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Richard Roeper’s Top 11 Films of 2011

1. Drive
2. The Artist
3. Contagion
4. The Tree of Life
5. The Descendants
6. Young Adult
7. Source Code
8. Moneyball
9. The Beaver
10. Hugo
11. 50/50

(Thanks to Alia)

16 Comments on this Post

  1. 1. ‘Drive’

    A classic example of a film that incorporates familiar elements from a dozen other movies yet stands alone as a unique, dazzling, sometimes breathtaking work of modern film art. Ryan Gosling is the driver — a 21st century man with no name. Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn has created a moody neo-noir with echoes of everything from “To Live and Die in L.A.” to “Pulp Fiction” to “Bullitt.” Gosling owns the screen as the title character, whose cool reserve wavers only when he’s spending time with Carey Mulligan’s Irene and her young son. With brilliant supporting work from Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks as middle-aged gangsters, Bryan Cranston as the driver’s hard-luck friend, and Christina Hendricks as the wrong girl in the wrong place, “Drive” is an adrenalin shot to the senses. I love this movie and as soon as it was over, I wanted to see it again.

    2. ‘The Artist’

    A silent movie, shot in black and white, with two leads unknown to most American viewers, yet this is one of the most accessible, enjoyable, entertaining movies you’ll ever see. What a funny, romantic, melodramatic treat. I love this film.

    3. ‘Contagion’

    Perhaps the most impressive cast of the year: Kate Winslet. Matt Damon. Jude Law. Marion Cotillard. Gwy­neth Paltrow. The prolific Steven Soderbergh chronicles the outbreak of a deadly virus in a film that’s equal parts thriller, horror film and human drama. The final 10 minutes are just stunning.

    4. ‘The Tree of Life’

    In Terrence Malick’s spiritual epic, Brad Pitt gives another career highlight performance as a distant, strict father of three in rural Texas in the 1950s. There’s equally wonderful work from Jessica Chastain. The lives of that seemingly ordinary family are countered with cosmic, visually stunning sequences that ask the biggest questions imaginable about our universe, the afterlife and our very existence.

    5. ‘The Descendants’

    Alexander Payne’s quirky, offbeat, original film, with George Clooney giving a nomination-worthy performance as a man struggling to keep his head above water. His wife’s on life support, his daughters are in full rebellion stage, and those are just some of the issues he’s facing. Outstanding cast, whip-smart screenplay, sure-handed direction.

    6. ‘Young Adult’

    Charlize Theron plays one of the more unlikable yet one of the more enthralling leads in recent years in Jason Reitman’s dramedy. At times we cringe at the antics and decisions made by this thirtysomething ex-prom queen. But to the credit of Theron and screenwriter Diablo Cody, we still root for her. Great supporting work here from Patrick Wilson and particularly Patton Oswalt.

    7. ‘Source Code’

    In the most romantic and most daring thriller of the year, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michele Monaghan have sizzling chemistry as a couple who keep sharing the same eight minutes on a train bound for disaster. I’m still not sure every twist and nuance in the time-tripping plot makes sense, but this is a hell of an entertaining ride.

    8. ‘Moneyball’

    It’s not easy to make a baseball movie about a team that never won the big prize. But “Moneyball” had me rooting for the Oakland A’s and delighting in their triumphs. Brad Pitt gives another career performance as Billy Beane, the innovative and beyond-stubborn numbers-cruncher who changed the game. The scenes with his daughter are tender and authentic.

    9. ‘The Beaver’

    With that WTF title and the beleaguered Mel Gibson in the lead, the Jodie Foster-directed film faced long odds from the start. But forget all the baggage and appreciate the film itself as a near-masterpiece about a desperate man who turns to a tattered puppet to save his life. Sure, it’s bizarre, but it’s also bold and unique, with one of the year’s best screenplays.

    10. ‘Hugo’

    With his magical, mysterious and beautiful film, director Martin Scorsese makes wonderful use of the latest 3-D technology and plunges us into a dreamlike Paris train station filled with colorful characters. Heartbreaking, hilarious and inspirational, it’s a timeless story of a young boy and an old man who each find a second act in life.

