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Top 20 Best Films of 2011: 10-1

2011 proved to be a particularly good year at the movies, beginning with the likes of the Coens’ True Grit, multiple Oscar winner The King’s Speech and Mark Wahlberg passion project The Fighter.

But some of the blockbusters also delivered, such as Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Cowboys & Aliens, Super 8 and Fast 5. As did year-end movies such as The Ides of March, Moneyball and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. But which – if any – of these films make our list of the top 20 best of the year?


10) Senna

What’s the story? A documentary chronicling the life and career of Brazilian racing legend Ayrton Senna.

Why so good? Asif Kapadia’s Senna is a remarkable documentary about a remarkable man. What’s more, it’s a film that transcends its subject matter to offer universal appeal to whoever sees it. Admittedly rose-tinted, the film exists to pay tribute to the colossal talent that was Formula One supremo Ayrton Senna and does so through meticulously constructed footage that allows the driver’s story to unfold through footage rather than talking head interviews.

Full review l Asif Kapadia interview l Where it’s showing

Blue Valentine

9) Blue Valentine

What’s the story? The film follows the fortunes of a contemporary married couple (played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams), charting their evolution over a span of years by cross-cutting between time periods and showing how their initial happiness turns into heartbreak.

Why so good? These are tragically flawed characters, painfully real and we feel every emotion along the way. As such, Blue Valentine is seldom easy viewing, while its final shot is a true heartbreaker guaranteed to leave you emotionally shattered… It’s one of the most powerful, moving and tense films of the year, with tour-de-force performances from everyone concerned.

Full review l Ryan Gosling interview l Photo gallery l Where it’s showing


8) Bridesmaids:

What’s the story? Former cake shop owner Annie (Kristen Wiig) is asked to become the maid of honour at the forthcoming wedding of best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph). But what begins as a daunting task is made all the more taxing by the presence of rival friend Helen (Rose Byrne), a well to do business woman who seems to be able to do everything right.

Why so good? Is Bridesmaids the funniest film of the year? Quite possibly, yes. But it also has plenty more to recommend it. Paul Feig’s comedy, produced by Judd Apatow and co-written by Kirsten Wiig (with Annie Mumolo), is that rare beast among mainstream comedies: a film that will have you laughing hysterically at it’s vulgarity one minute, yet genuinely rooting for it’s characters throughout. What’s more, it’s a film that plays equally well to both sexes.

Full review l Kristen Wiig interview l Paul Feig interview l Chris O’Dowd interview l Where it’s showing


7) Warrior

What’s the story? Tommy and Brendan (played respectively by Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton) are two brothers whose lives have come to depend on how far they can go in a mixed martial arts tournament. For the former, fighting represents a way to exorcise the many personal demons that bedevil him, the most recent of which extend to the Iraq war and a selfless act of heroism. Brendan, meanwhile, merely needs the cash to pay the bills, especially now that his fighting has landed him a suspension from his day job teaching.

Why so good? Sceptics might argue that Warrior really shouldn’t work as well as it does. But Gavin O’Connor’s mixed martial arts drama is a powerhouse piece of cinema that deserves to stand alongside The Fighter as an instant classic. For sure, the film relies on many genre conventions, including the underdog element, as well as feuding brothers and estranged fathers. But it does so with such rousing passion and energetic vigour that it’s flaws are easy to overlook.

Full review l Tom Hardy interview l Joel Edgerton interview l Photo gallery l Where it’s showing

The Fighter

6) The Fighter

What’s the story? The true story of the rise of boxer ‘Irish’ Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), who triumphed against many odds – including a dysfunctional (to say the least) family, self-doubt and a crack-addict brother/trainer (Christian Bale) – to become a welterweight boxing champion in the 1980s.

Why so good? Credit must go to Russell, too, for never over-doing the sentiment, as this rags-to-riches tale could have been ripe for over-sentimentalising and grand-standing Rocky-esque touches that sat uncomfortably alongside some of the more urban sequences. Hence, The Fighter fully earns the feelings of euphoric cheer that it does belatedly deliver as well as an intimacy and poignancy that enables the various family relationships (especially between Bale and Wahlberg) to touch the heart.

