The Digital Fix Films of 2011

Want to see which films we chose as the best of the year?

The halls have been decked, the tree’s been decorated and the turkey’s been plucked. Christmas has rolled around once again, bringing with it the inevitable family blockbusters at the cinema, followed by the fragrant scent of awards season candidates peeking over the January horizon. But before they arrive, we have the grand tradition of our annual film review (which reminds me: don’t forget to check out our Home Cinema team’s look back at the best of 2011).

It’s undoubtedly been a strong year for the cinema, and especially British films (no less than four movies in our chart are homegrown). And there are plenty left off the list that were more than deserving of a place. But our team of reviewers have bashed heads repeatedly together and emerged with a definitive list of 2011’s finest cinematic works. There’s something for everyone: Hollywood blockbusters, American indies, low-budget UK productions, foreign language animations, arthouse epics – the lot.

Inevitably, quirks emerge; for instance, Film A may have scored maximum points on one person’s list, but Film B came fifth or sixth on several other lists. Therefore Film B beat Film A in the overall chart by scoring more points overall. The rating the film received when originally reviewed on the site isn’t taken in to account.

We included all films released in the UK this calendar year; therefore films like The Artist didn’t receive many votes because the vast majority of us have yet to see it.

So without further ado, let’s kick off with number 10:

10) Black Swan
(Darren Aronofsky)

Propping up the end of the chart is Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller in which Natalie Portman’s “career-defining performance” won her the Best Actress Oscar. Gavin Midgley also noted in his review back in January that Aronofsky delivered “an intelligent, well-executed adult thriller that knows exactly when to indulge in excess and when to hold back.”

JOINT 9) Neds
(Peter Mullan)

Sharing ninth place is Peter Mullan’s gritty Glasgow-set drama, given a massive 10/10 by Noel Megahey in January: “every scene has the feel of complete authenticity in its depiction of simply growing up and adapting to or reacting against your environment.”

JOINT 9) Hugo
(Martin Scorsese)

Also in at 9 alongside Neds is a film that couldn’t be more different if it tried. Martin Scorsese’s film-history fantasy is dripping with charm and magic, as Gavin Midgley noted: “…it’s a beautifully shot and acted tale… All credit then to Mr. Scorsese, who has combined the best of the old with the best of the new and delivered one of the year’s finest films.”

8) Melancholia (Lars von Trier)

At 8 is the first of two cosmic-themed arthouse blockbusters. Lars von Trier’s Melancholia mused on the imminent end of the world due to a planetary collision, and Noel praised the “sincerity and brilliance of Trier’s personal vision.”

7) The King’s Speech (Tom Hooper)

At 7 is the all-conquering Oscar magnet The King’s Speech, appearing here because it was released in the UK in January. Roger Keen noted that “with the weight of real drama behind it and careful, measured direction, it is truly moving… it’s also a testament to the great health of traditional British filmmaking.”

JOINT 6) Arrietty (Hiromasa Yonebayashi)

Sharing 6th position in our list is Arrietty, the latest animated masterpiece from Studio Ghibli, adapted from Mary Norton’s classic novel The Borrowers. Dave Foster chimed in by praising it as “enchanting… it captures a beauty in the world and its inhabitants that is wonderful to be reminded of.” He also praised its “outstanding” original score and sound design.

JOINT 6) Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen)

With the exact same number of votes and scoring as Arrietty, Woody Allen’s feel-good comedy was his finest work for years. Noel was quite taken with the “charm and sincerity in the filmmaker’s love for Paris”, and the film’s “belief in the possibility of a better world – even if it’s only through the movies.”

5) Kill List (Ben Wheatley)

A low-budget British horror-slash-thriller takes its place at number 5 in our chart, despite it getting only a very limited release. Ian Sandwell called Ben Wheatley’s film “Impossible to categorise… [it] flits through kitchen sink drama, pitch black comedy and out-and-out horror among others as it builds to 2011’s most shattering finale… Simply stunning.”

