Julian Roman’s Top 10 Best Movies of 2011

‘Warrior’ rules at number one while ‘The Hangover Part II’ garners a spot as the worst movie of 2011.

Cinema had a pretty good year in 2011. The summer saw an onslaught of costumed hero flicks, which to my great surprise were all pretty good. Hollywood has turned off the cheese factor on comic adaptations, lining up great directors and better actors. The biggest surprise of 2011 was the remarkable success of The Artist, a charming silent film by French director Michael Hazanavicius. Since its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, it has been a critical and awards favorite. The Artist should be a lock to win the Best Film Oscar.

My favorite film of 2011 is Gavin O'Connor's Warrior. I had no idea what to expect when I saw this movie in September and was completely blown away. A brutal fighting film, the fisticuffs pale in comparison to the gripping family drama. Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton play two brothers, long separated by the childhood abuse of their father - Nick Nolte, who find themselves facing each other in the championship of a mixed martial arts tournament. Their reasons for fighting, and their father's attempt to heal the wounds he inflicted on his children, are powerfully moving.

One of the casualties of awards and 'best of' lists in general is the focus on a singular body of work. 2011 had two individuals that were fantastic across multiple genres. The first is Steven Spielberg, a household name, who in the last week of December released War Horse for Disney and The Adventures of Tintin for Paramount. Both of these films are excellent and in my top ten. Spielberg is on another planet to have two high caliber films - utterly different - in the same week. This is an epic achievement and why I chose him for Best Director. His prominence and success will no doubt eliminate him from the top awards, but he must be praised for his work this year.

The second is actress Jessica Chastain. I had never heard of her before this year. But her coming out party might be the best we've ever seen. In 2011, she was the female lead in The Debt, Take Shelter, The Tree of Life, and had supporting roles in The Help and Coriolanus. Not only are these all good movies, but each character she played was dramatically different.

I believe Michelle Williams will sweep the actress awards for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn. I think Michelle is great, but Jessica Chastain took the year by storm and is my choice for Best Actress for her body of work.

Top 10 of 2011

#1: Warrior


Two brothers (Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton) face each other in the $5 million dollar championship match of a mixed martial arts tournament. Champion wrestlers in their youth, their family was torn apart by the abuse of their drunkard father (Nick Nolte). One scarred by war, the other a high school teacher with a sick child; these brothers are thrust into an emotional and physical conflict that is magnetic on screen. Director Gavin O'Connor delivers an unflinching, powerful story of a devastated family's reconciliation against the backdrop of a brutal competition.

#2: War Horse

War Horse

Steven Spielberg has his best film in ten years with War Horse. Adapted from the Tony Award winning Best Play and famed children's book, War Horse is the tale of a stallion called Joey, and its journey through the horrors of World War One. A tragic tale, War Horse is a parable on the folly of war and how innocents are lost foolishly in conflict. Bring a hankie to this one.

#3: Drive


Ryan Gosling has his finest acting performance yet as 'The Driver' in Nicolas Winding Refn's film noir masterpiece. This highly stylized and hypnotically musical thriller will have you glued to the screen. A stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver gets in over his head when he falls for a beautiful neighbor (Carey Mulligan) and her son. Albert Brooks will win the supporting actor Oscar playing against type as a ruthless crime lord.

#4: Win Win

Win Win

Director Thomas McCarthy scores again with his comic and touching tale of a middle class family in suburban New Jersey. Paul Giamatti stars as a struggling lawyer/father/wrestling coach who ends up parenting the lost grandson (Alex Shaffer) of a senile client he's been ripping off. The new edition at first worries his wife (Amy Ryan), but changes her tune as their family develops a deep bond. They find themselves at odds with the boy's awful mother (Melanie Lynskey) as she attempts to get her son and father's money back.

#5: The Descendants

The Descendants

Losing a loved one is a heartbreaking experience, especially when the decision is made to terminate life support. Director/screenwriter Alexander Payne returns after a six year absence with this wonderful tale of a family coming together to deal with tragedy. George Clooney stars as a father who always played the second parent. With his wife brain dead after a boating accident, he comes to terms with his rebellious teenage daughter (Shailene Woodley) and her precocious sister (Amara Miller). The process is that much harder with a million dollar land deal and the discovery of his wife's lover (Matthew Lillard).

#6: The Artist

The Artist

Director Michael Hazanavicius love poem to a lost era of cinema is truly original. A silent movie set in 1927; The Artist is the story a silent film star (Jean Dujardin) who sees his glory fading, while a young upstart (Bérénice Bejo) soars with the advent of talking pictures. I sincerely hope that mainstream audiences will find this film as enchanting as critics did.

#7: Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen continues to astound. His proclivity is unparalleled, releasing a new film almost every year. Most are mediocre, some are bad, but every once in a while he comes up with a gem. Midnight in Parisis Allen's cinematic ode to the splendor of Paris and its lure for the twentieth century's greats. Owen Wilson stars as a screenwriter on vacation in Paris with his banal fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. He goes for a midnight stroll, only to discover he's gone back in time to Paris of the twenties. His midnight walks lead him to meet Hemingway, Dali, Gertrude Stein, and the Fitzgeralds to name a few. And to discover love with a fetching muse (Marion Cotillard). A film this entertaining without sex, violence, or vulgarity is a rarity.

