The Best (and Worst) Movies of 2011

From the start of 2011 to today, January 31, 2012, I kept a running list of all the new movies I watched, ranking them as the year progressed.  This is that list.

To make it on the list, a film had to be released in the U.S. in 2011, either in theaters or on DVD.  (Festivals don’t count.)  Thus, a few of the below films may not necessarily match their IMDB release date.

This all began with TV Script Doctor Joey.  She’s been making movie lists for years.  In 2010, I compiled a Best of 2010 List at the end of the year, but 2011 was the first year I kept track as I watched, and one reason why this list is more extensive and includes comments on each film.

I really enjoyed this.  It’s just plain more fun watching a film and then thinking about where it ranks.  Plus, friends would ask, “Where’s that on the list?” after we’d watch a movie, and I’d be instantly be able to recommend better films.  Along those same lines, when acquaintances or relatives would ask smartly, “What’s the best movie of the year?” you instantly have an answer (DRIVE) because you have your list.

Want to join the fun in 2012?  Take the Great Movie Challenge of 2012 and keep up as we try to see as many movies released in 2012 as we can. (Did you see HAYWIRE or THE GREY?  You’re already ahead!)

Alright, let’s get to the list:



1.    DRIVE –If you can stand a bit of ultra violence, you’re in for a wild ride.
2.    THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – James Bond teams up with the most badass chick of all time.
3.    50/50 – I laughed, I cried, sometimes at the same time.
4.    SOURCE CODE – Sci-fi, the way it’s meant to be.
5.    BEGINNERS – Surprisingly strong indie that’s less about death and more about life.  (And not as cheesy as this description.)
6.    THE DESCENDANTS – Sad, meaningful, and so well written.
7.    BRIDESMAIDS – NOT the best comedy of all time (see Bridesmaids Overrated) but still very funny and surprisingly touching.
8.    SUPER 8 – Channels those great Spielberg flicks from the 80s.
9.    MONEYBALL – Brad Pitt, Sabermetrix, and Jonah Hill turn out to be a killer combination.  Who could have predicted that? (Answer: Brad Pitt)
10.    MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL – Long title, awesome action film.
11.    SUBMARINE – Wes Anderson scores again with this British coming-of-age indie…Wha?  Not Wes Anderson?  Still quality.
12.    THE ARTIST – Innovative semi-silent film, however, as Matt and I discussed on Scriptcast: Episode 32, a slow second act drags it down.


13.    THOR – As good as it gets for a movie about a guy with a magic hammer.
14.    HUGO – A spectacular, sentimental film with far too little story.
15.    CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE – A tad contrived, but the Gos rules.
16.    X-MEN: FIRST CLASS – First class, indeed. Best X-MEN since X2.
17.    MIDNIGHT IN PARIS  – A whimsical, intellectual, and humorous stroll through Paris.  Good to see Woody Allen (metaphorically) kicking ass again.
18.    RED STATE – Kevin Smith strikes with a surprisingly intense and intelligent horror/action/comedy (but mostly action) fusion film.
19.    BUCK – Moving documentary about man who shows us we’re not that different from horses.  Seriously.
20.    A BETTER LIFE – A bit melodramatic, yet Demian Bichir makes us feel.
21.    CAPTAIN AMERICA – High-ranking entertainment, until the ending.
22.    WIN-WIN – Small, solid film with touching humor and intimate moments.
23.    SENNA – Formula One racing never felt so alive.
24.    TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL – High-concept, low-budget, and a whole lot of fun.
25.    MARGIN CALL – So that’s what happened in 2008…
26.    THE IDES OF MARCH – A smart – but surprisingly light – political drama.
27.    LIFE IN A DAY – Feels a little like BABIES 2: ADULTS. Fascinating doc shot by real people across the globe.
28.    PAUL – Plot and characters need work, but constant jokes keep the laughter flowing through the end.
29.    HIGHER GROUND – Interesting indie exploring religion, women, sex, marriage, life…and somewhere there’s a story, I know it.
30.    THE HELP – A great cast nearly saves this overly feel-goody film.
31.    THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU – Learned three things: 1. Heaven is a library. 2. Emily Blunt is in great shape 3. Fedoras give you power.
32.    PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES – Raises important questions while lacking the depth of the paper it covers.
33.    BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK – Beautiful pictures with only a taste of the man who takes them.
34.    FAST FIVE – Sexy and silly.  Poking holes in this plot is like punching a kitten in the face: easy to do but ruins the cuteness.
35.    THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE, 1967-1975 –Intense footage stylistically cobbled together in a movie.  Sort of.
36.    THE TRIP – An enjoyable, wandering excursion.
37.    RANGO – Cool, except the story felt less like a CHINATOWN homage and more like the recycling of its water…plot.
38.    CEDAR RAPIDS – A bit odd, but still a light, fun, indie comedy.
39.    EXPORTING RAYMOND – Nifty cultural observations; doesn’t get too deep.
40.    HALL PASS – Not sure if the premise works, yet the laughs keep coming.
41.    CONAN O’BRIEN CAN’T STOP – Insights into Conan are hard to come by in this light, amusing documentary.
42.    JANE EYRE– Picturesque retelling that omits too many of the intricate verbal exchanges that made the book a classic.
43.    FORKS OVER KNIVES – Educational documentary on the perils of eating meat and dairy.  Suffers from editing and sound quirks – FOOD, INC. it ain’t.
44.    BATTLE: LOS ANGELES – Aliens blow up West LA.  What’s not to like?*
45.    THE LINCOLN LAWYER – Some slick McConaughey moves.  Still waiting for the final twist.   Really?  That’s it?  Really?
46.    POTICHE – Cute and disorganized.  Just like France.  (Kidding.)


47.    YOUNG ADULT – Charlize Theron behaving poorly.  Hear the review – and debate – on Scriptcast 32.
48.    THE HANGOVER PART II – Some laughs, but too many “balls,” and not enough “to-the-wall.”
49.    BAD TEACHER – Pretty “bad.”  (Heh.)
50.    JUMPING THE BROOM – The sappiness sucks the enjoyment out of this otherwise entertaining film.
51.    LIMITLESS – Interesting idea that fails to capitalize on its potential
52.    THE GREEN HORNET – An unsympathetic hero without a goal makes this humorous and stylized film tough to like.
53.    HANNAH – Wished the story was half as developed as the action sequences.
54.    HORRIBLE BOSSES – So many bosses, so few jokes.
55.    ARTHUR – Tries to do too much; ends up not doing much at all.
56.    SUPER – Weird, dark, and humorless.
57.    NO STRINGS ATTACHED – “Hot actors naked.”  Didn’t expect much; expectations delivered.
58.    GNOMEO AND JULIET  – Strange mix of gardening/Shakespeare/kids-movie.  Gnomes were cute, though.
59.    FROM PRADA TO NADA – Lacks sense or sensibility.

You may have noticed that a decent number of documentaries on there.  That’s thanks to Netflix Instant, which fed my craving year-round.

Sure, not everything is on this list.  I still need to see WARRIOR, MELANCHOLIA, CONTAGION, and A SEPARATION.  But I feel like it was a solid effort, catching most of the bigger films (except for HARRY POTTER 8 and TWILIGHT 4) and a lot of smaller ones.

And even if I didn’t see everything in 2011, there’s always the Great Movie Challenge of 2012.

I feel like I’m already behind.  Actually, I am.

See you at the movies.


* A joke.  If West Los Angeles were destroyed by aliens, I would miss Father’s Office, A Video Store Named Desire, and at least two other establishments whose names have slipped my mind.

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