Screen Rant’s Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2011

Published 2 years ago by This is a list post.

Screen Rant's 10 Favorite Movies of 2011

screen rant favorite movies 2011There's a fine (and sometimes non-existent) line between what constitutes a great movie and a "favorite." We all have films we absolutely love and re-watch over and over, imperfect though they may be; conversely, we may really admire and respect the quality of a widely-recognized "classic," but it's not the sort of flick we feel the need to see more than once or twice. We've settled on a list of 10 movies released in 2011 that the Screen Rant staff not only admired, but flat-out enjoyed. Bear in mind, this isn't synonymous with a "best of" list for films that hit theaters over the past year. These are simply the ones that we deemed our favorites. Read on for our top 10 choices, along with 5 honorable mentions that almost made the cut. As always, let us know if you agree/disagree and what your favorite 2011 flicks were in the comment section.

10. Captain America

captain america movie chris evans It may have been the last of four superhero comic book adaptations to hit theaters in 2011, but Captain America: The First Avengers (for us) proved to be the cream of the crop. As Marvel Studios' final lead-in to The Avengers, First Avenger served as a great final piece to the puzzle of Marvel's cinematic universe. Captain America is also just a fun old-fashioned period adventure flick and fitting throwback to pulpy serial titles of the 1930s and 40s. Director Joe Johnston successfully delivered a final product that mixed a rousing hero, diabolical villain, and kick-ass lady love with some fun action set pieces - and even some moments of tender drama, to boot. Several movies released in recent years have been sold as great Indiana Jones clones, but Captain America is (arguably) the most deserving of that title.

9. The Muppets

muppets movie jason segel As much as we (and moviegoers of all shades) love Jim Henson's iconic felt puppet creations, Disney's marketing campaign for The Muppets was so inspired and hilarious, it begged the question - could the actual movie really live up to all the hype? Fortunately, by most everyone's account, the answer is a resounding "yes." Muppets co-writer (and star) Jason Segel, along with co-writer Nicholas Stoller and director James Bobin, delivered a Muppet movie that has it all: catchy original tunes (thanks to Brett McKenzie), fun performance numbers, classic Muppet-style irreverent humor and physical comedy - all topped off with some inspired celebrity cameos and a genuinely heartfelt story. Suffice it to say: The Muppets are officially back in style and will hopefully stay that way for many years to come.

8. Martha Marcy May Marlene

martha marcy may marlene elizabeth olsen Chances are good that many of the people reading this are only somewhat familiar with this Sundance breakout flick. Nonethless, Martha Marcy May Marlene is definitely one of the most powerful and haunting titles to hit theaters in 2011 (by our count). Martha writer/director Sean Durkin crafted an entrancing psycho-drama that transitions with uncanny ease between the present and questionable memories from the fractured mind of the titular character. Elizabeth Olsen delivers a powerhouse performance as the troubled Martha, while John Hawkes' subtle turn as a charismatic, but unscrupulous cult leader is (frankly) the stuff of nightmares. Lastly, an enigmatic ending rivaling Inception makes this a film worth checking out.

7. Shame

michael fassbender shame movie Michael Fassbender's star meter has been steadily going up for a few years now, but his popularity increased something fierce in 2011 - in part thanks to the actor's emotionally-raw (and physically revealing) performance in co-writer/director Steve McQueen's Shame. Shame is (arguably) both the most difficult film to sit through and impossible to recommend to everyone, as far as entries on this particular top 10 list go. However, if you're up for the task of watching a visually and thematically gloomy drama about a psychologically-damaged man suffering from sex addiction, McQueen's flick is more than somewhat rewarding. Don't let the NC-17 Rating scare you off, either; Shame features as much (if not more) in the way of stellar acting and pure thoughtful storytelling as any other film that hit theaters in 2011.

6. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

mission impossible ghost protocol movie Brad Bird may be a master of animation, but he was covering new ground when he signed up to direct Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. The filmmaker also had to contend with franchise lead Tom Cruise's diminished star status and the general public's waning interest in this particular spy movie series. How then did Bird and his production team overcome those challenges? By crafting a film that boasts an effectively straight-forward narrative and a fun team dynamic (the main cast deserves credit too, in that regard) along with some nail-biting thrills, fantastic blockbuster set pieces, and great use of IMAX cameras to help transport viewers to some truly dazzling spots around the globe. Ghost Protocol was more than good enough to ensure that we'll accept the next mission the I.M.F. throws our way.