#8: Pariah


Filmmaker Dee Rees tale of a black teenager (Adepero Aduye) struggling with her sexual identity in an urban environment ends 2011 on a high note. Released the last week in December, this story of lesbian teenager awakening in Brooklyn, New York avoids all stereotypes. From her relationship with her parents, to her desire for intimacy - with comical results, the travails of Alike is a must see. Black female characters and homosexuality are seldom portrayed with such sophistication.

#9: The Adventures of Tintin

The Adventures of Tintin

After you've had a good cry in War Horse, grab your 3D glasses and prepare to cheer for the second serving of the 2011 Steven Spielberg double feature. The Adventures of Tintin is a stunning motion capture, adventure extravaganza. Belgian cartoonist Hergé would be applauding if he could see how Steven Spielberg and co-producer Peter Jackson have brought his work to life. Jamie Bell stars as intrepid cub reporter Tintin. He and his trusted dog Snowy find themselves in a race with cutthroat criminals to find a lost treasure at sea. Motion capture king Andy Serkis also co-stars. Gollum, Caesar from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Captain Haddock here, Andy Serkis is simply the finest actor to embrace this technology.

#10: Attack the Block

Attack the Block

Director Joe Cornish's debut film is a clever take on the standard alien invasion premise. A gang of teens and their intended target for thievery find themselves fighting off a horde of vicious aliens in their poor neighborhood. What makes this film work, apart from being very entertaining, is its theme of redemption. Gang leader Moses (John Boyega) is a thief and drug dealer, but when the tables are turned and a hero is needed, the hood has its man. The same leadership traits that he didn't understand as a criminal are used for good and selflessness to save his friends.

The Worst Film of 2011

The Hangover Part II

The Hangover Part II

Every Warner Brothers studio executive, writer, Director Todd Phillips, his cast - Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, anyone involved creatively or financially, should hang their heads in shame for releasing this awful, insulting film. The Hangover Part II is the textbook example of what is wrong with Hollywood. These people had a huge hit with a truly funny film, The Hangover. Instead of exercising one ounce of creativity and respect for their audience, these folks decided to remake the EXACT SAME MOVIE, to dupe the public out of their hard earned money. I watched this film STUPIFIED by what I was seeing. Painfully unfunny, The Hangover Part II is what happens when the bottom line becomes the top line. It's a dialed in, hack attempt at best; or a conniving, shrewd money maker at worst. Whatever the case may be, The Hangover Part II sucks harder than whoever holds the gangbang record.

  • Best Director - Steven Spielberg, War Horse, The Adventures of Tintin
  • Best Actor - Ryan Gosling, Drive
  • Best Actress - Jessica Chastain, The Debt, Take Shelter, The Tree of Life
  • Best Supporting Actor - Albert Brooks, Drive
  • Best Supporting Actress - Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
  • Best Screenplay - Alexander Payne, The Descendants
  • Best Cinematography - Janusz Kaminski, War Horse
  • Best Editing - Michael Kahn, War Horse
  • Best Score/Soundtrack - Drive
  • Best FX - The Adventures of Tintin
  • Best Documentary - Marathon Boy
  • Best Animated Film - The Adventures of Tintin

Sources: Julian Roman

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Comments (48)

  1. Julian Roman

    @XxNickTheFilmCriticXx, thanks dude, was a good year last year

    3 years agoby @julianromanFlag

  2. Julian Roman

    @chirep_1, loved that movie dude. Will review it this week when it opens everywhere. Lots of stuff would be in my top 20, like that, tree of life, dragon tattoo, bridesmaids.

    3 years agoby @julianromanFlag

  3. Julian Roman

    @narrator, in a word...yes:)

    3 years agoby @julianromanFlag

  4. Oxxford699

    The hangover 2 is the worst movie of the year!?!?!? It was funny has hell people. Why do people hate this f@#%ing movie...it was way funnier then the first!!

    3 years agoby @oxxford699Flag

  5. CelluloidDreams

    My list of the "Best" films of 2011:

    The Artist - Needs a 2nd mention!
    Source Code
    Winnie the Pooh
    The Artist
    The Muppets (2011)
    Super 8
    The Help
    The Company Men
    Rise of the Planet of the Apes
    Young Adult

    3 years agoby @2movieguysFlag

  6. Replicant

    Some good picks here, although Hangover II for worst film is a bit too extreme. If you wanna bash out on a high-profile movie for 'worst of the year' go for Transformers 3, Green Lantern, GREEN HORNET (ugh), Abduction, etc.

    3 years agoby @felipe-11Flag

  7. Nicholaus XX

    @julianroman -- Nice job, man. Even though I have yet to see a lot of these, you have seemingly great taste in cinema.

