The Top 20 Films of 2011 — One Year Later

As we wrap up 2012, the “best of” lists are coming out in full swing. I am diligently working on mine (expect new posts for movies, video games and music in the near future), but I thought it would be fun to take a look at *last* year’s best films. I originally came up with a top ten in January, but there were more than a handful of films I had yet to see at that point. Now, one year later, I have seen pretty much every major picture from 2011 that caught my eye, and I can now provide a more accurate representation of my favorite films from last year. I have also expanded the list from 10 to 20, as 2011 turned out to be a pretty solid year of movies. For the sake of reference, here is a link to my original top 10 movies from 2011.

Cedar Rapids [2011]

20) Cedar Rapids

My favorite comedy of the year, one that was unfortunately overlooked by most.

Margin Call [2011]

19) Margin Call

One of the best ensemble casts of the year. Absolutely worth watching just to see Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons butt heads.

The Descendants [2011]

18) The Descendants

A tad overrated, but George Clooney and Shailene Woodley make this immensely watchable.

Win Win [2011]

17) Win Win

Can Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan be in every movie? Please?

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo [2011]

16) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Yeah, this remake was completely unnecessary, but David Fincher delivered the goods here. Rooney Mara deserves all the props she has received for her performance.

The Ides of March [2011]

15) The Ides of March

Politics suck. This film shows you why. Oh yeah, and it has Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, George Clooney AND Paul Giamatti.

A Separation [2011]

14) A Separation

A startling look at the dissolution of marriage from an Iranian perspective. Its title works in multiple ways.

I Saw the Devil [2010]

13) I Saw the Devil

Brutal, disgusting and unbelievably violent; in a nutshell, another badass Korean revenge thriller.

Attack the Block [2011]

12) Attack the Block

Subtitles may be required for some of its English, but damn if this isn’t one hell of an entertaining flick.

We Need to Talk About Kevin [2011]

11) We Need to Talk About Kevin

An especially difficult film considering recent tragic events, but it features a phenomenal performance from Tilda Swinton.

Young Adult [2011]

10) Young Adult

Jason Reitman can do no wrong in my book. Great stuff from Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt as well.

13 Assassins [2010]

9) 13 Assassins

Takashi Miike’s samurai homage has one of the most unforgettable and epic battle scenes I have ever seen.


8) The Artist

Although not my personal favorite, I can get behind this as Best Picture. Endlessly charming.

Hugo 3D [2011]

7) Hugo

This one is a real treat for film lovers. Brought a whole new sense of appreciation for the work of early director Georges Méliès.

Moneyball [2011]

6) Moneyball

A faithful adaptation of a terrific sports book, this is a baseball movie that can be appreciated even by non-fans.

The Skin I Live In [2011]

5) The Skin I Live In

One of the most disturbing films in recent years with an unforgettable twist.

Shame [2011]

4) Shame

Not enough can be said about Michael Fassbender’s performance of a man who has hit rock bottom with his startling sex addiction.

Take Shelter [2011]

3) Take Shelter

A thought-provoking look at mental illness with the best ending of any film from last year.

50/50 [2011]

2) 50/50

Still the biggest surprise of last year. A cancer film that manages to be both hilarious and heartbreaking.

Drive [2011]

1) Drive

Still my top choice after a full year. Gosling, Mulligan, Cranston. That soundtrack. Drive just oozes style.

Honorable Mentions: 
The Adjustment Bureau
Everything Must Go
Tucker & Dale vs Evil

So, what do you think? Do you agree with my choices? What was your personal favorite film from last year, now that we have a year’s perspective?

Theatrical Mini-Reviews: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Shame, Hugo 3D

I didn’t get a chance to write full reviews for any of these three recent releases, unfortunately, but here are some quick thoughts on them.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
I don’t know if I prefer David Fincher’s adaptation or the original Swedish version, but both are very good films that are aided by incredible performances. Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara were perfectly cast here, and I was particularly impressed with Mara. I didn’t think anyone could top Noomi Rapace’s intense performance from the Swedish trilogy, but Rooney certainly held her own and might have made Lisbeth Salander even more badass. Gotta love Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross’ soundtrack, too, as it gives the movie an ever darker and more sinister tone (not that it needed it, given the source material). The film is a little long (nearly three hours), but it is an entertaining, and often disturbing, ride throughout. 8/10

Wearing its NC-17 rating proudly, Shame goes to great lengths to show the disturbing nature of sex addiction. Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan are a perfect sibling pairing, and each character has major issues. Fassbender plays a thirty-something professional who must have multiple orgasms every day, and Mulligan is his distraught sister who crashes in on him unexpectedly. Steven McQueen’s direction is superb, with some epic long tracking shots. Shame is a bleak film, and its subject matter is hard to watch, but it is exceptionally well made. 9/10

Hugo 3D
Hugo 3D
I don’t watch many 3D movies, but I made an effort to see what Martin Scorcese had up his sleeve with Hugo 3D. I didn’t know much going into it, other than it was getting rave reviews, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that the history of film was a major focus of the movie. It was a tad ironic to see silent film clips shown during a 3D flick, but it worked. In a way, this reminded me of Rango in that it was a film for film lovers. Those who dig the classics will gain the most enjoyment from this, but Hugo 3D is a movie that anyone can enjoy regardless. 9/10