5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

harry potter deathly hallows part 2 The eighth and final installment in the Harry Potter movie series was really more a "cinematic event" than just another blockbuster sequel. Fans turned out in record numbers at the film's midnight release, eager to see the decade-old franchise's finale (while also dreading its ending). Fortunately, director David Yates and his all-star British cast helped make Deathly Hallows: Part 2 not only a great thematic conclusion to the eponymous boy wizard's story; but also one that features lots of touching moments and triumphant character beats, along with plenty of spectacular effects and thrilling action to go around. Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is the rare franchise concluder that manages to be "epic" in terms of both emotionally-satisfying drama and visual spectacle. Even non-Potter fans have to admit, that's an impressive feat.

4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

rooney mara girl dragon tattoo lisbeth salander David Fincher is no slacker when it comes to directing intoxicatingly dark and adult murder mysteries. So the idea of him taking on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was met with unadulterated enthusiasm, right? Well, had Niels Arden Oplev not already directed a highly-acclaimed Swedish adaptation of Dragon Tattoo back in 2009, that certainly would have been the case... and yet, a quick survey of both Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb show that people (in general) actually like Fincher's interpretation a bit more than Oplev's. The reason for that is the same reason Fincher's Dragon Tattoo ranks so high on this list: because it features chilling visuals, engaging storytelling, and a gorgeously broody score, along with a fully-committed lead performance from both Daniel Craig and especially Rooney Mara as the titular (and gnarly) anti-heroine, Lisbeth Salander. Hard to hate that winning combination.

3. Hugo

asa butterfield hugo martin scorsese In an age where cynicism and trendy humor reign triumphant in family-friendly entertainment, it's that much easier to cherish a visually-poetic and enjoyably whimsical (yet emotionally-genuine) film like Hugo. Director Martin Scorsese designed Hugo as both his personal love letter to the beauty of cinema and a meditation on how artistic expression and creativity help define our very existences. The final product is a thematically-rich tale brought to life by a charismatic and capable collection of thespians, both young and old. Hugo also manages to pay homage to old-school filmmaking techniques, while simultaneously embracing new technology (namely, 3D and digital effects) more effectively than just about any title released to date. Put mildly, it's a treat to watch.

2. Attack the Block

attack block movie joe cornish Extraterrestrials of all shapes and sizes invaded theaters in 2011, but it was this scrappy flick about a bunch of inner city London street hooligans who do battle against other-worldly fuzzballs with glowing teeth that emerged as the best alien movie of the year (and one of our favorites). Writer/director Joe Cornish and his crew of (largely) unknown actors helped make Attack the Block a wonderfully fun flick that combines true sci-fi elements with an exciting low-budget action romp - one that boasts colorful characters you can cheer for, excellent storytelling, and a hip soundtrack to top it off. This flick really does put all those ultra-expensive (but lackluster) alien movies Hollywood churned out in 2011 to shame. And our MOST favorite movie of 2011 is...

1. Drive

ryan gosling drive movie At the beginning of this past year, all we (and pretty much everyone) knew about Drive is that it sounded like a basic neo-Noir flick directed by well-liked Danish auteur Nicolas Winding Refn. Jump ahead to the present and it's the one title that almost everyone on the Screen Rant staff ranks as one of their favorite (if not top favorite) titles of 2011. Drive successfully blends impressionistic visual storytelling style with often-wordless (but highly-expressive) acting to spin an artsy, but very entertaining yarn. Refn's film also benefits from some impeccably-constructed car chase sequences, shockingly brutal bits of graphic violence, and a love story that often plays out like a contemporary re-imagining of a Grimm fairy tale. We know Drive isn't for everyone; however, those who choose to take the ride are in for one strangely fantastic trip.

Honorable Mentions

moneyball warrior rise planet apes favorite movies 2011 The following films were enjoyed by many of the Screen Rant staff, but ultimately didn't rank high enough for an official spot on our list:
  • Moneyball - A very intelligent and enjoyable real-life sports tale with a charismatic leading performance by Brad Pitt.
  • Warrior - This Rocky-style gritty sport drama packs both a powerful visceral and emotional punch.
  • Bridesmaids - Hilariously raunchy at times, endearingly sweet at others, Bridesmaids is a delightful girl-centric comedy.
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes - This successful franchise reboot features yet another magnificent motion-capture performance by Andy Serkis.
  • The Way Back - Emotionally-draining but rewarding, this is a well-made (and well-acted) survival tale.
TAGS: attack the block, captain america, drive, harry potter, hugo, martha marcy may marlene, mission impossible 4, shame, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the muppets

126 Comments

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  1. GTFOH with Captain America. Super 8 and X-Men First Class were MUCH better than the money monger Marvel movie.

