Tuesday, December 27, 2011

End-of-Year Awards: My 30 Best Films of 2011

First of all, I'd like to explain that this is an unofficial and uncompleted list, but it's the end of the year and I feel like I need to conform with a personal list of Favourite Films. You might notice that my Top 10 is a little different to the one I contributed to the Sydney Film Critics poll (here). The rules were a little different to my own. When I decide what films should be allocated to each year, I mark the Academy Awards as a divide. 95% of films released in Australia in January and February are U.S releases from the year before, so it makes sense to include them in the previous year. Usually, some of the best films of the 'calendar year' are released in the first few weeks of the year. So, when March comes around, the 2012 releases will begin - as well as some super-delayed 2011 releases. These ones I will count as 2012 (and this where it gets a bit complicated, but I think it makes sense).

Anyway, most of the films I have selected here have been released in an Australian cinema (whether it's been a theatrical release or at a Film Festival - some are from SFF) between the start of March and NOW, with a couple of choices coming from January 2012 releases - films I have been lucky enough to see already. So, at the beginning of March I will give an updated list - taking into account some of the potential challengers (The Artist, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Hugo, Shame, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) released between now and then. Though my 'Worst Of' list ran pretty deep - I personally think that 2011 has been a great year in film. Almost every week I have found something (and in a lot of cases multiple films) to recommend, which hasn't been the case in previous years, from my experience.

So, I'll start with the year's Biggest Surprises before delving into my 30 Best Films of 2011.

Biggest Surprises: There were plenty of pleasant surprises at the cinema this year. More than disappointments anyway. At the tail end of the blockbuster season, Captain America: The First Avenger and Rise of the Planet of the Apes were released and each proved to far better than expected. Crazy Stupid Love, for a romantic comedy (a genre I usually don't like), was a lot of fun, and features an unexpected and perfectly orchestrated twist about two-thirds of the way through. I was skeptical about Red Dog, expecting it to be overly-sentimental and corny, but I really enjoyed it and was genuinely moved by its story. Its box office successes is understandable, and it has been great for the Australian film industry. I had very little interest in Rango following the lone teaser I saw, but it is still the best animated film I have seen this year. Warrior. Who expected it to be as good as it was? Finally, I had been recommended Senna by a fellow blogger who attended Hot Docs earlier in the year. I immediately purchased tickets to Senna and Project Nim at the Sydney Film Festival based on his response. I had no idea that Senna would be THIS good. Wow.

Honourable Mentions: Super 8,  Melancholia,  Beginners,  Kung-Fu Panda 2,  Captain America: The First Avenger,  Paul,  Source Code,  Even the Rain,  Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within,  Crazy Stupid Love,  Never Let Me Go,  Red Dog,  The Tall Man,  20 Cigarettes,  Bill Cunningham New York,  Hanna,  In A Better World,  The Cave of Forgotten Dreams,  Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,  Trust.

30. The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn - Features one of the year's best sequences in Bagghar - an incredible chase sequence that would have been impossible to create if the film was live action. The blend of motion capture and CG animation works wonders, and this is a consistently enjoyable action adventure (for Tintin fans or otherwise), reminding one Spielberg's Indiana Jones days.

29. Rise of the Planet of the Apes - The film belongs to Andy Serkis and Caesar, and what a performance it is. Apes had no right being this good - a prequel with an awful title and an average trailer - but it turned out to be an exceptional film. It's an examination of the exploitation of nature for the benefits of science, favouring the nurture of a wild animal over its natural upbringing, and features a prison escape and an intellectual and mass overthrow of power. The visual effects are superb, and there are a couple of sequences sure to give you chills.

28. The Guard - Writer/director John Michael McDonagh's hilarious black comedy is not only an amusing character study, but also a subversive twist on the buddy cop genre. Gleeson, who delivers one of the year's most memorable performances, effortlessly anchors the film. Cheadle is a little shortchanged but the jokes hit the mark consistently, and the villains are great.

27. L'Illusionniste [The Illusionist] - Not only is it impeccably animated, it has charming, pleasant sensibilities and addresses themes of modernity in the late 1950's, the rise of consumerism and the unfortunate death of classically skilled artisans like the protagonist. These are themes that are present in some of Jacques Tati's famous works (notably Mon Oncle and Playtime) - with an unused script from the great mime, actor and director brought to life by Chomet.

