63 Best Movies & Shows Released in 2011 (Page 3)

Staff & contributors

Find the best movies and show to watch from the year 2011. These handpicked recommendations are highly-rated by viewers and critics.

The Guard played by Brendan Gleeson is a new character in cinema that appeals to the funny bone inside all of us. A character like this can make any movie lovable. It also features Don Cheadle playing an FBI agent who is in town to solve a crime under Gleeson's jurisdiction. An overall great movie with great writing. Please note, for those who have a hard time understanding different accents, subtitles are advised.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Brendan Gleeson, Conor Moloney, Darren Healy, David Pearse, David Wilmot, Dominique McElligott, Don Cheadle, Fionnula Flanagan, Gary Lydon, John Patrick Beirne, Katarina Čas, Laura Hitchings, Laurence Kinlan, Liam Cunningham, Liam O'Conghaile, Mark O'Halloran, Mark Strong, Mícheál Óg Lane, Owen Sharpe, Paraic Nialand, Pat Shortt, Ronan Collins, Rory Keenan, Sarah Greene, Wale Ojo

Director: John Michael McDonagh

Rating: R

In this 3D documentary, Werner Herzog takes a dive into the Chauvet Cave in Southern France. From archaeology and anthropology to master perfumery, scientists across disciplines have studied the cave with a palpable enthusiasm—making their best guesses about each cave drawing, based on the data that can be collected without destroying the site. It’s fascinating to hear how they hypothesize where they can find new entrances, or how prehistoric humans could have made music. Cave of Forgotten Dreams turns a regular documentary into a profound meditation about the human soul, creation, and human history. Herzog compiles clips of his interviews with the scientists alongside footage of the cave itself and his own narration, and mixes it with an ethereal score to turn this exploration into a religious epiphany.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Charles Fathy, Dominique Baffier, Volker Schlöndorff, Werner Herzog

Director: Werner Herzog

Rating: G

A Spanish orchestra conductor receives a break-up message from his girlfriend before she vanishes, only to find himself as one of the police suspects behind her disappearance. Sounds like just another thriller? Far from it. To fully appreciate how the film

shies away from the genre, you have to be patient and make sure you don’t look up any information before you watch it. The story is very easy to follow and entertaining with its plot twists and flashbacks, while the three lead actors offer gripping performances. If you enjoy thrillers and Latin American cinema, make sure you don’t miss this one.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alexandra Stewart, Clara Lago, Jose Luis Garcia, Maria Soledad Rodriguez, Martina Garcia, Quim Gutierrez

Director: Andres Baiz

Rating: R

When categorizing Lars von Trier's oeuvre, critics speak of a "Depression Trilogy" bookended by Antichrist and Nymphomaniac, but Melancholia is the one that really embodies the concepts and worries nested at the heart of this project. The Danish director may be known for his provocative approach to filmmaking and disregard of taboos, but with this film, he makes room for vulnerability. On the character of Justine (Dunst) he places the weight of the world, only after allowing her to be weak, small, and socially unacceptable at her own wedding celebration. A rather subversive decision, but vesting these expectations in someone as wide-ranging as Kirsten Dunst assures an absolute win, even if there remain some questionable characteristics that align too well with abstract male fantasies of what a woman in distress would look like.

Genre: Drama, Science Fiction

Actor: Alexander Skarsgård, Brady Corbet, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Charlotte Rampling, Christian Geisnæs, Jesper Christensen, John Hurt, Katrine A. Sahlstrøm, Kiefer Sutherland, Kirsten Dunst, Stellan Skarsgård, Udo Kier

Director: Lars von Trier

Rating: R

, 2011

There is no shortage of offensive jokes in this comedy about a man who tries to prove to his girlfriend that he is dad-material. Think Borat, but Danish, and with brothels. 

The man in question tries to change his lifestyle after his girlfriend, not thinking he is responsible enough, hides the fact that she is pregnant. To prove her wrong, he takes his nephew on a canoeing trip with his equally as disastrous friend. 

