Enter the Random Acts of Kindness contest for chance to win $2,500. Ends 3/15/16. See Rules

2011 Movies for Grownups Awards

The King's Speech, Secretariat — which were the must-see films of the past year?

Movies for Grownups 2011

— Craig Cutler

We watched (more than 100 films). We debated (Helen Mirren…again!?). We voted (who picked MacGruber?). And after countless hours we're proud to present 2010's best...

En español  |  Maybe they're simply echoing the troubled world churning outside the theater, but this year's winning Movies for Grownups® are largely about people at midlife crisis points: A monarch confronts his most private demons (The King's Speech)…a divorced woman sees the world conspiring against her (Another Year)…three men are discarded by the company they built (The Company Men), and on it goes.

Each must choose to either accept the role of victim or arise to create a new, better life. Happily, from this year's Hollywood crop our editors discovered a wealth of inspiring, thoughtful, and — most important — supremely entertaining movies.

Best Movie for Grownups 2011: The King's Speech


Directed by Tom Hooper
Rated R
Runtime: 118 mins

A wondrous mix of inspired direction, breathtaking performances, and a compelling true human drama, The King's Speech is darn close to perfect.

We meet the king of England's second son (Colin Firth) in the 1930s, when he reluctantly visits a no-nonsense speech therapist (an astonishing Geoffrey Rush) for treatment of a per ­ sistent stammer. The task turns epic when the prince, thrust onto the throne, must address his nation as it goes to war — and overcome not only his speech disability but also the terrible secrets that triggered it.

Seldom in film have the currents of history and the eddies of human frailty been so gingerly interwoven.

We Also Loved: See our editors' complete list of the 10 best movies of the year on our Movies for Grownups Awards page.

Best Actor: Colin Firth, The King's Speech


The King's Speech

Directed by Tom Hooper
Rated R
Runtime: 118 mins

His heartrending depiction of a man struggling with a stammer would be remarkable enough, but Firth invests the role of King George VI with searing humanity.

Embodying shame, bitterness, and vulnerability, Firth inhabits the man's entire lifetime, transmitting it to us with subliminal power. Screen acting gets no better than this.

We Also Loved: Michael Caine, Harry Brown; Michael Douglas, Solitary Man; Robert Duvall, Get Low; Kevin Spacey, Casino Jack.

Best Actress: Lesley Manville, Another Year


Directed by Mike Leigh
Rated PG-13
Runtime: 129 mins

You want to throttle flighty, self-involved Mary. Sure, she's had a rough time, what with her husband leaving her when she's so needy and all.

Yet five minutes into Leslie Manville's X-ray-like performance as Mary, you can simultaneously understand why the ex-hubby was drawn to her (her bubbly vivaciousness, her hot-blooded yearning for affection) and why he later headed for the hills (ditto).

We Also Loved: Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right; Vanessa Redgrave, Letters to Juliet; Tilda Swinton, I Am Love.

Best Supporting Actor: John Malkovich, Secretariat


Directed by Randall Wallace
Rated PG
Runtime: 123 mins

The role of Lucien Laurin, the veteran trainer who helps Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) groom her racehorse for Triple Crown immortality, is the ideal channel for Malkovich's trademark quirkiness. But the actor also radiates immense capability and horse sense.

We Also Loved: Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech; Kevin Costner, The Company Men; Bill Murray, Get Low; Ben Kingsley, Shutter Island.

Best Supporting Actress: Phylicia Rashad, For Colored Girls


Directed by Tyler Perry
Rated R
Runtime: 133 mins

Rashad's character, Gilda, seems determined to keep her distance from us. She is an observer — the apartment manager who watches the comings and goings of director Tyler Perry's cast in this adaptation of an Obie-winning play.

But read Rashad's face, and study her eyes — they brilliantly reflect every broken heart, every shattered life, that passes her door.

We Also Loved: Sissy Spacek, Get Low; Diane Keaton, Morning Glory; Melissa Leo, The Fighter; Gemma Jones, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.

Best Director: Danny Boyle, 127 Hours


Rated R
Runtime: 94 mins

Here's an insane task: Make a movie in which the hero amputates his own arm — and keep the audience from running screaming from the theater.

Miraculously, seasoned storyteller Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) pulls it off (so to speak).

