Weekend Roundtable: Most Overrated Movies of 2011

It’s awards season, a time when everyone in movie-land looks back on the previous year to congratulate themselves for all the awesome films they made. The Golden Globes just wrapped up, and Oscar nominations will be announced soon. Amid all this self-satisfied back patting, some movies will inevitably get over-praised with award nominations or placement on critics’ Ten-Best lists. In this week’s Roundtable, we look at some of the most overrated films of 2011 that we didn’t feel merited all the attention they’ve been getting.

Mike Attebery

I was really looking forward to ‘The Ides of March‘. As a political junkie, I thought it looked absolutely fantastic. As a film fan, I had some extremely high expectations. The cast was borderline mind-boggling. The trailer was phenomenal. It seemed to have everything a top-notch political drama/thriller needed. Then I saw it. Yeah, this movie is severely overrated.

First of all, I think we’ve all seen the “You have to sell a bit of your soul to work in politics” story a gazillion times now. This movie offers us no new insights or meaty questions to chew on. Secondly, the main character is a supposed veteran of I think 40+ campaigns by the time we meet him, but the entire movie hinges on one of the most naïve, newbie mistakes that I’ve ever seen in a political movie. The moment the plot machinations kicked in, I thought, “There’s a twist coming. There has to be. They’re not really expecting us to buy this, are they? Are they? They ARE! Gimme a break!”

I didn’t walk out of the theater feeling ripped off or horribly disappointed. I just left thinking, “Hmmmm….ooookay. That one is checked off my list.” This isn’t a bad movie, or even an entirely boring one; it will just have many of you yawning and checking your watches from time to time. Since I don’t wear a watch, I used the moments of distraction to think back to a far better, far more interesting political film, albeit it one in a much different genre. If you haven’t seen it before, or even if you have, skip this movie and check out ‘Primary Colors’ instead.

Dick Ward

I didn’t get out to theaters much in the past year, but I got out there just enough to find something to pick on. I really wanted to like Scorsese’s latest, but ‘Hugo‘ just wasn’t good. Well, that’s not entirely true. Each individual thread of the movie was good. The scenes of the titular Hugo fell a bit flat, but I quite liked the bits with Sacha Baron Cohen. The flashbacks of Georges Melies were fantastic. They stand well on their own, but fail to tie together into an actual movie. The tone of some of the parts just feels too different. Watching ‘Hugo’, I get the feeling that Scorsese would rather have been making a movie about the real Georges Melies than one about a kid who wants to fix a machine. I can tell you for certain that a semi-fictionalized history of film focused on Melies would have been much more interesting for me to watch.

Tom Landy

I’m probably going to be booed for this one, but I have to go with ‘Bridesmaids‘. Don’t get me wrong, it has some hilarious parts – like the airplane scene, the food poisoning scene, and the cop attention-grabber drive-bys – but the movie also has a ton of dead space where nothing really funny is happening at all. Maybe I set my expectations too high or maybe I wasn’t in the right mood. I don’t know. I just expected a lot more than what I got from this highly-praised comedy.

Aaron Peck

Personally, I thought that 2011 was a fairly strong year for cinema. Then we’re suddenly talking about ‘The Descendants‘ winning Best Picture awards, and now I’m totally rethinking my position. ‘The Descendants’ is a well-polished, well-acted movie without much substance to go with it. I found it cloying and self-important. It’s a movie that relies far too much on the beauty of Hawaii to sell the otherwise flimsy plot. It’s one of those films that leads you by the hand all the way through its emotional tugs and turns. There’s nothing here that you need to figure out on your own. It’s all laid out there before you, complete with comedic relief from the daughter’s clueless boyfriend. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather watch ‘The Descendants’ than, say, ‘Transformers 3’, but to think of it as Best Picture status gives me pause on whether or not this really was a good cinematic year.

