Drive, The Artist, The Tree of Life and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo make our list of the top ten movies of 2011

by Brad Sturdivant

Best movies of 2011

As 2011 draws to a close, I think we can now safely say that it was a rather rough year at the cinema.  As much as I like the movies listed below, there’s nothing this year that stands out as a truly great film.  In fact, 2011 is a year full of disappointments as many of the big blockbusters of the summer proved to be less than what we had hoped for.  As for Oscar contenders, picking a Best Picture winner is going to be tough and will have more to do with the marketing than the actual film (thus giving a huge advantage to The Weinsteins).  But even though 2011 wasn’t a great year for movies, it was a great year for performances, featuring some great turns from seasoned vets like George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton and Viola Davis, along with impressive turns from relative newcomers Elizabeth Olsen, Rooney Mara and Jean Dujardin.  And of course, Mr. It Boy himself, Ryan Gosling, who turned in three great performances.  But the focus here is on the movies, and the top ten movies of 2011 are:

Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol

10. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL – The tenth spot is always reserved for the most entertaining film of the year, and this year the prize goes to the fourth Mission Impossible film.  I left the theater exhausted after watching Tom Cruise go from one crazy stunt to another.  Yeah, the film lacked a legit story and the transitions from plot point to plot point were rushed, but when the action started, it never let up.

9. EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE – Although I’ve never seen a more consistently depressing movie, I couldn’t help but love this film.  Kudos has to be given to the filmmakers for handling the 9/11 tragedy well and for giving us great characters that furthered a magnificent story.  Add to that impressive performances from newcomer Thomas Horn and vets Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, and this is easily one of the best films of the year.

8. MARGIN CALL – Even though I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters, director and writer J.C. Chandor did a fantastic job replicating the business atmosphere.  Intense at times and thought provoking at others, MARGIN CALL is a film that will challenge you on an intellectual level.  This is highly recommended for anyone that has ever sat at an executive roundtable.

Bridesmaids

7. BRIDESMAIDSComedies are strange in the sense that if you don’t see them before the hype starts, then they can rarely live up to your expectations.  I was fortunate enough to see BRIDESMAIDS two months before it hit theaters and at that time, no one was talking about it.  I laughed so hard I cried in the theater and I find it still holds up to multiple viewings.

6. WARRIOR – The saddest thing about WARRIOR is that so few people saw it.  It’s a great film and using MMA fighting as the replacement for boxing worked well to add excitement to a genre that we’re all too familiar with.  But in addition to the great fight scenes, we get a heartfelt story about two brothers struggling with life and the scars their estranged father made on them.  It’s heavy stuff for a sports movie.

5. HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2 – I was severely disappointed with Part 1, but the second part more than made up for it.  The Harry Potter franchise is a mixed bag of movies, but I was in awe as to how wonderful the last film in the series was.  It was a perfect ending to the world of Harry Potter and satisfied even the most die-hard Potter fans.

Rooney Mara in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

4. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – David Fincher’s English language remake of the Swedish film was a rousing success, and that’s coming from someone that loved the original.  As much as I liked Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig in their roles, the star of the film was Fincher’s directing, which was enough to make this already good film great.

3. THE ARTIST – The silent, black and white film from director Michel Hazavinicius caught me completely off guard.  I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to stomach 90 minutes without dialogue or color, but as it turns out, it’s possible to make a great film without either.  I’m curious to see how this film will be received by the mass public, especially if it gets some Oscar love.

2. THE TREE OF LIFE – This is one of the most polarizing films to come along in recent memory, but the more I think about it, the more I love it.  Terrence Malick’s existential film about the meaning of life isn’t for everyone, but for those up to the task, it’s an impressive visual journey that will stick with you long after you see it.

Ryan Gosling in Drive

1. DRIVE – The Cannes darling managed to make it through the end of year Oscar push and come out as the best movie of the year.  Director Nicolas Winding Refn won over a lot of fans and anyone that wasn’t already on the Ryan Gosling bandwagon was officially on board after watching this film.  The beauty of it is that it didn’t do anything different or new, it just did everything better.

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