Top Ten Films of 2011

Six months ago, movie critics were announcing their favorite movies of 2011. Though I’m only posting mine now for the first time, I guarantee that these titles are just as great as when they were released. My list includes ten top films and a few other movies that I felt were especially notable:

10) Drive


Ignored by the Oscars, Drive has nonetheless gathered a following and not without reason. It’s a sleek action film with all of the power and originality to become an iconic classic.

9) Bill Cunningham, New York

If you haven’t seen this wonderful documentary, then you are probably surprised that it’s on my list of the best films of 2011. However, this is a great movie that overflows with beautiful colors and the simple joy of being alive. Bill Cunningham’s happiness passes onto the audience and provokes much thought even after the movie is over.

8) Moneyball

From a person who watches very little baseball: Moneyball is one of the best sports films to come out in years. It dodges the genre’s cliches and pitfalls to deliver a fun and fascinating view of the game. This is a must-see, whether you are a sports fan or not.

7) Hugo

Martin Scorsese’s fantastic love letter to the movies is different from anything else he has ever directed, but he executes it like the master he is. It may drag a little in the first half, but the second part of the film is so bold and wonderful that any boring bits are forgotten.

6) Melancholia


Melancholia, a masterfully poetic film by Lars von Trier, takes on the subject of the end of the world and gives us something to think about along the way. Even if you don’t feel like thinking, it is undeniably a beautiful film, full of images that have stayed with me long after my first viewing.

5) A Separation

The only foreign-language film to make it on my list, A Separation is an unflinching, harsh portrayal of Iranian life. It is shot like a documentary, and the actors make such full use of their talents that the audience may question the reality of it all. Indeed, this is a very sad film.

4) The Artist

I wasn’t completely overwhelmed by the greatness of The Artist while I was walking out of the theater, but I loved what I had seen simply because the film took the audience back to a time when movies could be a lot simpler and still connect to us. It transports us to early Hollywood with more ease and wit than any film since Singin’ in the Rain.

3) The Descendants

One more movie whose plot is deeply rooted in the lives of an American family. However, The Descendants is about as unique as they come. This bitter-sweet drama boasts some of George Clooney’s very best acting as well as strong, believable supporting performances. It’s amazing how director/co-writer Alexander Payne managed to make a film with a depressing story into such a tender and deeply human drama. Because the film feels so real and so perfect, the audience cannot help but be touched.

2) Take Shelter

Take Shelter is such a break from the average Hollywood thriller that it’s no wonder I enjoyed it so much. The film also deals with family relationships as well as schizophrenia, hallucinations, nightmares. Occasionally crossing the boundaries between thriller and horror, Jeff Nichol’s picture is a haunting, original vision that is absolutely unforgettable.

1) The Tree of Life

The year’s best is a bold, meditative, and personal film that also offers excellent acting and gorgeous cinematography. The only movie that I could compare this to is Malick’s own The Thin Red Line. Both use voice overs to pose philosophical questions to the audience. But The Tree of Life is not about WWII , it’s about family, and one can tell that the director has improved as a filmmaker over the years. I didn’t quite expect it to win Best Picture, but it was still the best movie I saw all year.

These next titles almost made the list and I did not want to leave them unmentioned:

  • Senna
  • Undefeated
  • The Adventures of Tintin
  • 50/50
  • The Muppets
  • Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
  • The Turin Horse

4 responses to “Top Ten Films of 2011

  1. I simply had to check out your list based on your comments. First reaction. Why haven’t I seen Undefeated yet? I must remedy that soon. A Separation would have made my #1 or #2 last year but my list was published before I had a chance to see it. I really like your list. There’s only one film I’d remove. I feel The Help was a shallow examination of race relations in the south. Too many scenes were played for laughs. Are we to believe that everyone would just laugh if Minny Jackson really baked a pie like that in The South back then? To Kill a Mockingbird is my idea of a great film about this subject. Everything else you chose I can wholeheartedly agree with. Nice list!

    • I definitely would recommend Undefeated, especially since you say you love documentaries. Also, I have honestly been wondering recently if The Help was a wise choice. It really surprised me the first time I saw it and I still think it’s a good film, but I have been doubting my placement of it over Senna and Undefeated, which I actually gave higher ratings to. It’s no To Kill a Mockingbird, yet I felt like it was an Important Movie. Honestly, I also wonder if The Help was good pick.

  2. I haven’t seen Undefeated, Moneyball, The Descendants, or Bill Cunnigham: New York. But, I watched Tree of Life yesterday, and I’m legitimately upset it didn’t win for Best Picture last year. Yes, The Artist was nice and inventive, but it was truly overrated. The Tree of Live was tremendously powerful – the Academy has to be high when they’re making these decisions.

    Oops, I think I ranted a bit there 🙂

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