Back to The Best Movies of 2011
14. 'Tree of Life'
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Terrence Malick's unflinchingly ambitious meditation on childhood, family, spirituality, evolution and existence itself isn't for everybody -- it received angry boos and the Palme d'Or at Cannes, helped stoke a media debate about the value of "boring" movies, and prompted one theater to post a warning notice for unsuspecting Brad Pitt fans. But for those who believe that film is also an art form, 'Tree of Life' is a welcome respite from the never-ending onslaught of self-assembling robots and juiced-up action heroes (though, be warned, there are dinosaurs). Lovers of great acting, meanwhile, may prefer to focus on the revelatory performances by Jessica Chastain and young newcomers Hunter McCracken and Laramie Eppler. -- M.H.