    11. ‘50/50’

    Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues his string of impressive performances as an ordinary, nice-as-can-be guy who learns he has a rare form of cancer. Seth Rogen is in his comfort zone as the gregarious best buddy, but he hits some new notes as well. The same could be said of Anna Kendrick’s super-smart, tightly wound and very sweet therapist. We’ve seen her play this role before, but she’s still a treasure.

  2. That’s a perfect assessment of Drive. It’s really piling on the accolades. I wonder if Oscar will dare go for it.

  3. Houstonrufus

    Interesting. I’ve never been a fan of Roeper, but I like his choice for number one. And a few of his other choices as well.

  4. Some interesting (in a good way) choices from Roeper. Not that I necessarily agree with all of them, it’s just interesting to see the different top 10(ish) lists critics have and sometimes there almost seems to be a certain approach some critics have. Different critics certainly have different criteria, whether that criteria is solely based on what they like and what they like best, while I can’t help but think that other critics have a possibly more conscious set of criteria and maybe choose their top films with those criteria in mind. I don’t know if talking about any kind of conscious criteria that a critic might have would be embarrassing for a critic. Do critics pride themselves on picking the 10 films they like the best in the order that they like them? I’m not accusing critics of, for example, consistently picking Tree of Life for their lists only so they don’t get accused of ‘not getting it’, for example, which I know is a kind of easy criticism of critics of all mediums, to say ‘they only say they like that to sound smart.’ I have no idea if that happens and that’s not the point I’m trying to make here. I’m just really hungry for an insight into the minds of critics. I guess what I’m asking, in essence, is: do critics believe that that what makes a film great is entirely subjective, entirely objective, or somewhere in between? And if what makes some films better than others is some mix of subjective and objective things, which are which? And obviously there are a lot of objective things that can separate bad films from mediocre or good films, a lot of technical things that just rely on somebody knowing what they’re doing: lighting, sound, camera stuff. Things that make films bad in a different way. Those aren’t the things I’m talking about because I guess I’m taking those things for granted that the critics are aware of bad lighting or bad adr or film pushed too much. I’ve heard people talk a lot about things like shot selection, creative choice done with the technical aspects of film making. I’m just really curious to what extent do any or all critics think about what might unify their individual taste in films. If Roeper, for example, looks back at every film he ever put in one of his top three spots as a professional critic, could he see a pattern? Would he be able to pick out some common thread among a majority of those films and think to himself “Gee, I must really have a taste for _______________”?

  5. No problem, thanks for posting! This is one of my favorite lists because he included some films that have been unfortunately overshadowed by the more Oscar-baity films i.e. Source Code and 50/50. Big fan of Drive, Young Adult, and Moneyball too. Overall, great list!

  6. Pierre de Plume

    Coming from Roeper, this could’ve been a lot worse.

  7. This is why Richard Roeper is one of my favorite critics. Drive at number 1 is perfection. The only review that he did this year to which will never understand why he recommended was Larry Crowne.

  8. I dont believe for a minute that these are the top 10 movies of 2011….What I do believe is that these top 10 Oscar contender movies may be the best of 2011 in Hollywood.

    There have been so much better movies out there in 2011. Most of these top 10 lists are quite boring

  9. Regardless of how people feel about Drive there’s so much to admire about a film like that. Roeper sums it up very nicely.

  10. Apparently an A+ isn’t good enough to make the list…

  11. Roeper is a hack and a phony in my opinion. Watch his review of THE DESCENDANTS and he gives it a B+ , far from being a top ten film of the year. I have always believed that Roeper tends to flock with the sheep and just pick what is either popular, “hip” or cool. That being said DRIVE is still amazing.

  12. Michael Meyers

    1. The Tree of Life
    2. Drive
    3. Take Shelter
    4. Midnight in Paris
    5. 50/50
    6. Moneyball
    7. Hugo
    8. The Ides of March
    9. The Decendants
    10. Warrior
    11. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
    12. Crazy, Stupid, Love

  13. Roeper’s list is decent but The Beaver?

  14. I like his list, especially Drive it was FUBAR but it was awesome!

  15. @Alia and what about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2?

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