    • I agree super 8 was one of the best films of the year but xmen was a let down. It didnt take advantage of its awesome cast the way it should have. it was ok but didnt live up to my expectations.

  2. can’t agree with many of the choices, captain america was a major let down, for an action movie it failed, harry potter part 2 (not the biggest fan) but i did watch it and it was ok throughout the movie but the ending was crap and how the ‘dark lord’ died was hilariously laughable how his skin pealed away like LOL. and although mi4 was good, i can’t see it in the top 6.
    warrior really should be in the top 5 movies of the year, and rise of the apes was way better than capt, screw honourable mentions they deserve the top spots

    • uhmm … HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS WAS EPIC AND IT’S ENDING WAS NOT CRAP , OKAY ? HARRY FINALLY DESTROYED THE DARK LORD WHO MURDERED HIS PARENTS BEFORE HARRY COULD EVEN SPEAK TO THEM . THE GOLDEN TRIO ( HARRY , RON , HERMIONE ) RISKED THEIR LIVES TO FIND LORD VOLDEMORT’S HORCRUXES . THEY SUFFERED FROM THEIR LOSS . HARRY FINALLY REALIZES THAT SNAPE WAS PROTECTING HIM .
      to me : HARRY POTTER IS THE BEST !
      ~a p0tterhead representative~

      • Dude, your childlike responses are kind of emberassing the other Harry Potter fans.

  3. Doesn’t anybody else miss that magick feeling of HP 1 when he first sees hogwarts from that boat. Maybe it’s beacouse Im 14 but the rest of the Harry potter movies are good but not HP 1 magickal. anyone know what I’m saying?

    • Agree with you. It seems the author attempted to transform Harry Potter into a Lord of the Rings-type epic, but it just doesn’t work. She should have kept if fun and engaging, more age appropriate for the young at heart.

    • I disagree, personally I’ve felt that all the books kept that same feeling of magic and innocence that’s been around since the first book, even as the characters went to war, but it felt like the FILMS had trouble capturing that spirit because they somehow thought that by making it dark and viloent more people would watch them even though that’s not really what Harry Potter is about. That’s just me though.

      • JKR was not trying to make HP like LOTR, She was even writing the books for herself? But yeah I agree Jose, the books do feel the same magic. Personally, the most magical one for me is HBP.

        • HBP is my favourite HP book. And my least favourite HP film.

    • Honestly, couldn’t disagree more. The magic is certainly in the first book, but in my opinion, the first film did little to capture it.

  4. agree with a lot of the choices here loved captain america and harry potter and mi4 was pretty sick

  5. Congrats Screen Rant. That is a terrific list and very impressive. Delighted you had drive, Tattoo and Block there. Very well done.

  6. I loved all of the movies on your list, at least the ones that I have seen. So yeah good stuff.

  7. Warrior is my top 1 and followed by Drive,Tree of Life,A separation

    Warrior,1st time I got emotional during a movie in 5 years

    • interesting , i didnt knew a separation was getting this much attention , so proud of farhadi he,s the only reason i still go to cinema here and only to hes movies since hes the only real filmmaker here.
      hope seperation gets a oscar nod!

  8. Why is everyone so high on warrior?? Well acted yes, but a JOKE of a story! Anyone that knows anything about MMA can not find this story believable!! And if I had to see those idiots from TAPOUT one more time peppered throughout the movie I would have puked!!!
    Good cast / BAD STORY!!!
    That is from someone that really knows the sport from the inside! …it was a let down, too bad because Tom Hardy is the MAN!!
    drive was a great flick!

    • What are you talking about. I’ve been following MMA since the 90′s. It’s perfectly believable. Even local tournaments are like that with round robin tournaments. It’s only recently because UFC is trying to turn it into a real sport that fighters don’t fight multiple times in one night.

    • your way over your head, that movie was fantastic, and if the story was a let down how come it made thousands of grown ass men cry, including myself

  9. I ended 2011 watching a film called BOY WONDER, goes straight on my list. I highly suggest it to everyone!

  10. 1.Melancholia
    2.X-Men First Class
    3.Midnight In Paris
    4.The Inbetweeners
    5.Sherlock Holmes 2
    6.Source Code
    7.The Adjustment Bureau 
    8.Warrior
    9.Captain America
    10.Paul 

    • The Adjustment Bureau was fantstic!!!

