Mid-Week Poll: Favorite Critically-Acclaimed Films of 2011

Our poll last week asked you to identify which of 2011’s blockbuster hits was your favorite. To date, the ‘Harry Potter’ finale has taken the lead, followed by ‘X-Men: First Class’ and ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’. Unfortunately, good movies don’t always manage to become blockbusters. This week, we’ll take a look at some of last year’s most critically-acclaimed films, and let you pick your favorite from that bunch.

This is the time of year when various critics (and critics’ groups) release Top 10 lists. Many of these wind up highlighting a lot of obscure independent and foreign films that may have never played near you. For the purposes of this poll, I’ve used this article from MetaCritic to identify the 15 best-reviewed wide-release films of 2011, based on the aggregate scores accumulated across numerous review sources.

MetaCritic has a separate list for limited release movies in the same article, but as I said, you probably haven’t had an opportunity to see many (or any) of those. The documentary ‘ My Perestroika’, for example, played on only 19 screens at its widest release. My favorite film of the year, ‘The Artist‘, is still only playing on 172 screens. We’re going to stick with movies that most of you actually had a chance to see.

It turns out that the year’s biggest blockbuster, ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2’, was also the best-reviewed wide-release film with an 87% aggregate rating. I can’t complain with that. I liked the movie a lot, and thought that it was a fitting closer for the franchise.

Of these 15 titles, I’ve seen about half of them: ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Drive’, ‘Midnight in Paris’, ‘Mission: Impossible’, ‘The Muppets’, ‘Source Code’ and ‘Super 8’. I’m going to go a little against the grain here when I say that I thought ‘Drive’ was absolutely terrible, and deserves to be on a year’s worst list. My pick for best of this group is ‘Midnight in Paris’. I also thought that ‘Mission: Impossible’ and (as mentioned) ‘Harry Potter’ were pretty great.

Which of these critical darlings was your favorite of 2011?

What Was Your Favorite Critically-Acclaimed Film of 2011?

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  1. T.J. Kats

    Haven’t seen as many of these as I would like but I voted muppets. I wouldn’t argue that it is the best of the bunch but I was laughing or smiling the entire time and that is something that not many films can achieve.

  2. Muppets for me! I know the Muppets weren’t on hiatus as long as, say, Star Wars, but it’s refreshing to see them back where they should be. It’s awesome to see someone that’s new to the franchise come in and make a movie that’s so true to the characters too – you don’t often get that.

    In terms of this poll, I also would have clicked a box if it had just said “not Hugo,” but I guess that wouldn’t be as specific.

  3. ‘The Muppets’ all the way. Although, ’50/50,’ ‘HP: Part 2,’ ‘Super 8,’ ‘Midnight in Paris,’ ‘Drive,’ and ‘Source Code’ are way up on the list. I still don’t get the draw of ‘The Descendants,’ but I guess I’m the only one.

    • Drew

      Your thoughts echo my own.

      This list is really a list of the most critically-acclaimed films of the year?

      If so, I must have a really fucked up sense of what I consider a critically-acclaimed film.

      • Josh Zyber

        This list is only comprised of movies that received a wide theatrical release. This isn’t intended to be a prediction of what the Oscars will nominate. From this list, I expect Midnight in Paris and The Descendants to be nominated, maybe Moneyball.

        • Drew

          Well, let’s have a poll about films that actually are critically-acclaimed.

          ‘Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy’, ‘The Artist’, ‘Melancholia’, ‘The Tree of Life’, ‘The Iron Lady’, ‘Shame’, ‘A Dangerous Method’, etc.

          Also, why is ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ not on this list? Numerous publications that I happen to read have named it their best film of the year, or damn close to it.

          • Josh Zyber

            The criteria for the poll is specified in the post. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is #16 on the Metacritic list. I only pulled the Top 15.

            Those limited release movies may well be included in future polls, especially around Oscar time. Don’t jump ahead of us yet. 🙂

          • Drew

            I guess I misread the post. I knew that you used the Metacritic list, but for some reason thought that it said you used your own executive adjustments when creating the list.

            I still think we should have a new poll.

            90% of these films aren’t exactly what someone would call “Critically-acclaimed.”

        • Drew

          Essentially, I’d just like more insight into how this list was comprised.

          It seems like a really strange list of movies for a poll entitled, “Favorite Critically-Acclaimed Films of 2011.”

        • Drew

          Did ‘Drive’ ever actually receive a wide theatrical release?

          ‘Drive’ is probably my top film of the year. I was happy to see it show up on this list, but I don’t believe it’s release was actually one that would be considered “wide.”

          • Josh Zyber

            According to Box Office Mojo, Drive played on 2,904 screens. The widest release for The Tree of Life was 237 theaters.

            A movie is considered to have had a “wide release” if it plays on more than 600 screens.

          • Drew


            Will you please check these figures?

            I can’t imagine that ‘The Tree of Life’ never played on more than 237 screens, nationwide.

            That must be a misprint.

            Perhaps you have a more trusted source?

          • Drew

            Okay, okay, I take it back. There are some outstanding films on this list.

            I’ve actually seen all fifteen films noted here.