Full review l Mark Wahlberg interview l Christian Bale interview l Photo gallery l Where it’s showing

Crazy Stupid Love

5) Crazy Stupid Love

What’s the story? After 15 years of marriage, Cal (Steve Carell) is unceremoniously dumped, mid-restaurant, by his wife (Julianne Moore) who has started sleeping with a work colleague (Kevin Bacon). Distraught, Cal hangs out in a bar bemoaning his sorrows, whereupon hip ladies man Jacob (Ryan Gosling) takes pity on him and resolves to turn him into a slick bar-hound. But just as Cal begins to turn his fortunes around, Jacob finds himself falling seriously in love with Hannah (Emma Stone), who refuses to succumb to his charms too easily.

Why so good? Crazy Stupid Love is positive proof that you can make a comedy about relationships that’s grounded in reality, that’s as heartfelt as it is heartbreaking and downright funny to boot… It is, without doubt, one of my favourite comedies of the year – and one that has something to offer for viewers of both sexes and every age. And how often can you say that about a Hollywood mainstream comedy, especially one that clocks in at almost two hours?

Full review l Ryan Gosling talks Crazy Stupid Love l Photo gallery l Where it’s showing

The King's Speech

4) The King’s Speech

What’s the story? An Oscar winning account of Prince Albert (Colin Firth), the second son of King George V, and his attempts to overcome a stammer in pursuit of his royal duties with the help of an unconventional therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).

Why so good? Firth is quite simply flawless as Albert, bettering even the fine work he did in last year’s A Single Man and anyone who still thinks of him as a one trick pony really must think again. But he’s matched by Rush’s Lionel Logue, the unorthodox Australian speech therapist who fought to win his trust and instill him with the confidence needed to carry out his duties, particularly in leading his country to war without projecting weakness… [Together they] guarantee that Tom Hooper’s excellent film will be one of the most inspiring and fondly remembered of the year.

Full review l Colin Firth interview l Tom Hooper interview l Photo gallery l Where it’s showing

The Artist

3) The Artist

What’s the story? Silent movie mega-star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) slowly finds his fame threatened by the advent of the talkies. At first dismissive of the technology, he slowly comes to realise that he is fast becoming part of a bygone era… yet remains too pig-headed and proud to conform or embrace the technological changes. At the same time, beautiful newcomer Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) is making her own mark on the industry…

Why so good? Every once in a while a film comes along that truly lives up to the term ‘special’. Michael Hazanavicius’ The Artist is just that… a bold, unique and magical film that delights from start to finish. To dismiss it merely as a one-note ‘homage’ to Hollywood’s silent era would be doing it a disservice, for in looking backwards to pay gloriously realised tribute Hazanavicius’ film is also a bone fide modern classic in its own right.

Full review l Where it’s showing


2) Drive

What’s the story? Ryan Gosling is ‘Driver’, a Hollywood stuntman by day who uses the night-time to make his real money as a cool as cucumbers getaway driver. His talent lies in his coolness under pressure. Things change, however, when pretty mum next-door Irene (Carey Mulligan) enters his life and he decides to step in and help when Irene’s husband (Oscar Isaac) is released from prison and is menaced by hoods determined to make him commit a robbery.

Why so good? Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive is one of the coolest films of the year. A sexy, slick, ultra-violent neo-noir thriller, it’ll likely have film buffs falling over themselves to list the films and directors that inspired it, from Scorsese to Mann, but few would probably arrive at Pretty Woman as a source of inspiration. It exhilarates on just about every level and announces Refn and Gosling as a genuinely cool movie partnership.

Full review l Nicolas Winding Refn interview l Photo gallery l Where it’s showing

True Grit

1) True Grit

What’s the story? When her father is murdered, Mattie Ross (played by 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld) hires shoot first lawman Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to hunt the man responsible down. She also accompanies him on the trail together with a cocksure deputy, LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), slowly developing a friendship and trust that brings out the paternal instincts in both men.

Why so good? It’s not often you find yourself praising a remake let alone hailing it as better than the original but the Coen brothers’ True Grit fits that bill. A bona fide instant classic, the film sits comfortably alongside the likes of Unforgiven, The Wild Bunch and The Magnificent Seven as one of the finest examples of the Western genre. Not to mention one of the very best films of this or any year.

Full review l Jeff Bridges interview l Hailee Steinfeld interview l Photo gallery l Where it’s showing

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