Best Movies of 2011

10. MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE

161 LISTS | 7 TOP SPOTS
Sean Durkin | 102 mins | Drama/Mystery/Thriller
Elizabeth Olsen | Sarah Paulson | John Hawkes | Christopher Abbott

“The year’s most haunting film, with a star-making performance from Elizabeth Olsen as a young women who struggles to assimilate to the outside world after fleeing a cult. Writer-director Sean Durkin, making his astoundingly confident feature debut, cuts seamlessly between the psychological abuse of her past and the paranoia of the present. Olsen’s placid, open face reveals nothing and yet suggests seething torment. And as the group’s creepy, charismatic leader, John Hawkes radiates menace without ever raising his voice.” – Christy Lemire, Associated Press

9. A SEPARATION

198 LISTS | 14 TOP SPOTS
Asghar Farhadi | 123 mins | Drama
Payman Maadi | Leila Hatami | Sareh Bayat | Shahab Hosseini

“Rendering a domestic dispute with the car-crash intensity of a Breaking Bad episode, Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation considers what happens when a middle-class Iranian man and his wife petition for a divorce. She wants to move away from Tehran; he can’t leave his ailing, elderly father. Their intractability seems to infect everyone around them, from their moody teenage daughter to the devoutly religious woman they hire to be the old man’s caretaker. When something terrible happens to the family, the fragility of their respective positions is revealed by their journey through the court system, where every gesture demands justification, and every memory needs to be backed by evidence. What emerges from A Separation is a vivid depiction of marriage, parenthood, class, and religion, all filtered through the ever-fluctuating notion of what constitutes justice. The movie couldn’t be much more universal in its themes, or more riveting in the way it plays out.” – AV Club

8. MONEYBALL

199 LISTS | 10 TOP SPOTS
Bennett Miller | 133 mins | Biography/Drama/Sport
Brad Pitt | Robin Wright | Jonah Hill | Philip Seymour Hoffman

“What a banner year this has been for pretty-boy Brad Pitt. In director Bennett Miller’s fast-talkin’ version of Michael Lewis’ best-seller about Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane, Pitt gives a sexy, larger-than-life performance. On the surface, “Moneyball” is a classic, bottom-of-the-ninth underdog sports film. But — like its lead character — it’s unconventional and driven, an insightful inside-baseball story with a grand slam of this universal message: Think outside of the batter’s box and have faith in your convictions.” – Randy Myers, Mercury News

7. MIDNIGHT IN PARIS

216 LISTS | 10 TOP SPOTS
Woody Allen | 94 mins | Comedy/Fantasy/Romance
Owen Wilson | Rachel McAdams | Kathy Bates | Kurt Fuller

“Arguably Woody Allen’s greatest film in recent years, ‘Midnight in Paris’ is a delectably sweet tale of romance and nostalgia infused with the quintessential Woody Allen humor. The film tells the story of a writer who travels back in time and falls in love with a beautiful woman from the 1920s. Owen Wilson stars in the lead role as the quintessential Woody Allen protagonist and gives a new dimension to his character while Marion Cotillard’s elegance and charm adorn the film. The film almost feels like a love letter to the city of Paris and its perpetual romantic freaks.” – Vishnu Warrier, TheCinemaholic

6. MELANCHOLIA

246 LISTS | 39 TOP SPOTS
Lars von Trier | 135 mins | Drama/Sci-Fi
Kirsten Dunst | Charlotte Gainsbourg | Kiefer Sutherland | Alexander Skarsgård

