Top 5 Films of 2011

What are the best films you saw in 2011?

Think about that one for a moment, because your list might vary greatly from the typical critics… I know mine does. This year critics are talking about films like Shame, A Separation, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Meanwhile, teenagers are talking about Twilight and The Hangover Part II. Sorry, none of the films above made my list this year. (Dare I admit that I didn’t see any of those… and didn’t really care to see them?)

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I love film. I’m the type of guy who will sit down and watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy in one day! (the extended additions, mind you)  If you’ve been a fan of my website, you might even remember when our movie guy Todd and I used to do a special MOVIE REVIEW PODCAST at the end of each year (those were the days, back when we had the budget to do those podcasts—thank you, recession! Now we just do it in print.)

This year Todd and I wanted to kick the dust off that end-of-the-year “Top 5 Films” element that we used to do, so we each developed a list of our Top 5 Films of 2011.

Now, for you newbies to my blog or our website, let me prepare you for our unique lists. Todd and I aren’t your typical critics by any means. Let me put it like this: in 1977, which film did you prefer, Star Wars or Annie Hall? (Because Annie Hall got all the Oscars).

Exactly! If it won an Oscar, we probably didn’t like it. If it’s on AFI’s list of the greatest films… well… it’s probably not on ours. Todd and I didn’t vote for Black Swan last year (sorry critics), and as much as I enjoyed The King’s Speech (no doubt it was a really good film), it wasn’t in my “Top 5 Films” of last year.

With that in mind… here’s a peek at our Top 5 Films of 2011, along with a little bit of explanation why.

JONATHAN’S TOP 5 FILMS OF 2011
#5 —Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may remember receiving my tweets from the midnight premier of this film when it came out late summer. I brought my own three teenagers to the opening and all of us enjoyed it immensely! The film avoided any raunchy talk or sexual situations. Parents will just want to use discernment because of the PG-13 violence. I give my detailed thoughts about Rise of the Planet of the Apes as well as some discussion questions here.

#4 —The Help
This film was a pleasant surprise for me. Not that I expected it to be bad, but I didn’t anticipate enjoying it as much as I did. For one, I only heard women talking about this film and book, no guys at all! But I decided to set aside my desire for an action film and watched this one with the family… and enjoyed it immensely! I shared my thoughts about The Help in greater detail in this earlier blog entry.

#3 —Hanna
This film was probably one of the most unique and original films I’ve seen in years, and it kept me on the edge of my seat. Yes, this film is every bit of action that The Help wasn’t, but as surprised as I was to enjoy The Help, my wife was surprised and enjoyed Hanna. My official review here.

#2 —Super 8
J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Mission Impossible 3, TV’s Lost…) brings this wonderful story to the screen, a nostalgic tale of a group of kids in 1979 (yes, I was a kid then) who are shooting a super 8 film when they witness a catastrophic train crash. Soon, inexplicable events begin occurring and this small group of friends start to uncover the truth. This film reminded me of what E.T. was to me in 1980 (a little language in that one too), a really fun and suspenseful film. Todd wrote up a full review and discussion questions for this film here. I would have no hesitation showing teenagers this film. The most objectionable thing is the swearing. Sadly, kids are so used to swearing these days that the PG-13 language in this film hardly will faze them.

#1 —We Bought a Zoo
This film almost didn’t make my list because of its late release, but I was invited to a screening and literally saw this film tonight… and wow! Cameron Crowe comes through once again. What can I say, I really love this director. Say Anything, Jerry McGuire, Almost Famous… this guy didn’t need to make any other films, but he did, and delivered once again, complete with classic lines that only Crowe could write. “He had me at hello” with this film. Truly my favorite of the year. Click here for my complete review of We Bought a Zoo.

