The Top 15 Films of 2011

Perhaps this should be titled “Monster Popcorn’s 15 Favorite Films of 2011” as that really is what this list is.  Keep in mind that this is purely my own opinion and your list may differ (but feel free to share yours in the comments section!).  I’ve included, not only films that I’ve liked that may be universally deemed as great films, but films that left me thinking about them or had me walking out of the theater very satisfied.  I did not get around to seeing all the films that could possibly be on this list, like Shame, Martha Marcy May Marlene, I Saw The Devil, Moneyball, etc., so I can only go off of what I’ve seen (which is still the majority of the releases this year).

15.  Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids was a simple movie that excelled at character driven comedy.  It is just a nice story about a genuine but naive guy that gets exposed to the realities of life and comes out the other side with his integrity intact and better for it.  While the movie is definitely a comedy, it won me over with its attention to character.  Perhaps they aren’t the most deeply written characters of the year but they do have a sense of authenticity to them.  I’d love to see Lippe, Ziegler, Joan and Ronald hang out some more as I not only had fun with them but really enjoyed the camaraderie they shared.  Sometimes simple things bring great pleasures.

14.  Paranormal Activity 3

I know, some of you may be wondering why this is on here, but honestly, I had a really good time with this movie.  I’ve enjoyed the Paranormal Activity movies thus far and going into this film I was feeling pretty skeptical.  I wasn’t sure how much longer they could carry this concept and have it be effective and entertaining without having it feel redundant.  The fact that this one feels more like a legitimate movie as opposed to simply found footage goes a long way for me.  Each movie in the series keeps upping the ante in terms of things that happen on the screen and overall pacing.  I also really enjoyed the twist on the Poltergeist table scene in the film.  I walked out of this movie feeling creeped out and very entertained and wanting to know more about the mythology behind the movies.  I’d happily see Paranormal Activity 4 and am glad that we actually have a scary franchise for what could be a Halloween tradition.  I was starting to worry that the Saw movies, which I don’t even consider to be horror really (they’re gory thrillers), was going to be the dominant Halloween cinema tradition and we just can’t have that.

13.  Melancholia

Melancholia is a very divisive film.  I’ve no doubt it captivated just as many people as it bored others.  I was on the captivated side.  It’s a movie that asks the audience to actively participate instead of simply watching things unfold.  For the first half of the film, I wasn’t quite sure what was happening exactly if I’m being honest.  Character’s actions seemed conflicting and possibly unwarranted but as the last half of the movie played out, everything I had seen before started clicking and by the end of the film I was entirely fascinated by the movie.  The ending of the movie left me sitting in my seat stunned even though I knew what was coming.  It just had a much larger resonance with everything that had come before it.  I’ve no doubt that going back and watching it again for a second time will help fill in some of the things I was confused by in the first half and will enrich the film further.

12.  Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

This film is an instant cult classic.  I laughed a hell of a lot during this movie.  The film essentially plays with one joke the whole movie but expands upon it so well that it is incredibly entertaining throughout the whole running time.  Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine play clueless rednecks to hilarious perfection.  I cannot recommend watching this enough, it’s just a really fun time to be had.  If they found a way to not suffer in quality, I’d love to see Tucker and Dale find themselves in another mishappen adventure.

11.  Super

Dark, funny, violent, touching, perverse, these are all things that Super is and it’s the better for it.  James Gunn has outdone himself with this film after giving us such things as Slither, PG Porn and the excellent script for the Dawn of the Dead remake.  I’ve no doubt that the script for Super was something dear to Gunn and it shows in the film.  While I’m sure he doesn’t go around beating criminals with a pipe wrench, I feel like we are seeing aspects of Gunn’s personality and humor in this film and it’s a great example of personal filmmaking.  It’s highly entertaining, moving and Rainn Wilson does a great job with his role as an unstable man standing up for what he believes is right.  Also, Ellen Page is insanely awesome in this movie.  I’m really looking forward to what Gunn has in store for us next.

10.  Jane Eyre

There have been many iterations of Jane Eyre throughout film history.  Cary Fukunaga’s film is my definitive version.  Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska provide exceptional performances and the film has a spooky atmosphere to it that I think really enhances the story.  If you have not seen this yet, seek it out.

09.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I really enjoy the Planet of the Apes franchise, and after Tim Burton’s remake misfire, I wasn’t sure if a reboot using all CG apes would work.  Luckily, Weta did the work on this film and they didn’t let me down one bit and did a phenomenal job.  Visual effects aside, I think the movie really works.  Sure there are a few things about the script that could have been improved but the main focus of the movie is on Caesar and that is where the film excels 100%.  Andy Serkis’ performance as the future leader of the apes is astonishing and I’m going to be upset if the Academy doesn’t recognize him for his work.  This is a fantastic way to reboot the franchise and I’m very excited to see them continue the story.