26. Attack the Block - A fun and technically impressive debut feature from Joe Cornish. It's tells a simple story and wastes no time throwing us in. Full of exciting heart-in-mouth action and thrills, plenty of laughs (love that Southern England youth lingo), clever pop culture references, an unconventional and likeable gang of heroes, effective creature design and a killer synth soundtrack, it's pretty hard to dismiss it as essential cult viewing.

25. The Trip - Enhanced by the beautiful footage of the Northern hills and moors, Winterbottom has created a hilarious comedy onslaught that reflects both the creative process and the cult of 'personality' through Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, two gifted and eccentric comedians who take a trip together. I laughed a lot during some of the films still to come, but this is the funniest pure comedy of the year.

24. Snowtown - Though it's distressing and uncomfortable viewing, and doesn't provoke the desire for a repeat viewing, Snowtown is one of the best Australian films I have seen in some time. The performances (from mostly untrained actors) are fantastic, the direction is impeccable and it is one of the ugliest portrayals of an Australian community you are ever likely to see. The #1 Australian film of 2011, easily.

23. Of Gods and Men - Though it takes some patience to savour and become immersed in, this beautifully shot film is an extremely powerful experience. Wonderful and hugely affecting use of the close-up on the extraordinary faces of these brave men.

22. Meek's Cutoff - Kelly Reichardt adopts a minimalist approach stripping a score from the mise-en-scene and utilising a 4:3 Academy ratio (a tight square) and doesn't hand over her story for easy consumption or dazzle with typical Western tropes. It is a film I liked very much; a thoughtful and powerful tale that delivers through controlled direction, strong performances (Michelle Williams and an unrecognisable Bruce Greenwood), a picturesque depiction of the harsh frontier and the attention to detail. The last shot is unforgettable and it stayed with me for days afterwards. I take that as a way to measure its impact.

21. Contagion - An intelligent, atmospheric and scarily plausible societal horror. Given a kick by a great cast and a director at the top of his game. Soderbergh's stylistic choices, a taut running time for such a complex web of characters and a top electro score from Cliff Martinez makes this compelling, fascinating and unsettling viewing. 

20. Win Win - As a freshly unique, poignant, funny (hilarious at times) and heartwarming tale, Win Win is a delightful, well-acted comedy/drama. Giamatti is as faithful as ever, and the supporting cast is full of interesting, well-drawn characters. It's a winner all the way.

19. 13 Assassins - With some of the most dazzling battle sequences you will ever witness accounting for nearly half of the running time of Takashi Miike's samurai epic, it's a monumental accomplishment. It's a brutally intense, relentless, bloody sensory experience unlike anything you have ever seen before.

18. The Descendants - Payne, and his fine ensemble cast (an outstanding George Clooney, and an evidently talented Woodley - though everyone is good) have brought a heartfelt emotional roller coaster of a tale (full of sharp humour, heartbreaking revelation and frequent surprises) to life with characters and situations that seem all too real and relatable to be the work of fiction. The Descendants is a touching film that I'm sure I'll appreciate even more with time.

17. The Ides of March - George Clooney's polished and engaging political drama. Though it doesn't reveal anything new - politics is a dirty business, we know that - it is a compelling tale of political disloyalty, corruption and scandal within a tightly fought campaign primary. Great performances across the board, especially from Gosling (Golden Globe nominee for the role) who faces heat on all fronts. Given an edge by several well-timed dramatic reveals and another great Desplat score.

16. The Muppets - I had a grin permanently etched across my face throughout The Muppets. It's a lot of fun. With catchy song and dance numbers, the magic of Jim Henson's beloved characters and the structure of the original Muppet show is relayed in a zany modern story with many self-aware winks to contemporary culture and cliches. Old fans will love being reunited with the gang, while it's sure to be a family friendly blast for newcomers too. Jason Segel and Amy Adams are great and there are some hilarious cameos; Jack Black is kidnapped and Chris Cooper raps. What more do you need?

15. Armadillo - It addresses the psychology of these young men amidst a senseless conflict, sparking controversy in the Netherlands by bringing to light the harrowing atrocities we know occur amidst the adrenalin of warfar, but no one wants to recognise. Similar war reporting as Restrepo, but even more confronting and is stylistically heightened by a fantastic score, lens filters and rapid editing.