“Melancholia doesn’t sweat the small stuff. It considers the cosmos. It explains how the world will end—with a rogue planet named Melancholia crashing into Earth. And ?it dramatizes what it’s like to be in the grip of a ­profound despair—a melancholia—that feels as if? the world is ending. You’d think this would make for ?a Scandinavian downer, coming from depression-prone Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier. Instead, he inspires ecstasy. How? That?s an earthly mystery. ?Of all the big or small, traditional or experimental, fantasy or reality based movies of 2011 that moved, delighted, provoked, surprised, or otherwise impressed me this year, Melancholia burns brightest as an enthralling work of creativity and cinematic power. Kirsten Dunst gives the performance of her career as a sad, beautiful bride, tormented by mood swings. ­Charlotte Gainsbourg creates a perfect psychological inverse as the bride’s ­sister. As Melancholia the planet draws nearer and nearer, borne on swoons of music by Richard Wagner, the audience for Melancholia knows the end is near. And yet we vibrate with pleasure.” – Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

5. THE DESCENDANTS

264 LISTS | 33 TOP SPOTS
Alexander Payne | 115 mins | Comedy/Drama
George Clooney | Shailene Woodley | Amara Miller | Nick Krause

“The director Alexander Payne does more than tell stories. He takes us on journeys — he makes road movies of the soul. His first film in seven years is the richly woven and moving tale of a Hawaii land baron whose life has become a comedy perched on the precipice of tragedy. George Clooney, dressed down as a dorky dad but as magnetic as ever, is commanding as Matt King, whose wife lies in a possibly fatal coma. It’s up to Matt to take care of his wayward daughters (the terrific duo of Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller), yet when he learns that his wife was having an affair, his decision to track down her lover becomes an obsession driven by scenes of rueful hilarity; it’s also his way of keeping the deeper reality of what’s happening at bay. The Descendants combines love, medical terror, real estate, adultery farce, and the wounded salvation of family in a way that only an ­Alexander Payne movie could. That is, brilliantly.” – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

4. THE ARTIST

293 LISTS | 52 TOP SPOTS
Michel Hazanavicius | 100 mins | Comedy/Drama/Romance
Jean Dujardin | Bérénice Bejo | John Goodman | James Cromwell

“Enough with 3-D. Enough with super widescreen Technicolor. Enough with all the talking. Cinema finally is back where it belongs with this boxy, black-and-white, silent gem about a 1920s screen idol whose career is muzzled by the talkies. Director Michel Hazanavicius lets us all in on his wondrous dream, a film whose every moment delights with grand visual tableaux, lush music, ageless performances by Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo and the most adorable dog this cat lover has ever seen. Luddites unite. Silence really is golden.” – David Germain, Associated Press

3. HUGO

297 LISTS | 38 TOP SPOTS
Martin Scorsese | 126 mins | Drama/Family/Fantasy
Asa Butterfield | Chloë Grace Moretz | Christopher Lee | Ben Kingsley

“Who would have thought that Martin Scorsese would fashion one of the best family films in ages — and in 3-D, to boot? “Hugo” is a piece of film magic: a delightful rendering of Brian Selznick’s “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” with exquisite production and cinematography, and a lovely homage to the early days of film. It’s an intricate adaptation of the story of a orphan boy in 1930s Paris who wanders from adventure to adventure in a busy train station and, ultimately, to the home of early filmmaker Georges Méliès (played beautifully by Ben Kingsley). In a relative rarity, the 3-D technology is actually used well in his lovely tone poem to a bygone era.” – Charlie McCollum, Mercury News

2. DRIVE

372 LISTS | 81 TOP SPOTS
Nicolas Winding Refn | 100 mins | Crime/Drama
Ryan Gosling | Carey Mulligan | Bryan Cranston | Albert Brooks

“Screw Oscar, which will surely ignore Drive because it’s too bloody, too creative, too ambitious and too polarizing to comfort audiences. Solid reasons, I say, for naming Drive the year’s best movie. Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn puts an iconic Ryan Gosling behind the wheel into a feverish battle between good and its opposite (Albert Brooks does great evil). Hard-wired to the year’s most propulsive synth score, Drive is pure cinema. I couldn’t have liked it more.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

1. THE TREE OF LIFE

391 LISTS | 80 TOP SPOTS
Terrence Malick | 139 mins | Drama/Fantasy
Brad Pitt | Sean Penn | Jessica Chastain | Hunter McCracken

