10. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, and Jeremy Renner proved to be the dream team in this surprisingly entertaining franchise reboot. Also notable is director Brad Bird’s seamless leap from Pixar to live action. He created a taught, fast-paced thriller that exemplifies what going to the movies is all about.
Mixing human drama and gentle comedy, Beginners is a simple but effective story about family and love. The film is loosely based on director Mike Mills’ own experience with his father, and his closeness to the material only strengthens this heartfelt story.
8. Meek’s Cutoff
Director Kelly Reichardt deserves a lot of credit for turning a plotless 2-hour movie about a group of wandering pioneers into one of the year’s more compelling films. Reichardt’s stark visual style suits the subject matter perfectly, and subtle, ambiguous performances only strengthen the material.
7. Win Win
Paul Giamatti shines as a self-serving wrestling coach who takes a child prodigy under his wing in Win Win. It’s a quiet film, but with a stellar cast and a heartfelt story, it sticks with you more than you might think. In some ways it is a standard “indie” film, but without the pretentions that hinder some similar projects.
6. The Ides of March
Clooney directs a high-quality political thriller with a cast that most filmmakers could only dream of. Thankfully, with such a juicy story, he departs from his typically dry directorial style in favour a more popcorn-friendly flick full of drama, suspense, and plot twists.
5. Daydream Nation
Kat Dennings and Reece Thompson serve as very likeable leads in this quirky coming-of-age drama. The film is shot in an appropriately moody style, perfectly encapsulating the overboard misfit teen angst. Daydream Nation is simultaneously funny, moving, and just a little strange.
Bridesmaids says some nice thing about female friendships, but mostly, it’s just hilarious. Kristen Wiig proves that she deserves many more leading roles, and the supporting cast also gets to shine. With one laugh-out-loud scene after another, it’s the funniest film of the year.
3. The Descendants
The Descendants is a moving story about family and change, set against the gorgeous backdrop of the Hawaiian countryside. George Clooney and Shailene Woodley make for an appealing father/daughter duo, and director Alexander Payne deftly mixes heartfelt drama with small bouts of comedy.
2. Midnight in Paris
If you’ve ever wished to live in a different era, Woody Allen’s great Midnight in Paris will probably ring true for you. It’s a film that celebrates art, history, and the need for individuality, all told through Allen’s sharp, eloquent point of view. It’s also Owen Wilson’s best performance to date.
1. Super 8
Paying homage to the films of Spielberg (who is a producer here), J.J. Abrams crafted a hugely likeable sci-fi adventure with Super 8. Led by a cast of charming and distinct kids, this monster movie is exciting, fun, and everything that movies should be.