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Bent Fabricius-Bjerre, Björn Gustafsson, Casper Christensen, Claus Damgaard, Dya Josefine Hauch, Elsebeth Steentoft, Frank Hvam, Helene Marie Blixt, Iben Hjejle, Ida Lee, Jørgen Leth, Kenneth Carmohn, Lars Hjortshøj, Lea Baastrup Rønne, Mads Brügger, Mads Lisby, Marcuz Jess Petersen, Marie Bach Hansen, Marie Mondrup, Mia Lyhne, Michael Carøe, Michael Meyerheim, Mikael Bertelsen, Niels Weyde, Paw Terndrup, Rasmus Haxen, Roger Matthisen, Sadi Tekelioglu, Sami Darr, Simon Kvamm, Søren Rasted, Stine Chen, Thomas Helmig, Tina Bilsbo

Director: Mikkel Nørgaard

Rating: R

A sleek revision of the classic Charlotte Brontë novel, the 2011 version of Jane Eyre features Mia Wasikowska as the titular governess and Michael Fassbender as her employer-and-lover-with-a-secret, Rochester — both lending stunningly aggrieved performances to the tale of their burgeoning love affair. The film is somber yet wonderfully polished as it plays out their individual complexities and growing passions. This film is also notable as the sophomore directorial effort of Cary Fukunaga, who would go on to great acclaim for his work on the first season of True Detective as well as Beasts of No Nation. Fans of Fukunaga’s work are just a likely to enjoy this one as are devotees of well-crated adaptations of classic literature.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Amelia Clarkson, Angela Curran, Ben Roberts, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Craig Roberts, Edwina Elek, Eglantine Rembauville-Nicolle, Emily Haigh, Ewart James Walters, Freya Parks, Freya Wilson, Georgia Bourke, Harry Lloyd, Holliday Grainger, Imogen Poots, Jamie Bell, Jayne Wisener, Joe Van Moyland, Joseph Kloska, Judi Dench, Lizzie Hopley, Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Ned Dennehy, Romy Settbon Moore, Rosie Cavaliero, Sally Hawkins, Sally Reeve, Sandy McDade, Simon McBurney, Sophie Ward, Su Eliott, Su Elliot, Su Elliott, Tamzin Merchant, Valentina Cervi

Director: Cary Fukunaga, Cary Joji Fukunaga

Rating: PG-13

, 2011

Realistic, intimate, and compelling, Elena is a movie that makes you think a lot after you finish watching it. It is an inherently Russian movie, however there is something about how the story is told that makes it a universal family drama. A woman from a modest background to which she still has a lot of attachement is married to an old wealthy business man. Upon learning that the man might write her off his will, she feels pushed to get her hands dirty to honor her responsibilities towards her original family. The question of right and wrong when faced with extreme situations is at the heart of this aesthetically slow-burning family drama.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Aleksandr Kazakov, Aleksandr Slastin, Aleksey Maslodudov, Aleksey Rozin, Anastasiya Sapozhnikova, Andrey Smirnov, Anna Gulyarenko, Dmitry Pavlenko, Ekaterina Tarkovskaya, Elena Lyadova, Igor Ogurtsov, Ivan Dobronravov, Ivan Mulin, Larisa Khalafova, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Nadezhda Markina, Oksana Semenova, Olga Lapshina, Vasily Michkov, Vasily Zotov, Yana Lvova, Yaroslav Zhalnin, Yuriy Borisov

Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev

Rating: Not Rated

Demian Bichir was nominated for an Oscar for his role in this movie where he plays an illegal immigrant and father. You might be wondering "who is that?", but trust me you won't after watching this movie. The kindness, complexity, and authenticity he brings to this story are unparalleled.