We Also Loved: Paul Greengrass, Green Zone; Paul Haggis, The Next Three Days; Tony Scott, Unstoppable; John Wells, The Company Men.

Best Screenwriter: John Wells, The Company Men


Rated R
Runtime: 109 mins

GENE (Tommy Lee Jones) [reviewing proposed layoffs]: "All I see are people who are over 50, with enough young ones thrown in to protect us against litigation."

HR HATCHET GUY: "We're not breaking any laws, Gene."

GENE: "I guess I always assumed we were trying for a higher standard than that."

We Also Loved: Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit; Paul Haggis, The Next Three Days; Mike Leigh, Another Year; David Seidler, The King's Speech.

Best Grownup Love Story: Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right


Directed by Lisa Cholodenko
Rated R
Runtime: 106 mins

If love stories are about people muddling through the thicket of commitment, re ­ calibrating their relationship as life throws its curve balls, and fiercely protecting those they love, then it's hard to come up with one more real — and raw — than Bening and Moore as the "Momses." The couple's happiness is put at risk when their children seek out their biological dad.

We Also Loved: Blythe Danner and Richard Dreyfuss, The Lightkeepers; Julianna Margulies and Andy Garcia, City Island; Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent, Another Year; Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, Fair Game.

Best Comedy: City Island


Directed by Raymond De Felitta
Rated PG-13
Runtime: 104 mins

Who's got a secret? Just about everybody in this gem. Andy Garcia's the prison guard who secretly wants to act, Julianna Margulies is his neglected wife who's growing a bit too fond of the young man hubby brought home for dinner one night — and as for their kids, well, if Mom and Dad only knew.…

We Also Loved: Date Night, Flipped, RED.

Best Intergenerational Film: Flipped


Directed by Rob Reiner
Rated PG
Runtime: 90 mins

Defying our kids-know-best culture, Reiner's young hero (Callan McAuliffe) turns to his grandfather (John Mahoney) for the wisdom of experience, the comfort of love. The result is as magical a screen relation ­ ship as you will see.

We Also Loved: The Karate Kid, The Kids Are All Right, That Evening Sun, Touching Home.

Best Documentary: Waste Land


Directed by Lucy Walker, Karen Harley, and João Jardim
Rated NR
Runtime: 90 mins

The story of Brooklyn artist Vik Muniz, 49, and the breathtaking art he creates with the trash pickers of Rio de Janeiro is mesmerizing, heartbreaking, and enthralling.

We Also Loved: Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Waiting for "Superman," Marwencol.

Breakthrough Achievement - Helen Mirren, Red


Directed by Robert Schwentke
Rated PG-13
Runtime: 111 mins

The First Lady of the Cinema, playing a spy forced out of retirement, kicks a heap of bad-guy butt. Best moment: at the trigger of a machine gun the size of a Buick.

Best Foreign-Language Film: Farewell


Directed by Christian Carion
Rated NR
Runtime: 113 mins

Belgium (French, Russian, English)

As the KGB bureaucrat who leaked the list of his agency's spy network to the West, Sergei Gregoriev — and the French engineer who was his courier — helped end the Soviet Union. Director Christian Carion tells their story as a nail-biting spy drama played against the gathering gloom of an imploding empire.

We Also Loved: A Film Unfinished (Israel and Germany),The First Beautiful Thing (Italy), Mother (South Korea), Peepli Live (India).

Best Buddy Picture: Unstoppable


Directed by Tony Scott
Rated PG-13
Runtime: 98 mins

Denzel Washington is the engagingly grizzled veteran train engineer; Chris Pine is his eager young conductor. As they desperately try to keep their runaway train from killing thousands, the youngster learns to respect the lessons of experience, and the old fella rediscovers the value of youthful exuberance.

Best Movie for Grownups Who Refuse to Grow Up: The Karate Kid


Directed by Harald Zwart
Rated PG
Runtime: 140 mins

Admit it: Someone bullied you at least once. And oh, if only you'd had someone like the ageless Jackie Chan to pat you on the head, explain that true strength is in calm maturity…and then show you how to kick the guy in the head.

We Also Loved: Alice in Wonderland, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, How to Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 3.

Join the Discussion

0 | Add Yours

Please leave your comment below.

You must be logged in to leave a comment.

AARP Membership

Discounts & Benefits

    Next Article

    Read This