14. Rango - This odd animated adventure makes great use of a clever screenplay and a talented voice cast. The film weaves together allusions to great films such as Chinatown and Apocalypse Now and conforms not only to the structure of the Western, but provides enough action-packed chase sequences to maintain the interest of contemporary audiences. This superbly animated feature is the frontrunner for the Oscar is some of the best fun I have had at the cinema this year. I have now seen it three times.

13. Warrior - Follows a similar trope as many preceding sporting films, but despite the conventional plot, director Gavin Cooper, who was also one of the writers, recognises the cliches from the start and manages to impressively overcome them. With excellent performances from Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte, Cooper has built a gritty, physically and emotionally hard-hitting drama, which focuses on two protagonists that we wholeheartedly care about by the end of the film. It may take you by surprise how immersed you become in the story, and despite the brothers inevitably facing one another in the conclusion, the outcome remains completely unpredictable.

12. Martha Marcy May Marlene - With an ambiguous narrative that deftly balances past and present, assured direction from Sean Durkin, some striking wide lens cinematography, intricate editing and phenomenal performances (Elizabeth Olsen and John Hawkes especially), this captivating experience is not only relentlessly intense, but it overwhelms the audience with this sense of pending dread.

11. Moneyball - For me personally, Moneyball is a triumph. Wholeheartedly embracing the philosophies adopted (favouring team chemistry and lower paid but determined players over battling star egos and overpaid players) I got swept up in this extraordinary true story. There is very little baseball action, with most of the film taking place in the back offices and locker rooms. All of this is equally compelling. Pitt absolutely nails his role as a hardened veteran of the game frustrated by the politics, aspiring to win, and not afraid to shake things up. The sharp, witty, comic and effectively informative (important for non-baseball fans) screenplay from Zaillian and Sorkin is impressive as expected. An outstanding drama.

Now we're getting into the Top 10.

10. The Skin I Live In - From my experience with Almodovar films (everything since All About My Mother) there is usually a central romance, and a crime of passion or lust. Here, these themes are an undercurrent to a series of macabre body horror themes, but set in a a world where scientific possibilities have been enhanced and perfected by master surgeons. It's a sinister tale of kidnapping, of male voyeurism, of forced manipulation, abuse of skill and graphic sexual abuse. Simply, it has everything - and though it is often extremely unsettling and graphic in it's depictions of sex, it always remains fascinating and it is ultimately unforgettable. Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya are perfect, and though it's not as accessible as Almodovar's other masterpiece, The Skin I Live In, for me, is his best work since Talk to Her in 2002.

9. Midnight in Paris - Woody Allen's latest effort is an absolute delight. His highly intellectual screenplay (which is his most wildly imaginative in some) is infused with plenty of wit and channels the neurotic qualities of his persona through Owen Wilson, who delivers a stellar performance. It is one of the most recommendable film experiences of the year. Gil Pender (Wilson) finds himself blown away by his magical discoveries on the streets of Paris amidst a perplexing realm of nostalgia - which is Woody Allen's way to honour the writers, artists and filmmakers has was inspired by and continues to admire, and capture a city he clearly loves. Midnight in Paris is a deft blend of ridicule against the pedantic, arrogant variety, a critique of criticism, a whimsical romanticism of the artist and the intellectual and a charming, emotionally resonating tale about individualism, and the desire to wholeheartedly fulfill one's desires and beautiful fantasies.

8. Take Shelter - Michael Shannon is outstanding (as is Jessica Chastain) in this patiently crafted masterwork from Jeff Nichols (only his second feature film following Shotgun Stories). The conclusion is thought-provoking, and in addition to telling a sensitive and sympathetic story about the crippling effects of mental illness on a loving husband and father, it addresses some very real contemporary fears (not just ecological, but economic). A brooding, ominous and slow-burning thriller, but a rewarding one you won't forget anytime soon.

