I really struggled with this list. At one point I thought about expanding it to a Top 25. And for quite a while I had it as a Top 20. But at the end of the day, it would have just been too long. So I said to myself, if I could only have 10 movies to have 2011 be known by, which 10 would I pick? So that is what this list is.
10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – This is sort of a lifetime achievement award, a culmination of a pretty good series of movies. They did a really good job concluding this film franchise with this movie.
9. Beginners – Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent may have been the most adorable on screen coupling of the year. Christopher Plummer put in an amazing performance here as well. Most of the news about this movie focused on the aspect that Plummer’s character revealing late in life that he is gay, but the real focus of this movie is relationships, particularly the one between the father and son.
8. Source Code – Duncan Jones makes really good sci-fi movies. Moon was one of my favorite movies of 2009 and so I was very excited to see this follow-up effort from him and it did not disappoint.
7. Bridesmaids – Funniest movie of the year. Kristen Wiig, as much as I sometimes can’t stand her on SNL, was really good in this movie. Melinda McCarthy had a breakthrough performance as well. And Rose Byrne, who was all over the place in 2011, was really good in the somewhat-antagonists role.
6. Crazy, Stupid, Love – Why can’t more romantic comedies be like this movie? Outside of the horror genre, I think the rom com genre is the most overrated in terms of producing the most dreck that people have to sift through in order to find the few gems that are out there. This was a definite gem. 2011 was the “Year of the Gosling,” and this movie was a major part of that in showing his versatility and range as an actor. Steve Carrell and Julianne Moore were also their typical reliable selves.
5. The Muppets – A welcomed return by the Muppets. I was a bit worried about this movie, not sure if they would be able to pull it off or if it would have the same spirit as the other Muppets movies and the tv show had when I was younger. They pulled it off. You can tell that Jason Segel and the people who made this movie had a real love and respect for the Muppets. I also loved that Bret Mackenzie of Flight of the Conchords wrote some of the music for the movie. “Man or Muppet” felt like a Conchords song. And Chris Cooper was great as the villain. Maniacal laugh. Maniacal laugh!
4. 13 Assassins – This might have been my favorite movie of the year. I’m cheating a bit here, because the movie was released in most countries in 2010, but it had a brief US release in the spring of 2011. Takashi Miike makes some of the most graphic, gory, violent, and distrubing movies. This movie had all of that, but most of the graphic gore in this movie came from the violent action and less from some of the disturbing things sometimes found in Miike movies. The first half of this movie is mostly build-up, but the last half is basically one non-stop action sequence that is just wonderously bloody and beautifully choreographed. It puts Hollywood action movies to shame.
3. Drive – This movie, along with Crazy, Stupid, Love, and The Ides of March made this the “Year of the Gosling.” Of his three big movies, this was the best. A stylized, neo-noir thriller with a killer 80’s-style soundtrack, Drive was a really unique movie experience. It even had a kind-of-homage to Halloween. And the elevator scene with Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan was one of the best scenes of the year. Just a cool, cool movie.
2. 50/50 – I felt like this movie had a high degree of difficulty. It’s a comedy where cancer is prominently involved. Ok, it’s more of a dramedy, but I don’t really like to use that word too much. Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Leavitt made a great pairing as best friends. The movie made me want to fall in love with Anna Kendrick, who plays JGL’s therapist. More than anything, the movie seemed genuine and true to life, especially the scene in the hospital when he is surrounded by his family before heading into surgery, The emotion conveyed during that scene of fear and uncertainty was so effective.
1. The Tree of Life – Maybe a controversial movie in that it’s likely to be disliked by as many people who loved it, but it is the movie that stuck out to me the most this year in terms of what it seemed like everyone was talking about online for movies, it’s the movie that captivated me the most when I watched it, and it is the movie that has stuck with me the most after seeing it even now. The acting is good, but what sticks with me with this movie is its impressive visuals: the vivid colors and the beauty of the world around us. And the spritualness of this movie also left an impression on me. I loved the visual, spiritual, poetry of this movie. A splendid job by Terrence Malick.