50 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.

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.

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.

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. 

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).

This coming-of-age drama is about John McGill, a brilliant student with a promising future who becomes a thug. More specifically, he becomes a Ned: a Non-Educated Delinquent, a derogatory term applied to small-time criminals in Scotland.

His story takes place in 1970s Glasgow. A lot pushes John to make this transition: bad parenting, bullying and an early brush with crime life through his older brother. Directed by and starring Peter Mullan (Trainspotting, Westworld).

Cloudburst is the very funny and heartwarming story of two old ladies, Stella (played by Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis) and Dotty (played by another Academy Award winner, Brenda Fricker) who escape their nursing home and drive to Nova Scotia, Canada to get married. Along the way, they meet Prentice, a hitchhiker on his way home to Nova Scotia as well. Cloudburst is the story of their road trip. Dotty is lascivious and loving. Expect to be shocked by Stella's potty mouth. The whole film is a great love story about devotion, acceptance and living life to the fullest.

I don't want to go too much into detail, but this film is an acting masterpiece. From start to finish it drags you into the characters' life and really makes you feel for the main character. It shows you how hard it really is for the main character to struggle with what she's going through. I hate being left in the dust to wonder like I was left after Tomboy and this film did it and it really gets on my nerves, but it is so good. A true masterpiece.

Always follows the story of Jeong-hwa and Cheol-min, both very different individuals who are gentle in their own way. The story starts off by demonstrating how different the leads are in terms of their personality and their outlook on life. The plot can be a little predictable and cliche in some moments, but Always is not a complicated movie—though in addition to being a romance, it also includes some surprising violence that may intensify your viewing experience. Still, Always is about the two leads’ struggle against fate as they try to survive their tough situations, with strong chemistry between the lead actors from start to finish.

Nostalgia for the Light is a documentary about Atacama desert and the two activities that go on there: astronomers in ALMA space observatory examine the sky, and the relatives of murdered people dig the ground hoping to find their loved ones. The way the director compares these seemingly totally different topics (searching the sky and searching the sand) is pure poetry. It's a serious, but not depressing nor boring movie. All the interviewed people are amazingly relevant and have great insight. They made me feel like I want to get to know them personally. If you're looking for a detailed "for dummies" introduction about Chile, ALMA observatory or Pinochet's concentration camps, this movie is not for you. It's for viewers who want to learn to appreciate the beauty of life and history, and the surprising parallels they sometimes offer us.

A slow-burning spy thriller set within the British intelligence service during the height of the Cold War, this complex drama is highlighted by Gary Oldman’s acutely understated performance. As a high level agent brought out of retirement to ferret out a mole within the MI5, he exudes intensity and intellect with unerring precision. The story itself is exceptionally complicated and yet highly engaging. I felt that casting and corresponding screen time made it clear whom the mole would turn out to be…but you may disagree.

A light and simple feel-good movie with great performances from an impressive cast. Ewan McGregor plays the country's best fisheries expert who is approached by a consultant (Emily Blunt) to help bring the sport of fly-fishing to a desert in the Middle-East, a place at the peak of tensions. The Prime Minister's office, with the help of the media, try to then bring this story to the public as a show of something good happening in the region. It's a quirky movie with a beautiful love story and a few interesting ideas on the current state of journalism. Both leads are absolutely charming together.

Do you know those movies where you just look at the poster and you go "damn this will be good"? This is absolutely not one of those, but I promise, it's still great. Warrior is surprisingly sophisticated for its genre, awesomely executed and what about the acting you say? Hardy and Edgerton are strong together (pun intended). Warrior is a movie filled with authentic emotions designed to give you hope that something unconventional can still come out of the genre.

In “The Way”, an American doctor, Tom (Martin Sheen), travels to Spain to identify the remains of his deceased son (Emilio Estevez, also writer/director) who has died while traveling "El Camino de Santiago”, the famous pilgrimage across Northern Spain. Once there, Tom unexpectedly finds himself inspired to continue his son’s journey, sprinkling his ashes along the lengthy expedition to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, home to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great. Along the way Tom gains several unlikely traveling companions: a Dutchman (Yorick van Wageningen), a Canadian (Deborah Kara Unger) and an Irishman (James Nesbitt), each of whom has his/her own personal reasons for making the pilgrimage, with each adding various degrees of drama and humor to the proceedings as well. A touching and inspiring film marred a bit by some unnecessarily roughly-hewn characterizations, but overall a pleasant experience with a warm feeling of adventure and camaraderie throughout.