4) The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)

Fourth place is home to the other cosmic-themed arthouse hit of the year, Malick’s ambitious odyssey The Tree of Life; a film that divided audiences like no other in 2011. It was, wrote Noel, a “deeply spiritual experience that looks at life in all its majesty, magic and mystery… This is cinema at its purest, its most imaginative and its most ambitious.”

3) Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn)

The top three are separated by just one point and in third place is this terrific neo-noir thriller starring Ryan Gosling about a Hollywood stuntman who drives getaway cars for thieves on the side. Jen Corcoran loved “its astounding visual flair (in particular the breathtaking Tarantino-esque violence) and Gosling’s stellar performance.”

2) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Tomas Alfredson)

In at 2 and just shy of the number 1 spot is Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a new adaptation of John Le Carre’s classic cold war thriller. As chilly and complex as its hero, George Smiley, the film won the admiration of critics and audiences, in both the arthouse and the mulitplex. Mike Sutton was in full agreement, praising Gary Oldman’s “astonishing” performance and the “inspired” supporting cast, and called the movie a “triumph” for director Tomas Alfredson. It is quite simply film-making par excellence.

1) True Grit (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)

In 1st place by the narrowest of margins it’s the Coen Brothers’ take on an old John Wayne flick. Boasting beautiful cinematography by Roger Deakins and Carter Burwell’s atmospheric score, Gavin firmly declared that the new version “…trumps Henry Hathaway’s rather dated original in just about every respect. From the technical production values, to the quality of its central cast, True Grit 2010 is not only a leaner, meaner beast than its predecessor but also a fine western in its own right.”

Below are the individual Top 10 lists of The Digital Fix writers who contributed…

Gary Couzens(in alphabetical order)Blue ValentineCave of Forgotten DreamsDriveThe Deep Blue SeaGeorge Harrison: Living in the Material WorldThe King’s SpeechTinker Tailor Soldier SpyTrue GritWe Need to Talk About KevinWuthering HeightsEmma FarleyMy Week with MarilynHugoSuper 8Blue ValentineBeginnersTyrannosaurDriveAttack the BlockSubmarineThe Skin I Live InDave FosterArriettyDriveConfessions13 AssassinsTrue GritAttack the BlockSuper 8The Skin I LiveBlack SwanRise of the Planet of the ApesClydefro JonesMidnight in ParisMeek’s CutoffMartha Marcy Mary MarleneShameUncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past LivesMoneyballContagionCold WeatherThe DescendantsBeginnersRoger KeenMelancholiaMidnight in ParisThe King’s Speech127 HoursThe ArtistNedsBiutifulBarney’s VersionTinker Tailor Soldier SpyTintin: The Secret of the UnicornGavin MidgleyThe Tree of LifeTinker Tailor Soldier SpyThe King’s SpeechTyrannosaurHugoWe Need to Talk About KevinThe Deep Blue SeaMidnight in ParisBlack SwanSennaNoel MegaheyNedsPinaThe Tree of LifeMelancholiaBiutifulWuthering HeightsTintin: The Secret of the UnicornMeek‘s CutoffSucker PunchJack Goes BoatingIan SandwellKill ListThe AwakeningTinker Tailor Soldier SpyBlack SwanThe Inbetweeners MovieFinal Destination 5Troll HunterArthur ChristmasSherlock Holmes: A Game of ShadowsCrazy, Stupid, Love.Matt ShingletonTrue GritThe Tree of LifeI Saw the DevilDriveSubmarineArthur ChristmasRangoArriettyTinker Tailor Soldier SpyConfessionsMike SuttonTinker Tailor Soldier SpyKill ListTrue GritThe Whisperer in DarknessThe Inbetweeners MovieThe Skin I Live InNever Let Me GoBlack SwanTroll HunterTucker and Dale vs. EvilJohn WhiteDriveArriettyTrue GritKill ListHobo with a ShotgunThe Last CircusRise of the Planet of the ApesOur Day Will Come13 AssassinsBellamy

That’s all for this year. Thanks for reading, and we hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you all in 2012…

Gavin Midgley

Updated: Dec 21, 2011

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