M. Enois Duarte

The one movie that seems terribly overrated to me is ‘The Help‘. The well-intentioned, racially-charged drama about the hired-help during the Civil Rights Movement is typical saccharine tripe that we’ve seen numerous times. It’s meant to warm hearts as well as pull at them. Like ‘Titanic’, viewers are celebrating mediocrity, middle-of-the-road storytelling, specially designed to not insult the widest possible audience while completely misrepresenting history. And don’t even get me started about the inherent problems of the characters and the film’s plot. I won’t go so far as to call the movie racist, but it’s definitely insulting. It reinforces negative images of a people while perpetuating a grossly overused myth infecting our modern culture. It’s fine if you enjoyed ‘The Help’, but for me, it’s a dreadfully overrated movie.

Josh Zyber

I’ve mentioned this in a couple of other posts recently, but I honestly thought that ‘Drive‘ was one of the worst movies I saw in 2011, not one of the best. Director Nicolas Winding Refn has been hailed as the second coming of Tarantino and his film praised as a revitalization of the action genre for reasons that I’m at a loss to explain or even understand.

As an action movie, ‘Drive’ is dead boring. The 100-minute film consists of about 90 minutes of Ryan Gosling staring blankly forward at walls, at other characters, or off into the distance, usually while other characters stare blankly at him. All this staring is punctuated by two or possibly three brief action scenes, one of stomach-churning brutality and gore. An important car chase (the movie is called ‘Drive’, after all) does nothing particularly innovative or exciting. A more accurate title would have been ‘Stalled’.

As an art film with supposedly amazing intellectual and psychological depth (which it also pretends to be), I found the movie completely vapid and empty. All of Gosling’s staring is meant to signify that he’s a tough guy Man of Few Words. Yeah, I get it. The problem is that Gosling utterly fails to sell the conceit. I’ve liked the actor in other movies, but he’s terrible in this. He’s totally dead both in front of and behind the eyes. He says nothing because he has nothing to say. To call the film “style over substance” would imply that it had some substance. But it doesn’t. It’s a lot of faux-existential posturing, with nothing going on beneath the surface.

From the ‘Risky Business’ title credits, to the fake ’80s electronica songs on the soundtrack (with laughably on-the-nose lyrics about being a real hero and a real human being – particularly ironic considering how false everything here is), to the recitation of the “Scorpion and the Frog” parable (famously told in ‘The Crying Game’), and countless other references, ‘Drive’ is a pastiche movie. Refn borrows his stylistic affectations largely from Michael Mann films, which he clearly watched but didn’t understand in the slightest. Unlike Tarantino, who combines bits and pieces of his favorite movies to form something uniquely his own, Refn is just a poseur. He’s only interested in copying the movies he likes, not bringing anything of his own to the material. After leaving the theater, I wanted to rewatch some of the real ’80s movies that inspired this, not such an inferior facsimile of one.

‘Drive’ just plain rubbed me the wrong way. I thought it was garbage and hated everything about it.

Before the deluge of hate mail from ‘Drive’ fans comes in, dare I ask what movies you thought were overrated in 2011? Tell us in the Comments.


  1. hurin

    ‘Hanna’ I had high expectations, but the plot was a mess. If you make a big deal of a character being unfamiliar with electricity, you can’t have her using a computer an hour later, and you can’t just keep the audience ignorant as to what became of the English family.

    Josh, seriously, enough with the nonsense. ‘Drive’ is brilliant. It’s your fault for not recognizing this. I hate Woody Allan movies, but I don’t go around saying they’re bad, I’m humble enough to recognize they’re probably good, but that they’re completely outside my taste in movies.

  2. Drew

    I absolutely love what Aaron says here about ‘The Descendants’.

    I actually hated the film even more than Aaron, but his words here echo my own when I was asked by a colleague to tell me what I disliked so much about it.

    ‘The Descendants’ was one of the worst movies of the year, definitely not one of the best.

    I’ve even made a vow to completely stop following the Oscars altogether, and never watch the ceremony telecast again if ‘The Descendants’ wins best picture.

    In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed to many atrocities against cinema taking home the biggest prize of them all. I won’t stand for it again.

    I’ve had to watch live as films such as ‘Forrest Gump’, ‘Shakespear in Love’, ‘Crash’, and ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ have taken home the most prestigious award of the year.

    If ‘The Descendants’ does the same, and I get burned again, I am done with the Academy Awards. I already consider them to be a borderline joke. ‘The Descendants’ winning the big one, will turn me away forever.

