What follows is a list of my favorite films this year. I have included runners-up and honorable mentions because any number of these films could have moved higher or lower on my list depending on my mood. All the movies I have listed I find worthwhile and would feel comfortable recommending. I have also listed my least favorite films this year, and a couple of runners-up. I cannot in good conscious recommend them, but by all means see them if you’re so inclined. Just remember, you have been warned.
THE BEST OF 2011
(in alphabetical order)
(in alphabetical order)
ATTACK THE BLOCK Joe Cornish’s crackerjack B-grade horror movie delivers more scares, laughs, and subtle social commentary per budgetary dollar (or in this case, pound sterling) than anything I’ve seen this year.
BEGINNERS A movie this wise about love and loss is rare indeed, but Mike Mills’ deft, daft comedic drama tackles profound and personal issues with a light but tender touch that is even rarer.
BRIDESMAIDS At times tasteless, often touching, always hilarious, this boisterous comedy about a bridesmaid on the verge of a nervous breakdown features some topnotch actresses who just happen to be very funny indeed.
THE LINCOLN LAWYER This smart, suspenseful crime drama hearkens back to an era when notions such as rich characterization and clever plotting were honored and revered more than explosions and visual effects.
MONEYBALL Brad Pitt gives the most relaxed and natural performance of his career in this smartly written and gorgeously shot movie about the business of baseball that even people who don’t like baseball can enjoy.
A SEPARATION Asghar Farhadi’s compelling Iranian domestic drama takes its flawed, beautifully realized characters (and the audience) on an emotional rollercoaster until its final, devastating shot.
SOURCE CODE Part science fiction, part thriller, part existential meditation, this nifty take on GROUNDHOG DAY may not hold up under close scrutiny, but it’s narrative panache delivers the goods and then some.
TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY John le Carré’s labyrinthine spy novel receives a smashing adaptation, with economic, elegant writing, brilliant direction, and terrific acting, all reminiscent of a cinematic golden age.
WARRIOR This harrowing drama about a family of damaged men, set in the world of mixed martial arts, features powerhouse performances that deliver as many emotional wallops as body blows.
WIN WIN Tom McCarthy’s quiet, subtle drama about a decent man who does the wrong thing for the right reasons finds the perfect muse in the unsentimental yet compassionate performance of Paul Giamatti.
Runners-Up of 2011
THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU
THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN
A DANGEROUS METHOD
MYSTERIES OF LISBON (MISTÉRIOS DE LISBOA)
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
Honorable Mentions: THE ARTIST; CONTAGION; THE DESCENDANTS; HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 2; HUGO; JANE EYRE; MARGIN CALL; MIDNIGHT IN PARIS; MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL; YOUNG ADULT
THE WORST of 2011(in alphabetical order)
THE BIG YEAR Its greatest crime is its near pathological banality.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER True to the period but, like its protagonist, hopelessly square.
CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE. What it calls insight, I call dishonesty.
SUPER 8 J.J. Abrams attempts to do bad Steven Spielberg and succeeds.
THOR Clumsy filmmaking and awkward performances from an all-star cast equal a head-scratching mess.
Dishonorable Mentions: RANGO; X-MEN: FIRST CLASS