than other apes and even some humans. As we see Caesar learn and grow we come to sympathize with him and see that the decisions he is making are completely justified. The movie also has the underlying theme of mankind causing its own demise as we see all sorts of different people who contribute to Caesar’s understanding of the world and the viral outbreak that will surely play a significant role in the next movie. As far as reboots/re-imaginings go this is certainly one of the best Hollywood has put out in the last few years.

4. X-men: First Class

X-men First Class had all the workings of a movie that should have been terrible; a rushed production schedule, a cast too big for its own good, a script stuffed just a little to thick, and the bad reputation of the last to X-men movies. All of this was miraculously avoided because of Matthew Vaughn’s terrific direction, a great story by Bryan Singer, and pitch perfect casting of Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy,  Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lawrence. Rose Byrne, and a slew of other great young actors. The movie takes us back to the 1960s when Charles Xavier teams up with Erik Lensherr to put together a team of young mutants to fight Sebastian Shaw  who hopes to destroy the world with nuclear war. What really sets this film apart from the other comic book adaptions that came out this year was the brilliant writing and portrayal of the young and blood thirsty Magneto by Michael Fassbender. Despite the fact that most of the audience knew exactly where his character was going; the movie made it interesting by making him truly sympathetic which created a great dynamic between the character and the audience. Even when he begins doing some very questionable things he is likable and sympathetic because of  the way he is written which leads the audience to either side with him or at least see his justification. Director Matthew Vaughn brings a great style to the movie as it mixes X-men, James Bond, and the 1960s pop culture in a really interesting and exciting way. This was the best superhero movie of the year.

Read review here

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

After 10 years of putting a spell over audiences the Harry Potter film franchise comes to a very climatic and emotionally satisfying close. The film had the huge task of wrapping up all of the loose ends in the franchise while also giving fans a satisfying end to a 10 year investment into these characters and this story. The movie succeeds far more than it fails with characters such as Harry, Ron, Hermione, Snape, Neville, and even Dumbledore getting very satisfying conclusions. The biggest problems this film has such as a sprint to the finish end of the horcruxes subplot, a cheesy epilogue, and the lack of death scenes to some beloved characters are the same problems that could be said about the latter half of the book of the same name.  The film manages to succeed not only as a film, but also an adaption which should make fans of the book that much happier. The movie sports some great performances from the huge cast, a great and beautiful direction from David Yates, and some heart-wrenching moments that most fans will never forget. This is the end of Potter for now and I’m glad to say that this series ended on a bang and not a wimper.

Read review here

2. The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life is what I would consider to be one of the best examples of film working as a piece of art. The movie is extremely beautiful in the way of both audio and visual as the film has whole sections devoted to some gorgeous depictions of what is to be understood as the beginning of the universe and planet earth. While these things are terrific and add such beauty to the film, the real core of the movie is about a man who looks back at how his father raised him in the 1950s and how it has shaped him to become the person he is. Jack O Bryan(Sean Penn)  looks back on his childhood to see how his father(Brad Pitt) raised him and abused him. Brad Pitt turns in a stunning (and in my opinion underrated) performance as a father who believes things should be a certain way and when things go south takes out his frustration out on his wife and kids. Despite his horrible abuse and actions it is very clear that the father does love his family which shows just how conflicted his character is. What I really like about the movie is how it is able to incorporate many ideas of spiritualism into the movie without being remotely preachy. Terrance Malick manages to craft a work of art that brings spirituality, inner conflict, nature vs nurture,  and themes of modernism vs postmodernism all into one picture that manages to pierce the heart with the story of a boy as he is trying to reconcile the way his father raised him with the way he has perceived the world.

1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a terrific mystery-thriller that manages to hit a near perfect balance between character drama, mystery, and suspense. The movie is filled with a great direction from David Fincher, two terrific leads with Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, a great script from Steven Zaillian, and a dark atmosphere that has gloom in the air throughout the film. David Fincher perfects his work in the mystery thriller genre as this may be his best. Fincher brings a unique take on the story that has already been done once before, but he does it in a way that is distinctly his with the dark atmosphere and tactfully used graphic material. The film is very slow, but developed which gives the audience the opportunity to try and figure just what is going  on which is very much unlike many modern mystery movies. This movie manages to be my top film of the year because of how well it balances so many different elements to near perfection without forgetting just what it is.

Read review here

Honorable Mentions

Horrible Bosses- Favorite Comedy

Batman Year One- Favorite Animated Film

Scream 4-Best Horror/Horror-Comedy

Source Code- Coolest idea for a Sci-fi

Here’s to hoping for a great year in film for 2012!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Brian says:

    Good list. Pretty action oriented list all in all. Missed a few of my faves, but glad to see Hanna make the list. I would have made room for Cap, The Help, Midnight in Paris, and Colombiana. Possibly even The Big Year. Let’s see a worst of list. I’m sure that will be a tough one for 2011.

    1. bigcalkenobi says:

      Unfortunately I’ve still missed several of the more critical movies such as The Help and Midnight in Paris, but I do plan on catching them in the very near future. When it came to super hero movies and blockbusters; I wasn’t blown away by many of the movies I saw even if I did like them. Cap, Cowboys and Aliens, Thor, Super 8, Fast 5, and Sherlock Holmes were all good and enjoyable on their own, but I didn’t think any of them did anything particularly special. I thought the new and different things separated the good movies from the great ones.

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