  3. Most of the movies I saw I ended up really liking. There were a couple of turds though.

    Sucker Punch just lost me. I was so bored. Then again, the movie really didn’t get that high of praise to begin with.

    Rise of the Planet of the Apes was, well, about what I was expecting after seeing the first movie. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t really live up to the hype.

    Thor was a bit of a disappointment. Once again, the movie wasn’t bad, but it didn’t live up to its hype. However, it did have a plus to it – it left me with really low expectations for Captain America, so when I actually got around to seeing it, I was blown away!

    Rango – really overhyped. I found the movie a bore.

    Pirates of the Caribbean Another yawn

    Red Riding Hood not bad, but didn’t really live up to my expectation.

    J Edgar Just an all around bad movie.

    So out of the list above, really the only one that had hype around it was Thor. The others were about what i was expecting.

  4. Drew

    The following was originally included in the discussion about our favorite “critically-acclaimed” films of 2011. If anybody missed that discussion, I’d hate to think that they read Josh’ comments in the current roundtable, and actually believed me might be right about ‘Drive’.

    ‘Drive’ is the best film of 2011. For more information about the brilliance of it, check out Luke’s review on the main site. Everthing Luke says in that review is almost word for word what I wrote about the film and submitted for a class I’m currently taking part in.

    Here’s our discussion about ‘Drive’…

    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: 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’.

    Josh: Meh. You need to watch some real ’80s movies, not just this inferior facsimile of one.

    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: 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?

    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.

    Josh: 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.

    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.

    • Josh Zyber

      Drew, I certainly respect your right to have a different opinion about the film, but I can’t share it. At this point, we’re stuck in a sort of “Yes it is” / “No it’s not” / “Yes it is” debate and driving around (har har) in circles.

      I find your argument about the “captivating silent moments” interesting. Obviously, I didn’t find them so captivating, primarily because there’s NOTHING going on during those scenes. There’s no emotion, there’s no suspense, there’s no anything. It’s just Gosling standing there trying to look pensive and hoping that we’ll read something profound into his passivity. He reminded me of Zoolander pulling a “Blue Steel.”

      Honestly, I thought that the new Mission: Impossible made a lot more interesting and creative use of dialogue-free passages and silent film technique than anything in this.

      I received an email after this post went up from a friend describing Drive as “the epitome of hipster emptiness,” and DAMN if that doesn’t capture it exactly.

      But I do recognize that mine is a minority opinion on this. So be it. I had an extremely adverse reaction to watching this film.

        • Josh Zyber

          Jane, that’s a very good question. Hate is a difficult emotion to overcome. I’ve certainly had instances where I’ve loved a movie, and then watched it again years later and thought it was crap (Dances with Wolves). I’ve also had instances where I was ambivalent about a film, and wound up liking it a lot more later (Galaxy Quest). But I can’t recall an example of a movie that I’ve started hating and changed my mind later.

      • Drew

        I guess there’s not really a whole lot left to say. You simply didn’t get it.

        I don’t know that kind of mood you were in, or what your circumstances were when you saw it, but I would highly recommend seeing it again.

        There is so much going on during the silent scenes, that I feel empathy for you for the fact that you didn’t notice anything going on.

        The fact that you say that Driver reminded you of Zoolander pulling a “Blue Steel” is probably your most exposing comment so far. I think that this points to the fact that you were clearly not in the correct mind set required for seeing a film like this.

        Gosling never poses, he never attempts to “pull” any facial expression. He’s stoic.

        These moments are pure cerebral infiltration. Driver is utterly visceral during these moments.

        He’s plotting his next move, and gaining vital information about both his contemporaries, and his adversaries.

        Like I said before, ‘Drive’ has more captivating silent moments than ‘The Artist’.

        This comes from someone who enjoyed ‘The Artist’ a lot.

      • Drew

        At this point, we’re stuck in a sort of “Yes it is” / “No it’s not” / “Yes it is” debate and driving around (har har) in circles.

        Haha! You’re absolutely right. I guess we are stalled (hee hee).

