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David Poland

By David Poland

Top Ten List In Process: Part 1

Doing a Top 10 list is a hard process for me every year. This year, I have decided to take you through my steps in deciding. It doesn’t mean, I don’t think, that anyone will like or dislike the resulting list any more this year. But I thought it might be interesting. (Not everyone will agree on that either.)

135 movies made at least $10 million dollars this year. Another 5 or so that are under that figure will pop past that figure in the weeks to come.

If that group, I picked 16 that I think I would consider for my Top Ten list at year’s end. Of course, not all things are equal and some of these have a more realistic shot than others. Not being on the list doesn’t mean I hated or even disliked a movie. Films like The Help and Transformers 3 sprint to mind. I just don’t have that extra feeling about them that might inspire me to include them in a short list. And if I have 16 year, I am guessing that I will have more than 30 picks from the Under $10m gross group.

In order of box office gross…

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Captain America: The First Avenger
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Bad Teacher
The Adventures of Tintin
War Horse
The Tree of Life
Win Win
Young Adult
The Artist

Of this group, there are 9 titles that I think will get into my 20 and have a legitimate shot at my 10.

War Horse
The Tree of Life
Young Adult
The Artist

Of this list, I feel compelled to put Moneyball, Warrior, and The Artist in the DVD player for another look. I’ve seen 2 of the 3 movies at least twice already. But I want fresher eyes. And to be honest, if I were just going to revisit some of these films for pleasure at this point, I would throw in Young Adult, Contagion, and the last 40 minutes of Hugo. And for the record, I’ve seen Drive 3 times, Tree of Life 4 times, and don’t really want to watch War Horse on a TV until I’ve seen it in a theater again.

Also worth noting… I would be perfectly happy to go to the movies to see Ghost Protocol again this week. I have really enjoyed watching some of Tintin on DVD with my son… in it’s own context, it is a truly beautiful artwork. And I really want to see Dragon Tattoo again. I don’t think it will leap into my 10 list, but I don’t feel like I am completely comfortable with how it sits in my head after one viewing and I feel like it deserves another look without the weight of Oscar season hanging over it.

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50 Responses to “Top Ten List In Process: Part 1”

  1. sanj says:

    well you got movies that pretty much every other movie critic has –

    movies from sundance festival didn’t make the list ?

    are you doing different list for docs ?

    think your nuts for watching tree of life 4 times. so it
    must be high on your list….

    people walking out of tree of life

  2. Henry says:

    I love your love of Young Adult. My favorite film this year. Thanks for supporting it 🙂

  3. Krillian says:

    How did you get through Tree of Life a fourth time? Were you stoned? Did you take a few too many Dramamine? Did you have it on in the background while you did yoga?

  4. lazarus says:

    A shame that international cinema provided nothing good enough this year to get on DP’s list.

    If only other countries had their own Captain America to base a franchise on…

  5. torpid bunny says:

    Captain America??!!

  6. Pat Hobby says:

    What is the point of separating films by box office gross?

  7. yancyskancy says:

    lazarus: How many international films grossed at least $10 million this year? That was Dave’s criterion for this installment.

    I loved Captain America. Got the Blu from Netflix for a second look and to see what the girlfriend thinks.

  8. MarkVH says:

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t pick Drive as your #1. Not after the inspired Never Let Me Go pick last year. I’m begging you. Don’t feed this madness.

  9. MarkVH says:

    Also, no Descendants, huh? That makes me sad. Know it wasn’t one of your Toronto favorites, so not hugely surprising, but still a bit of a bummer.

  10. anghus says:

    i liked Captain America. And in a year where so many big budget films felt useless and contrived, it was nice to see a popcorn film that tried a little harder.

    Same with Ghost Protocol. It’s not new but well executed in the hands of filmmakers who know how to entertain an audience.

  11. palmtree says:

    What, no Bridesmaids?

  12. leahnz says:

    i honestly don’t get it. how does looking at box office somehow factor into the process of picking one’s top ten ‘best’ flicks of the year?

