When the site first launched I put out a list of the top movies I’d seen released in 2011. With 2011 over I decided to update the list with eight films I’ve seen since then and do some reshuffling. The biggest faller was Rise of the Planet of the Apes dropping 11 spots to 27. There are two new additions to the top five and three to the top 10.
The best and worst champions retain their crowns. Nothing was as awful as Hangover Part 2 and nothing as good as 50/50. Also, don’t forget this isn’t my list of the 34 best movies of 2011 but a ranking of every 2011 release I saw.
34. Hangover Part 2
To earn the bottom spot you can’t just be bad, you have to be disturbing. I enjoyed the first installment as much as the next person. It had its flaws but provided a fun time at the movies and that is worth something. In contrast part 2 wasn’t enjoyable or funny and was in a word, disgusting. Outrageous/gross out humor has it place but like any other type of comedy there is an art to executing it. In this case director Todd Phillips failed miserably. One of the most uttered criticisms of the film was that it was a nearly scene for scene retread of the original but in a different setting. I wouldn’t have an issue with that device if it was done in a purposeful, clever way but this felt like the product of lazy filmmaking.
33. Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
31. Hall Pass
30. The Green Hornet
29. Reel Steel
You should’t infer from this ranking that I hate animated features. Up would be irrationally high if I was doing a best of the decade list. Rango just did’t do it for me. Without doing much research, I would venture to say 2011 has been the weakest year for mainstream animated film since the turn of the century.
27. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
This is probably more of a preference issue. The performances actually weren’t bad but I just couldn’t get past the subject matter.
25. Horrible Bosses
24. Bad Teacher
23. Our Idiot Brother
21. Captain America: The First Avenger
20. Kung Fu Panda 2
This is a good example of a movie I appreciate more than like. I understand why it was a hit both critically and commercially. There are some good performances by some very funny women, especially Melissa McCarthy. The problem is that I just didn’t laugh much. I’m not entirely sure why, but the movie just didn’t resonate with me the way it seemed to with so many others. Despite that, I do hope it spurs on the production of more female-driven comedy.
18. The Company Men
17. Tower Heist
It would take days to list all the flaws in Tower Heist but I had a darn good time watching it. It isn’t great and you may not remember half the movie 20 minutes after you watch it, but I bet you enjoy it. It is has on old school kind of wackiness to it and Eddie Murphy appears as something other than a talking donkey or group of fat people. Win/Win.
16. Source Code
15. Adjustment Bureau
This is the third of three movies I felt much the same way about. Limitless, Source Code and The Adjustment Bureau all have fascinating plots but fail somewhere in execution. Limitless is hampered by a confused message and mediocre performances. Source Code is actually the most successful at executing its premise and would have much higher if not for an unforgivably bad ending. That leaves The Adjustment Bureau at the top of the philosophically driven science-fiction thrillers. The love story muddles and overtakes the deeper issues at hand but overall it works. It somewhat bails out before reaching full potential where the supernatural elements are concerned, but the actors are likable and it’s well paced. Again, Source Code is much more ambitious and a much better film… as long as you turn the TV off 10 minutes (or something like that) before the credits.
14. Fast Five
Another “fun at the movies” entry. Someone involved in this franchise finally realized what it actually is and thank goodness. Armed with a new self awareness Fast Five delivers in a way no other installment of the franchise has. With the exception of a brief lull in the middle its fast paced, energetic and willing to laugh at itself. Thanks to awesome stunts, brief moments of
unintentional comedy and an all-time great car chase Fast Five makes the top 10.
Am I biased because this is directed by Craig Brewer who is one of the few positive ambassadors my hometown (Memphis, TN) has to offer? Probably just a little. I say only a little because Footloose is a very entertaining film. It meets a key requirement for a good movie: It is the best version of what it is trying to be. It is a film that relies on feel and while the first half nearly goes too far into cheesy territory, the final act contains emotional performances that feel authentic. I’m also a sucker for watching people dance, so there’s that.
12. Sherlock Holmes: A Games of Shadows
11. Crazy, Stupid, Love
10. The Lincoln Lawyer
9. The Help
Never judge a movie by it’s trailer. Lesson learned. I waited to0 long to see The Help assuming it was wrought with sentimentality and therefore not up my alley. I could’t have been more wrong.
8. Super 8
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Super 8 so my memory is somewhat foggy on some of the details. What I do remember was how nostalgic it felt and beautiful it looked. I also remember some serious acting from the kids. Anytime there are a bunch a kids at the center of a plot and you aren’t distracted by the acting the director deserves some credit.
This is a fascinating take on a familiar subject. The worldwide, civilization-threatening virus outbreak story has been depicted into the ground. However, Contagion explores several different perspectives and ultimately offers a more realistic portrayal of how the dilemma might actually play out. The pace is slow and steady but it stuck with me after I left the theater and in a good way.
6. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
It takes a lot to be wowed by special effects and gadgetry in 2011. Ghost Protocol was visually stunning and a blast to experience.
5. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
This movie is for Harry Potter fans. There are films in the series that can be understood and enjoyed without any prior exposure. This is not one of them nor should it be. When a film is the eighth installment of a series this epic it owes it to the fans to deliver without dumbing down the mythology. It is a successful end to the 10-year run. While some were definetly better (Prisoner of Azkaban) than others (Chamber of Secrets), how many other franchises have gone beyond a trilogy without a single stinker.
4. The Muppets
I assumed much of my affection for this movie was due to my own love of baseball. Since then I’ve had several conversations with people who hate baseball and loved this movie. It was those conversations that made me realize it was my love of the subject matter that actually kept me from realizing how good the film was.
2. X-Men: First Class
Confession: I have an irrational affinity for this movie. The first time I saw it I really liked it and probably would have ranked it behind X2: X-Men United as the second best in the series. Then I saw it again, and again and the more I watched the more fond I grew of it. After re-watching X2 I would definetly swap them. It isn’t without some winks and nods to the source material played for humor. Outside of that, it takes itself very seriously and makes the mutants identifiable. The stakes feel legitimate despite their implausibility and the fact the audience is largely aware of how it ends. I’ve seen it more than any movie on the list and haven’t tired of it yet.
Still number one and still not close. It’s painfully funny but the comedy isn’t dark comedy per se. It is very good comedy that happens to revolve around a dark subject. With the exception of a single scene, the movie is tonally perfect. The best compliment I can give it is that the comedy wasn’t funny because it was set against a dramatic background and the drama wasn’t moving because it took place in a comedy. The movie doesn’t fit into a genre, it is simply the story of one man’s battle with cancer and its impact on the lives of those around him.