The Top 20 Films of 2011 — One Year Later

As we wrap up 2012, the “best of” lists are coming out in full swing. I am diligently working on mine (expect new posts for movies, video games and music in the near future), but I thought it would be fun to take a look at *last* year’s best films. I originally came up with a top ten in January, but there were more than a handful of films I had yet to see at that point. Now, one year later, I have seen pretty much every major picture from 2011 that caught my eye, and I can now provide a more accurate representation of my favorite films from last year. I have also expanded the list from 10 to 20, as 2011 turned out to be a pretty solid year of movies. For the sake of reference, here is a link to my original top 10 movies from 2011.

Cedar Rapids [2011]

20) Cedar Rapids

My favorite comedy of the year, one that was unfortunately overlooked by most.

Margin Call [2011]

19) Margin Call

One of the best ensemble casts of the year. Absolutely worth watching just to see Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons butt heads.

The Descendants [2011]

18) The Descendants

A tad overrated, but George Clooney and Shailene Woodley make this immensely watchable.

Win Win [2011]

17) Win Win

Can Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan be in every movie? Please?

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo [2011]

16) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Yeah, this remake was completely unnecessary, but David Fincher delivered the goods here. Rooney Mara deserves all the props she has received for her performance.

The Ides of March [2011]

15) The Ides of March

Politics suck. This film shows you why. Oh yeah, and it has Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, George Clooney AND Paul Giamatti.

A Separation [2011]

14) A Separation

A startling look at the dissolution of marriage from an Iranian perspective. Its title works in multiple ways.

I Saw the Devil [2010]

13) I Saw the Devil

Brutal, disgusting and unbelievably violent; in a nutshell, another badass Korean revenge thriller.

Attack the Block [2011]

12) Attack the Block

Subtitles may be required for some of its English, but damn if this isn’t one hell of an entertaining flick.

We Need to Talk About Kevin [2011]

11) We Need to Talk About Kevin

An especially difficult film considering recent tragic events, but it features a phenomenal performance from Tilda Swinton.

Young Adult [2011]

10) Young Adult

Jason Reitman can do no wrong in my book. Great stuff from Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt as well.

13 Assassins [2010]

9) 13 Assassins

Takashi Miike’s samurai homage has one of the most unforgettable and epic battle scenes I have ever seen.


8) The Artist

Although not my personal favorite, I can get behind this as Best Picture. Endlessly charming.

Hugo 3D [2011]

7) Hugo

This one is a real treat for film lovers. Brought a whole new sense of appreciation for the work of early director Georges Méliès.

Moneyball [2011]

6) Moneyball

A faithful adaptation of a terrific sports book, this is a baseball movie that can be appreciated even by non-fans.

The Skin I Live In [2011]

5) The Skin I Live In

One of the most disturbing films in recent years with an unforgettable twist.

Shame [2011]

4) Shame

Not enough can be said about Michael Fassbender’s performance of a man who has hit rock bottom with his startling sex addiction.

Take Shelter [2011]

3) Take Shelter

A thought-provoking look at mental illness with the best ending of any film from last year.

50/50 [2011]

2) 50/50

Still the biggest surprise of last year. A cancer film that manages to be both hilarious and heartbreaking.

Drive [2011]

1) Drive

Still my top choice after a full year. Gosling, Mulligan, Cranston. That soundtrack. Drive just oozes style.

Honorable Mentions: 
The Adjustment Bureau
Everything Must Go
Tucker & Dale vs Evil

So, what do you think? Do you agree with my choices? What was your personal favorite film from last year, now that we have a year’s perspective?

29 thoughts on “The Top 20 Films of 2011 — One Year Later

  1. sati says:

    Lovely list, so glad to see Take Shelter here along with The Ides of March, they are both so underrated. My favorites remain The Artist, Shame and Young Adult, though only the last one is climbing up the top 100 of my favorite movies list with each rewatch 🙂

    • Eric says:

      Cheers Sati, glad to hear we agree on some of these! Yeah, it’s odd that The Ides of March didn’t get a lot of recognition last year. Definitely one of the better political dramas I have seen.

  2. jlo2000 says:

    Great idea for a post. I agreed with all your picks – at least the ones I had seen as well. I’m pumped to see someone recognise “Cedar Rapids” I loved it – a great movie. Also 13 Assassins, and Win Win.

    • Eric says:

      Thanks! Yeah, it’s a shame that Cedar Rapids flew under the radar for most people. I thought it was hilarious, and you really can’t go wrong with that cast either.

