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The Top 10 Films of 2011

by Stephen Becker 30 Dec 2011 1:30 PM

In looking at this year’s top films, what pops out is that this was a year in which risk – both on the part of the filmmaker and the audience – was rewarded.


On this week’s Big Screen podcast, Dallas Morning News movie critic Chris Vognar and I discuss the year in movies. We rounded out the discussion with each of us giving our No. 1 for the year. Chris chose Hugo and I picked The Descendants. But you may be asking, “Um, what are the other nine?’

Fair enough question. Chris’ list is available on  While you’re there, check out his post on the thinking behind such lists, which landed him on Thursday’s episode of Talk of the Nation.

And here’s my list:

1. The Descendants
2. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
3. The Tree of Life
4. Midnight in Paris
5. The Muppets
6. Beginners
7. Melancholia
8. Shame
9. Martha Marcy May Marlene
10. The Help

I won’t go into detail on each of these movies – the reasons they made my list are likely the same reasons they made others’ lists. In looking at my list, though, what pops out to me is that this was a year in which risk – both on the part of the filmmaker and the audience – was rewarded.

The riskiest of the bunch is easily The Tree of Life, in which Terrence Malick forces viewers to forget everything they know about narrative structure and just go with his model of storytelling.  But other films also took risks in one way or another.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy brilliantly compressed a dense and at times confusing book into a sleek and comprehensible 130 minutes. Melancholia and Shame asked us to sympathize with largely unlikeable characters. And even The Muppets rolled the dice in hopes that we would still care about a bunch of puppets that have been in hiding for more than a decade.

If you’ve got a long weekend coming up, I hope you’ll check out one or more of these films. If you do, be sure to drop us a comment to let us know what you think.