It’s that time a year again, where I’ve seen enough movies that I feel comfortable assembling what I’ve seen into something resembling a top ten list.
It’s been a strange year however, and it’s created a rather strange list to go with it. There were few true blockbusters that amazed me, nor many potential Oscar contenders that truly wowed me. Rather, I thought the best films of the year were mostly of average size and scope, and was pleasantly surprised by many of them when I hadn’t been expecting much.
Though you’ll likely find a lot of the same picks on many critic’s countdowns, I don’t believe that’s going to be the case with mine, as my tastes have been admittedly a bit different this year. These picks may not be the equivocal, objective “best,” but they are absolutely the ones I enjoyed the most. See for yourself below:
10. X-Men: First Class
I was thinking that there wouldn’t be ANY superhero films making the list this year, as there was no Nolan Batman features released, and Thor, Captain America and Green Lantern were all lacking in various ways.
I thought that First Class would end up being the worst of the bunch, but I was happy to find that I was sorely mistaken, and Kick-Ass’ Matthew Vaughn created one of the most visually impressive and story driven superhero movies ever, and phenomenal performances from Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) made this the best comic book film in years.
The selling point of this movie shouldn’t be that “women can be funny too,” which seemed to be why everyone was so amazed by Bridesmaids. What was surprising was that women could be funny in the same way as men, using gross-out, R-rated humor to great effect.
Bridesmaids dominated the poorly conceived Hangover 2 in every way, and rotund comedienne Melissa McCarthy stole the show and created many of the film’s laugh out loud moments. Now, just PLEASE don’t ruin it with a sequel.
Another comedy, but one with a much harder edge. 50/50 tackles cancer, an issue that most of us will face in our lifetime, be it through a loved one or dealing with the disease ourselves.
Joseph Gordon Levitt’s portrayal of a young man trying to beat a rare form of cancer is heart-wrenching, but the film does the impossible and still manages to be very funny throughout. It’s what Funny People was supposed to be, with Seth Rogen in pretty much exactly the same role.
This is an odd little film that came out of nowhere to be one of my favorite offerings of the year. The central concept was so incredibly interesting, a pill that grants unlimited intelligence and focus, that it was impossible to not be intrigued, and in the end, maybe a touch…motivating to get your own life together?
Bradley Cooper made a great slacker turned super genius, and the way the story unfolds is usually masterful, despite dancing around a few plot holes along the way. I recommend this movie to almost anyone, though I worry it might encourage increased adderall usage among my grad school friends.
6. Midnight in Paris
I just watched this last night actually, and it was the final nail in the coffin I needed to start writing this list. I am normally not a Woody Allen type of guy in the least, but Midnight in Paris in undeniably fascinating.
Allen has Owen Wilson’s troubled writer interact with all manner of authors and painters from the golden era of Paris in the ’20s, and it aims to teach something about nostalgia in the process. It’s a phenomenal film, and even if it doesn’t seem like your cup of tea, give it a chance.
5. Source Code
This is the one movie this year that had me talking about it for hours afterward, trying to figure out the exact timeline of events that would cause the story to make sense. And make sense it does, once you figure it out, and then you realize you’ve just witnessed one of the most creative original films in recent memory.
Director Duncan Jones (who also did the fantastic Moon) is a rising star, and is now two for two in quality, memorable films. I can’t wait to see what he does next.