10. Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America was everything that a super hero movie should be. Funny, action packed, well paced, well written and superbly acted. It gave us a believable protagonist that we had reason to root for and gave us a villain who seemed more than a formidable foe for our beloved Captain America. It also turned into a nice set up for The Avengers as it's likely that Red Skull will return as the villain alongside Loki. While Captain wasn't the best super hero made, it seemed to know exactly what it was and didn't try to be anything else.
9. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
I went into this movie for the sole purpose of seeing the prologue for The Dark Knight Rises. And while the prologue was well worth the movie ticket, Mission Impossible turned into one of the greatest surprises of 2011 for me. I hadn't seen any of the other MI movies so I had next to no expectations going into this one but I ended up being more than pleasantly surprised. Heart stopping action, hilarious comic relief and a plot that was somewhat complex but easy enough to follow made Mission Impossible the perfect popcorn flick.
50/50 sort of masked itself as a comedy through its previews but turned into one of the most heartfelt, realistic portrayals of dealing with cancer that we've seen. The chemistry between Joseph Gordon Levitt and Seth Rogen was perfect and they created a believable friendship that kept this movie grounded in reality the entire time. Anna Kendrick played an excellent love interest with her awkward, quiet manner in which she helped Levitt's character through his diagnosis. This also has to be one of my biggest surprises of 2011 and I honestly think it's a movie that could help people that are dealing with cancer themselves.
If you like baseball even a little bit, you'll love Moneyball. It's a movie about taking risks and finding something you believe in. Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill's unlikely combination proved to evoke incredible performances from both parties. It was encouraging to see Hill break out of his comedic shell and play a much more serious role and Pitt was strong in the lead role as always. I think Moneyball is the best sports movie we've had in a long time and it's a testament to how well the movie is made when most of the film takes place off the field.
6. X-Men: First Class
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is safely in my bottom five movies of all time. Needless to say my expectations were low for First Class. As it turns out an impeccable cast, streamlined plot and top notch action was more than enough to keep this movie afloat, it was enough to reinvigorate a franchise that seemed to be slipping. Origin stories are difficult and, if done incorrectly, they can ruin the back story for a character and unfortunately make them lose believability. First Class did the opposite making this origin story of the X-Men one that we'd actually like to see more of.
5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
I'm pretty sure everyone who saw this movie would agree it was the biggest surprise not just of 2011, but perhaps of the decade. When I first saw the trailer for Apes I laughed at how horribly horrible it looked. Insanely positive reviews and an afternoon with nothing to do saw me purchasing a ticket hoping I wouldn't later regret it. It turns out that Apes told a unique, intriguing story in a way that made it not only believable, but relatable as well. James Franco was solid but Andy Serkis stole the show as Caesar and has generated some well deserved Oscar buzz for his mo-cap performance. If you're still in doubt about this one, take the risk and check it out.
4. The Lion King 3D
A few months back I watched The Brave Little Toaster with some of my friends. It was one of my favorite movies of my childhood but unfortunately it totally sucks. It ruined the movie for me and I realized that I had to be more careful when returning to the movies that I had fond memories of as a child. There was no such danger with The Lion King. Not only does it totally hold up after all these years, into adulthood, it is even more intriguing and heartfelt than we realized as children. The 3D was used brilliantly to bring the African safari to life and it in no way took away from the experience. Our theater was about half full of all 20-something year olds and almost all of us sat through the entire credits simply because we didn't want to leave. I'm terribly excited for Disney to continue these re-releases in 3D, with Beauty and the Beast coming next month!
3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Well it's finally over and while most of the Harry Potter films did a poor job of translating the books to the silver screen, the final two parts of the series seemed to try to stay as true as they could. While I still found a lot to nitpick about with the final entry, upon my many returns to the film already I've come to accept that it did a fine job of bringing this epic tale to an emotional finale that it deserved. There's no doubt that the main trio has shown tremendous growth on screen and moving supporting roles, particularly Alan Rickman as Snape, helped round out the entire cast and bring us into the magical world of Harry Potter. Although the films are still nowhere near as exciting or engaging as the books, the final few entries did a good job to salvage the series for me.
If you've seen it, then you understand. If you haven't, then you don't. Ryan Gosling is as hot as they come, the story is fresh, the music is haunting, the direction is superb, the atmosphere is suffocating and the result is filmmaking at its finest. It's actually hard to describe Drive anymore than that so that's all I'm going to say; one of the best films in a long time.
1. Super 8
I think this movie takes the number 1 spot for me for what it represents. Each and every shot shows JJ Abrams passion for the old sci-fi movies that made the genre what it is today. Super 8 is his homage to the great films that came before. While Super 8 itself may not necessarily be more than a solid monster movie and an excellent coming of age tale, it shows a love for cinema that kept me nostalgically smiling from beginning to end. I think what I appreciate most in movies, is the ones that don't pretend to be something they're not. This was Abrams love letter to good, old school cinema and he played it off to perfection. The wonderfully over the top train crash, the countless ET and Star Wars nods, the monster who just wanted to go home and so much more came together to make Super 8 everything I look for in a movie. It comes out on top for me.
So those are my top movies from 2011 which turned out to be a decent year at theaters. Next year I'm most excited for The Avengers, Prometheus and most importantly The Dark Knight Rises and The Hobbit!