  13. Epicurus says:

    Am I the only person what hated DRIVE, disliked THE HELP and thought THE ARTIST was just a clever forgettable gimmick? Can’t figure out the love for these three films. MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, MONEYBALL and THE DESCENDANTS are clearly the best films of 2011. (And LARRY CROWNE easily the worst)

  14. sanj says:

    i figured out the super secret movie critics formula – there’s at least 40 major movies all the critics like
    they just put them in different orders.

    DP does watch a lot of movies over again – so that time it takes – DP could have watched other new films and maybe given them a shot…

    the best movies list – well they really mean to give it
    to the actors cause some of the endings kinda suck or make no sense … doesn’t seem fair but nothing you
    can do. too hard to change critics mind . they have
    all the answers.

    DP – you making a top 10 movies i hated list ?

  15. anghus says:


    i thought Drive was painfully average. It was like watching a 2 hour director’s reel. All style, very little substance. I loved Albert Brooks. He saved the movie for me. But i still thought it was a really average film.

    The Help was a non-movie for me. Didn’t love it or hate it. I found Bryce Dallas Howard so completely unlikable to the point where i expected her to start shooting the help from the rooftops a la Ralph Finnes in Schindler’s List. She was so relentlessly evil that i found her character unbelievable and practically ridiculous.

    Midnight in Paris was my favorite film this year. Followed closely by I Saw the Devil and Hugo.

  16. Greg says:

    My fave of the year: Warrior

    The rest of the best: Tree of Life, 50/50, Win Win, Incendies, Meek’s Cutoff, Melancholia, Jeff Who Lives at Home, Pina

    Funniest Movie of the Year: The Change Up
    Best Summer Movie: Transformers: Dark of the Moon (I saw it 9 times)

  17. David Poland says:

    The box office doesn’t factor in at all… except that making a list, I start with every film listed as having any gross of any size in the domestic market this year.

    So as I left the house to go to see Dragon Tattoo again right after getting this far, I thought I would publish this “in process” as a conversation starter.

    And sanj… was pretty surprised how high a percentage of the films that might be seriously considered this year. I see most films I thing of seriously at least twice. And often, those I dislike… just to make sure I am not just being a judgmental ass.

    Mark VH… somehow missed thinking hard about Descendants. I might have to reconsider. I’m sure there will be others I have missed completely.

  18. jennab says:

    Took the boys to see MI:4 and we all thought is was super-fun, though my 16-year-old son said, “EVERY conceivable movie cliche was in that movie…I was just waiting for someone to say, ‘You’re in the big leagues now, boys.'” Renner was wasted and Patton was m’eh…main reasons to go are Cruise & Pegg.

    BTW, I found the trailers preceding MI:4 nearly indistinguishable.

    They saw the one-sheet and can’t wait for Vampire Lincoln.

    I thought The Help was better than expected thanks to Davis…Stone was totally out of her depth.

    Moneyball was kinda disappointing…liked Pitt’s performance, but it’s hard to root for, uh, statistics.

    50/50 was better than expected…surprised to see that Iron Lady didn’t make your list, everyone else seems to be raving; though I found Abba movie musical INSUFFERABLE, so I’m unsure about it.

    Thought Marilyn was absolutely charming, and Williams wonderful.

    Want to see Dragon Tattoo and am surprised that the boys think it looks too dark.

    Artist looks gimmicky, is it…? May sneak out to see a matinee of Descendants (love Payne, met him once, very kind).

    You see, it’s different when you don’t get screeners…

  19. torpid bunny says:


    So Red Skull has this vast techno-conspiracy and also is played by Hugo Weaving, he’s got like android super soldiers wandering around with laser guns and super tanks. But does he have a single tactical or strategic victory in the movie? No. Captain America decides to start kicking butt and does so with no development or set back. Ok, his buddy dies in a completely telegraphed way and Captain has a sad. Plus the whole movie looked like a green screen soup to me.

