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The best films of 2011

By's Darren Bevan

Published: 8:11AM Monday December 19, 2011

  • Drive
  •  (Source: Thinkstock)
    Source: Thinkstock

2011 is gone burger (well, nearly) and in the celluloid world that can mean only one thing - a reflection back over the best, and worst, of the year.

It's a time to celebrate, so let's start by casting our eyes back over the best of the pack - in no particular order.

Drive - there can be no doubt Ryan Gosling was the rising star of the year; with memes sprouting over the internet, and obsessions over that rippling physique occupying many for long periods of time. Aside from great turns in Crazy, Stupid Love and Blue Valentine , one film absolutely defined Gosling this year - and it was the cool heist cum extreme violence flick Drive. As an anonymous driver trying to save his neighbour, Gosling's stock soared - along with the hearts of many new admirers.
Watch the Drive trailer here.

Rise of Planet of The Apes - a reboot of the Apes franchise wasn't on anyone's list after Tim Burton's catastrophic attempts in the 90s. However, with WETA digital onboard and a intelligent script,  as well as a brilliant motion capture performance from Andy Serkis as lead ape, Caesar, this blockbuster was simply unmissable.

The King's Speech - sure, it swept the Oscars (and practically every other awards) but The King's Speech remains an uplifting and funny watch nearly a year on. Colin Firth delivers a career best as the stuttering King thrust into the limelight but unable to deliver a speech. Humourous and heartfelt, this is one for the ages.

When a City Falls/ The Orator - Of the local films released this year, these two stand easily head and shoulders above the rest (although a honourable mention is due to Florain Habicht's Love Story.) When A City Falls gives Christchurch's people a voice after the earthquakes ravaged their daily lives - and became an important document to show the resilience and human spirit at work. Equally, The Orator, a Samoan film about a dwarf trying to find his voice and fight for his rights was one of the most moving films of the year - and it's no wonder it's been entered into the Oscar race as our foreign film.

Senna/ TT3D - anyone who knows me, will know I'm not a sporty person. So to be in screenings for two docos about sports would normally have been my worst nightmare. Glad to say these two redefined sports films on the big screen; Senna, the story of F1 driver Ayrton Senna is humbling and an uplifting look at the man who defined the sport for many; and TT3D is just a simply compelling insight into the Isle of Man motorbike races. Both benefited from great central figures - and both deserve a place on this list.
Watch the trailer for TT3D here.

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 - So the franchise ends and finally, I got the Potter film I desperately wanted. A nuanced performance from Daniel Radcliffe gave so much life to the words from the book and resulted in a very rich send off to the series.
Go behind the scenes of the final Harry Potter here.

Bridesmaids - A raucous female led R rated comedy which showed the girls could do it as badly as the boys. A great ensemble and some hilarious oneliners in this comedy about a wedding causing major rifts between two best friends easily outdid anything the Hangover guys offered this year.
Watch a scene from Bridesmaids here.

Rango - Easily the best animation of this year, Johnny Depp's chameleon take on the Western was gorgeously animated, completely crazy and insanely fun. I'm hoping it'll score an Oscar nod for its different take on the animated genre - and particularly as it really raised the stakes.
Watch the Rango trailer here .

Take Shelter - Only seen during the annual spectacle that is the New Zealand International Film Festival, this suspenseful psychological thriller stars an incredible (soon to be General Zod in the next Superman) Michael Shannon as a mine supervisor who one day without warning is plagued by visions of a storm and threats to his own life. Building a storm shelter to protect his family, it appears he's the only one planning for the end of the world. Is he crazy? Riveting turns from Shannon and the best performance from Jessica Chastain, this atmospheric film offers no real answers early on and invites you along for the ride. A real shame it's yet to find a release date here in NZ - maybe in 2012?

Honourable mentions to (and just narrowly missing the list) - Love Story , Source Code , Snowtown 127 Hours , The Fighter , The Trip, The Adventures of Tintin, The Muppets. 
Watch the trailers for The Muppets and The Adventures of Tintin here