2011 wasn’t really a great year for movies as a whole, but it had a lot of great movie moments. After painful deliberation, I finally managed to narrow down my 25 favorite moments of the year. Share yours with us!
25. The Line Dancing Scene from “Footloose”
As a fan of the original 1984 Footloose and a skeptic of remakes, I wasn’t expecting much from the modernization of the Kevin Bacon cult classic. Thanks to Craig Brewer’s solid direction, I was pleasantly surprised with the retelling of a big city boy in a small town. Best of all, it included an important Southern tradition that was oddly missing from the original: line dancing! The scene where Ren and his friends drive to the big city will have you tapping your feet and resisting the urge to dance!
24. The Fan Camera in “Paranormal Activity 3”
The setup for the Paranormal Activity movies is so basic even a child could make these movies. Set up a camera in a fixed position and wait for scary things to happen. In the third installment of the hit franchise, directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman of Catfish fame reinvented the rules and allowed the camera to move. This time around, the camera is mounted on top of a fan, giving us a bigger view of the things that go “bump” in the night. This apparatus also gives birth to some of the more heart-pounding moments in the franchise to date.
23. Colin Farrell in “Horrible Bosses”
When I set out to make this list, I knew that Horrible Bosses would find a spot here but I didn’t know for what moment. For my money, this movie was the best comedy this year. Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudekis made a great comedic trio and Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Spacey were both delightfully evil in their own way. However, it was Colin Farrell is his curiously short amount of screen time that made me laugh the most. Farrell has done comedy in movies like In Bruges before and I hope that he continues to do more roles like this.
22. The Climax to “Crazy Stupid Love”
The moment in Crazy, Stupid, Love where all the plot lines intersect is staged so well. I personally didn’t see the twist coming, but even if I had the comedy in the scene is executed so well by the actors that it is impossible not to enjoy the scene.
21. Tom Hiddleson in “Thor”
Tom Hiddleson was a relatively unknown actor until his big burst onto the scene this year, starring in three of the year’s biggest movies. He had some small parts in War Horse and Midnight in Paris, but it was his role as the villainous Loki in Thor that caught everyone’s attention. Loki isn’t just someone who wants to take over the world and rule. He is the God of Mischief, the man with a plan, an outcast looking to find his place and fulfill his longing for acceptance. Hiddleson’s striking screen presence and pitch-perfect performance made Loki the most compelling, three-dimensional Marvel villain since Doc Ock.
20. The Soundtrack in “Hanna”
The soundtrack to Hanna is this year’s TRON: Legacy. The movie is a thoroughly entertaining experience that wouldn’t be as effective without its original. It’s the best soundtrack of the year, and makes the high-octane action sequences exponentially more entertaining. In fact, I’m listening to it now. And it’s making everything I do epic.
19. Hugh Jackman’s Cameo in “X-Men: First Class”
Did they just use the f-word in a PG-13 comic book movie? Classic.
18. Ending to “Melancholia”
The ending to Lars von Trier’s apocalyptic drama is one of the most masterfully executed and unforgettable endings I have ever seen. We know from the opening prologue to the film that the world will indeed end. Even so, the closing moments of the film where the planet Melancholia collides with Earth are incredibly moving. It rendered me speechless.
17. Max von Sydow in “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”
In a movie with an unlikable protagonist and a story that is extremely manipulative, one aspect of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close stood out and almost made the film worth sitting through. Veteran actor Max von Sydow delivers a flawless performance as The Renter, a man who does not speak and communicates instead through handwritten notes. It is hard to make such a character convincing, but Sydow makes it seem effortless, earning him a well-deserved Oscar nomination.
16. Sacha Baron Cohen in “Hugo”
There are many things to love about Hugo, from its love letter to silent film to its art direction to its spectacular use of 3D. It was hard to just pick one, but I settled on Sacha Baron Cohen. A marvelous character actor, Cohen throws himself into the role of the Station Inspector, a man who takes his job extremely seriously. He damaged his leg in the war and considers himself better off alone, except of course for his trusty Doberman Pincer. It’s his best performance. Second only to Borat, of course.
15. The Ending to “War Horse”
There’s so much going in the emotional closing moments of War Horse, and all without a single line of dialogue. Set to John Williams fabulous score, this ending is pure Spielberg magic.