7. Drive - Drive is certainly a film that improves on repeat viewings. There's something about this brilliantly crafted film that gets under your skin and stays with you. Is it the catchy soundtrack? The shocking, unexpected bursts of violence? The uber-cool, stylish aesthetic? It's destined to be a classic, but riding a wave of hype there's no doubt it will leave some viewers disappointed (and it has). But for an extraordinary experience of pure filmmaking, don't miss it. Gosling is superb - and my heart didn't beat as hard in a cinema as it did during the second half of Nicolas Winding Refn's neo-noir masterpiece.

6. We Need to Talk About Kevin - Based on the acclaimed 2003 novel by Lionel Shriver, this is a densely plotted, powerfully acted (and Tilda Swinton is worthy of a statue as the strong-willed but emotionally fragile woman constantly at odds with one of the most beautiful roles offered to females - motherhood) and genuinely affecting drama. The film seamlessly blends together, in a style that equates to that of a waking-dream, chapters of Eva Khatchadourian's fractious relationship with her malevolent son, Kevin. There is this ever-present paranoiac sense of dread as the horrifying realism of Kevin's personality, intuitions and sadistic desires, is revealed. Director Lynne Ramsay does a great job generating suspense entirely through what she suggests. It's an unsettling, thought-provoking, and divisive experience, but I was in shock following the viewing.

5. Project Nim - A brilliant documentary from James Marsh (Man on Wire). The story of Nim Chimpsky is a harrowing account of the tragic life of a very special animal. It is what happens when human emotion botches well-meaning science. Blending archival footage with contemporary interviews, this tale is both funny and horrifying and altogether extraordinary. While Nim's story is front and centre, what we learn about the humans involved in his life is just as unsettling.

4. Incendies - Every now and then a powerful, emotive and chilling political tragedy endowed with harrowing realism will come along that forces a viewer to cower in horror at the state of the world they live in. Denis Villeneuve's Incendies is one such film. The means by which the plot lines converge and how the secrets culminate is a masterstroke of dramatic filmmaking. You will leave the cinema feeling like you have been punched in the stomach.

3. The Tree of Life - A technical masterpiece (in every way) from Terrence Malick, one of cinemas greatest auteurs. The rich emotional resonance of the O'Brien family left a profound effect on me following the transformative second viewing. Expertly balancing something as monumental as the Big Bang with something as little as capturing a young boy staring intriguingly at his baby brother is something few of us have seen before. The performances from Hunter McCracken, Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain are unforgettable and this often puzzling film is both compelling and powerful. It's an ambitious film everyone should 'experience' at some point in their lives and I think part of the reason it is so special is because everyone will experience it in a different way. I wish those cosmic sequences went on forever, too.

2. A Separation - Winner of Berlin's Golden Bear earlier in the year, this gripping Iranian drama is patient, subtle and relatively simple in it's plot development, but later reveals stunning complexity in its portrayal of morality, class, gender and religion amidst the social, political, legal and psychological context of contemporary Iran. It features a mechanically flawless screenplay and outstanding performances from its ensemble. An absolute stunner that has justifiably won major awards at Film Festivals all around the world.

1. Senna - You don't have to be a Formula One fan to be brought to tears by Senna. This vibrant, engrossing, powerful and ultimately tragic portrayal of the life and untimely death of beloved sporting icon Ayrton Senna is exhilarating entertainment. From British director Asif Kapadia, and featuring a fantastic accompanying score, this brilliantly edited film (using exclusively archival footage) is documentary filmmaking at its most exciting. We witness some of Senna's most incredible driving feats, see his battle with the politics of the sport and his rival Alain Prost, we discover his inspirations, and his pride, modesty and generosity that made him a beloved icon in Brazil.

So there you have it. My unofficial Top 30 films of 2011. I still have another 15-20 films to check out over the next couple of months, so post-Academy Awards, I'll update this list to reflect the films I have seen. What do you think? Agree, disagree, comment and discuss.


  1. A great list and a great read, Andy. I am so bummed that I missed A Separation at the Sydney Film Festival; it's at the top of my 2012 must-see list. In the meantime, I really should watch my copy of Armadillo. Will be interested to see how films like The Artist (you know I LOVE it!), Hugo and TTSS impact this list. Keep up the good work.

  2. Great to see two documentaries I have yet to see in the top 10! And also interesting to see a list where Drive hasn't taken the top spot! This is an excellent reminder of how many awesome looking films I still have to see! Great list!

