There were many great films released on the big screen this year, from the origins of the X-Men to nameless drivers. Of course, there were many films that I didn’t get to see, but as I’ve started to write about film more over this past year, I have slowly been catching up. For the UK, as well, we’re still waiting for some highly acclaimed films, such as Shame, to be released over on these shores, but these will have to be included in next year’s list as I am going by UK dates.
This list is constantly changing with the more films I watch so you can visit my Letterboxd account for a constantly updated list.
For now, here are my top 10 films of 2011:
10. X-Men: First Class
I’ve always been a fan of the X-Men films but recently they all feel extremely dated. This new instalment, directed by Kick-Ass’ Matthew Vaughn, is perfect for rebooting the franchise and some of its characters.
Detailing the formation of Professor Charles Xavier’s (James McAvoy) school for young mutants, focusing on his relationship with Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and where it took a wrong turn. Explaining the origin of the rival mutant teams, introducing us to both younger characters from the previous films and to new characters as well, showcasing a handful of extraordinary new powers, it’s great to see where it all began.
9. Black Swan
A great film to start the year off, and one that can’t really be forgotten in the year’s line-up of good films. Directed by Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan was one of the most highly anticipated films of 2011. Although the film was released quite a bit later in the UK, the date of its release was still brought forward to deal with its anticipation, and it became Fox Searchlight Pictures highest per-theatre average gross ever. Black Swan is a fascinating tale with an almost creepy interior. In a way, it is something we have never seen before, and the ending brought upon a more than average cliché twist that tied the film up respectfully. Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis both excelled in their performances, especially together, which subsequently set them up for even more great roles over the year.
I didn’t think that anyone could overtake Iron Man as being my favourite superhero, but Thor managed to do just that. This film was so much better than I thought it would be. I loved everything about it – the stunning world of Asgard, Chris Hemsworth fitting into the role so well, Tom Hiddleston making such an incredible villain (yet also maintaining a great on/off brotherly relationship with Hemsworth), and a host of brilliant actors, also including Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Natalie Portman, and Kat Dennings, and Stellan Skarsgård. This is definitely my favourite superhero family, and it’s always exciting to be in the world of Asgard.
7. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
This is probably my most anticipated film of 2011. After seeing the Swedish adaptations of Stieg Larsson‘s thriller trilogy, directed by Niels Arden Oplev, over the year, I was really intrigued to see Fincher’s take on the adaptation. Beginning with a brilliant opening title sequence featuring Trent Reznor’s and Atticus Ross’ thundering cover version of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song, as Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara are drowned in liquid monochrome, we are given subtle hints to what the film has to offer and also what we can expect from the second two films in the franchise. Not only is this sequence visually appealing, but it also gets your blood pumping for the ride Fincher is about to take you on. The first film for this is dark yet fascinating franchise is both brilliant in itself and also great in comparison to its Swedish predecessor. Fincher’s take on the film managed to be somewhat sexier, whilst also adding a slight hint of humour to take the focus away from the film’s dark backdrop.
6. We Need To Talk About Kevin
Directed by Lynne Ramsay and adapted from Lionel Shriver‘s novel of the same name, I can’t believe it took me until mid-2012 to see this one – what an intense and brilliantly directed thriller! The story is played out in a really interesting way, constantly leaving you guessing what will happen next as everything builds up for the shocking finale. With brilliant acting from the film’s leads, Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller, We Need To Talk About Kevin is powerful and dark, but incredible nonetheless.
5. The Fighter
It’s always a brilliant surprise when Mark Wahlberg gives such a good performance. But then, David O. Russell is a fantastic director. And the dedication that Christian Bale puts in is just outstanding. Alongside Amy Adams and a cast of other fantastic performances, this true story works excellently on the big screen.
4. My Week With Marilyn
Simon Curtis‘ adaptation of Colin Clark’s diary entry detailing the week he spent with the world-class icon Marilyn Monroe is now one of my favourite films. My Week With Marilyn tells a brilliant story, revealing so much about Marilyn’s true self. Michelle Williams plays the role superbly and her relationship with Colin Clarke (Eddie Redmayne) is performed beautifully. Scenes of Williams and Redmayne are constantly mesmerising, and the cinematography is stunning throughout. Whilst this wasn’t a particularly sad film, I find myself tearing up by the end of it every time, so bravo Simon Curtis.
3. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows – Part 2
It was a sad day, having to say goodbye to the Harry Potter franchise. But what a way to go. After a decade of filming, the magical trio of Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) finished their time at Hogwarts with a final battle against the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Full of excitement and a huge amount of anticipation, this final instalment to the Harry Potter franchise was the funniest yet saddest film out of the franchise. With jokes flying around from a number of characters and the typical cheesiness from the Potter trio, this film had your emotions going all over the place. A personal favourite scene was the revelation of Professor Snape’s (Alan Rickman) memories. Always portrayed as one of the baddies, we saw the more humane side to Snape as we found out the truth behind his actions. Yates really did this scene, and the film as a whole, justice, including a number of flashbacks which opened up our own memories as well.
Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, based on James Sallis‘ 2005 novel of the same name, was ultimately the best film I saw this year, and I know that many others will agree. The way that deeply brutal scenes contrasted with ones of true passion was outstanding. It was also the first time that Ryan Gosling stood out for me, as he plays a Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a getaway driver. Carey Mulligan was also brilliant here, bringing in the romance side of the film that was dealt with so well that even the men began to swoon, probably over Gosling more than Mulligan though. We’ll get to see a lot of Mulligan in 2012 with Shame and The Great Gatsby too, and hopefully more of Gosling as well. Let’s not also forget the amazing soundtrack for this film, as Kavinsky and Desire help to make this film what it is, and that is pure brilliance.
1. Blue Valentine
Completely depressing but beautiful in every way, Derek Cianfrance‘s Blue Valentine is romantic but so anti-romantic at the same time. This is my second top film for both the lead stars, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, in my 2011 list, as both are absolutely brilliant, as always. Their raw emotion is deeply powerful and their chemistry is outstanding. The film’s structure, constantly going backwards and forth, works incredibly well, allowing us to engage with both characters whilst each has their own unlikeable characteristics, and the cinematography is beautiful. This film has some of my favourite quotes and stills, which will always be its biggest quality for me. Whilst this film tears me up inside every time, I absolutely love it.