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Top 2011 Films Star Clooney’s Baron, Gosling’s Getaway Driver

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Source: Fox Searchlight via Bloomberg

Brit Marling in "Another Earth," a film about damaged people trying to connect with each other and the world around them.

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Source: Fox Searchlight via Bloomberg

Brit Marling in "Another Earth," a film about damaged people trying to connect with each other and the world around them. Close

Brit Marling in "Another Earth," a film about damaged people trying to connect with each other and the world around them.

Photographer: Cindy Meehl/IFC Films via Bloomberg

Buck Brannaman in "Buck." The film is about his transformation from abused child to world-famous horse trainer. Close

Buck Brannaman in "Buck." The film is about his transformation from abused child to world-famous horse trainer.

Photographer: Richard Foreman Jr./EPK via Bloomberg

Carey Mulligan in "Drive," directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. Close

Carey Mulligan in "Drive," directed by Nicolas Winding Refn.

Photographer: Jojo Whilden/Berlin Film Festival via Bloomberg

Kevin Spacey in "Margin Call," which also stars Jeremy Irons and Demi Moore. Close

Kevin Spacey in "Margin Call," which also stars Jeremy Irons and Demi Moore.

Source: Sony Pictures Classics via Bloomberg

Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin and Maxim Gaudette in "Incendies." Close

Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin and Maxim Gaudette in "Incendies."

Source: Roadside Attractions via Bloomberg

Nim Chimpsky is the subject of the film "Project Nim." Close

Nim Chimpsky is the subject of the film "Project Nim."

Source: Sony Pictures Classics vie Bloomberg

Michael Shannon and Tova Stewart in "Take Shelter," written and directed by Jeff Nichols. Close

Michael Shannon and Tova Stewart in "Take Shelter," written and directed by Jeff Nichols.

Source: The Weinstein Company via Bloomberg

Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo in "The Artist," about the era of silent films and the business of Hollywood movie-making. It is directed by Michel Hazanavicius. The film is tipped for Oscar success after capturing best film at the U.K. Baftas. Close

Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo in "The Artist," about the era of silent films and the business of Hollywood... Read More

Photographer: Merie Wallace/Fox Serarchlight via Bloomberg

Beau Bridges and George Clooney in "The Descendants." The film is directed by Alexander Payne. Close

Beau Bridges and George Clooney in "The Descendants." The film is directed by Alexander Payne.

Source: Oscilloscope Laboratories via Bloomberg

Tilda Swinton in "We Need To Talk About Kevin." The film is based on Lionel Shriver's award-winning novel. Close

Tilda Swinton in "We Need To Talk About Kevin." The film is based on Lionel Shriver's award-winning novel.

A fading silent-film star and a chimpanzee that uses sign language. A sand-miner with apocalyptic visions and a Hawaiian land baron. A distraught mother and a getaway driver.

They’re all leading characters in my favorite films of 2011. Here’s my Top-10 list, in alphabetical order:

“Another Earth”: Brit Marling stars in this wondrous drama about a young woman seeking redemption for causing a fatal car crash. She finds hope in a newly discovered planet that mirrors Earth.

“Buck”: A touching documentary about Buck Brannaman, the inspiration for Robert Redford’s equine trainer in “The Horse Whisperer.” Brannaman overcame a Dickensian childhood to become a world-famous horse handler known for his uncanny ability to communicate with the animals.

“Drive”: Ryan Gosling channels Clint Eastwood in his quiet-hero role as a Hollywood stunt man who moonlights as a getaway driver. Albert Brooks is shocking as a vicious gangster.

“Incendies”: Canadian siblings explore their mother’s mysterious Middle East past after she dies and leaves them envelopes for a father they thought was dead and a brother they never knew about. A little-seen gem.

“Margin Call”: J.C. Chandor makes a scintillating directing debut with this dark drama about an investment firm on the brink of collapse during the 2008 financial meltdown. The first-rate cast includes Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Simon Baker, Stanley Tucci and Jeremy Irons.

Talking Chimp

“Project Nim”: The true story of a chimp raised by humans and taught sign language before being shipped back to the primate center where he was born and later sold to a medical research lab. An important lesson about the folly of trying to treat animals like people.

“Take Shelter”: Michael Shannon stars in this spooky story about an Ohio sand-miner plagued by nightmares of an upcoming storm. Makes you want to avoid the Weather Channel.

“The Artist”: A silent film about silent films, this French production is a gorgeous homage to an era when movie stars were as mum as Marcel Marceau.

“The Descendants”: George Clooney expands his repertoire in Alexander Payne’s bittersweet drama about a Hawaiian father who must raise his two daughters alone after their mother is seriously injured in a boating accident.

“We Need to Talk About Kevin”: The mother of a Columbine- type killer tries to figure out what went wrong in this powerful adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s novel. Tilda Swinton delivers a bravura performance as the bewildered mom.

Other noteworthy films from the past year: “Hugo,” “Carnage,” “Midnight in Paris,” “Tabloid,” “Rampart,” “Melancholia,” “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” “A Separation” and “Winter in Wartime.”

(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Rick Warner in New York at rwarner1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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