  3. I'm so grumpy over the fact that Senna hasn't come up in Sweden yet. At least not where I live. I'm a little bit too cheap to buy it on a DVD; but I'll bug my library and see if I can make them buy it.

    I liked A Separation but wouldn't place it as high as my number 2. I'd put for instance The Skin I live in and Beginners higher. For me Never Let me Go is a 2011 movie as well, but I know everyone else thinks it's 2010...

    Anyway: we can agree on that it's been an awesome year for movies! A lot of goodness on your list.

  4. Great list, but wasn't expecting Senna to be number one! Good documentary, but nothing mind blowing- that's my take on it! I'm glad to see I am not the only one who wasn't seen Artist, Shame, TTSS, Girl with the dragon tattoo; all coming up in January, can't wait!

  5. Nice list. There are definitely some films that will be there in mine too.
    I saw The Illusionist just this Christmas Eve, though it's not a very Christmas Eve-y film and sort of ruined it, but beautiful animation. Among the animations ofcourse, Tintin is my favourite. Glad to see it in the top 30 :D

  6. @ Dwayne - Thanks so much! Yeah, I am very excited for all of those films and I expect them to feature - but I don't want to get too excited just incase I am disappointed. Armadillo was another of the SFF docos that affected me. There's some astounding footage. I don't know when A Separation is scheduled for a release, but I'll be back for another look. This took me so long to do haha.

    @ Pete - Both of those docos are superb. Nim is on the Oscar shortlist - and should be one of the five nominees. Look, I loved DRIVE (but only really appreciated it after a second viewing) but it was never in my Top 5. If there is anything on here you haven't seen, I can highly recommend it. Thanks for reading!

  7. Alas, my favourite only got an honourable mention from you - but then again, your favourite didn't even make my top 5 documentaries! Nice read, as always.

  8. (PS. Moneyball was anything BUT a true story...)

  9. @ Jessica - SENNA is well worth tracking down if you get the chance. Beginners was an Honourable Mention - not as high on it as most people. Yeah, I saw Never Let Me Go this year (after March) but I think it came out in the U.S in 2010. It was an awesome year of movies, and it's interesting how different everyone's lists are.

    @ Aziza - I was pretty blown away by SENNA. It's damn near flawless storytelling. Didn't you feel like you were watching his life unfold - rather than having it recounted? Yeah, I'm looking forward to the ones you mentioned. Very exciting!

    @ Nikhat - Tintin just snuck in, but now I'm wondering why I left off TRUST. Colin (below) will be disappointed in me haha. THE ILLUSIONIST is a beautiful little film, but my pick of the animations is RANGO. So much fun.

    @ Colin - Yeah, I'm thinking that TRUST should be in my Top 30. Perhaps it will be when I update. SENNA wouldn't be in your Top 5 docos? Wow. I have liked nearly all of the docos I have seen this year, but SENNA easily tops (well NIM is amazing too). I'm sure there was plenty altered in MONEYBALL, but I like to think it actually happened. On a personal level, I really connected to the film, and it inspired me :-) Thanks for reading Colin!

  10. Got Senna for Christmas, that's one I'm looking forward to.

  11. Great list Andy, I think my top 5 would be very similar, Senna, A Separation, The Tree of Life, Melancholia, and Drive.

  12. Awesome list. Christ, I need to see Senna, A Separation and We Need to Talk About Kevin... bummer that Shame hasn't come your way, I think you'll dig it.

  13. A Separation & We Need To Talk About Kevin STILL haven't hit Chicago! This merely makes me that much more excited to see them.

    I, of course, saw Senna coming as #1 from a mile way, but that's a good thing. Your enthusisam for it always shines through. Always so nice to find a true #1 for a year that you love that much.

  14. Wow, that's an impressive list. I agree about the ones I've seen, especially Moneyball, Drive, 13 Assassins, Attack the Block, and The Tree of Life. There are still a lot of great choices that I need to see on there. Nice work.

  15. Great list, Andy... props for seeing so many movies this year. I don't think I can come up with a top 30, but will probably have a top 10 or top 5 of the year. I enjoyed Captain America and Rise of Planet of the Apes as well, and the latter especially as I wasn't initially interested in seeing it.

  16. That list is fucking amazing. I might have an unofficial list on New Year's Day as I got one more film to see before the New Year.

