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By Tom Vincent on

Our favourite films of 2011

Which films did museum staff love in 2011? The results of our poll are in!

Each contributor was asked to name five favourite new films that played in UK cinema in 2011. Beginning with an interesting tie for first place, our list of most-loved films is, as usual, broad and varied. Eleven people cast their 55 votes for 41 films, with 32 of those either shown at the museum, or coming here early this year.

Please use the comments section below to let us know your favourites, or tell us what you think of ours.

13 Assassins

  • Takashi ‘four-a-year’ Miike is a compulsive lunatic genius. Like fellow great subversive John Waters, he has glorious fun on the banks of the mainstream. (TV)

Animal Kingdom

  • “Do you come from a land Down Under? / Where women glow and men plunder / Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder? / You better run, you better take cover.” (Neil Young, Co-Director, Bradford International Film Festival)
  • This was my special mention for 2011 on last year’s list and it’s still up there, what a mother… (Jen Skinner, Film Education Officer)


  • If Joanna Hogg spends the rest of her career making films about posh families on awkward holidays overseas, why should anyone complain? (NY)

Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975

  • Fine, free edit work on Swedish film crews’ recordings of the unravelling strands of U.S. Black Power movements. This film proved the maxim: ‘show, don’t tell’. (TV)

Blue Valentine

  • The whole thing is such a genuine look at married life. It’s not harrowing and relentless, nor is it Hollywood convenient; it’s just very honest. (Mike McKenny, Museum Volunteer and Director of Minicine)
  • Great natural chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. (Tom Woolley, Curator of New Media)
  • Heartbreaking. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are simply brilliant. You will not find two more accomplished performances this year. (Ben Haller, Customer and Colleague Service Champion)

Captain America: The First Avenger

  • Intelligent and thoroughly enjoyable, terrific performances and original action sequences make this the best of the Avengers series by far. Hayley Atwell is mesmerising as Agent Carter. (BH)

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

  • The ever reliable and idiosyncratic Herzog. (TB)

The Descendants (London Film Festival)

  • 35 years ago America produced mature, emotionally complex films like this every week. Alexander Payne is my favourite American director working today. (TV)

The Divide (Leeds International Film Festival)

  • Frontière director Xavier Gens bounces back from the studio peril that was Hitman with an intelligent, visually rich and outstandingly acted horror film which suggests hell really is other people. (Sarah Crowther, Life Online Content Curator)


  • The most exhilarating couple of hours I’ve spent in a cinema all year, terrific! (BH)

The Future

  • Prrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr… (NY)

Hobo with a Shotgun

  • Absolutely true to its Grindhouse origins, Hobo… is outrageous, visually rich and the most fun to be had in a cinema this year. (SC)

How I Ended This Summer

  • Desolation and isolation pushed to the very extreme. There have been some fantastic patient films this year, but few—if any—as patient as this one. (MM)


  • Martin Scorsese’s ode to the magical Georges Méliès and a celebration of cinematic dreams. What’s not to like? (JS)


  • The most fun we had in a cinema this year with our clothes on. (Optional) (NY)

Kill List

  • British horror as it should be. (SC)

The King’s Speech

  • A moving tale of friendship across the class divide with great lead performances. (SS)

Le quattro volte

  • Went into this not knowing what to expect and was seduced by its beautiful, slow-paced nature. Lingered on my mind for months. (TW)
  • The finest canine sequence in years, and the goats were good as well. (Keith Withall, Film Extra tutor)
  • True craftsmanship. Moving, heart warming and real. (Toni Booth, Collections Manager)


  • Beautiful depiction of adolescent communication. Invokes a sense of unease throughout. A touching love letter to small town America, so often either simplified or demonised by mainstream American cinema. (MM)

Masks (Leeds International Film Festival)

  • German director Andreas Marschall’s love letter to Giallo. An atmospheric study in Argento and Lamberto Bava, Masks features the best opening sequence of the year. (SC)

Meek’s Cutoff

  • Perfect example of anti-genre. Completely aware of its mythic Western context, but strips away the spectacle to criticise and deconstruct. (MM)
  • A women’s viewpoint on the West, and one exquisite lap dissolve. (KW)


  • Sardonic, sarcastic and complex but still generating great emotion. (KW)
  • Armageddon takes very much a back seat in this enigmatic examination of depression and reactions to a crisis. (Sven Shaw, Assistant Gallery Developer)

Never Let Me Go

  • A love story and sci-fi rolled into one. I found the film detached, cold but totally compelling. (SS)


  • Feel-good film of the year! The fluidity, grace and passion of the dancers were completely inspiring. (RM)


  • Some irony in the fact that Johnny Depp’s finest hour (and a half) involves no glimpse of his fabled visage. (NY)

The River Used to Be a Man (Leeds International Film Festival)

  • This film utilises masterful cinematography in order for you to soak in the natural beauty—and natural peril—of the African wilderness. (MM)


  • I had no interest in Formula One but was totally gripped to this film. Asif Kapadia played this epic story out in a fascinating way. (JS)

A Separation

  • Beautifully produced and the cast deservedly swept the acting awards at the Berlin Film Festival. (KW)
  • Incredibly mature film-making that looks understated but held all those different characters’ complex and contradictory feelings in play throughout the whole film. (Rona Murray, Film Extra tutor)

Shame (Leeds International Film Festival; London Film Festival)

  • A stylish and compelling observation of personal detachment. (TW)
  • No-one clapped, too uncomfortable. I’m still thinking about it—I think that’s part of what Steve McQueen does best. (RM)

The Skin I Live In

  • Deliberate ‘trash’ and high art megamix from the master. They slagged it at the BBC4 World Cinema Awards—which makes you love it more, somehow. (RM)
  • Very original and surprising tale of revenge and personal identity. (SS)

Source Code

  • Much like Rodrigo Cortes’ fine Buried last year, Source Code built upon breaking the confines of one-shot film-making. Refreshingly inventive and story-driven, I was gripped throughout. (BH)
  • Superb Hollywood sci-fi. (TW)


  • I’m a sucker for a misfit film. Great cast, visually very pleasing, a fantastic soundtrack and Paddy Considine with a mullet—what more could you want? (JS)

Super 8

  • Was this a satirical take on 80s action movies or an overblown mishmash of genres? It doesn’t really matter when a film’s this much fun. (SS)

Symbol (Leeds International Film Festival)

  • Just about indescribable, and more profound than The Tree of Life (and with a great sense of humour) (TB)

Traces of a Diary

  • Watching this fluid, expressive documentary on five highly individual Japanese photographers is the kind of experience that makes organising film festivals worthwhile. (TV)

True Grit

  • A rollicking Coen brothers remake. Loved every minute of it. (TW)

Wake Wood

  • British horror as it should be. (SC)

We Need to Talk About Kevin

  • Disturbingly beautiful and it’s by Lynne Ramsay who is just brilliant, so deserves a place on my list. (JS)
  • Wonderful combination of beauty and horror. (TB)

Win Win

  • Quirky, funny, true and passionate! A life-affirming insight into nowhere-America and a glimpse of hope for middle-age men everywhere. Tom McCarthy has now written The Station Agent, The Visitor, Up and Win Win! (BW)

Wuthering Heights

  • No it’s not a straight adaptation, so what? Its quality of silence and visuality were just intensely felt and amazingly consistent across a whole feature. (RM)
  • It captured the passion and violence that I felt when I first read Emily Brontë’s novel, and it was filmed in Yorkshire. (KW)

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