Top Movies of This Year

I am a huge fan of music and movies.  While some people are trying to trim down the amount of time they spend watching TV, I plan to spend more time watching great TV and movies in 2011.  It’s something that just really brings me joy, I think because it’s something I can do either alone or with company and I enjoy it equally.

Following is a list of the ten movies I enjoyed the most this year.  All of these movies were not necessarily made this past year, these are simply films I have watched in the past year.  I am sure I have forgotten many that would otherwise be on the list, but I like the ten I managed to remember.  I will not waste space summarizing the films here, but have linked each film to its entry in the Internet Movie Database.

They are, in no particular order:

The Kingdom — This film starring Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner didn’t do very well either with critics or in theaters.  Many people seemed to feel the movie aspired to things it was not able to achieve.  As for me, I think it is pretentious when people try to guess what a film was aspiring to.  I think we should judge movies by what shows up on screen.  And what shows up on screen in The Kingdom is tight, tense, and taut.  In fact, The Kingdom has the most intense opening 20 minutes of any film I have ever seen.  The ending is no slouch either. If you take it for what it is, The Kingdom will make you feel something.

Defiance — Daniel Craig stars in this film about brothers who help hundreds of people live in the forest for several years to escape the Nazis.  A gripping exploration of revenge, resistance, and the challenges of both leadership and followership.  Heart-rending and violent.

Inglourious Basterds — If you like Quentin Tarrantino movies, you’ll probably love this movie. It contains all the violence you might expect in a Tarrantino film, and an old-west style soundtrack that adds a surreal element to the action.  Brad Pitt stars, but is definitely not the star of this film.  Best supporting actor Oscar went to Christoph Waltz for one of the best performances I have ever seen committed to film.  The movie is worth watching for him alone.

Love and Other Drugs — If you’re the kind of person who thinks that the presence of a naked person (or sex, or F-bombs) in a movie is a deal-breaker, avoid Love and Other Drugs.  Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal are having sex through a considerable portion of the first 1/2 of the film.  On the other hand, the film is actually about two people who, for different reasons, are not capable of being in a committed relationship.  Sex is a crutch for both of them, and as the film moves forward and you see how deeply broken both characters are — especially Hathaway’s — you can’t help but put the whole sex thing into a very different context.  Ultimately this movie is about the salvation of both of these characters.  I found it deeply moving and insightful and powerful.  It is no spoiler to mention that Hathaway’s character is dealing with early-onset Parkinson’s disease and simply does not feel it is fair to ask someone to love her and take on the burden of caring for her for the rest of her life.  As someone with MS, I have been there at various times.  It was moving to see those struggles portrayed in such an honest way.  Well worth the time and money, despite some gratuitous/ridiculous stuff.

Let The Right One In — If you’d have told me six months ago that one of my favorite films this year would be a vampire movie, I’d have never believed it.  I’m not a huge fan of the genre.  I don’t read books about vampires.  I’m not into the culture.  But this movie was creepy, touching, truly disturbing in some places, and featured this kind of quiet, low-lying dread that it managed to effectively sustain through the entire film.

American Teen — If you liked The Breakfast Club, you’ll probably like American Teen.  The former is, of course, one of the movies that defined teen culture in the mid-80’s.  The latter, almost as effectively, does the same at the end of the first decade of 2000.   The difference between the two is that American Teen is a documentary.  I enjoyed the film, but unfortunately what I took away most from it is how many crappy parents are out there.

The Men Who Stare At Goats — I barely know what to say about this film.  Either you’ll get it and love it, or you’ll think it’s one of the stupidest films you have ever seen.  If you have liked other movies by the Coen brothers (No Country for Old Men, Fargo, Barton Fink, etc.), chances are good you’ll like this one.  Clooney is brilliant in this film, playing a character unlike anything he has played before or since.  I laughed out loud over and over again.

District 9 —  This is a thought-provoking and compelling film about what happens when earth is visited by aliens, and how humans respond to the visit.

Green Zone — I like Matt Damon.  He’s terrific in this film set in Iraq.  The movie is almost non-stop action.  If you’re not a “talky” kind of person when it comes to movies and just want it to keep moving, this is the film for you.

Invictus — An inspiring movie about one of the most inspiring human beings of the last 100 years: Nelson Mandela.  Clint Eastwood rarely missteps when he makes movies and, like most of his other films, this one has a lot to say about a lot of the things that make us human.  A lot of this movie revolves around soccer, while still managing to be highly inspiring.  Now that is an accomplishment.

What do you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  I’d love to hear your comments.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. A request for me to defend some of my comments does not obligate me to do so.

  • Totally missed this post. Great stuff. As a result, I’ll be moving a few movies up in my queue.

  • The Kingdom: Liked it, more for its highlighting the rather distinct cultural differences.

    Inglourious Basterds: I liked the characters of Colonel Landa (Christoph Waltz) and Lt. Aldo Raines (Brad Pitt). Disliked the movie overall.

    The Men Who Stare At Goats: Loved this movie.

    District 9: Enjoyed the movie. A few bits bothered me (namely how national vs. international the human involvement was).

    Invictus: Another movie I enjoyed.

    I haven’t seen the others. Have you seen the movie ‘Red’?

    • It seems The Kingdom did a great job showing us Middle Eastern culture. Of course I say this without having been there, so “it seems.” Did you know the entire last 20 minutes of the movie was shot on a set built in Arizona?! That’s the only way they could set up the firefight they needed to do and get cameramen into all these places to film while still keeping them safe.

    • No, haven’t seen Red. Will certainly do so if you recommend it though.