    • 1. Cowboys & Aliens
      2. Crazy Stupid Love
      3. Submarine
      4. X-Men: First Class
      5. Limitless
      6. Fast Five
      7. Super 8
      8. 50/50
      9. Horrible Bosses
      10. Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol

      • Limitless is a good call, I forgot that even came out this year! But I can’t agree on Cowboys and Aliens, that was the stinker of the year for me.

        • See I went to see Cowboys and Aliens for four reasons; one, I love jon favreau, I think he’s a visionary, and love his work. Not the biggest fan of the Iron Man series,but whatever. Second, Ron Howard was the producer. self-explanatory. thirdly, Daniel Craig as an amnesiac in the west? Couldn’t miss it. And finally I’m a huge western fan. I thought the plot was balanced, the action was cool, the romance was actually realistic, And all the side stories were told at a good a reasonable pace. I thought It was one of the better sci-fi movies I’ve seen in awhile, and am not sure why so many people thought itr was bad. Having said that, the title would drive so many people away, so I understand it not doing well.

          Yeah, I loved limitless. My favorite kinds of movies are about style and success probably because I have neither of those things. LOL. It was also made by Focus features, and I dont think they’ve made a bad film yet. It was a great movie through and through.

          Big question Dr. Sam, DID YOU SEE SUBMARINE?

    • I’d like to take Paul off my list and replace it with Mission Impossible.

      • I would like to push mission impossible down a level along with everything else except “Cowboys” and put “The Adventures of Tintin” at number 2. One of the best Spielberg’s in ages.

  11. happy new year to screenrant! my top 10 are 1.thor 2.cap a.t.f.av. 3.super 8 4.r.o.t.pl.o.th.apes 5.tintin . no,sorry just top 5,don´t remind others.

  12. Where’s is X-Men??!! Transformers had good visuals!!

  13. Didn’t think Capt. America was that good to watch more than once. For it to be the favourite superhero movie on the list is a pity IMO. Story started with sooo much promise but my wife and I got bored half-way through as Red Skull failed to live up to expectations. Ah well, to each his own I say.

    I would put Thor (despite the hurried story-it’s still visually interesting on second and third viewing) or Xmen First Class there.

  14. Everyone has their own opinions…
    Personally, I didn’t really enjoy most of the movies in that list (I haven’t even seen some of em’)
    Here’s my top 10 favorite movies of 2011:
    1. Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows
    2. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
    3. Captain America: The First Avenger
    4. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows (Part 2)
    5. Thor
    6. X-Men: First Class
    7. The Muppets
    8. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
    9. Transformers 3
    10. Tower Heist (I liked it okay! ;))

    • too much partying last night! now i´ve got the other 5,6.x-men f.cl. 7.transf.d.o.t.moon 8.ha.potter 7/2 9.insidious 10.apollo 18,i know but i like the movie,little creepy-haunting movie,nothing spectacular ,but watchable!

    • I love your list!

  15. No rise of the apes?

  16. Personally, I think that the final Harry Potter was the best movie of the year, but that’s just my honest, fan-boy opinion. Sherlock Holmes is probably a close second, and The Help has to be Number 3. Bridesmaids is Number 4, with Captain America taking Fifth place. Number 6 is The Muppets. 7th is Arthur Chistmas. Number 8 is Thor, and Number 9 is X-Men: First Class. Number 10 is Pirates of the Caribeann 4. That’s my list!!!

    I can already tell my top three for 2012 will be: The Hunger Games, TDKR, and The Avengers.

    • damn,the more i read here,i´ve forgotten my fav.movies of 2011. of course pirates 4,second time i´ve really enjoyed it! but for truth there were also good direct-dvd movies.

  17. Shame you didn’t include THOR in here. This was always seen as the most difficult Marvel superhero to bring to life – and Kenneth Branagh pulled it off Big-Time ! From the glory of Asgard to the excellent cast…and helping place a big chunk of Avengers in place.

  18. In what I thought was generally a weak year for movies, I couldn’t agree more with Drive being number one. Refn does what Tarantino can’t. Use his influences to inform his own style (as opposed to just blatantly ripping them off and calling it a homage). It’s a nice validation when something I play cheerleader to pops up on the end of the year lists.