        When you really love a film and feel that it is perfect in every way, it seems that you want other people to be able to bask in that nirvana as well.

        Oh well, even the most beloved masterpiece in history is not loved and admired by all.

        Every film ever made will always have a few of us that hate it. There will always be people who “didn’t get it.”

        I’m sure that you’ve experienced something similar. We all have.

        What films did you absolutely love, and felt were perfect in every way, only to find yourself completely incredulous when certain people just hated them?

        • Josh Zyber

          Drew, I recall getting in a few arguments about Children of Men when it came out. I thought that movie was incredible, but confronted more than a few people who called it a “worst movie ever” or “total piece of crap.” I still can’t fathom where that kind of reaction to it comes from.

          • Drew

            That’s interesting. I experienced some of that with ‘Children of Men’ as well.

            I was in total shock that every single person I knew didn’t absolutely love it.

  5. Kelly

    I’m with Landy on ‘Bridesmaids’. With the exception of the same small scenes he mentioned, it was boring and unfunny.

  6. Random Commenter

    Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The trailers seemed very dull, and even as a fan of the original Planet of the Apes movies, I was looking forward to skipping it. But after all the rave reviews for it I decided to check it out, and it was not bad, but definitely not as great as most people say it is. The acting is very spotty, minus Andy Serkis(but come on, that guy is a god when it comes to mo-cap,) the CG was not as good as some proclaim(thought that doesn’t really matter) and it just felt too melodramatic and rushed. I expected more.

  7. Drew


    You are insane! 🙂 ‘Hugo’ was superb!

    You even use most of your words discussing the brilliance of it, and yet, you say you didn’t like it.

    ‘Hugo’ wasn’t overrated at all. It is getting it’s proper due as one of the years ten best.

  8. Drew

    ‘The Descendants’ was easily the most overrated film of the year.

    A few others of note:

    – ‘The Muppets’ (I really enjoyed it! Don’t stake me! I’m just saying that we should all stop acting like it was something it is not)

    – ‘War Horse’

    – ‘Tintin’

    – ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’

    – ‘Source Code’

    With the exception of ‘War Horse’ I liked all of these films.

    They are all decent in their own right, I just can’t believe some of the superlatives I’ve seen thrown about for each of them.

    None of them are close to being 5-Star films.

    Why all of the kneeling at their feet and kissing their rings?

  9. JM

    Well, there’s no way that ‘A Separation’ is the best film of 2011. Ergo, with a metacritic of 94, it is mathematically the most overrated film of the year.

  10. Ross

    Sucker Punch was awful, I actually fell asleep during it. Though I was tired after being on a coach all the way to Scotland. It was awful nonetheless.

  11. Stormshadow

    no doubt about it….Midnight in Paris. I’ve can’t remember ever being that bored during a movie in the theater than I was with that one. I can’t understand how anyone could love that movie. Slow pace, horrible acting (by pretty much everyone), and terrible dialog. UGH

  12. Why????

    Josh… Thank you. You just… *starts tearing up*… You just said everything I wanted to say for so long and couldn’t find the words. Drive is not a movie. It’s a 2 hour (whatever the running time was, seemed like forever) music video. It has no substance, no point. The characters are all mindless zombies moving from one action to the other. During the movie, I thought to myself… Who is this person? Is he mentally deficient? Or just suffering from PTSD or something? An entire movie of silence and 10 minutes of gore… Why????

    • hurin

      If you’re going to hate on ‘Drive’, at least do so intelligently.
      ‘Drive’ does have a fairly generic heist plot. The main character is a getaway driver, he befriends his neighbor who’s husband is in trouble, he tries to help, it goes wrong, bad guys try to kill everyone involved, the end. So to say it has no substance or point is just trolling.
      The main character does seem to have mental problems of some sort, like Travis from Taxi Driver he doesn’t seem to care about money or his own safety, and has no ability to form a relationship with other people. But because we can’t understand the guy, we also have no idea what he’ll do next. This added an extra dimension to the film. Heist movies usually go from A to B to C, but in ‘Drive’ I was at the edge of the seat the whole time as I really had no idea what would happen.
      The movie is cut to the bone, there is no fluff of any kind, no unnecessary dialogue, no romantic subplot, no bad CGI, no teal/orange, the emphasis was entirely on acting, and everyone was at their A game.

