Although 2011 started out slowly at the multiplex and the summer was full of big-budget disappointments — I’m looking at you, “Transformers 3”– this year took an unexpectedly strong turn in the fall when a lot of great smaller movies made their way into theaters.
With the year coming to a close, I recently compiled a list of the ten best movies of 2011. For an overview of my list, check out the video below where I count them down.
If you want more details, check out my thoughts on the individual movies below the video. As always, I’d love to hear your opinions so please let me know if you agree or disagree with my choices in the comments section. I’m looking forward to seeing what movies you would have chosen as the top ten movies this year.
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10.) “The Debt“: Starring Helen Mirren, Jessica Chastain and Sam Worthington, “The Debt” succeeds as more than a typical thriller. It’s an engrossing story of three soldiers who are sent to Berlin to capture a Nazi war criminal. Showing the soldiers at two separate periods in their lives, the story will engage audiences and ultimately surprise them in this story about honor, integrity and patriotism. Click here for my full review.
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9.) “Win Win”: Released in early 2011, this comedy was a small but extremely compelling film. It tells the story of a lawyer named Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti), who takes advantage of one of his older clients. Unfortunately for him, the client’s grandson (Alex Shaffer) arrives in town shortly thereafter and becomes a star member of the high school wrestling team that Flaherty coaches. Like 2007’s “The Visitor,” which was also directed by Tom McCarthy, “Win Win” creates compelling and likeable characters in a movie about relationships and the bonds that hold people together through difficult times.
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8.) “50/50“: Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues to surprise in his new film about a man diagnosed with cancer and given a 50/50 chance of survival. Over the past few years, Gordon-Levitt has been in a couple of great films including “(500) Days of Summer” and “Inception.” In “50/50,” he reveals even more fragility than he showed in those earlier pictures. Gordon-Levitt is great and Seth Rogen does a solid job as his best friend, but the lovely Anjelica Huston often steals the show in her memorable scenes as Gordon-Levitt’s overbearing mother. Click here for my full review.
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7.) “Moneyball“: Based on the Michael Lewis book, “Moneyball” is a movie that might not have worked if the screenplay wasn’t produced by two great writers. Aaron Sorkin, who won an Oscar for writing “The Social Network,” and Steven Zaillian, who helped write “Schindler’s List,” put this screenplay together with the assistance of Stan Chervin, who helped develop the story. “Moneyball” tells the true story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), who helped show the world a new way for baseball teams to choose their. The plot might sound like something only baseball fans will enjoy but this film is really for everyone. It’s an well-written underdog story with a solid supporting performance from Jonah Hill. Click here for my full review.
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6.) “My Week with Marilyn“: Many people have criticized “My Week with Marilyn” because Michelle Williams doesn’t try to impersonate Marilyn Monroe. She didn’t have to. She embodies her. When watching this movie, I fell in love with Williams in the same way that countless men fell in love with Monroe years ago. Williams is fragile, seductive and absolutely brilliant. She deserves an Academy Award for her performance as an actress who befriends an assistant director (Eddie Redmayne) on the set of the 1950’s film, “The Prince and the Showgirl.” Click here for my full review.
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5.) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: Admittedly, I had some doubts going into the final installment of the “Harry Potter” series. “Part 1” was disappointing, but I hoped that this long-running series would end on a high note. It did not disappoint. Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, “Part 2” was everything that “Part 1” wasn’t. It was exciting, well-crafted and ultimately magical. Click here for my full review.
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4.) “The Descendants”: George Clooney gives a wonderful performance in “The Descendants,” which was directed and co-written by Alexander Payne. Clooney plays Matt King, a rich lawyer whose wife lies hospitalized in a coma. When he realizes that his wife was having an affair, King attempts to track down the man she was seeing. The story may sound silly, but the great writing and strong acting team of Clooney and Shailene Woodley, who plays his adolescent daughter, make this worth seeing.
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3.) “The Ides of March” : In this political thriller–which was also directed by Clooney–Ryan Gosling plays a naïve campaign staffer who realizes that his chosen candidate (George Clooney) isn’t the “chosen one.” With a strong supporting cast of Marisa Tomei, Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman and a great script, this is a strong political thriller that shows a dirtier side of politics. Click here for my full review.
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2.) “The Artist“: “The Artist” is a wonderful little film that many people will avoid. It’s black and white and features only a few lines of dialogue. Despite the fact that many people could be turned off by those factors, this is definitely a wonderful movie that will likely be remembered for years to come. With beautiful performances from Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, “The Artist” is a film that you don’t want to miss. Give it a chance and most likely, you will not leave the theater dissatisfied. Click here for my full review.
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1.) Midnight in Paris: Written and directed by Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris” has a few blatant flaws. The jokes about the Tea Party, for instance, fall flat and could leave many conservatives disappointed. Once the story gears up, however, it becomes an enchanting and engaging tale about a struggling writer who longs to live in 1920s France. The supporting performances – especially the ones by Michael Sheen and Corey Stoll–are wonderful, and this film is superbly intelligent about the writers and artists who found so much inspiration in Paris. This is a film that people can watch over and over again, looking for the subtle references they missed during earlier viewings.
“Midnight in Paris” is, without a doubt, my favorite movie of 2011.
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