As the curtain falls on 2011, it’s that time again when we reflect on the past twelve months to deliver our selection of the very best films to arrive on screens over the past year. As with 2010 – which saw Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending thriller Inception snatching victory from Pixar’s heart-warming sequel Toy Story 3 – the team here at Flickering Myth have put together individual lists of our favourites, which we’ve then used to compile an overall selection of our 'Top 10 Movies of 2011'. So, let the countdown begin…
10. The Fighter (dir. David O. Russell)
Although it was released in North America last December, David O. Russell’s Best Picture nominee didn’t arrive here in the UK until February, allowing The Fighter to claim tenth place on our list. A biopic of professional boxer “Irish” Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), The Fighter features Oscar-winning supporting turns from Melissa Leo as Ward’s mother, Alice, and Christian Bale as hiss drug-addicted brother, former boxer Dicky Eklund. Released to much acclaim, The Fighter was described by Sports Illustrated as “the best sports movie of the decade” and went on to earn $129 million at the global box office.
9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (dir. David Yates)
The year’s biggest movie with a mighty $1.328 billion in box office receipts, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 saw Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Grainger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) return for a final, climactic showdown with the Dark Lord, Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), as director David Yates brought the curtain down on Warner Bros. blockbuster film adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s epic wizarding saga (in 3D, no less). The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 has since picked up a number of awards and with the studio embarking on a big Oscar push, there’s every chance it could become the first in the series to contend the Best Picture gong at the Academy Awards.
8. Thor (dir. Kenneth Branagh)
It’s been a busy year for movie superheroes, with Green Lantern (dir. Martin Campbell), X-Men: First Class (dir. Matthew Vaughn) and Captain America: The First Avenger (dir. Joe Johnston) all gracing the screen. However, none of those managed to replicate the success of the year’s first superhero offering, Thor, which grossed almost $450 million and featured a star-making turn from Chris Hemsworth as the God of Thunder. Also standing out in a cast that included Academy Award winners Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins was Brit actor Tom Hiddleston, who will reprise his role as the villainous Loki alongside Hemsworth’s Thor in just a few short months when The Avengers arrives in cinemas.
7. Moneyball (dir. Bennett Miller)
Based on Michael Lewis’ 2003 book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, Bennett Miller’s adaptation sees Brad Pitt as the general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, Billy Beane, who employs a controversial new method of scouting players in his efforts to rebuild his team for the 2002 season. Praised by audiences and critics alike, Moneyball is set to contest the Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Actor - Drama (Pitt), Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill) and Best Screenplay (Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin), and could prove to be a big player at the Academy Awards.
6. The King’s Speech (dir. Tom Hooper)
One of the year’s most critically acclaimed and financially successful features, The King’s Speech was second only to Harry Potter at the UK box office in 2011 and earned a host of accolades, taking home Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Colin Firth) and Best Screenplay (David Seidler), in addition to seven BAFTAs, three European Film Awards, a Golden Globe and way too many more to mention. And now, the tale of Prince Albert’s (Firth) efforts to overcome a speech impediment with the help of therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), takes sixth place on our list. Yes, it’s certainly been a good year for The King’s Speech.
5. Midnight in Paris (dir. Woody Allen)
Heralded as a fine return to form for its writer-director Woody Allen, the romantic comedy Midnight in Paris stars Owen Wilson as an American screenwriter vacationing in the French capital, where he finds himself transported into the 1920s on a nightly basis, Goodnight Sweetheart-style. The film – which also features the likes of Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Carla Bruni, Tom Hiddleston, Kathy Bates, Marion Cotillard and Adrien Brody – provided Allen with his biggest hit, banking over $145m at the global box office, and it will also contest the Golden Globe awards for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actor – Musical or Comedy (Wilson).
4. The Skin I Live In (dir. Pedro Almodóvar)
The only foreign language film to make our top ten this year, the Spanish generic hybrid The Skin I Live In saw leading man Antonio Banderas reuniting with filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar for the first time since 1990’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! to deliver a dark and twisted tale about a surgeon (Banderas) looking to cultivate a synthetic skin with the aid of a woman held captive in his home. Loosely adapted from Thierry Jonquet’s novel Mygale (a.k.a. Tarantula), The Skin I Live In was overlooked by the Spanish film industry in favour of Agustí Villaronga’s Black Bread as the country's official entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but nevertheless it remains one of the year’s most unique and memorable features.
3. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (dir. Tomas Alfredson)
Based upon John le Carré’s 1974 espionage novel of the same name and directed by acclaimed Swedish filmmaker Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In), the acclaimed thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy stars Gary Oldman as George Smiley, a former British Intelligence operative called out of retirement to track down a mole within the agency. Oldman leads a superb cast of British acting talent that includes Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Jones, Stephen Graham and Kathy Burke, and there’s already plenty of talk that his performance will be recognised by a long overdue first Academy Award nomination.
2. Attack the Block (dir. Joe Cornish)
It’s been a fantastic year for Joe Cornish, formerly one half of the comedy duo Adam and Joe and now Hollywood screenwriter of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, not to mention writer-director of Attack the Block, a low-budget sci-fi action comedy about a group of youths fending off an alien attack on a South London council estate. A stunning debut that delivers both laughs and thrills in equal measure, Attack the Block features superb performances from its young cast – led by John Boyega as gang leader Moses – and although it went largely unnoticed in cinemas (banking just under £2.5m here in the UK), it will surely go on to become a cult classic.
1. Drive (dir. Nicolas Winding Refn)
And so, our choice for the best movie of 2011 is Nicolas Winding Refn’s stylish ‘neon noir’ thriller Drive, an adaptation of James Sallis’ 2005 novel starring Ryan Gosling as an unnamed Hollywood stunt-man and in-demand getaway driver who finds himself having to deal with the fall-out from a heist gone wrong. Bursting onto the scene at the Cannes Film Festival where it was greeted with a 15-minute standing ovation (and the Best Director Award for Refn), the film – which co-stars Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks – has since went on to rack up the accolades and just manages to pip Attack the Block as our favourite film of the year by the narrowest of margins.
Just missing out on a place in the top ten were…
Source Code (dir. Duncan Jones)
True Grit (dir. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)
Super 8 (dir. J.J. Abrams)
Super (dir. James Gunn)
Black Swan (dir. Darren Aronofsky)
Hugo (dir. Martin Scorsese)
I Saw the Devil (dir. Kim Ji-woon)
We Need to Talk About Kevin (dir. Lynne Ramsay)
The Ides of March (dir. George Clooney)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (dir. Rupert Wyatt)
And our individual favourites…
Gary Collinson – Attack the Block
Simon Columb – The Skin I Live In
Oli Davis - Drive
Nick Goundry - Drive
DJ Haza – The Fighter
Trevor Hogg – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Anghus Houvouras – Midnight in Paris
Blake Howard – Red State
Emma Hutchings – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Tom Jolliffe – Drive
Simon Moore - Paul
Rohan Morbey - The Tree of Life
Arnold Stone – Super 8
Liam Trim – Attack the Block
What are your choices for the best movies of 2011? We’d love to hear your thoughts…