“A thought experiment becomes a striking and deeply effecting picture in Terrence Malick’s ponder of nothing more profound than the nature of existence. While not exactly a narrative film in the strictest sense, Tree of Life still tells a vital and potent story — about a childhood in 1950s Texas, about an adulthood in an anonymous city, about the very beginnings of the Earth’s idea of living. The Texas sequence in particular is a stunner, with Malick’s camera wandering freely through a house and a surrounding neighborhood, showing us a whole childhood’s worth of frustration and wonder and discovery and sadness in an hour. Here again Jessica Chastain projects almost otherworldly grace, while Brad Pitt lets his innate twinkle disappear, and thus shines even more, as a tough love dad. Malick’s movies aren’t for everyone, and that’s OK, but for those that are fans, this a high achievement.” – Richard Lawson, The Atlantic

Full Top 50:

RTITLEL#1ARL%#1%TCLTCL1TCL%TCL1%
1The Tree of Life391804.1347%11%1703747%12%
2Drive372814.1344%11%1292536%8%
3Hugo297384.4935%5%1261735%6%
4The Artist293523.7535%7%1152132%7%
5The Descendants264334.2131%5%1171332%4%
6Melancholia246393.9329%6%952126%7%
7Midnight in Paris216104.8926%1%78122%0%
8Moneyball199105.1924%1%79622%2%
9A Separation198144.3624%2%102728%2%
10Martha Marcy May Marlene16175.2519%1%68419%1%
11Bridesmaids15565.0718%1%56316%1%
12Take Shelter149114.8418%2%73320%1%
13Shame142154.6717%2%57616%2%
14Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy13684.7416%1%65518%2%
15Certified Copy131194.1116%3%78922%3%
16Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 212584.7215%1%36110%0%
17We Need to Talk About Kevin12285.0215%1%57416%1%
18Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives114164.3514%2%711320%4%
19Beginners11655.1314%1%55215%1%
20The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)11235.1713%0%40011%0%
2150/5010355.5412%1%35010%0%
22Meek's Cutoff100104.7112%1%52614%2%
23Attack the Block9755.2312%1%35010%0%
24The Skin I Live In9425.4611%0%38011%0%
25Super 89075.8011%1%2637%1%
26Margaret89134.3011%2%45612%2%
27War Horse8895.1810%1%2938%1%
28The Help8824.8310%0%2106%0%
29Rise of the Planet of the Apes8815.9410%0%41011%0%
30Mysteries of Lisbon79113.759%2%52814%3%
31Warrior7855.109%1%2336%1%
32Rango7835.629%0%2517%0%
33A Dangerous Method7454.839%1%45312%1%
34The Muppets7035.148%0%1905%0%
35Weekend6645.028%1%38311%1%
36Win Win6615.948%0%36110%0%
37Poetry6164.587%1%37410%1%
38Margin Call6235.637%0%2828%1%
39Young Adult5905.947%0%2808%0%
40Contagion5306.026%0%2206%0%
41Of Gods and Men4854.396%1%2216%0%
42Incendies5064.656%1%2427%1%
43Le Havre5145.506%1%2918%0%
44The Interrupters5034.506%0%3018%0%
45The Ides of March4745.426%1%1715%0%
46Cave of Forgotten Dreams4724.806%0%2417%0%
47Nostalgia for the Light4675.676%1%2727%1%
48The Adventures of Tintin4626.545%0%1905%0%
49X-Men: First Class4525.855%0%1624%1%
50Source Code4516.345%0%1805%0%

Lists Included 839 | Top Critics’ Lists Included 361

R Rank
L Total number of lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year
AR Average position on ranked top 10 lists
#1 Total number of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year
L% Percentage of total lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year
#1% Percentage of mentions where the film was selected as the best film of the year
TCL Number of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL1 Number of times that the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL% Percentage of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL1% Percentage of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists

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