  17. I don't know that I have it in me to rank out 30 films from 2011 in terms of their quality, but I've seen most of the movies here and can vouch for them all being really good. Well done Andy.

    Senna has been getting a lot of love lately, and with the Twitter arguments over it I think I may have to see it for myself.

  18. Great list, Andy! As I said before, I wasn't the biggest fan of 'Senna', but it is terrific to see such a diverse list on here. 'Armadillo' is the only one I've not seen from your list, and you've encouraged me to go and find a copy now.

    A phenomenal job ranking and doing capsule reviews for 30 films from 2011, and I'm struggling with a humble Top 10 at the moment!

  19. @ James - You'll love it!

    @ Bonjour - Scouring through your Best New Films list - those were the five I expected you to mention. It's a great selection, though you definitely liked Melancholia more than I. The Skin I Live In, The Turin Horse, 13 Assassins, The Kid With A Bike, Le Havre and Incendies would be thereabouts too, right? A couple of these I haven't seen, unfortunately.

    @ Alex - Yeah Shame comes out early Feb. No luck with Senna or Kevin in your city? A Separation hasn't really been released anywhere, caught it at a festival. Thanks man.

    @ Nick - Yeah I guess it wasn't a surprise for some people. I have been championing it all year. Yeah, you should check out those two when or if they hit town. Thanks for reading throughout the year Nick, always a pleasure to have you stop by.

    @ Dan - All very fine films indeed. I'm glad you liked MONEYBALL. Quite a few people haven't felt as strongly about it. Thanks Dan.

  20. @ Ruth - Top 30 is pretty extreme, but I have a problem leaving out films I enjoy. I could do a Top 10 and have 30 honourable mentions or something haha. Yeah, I felt the same way about RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. It's great when films surprise you - and this is following THOR and X-MEN, which I didn't like much at all.

    @ Steven - Thanks man! Makes one realise how many great films there were this year. Look forward to checking out yours.

    @ Andrew - Yeah, the order gets a bit arbitrary after 20. I think the Top 20 is in an order I am happy with - but I am hoping readers will use this as a reference on what they should have seen in 2011 - and perhaps seek them out on DVD. I still have more exciting films to add to this list in the next couple of months. I could have waited - but I like making lists.

    @ Richard - If you liked RESTREPO, you will find ARMADILLO really engaging too. I tried to include some mainstream films, but very few of these films were exclusive to multiplexes. Most of them played at indie cinemas or only at Film Festivals. It took quite a lot of work, but i cheated with a few (some of them were snippets from my longer reviews). Thanks for reading my friend! G/l with your list!

  21. I remember you mentioning that you didn't care for 'War Horse' so I'm not surprised to see omission, but did you get a chance to see '50/50'? I managed to see it recently and thought it would at least make my recommendations list. Did you see it?

  22. LOVE your list, especially your number one! I loved Apes, Contagion, Meek's Cutoff, Rango, Midnight in Paris, Incendies and The Tree of Life too. So much I still have left to see!

  23. @ Max - Yeah I didn't like WAR HORSE much. It wasn't even close to making this list. 50/50's original November release was pushed back until March 2012, and I suspect it might go straight to DVD, so I haven't seen it. It's a shame because I have heard it's quite good as you say.

    @ Stevee - I knew you'd like some of the selections. I have some to see too, but I thought your list was really solid. I saw a lot of films at SFF, which got me ahead - and I have been lucky enough to see The Muppets and The Descendants too. Here's to the films to come in the next couple of months and the rest of 2012.

  24. Good one! Loved MEEK (made my list last year), THE ILLUSIONIST, A SEPARATION, and THE TREE OF LIFE in particular. Looking forward to catching up with WIN WIN, and MARTHA ... is out here soon; can't wait.

  25. Great list Andy, thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    I think you covered a really thorough list of all the films released this year and whilst I have only seen a small amount I have certainly added a few of them to my To Watch List.

    I loved that you included THE GUARD and RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES which are 2 of my favourites. They were definitely surprising and much better than I thought they would be.

    Thanks for a great read mate.

  26. Senna is on netflix, Kevin is nowhere to be found :(

  27. Wow extensive list Andy. It says something of the numbers of movies you've seen for you to say such positives things of movies ranked in the #30-#15 range ahah.