    Hated Captain America. Just so very, very dull. Attack The Block was good and had a genuine feel of threat to it which is always a skill to master in a genre focused mainly on comedy. Fincher couldn’t shoot a dull scene even if Michael Bay voodooed his soul as his own. Not been in a good enough mood yet to watch Tom Cruise playing Tom Cruise playing Tom Cruise. Shame and MMMM are top of my list though for future watches. All in all though, a decent list. Would’ve been easy to glad rag all the over-rated critical darlings (The Fighter, I’m looking at you).

    Special mention to Take Shelter, Tyrannosaur, Cell 211, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Incendies, Black Swan and Senna.

  19. My top ten (but still trying to determine the actual favorites order) are:

    Super 8

    Rise of the Planet of the Apes

    The Adjustment Bureau

    The Muppets

    Hugo

    Green Lantern

    The Debt

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

    X-Men: First Class

    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

    I would definitely consider Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Adventures of Tintin, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows as great runners-up. Attack the Block was also quite entertaining :)

    • Nice to see Green Lantern on your list, it would be no.11 for me.

  20. I think the list is good, but I disagree with your choice of n.º1, since I think Drive is a bit too overrated. Also, my favorite movie of 2011 was 50/50, which isn’t there. Maybe the list has a bit of a long memory problem and only recalls the latest movies.

    • “I think the list is good, but I disagree with your choice of n.º1, since I think Drive is a bit too overrated. ”

      Ditto.

  21. I haven’t seen enough new films this year to make a objective top 5-10 list but a film that would be on it would be MI:GP.
    I really wasn’t expecting much to be honest but I left the theater blown away. And I’ve got to give credit to Cruise. It really looked like his career was taking a major dip but with this it seems like he’s not done yet. This was easily the best installment of the franchise and on par with the Bourne films.

  22. Happy New Year Everyone!…Hope you all partied hard without almost going to jail like i did(: I still haven’t seen a few movies i would like to see such as Super 8,Girl With Dragon Tattoe,and Warrior so my list is a little premature but here’s my top 10 1.The Lincoln Lawyer 2.The Source Code 3.The Mechanic 4.X-men:First Class 5.Rise of the Planet of Apes 6.Insidious..great horror movie in long time 7.Red State 8.Friends With Benifits..funny as s**t 9.Red Riding Hood.. so sue me..plus had a crush on amanda seyfried this year 10.Mission Impossible:Ghost Protocol.This is not in any order by the way, just the 10 films i enjoyed the most this year. Should’ve put list in straight line,hope it’s not that annoying.

  23. Great list ScreenRant. I’m kind of suprised that Warrior didn’t make the list. Warrior was the first movie to make me tear up since We Are Marshall.

  24. Don’t know about a top 10 but a few movies I enjoyed in no particular order:

    Battle Los Angeles
    Thor
    Capt. America
    Super 8
    Transformers 3
    Rise of The Planet of The Apes
    The Thing
    MI4

    There are tons of other films, some of which either don’t get shown at all in Australia or don’t last long enough to go and see them. But I found all of the above quite enjoyable.

  25. Number 1 movie of the year was:

    HANNA

  26. just checked out your top 10 and ive only seen a few and the one’s i’ve not seen i would probley not watch so i will look out for them and give them a viewing.
    Watched Captain America again and enjoyed it more this time.
    Films i am looking for in 2012
    1. the darkest hour
    2. the avengers
    3. dread
    4. batman 3
    5. world war z
    6. hobbit
    7. resident evil 5
    8. cabin in the woods

    • @millerman

      The Darkest Hour is already out, came out I think the last weekend of 2011, but read the reviews. Apparently it’s TERRIBLE…

      • sorry dude i live in scotland and its not out until middle of january here i hope its not terrible.
        will let you know.

    • For 2012, I’m anticipating:

      TDKR

      “The Hobbit”, Part 1

      “The Avengers”

      “The Woman in Black”

      I’m sure I’ll remember others as the weeks pass…

  27. Just saw MI:GP today. Loved it. True return to form for the franchise.

  28. The Muppets tops my list, althought many of the movies on this list I have not seen and am interested in seeing. Girl With the Dragon Tattoo sounds fantastic, and I remember one of my friends raving about the original. Hugo looks cool and steampunk.
    Shame might be one to check out, because I like Michael Fassbender (ever since Inglourious Basterds). I’m also curious about this movie, because it’s directed by Steve McQueen, who, if I’m not mistaken, died way back in 1980. He was one of my favorite actors. If he is alive and directing movies, that’s great!

  29. Yes I was rather surprised at how good Captain America was, considering how stupid Thor was.