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The Best and Worst Movies of 2011

Yes, we know, it's already 2012, who cares about 2011 anymore? That was so ... two days ago. 

Well forgive us for making sure to provide you with the most comprehensive list of movie ratings you'll find on any site. We don't just give you what each of our individual writers thought, we pool our thoughts and scores together to give you ratings and reviews that most accurately reflect the diverse tastes of moviegoers like you. Excuse us if it took a few extra days.

Below you'll find our composite Top 10 of the entire year, so the films with the three best composite scores that at least three of us saw and reviewed. You'll also find our Bottom 10, the worst films at least two of us saw (so as to confirm its worst-ness) and our most disappointing films, the ones at least five of us went to because we wanted to see them but turned out to be among our worst. To finish things off, we've selected some of the more notable genres of the year and provided you with our top films in each.

Not satisfied? Keep an eye out for our complete list of 454 ratings for the 149 films we reviewed this year from best to worst. That'll blow your mind.


The 10 Best Films of 2011

10. Midnight in Paris
 – 8.2/10 (6 ratings)

The fact that Woody Allen came back should make every movie fan happy, and if you didn't have a chance to catch up with this whimsical and wonderfully nostalgic adventure over the summer, it's now out on DVD. Owen Wilson is a perfect stand-in for the charmingly neurotic director and his forays into Paris after dark are full of big surprises and lots of laughs.  ~ John

9. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – 8.3/10 (4 ratings)

Arguing that Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol is likely the best "Mission" yet was not what we anticipated for director Brad Bird's bombastic (live-action) debut. One part espionage, two parts stylized action and a dash of dignity for Tom Cruise (who did all of his own stunts) and you get one of the best action titles to come along in some time. Not only did the film provide a much needed shot in the arm for the franchise, it bolstered audience enthusiasm for the IMAX experience with several scenes being shot on IMAX cameras, to thrilling results that only fanned the crazed anticipation for next summer's IMAX run of The Dark Knight Rises. ~ Max

8. The Help – 8.3/10 (6 ratings) 

Every so often dramas about race relations hit theaters, and while many of them are pandering, Tate Taylor’s The Help avoids that trap by providing insight from its three leads, choosing to forego the “white lady who saves the day” mantra so many of these films carry. It’s a powerful drama, full of gripping moments and excellent performances, particularly that of Viola Davis. There are also some bright spots, including an uplifting ending. All in all, The Help shows that it’s possible for people to right the wrongs that society once deemed plausible. ~ Julian 

7. Rise of the Planet of the Apes – 8.4/10 (8 ratings)

When looking at how effortlessly director Rupert Wyatt revived a seemingly dead franchise, it seems almost perplexing that something this skillful (or at the least competent) had not emerged sooner. Transforming the human actors into the lifelike creatures we see are some of the best special effects ever conceived and serve not to detract from the narrative but rather bolster a weighty and emotional story. Andy Serkis as Caesar again proves he has mastered motion-capture acting and delivers a substantial and ultimately mesmerizing performance despite having no lines. Rise of the Planet of the Apes succeeds both for overcoming its limitations with style and simply for delivering a damn fun time at the movies. Not surprisingly, this is one of the most surprising blockbusters of the year. ~ Simon

6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2  - 8.5/10 (7 ratings)

The old cliché “all good things come to an end” proves true about the “Harry Potter” franchise. After seven books and eight movies, “The Deathly Hallows Part 2” made over $1 billion worldwide, earning near universal praise and culminating in an Oscar push for Warner Brs. “Part 1” was all set up as our three heroes were forced on a quest without help or even knowing what they were meant to do. “Part 2” was the final showdown, essentially the epic battle of Hogwarts, and it was Harry’s story as he has to face his destiny. A fitting conclusion to a series that delighted millions. ~ Kieran

5. 13 Assassins – 8.8/10 (3 ratings)

Takashi Miike's modern take on the Samurai genre is a no-holds-barred action epic masquerading as a period piece. While it takes its time exploring the waning dynamics of Feudal Era politics as it gets its pieces into place, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better action scene than "Assassin's" 45-minute finale that pits 13 duty-bound warriors against an entire army. It’s a reminder of how impactful violence in film can be when there's dramatic weight behind every sword stroke and spear thrust. ~ Sam