JONATHAN’S HONORABLE MENTIONS:
Captain America-
I’ve already blogged about how refreshing Captain America was compared to other films of late. Here’s a film with good ol’ fashion values, emphasizing the importance of internal character over external features. In addition, this film is probably one of my favorite films of the year for provoking discussion with kids (and we provided discussion questions, as always). It’s an easy conversation piece because most kids enjoy the film and it’s not preachy in any way.

The Immortals- This film was profanely violent, so I would struggle calling it one of my favorites, but it was extremely well done. A great film.

Drive- Also very violent, and irresponsible. Like Michael Mann’s Heat, it offered a creative and unique perspective into the life of crime and showed many of the consequences of entering that world. Ryan Gosling was amazing.

Moneyball- I saw this on a Daddy-daughter date with my 16-year-old Alyssa, and we both enjoyed this greatly. Neither of us are baseball fans in the slightest, but the film kept us. We even joked, “It might be fun to go see an A’s game now, huh?” The writing was solid, Brad Pitt was great as always, and Jonah Hill was surprisingly effective.

The Muppets- Maybe it’s just because I grew up on The Muppet Show, maybe it’s because I think Muppets in Space rocks (if you haven’t seen it, don’t judge… that film is really clever)… but this new muppet film was a lot of fun. We saw this as a family the weekend it was released and thoroughly enjoyed it.

TODD’S TOP 5 FILMS OF 2011
#5 —Rise of the Planet of the Apes

This movie made me forget about the Mark Walberg Planet of the Apes film…which is a good thing. It was so well done from the characters (both human and primate) to the action sequences.

#4 —X-Men: First Class
This one wasn’t as clean as Captain America, in fact it might have the most skin of all the superhero movies combined. So it dropped to number 4, but the action and story are fantastic.

#3 —Super 8
Everything about this movie was amazing. From the detail of life in the 70’s/80’s to the suspense of a great monster movie. I loved it.

#2 —Real Steal AND Soul Surfer
I grouped these two together (and cheated to get 6) but I loved both of these movies. Not only do they top my Top 5 Family Movies of 2011, but they are near the top of my favorite movies of the year.

#1 —Captain America
Clean, exciting, fun. This superhero movie had it all, and I can watch it with my kids.

TODD’S HONORABLE MENTIONS:
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
and Thor

What about you?

What did you like?

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over a dozen books including the new Get Your Teenager Talking, The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket, The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenager, and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the 10-Minute Talks series. Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.
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6 Responses to Top 5 Films of 2011

  1. Pingback: Daddy-Daughter Film Date |

  2. Tracey says:

    I didn’t see many movies, apparently! I’v heard alot about the movies you liked, but did not see one. Of the movies I saw, I liked Midnight in Paris. I saw it twice, and loved the idea that we all believe a time period of the past is better than our present, and how would we respond if we truly could travel back to that time.

  3. Sean says:

    For me it was

    Drive

    Thor

    Captain America

    Warrior

    and Rise of the Planet of the Apes

  4. dan manns says:

    thanks Jon & Dave. Now I know what to grab from Redbox. Mine are:
    #1 Thor
    #2 Xmen First Class
    #3 Captain America
    #4 Rise of the Planet of the Apes
    #5 Rango
    Transformers Dark of the Moon was one of the best special effects movies of all time but it’s plot was weak and lacked originality. That combined with the language and unnecessary inuendo moved it to a different list. Too bad, it had potential. Here’s my least favorite movies list. I would love to see your list of bad movies!
    #1 The Eagle
    #2 Transformers
    #3 Gnomeo & Juliette
    #4 Battle Los Angeles

    • Thanks for your lists Dan. I think Transformers and Gnomeo… would both be on my “worst” list too. Can’t think of too many other “coasters” right now. I’ll have to give that some thought.

  5. Anthony Adams says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    I enjoy reading your blog and visit often. Of the movies listed above I really enjoyed Planet Of The Apes and Soul Surfer. I thought Super 8 was terrible. Way too much graituitous profanity for my taste. Anyway, I enjoy the information…Keep it coming! :)
    God bless. :)