Best of the Year: Top 10 Films of 2011

2011 was a great year for film and we count down the top 10 films of the year, as well as honourable mentions, disappointments and the worst films of the year.

2011 was a great year for film, with plenty of different, challenging and interesting films to go along with some very high quality Hollywood blockbusters. There were great performances from veteran character actors and breakout performers alike. Seensome.com takes a look at the best movies, the worst movies and some other noteable mentions…

1. Shame

Steve McQueen’s searing drama charts the life of Brandon, a New York sex addict portrayed by Michael Fassbender in one of the year’s best performances. This is a brave, powerful, provocative film that few filmmakers and actors would have the guts to make but McQueen and Fassbender nail it. No other film in 2011 provides such a raw, unflinching look into the life of such troubled characters as Shame and all involved deserve credit for daring to go as far as they do.

2. The Artist

French director Michel Hazanavicius makes an audacious leap to international acclaim with this silent, black and white romantic comedy that pays homage to the silent pictures of the 1920’s. Jean Dujardin’s performance as silent star George Valentin is so full of charm, charisma and warmth that you can’t help but smile every time he takes to the screen. Despite a tonal shift late in the film, nothing could spoil the performances, the style and the all round atmosphere of this film.

3. Take Shelter

Like Shame and The Artist, Take Shelter is anchored by another phenomenal lead performance with Michael Shannon’s Midwest construction worker being haunted by apocalyptic visions but is he seeing the future or just going insane? Packed full of financial crisis subtext and featuring great support from the ubiquitous Jessica Chastain, Take Shelter is a slow burning but ultimately emotional drama that deserves recognition during awards season.

4. Drive

Simply put, Drive is the coolest film of the year. Lifting elements from numerous different sources, auteur Nicholas Winding Refn creates a stylish, violent thriller elevated by a stone cold performance from Ryan Gosling as Driver, a stunt car driver who gets mixed up with the mob. While Drive maybe doesn’t pack the emotional heft of other films on this list, it has more than enough genre style to make up for it and is entertaining from start to finish.

5. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Director Tomas Alfredson creates an exercise in subtlety that builds ever so slowly into a thrilling real world spy drama set in the 1970’s that demands a lot of patience but rewards it with brilliant performances from a stunning British cast. Gary Oldman surely earns his first Oscar nod as weary spy George Smiley, doing more with the subtle lift of an eyebrow than some actors do in an entire performance. Colin Firth, Tom Hardy and a career best Mark Strong complete the genius ensemble.

6. Hugo

Martin Scorsese brings us possibly the least likely film of his career but probably the most personal, paying homage to revolutionary filmmaker George Melies through the eyes of young orphan Hugo Cabret. Through this child discovering cinema and the work of Melies, Scorsese gives us a film about the magic of cinema that is also a fantastic example of that very magic, using 3D and CGI to stunning effect to create a beautiful, heart-warming film.

7. Midnight In Paris

Woody Allen’s European road trip made its way to France with this light and fluffy romantic comedy that’s also a whimsical, magical film that manages to create brilliant, comedic characters out of some of the greatest artists ever to have lived as Owen Wilson travels back to Paris of the 1920s to hang out with Hemingway, Dahli and the Fitzgeralds. Teaching us that it’s better to appreciate what we have and live in the now rather than yearn for a time gone by, Allen crafts a fun, loveable film with bags of heart and a dialled back performance from Wilson.

8. Bridesmaids

Kristen Wiig has become a comedy staple with her work on Saturday Night Live and numerous supporting turns in comedies like Knocked Up and Whip It so with Bridesmaids, it’s great to finally see her given the chance to head up a film and she really runs with it. Wiig gives a brilliantly funny and melancholic performance as a 30 something struggling to get a hold of her life while she appears to be losing her best friend to marriage. The humour is there but there’s also a lot of truth to be found in Wiig’s predicament, it’s not a film that should be written off as just another romcom but instead manages to surpass even Judd Apatow’s own directorial efforts, themselves some of the best comedies of the last decade.

9. Win Win

Thomas McCarthy completes his writing/directing trifecta, following up the superb double of The Station Agent and The Visitor with this funny and endearing sitcom, starring Paul Giamatti as a fed up lawyer/high school wrestling coach who stumbles upon a chance to make a bit of extra cash and also finally win some wrestling matches. Though more formulaic and less profound than his previous efforts, Win Win is still an immensely enjoyable film with a strong lead performance but also excellent support from Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale and Jeffrey Tambor.

10. The Guard

Brendan Gleeson shines in John Michael McDonagh’s jet black comedy. Set in Galway, the film follows Gleeson’s local deadbeat cop’s routine which is interrupted by an international drug case that teams him with an American FBI agent (Don Cheadle). Immensely smart with a dark, dark sense of humour, The Guard also offers up genuine thrills in a down-to-Earth final high stakes shoot out. Gleeson gives a career best performance, making an outrageous lead character rich, well rounded and authentic right from the off.

Honourable Mentions

We Need to Talk About Kevin, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Moneyball, J Edgar, X Men First Class, The Help, Cedar Rapids, The Ides of March, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Everything Must Go, Beginners and 50/50.

Pleasant Surprises

Real Steel, Take Me Home Tonight, Anonymous, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, Friends With Benefits and Faster.

Major Disappointments

Your Highness, The Hangover Part II, The Green Lantern, Super 8, Cowboys & Aliens, In Time and The Adventures of Tintin.

The Worst Films of 2011

Colombiana, The Three Musketeers, Drive Angry 3D and Unknown.