Before I begin, honourable mentions go to the following movies from 2011 that are worth seeing, but that there just wasn’t room for this year.
13 ASSASSINS (an epic martial arts actioner that’s two parts Seven Samurai and one part Home Alone)
BEAUTIFUL BOY (a drama that examines the effect a school shooting has on the blind-sided parents of the shooter)
THE INTERRUPTERS (a documentary about three “interrupters,” former gang members who now devote themselves to intervening and defusing shootings and gang retaliations)
One final thing before I get to this year’s movies: There are few titles that were unjustly not included in my list last year, as I hadn’t been able to see them in time. They are: Barney’s Version, I Love You Philip Morris, Ip Man, The Switch, Tangled, and The Trotsky. I’d especially like to call out The Trotsky, as it ended up being one of the five best movies of 2010. Don’t let the odd title dissuade you; if you enjoy laugh-out-loud comedies, check it out.
But enough about 2010. Let’s get to 2011!
One of the most individual and truly unique animated movies of the last decade, Rango doesn’t try to get you to like it. It has a very off-kilter sense of humour, it spins a complicated tale of dynastic corruption harking back to both ‘60s Westerns and Chinatown, and its characters are downright butt-ugly. But all those things, which at first seem like flaws, prove to be what elevates this into the realm of amazing animated films.
24. IP MAN 2:
LEGEND OF THE GRANDMASTER
The first Ip Man came out of nowhere with a bold, refreshing style for a martial arts movie, while looking to the past in subject and tone. It also had some of the best martial arts fighting this side of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. While Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster is just a notch below the first film in overall quality, it’s certainly the best martial arts movie of the year. Not only that, but its fight sequences are even more impressive than those in the original.
There tends to only be one great horror movie a year. For 2011, it was Insidious. At its heart, it’s just another suburban haunted house movie. Originality isn’t necessarily vital in horror, though, as long as there is style and tension to make up for it, which is certainly the case here. The ending was a tad weaker than the rest of the movie, but at the end of the night, there are scares in this movie that are still haunting me a year later.
22. PARADISE LOST 3:
Not a sequel, really, despite the title. This is the third documentary Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky have made documenting the ongoing case of the West Memphis 3, three men who were sentenced to life in prison in the mid-‘90s for the deaths of three children despite there being no physical evidence. The first two movies showed without much shadow of a doubt that the men were wrongly convicted, but the judge continued to refuse to reopen the case. (The movie smartly covers the first two movies in the opening 20 minutes, so you need not have seen them to see this final one.) Over the last decade, their cause has gained supporters as varied as Johnny Depp and the Dixie Chicks, trying to get them freed. Due to this movie (and the first two), the West Memphis 3 were finally released last year, after 18 years in prison. This is a real-life Shawshank Redemption, made all the more powerful by the raw truth that the two filmmakers behind it freed three innocent men.
Rubber is about a car tire in the desert that suddenly comes to life and starts killing people psychokinetically (for reasons completely unexplained). And yet, despite there being no way to describe it sensibly or make it sound less-than-horrible, the fact is it’s one of the most genius movies you will ever watch. I fought my reservations and watched it because I kept hearing from others that is was inexplicably fantastic. I can’t stress how much better it is than it sounds. The trailer will give you a better idea, but still not completely. I won’t lie, if you need your movies to make complete sense, you’ll probably hate it. But if you’re able to admire meta/experimental/too-bizarre-to-appeal-to-the-masses films like Mulholland Drive, Gerry, or Primer, you’ll be blown away by how clever a movie Rubber is. Especially since it manages it with such a ridiculous premise.