  28. Great list Andy! I've only seen about 12 of these, but definitely agree with those I've seen. It's interesting that you gave Senna the number 1 spot. I've heard people saying how great it was, but I kind of figured that I'd have to be a sports person to enjoy it. But after reading your synopsis (and your #1 ranking), I think I'll need to give it a try. Nicely done!

  29. @ Alex Ramon - MEEKS is technically a 2010 release but it got a very late theatrical release here. Glad you dug it.

    @ Russell - Thanks for reading mate. Yeah, I loved THE GUARD back at SFF and APES completely took me by surprise. It was amazing that a lot of these improved on a second viewing - like THE TREE OF LIFE, DRIVE, TAKE SHELTER and RANGO. By including 30, and being pretty open to all genres (and enjoying documentaries and foreign language films), it is easy to enjoy films - and hence cover a lot of the year's releases.

    @ Alex Withrow - Get on Senna! Shame about Kevin.

    @ Castor - Totally. A lot of people have been really impressed by 2011, but I have some close friends who feel like they have seen nothing good this year (even hating some of the ones here). With a list like this - it reveals how deep the year is. I have been lucky enough to see a lot (and squeezed screenings in to a busy schedule). A lot have been forgettable, but a lot have been fantastic. It takes time and effort to give everything a go, but it's definitely rewarding.

    @ NeverTooEarly - It's definitely a film worth watching. Even if you're not an F1 fan. You have seen a bunch I am yet to see (J. Edgar etc.) so we could be even haha.

  30. Good list. We only share one film in the top ten which is A Separation. Amazing film. I have yet to see Senna but will soon. Meek's Cutoff only played at festivals in 2010 but was officially released in 2011 - even in NY - therefore it is a 2011 film.

    Did you see Poetry? It opened in February but had limited release. That's my #1.

  31. I was hoping to watch A Separation before new year's, I heard nothing but great reviews about it.
    I noticed you put Never Let Me Go in your honorable mention, I love that movie, such a shame it is underrated.
    Great 30 top movies list, Andy :) I wrote 20 and it's a challenge! You have a lot of movies I haven't watch, interesting list!

  32. @ Matt - Thanks for reading. I'll check out your list. I haven't seen Poetry - it hasn't had an Australian release yet, but I have heard great things about it. Yeah, Meeks hit cinemas here in 2011, so it was always a 2011 consideration. Something like Incendies (which was released at the end of April) was a borderline case - but my cinema year is March to March, so for my rules, it is included.

    @ Andina - Yeah, I really liked Never Let Me Go - beautiful story and it stars Carey Mulligan :-p It wasn't really a challenge coming up with 30 and the order, but writing it all took forever. Glad you found it interesting, and I hope you get the chance to see some you have missed. A Separation is a great way to start.

  33. Very nice list,I have not seen many of them but Tree of Life is definitely one of the best films in recent years.I have heard lots of great things about A Separation and will view it as soon as I get the dvd.

  34. @ David. Thank you very much! A Separation is worth a look, and glad to hear more support for The Tree of Life. I checked out your site - great work! Hope you can stop by again!

  35. I’m still crushed I didn’t get to see MEEKS CUTOFF, ARMADILLO or THE SKIN I LIVE IN.

    I wasn’t a huge fan of PROJECT NIM, and my views on THE TREE OF LIFE are well known. Still, aside from those I’m in full agreement with your Top 10, and liked (if not loved) just about everything else in your Top 30.

  36. Great list! Now I'm convinced that I should see Senna sooner rather than later. Also loving the inclusion to Meek's Cutoff. I thought I was the only person who enjoyed it.

  37. @ Tom - Yeah, they are all special in their own way. Certainly some to catch up on when they hit DVD. Actually, I think MEEKS and ARMADILLO already have a DVD release. I knew you wouldn't have THE TREE OF LIFE in your Top 10, but I know we shared admiration for lots of these films - Warrior, Contagion, Kevin etc.

    @ Joanna - Thanks for stopping by. Definitely find yourself a copy of Senna, and yeah Meek's Cutoff lingered with me for weeks. The final shot was stuck in my head - even though I was seeing a lot of blockbusters around that time - it resonated the strongest.