            ‘Super 8’, ‘Moneyball’, ‘M:I-GP’, ‘HPATDHP2’ and ‘Hugo’ are the ones that are most making me eat my words from my previous comment about ‘Drive’.

          • I can’t see Tree of Life being a wide release. As far as I know, it never played in any of the theaters around here except for the artsy one up near one of our colleges. It is in my Blockbuster queue.

          • Josh Zyber

            The Tree of Life had serious distrubution issues as a result of the rights changing hands several times before release, which was largely brought about due to Malick’s repeated delays in completing it.

          • JM

            Metacritic’s list is accurate, it’s just a weird way to rank films.

            It’s like making a list of the ’15 Sexiest Women Of 2011,’ with the criteria being that they’re all pornstars.

        • Drew

          I’d love to hear you elaborate on ‘Drive’.

          Every frame of that film is high-art.

          There is more artistic ambition and quality in only the silent moments of ‘Drive’ than there is in all of the moments in the top 10 films on this list combined.

          It is an absolute masterpiece.

          • Josh Zyber

            I’ll elaborate on Drive more at a later time. Another critic used the phrase “shallow, existential noir posturing” to describe it, and that pretty much sums up my feelings. The opening scene was the only part of it I liked.

            A guy in the front row of my theater fell asleep pretty early on. His loud snoring (audible all the way in the back) was just about the only thing keeping me awake.

          • Drew

            ‘Drive’ doesn’t pretend to be high art. It positively IS high art.

            Literally every frame of that film was astounding.

            Each shot could be framed and put in a museum on display.

            Easily the best film of 2011.

            The appeal of ‘Drive’ is in the brilliance of what you don’t hear. Even ‘The Artist’ didn’t have as many captivating silent moments. And I’m a big fan of ‘The Artist’.

          • Drew

            Nope. Clearly, you are the one that missed the boat on ‘Drive’.

            Just look at the statistics of the reviews. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.

            I’m well versed in my ’80s movies, thank you.

            ‘Drive’ is superior to almost anything similar released during that time.

          • Josh Zyber

            Forrest Gump got almost universally rave reviews during its release too, and that movie’s an atrocity against cinema. Sometimes critics are just as prone to getting caught up in the hype around a movie as any other viewer. I wouldn’t call Drive nearly that abhorrent a p.o.s., but it did absolutely nothing for me.

            Let me ask you a question: During any of the numerous 5-10 minute stretches of film where the “Driver” character just stands there staring blankly toward a wall, what’s he thinking about? Anything?

            When Clint Eastwood or Steve McQueen or any other famous “man of few words” tough guy remains silent, you can always still see the wheels turning in their heads, as they analyze and calculate the situation they’re in. Not Driver, though. There’s nothing going on in his head. He’s a completely blank slate, both in front of and behind the eyes. He says nothing because he has nothing to say.

            Drive is a pastiche movie. It’s a little bit of Clint Eastwood, a little bit of To Live and Die in L.A., and a giant heaping of Michael Mann. Refn has seen all of these movies and decided, “Hey, I can do that,” but he hasn’t actually understood anything about his source inspirations. The movie is all surfaces, with nothing at all underneath.

            When Tarantino mixes and matches pieces of old movies he loves, he does so with the purpose of combining them into something uniquely his own. Not Refn. Drive is purely a facsimile of movies the director likes. It brings nothing of its own to the genre.

            And that fake-’80s “Real Hero” song with its painfully on-the-nose lyrics that gets played about 30 times in the movie felt like it was stabbing me in the ears with its awfulness every time.

            Now see, you got me writing way more about the movie than I wanted to post here. I should be saving this for a later time!

          • Drew

            I’m sorry, but you’re not getting away with comparing ‘Drive’ to ‘Forrest Gump’.

            ‘Forrest Gump’ as you so well put it, is an atrocity against cinema. It has nothing in common with ‘Drive’ whatsoever. It’s a complete p.o.s.

            Furthermore, ‘Forrest Gump’ wasn’t as universally praised as you seem to believe it was. You’re probably under that impression because of the technological society that we live in now. ‘Forrest Gump’ came out during the print media days, and critics from many major outlets gave it some of the worst reviews of the year. I even remember reading a piece that came out around Oscar time that rallied against it in extreme fashion, and pointed to strong evidence that many major critics felt that it was terrible.

            Haha! Well, I’m glad that I got you to write more about ‘Drive’ than you wanted to. 🙂

            I think you wanted ‘Drive’ to be something it is most definitely not. ‘Drive’ is not intended to be a mash-up film. It’s not pieced together from elements of other films in the genre. You misunderstood either the intent of the film or the film itself.

            You’re also wrong about Driver. His wheels are absolutely spinning when he is silent. He extremely cerebral and methodical in all of his actions.

            You shoot yourself in the foot with your Steve McQueen comments, because you’ve stated several times on the bonus view blog that you’ve never seen a Steve McQueen film.