14. The Tracking Shot in “The Adventures of Tintin”
Speaking of Spielberg magic, The Adventures of Tintin has been a pet project of the prolific director since 1983. The movie consists of one great action sequence followed immediately by another. The most memorable scene in the film is a three-minute chase scene all done in one take where Captain Haddock and Tintin race through the streets of a village to catch the next clue on their path to buried treasure. It’s a wonder to behold and left me with my mouth agape.
13. The Ending to “Fast Five”
It was a good year for action films, and Fast Five was one of the big ones. Easily the best of the franchise, the film gets rid of the racing aspect that made the previous films a drag and turned it into a heist movie. The final action scene is so far-fetched you can’t help but love it. The climax of the film has the characters breaking into a police station and stealing a vault using their cars, dragging it through the city with police in pursuit. Blockbuster movie-making at its finest.
12. “Life’s A Happy Song” – “The Muppets”
I love a good dance number, and the opening to The Muppets put a smile on may face that stayed there for the rest of the film.
11. “The Case” – Super 8
There were a healthy handful of movies this year that celebrated the magic of film, but the way that Super 8 did so was so wonderful. On the surface, the film is a simple alien movie. A heavy subplot of the film, though, is a group of kids filming a zombie movie. Throughout the film, we watch with joy as the children film their low-budget zombie movie. The best part? Getting to see the completed work at the end of the movie.
10. Minny’s Pie – “The Help”
If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, you’re really missing out.
9. The Championship Fight – “Warrior”
Two estranged brothers fight each other for the MMA championship, unleashing all the anger they have. In the end they reconcile, and in tearful embraces exit the ring in an incredibly moving sequence set to “About Today” by The National. So good.
8. Michael Fassbender in “Shame”
In one of the most talked about performances of the year, Michael Fassbender proves himself a force to be reckoned with. In Steve McQueen’s Shame, he plays a man unable to connect with anyone on an emotional level. His addiction is sex. He is more often than not silent and introverted. However, his face and mannerisms tell us what he is really thinking. It is without a doubt the best performance of 2011.
7. The Opening to “Drive”
In suspenseful opening scenes to Drive, we watch as Ryan Gosling carefully calculates his every move, evading cops, parking his car, walking away without getting caught. There’s no fast editing here, no explosions, no heart-pounding music. It’s nothing like we saw in Fast Five, and yet its still one of the best chase sequences ever filmed.
6. The Origin of the Universe – “The Tree of Life”
In what has to be the most analyzed and discussed film of the year, director Terence Malick examines life from its origins to the day we die and searches for the meaning of it all. The most memorable scene of the film ponders the origin of the universe, from the first rays of light all the way to the dinosaurs. It is a jaw-dropping sequence that is both beautiful and thought-provoking. This movie will stay with me forever.
5. Scott Hatteberg Hits a Home Run – “Moneyball”
“How can you not be romantic about baseball?”
4. The Pool Scene – “The Descendants”
What would you do if you found out your mother was going to die? The most memorable moment in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants is, like many other moments on this list, dialogue-free. Upon learning her mother’s fate, Alexandra (played to perfection by Shailene Woodley) dives under the water of her pool. The camera follows her as she cries under the water, and we feel her pain. It’s a wonderfully executed sequence.
3. The Burz Khalifa Sequence – “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”
If there was ever a definitive reason to see a movie in IMAX, this is it. The latest Mission: Impossible installment is easily the best of the series. Under solid direction by Brad Bird, the film gives us back-to-back memorable action sequences. The most talked about one is, of course, the Burz Khalifa sequence. Doing his own stunt work, Tom Cruise scales the tallest building in the world and leaps from window to window. It’s the best action sequence of the year, and the IMAX footage puts you right there next to Ethan Hunt.
2. Adam’s Surgery – 50/50
The reason that 50/50 is so effective on an emotional level is that you don’t expect it to hit you so hard. The moment where Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) realizes that he might not wake up from his surgery is so emotional and moving it turns you into a teary-eyed mess. 50/50 is by far one of the best films of the year, a triumph on every level. It’s a crime this film didn’t get more recognition this awards season.
1. The Battle for Hogwarts – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
After ten years of waiting it finally happened. Bellatrix and Mrs. Weasley. Voldemort versus Potter. Neville versus Nagini. Sacrifices made and lives lost. The Battle for Hogwarts was brought to the screen so well. This die-hard Potter fanatic couldn’t have asked for more.