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?

Movie Review: Take Shelter [2011]

Take Shelter [2011] Poster

Take Shelter [2011]
Director: Jeff Nichols
Genre: Drama/Thriller
Starring: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain and Shea Whigham
Runtime: 120 Minutes

Take Shelter is an intelligent film that asks difficult questions about mental illness — specifically, schizophrenia. It is not an easy watch by any means, but it is one that will elicit powerful emotions upon its conclusion.

Michael Shannon, in a groundbreaking performance, is Curtis LaForche, a construction worker living in Ohio with his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and his six-year-old daughter Hannah (Tova Stewart), who is deaf. He works hard to support his family, but their financial problems have them in danger of losing their home. Perhaps triggered by the increasingly stressful situation, Curtis begins have lucid, intense nightmares. He dreams of an impending apocalypse, a storm of epic proportions that will wipe out the world as he knows it.

Take Shelter [2011]

The nightmares don’t stop. Believing these dreams to be more and more as prophetic visions, Curtis begins to build a storm shelter in his backyard. This is when the film kicks itself into high gear. People take notice of Curtis’s erratic behavior. He begins to have problems at work. He is paranoid of those who appear in his dreams. His once-stable family has become strained. Things are going downhill, and fast.

Here’s the kicker: Curtis’s mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia when she was in her thirties. Could he be suffering from the same illness? His behavior certainly suggests this. Or is he a prophet, able to see the future and trying to warn us of the forthcoming doom and gloom?

For much of the film’s runtime, we are forced to answer this for ourselves. This culminates in an unforgettable ending, one that has provoked deep and meaningful discussions from others. It has been a week since I watched the movie, and I still can’t stop thinking about it. What we decipher from this, I feel, ultimately says something about ourselves. Truly, this is an experience that will make all of us look at mental illness in a different light.

Take Shelter [2011]

I don’t know if I have seen a better movie about mental illness, and much of the credit for this goes to to the stellar cast. Michael Shannon is a tour de force here, rightfully deserving to be mentioned among last year’s biggest Oscar snubs. Jessica Chastain is the perfect counterpart to him, a caring and loving wife who does her best to support her husband even when times are rough. I feel she should have been nominated for this rather than her role in The Help.

Quite frankly, Take Shelter is one of 2011’s best films. Period. Grossly overlooked by many, this is an unforgettable movie that would surely be in my top five from the year. Now that it is available on DVD, there is no excuse to miss out on this recent gem.