4. Hugo – 8.8/10 (4 ratings)

"Martin Scorsese's 3D kids movie." That's what Hugo was to so many film fans before it finally hit screens over Thanksgiving. But we all know now that the auteur’s latest is so much more than that. It's a love letter to cinema from one of its most accomplished sons and a step toward the future with some of the best use of new technology this year. It's a deeply personal film with themes that are universal. And although it's easy to write off as slight (especially considering the director's filmography), it's something we should cherish for a long time. ~ John

3. Drive – 8.8/10 (5 ratings)

No, it is not an actioner in the "Fast and Furious" sense, but Drive drips with style, substance and a touch of mystery — not to mention the best soundtrack of the year. As much of a noir flick as it is a love letter to the ‘70s Man with No Name character, the film refuses to spell things out through line upon line of exposition and instead builds its messages through visual and audio brilliance. Much like the unmanned Driver (Ryan Gosling), the film is as quiet/somber as it is drastically violent, throwing not only the characters into dark terrain but also pulling the audience along for one hell of an emotional ride. ~ Max

2. The Descendants – 9.0/10 (3 ratings)

Having completed our third calendar year as Americans in a poor economic state, it’s been no surprise to see comedies take center stage as well as other films that aim to whisk us away from real problems. The Descendants does the exact opposite, centering around a family whose matriarch is dying in a coma but had previously been adulterous, which could explain why the general public hasn’t raved about it. But we’ll stand by Alexander Payne, who makes a deeply emotional and resonant splash having abandoned us since Sideways. George Clooney gives one of his best performances ever in a story that’s harsh in the way it looks at its characters and ideas, but undeniably true. ~ Steven

1. 50/50 – 9.1/10 (4 ratings)

2011 proved itself as a great year for comedy, so it makes perfect sense that our number one film of the year is a laugher. Unlike most of this year’s comedic features, 50/50 also boasts a serious dramatic side, as its focus is on someone fighting cancer. Thankfully, the film never forgoes its humorous nature, even in its darkest moments. Comedy and drama meld together, perfectly in tandem with one another, thanks to the carefully penned script by Will Reiser, the tasteful direction of Jonathan Levine, and the nuanced performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Seth Rogen slightly breaks from his mold as a comedic sidekick with more dramatic flashes than usual, while Bryce Dallas Howard from The Help plays yet another villainous female. Lastly, Anna Kendrick is completely enchanting as a therapist, while Anjelica Huston conjures up bellyache-inducing magic as an overprotective mother. If you haven’t seen 50/50, put it in your to-watch list ASAP. It is Player Affinity’s best film of 2011, after all. ~ Julian


***Just Outside the Top 10: Moneyball (8.2/10), Contagion (8.1/10), Hanna (8.0/10), X-Men: First Class (7.9/10)


The 10 Worst Films of 2011 


10. Just Go With It – 3.8/10

9. The Rite – 3.7/10

8. Red Riding Hood – 3.6/10

My, Amanda Seyfried what large eyes you have. And my, oh my, Red Riding Hood what an atrocious, scriptless, horrendously acted mess you are. Fitting ocular dimensions notwithstanding, there is no excuse for Seyfried’s involvement in this dreck, nor does that of Gary Oldman, no matter how much his involvement may class up such a project. The other male leads however seem right at home in this lifeless offering. ~ Simon

7. The Hangover Part II – 3.5/10

Comedy sequels have a history of failing to compare to their predecessors, namely because the genre is the most fickle: seen it once, scene it 100 times. Yet as prepared as one could be for a letdown in The Hangover Part II, no one expected a practically literal rehashing of the first film with only a change of scenery. Despite raking in obscene amounts of money, “Part II” gave déjà vu a bad name and proved just how awful a comedy sequel can be when familiarity becomes an excuse for downright laziness. I loved the first film, perhaps more than most, but practically nothing was redeeming here. ~ Steven

6. Sanctum – 3.5/10

5. Colombiana - 3.5/10

4. Dream House – 3.3/10

Although Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, and Naomi Watts starred in it, alarms should have been going off all over the place when they, along with director Jim Sheridan, announced they wouldn't be doing the press rounds for this late September release. Dream House is a train wreck. It's going for a vibe that's a cross between Shutter Island and The Shining. Hard to say where it went wrong, but by the time it's over, you'll just be shaking your head in disgust. ~ John