  3. jackdeth72 says:

    Hi, Eric and company:

    Excellent selections!

    Thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’. It’s great to see Daniel Craig play such a non Bond character. Rooney Mara came out of left field. Held her own and managed to steal several scenes. In a smart, adult, well written and executed thriller.

    While ‘The Skin I Live In’ has the look and creepy feel of Cronenberg meets Almodovar and ‘Pygmalion’. Did not see its ending coming!

    Also, great catch on ‘Take Shelter’!

    And kudos for ‘Tucker and Dale vs. Evil’!

    • Eric says:

      Hi Jack, great picks right there! I still can’t get over The Skin I Live In and its crazy twist. I didn’t see that coming either.

      Tucker & Dale vs. Evil was hilarious — one of the better horror comedies I have seen in a while.

  4. Mark Walker says:

    I’m very surprised to see 50/50 so high Eric. I haven’t seen it yet but I must do that immediately. The other 4 from your top 5 I totally agree on. And after a year, Drive is still my favourite as well. Nice list man.

    • Eric says:

      Thanks man. Yeah, 50/50 surprised the hell out of me. I was hoping it would get some recognition during awards season, but it was mainly overlooked. At the very least, Will Reiser’s screenplay should have gotten an Oscar nod.

  5. Jaina says:

    Attack the Block is an excellent film – glad it made your list! I did wonder whether things would get lost in translation over the pond, but glad to see that they didn’t.

    Gosling had a great year in 2011, with Drive and Ides of March. He did so much with so little in Drive. Awesome film.

    • Eric says:

      It really was the year of Gosling, wasn’t it? He was even pretty solid in Crazy, Stupid Love. Been a quiet 2012 for him, but I’m excited to see The Place Beyond the Pines next year.

  6. danyanka says:

    The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and 50/50 definitely were incredible and Moneyball was spectacular also. I think this a very solid list and it makes me want to check out the others I haven’t seen yet. Young Adult definitely holds a place in my heart as well.


    • Eric says:

      Hi Dani, glad to hear we agree on some of these! It’s always nice to hear from another fan of 50/50 — it’s a shame that one was so overlooked last year.

  7. The Blog of Big Ideas says:

    Very solid list Eric. I’m glad to see Moneyball high up and I must say I don’t mind seeing any of your films included in your list (though I haven’t seen 13 Assassins or Margin Call). I disagree a little with the order, especially with the rank of A Separation (which was my #1) and how high you placed 50/50, Take Shelter and Hugo. These three probably fall between #20 to #30 position for me if I were to expand my list.

    In any case, I’m happy to be blogging again. For the first time ever since I started I can finally say I will be posting regularly as I’ve finally gotten my Masters completed and out of the way. Glad to see you’ve kept yourself busy.

    • Eric says:

      Hi Niels, great to hear from you! Moneyball really is an excellent film, and I was very pleased that it got high marks from most everyone, even non-baseball fans. It was a pretty spot-on adaptation of the book, too, which is always a good thing.

      Congrats on finishing the Masters, BTW! Looking forward to seeing what you have planned with your blog.

  8. Alex Thomas says:

    Awesome list Eric!!

    Drive is still my #1 easily. I’ve actually seen all these except 13 Assassins which I have high on my watchlist, will check it out.

    Have you seen Warrior by the way?

    • Eric says:

      Thanks man, that’s cool we agree on Drive! I did see Warrior, and while I liked it, it didn’t do as much for me as the rest of these. Loved the use of The National, though, especially in that final fight.

  9. Alex Withrow says:

    I think this is a really great idea. One of the most important factors for me in terms of loving a film is staying power. I often love a movie walking out of the theater, but realize two months later that I haven’t thought about it since. Inversely, I’ll sometimes like a flick after watching it, then absolutely be in love with it a year later.

    So, really cool post here my friend, and EXCELLENT choices all around!

    • Eric says:

      Thanks man, I appreciate it! I had a similar reaction to a few of these. I think Shame got a slight boost, and The Artist slid down a bit. Just haven’t really thought about the latter a whole lot since I saw it.

  10. bbbgtoby says:

    I still haven’t seen most of these but based on my 2012 experience I’d say it was a much better year cinematically than this one.

    • Eric says:

      Hmm.. I’m still not sure which year I prefer. There are a few heavy-hitters I still need to see — Django Unchained, Lincoln and Les Miserables, especially — but there have been some pretty strong choices for 2012. I’m going to try to get a list up sometime next week.

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