Twenty Movies Turning Ten in 2021
2011 didn't carry much of the pristineness of 2010, which had The Social Network, Toy Story 3, and Inception, but it was a notable year for blockbusters, sequels, and saw the continuing upward trend of the superhero genre. Apologies in advance if a movie you like (or dislike) isn't on here.
It's crazy to think that there was a time that a Thor movie would have been considered a risk. After the success of two Iron Man flicks, Marvel continued its venture into the fantastical and many were skeptical on how two can share a continuity while being drastically different in tone and aesthetic. Of course, the rest is history.
2. Fast Five
By all rights, the Fast and Furious franchise should have sputtered out into obscurity (it was originally going to transition into a straight-to-DVD format) but the fifth installment gave it the dose of Nos it needed. Fast Five was a huge turning point for the franchise in both quality and box office, and it's still considered by many to be the best in the series.
3. The Hangover Part II
Time hasn't been kind to this one. After its predecessor was a smash hit, Warner Brothers was quick to greenlight a sequel. By all accounts, nobody, especially the writers (who turned down the option to return), wanted to make another beyond financial reasons. Ultimately, Hangover Part II was another runaway hit at the box office but received negative reception for being too similar to the first. While the first film is still regarded as a comedy classic, this sequel, as well as its irrevocable third, has mostly joined the ever growing club of "Sequels that didn't need to exist".
4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Many consider this to be the best film of 2011. Adapted from the novel of the same name, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was directed by David Fincher and starred Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. All three were critically praised for their role and the film won numerous accolades, including Best Editing at the Oscars. Intended as part 1 in a trilogy, the series never really quite took off but Dragon Tattoo remains a bone chilling thriller whose themes have become much more timely in today's current social climate.
Drive initially left a bit of a bad first impression on many of its audience members. The trailers marketed it as a hard R-rated Fast and Furious-type but it turned out to be a quiet, poignant film focused on contemplative character drama rather than blood spewing action. The movie isn't for everyone, but many still fell in love with it and considered it to be one of the best of the year. Ryan Gosling was already a rising star, but Drive has cemented him as a must-have in Hollywood, and sorta type casted him in the "stoic loner" role he would play in many more movies. It's the true definition of an arthouse action flick.
6. Captain America The First Avenger
Coming out two months after Thor, Captain America The First Avenger was the film that really got the hype rolling for a potential Avengers film. Now with over 22 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The First Avenger remains a wholly unique installment with its old fashioned roots and pulpy action. Like Thor, not many had faith the movie could work. A superhero movie set World War 2, even among the executives, was a hard sell. Today, this first film in Captain America's trilogy is considered one of the more underrated ones in the ever growing MCU.
7. X-Men First Class
Before this movie came out, the X-Men franchise was hanging by a thread. X-Men The Last Stand was a bitter disappointment and X-Men Origins: Wolverine was laughably awful, so it's no surprise that not many were looking forward to another prequel, one that entirely replaced the iconic cast. Like Fast Five, First Class brought new life to its franchise and was easily the best comic book film of 2011. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as younger versions of Charles Xavier and Magneto respectively turned out to be the perfect replacements and helped cement their own legacy. Though the X-Men series would continue to be a roller coaster in terms of quality, First Class remains a steadfast turning point and a franchise darling.
I didn't know for several years this film was directed by Martin Scorsese. The film is a heavy departure from his usual repertoire. Still, he remains brilliant in his craft making something entirely unique. It's unfortunate this movie has been largely forgotten because it's an underrated little gem. Many seemed to think so because it was nominated for 11 Oscars. However, it was a major box office bomb and seems to have fallen into obscurity. Of all the films on this list, this one I recommend the most.
9. Transformers Dark of the Moon
The Transformers franchise has always been an odd anomaly. They remain some of the highest grossing films in history but the reception couldn't have been more negative. Revenge of the Fallen, in particular was criticized for its juvenile humor and racist portrayals and considered to be one of the worst science fiction films of the early 2000s. Dark of the Moon was the follow up, and though it was much better received, there's a chance anyone over the age of 20 still hated it. I was 16 when this film was released and my little teenage mind thought this was a true action masterpiece. Though I'm well aware of its faults today, I still have a nostalgic soft spot for these first three films, and Dark of the Moon remains my favorite in the whole series.
10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2
The epic conclusion to a long standing franchise. Deathly Hallows Part 2 was THE event movie of 2011. Besides maybe Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter defined much of the early 2000s when it came to franchises, and after eight installments it was time to close the book. It's one of the only fantasy movies outside of Lord of the Rings to garner a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. It was an explosive finale that ended 2011 on a high note, and it was bittersweet saying goodbye to the characters many of us had grown up knowing.
11. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
People took one look at the trailer to the film and immediately dismissed it. Planet of the Apes hadn't seen the big screen in exactly ten years and one could argue there hadn't been a good Apes movie since the original 1968 film. Turns out, Rise was one of the biggest surprises of 2011 and would kickstart one of the greatest trilogies in recent memory. The movie received notable acclaim for its visuals on the apes and Andy Serkis's performance. It is in my opinion that Rise of the Planet of the Apes is one of the best examples of how to do a reboot.
Of all the movies on this list, Contagion is the most timely of them. Though the virus in the film is twice as deadly, many of the parallels are one and the same to the COVID-19 outbreak. The film was largely forgotten at release and I'd be stating the obvious on why it went through quite the resurgence in 2020. It's worth a watch and it's fascinating how accidentally prophetic it ended up being.
13. Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol
2011 really was a year for franchise revitalization. Though the first MI is considered a spy classic, the sequel released in 2000 is...not one. Even though Mission Impossible III is considered a decent enough flick, it was mostly passing through and it was five years before we saw another installment. Ghost Protocol kickstarted the current iteration of the franchise with Tom Cruise doing impossible stunts and tackling world ending plots mixed with white knuckling set pieces. It was here Mission Impossible transitioned from a standard spy franchise to an extravaganza spy franchise. Even ten years later, that Dubai set piece with Ethan Hunt climbing the Bridge Khalifa followed by that sandstorm is every bit as memorable as when it was on the big screen.
Bridesmaids was easily the most popular comedy of 2011. This was an era of film when R rated comedies were on the rise and showing they can be profitable and this little chick flick was instrumental in making that happen. It was a huge staple for many involved, including Melissa McCarthy and director Paul Feig.
15. Green Lantern
This poor film took quite the beating when it came out. People have high expectations these days for superhero films so when one fails to meet expectations, the internet doesn't hold back its wrath. While Marvel had a handful of films in 2011, all DC had was this attempt at a live action Green Lantern. It was their attempt at a Marvel-style film with a light tone and bombastic set pieces but to say people didn't agree with it is an understatement. Most comic book movies that fail usually fall into obscurity but Green Lantern's low quality has taken a life of its own with star Ryan Reynolds taking jabs at it at every opportunity he has. Thankfully he had Deadpool to fall back on.
16. Source Code
Easily the most underrated movie of 2011, Source Code came out early in the year and was mostly forgotten. It was the perfect sci fi answer to Groundhog Day (until Edge of Tomorrow came out a few years later) where a character has to relive the same eight minutes over and over again trying to stop a terrorist bombing. It was a tense and original film that hasn't gotten the credit it deserves and I highly recommend watching this one.
17. Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows
It's crazy to think that it's been ten years without any Sherlock Holmes sequel. The film was a box office hit, though the reception was less forgiving this time around. While Robert Downey Jr had his resurgence in Iron Man, his two Sherlock movies were the icing on top. Though I personally wasn't a fan of Game of Shadows, I was still open to the idea of another movie. The studio has been slow to greenlight a third film for they refuse to do another one without Downey, Jude Law, and director Guy Ritchie. Thankfully, Sherlock has done well on television since then. However, here we have a half decent film with some great action and memorable villain in Moriarty.
This movie came out at a time when people still believed the myth that humans use only 5% of their brains. Though its banking itself on completely fabricated science, Limitless is a unique thriller that makes for a great fantasy on what would one do if they took a daily pill that took their intelligence to another level. If you're a fan of human psychology or social politics, this is a high recommend.
I watched this movie for the first time during quarantine and it's a superb piece of filmmaking that takes a peak behind the curtain that is the MLB. One does not have to be a baseball fan to enjoy this. Moneyball was critically acclaimed when it was released and considered a highlight of 2011 but most of the praise went to Jonah Hill, who began to show that he was capable of more than just comedy.
20. The Artist
I saved the Best Picture winner for last. The Artist had the unique gimmick of being a silent film released in the 21st century while also being one that analyzes the art of the silent film. Though it won one of the highest honors a film can get, it's been mostly forgotten through the years. The movie was beloved by cinephiles and critics upon released but the general audience mostly ignored it. It was the first black-and-white picture to win Best Picture since Schindler's List. If you're a sucker for old fashioned movies, give this one a watch.