A Better Life is about the illegal immigrant experience, about the line between the fear of being caught and the aspiration for a better future. It's an excellent and important movie. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Abraham Belaga, Bobby Soto, Brigitte Sy, Carlos Linares, Chelsea Rendon, Demián Bichir, Dolores Heredia, Eddie 'Piolin' Sotelo, Eddie 'Piolin' Sotelo, Fayçal Safi, Francois Favrat, Gabriel Chavarria, Guillaume Canet, Isabella Rae Thomas, Joaquín Cosío, José Julián, Leila Bekhti, Nancy Lenehan, Nicolas Abraham, Slimane Khettabi, Tim Griffin

Director: Cedric Kahn, Chris Weitz

Rating: PG-13

Given that hookups are inherently quick and casual and impersonal, they are rarely portrayed in a romantic light. But Weekend flips the script on one-night stands by giving its two lovers enough time and space to explore how far their feelings can take them. While both Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glenn (Chris New) are gay, they have more differences than similarities with each other. Russell is reserved, awkward, and not entirely open, while Glenn is the exact opposite. 

This makes for intriguing conversations, which then makes for a smart, thought-proving watch. It’s talky but meaningful, and slow but assured. But most of all it’s romantic, and it’s sure to pull at your heartstrings the whole time. 

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Chris New, Kieran Hardcastle, Loreto Murray, Sarah Churm, Tom Cullen, Vauxhall Jermaine

Director: Andrew Haigh

, 2011

A devastating depiction of sexual addiction, featuring Michael Fassbender in one of the most remarkable acting displays of the entire year. His performance is nearly matched by Carey Mulligan as his wayward sister, whose intrusion into his lifestyle sets the central conflict of the story in motion. To sex what Requiem for a Dream was to drugs, this is NOT a film to be viewed in any sort of mixed company (note the NC-17 rating). Director and renowned British artist Steve McQueen continues his ascension toward filmmaking royalty, in follow-up to his extraordinary 2008 feature Hunger (also starring Fassbender).

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alex Manette, Amy Hargreaves, Anna Rose Hopkins, Calamity Chang, Carey Mulligan, Carl Low, Charisse Bellante, Chazz Menendez, Deedee Luxe, Elizabeth Masucci, Hannah Ware, Jake Siciliano, James Badge Dale, Loren Omer, Lucy Walters, Mari-Ange Ramirez, Marta Milans, Michael Fassbender, Nicole Beharie, Rachel Farrar, Robert Montano

Director: Steve McQueen

Rating: NC-17

While more known for their fantastical children’s stories, Studio Ghibli occasionally serves a down-to-earth, domestic film set in the real world. One of them is From Up On Poppy Hill. On the surface is a story of two student activists who fall in love while fighting to keep their high school club’s Latin Quarter from demolition. Of course, with this in mind, the most surprising event in the film is the incest scare. However, this seemingly random plot point feels important in the sense that everything is resolved once they've fully understood the past. And because of the 1960s post-Korean War Tokyo setting, the film is nostalgic yet dares to question whether or not Japan has fully processed and acknowledged their losses in a war that isn't theirs.

Genre: Animation, Drama

Actor: Aoi Teshima, Goro Miyazaki, Haruka Shiraishi, Jun Fubuki, Jun'ichi Okada, Junichi Okada, Keiko Takeshita, Masami Nagasawa, Nao Ōmori, Rumi Hiiragi, Shunsuke Kazama, Takashi Naito, Teruyuki Kagawa, Tsubasa Kobayashi, Yuriko Ishida

Director: Goro Miyazaki

Rating: PG

Whores’ Glory leads us through the hidden world of prostitution in three different countries. The lack of narration is an excellent choice here—all too often, it’s easy to accept preconceived notions about this type of work. Instead, what leads us through the film are words from the sex workers themselves and their clientele. In some ways, these words reveal their differences. The workers pray, worry about money, and share their troubles with each other, but it’s their employers and clientele who reveal their misogyny. Overall, while the Western soundtrack and glamorizing shots can be distracting, it’s clear that the film gives respect to sex workers and prioritizes their perspective.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Michael Glawogger

Rating: Not Rated