As usual, picking my favourite films of the year has been harder than convincing my two-year-old that eating the cat’s food isn’t a good idea.
This has been a pretty good year for films, though sadly not in the arenas of action or comedy. While Thor, Captain America and Real Steel were daft fun, they just weren’t good enough to make the list. The same goes for comedies like Bridesmaids and The Inbetweeners. Both were funny, they just weren’t as strong as some of the comedies we’ve seen in recent years. And then there are films that were just flat-out great (Drive, The Fighter) but there simply isn’t room for. So, while your favourite may not be on the list, that doesn’t mean I thought it sucked (except Twilight, obviously).
So here, in no particular order, are my ten favourite films of 2011.
I know, I said there was no particular order here, but this is – hands down – the best film of the year. A documentary about the world’s greatest racing driver and one which does away with many of the cliches you generally find in documentary filmmaking. It’s funny, moving, exciting and gripping. Senna is a mesmerising and emotional portrait of a fascinating sportsman and deserves to be seen by everyone, motor-racing fan or not.
Midnight in Paris
Woody Allen finally grows up. A romantic comedy about time travel, Midnight in Paris looks gorgeous, has a superb cast (Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard) and is Allen’s funniest film in years without the try-hard undertones that tends to plague his work.
The King’s Speech
So well-known and practically a classic already, it’s amazing to think that The King’s Speech was less than a year ago. Brilliant writing, wonderful acting, bags of awards and an overall package that appeals across the generations – there was no way this wasn’t going to be on the list.
X-Men: First Class
After the lacklustre X-Men: The Last Stand and the positively dreadful Wolverine film, hopes weren’t high for X-Men: First Class. However, director Matthew Vaughn’s story of Magneto and Charles Xavier’s early days boasted a decent script, slick directing and a strong cast and rejuvenated the Marvel franchise.
Duncan Jones’ follow-up to 2009’s Moon is a smart sci-fi thriller that puts a fresh spin on a familiar concept. For a high-profile film, Source Code’s small cast chosen for acting abilities rather than bankability is commendable, and the whole feature feels incredibly well self-contained. It has marked Duncan Jones out as more than the one-hit wonder people suspected the son of David Bowie to be.
The Adjustment Bureau
You may have seen this advertised on the sides of buses and dismissed it as a generic chase movie. I wouldn’t blame you, with posters showing Matt Damon running with an attractive girl hanging onto his hand, all the marketing materials (from trailers through to DVD covers) make this film look like a Bourne-esque action/government/chase movie. What The Adjustment Bureau actually provides is two hours or surprisingly intelligent sci-fi romance loosely based on a story by Philip K. Dick.
We’ve been waiting a long, long time for a good Christmas film, so trust Aardman Animations to give us exactly what we want: a solid, funny and resolutely British production, that doesn’t scrimp on budget and is broad enough to do big business overseas. It’s not going to go down as a Christmas classic, but Arthur Christmas is nonetheless hugely enjoyable and if you haven’t seen it yet – get thee to the pictures.
Bobby Fischer Against The World
An intriguing portrait of a chess prodigy, this documentary is as well-paced as it is hard to watch. It doesn’t answer any questions about the troubled chess icon, but charts his journey from eccentrics media favourite to paranoid recluse with aplomb.
Mixed martial arts is still relatively niche in this country and it is looked down upon by many people, but with films like Warrior being produced, that’s going to change. Yes, the story is as predictable as the Christmas Day episode of EastEnders, but with superb acting, strong characters and realistic action, this story of warring brothers and their estranged father shows that MMA isn’t just for meatheads.
Close Encounters + Cloverfield + The Goonies = Super 8. Although Spielberg is only credited as producer, this film by JJ Abrams is the most Spielbergy movie released for decades. Telling the story of a group of kids who witness a train crash one night while out making a short film, Super 8 is funny, magical, action-packed and has tons of emotional depth. It also feels like a proper old-fashioned summer blockbuster. Exciting and, yeah, a little bit corny, it’s the kind of creature feature they just don’t make any more.