50 Best Movies & Shows Released in 2011 (Page 4)

Staff & contributors

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

This documentary is about a unique program in Chicago called CeaseFire whose sole aim is to stop violent deaths in poor urban areas. CeaseFire is staffed by ex-gang members and ex-convicts who try to intervene in conflicts in their community, particularly those that may escalate into extreme violence or death. In these neighborhoods though, violent conflict can result from something as minor as someone making a funky comment about someone else’s shoes. This makes total success for a project like CeaseFire nearly impossible. It is not a totally depressing film though as the program and its practitioners are all pretty amazing, and director Steve James (who made Hoop Dreams) has unparalleled access to these struggling communities.

A beautiful and subtle masterpiece exploring the life of Alike, a teen in Brooklyn navigating her identity as a gay black girl. Caught between the traditional world of her family and the butch and sexual world of her friend who has already come out, director Dee Rees allows the audience to see the trials and tribulations of Alike's attempts to be comfortable and sure of herself.  It's a moving and raw coming-of-age story with many characters in the film being quite lovable and relatable making it easy for the viewer to become attached.

After the sudden death of a teacher, 55-year-old Algerian immigrant Bachir Lazhar is hired at an elementary school in Montreal. Struggling with a cultural gap between himself and his students at first, he helps them to deal with the situation, revealing his own tragic past. A strong portrait without any weird sentimentality. 11-year-old actress Sophie Nélisse makes her brilliant debut.

Producer/Director Beth Kargman has put together a wonderful documentary that follows six young ballet dancers to the Youth America Grand Prix, one of the most important of all ballet competitions worldwide. The prizes at the competition include awards of recognition, scholarships, and work with major dance companies. The dancers are in several age ranges and ethnicities. Michaela and her sister were adopted from Sierra Leone, where there was nothing but death and poverty waiting for them. Michaela has been told that blacks make unsuitable ballet dancers -- bad feet, too muscular, wrong build, etc. Zamora lives in New York, far away from his family, but his father tells him there is nothing for him in Colombia and he has to go after his dream. Rebecca is a cheerleader and a 'normal' kid whose passion is dance, and Aaron doesn't tell other kids he's a dancer. All of them have great talents, obvious from their dance routines at the Grand Prix. First Position is a very inspiring documentary about youngsters from different backgrounds and social status with the dream of dancing professionally, and the sacrifices they have made to achieve their goal. The dancing is heavenly; I only wish there had been more of it.
A documentary that reveals just how insane the men that compete in the MotoGP are. It follows Valentino Rossi, one of the best riders of all-time if not the best, in a very pivotal season for him, 2010-2011. An in depth look into his competitiveness but also his passion for the sport and for the machines in it, it's the kind of portrait that will make you feel you know the subject in person. And when it's not focused on Rossi, it becomes a a real-life thrill fest of bike-mounted cameras of riders going at it at 200+mph.  A must-watch for gear-heads and uninitiated fans alike that plays with the idea that "if you want to win it all...you have to risk it all".