3. Abduction – 3.0/10

2. Season of the Witch – 2.7/10 

The year certainly started with sour note as Season of the Witch released the very first weekend of 2011. January tends to be a dumping ground and Season of the Witch was certainly a case of this; its original release date was March 19, 2010. Cage shows once again that he’ll do anything to pay his tax bill, including agreeing to star in a sub-par fantasy with a generic, simple plot, poor lead performances, weak special effects and an embarrassing cameo by Christopher Lee. At least Claire Foy shows promise as the witch in question. ~ Kieran

1. Jack and Jill – 2.5/10

Just when you thought he'd hit rock bottom, Adam Sandler unearthed the rich vein of awfulness that is Jack and Jill, a gender-swap movie that makes Grown Ups look like bloody Citizen Kane. Worse than just being a direly humorless extrapolation of a premise generated from Mad Libs: Terrible Idea Edition (Adam Sandler plays his own twin sister), this latest attack on cinema's case for existence has an undercurrent of depressing cynicism. Rest assured, NO ONE making this movie thought it would be good, but they knew it would make money. And it did. God help us, it did. Nothing record-breaking, but $1 in the pockets of those behind Jack and Jill would give them far, far too much credit. ~ Sam



The 5 Most Disappointing 


5. Green Lantern – 5.1/10 (6 ratings)

Maybe one day we will get a Green Lantern film that is good. But that day did not come in 2011, even when we had a superhero on a massive galactic scale, a solid(ish) director, a marketable lead and a budget over $200 million — unheard of for the debut of a new franchise. Despite all of that, "Lantern" crashed and burned in the court of public mouth and barely broke even at the box office. Considering the script lacked clarity, humor, ticking action or satisfying conflict, we can't say we're surprised but that doesn't make it any less disappointing. ~ Max

4. Cowboys & Aliens – 5.0/10 (7 ratings)

From the moment we saw the trailer, we were worried that this mash-up of Western and science fiction would be a dud that took itself way too seriously. We didn’t know how right we were. Not only was this genre combo unaware of the potential for tongue-in-cheek humor, it was a ridiculously tedious and uninvolving action flick: the action sequences were few and only on occasion provided thrills. Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford turned in disappointing lead performances, while Paul Dano’s brief role proved once again that Hollywood doesn’t know how to utilize the talented young actor; only Olivia Wilde escapes this otherwise gag-worthy mishmash unscathed. ~ Julian

3. Sucker Punch – 4.9/10 (5 ratings)

Expectations get a bad name. Most of us rabidly awaited Zack Snyder’s action epic (it was named the Best Trailer for 2011 last year) and for a movie with visual splendor to spare, a heaping helping of action and with tactile beauty to boot, it delivered an utterly lifeless everything else. Snyder has a great deal of vision and there is a fantastic movie buried somewhere beneath the layers of stylized muck, but sadly it seems that Snyder’s fall from grace is complete as not only has he delivered one of the years worst, he also obliterated a supposed bright spot on the 2011 movie calendar. ~ Simon

2. The Dilemma
– 4.5/10 (5 ratings)

Many of us still mourning the loss of hysterical Vince Vaughn movies turned all too eagerly to The Dilemma as a possible saving grace. After all, if Ron Howard decided to direct it, how bad could it be? Yet the film wasn’t so much bad as it was a tonal disaster, a drama about fidelity masquerading as a comedy, a comedy that had very few laughs. I never thought I’d say it, but Channing Tatum was the best part of the entire movie as the man Winona Ryder’s character cheats on Kevin James with. Who knew the pretty boy had comic chops? Still, The Dilemma remained another road marker on the dwindling journey of Vaughn’s career and tainted an otherwise strong perception of Howard. ~ Steven

1. Battle: Los Angeles – 4.4/10 (7 ratings)

We have seen many excellent alien invasion movies in the last couple years, but Battle: Los Angeles will not be joining their ranks. Made with a $70-million budget, Battle: Los Angeles boasted impressive special effects and Aaron Eckhart got deserved paycheck, but elsewhere were cardboard characters, military clichés and incompatible action scenes that even Paul Greengrass would be embarrassed with. The only way it could have been more patriotic or propagandist would be by intercutting an American flag every two minutes. South African Jonathan Liebesman has a terrible record as a director, making The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and Darkness Falls but he is somehow in demand, as his next movie is Wrath of the Titans. ~ Kieran