      • Josh Zyber

        Hurin, there’s a distinction between plot and substance. Yes, Drive has a Point A to Point B to Point C plot. So does Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star. That doesn’t mean it has depth or meaning.

        The movie does have a romantic subplot, and I would argue that all those endless scenes of nothing happening were fluff. I was also not impressed with Ryan Gosling’s performance at all. He was a lot better in Crazy Stupid Love last year. His tough guy act here wasn’t convincing.

        • JM

          ‘Drive’ received a standing ovation at Cannes, so perhaps it would be more accurate to compare it to ‘The Tree Of Life.’

          Mostly it makes me want to watch ‘Collateral’ again.

          But I wonder how many of the ‘Drive’ fangirls are sluts for James Sallis’s novel, and they’re bringing baggage to the picture…?

        • hurin

          Dept and meaning is stuff you can debate in film school, it is not a prerequisite to make a good movie. It’s a heist movie, not Shakespeare.

          The romantic subplot is a) not romantic and b) not a subplot. The ‘endless scenes of nothing happening’ build the mood. ‘Plup Fiction’ builds mood by having people talk endlessly about everyday matters. One approach is not necessarily better that the other.

  13. besch64

    When I heard “The Ides of March” called out four times during nominee announcements at the Golden Globes, I thought somebody was fucking with my medicine. If that movie deserves any sort film award, than I deserve a sexiest man alive award.

    It’s by no means terrible. But it’s just one of those movies where you walk out and think “yeah, I guess I just watched a movie.” I admit I thought briefly about the parallels between the movie and the Tragedy of Julius Caesar, and there was something interesting in there, but not enough to make the movie memorable or remarkable in any way, and certainly not deserving of any sort of award recognition.

    I hope you do a thing for most underrated movies of the year, because The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo might be the most underrated movie of the last three years combined. It’s almost offensive to me that it won’t be remember years down the line as a vital piece of the evolution of modern mainstream cinema, because it absolutely is. But that’s beside the point. I’ll wait for the underrated movie poll. Bring it on.

    • Ian Whitcombe

      Besch, I would argue that a lot of David Fincher fans probably feel the same way you do about “Dragon Tattoo”. There is a contingent though who were less enthused about the movie for several reasons, though and we’re currently left with a lot of critical “white noise” in which consensus on the film may be several years away from materializing.

      Personally speaking, it was a combination of the source material, sexual violence, and the running time had deterred me from seeing this in theaters. Maybe I’ll check it out on Blu-Ray.

    • Drew

      I concur with what you say about ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’.

      I just don’t know if my man-crush on Fincher has severely biased my opinion of it.

      I’ve seen it four times, and I’ve tried extremely hard to spot anything at all that I don’t love about it.

      I can’t do it. I love it! Definitely one of the years best.

      Let’s have the underrated poll either at mid-week or weekend rountable this week!

  14. El Bicho

    Would have selected Super 8, but these comments have pushed Drive to the front of the line. Good movie, but nothing special

  15. IDES OF MARCH is overrated…it plays more like a good HBO movie than something worthy of the big screen.

    BRIDESMAIDS is misrated…it’s not good enough to recommend, let alone rave about.

    For me, the most overrated film of 2011 was TREE OF LIFE. It’s got great cinematography…but beyond that? It’s nothing more than a 2001 wannabe.

  16. CK

    Most overrated for me was Mission Impossible. Though I enjoyed it, it was certainly one of the more disappointing movies of the year for me; rivaled only by Green Lantern.

  17. Alistair Paterson

    Bit late to the party, But would also have to add Source Code & Limitless to this list.

    Whilst both films started well and had bags full of potential they both fell apart in the last third!

  18. JoeB

    I can’t believe no one mentioned as the most overrated film of the year, THE TREE OF LIFE, by the most overrated director of the era, Terrence Malik.

    • Ian Whitcombe

      Joe, you act as if Mallick wasn’t always a highly contested director amongst audiences and critics. Unless you truly don’t understand why people would be sympathetic to that type of film?