Best Movies of All Time + [Tree of Life]

Top 10 Films of 2011

The year is 2011, and a lot has happened in the movie world. To help take you back in time, here's a look back at some of the film-related events that took place:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 becomes the year's highest-grossing film, earning over $1.32 billion at the worldwide box office.

The world loses the likes of Anne Francis, Pete Postlethwaite, Elizabeth Taylor, Sidney Lumet and Frances Bay.

I've been able to see 101 films released in 2011, and from those, I've compiled my own top ten list. As one can imagine, some great films had to be left off the final list. Here's a look at some of the movies (listed alphabetically) that just missed the cut:

Crazy, Stupid, Love.
The Descendants
The Help
The Ides of March
Warrior
But enough about the runners-up; here's the list you've been waiting to see! Counting down from number ten to number one, I've listed each film and have given the principal cast list as well as if and how fared at the Academy Awards. Also, I've listed the film's rank on my "Best Films of All-Time" list, if applicable. So without any further delay, here's my top ten movies of 2011!

10. The Muppets

Rated: PG
Directed by: James Bobin
Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones
Academy Awards: 1 nomination
All-Time Ranking: 123
***
I remember watching some of the older Muppets films as a child, but it wasn't until I started to grow in my Disney fanaticism that I truly began to enjoy all the Muppets had to offer. So when a new Muppets film was announced and slated for release, I knew I had to see it as soon as I could. We're getting a story about reunions and about fighting to reclaim something once held dear in the past, and the film manages to bring back the magic of the old with the social issues of today. And, with dozens of familiar faces along the way, the film holds a true sentimentality that makes it easy to love.

9. 50/50

Rated: R
Directed by: Jonathan Levine
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston
All-Time Ranking: 88
***
As Joseph Gordon-Levitt slowly makes his way further into the limelight, I am pleased to see that the general public is learning something I've known for years: he's an absolutely brilliant actor. With a desirable acting range, Gordon-Levitt is starting to become a big-time Hollywood force, and 50/50 marks the next step on his path. He takes the dramatic comedy genre and runs with it, offering a slew of laughs with his comedy but also breaking our hearts with deep, emotional scenes that cut us to the core. While the rest of the cast fills out wonderfully, this is really Gordon-Levitt's film, and boy does he do a fantastic job.

8. Carnage

Rated: R
Directed by: Roman Polanski
Starring: Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz, Kate Winslet
All-Time Ranking: 87
***
I saw Carnage on a bit of a whim, having only heard little bits about it in the months leading up to its release. With a main cast of only four individuals, the film manages to create a legitimate amount of tension as it takes us through a roller coaster of emotions, all while remaining bitingly hilarious. Foster and Winslet are at the top of their games, and Waltz does well in his performance, too. Reilly is a little bit of an odd choice here, but he manages to at least keep up with the rest of the Academy Award-winning cast, so I suppose that says a lot. Polanski does a fine job directing, and although this film won't be for everyone, I personally thought it was the funnier movies I'd seen in recent years.

7. The Tree of Life

Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Terrence Malick
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken, Sean Penn
Academy Awards: 3 nominations
***
It took me two viewings, but I finally found a way to garner a bit of respect for - and understanding of - this film. My first time through, all I could do was sit and scratch my head, wondering exactly what was going on. It took that second viewing to let the film sink into my head, and what I found was a beautiful piece about growing up with two drastically different forces driving you in different directions. We're getting parallel stories of the creation of life on Earth and the formation of a teenage boy being raised in the 1950s, and once it all comes together, there's something majestic and mysterious about this film that only heightens its beauty. This film probably stands the most chance to become a classic.

6. Super 8

Rated: PG-13
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Noah Emmerich, Ron Eldard, Riley Griffiths
All-Time Ranking: 86
***
When I walked out of the movie theater after watching Super 8, all I could think was, "This is what movies are all about." Abrams thrust his audience back into a 1980s-type sci-fi adventure that hearkens quite a bit to E.T. more than anything else. However, he found a way to make Super 8 its own film, and although there are some holes and flaws here and there, it still manages to be something truly fantastic. Cemented by a strong cast, including an exceptional Elle Fanning, this movie manages to soar.

5. Drive

Rated: R
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaac
Academy Awards: 1 nomination
All-Time Ranking: 83
***
It takes a little while for this movie to get to you, but once it finally grabs hold, it's not going to let go. It's effectively an action film, but it's an arthouse film as well, and the blend of the two is going to turn a lot of people away. It has action, but it's not action in the manner of these big budget, over-the-top adventures where everything blows up and shoot-outs last for ages. Instead, Drive is real-world and gritty and offers a believable story that's executed perfectly. Gosling is a revelation in the lead, and how he hasn't received more accolades for the performance is a travesty. The rest of the cast fills out nicely, with special mention of Brooks and Cranston who both steal every scene in which they appear.

4. The Adventures of Tintin

Rated: PG
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Toby Jones
Academy Awards: 1 nomination
***
Since I saw and reviewed Tintin, I've been swaying back and forth as to whether it's really this good, but for the time being, it's going to stay in its number four slot. Spielberg takes his audience back into 1930s serial mode, so it's no wonder that this film feels like an animated incarnation of an Indiana Jones flick. We're getting a decent mystery from the screenplay, and the animation is so stellar that it's going to suck in you in from the start. At the very least, The Adventures of Tintin is a beautifully-crafted film that's going to wow you visually regardless of how you feel about the rest of the film.

3. Rango

Rated: PG
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Stephen Root, Harry Dean Stanton, Timothy Olyphant, Ray Winstone
Academy Awards: 1 nomination
All-Time Ranking: 66
***
I had been excited to see the first reunion of Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp since 2007's Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, even if it going to be an animated film. The trailers made Rango look trippier than it actually was, but the final result of a film is something truly outstanding. I remember seeing a billboard for the film with the review, "Some kind of miracle," and I couldn't agree more. It brings a bit of twenty-first century ideology to the classic westerns of years past, mashing them together in a brilliant display of animation.

2. The Artist

Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Missi Pyle
Academy Awards: 10 nominations
***
The Artist has been the awards darling over the past month, and it looks like it should fare well at this year's Academy Awards. Director Hazanavicius does well with the silent film, bringing the best out of his cast while maintaining the tone and feel of a silent film. Dujardin is simply fantastic as our lead, showing why silent film actors had such a difficult job of "acting" when they were not allowed to be heard. The Artist is a timely film, but can we already call it "timeless?" I think the jury's still a bit out on that one, but one thing's for sure: it's definitely a very strong film that's worthy of your attention.

1. Hugo

Rated: PG
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Helen McCrory, Sacha Baron Cohen, Emily Blunt
Academy Awards: 11 nominations
All-Time Ranking: 27
***
If any film completely blew me out of the water in 2011, it was Hugo. The trailers purport a story of a boy who is trying to find his place in the world, all the while struggling to find someone who will love him and care for him. What the trailers don't tell you is that they only really give you the first half of the film. Right around the midway point, the storyline shifts from the boy and starts to focus on an old man named Georges Méliès, one of the grandfathers of cinema. We're then whisked through the man's life, showing a number of his former creations as he himself starts to re-live those past memories. One of the people following this page called Hugo "a love letter to cinema," and I couldn't agree more. This is a film that any cinephile absolutely needs to see. Simply beautiful.