The Best of Each Genre


1. Arthur Christmas – 8.8/10
2. Rango – 7.9/10
3. The Adventures of Tintin – 7.8/10

Pixar had a critical misfire with the release Cars 2, so competition for best animated movie of 2011 was left wide open. One of the leading candidates is Aardman Animations Christmas movie Arthur Christmas. The film is a good-natured, fast-paced and funny movie that is a delight for the whole family. The writing is clever with great jokes and well-done physical humor. Aardman shows it’s one of the best animation studios around, even to people who think this is one of their weaker movies because it plays to more mainstream tastes. Arthur Christmas is a jolly, upbeat and emotional film and it is one of my favorite movies of 2011. ~ Kieran



1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes – 8.4/10
2. Attack the Block – 7.7/10
3. Melancholia – 7.6/10 

It's the end of the world, and Lars Von Trier is clearly not feeling fine. The guy is on the record saying his last film, Antichrist, came at a time of deep personal depression, and I'm not sure he emerged from that place by the time he got around to making Melancholia. The film is a feast for the eyes that asks what people with nothing do will in fact do when the world is coming to an end. Love it or hate it, it's certainly one of the year's most unique films, particularly in terms of science fiction.



1. X-Men: First Class – 7.9/10
2. Captain America: The First Avenger - 7.3/10
3. Thor – 6.9/10

The summer of 2011 was poised to be a rat race between four superhero movie properties. We didn’t know for sure which would be king, but few felt confident about X-Men: First Class because of its incredibly short turnaround time of less than six months in post-production. Yet Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn and his team churned out a moving origin story capped by a powerhouse performance from Michael Fassbender as Magneto. Seeing the friendship dynamics play out between Magneto and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) was a real treat, boosting a film with only decent special effects and action sequences. ~ Steven



1. Midnight in Paris – 8.2/10
2. Bridesmaids – 7.6/10
3. Crazy, Stupid, Love – 7.6/10

Dubbed by many as “the female Hangover,” this insightful comedy led by Kristen Wiig actually brings much more to the table than any Wolf Pack to recently hit the screen. Sure, gross-out moments ensue, and off-color humor pervades throughout, but what really makes Bridesmaids stand out is that the story is so relatable and real. Everyone knows the threat of feeling replaced or unwanted, and this film taps into that fear in a way that most mainstream movies ignore. It goes even further by invoking surprisingly hilarious yet dark moments of laughter from that fear. With an impressive ensemble that includes potential Oscar nominee Melissa McCarthy as the eccentric sister of the groom and the underrated Rose Byrne as the primary antagonist, Bridesmaids cemented itself as a sleeper hit comedy that’ll be remembered for many years to come. ~ Julian



1. Hugo – 8.8/10
2. The Muppets – 7.9/10
3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules – 7.0/10

With this year's crop of animated films falling below the high-bar set in 2010, it kinda makes sense that The Muppets would swoop in and offer a return to old-fashioned family film making. OK, so it plays deep into Muppet nostalgia and some kids may wonder why the Muppets were such a big deal in the first place, but its got great musical numbers, a charming cast of characters and an infectious sense of joy that will keep the entire family entertained. ~ Sam



1. Martha Marcy May Marlene – 8.8/10
2. Contagion – 8.1/10
3. Margin Call – 7.8/10

To consider “MMMM” a thriller may be a stretch initially thanks to the crime capers, legal dramas and murder mysteries that are all so prevalent these days. But filmmaker Sean Durkin’s calculated descent into madness is surely a part of that genre (and a noteworthy entry to be certain). Nearly all of the “thrills” that populate this indie flick are in thanks to a blistering, complex, nuanced-but-explosive, debut performance by Elizabeth Olsen as the titular multi-moniker lead. Olsen’s Martha, who was forever altered by her past ties to a cult, is not a disturbed, paranoid individual completely because of her experiences but rather that she remains lodged within her own mind far after her burgeoning nightmare became a reality. ~ Simon



1. Insidious – 7.7/10
2. Scream 4 – 7.5/10
3. Paranormal Activity 3 – 7.3/10

Given how horror has mostly gone to the slasher dogs in the last decade, Insidious was a refreshing entry to the ranks. Ironically coming from the director of the first “Saw,” Insidious played its strengths to sight and sound over blood and gore. Despite a rocky third act, the film is bolstered by a solid cast, lean script and great atmosphere. Its at-times subtle style is also something to be appreciated in horror. Unlike other horror entries this year, Insidious is one of the more likely to truly make you think twice about sleeping with the lights off. ~ Max


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