Top ten movies of 2011

Keeping in step with the best of 2011 lists posted over at the musicscramble site, Moviescramble presents its first contributor top ten list.

At the start of 2011 I decided to try to watch more movies. I was looking at the shelves of unwatched movies and it spurred me into action. I set a target of two movies per week, and noted them on my MUBI account. I ended up watching a few more than my initial target. It is from this list that I created the list of my 2011 favourites. The criteria for final selection were that I had viewed them and, according to IMDB, the films were released in UK cinemas. This brought the list down to about 50 films. Incidentally my favorite film I watched last year, Pedro Almodovar’s Volver, was ineligible for the list as it was from 2006.

So on to the top ten

10 The King’s Speech

A bit of a surprise to me as this is not normally my type of film. The story (as everyone knows by now) of the speech problems of the reluctant King George VI and the relationship formed with his ‘commoner’ speech therapist. On a modest budget, the film delivers on every level with strong performances from all three leads. Helena Bonham Carter stands out as the Queen. Pre-war England is brought to life in all its grey and ominous glory.

9 Never let me go

Based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro with screenplay by Alex Garland. A medical breakthrough in the 1950’s has enabled the human lifespan to be extended to over 100 years. The story follows three characters grow from a childhood in an English boarding school through to their adult lives. It is a tale of life and love played out against the theme of the how little time we have in our lives and how it should be appreciated. Worth watching for Andrew Garfield showing how good an actor he is before taking on the mantle of Spiderman this summer.

8 Source Code

Second feature from Director Duncan Jones. His first, Moon, was one of my favorites of 2010. Jake Gyllenhall is a soldier who wakes to find himself in the body of a stranger. He is on a train that is going to blow up in 8 minutes. He fails to find the bomb in time and finds himself back at the start of the scenario. He believes he is part of a military experiment involving time travel being directed by a remote guide. A taut thriller that keeps you engaged until the very end. Mr Jones is one to watch out for. He is surely destined for great things

7 Morning Glory

The story of a provincial TV producer promoted to running a major network morning show and the challenges she faces with improving the rating and trying to stop the presenters from killing each other. A stellar cast with Harrison Ford as the egotistical old school news reporter, Rachael McAdams as the producer, Diane Keaton as the female news anchor and a scene stealing Jeff Goldblum. Fairly straightforward story but still really good fun. One of the few movies of the last year that had me laughing out loud as I watched this on the bus to work.

6 Point Blank

A male nurse is forced to break a thief out of hospital in order to save his pregnant wife who has been kidnapped by the thief’s accomplices. A stylish French thriller that at eighty four minutes long is the definition of lean. The beauty of this type of film for me is that as I was relatively ignorant of the actors involved the story could go any way with everyone in danger. That just wouldn’t be the case if a major Hollywood star was in a lead role.

5 Midnight in Paris

Not having seen a Woody Allen film since Small-time crooks in 2000 I was surprised and delighted by Midnight in Paris. A would-be novelist visiting Paris with his wife and in-laws is so enchanted by Paris of the 1920s that he is transported there each night. In going back he meets many of the artists who lived and worked there during this time. A tale of self-discovery and how the grass always seems greener on the other side. Woody Allen’s usual star-studded ensemble cast are superb with the director obviously in his element with this tale.

4 Super 8

JJ Abrams homage to the Steven Spielberg adventure films of the 1980’s. The film was in fact produced by Spielberg’s production company. A tale of a group of young filmmakers who witness a train crash and the mysterious aftermath. Classic storytelling in the mould of E.T. and the Goonies. It has something for all the family. Elle Fanning and Kyle Chandler stand out in a top-notch cast. Worth watching right to the credits for a superbly funny extra.

3 Social Network

Until the summer this would have been the number one pick. When you see the plot summary, the tale of two lawsuits surrounding the creation and expansion of Facebook, you could be forgiven for thinking this could be a bit of a dull movie. In the hands of director David Fincher with an excellent Oscar-winning screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, the results far exceed the initial expectations. Another great Andrew Garfield performance alongside Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake. The score composed and performed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross deserves special mention.

2 Rise of the Planet of the Apes

One film I nearly didn’t bother to watch. Prior to its release, I caught the trailer online. In two minutes is seemed to show the entire movie including the ending as a lot of trailers seems to do these days. Fortunately, I decided to give it a go anyway. The film engaged from the start. The motion capture techniques used to portray the apes were seamless with the usual superb performance from Andy Serkis. In a way, it was stronger than the ‘human’ performances. Another summer blockbuster that has a decent storyline. Who would have thought?

1 Attack the Block

From Writer/Director Joe Cornish (from Adam & Joe fame) comes the tale of Aliens landing in a South London estate and the attempt by a local teen gang to defend their home. Thrilling, violent and very funny. The look and feel of the whole film lend to the atmosphere of the piece. It is amazing to think that this was the work of a first time director and very modest (by most film standards) budget. The effects are very well done and the Aliens are truly creepy. Cannot recommend this highly enough.

Films that didn’t make the top ten but are worthy of note are Animal Kingdom, Sucker Punch, The Lincoln Lawyer, The kids are alright, 127 hours, Real Steel and Winters Bone.

As you can see this is a very personal choice from 2011. If you have any comments or any recommendations for something that I would benefit from a viewing please get in touch.

John McArthur
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  1. Pingback: Friends With Benefits (2011) « moviescramble

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