    3 years agoby @XxNickTheFilmCriticXxFlag

  8. the Narrator

    @julianroman, Fassbender showed more skin that Mara in Dragon Tattoo, and Crudup in Watchmen? That's interesting. I guess I'll have to wait 'till dvd, seeing as there are no art house films anywhere near my area.

    3 years agoby @narratorFlag

  9. Jonnred

    Glad to see that Warrior made the top ten list here also glad to see that Hangover Part II was the number one worst film all year.

    3 years agoby @jonnredFlag

  10. CelluloidDreams

    "Green Lantern" was like watching paint dry on the wall!

    Boring ...dull...monotonous....

    3 years agoby @2movieguysFlag

  11. CelluloidDreams

    "Attack the Block" another film where the first 1/2 hour was "brilliant" ...the last 20 minutes flopped fast.!

    3 years agoby @2movieguysFlag

  12. CelluloidDreams

    ..."The Adventures of Tintin" just doesn't look appealing..!

    3 years agoby @2movieguysFlag

  13. CelluloidDreams

    "Midnight in Paris"..the first 1/2 hour was "brilliant" ...the last 20 minutes flopped fast.!

    3 years agoby @2movieguysFlag

  14. ChiRep_1

    I've noticed the lack of love for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy which I thought was fantastic. You happen to catch it @julianroman?

    3 years agoby @ChiRep-1Flag

  15. thedude-abides

    @julianroman I did see Lars and I agree. All reasons why he's my favorite actor. Happy New Year to you as well.

    3 years agoby @thedude-abidesFlag

  16. Forrestgump1

    Best Movie of the Year (2011) for me is The Lincoln Lawyer and Worst is Green Lantern

    3 years agoby @forrestgump1Flag

  17. Julian Roman

    @SpaceCowboy, I hear you about Hugo. A lot of people love that movie. It didn't really work for me, but I do agree on how technically good it was. It was a toss up for me on cinematography, Robert Richardson is so great. I think he also does tarantino's films and is working on django unchained.

    3 years agoby @julianromanFlag

  18. Julian Roman

    @daveactor7, Andy Serkis so awesome. But it'll be a while before a motion capture performance wins a primary award. Too bad hollywood doesn't look at motion capture performances. And Fassbender's definitely on a roll. Shame, X-men, a Dangerous Method, all good flicks. Can't wait to see him as Magneto again!

    3 years agoby @julianromanFlag

  19. Julian Roman

    @LordPayne, pirates sucked as well:) But at least that movie had a different story. Happy new year!

    3 years agoby @julianromanFlag

  20. Julian Roman

    @narrator, shame is pretty good. Got the NC-17 because Fassbender is buck ass naked. A lot of theaters won't show an NC-17 film, so I'd check the local arthouse or indie theaters. Carey Mulligan also pretty good in Shame. Happy new year!

    3 years agoby @julianromanFlag

  21. Julian Roman

    @corey, yup, warrior edged up to my fave. Sucks that no one has really seen it. But once Tom Hardy becomes a star for playing Bane, that'll change. People are going to be shocked by how good that dude is. Hard to believe he's Shinzon in Star Trek Nemesis lol. Joel Edgerton is so underrated here as well. I love that scene where he goes to the bank. Happy new year!

    3 years agoby @julianromanFlag

  22. Julian Roman

    @thedude-abides, happy new year dude! Drive is such an awesome movie. I laugh when I think a lot of people went in expecting a fast & furious type film. Gosling's 'The Driver' always has this look of hidden menace, except when he's with her and the boy. Don't know if you ever saw Lars and the Real Girl, but he was able to pull off the same thing. Just this look of innocence and naivete when the character wasn't speaking. Dudes got skill!

    3 years agoby @julianromanFlag

  23. Julian Roman

    @Ab-Siddique, dude, thanks for the correction. Dujardin won the best actor, so I have updated the article. A lot of people love Tree of Life. I liked it, classic Malick, but too slow at time. Hear you about Rango. That and Kung Fu Panda 2 were my other fave animated films. But tintin still rules in my book. Happy New Year!

    3 years agoby @julianromanFlag

  24. Basquat

    Cinema had a pretty godd year in 2011? No they didnt, its been the worst year ever. At least we got alot of great movies to look forward to.

    3 years agoby @basquatFlag

  25. thedude-abides

    @narrator I'm in the same boat

    3 years agoby @thedude-abidesFlag

  26. Ab Siddique

    ..and Tintin was nothing near to Rango.

    3 years agoby @Ab-SiddiqueFlag

  27. Ab Siddique

    Dear Julian Roman, Palme d'Or went to The Tree of Life not The Artist.

    3 years agoby @Ab-SiddiqueFlag

  28. the Narrator

    Has anyone watched the film "Shame" yet, starring Mulligan and Fassbender. I heard it was fantastic, but I've been unable to find a way to watch the film (legal and otherwise).

    Any help on the matter would be appreciated. My quota for films this year feels incomplete, and that's one of the films standing in the way of me updating my list.

    3 years agoby @narratorFlag

  29. ChiRep_1

    LoL, love the closing comment to Hangover Part II. =D

    3 years agoby @ChiRep-1Flag

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