‘X-Men: First Class’ Powers Up To MTV’s #6 Movie Of 2011

I’d say 2011 was the year of the superhero if 2012 wasn’t also set to gift us with a staggering array of caped and non-caped crusaders. Let’s just say the last 12 months have delivered the world, to varying degrees of success, “The Green Hornet,” “Green Lantern,” “Captain America: The First Avenger,” and “Thor.”

The best of the bunch, however, is without a doubt “X-Men: First Class.” What separates the mutants from their comic-book brethren is not story or visual effects or dope fight sequences — though “X-Men” has all of those things in spades — but something much rarer in this genre: characters you actually care about.

And so we honor “X-Men: First Class” as our #6 pick in MTV’s best movies of 2011 list. Listen, I enjoyed “Thor” but never for a second did I buy the love story between the God of Thunder and Natalie Portman’s earthy scientist. Though “Green Hornet” was a hoot, I never felt invested in Seth Rogen’s bad-boy-gone-good arc. “X-Men,” by contrast, gave us a level of character development you simply don’t see often in superhero flicks, regardless of the year.

Magneto’s (Michael Fassbender) path from Holocaust survivor to conflicted hero to cynical villain just slayed me. I rooted for him at every turn, first when he embarked on a mission of vengeance and then, when he turned toward the dark side, I kept hoping he’d reconsider — even as I knew he would not. Fassbender rules, full spot. Professor Xavier (James McAvoy), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult) — all of them had fully fleshed-out character arcs; every one was absorbing. These mutants were human, all too human.

So, um, yeah: characters! “X-Men” has a lot more going for it, too. The retro ’60s setting imbued the entire story with the weight of history. The score effing rocked. And, at long last after the calamity that was “X-Men: The Last Stand,” we had a Marvel mutant movie we could all be psyched about again.

It arrived in a year that had us pretty psyched about what was going on at the multiplex. “X-Men” joins “The Muppets,” (#7) “50/50″ (#8), “The Descendants” (#9) and “Attack the Block” (#10) on our Best of 2011 list. The full list — including MTV’s pick for the best movie of the year — will be announced during a live stream at 4:30 p.m. ET on Friday (December 16).