08.  The Muppets

The Muppets make it into this list because no film this year has made me walk out of the film feeling so incredibly happy.  I didn’t grow up on The Muppets so I can’t claim myself to be a die-hard fan but this movie made a believer out of me.  It’s funny and, at times, pretty insightful.  Even if you are not a musical fan, I’d have trouble thinking this movie wouldn’t put a smile on your face.  It’s The Muppets‘ optimism and hope that will win over any cynic.  I can’t wait to revisit this on blu-ray.

07.  Drive

Drive is an incredibly interesting film that takes hold of you and draws you in.  It’s main character, played by Ryan Gosling, is a man of few words but Gosling keeps you interested in him the whole time adding tons of nuance to his performance.  A lot of the film’s best moments are the quiet and awkward ones and Nicolas Winding Refn uses that to great effect.  There was a robbery scene in the film that I was so caught up in the quiet of the film that when a gunshot went off, it scared the crap out of me so much I jumped in my seat.  The electronic based music in the film also gives the film a unique flavor.  Well acted and crafted, this should be seen by any self-respecting fan of cinema.

06.  Hanna

I really dug Joe Wright’s Hanna.  One part Jason Bourne, one part fairy tale, this movie had some great action and even better performances.  Saoirse Ronan is probably my favorite young actor right now.  She embodies her character and is utterly convincing as an adolescent girl who could take down an adult man before he knew what hit him.  What I like about the film, besides the fun action, is the fairy tale nature of the story which is perfectly accentuated by The Chemical Brothers fantastic score.  This isn’t as much an action thriller as it is about a girl discovering the world for the first time and I found it it to be one of the best alternative action films of the year.

05.  Hugo

Martin Scorsese’s first foray into family films and the third dimension is a triumph on both accounts.  Its also just a wonderful story about the magic of the movies.  The 3D here is used artistically and to great effect allowing the viewer to look through a window into another world.  Its a prime example of what 3D should be used for instead of simply being a means to bigger box office returns.  Scorsese’s love for film is all over this picture and it should be seen where movies are intended to be seen.. on the big screen.

04.  Young Adult

I was really impressed with Diablo Cody’s script here.  I thought she did a good job with Juno and wrote a very fun script with Jennifer’s Body but her work here in Young Adult is far more interesting and dynamic.  Jason Reitman does right by Cody’s writing by letting the script breath on its own and being there to help shepherd the actors into delivering some really great performances.  Charlize Theron definitely brings a lot to her character as well as Patton Oswalt, who delivers one of the best performances of his career.  This one had me thinking about it long after I left the theater.

03.  Attack the Block

The best genre film of the year by far!  Joe Cornish’s alien invasion film oozes so much badassery that once you’ve watched it, you’ll want to watch it again.  I really loved the look of the aliens.  They were so black that they could easily be unseen by someone until they open their mouth full of glowing teeth.  The setting of what is basically the British ghetto definitely gave it a different vibe and the music is utterly standout as one of the best scores this year.  It’s exciting, funny and just cool as hell.  I’ve heard talk about expanding the story further and I’d totally be down for seeing more sci-fi fun from Cornish.

02.  Beginners

I absolutely love this film.  I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t cried in a movie like I have here.  I remember trying to hide the fact that tears were coming down my face at first and then just giving in and realizing that most everyone in the theater was crying.  It’s not even that it’s a terribly sad film, just that it is incredibly moving.  I dare someone not to fall in love with Mélanie Laurent while watching this film.  She’s astonishingly beautiful and captivating here.  Ewan McGregor gives one of his best performances here as well.  The film is funny and incredibly touching and I think Mike Mills did an astonishing job of creating moments that feel incredibly authentic and relatable.  This film could easily be switched out with my number one pick as they are both equally great films.  If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I highly recommend looking through Netflix or Redbox or whatever service you use to find a copy.  Hell, just go blind buy it, it’s worth it.

01.  Midnight in Paris

I’m a huge fan of Woody Allen and he does not disappoint here with Midnight in Paris.  The movie is magical and completely involving.  This time travel story literally took me along for the ride as I felt like I was transported to the place these characters exist and watching things unfold firsthand.  There’s a lot that Allen is discussing with this film, one of them being the nature of nostalgia.  Is it a good or a bad thing?  Are we wishing we could live in an idealized past simply to escape the realities of the present?  As a person that often delves into nostalgic things, I found it to be really interesting and, in part, an exercise in self-examination.  Apparently 2011 is the year of the french actress, as with Mélanie Laurent in Beginners, I found Marion Cotillard in this movie to be equally captivating.  You fall in love with her character just as Owen Wilson’s character does.  The film is simply romantic in every sense.  And it simply must be seen.

