The Best and Worst Movies of 2011

  • Publish Date: January 5, 2012
  • Comments: ↓ 8 user comments

Wide releases: One for the books

Breakdown of 2011 Wide Releases (Min. 7 Reviews)
Good (Metascore ≥ 61) 41 films
Mixed (40-60) 64 films
Bad (≤ 39) 37 films
Average Metascore 50.9

Just three films among the year's 10 highest-scoring wide releases are original stories: Woody Allen's romantic comedy Midnight in Paris 81, the hit R-rated comedy Bridesmaids 75, and the animated Rango 75. Six of the others were based on books, while The Muppets 75 was based on an existing film/TV franchise.

Five of 2011's wide releases qualified as having "universal acclaim" from critics (with a Metascore of 81 or higher), a slight improvement over 2010's total of four such films. In all, just under 29% of all wide releases last year earned positive reviews (with a 61 or higher) from critics. While that may seem like a low percentage, it's actually an improvement over both 2010 (26%) and 2009 (25%). Unsurprisingly, nearly half (19 of 41, or 46%) of the year's positively reviewed wide releases were released after Labor Day, so if it seemed like there were suddenly a lot of good movies to choose from this fall, you weren't imagining things.

Below, we rank the highest-scoring wide release films of the past year. Note that as of press time, the spy thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is still a limited release. But if it opens wide later this month as currently planned, and maintains its 85 score, you can place it in the number 3 position.

The Best Wide Releases of 2011
  Title Genre(s) Netflix Metascore Users
1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 Fantasy + Queue 87 7.9
2 Moneyball Drama + Queue 87 7.9
3 The Descendants Drama + Queue 84 7.6
4 Hugo Family + Queue 83 7.4
5 Midnight in Paris Comedy + Queue 81 7.8
6 Drive Drama + Queue 79 7.4
7 Rango Animation/Family + Queue 75 7.3
8 Bridesmaids Comedy + Queue 75 7.1
9 The Muppets Family/Comedy/Musical + Queue 75 7.9
10 Winnie the Pooh Animation/Family + Queue 74 7.4
11 Source Code Sci-Fi/Thriller + Queue 74 7.5
12 Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol Action + Queue 73 7.7
13 50/50 Comedy/Drama + Queue 72 8.1
14 Super 8 Sci-Fi + Queue 72 7.3
15 War Horse Drama + Queue 72 6.1
16 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Thriller + Queue 71 7.8
17 Young Adult Comedy/Drama + Queue 71 6.6
18 Warrior Action/Drama + Queue 71 8.3
19 Contagion Thriller + Queue 70 6.2
20 Arthur Christmas Animation/Family + Queue 69 8.0
21 Crazy, Stupid, Love. Romantic Comedy + Queue 68 7.3
22 The Adventures of Tintin Animation/Family + Queue 68 7.9
23 Rise of the Planet of the Apes Sci-Fi/Action + Queue 68 7.9
24 Kung Fu Panda 2 Animation/Family + Queue 67 7.8
25 The Ides of March Drama + Queue 67 7.3

Only movies with seven or more reviews released between January 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011 were considered. Re-releases are excluded. A wide release film is one that screens at 600 or more theaters. The Metascore is a weighted average of scores from top professional critics, on a scale from 0 (bad) to 100 (good). Although scores have been rounded to the nearest whole number, movies are ranked prior to rounding. User scores represent an average of scores assigned by site visitors on a scale from 0 (bad) to 10 (good). All scores in this article are from January 4, 2012.

Adam Sandler is only responsible for two of the year's worst movies, though one of them—the Sandler-produced and co-written Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star 9, starring Nick Swardson—is the lowest-scoring movie since 2009's Miss March 7. Two other Sandler-related releases (Zookeeper 30 and Just Go With It 33) somehow managed to avoid our bottom 10 list, so there's that.

The Worst Wide Releases of 2011
  Title Genre(s) Metascore Users
1 Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star Comedy 9 1.7
2 The Darkest Hour Action/Sci-Fi 16 4.4
3 Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil Animation/Family 20 3.9
4 Shark Night 3D Horror/Thriller 22 4.5
5 New Year's Eve Romantic Comedy 22 4.7
6 Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son Comedy 22 4.1
7 The Roommate Thriller 23 3.4
8 Jack and Jill Comedy 23 2.6
9 Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked Animation/Family 24 4.5
10 Apollo 18 Horror/Sci-Fi 24 4.8

Limited releases

On the next page, we examine the best and worst limited release films of the past year.

Comments (8)

  • MarcDoyle  

    Congrats to the makers of A Separation. It's a really good film.

  • Sycsa  

    The Moneyball was really "out there".

  • GlenM  

    My top 2011 movies were Source Code and Bridesmaids, although I haven't seen many of the top ones yet, some aren't released in New Zealand yet and some won't come to Christchurch where I live because our art cinemas have been lost in the earthquakes. I won't offer a worst picture, because I avoid poorly reviewed films but Drive was definitley the most overrated.

  • Christopher_G2  

    A rather good year, though I don't think quite as good as 2010. I still have to see a number of the critically praised darlings. Moneyball was probably my favorite of what I saw. Harry Potter and Bridesmaids wouldn't be too far behind. I'm still mixed on Tree of Life. I know I saw something worthy of being called art, and it was an experience. How many more time would I really want to watch it though, I don't know.

  • movi60cent  

    A seperation! best movie of year.tnx

  • ShuteTheRunner  

    Hello and I am aspiring critic. I am 16 years of age and have created a blog for a few reviews that I have written. I was hoping that you may be interested in checking it out
    One day I hope to have a an impact on metascores, but first I need some feedback

  • MovieMachine  

    I'm really disappointed Melancholia didn't make it up there. That was definitely my favorite film of the year. A separation was just as incredible, though. Other favorites, for me, include Drive, HP7 Part 2, The Tree of Life, Mysteries of Lisbon, Super 8, Bridesmaids, The Artist, Rango, Source Code, and The Help.
    Some of my favorites are really artsy, others are just really good. I hope you all agree!

  • MovieMachine  

    Oh, and Midnight in Paris, of course. And Take Shelter.

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