  20. LexG says:

    Will it be ban-hammered or will this post? The Most Important List, ie LEXG’s:

    1: WAR HORSE
    4: DRIVE
    6: SHAME
    10: 50/50
    11: MI4
    12: ONE DAY
    13: FAST FIVE
    14: WARRIOR
    17: THE THING

  21. David Poland says:

    You only get banned, Lex, when you write about your “hammer.” No one wants to read it. Make a New Year’s resolution and stop so I can stop wasting my time putting you in dry dock.

  22. sanj says:

    DP – i’m just surprised you watch things twice – cause you must have tons of dvd’s thrown at you from all sorts of people.

    if Danny Boyle gave you a exclusive look at his upcoming movie – would you say no – i got to watch Dragon Tattoo again ?

    also DP – do you think people who run sites that deal with
    one main subject matter like horror movies or comic con movies – can these people be objective in their lists …

  23. Joe Leydon says:

    David Poland: ” I see most films I thing of seriously at least twice. And often, those I dislike… just to make sure I am not just being a judgmental ass.”

    David Bowie: “It’s too late – to be grateful. It’s too late – to be late again. It’s too late – to be hateful.”

  24. Don R. Lewis says:

    Lex: GOOD LIST

  25. sanj says:

    i don’t watch a lot of video reruns of movies / tv shows .

    watch it once i’m done. there’s just too much content out there…

    just think of how many hours of video are uploaded to youtube every hour – think you can watch all that in 1 day ? my guess – nope. too much content. even if you hate 99% of it – there might be 1% super awesome video.

    i do think people like seeing new visuals first – like the bullets in matrix or avatar movie flying ..
    people have probably watched that 50 times by now.

    so which movies can you watch from this year without getting bored …

  26. JKill says:

    To comment a bit on Lex’s list, I literally just got done watching both MARGIN CALL and ONE DAY back to back. The former ruled from top to bottom, with a fantastic screenplay and assured direction. The latter, while it probably wouldn’t make my top of the year list, was quite good, surprising, charming, handsomely made, and moving. I dug it.

  27. leahnz says:

    i kinda cringe at lists so i don’t know why i’m doing this, but,

    why does everyone’s (ie you yanks) lists always have the same bloody movies on it, does everyone really like all the exact same critical darlings most, or is it…. GROUPTHINK (there ya go DP). the desire to conform or some such

    i’m usually mildly disapointed by half the movies everythong else raves on about, perhaps because i’m suseptable to overhyping syndrome (overhyping is the devil), and i usually see everything late.

    but wierdly i saw ‘i saw the devil’ last year and put it on my 2010 list, so go figure, sometimes i’m ahead of the curve. how unusual. international distribuiton is an enigma wrapped in a noodle.

    my list is kinda crap-ass really, i just wasn’t as blown away by some of the LIST movies as many, i liked lots of movies but didn’t LIKE like them (and of course i havenst seen a few of the big guns yet).

    in NO particular order whatsoever, my faves i can remember, and i’ve already had a ny tipple and i’m off to have some more so i might need to add some later:

    we need to talk about kevin
    the trip
    once upon a time in anatolia
    four lions (which i only saw this year)
    rise of the dark knight, i mean planet of the apes
    outcast (the only good horror movie i can remember from this year, is that possible?)
    harry potter (admittedly more for sentimental reasons than how much i liked the actual movie, i can’t actually remember)


    oh and i had a weird experience seeing ‘tree of life’ because of who i was with, they were annoying and my frame of mind was bizarre, i was distracted and not open to the universe of it, so i really need to see it again preferable without humanity

  28. JKill says:

    Leah, I agree that it is odd that the same movies tend to pop up on everyone’s list.

    My List of Movies Not on Enough Top Ten Lists


  29. Norm says:

    Hanna blows. An action movie for people who don’t like action movies.