          • Josh Zyber

            Drive isn’t intended to be a mash-up? Clearly we are not talking about the same movie. Did you miss the Risky Business title font? The fake ’80s electronica songs on the soundtrack? The drive through the L.A. River bed (a staple of countless ’80s action movies)? The fact that the main character is a “Man with No Name” (wink wink). The numerous scenes lifted from movies like The Stunt Man, Thief, and To Live and Die in L.A.?

            Driver is not cerebral. He is entirely reactive to the things that happen to him, not proactive.

            And I watched the original Thomas Crown Affair recently, by the way. 🙂

          • Drew

            We certainly are talking about the same film. I observed and enjoyed each one of the aspects you talk about.

            None of them mean that ‘Drive’ was ever intended to be a mash-up. It was simply paying homage to the films of that genre that came before it.

            It’s not like any of the things you mention played any role in the plot development or character arc of the film. They were simple stylistic nods to other films that paved the way.

            Driver is incredibly cerebral. He’s actually almost 100% proactive. It’s clear that he knows exactly what he’s going to do before his opposition even considers their move. Just look at the scene in the elevator.

            I’m glad you finally saw a Steve McQueen. 🙂

  4. lordbowler

    I’ve seen:
    Super 8, The Muppets, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Source Code.

    My favorite film was Super 8, but I also enjoyed MI:4 and Muppets. Source Code was interesting, but just good, not great.

  5. JM

    Drew, which are the Critically Acclaimed Films Of 2011 that you hate?

    The way Josh feels about ‘Drive’ is how I feel about ‘The Tree Of Life.’

    • Drew

      What about you Jane?

      Any other “Critically-acclaimed” films that you just couldn’t stand? (Aside from ‘TTOL’)

      In your opinion, what are the best films of 2011?

      • JM

        The last critically-acclaimed film I hated this much was ‘City Of God.’

        And I loved ‘The Thin Red Line.’

        I don’t know what my Top 10 is yet, but I watched ‘Super 8’ last night for the first time and I can tell you it won’t make my Top 50.

        I don’t love ‘Moneyball’ as much as I love ‘The Social Network.’

        ‘Transformers 3″ will be in my Top 5, as my Michael Bay fetish cannot be overpowered by rational thought.

        And I still need to see ‘Carnage,’ ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,’ and ‘Sex and Zen 3D: Extreme Ecstasy.’

        • Drew

          I’m surprised that you loved ‘The Thin Red Line’, but hated ‘The Tree of Life’.

          I like ‘Super 8’, but while I won’t go so far as to agree with you that it’s not in the top 50, I will say that it wouldn’t make my top 25-30.

          “I don’t love ‘Moneyball’ as much as I love ‘The Social Network.’” … I concur 100% and I love how this comment is the simplest possible way to compare them, without going into detail.

          I have to admire the fortitude it takes to put ‘Transformers: DOTM’ in your top 5 of the year.

          Your reasoning for it, is identical to why I will put ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ in my top 10. (Although I would argue that I might do so anyway, I guess I’ll never know) My Fincher crush will always prevail against all.

        • Drew


          I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on ‘The New World’.

          On one had, it seems that you love Malick, but on the other, it seems that you may have an extreme dislike for most of this work.

          • JM

            ‘Days Of Heaven,’ which I saw recently, almost made me a cutter again.

            ‘Badlands’ I have not yet seen. It’s on my Q, near the bottom.

            ‘The New World’ I was indifferent to. I think I watched the 150 minute version on dvd. I might take a whack at the extended cut on blu-ray.

            ‘The Thin Red Line’ I saw three times in the theater, and my love has only grown with the criterion blu-ray. Whereas I hated ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ as the story felt, to me, tainted with Spielbergian bullshit. Yet I love ‘Apocalypse Now’?!?

            Terrence Malick’s next three films I find I’m still anticipating greatly.

            ‘Untitled,’ which has a damn fine cast, and is becoming a pastiche as we speak. And his back-to-back babies, ‘Lawless’ and ‘Knight Of Cups.’

            My favorite poet is Donald Barthelme, who I hate as much as I love.

            Sometimes my enthusiasms are mystery.

  6. Drew

    That’s interesting.

    Some of the comments Josh made about ‘Drive’ are eerily similar to comments I have made about ‘The Descendants’.

    Now there’s a movie that is pretending to be high art.

    I hated ‘The Descendants’.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I hated ‘War Horse’, but my god! How the mighty have fallen.

    You could substitue the Williams’ score from ‘Tintin’ (Or really any other Williams score) into ‘War Horse’ and it would have zero impact on the movie.

    I know that’s not entirely Spielbergs fault, but for chrissakes! Where’s the ambition? What happened to Spielberg? There’s nothing in ‘War Horse’ that makes it exceptional, or something that stands apart from the pack.

    Maybe I just continue to give Spielberg too much credit, and end up having impossible to reach hopes for his projects, but ‘War Horse’ was extremely mediocre. Any half-decent filmmaker could have made it while half asleep.

    • I wouldn’t say I “hated” ‘The Descendants’ but there’s nothing in it that separates it from the millions of other family-related dramas out there.

      • Drew

        Exactly. I guess that’s actually why I did HATE it.

        It pretended to be better and different from all of the other family-related dramas out there.

        It most definitely was not.

        For that reason, and many others, I hated it.