Honorable Mentions:

The Tree of Life
Source Code
The Adventures of Tintin
The Guard
Another Earth
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
The Ides of March
Hobo With A Shotgun


Tags: , , ,

12 Comments on “The Top 15 Films of 2011”

  1. Ben McBride January 17, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    Yea I actually have plans to watch Detective Dee.. I had heard about it a little while ago and thought it sounded pretty interesting. It’s in my queue of films to watch.

  2. Niko Dane January 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    I’ve been a sucker for the “new wave” of Chinese/Japanese cinema, Hero, House of the Flying Daggers are beautiful movies and still watch them to remind myself that beautiful cinematography still exist. Movies like Ringu, Ju-on are excellent horror films, and I have to say that I enjoy anime.
    There is a recent one Called Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame. It looks amazing and if the music of the trailer is the music they used for the movie, hopefully, it will give me goosebumps through out it. Here is a link for the trailer

  3. Ben McBride January 17, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    I do watch quite a few foreign films every year as well. I still have not had a chance to watch I Saw The Devil but hope to do so in the next couple weeks. In 2008, I saw the Swedish film Let The Right One In and had I made a list then, it probably would have taken the number one spot for that year. I was also a big fan of the Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. With the Oscars coming up, I’m sure I will be checking out a lot of the nominated foreign films.

    Perhaps I will make a point to do some foreign film reviews here in the near future.

  4. Nik January 17, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    It’s been years since I have been excited about movies to come or to see during a year, and this year was a complete let down. I am sorry to say but not many movies excited me, but I have watched 6 from your 15 movies, and there are 3 that I have been trying to watch for sometime now. My number one personally is Midnight in Paris, I am a huge follower of Woody Allen, and not only that, I felt connected to the characters. Beginners was a great movie and felt like everything was solid on it, these kind of movies are my guilty pleasures. Hanna was sort of a let down for me, even though “I liked it” I felt that they could have done much more with it, and maybe even pumped up the Chemical Brothers score, wich was amazing, but being a fan of TCB visuals I was hoping for much much more. Attack the Block and Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil were both my favorites comedies of the year, TD vs E probably the better one from both. But I feel that you have to be a certain kind of viewer to watch them I tried to show Attack the Block to my sister and she hated it from the start from the 20 min that she watched. Rise was good and the apes were simply amazing, some performances were good some were great. I would say this was one of my top ten movies of the year too, but I didn’t leave with a feeling of satisfaction.

    I see that your movies are “Hollywood” movies, but you talked about I Saw The Devil in the beginning. Do you watch foreign movies too? Not saying that anything is bad with Hollywood, just wondering because there are some movies I want to watch and I am looking for opinions.

  5. Ben McBride January 16, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    Yea, I really loved Beginners.. obviously! Definitely check out some of the films on here.. some really great stuff.

  6. CrystalSC January 16, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    Oh you made me love you with your comments about Beginners. My obsession with Ewan McGregor aside, it is a beautifully crafted film. I haven’t seen many of these movies (I tend to watch more tv than movies) but will have to add some of these to my Netflix queue.

  7. Ben McBride January 2, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    Yea, you’ll definitely have to check some of these out and let me know what you think.

  8. Butch January 2, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the list, been super busy this year and have only seen Apes. Now I have a list to consider when time frees up.


  9. Nancy m December 31, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    I saw 9 out of the 15 you have listed here. Agree that they are among my top picks for the year. I loved Midnight in Paris but would put Beginners at no. 1. Really liked Melancholia for the same reason you did – you have to be a part of the movie. The plot and character are not handed over on a silver platter. Unfortunately, this is what many viewers expect and want. Just my opinion.
    Noticed some recent ones didn’t make it to the list and didn’t know if they are too new – Warhorse, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy? In 2011, I also liked Win Win but one of my favorites not mentioned in your list is The Guard.
    Well, I know what I’m doing this weekend -catching up on some movies. Expecting delivery of those you have on Blu-ray.

  10. Ben McBride December 30, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    Thanks! You are entitled to your opinion, even if it’s wrong! Im just kidding. Sorry to hear you didn’t like Hanna though. I dug it.

  11. Peter Cameron December 30, 2011 at 7:49 pm #

    Like your list. However,I disagree with Hanna. I was bored with during the movie.


  1. Review: The Artist | Monster Popcorn - January 16, 2012

    […] the movies can captivate audiences, even without sound.  If I had seen The Artist before I made my Top 15 Films of 2011 list, the film would have easily made it into the top […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s