    Agreed on We Bought a Zoo, though – I figured I was the only one who loved that one…

  30. movieman says:

    Happy to see that a few others apparently share my affection for “Zoo.”
    And delighted to see that you included “C, S, L,” JKill. Except for the folks over at EW, it didn’t receive nearly the props it deserved for single-handedly restoring luster to the Hollywood Romantic Comedy in 2011.
    Tend to agree with Norm’s assessment of “Hanna,” though.

  31. movieman says:

    David Poland: ” I see most films I thing of seriously at least twice. And often, those I dislike… just to make sure I am not just being a judgmental ass.”

    David Bowie: “It’s too late – to be grateful. It’s too late – to be late again. It’s too late – to be hateful.”

    Movieman: Who the **** has the time to re-watch every consequential movie twice (or, gulp, more)???
    I wish I had the luxury of taking a second look at all the films I admired; and/or films I originally dismissed/dissed that people I respect liked a lot more than I did.
    Hell, I still haven’t gotten around to revisiting “Munich” and “Syriana,” and they were both released six years ago.

  32. Tim DeGroot says:

    HANNA is very good. If there was a better action scene this year than Eric Bana fighting the agents at the train station, I didn’t see it.

  33. PastePotPete says:

    My in-progress top 10 list(I need to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and War Horse):

    1. Melancholia
    2. Hanna
    3. Drive
    4. The Artist
    5. Moneyball
    6. Tintin
    7. Rango
    8. The Descendants
    9.Young Adult
    10. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

  34. sanj says:

    Mark Kermode – The Worst Ten Films of 2011

    6 minute video –

    10. Lion King in 3D (Just the 3D part really)
    9. Human Centipede 2
    8. I Spit on Your Grave / Straw Dogs
    7. Sucker Punch
    6. Love’s Kitchen
    5. The Dilemma
    4. The Hangover Part II
    3. Transformers 3
    2. Film Socialisme
    1. New Year’s Eve

  35. Joe Leydon says:

    But what is the official timeframe to use when drawing up a Top 10 list? I assume you wait until the film goes theatrical — or at least limited theatrical/VOD — and not count it for the year you may have seen it at a festival. For example, I saw Daydream Nation at Toronto 2010 — but it didn’t kick off its (extremely limited) US theatrical run until May 2011. Saw Brotherhood even earlier — SXSW 2010 — but it didn’t open until March 2011. Saw Tiny Furniture at the same festival — but it opened November 2010.

    And what do you do when a film goes VOD late one year, but doesn’t appear in theaters until the next year? Decisions, decisions.

  36. bulldog68 says:

    I see Rango making a lot of lists, and I enjoyed it a great deal, but Kung Fu Panda 2 was just pitch perfect in my opinion.

  37. Don R. Lewis says:

    My list can be found here:

    But I already am pissed I neglected BELLFLOWER. Grrr…

  38. My Top 10 of 2011:
    10. Contagion
    9. Le Quattro Volte
    8. Young Adult
    7. The Skin I Live In
    6. Martha Marcy May Marlene
    5. A Separation
    4. The Tree of Life
    3. Midnight in Paris
    2. Hugo
    1. Take Shelter

    Full write-up and honorable mentions here:

  39. leahnz says:

    holy shit i suspected as much, i must apologise for my typos last night in the list post above — i was hammered, typing on a phone and clearly couldn’t be bothered with some kind of prudent spellcheck, yowza

    (and i fucking LOATHED ‘bellflower’, head and shoulders above the others on my ‘worst list’, such celebrated amateur-hour drek misogyny, yeah bravo boys)

    oh to don lewis, i also liked ‘tucker & dale vs evil’ – not what i expected – i see that was on yer honourable mentions

  40. movieman says:

    You hated “Bellflower,” Leah????
    I’m really disappointed to hear that.
    It was easily one of my 2011 favorites.
    And I hope we see a lot more of Evan Glodell.
    (Did anyone else think that he reminded them of Paul Schneider?)

