Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks, Thomas Horn

1 How do we go on without the people who make us who we are? Nine-year-old Oskar Schell (Horn), like so many on 9/11, will have to figure it out. Oskar's quest is to solve a mystery left by his late father (Hanks), but Extremely Loud (out Dec. 25) has bigger concerns, like proving with scientific certainty the vastness of the human spirit. That it does so in a film that's wrenching and funny is a minor miracle.

The Artist

Starring: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo

2 By paying homage to cinema's golden age with a black-and-white silent film, The Artist forces itself to be more imaginative than nearly every other movie this year. It doesn't lack sound and color, it's free of them.

Drive

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston

3 Whether or not the awards come, this was Gosling's year. He was the wunderkind in The Ides of March and the sex symbol in Crazy, Stupid, Love., but it was here, with all his silence and control as the nameless Driver, that he was at his best. Gosling propels the stylish noir thriller with a naked intelligence that elevates his character from thug to hero, finding redemption through the most inhuman acts.

A Separation

Starring: Leila Hatami, Peyman Moadi

4 What's the brilliant A Separation (out Dec. 30) about? Everything. Two Iranian couples tumble into a fierce conflict fueled by misogyny, dogma, class and modernity itself.

The Skin I Live In

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya

5 An impressive display of narrative origami, Skin reveals new layers with every viewing of the dark doctor (Banderas) and his captive (and captivating) patient (Anaya).

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara

6 The first instinct is to be scared of Lisbeth Salander (Mara)-and with her wild eyes and barely checked rage, you ought to be. The second impulse is to be scared for her, and that's the one that lasts. Director David Fincher delivers a gut-punch of a film (out Dec. 21) that's gasp-inducing even to fans of the novel. But it's Mara who gives us our Lisbeth, the hacker who helps a tarnished journalist (Craig) pursue a missing-woman case. Nimble, tough, yet shockingly vulnerable, her performance is hypnotic.

Senna

Documentary

7 Documentaries suffer for where they can't take us. Culled from 5,000 hours of footage of legendary Formula One racer Ayrton Senna, this one takes us everywhere. The portrait is so intimate, his death feels like a fresh tragedy, not a foregone conclusion.

The Descendants

Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley

8 Illness and adultery often rip families apart. In Alexander Payne's wry snapshot of hell in paradise, a distant father (Clooney) and daughter (Woodley) find that the path through pain leads them back to each other.

The Adventures of Tintin

Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis

9 Leave it to Steven Spielberg to remind us that animation can be as exhilarating as it is beautiful. His lush take on the comic book hero (out Dec. 21) feels like vintage Indiana Jones.

Bridesmaids

Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Chris O'Dowd

10 I toast Bridesmaids for proving that bawdy female-driven comedy can bring in big box office, that McCarthy and Wiig are geniuses and that smart toilet humor actually exists. But not for proving that women are funny-because that we damn well knew.

People TABLET BONUS VIDEO Alynda on her 2011 faves

Meryl Streep

Brilliantly consistent, Streep delivers a rich portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (out Dec. 30), with a take on the controversial prime minister that's as sharp as it is sensitive.

1. Best Death

His soul already fractured, Voldemort dissipates into ashes in the final Harry Potter.

2. Worst Chemistry

Pairing Jacob with a baby nabs Breaking Dawn our What Were You #&*$%! Thinking? award.

3. Best Revenge

Minny's unsavory pie in The Help is a dish best served cold ... with whipped cream.

4. Worst Actress

No one seemed more bored-or boring-than January Jones in X-Men: First Class.

5. Worst Superhero

Even Ryan Reynolds couldn't save Green Lantern from its cheesy effects and script.

Limitless

A smart, funny, pill-popping ride with Sexiest Man Bradley Cooper? What's not to love? Um, that's not rhetorical. Please explain yourself.

Most Overrated

Hugo

I love Dickensian suffering as much as anyone, but Martin Scorsese's kids' film is more interested in the mean old film director than it is in kids.

Zoe Saldana

"Hanna. Saiorse Ronan was so amazing in it. She was a child that was like this lethal weapon."

Peter Facinelli

"Puss in Boots. I loved it, and my kids loved it too."

Anthony Mackie

"Attack the Block. I used to wonder, 'Why don't aliens ever come to the hood?' Now you see why aliens don't go to the hood."

Chloe Sevigny

"Margin Call. It was about something very current, yet it was poetic and not beating you over the head. It has a strong message, but it's subtle."

Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids

"I want to apologize. I'm not even confident on which end that came out of."