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2011 Top 10 Movies for Grownups

Descendants, War Horse, Moneyball among year's best

Top 10 movies for 2011

We spent all year going to movies — good and bad, new classics and future trivia questions — just to save you the trouble of having to sit through, say, Jack and Jill or Shark Night 3D.

If you can see just 10 movies from 2011, in our humble opinion you can’t do much better than these flicks, each of which speaks in a unique, thoughtful way to a grownup audience while remaining timelessly entertaining. Here they are in alphabetical order.

 

Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo in

The Artist - Yes, it's a pleasant confection, a pitch-perfect, crowd-pleasing black-and-white silent film about a 1920s movie star (Jean Dujardin) rendered obsolete by the arrival of talkies. But it's also a heartfelt study of a man who resists adapting to a change in a world that won't wait for the reluctant participant. His journey is that of anyone who's tried to find a footbridge between social or technological eras — and that happens to include everyone who's lived more than a few decades.

Actors George Clooney (L) as

The Descendants - George Clooney gives the performance of a lifetime as a man who must deal with the betrayal of his wife — even as she slips away in an accident-induced coma. The plot has all the makings of sudsy soapism, but a magnificent cast and director/co-writer Alexander Payne rise above the melodrama to reveal the stark humanity of the characters, as well as the hilariously ridiculous nature of human foibles in all their forms.

Max von Sydow and Thomas Horn in

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - As troubled young Oskar (Thomas Horn) comes to grips with the loss of his father (Tom Hanks) in the World Trade Center, a universe of grownups comfort, challenge and nurture him. Best of all is the appearance of Max von Sydow as a mute old man who joins Oskar on his quest to unlock the secret behind a mysterious key found in his dad's closet.

Viola Davis stars as Aibileen Clark in 'The Help'

The Help - Viola Davis is breathtaking as a maid in 1960s Mississippi who finds her voice in the face of emotionally brutal racism. Those of us who grew up in the '60s, but not in the South, heard stories of what life was like for southern African Americans at the dawn of the Civil Rights era; The Help puts faces to those apocryphal chapters, and unforgettably so.

Movies for Grownups: Hugo From left: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz in 'Hugo', 2011

Hugo - Magical, dreamlike, dazzling — attach your own adjective to Martin Scorsese's screen adaptation of Brian Selznick's picture storybook. An orphan (Asa Butterfield) who lives in the nooks and crannies of a 1930s Paris train station elicits first the ire, and then the friendship, of an old man (Ben Kingsley) who turns out to be the pioneering French filmmaker Georges Melies. The film is a visual feast, the story alternately a celebration of the perpetual awe of childhood and a love letter to the movies themselves.

Next: From Margin Call to We Bought a Zoo, more top 10s. >>

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