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10 Best Movies of 2011

Peter Travers chooses his top 10 movies of the year. Drive is bloody, polarizing, pure cinema; The Artist has unexpected soul; Hugo is a bedtime story for movie lovers; and more.

help potter horse

Dale Robinette; Jaap Buitendijk; Andrew Cooper

10

War Horse, The Help, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

The pop shot: not a title, but a place to reward superior crowd-pleasers. For me, it's a three-way tie: Steven Spielberg's War Horse is an emotional ride – full gallop. Tate Taylor's The Help celebrates the female bond (a 2011 rarity). And David Yates' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ends a franchise on a high note that Oscar should heed. Disagree? Let's hear it.

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tinker tailor soldier spy

Jack English/Focus Features

7

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

A Cold War spy film, directed by Tomas Alfredson from John le Carré's 1974 bestseller, brings out the acting artistry of Gary Oldman as a spymaster in search of a mole in the British Secret Intelligence Service.

hugo

Jaap Buitendijk/

6

Hugo

An irresistible bedtime story for movie lovers. The usually raging and bullish Martin Scorsese tackles his first family film – in 3D, yet – to tell the story of Hugo (Asa Butterfield), a runaway boy who lives in a 1931 Paris train station and discovers the treasure of film history. How? Just give in to the film's sheer, transporting joy.

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descendants

Merie Wallace/FOX Searchlight

3

The Descendants

Here's that rare human comedy that earns its laughs and tears. Orchestrated without a false note by director and co-writer Alexander Payne, The Descendants gives George Clooney the role of his career to date as a Hawaiian landowner coping with a cheating wife (now in a coma) and two daughters he can't fathom. It brims with surprises you don't see coming.

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the artist

The Weinstein Company

2

The Artist

A silent movie in black-and-white about Old Hollywood is now the presumptive favorite in the awards race. Why? Because French director Michel Hazanavicius has style to burn and unexpected soul. Jean Dujardin is stupendous as the screen idol who resists talkies until a perky starlet (Bérénice Bejo) convinces him that art should never be afraid to embrace new forms. Roger that.

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Peter Travers' Original Review: 'The Artist'

drive

Richard Foreman Jr/FilmDistrict

1

Drive

Screw Oscar, which will surely ignore Drive because it's too bloody, too creative, too ambitious and too polarizing to comfort audiences. Solid reasons, I say, for naming Drive the year's best movie. Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn puts an iconic Ryan Gosling behind the wheel into a feverish battle between good and its opposite (Albert Brooks does great evil). Hard-wired to the year's most propulsive synth score, Drive is pure cinema. I couldn't have liked it more.

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