The 50 best movies of 2011


What happened to you 2011? Those folks back in the ’50s seemed certain that the whole damn planet would be in jetpacks by now, not to mention the fact that Earth still hasn’t colonized the stars. Gah, NASA hasn’t so much as encountered the Biker Mice from Mars, let alone defeated them in battle. For shame. Still, at least there were a few decent movies released in the year that was.

Anyhoo, as a direct sequel to ‘The Best Movies of 2010’, and a cheeky prequel to our ‘Best Movies of 2012’, here are the top 50 movies of 2011.

50. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The Movie: David Fincher takes on Stieg Larsson’s modern classic, with Rooney Mara taking on Noomi Rapace to make the character of Lisbeth Salander her own. Think Se7en, but darker.

Impact: Only #50? Consider it an honourable mention, as it’s not out until Boxing Day. But it’s already shaking the film world after New Yorker critic David Denby broke the review embargo. His verdict–“mesmerising,” apparently.

49. The Lincoln Lawyer

The Movie: Slick, amoral lawyer Mickey Haller (Matthew McConaughey) finds his ‘I’ll defend anybody’ manta coming back to haunt him when he takes on smug rich kid Ryan Philippe. This is that rare beast: a mainstream legal thriller you won’t want to object to.

Impact: Of all the year’s unlikely comebacks, McConaughey is the best. Ditching the rom-coms and playing to his strengths as Mr Suave might be the best move he ever makes–there are plenty more Mickey Haller novels still to film.

48. Essential Killing

The Movie: Taliban fighter Vincent Gallo does a runner into a gruelling Arctic landscape he has no experience of. Jerzy Skolimowski’s pared-down survival thriller proves all you need to make a decent action movie is an actor and a camera.

Impact: Turns out Gallo is actually likeable when he keeps his mouth shut and, yes, that includes assaulting a pregnant woman for her breast milk.

47. Project Nim

The Movie: Documentary looking back on the 1970s experiment to teach a chimpanzee to speak. All human (and animal) life is here: funny, creepy and ultimately very moving.

Impact: James Marsh proves, after Man On Wire, to have a rare knack for finding great real-life stories and getting the protagonists to open up. It’s also worth noting, between this and a certain simian blockbuster, that apes definitely rose in 2011.

46. Weekend

The Movie: A one-night stand turns into a tentative romance for Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New). A non-patronising, realistic vision of gay life that’s also the best British love story in years.

Impact: Astonishing word-of-mouth turned a film that might have been ghettoise into a modest crossover hit. Proof that a good movie will always out.

45. 50/50

The Movie: The lighter side of cancer, as young patient Joseph-Gordon Levitt refuses to stop being funny. Based on screenwriter Will Reiser’s own experiences, this comedy-drama benefits from Reiser’s best mate Seth Rogen basically playing himself as Levitt’s best mate.

Impact: Proof that comedy and illness do mix on screen (see, Love And Other Drugs, it can be done), plus it’ll probably help cancer awareness more than any number of PR campaigns.

44. The Help

The Movie: A proper, “they don’t make ’em like they used to” melodrama about a journalist (Emma Stone) who decides to write a book about the experience of black servants in racist Mississippi.

Impact: A rare case of an Oscar-bait adaptation of a bestselling novel that works. Don’t be surprised if Viola Davis walks away with a golden statuette next year.

43. The Ides Of March

The Movie: George Clooney’s return to form as a director puts him in natural territory, playing a charismatic politician who corrupts idealistic intern Ryan Gosling.

Impact: You’ll be hearing a lot about Ryan Gosling in this list, but don’t forget a career-best turn by Rachel Evan Wood that’s probably the film’s best chance of an Oscar nomination.

42. 13 Assassins

The Movie: Takashi Miike goes six better than Seven Samurai. Impressively restrained by his standards, but still the year’s best film to feature a burning cow.

Impact: A notable change of gears for the usually unpredictable Miike, as he’s followed this with another old-school samurai movie, his remake of 1960s classic Harakiri.

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