  41. leahnz says:

    ouch! (also describes my head)

    (sorry, i should say, i find all the praise for ‘bellflower’ somewhat troubling, but the dude did well with his $2 prod budget)

  42. leahnz says:

    curious about reactions to bellflower beyond what i’d already read, i don’t know who this matt pais guy is but his amusing take on it kinda parallels the sophistication of the movie itself:

    “Isn’t an examination of mid-20s invincibility so much as a demonstration of how risky it can be to give unemployed dumbasses access to flames and other weapons.”

  43. jesse says:

    Movieman, that’s funny, in my Bellflower review (mixed-to-negative; great stuff in it, especially in the first half, but got way too vague and pretentious with inexplicable behavior in the second) referred to him as a “more ineffectual Paul Schneider.” And I don’t even mean that as an insult, as I love Paul Schneider and liked Glodell a bit in the first half of his movie.

    I know someone or other will say I’m missing the point of Bellflower by vastly preferring the first half of it, but really, I get it. It’s just not very good.

    My top ten (a few notable movies are unseen, but this is from 150+ 2011 features) (mostly, to be fair, English language and fiction films):

    1. Super 8
    2. The Muppets
    3. Cold Weather
    4. Source Code
    5. The Tree of Life
    6. The Future
    7. X-Men: First Class
    8. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
    9. Young Adult
    10. Drive

    And some runners-up, in vaguely descending order: Bridesmaids; Rango; Melancholia; Hanna; War Horse; The Adventures of Tintin; Hugo (I feel like those last four could all be scrambled into one strange mega-movie).

    More extensive write-up here:

  44. LexG says:

    The last half hour of Bellflower is ORGASMIC. It is the BIBLE of male insecurity and impotence but still gives the disenfranchised male a FIGHT CLUB-style amping. And like FIGHT CLUB, you can take it on a level of endorsing male meathead behavior run amok, a criticism of said behavior, OR the third and LEXIAN OPTION because I am profoundly self-aware: To absolutely recognize it as a critique of your own male unfortunate possessive self-hating misogynist tendencies, but to be SO NARCISSISTIC AND AWESOME that you embrace the awesomeness of it all when it is depicted in an exciting movie way with guns and wide screen and exhaust fumes and cool cars. It almost doesn’t matter what the POV is, because MOVIES and KINETICISM are more exciting than any kind of intellectual read.

  45. jesse says:

    I didn’t find it all that exciting or kinetic. It’s mostly “AWESOME” stuff happening in ultra-emo slow-mo. You describe what’s interesting and cool about Fight Club perfectly, but I wouldn’t say it applies to the douche-y moping of Bellflower. I understood the decisions multiple characters in Fight Club made, even as the movie itself comes from the protagonist’s point of view, while similar material in Bellflower is so thinly conceived.

  46. Triple Option says:

    Yeah, I just caught part of Tiny Furniture on cable just recently and I was thinking it was a 2010 film. I was really digging what I saw.

    Not in order, and I’d maybe have to go back and re-think these but i’d include:

    The Descendents

    There were aspects of the following that I thought worked very well but I’m not sure how “award worthy” they are.

    X-Men: First Class

    I guess it’s just my favorites so it shouldn’t matter. I still have a few of the major player films to go see but I’m having trouble right now as I type thinking of ten films that were “top ten” films. I saw about 6 really good films and maybe about 25-30 that maybe I was at happy to get out of the house to see and then maybe 3-4 that have me ticked for getting my time and/or my money.

    Maybe Source Code gets in there. Films like Drive, Take Shelter, Midnight in Paris, Rango, The Artist, all had their moments for me but “not sucking” is not as laudable as being really good.

  47. Triple Option says:

    I totally forgot about Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy and I just saw it too. Probably makes my top ten.

  48. cadavra says:

    Still got about a half-dozen more to see; hopefully, I’ll get to them before it’s too late for my list to mean anything…if it does in the first place! 🙂

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