20. Rare Exports
I loved this alternative take on Santa Claus. Never mind that the film is Finnish, I can see this becoming a regular December film for me.
19. The Warrior's Way
This silly combination of Asian swordplay and western, set in America, with American actors, but a Korean lead who rarely speaks, shouldn't really work, but it did anyway. The film looks gorgeous, and the story is a classic tale of redemption, and how to kill a man with a herring.
When Robert Rodriguez brings his A-game he's a force to be reckoned with. A good old-fashioned B-movie with loads of style, a killer cast, and a sorely needed lead role for Danny Trejo. Machete don't text, but he sure as hell entertains.
17. Fright Night (2011)
One of the biggest surprises of the year. I fully expected to hate everything about this film, but for some reason it all kind of worked beautifully. Go figure.
16. Holy Flying Circus
This TV movie is about the problems the Monty Python group encountered during the release of Life of Brian in 1979. Half of the actors portraying the group don't really work, but the other half are perfect. This film captures the style of the show (Michael Palin's wife is played by a man), while giving us a glimpse of the real issues behind the silliness.
Another one of those B-movies that aren't afraid to embrace its B-movie nature. A perfect revenge film, with some surprisingly effective performances, and a stunning look.
14. The Rite
Exorcisms still freak me out. Combine this with a story about a guy who doubts religion, and you've got a really interesting take on demon possessions. Nothing beats The Exorcist (1973), obviously, but you can still make a good film in this genre, without trying to top that masterpiece. Plus, Anthony Hopkins hasn't been this good since Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992).
13. Drive Angry
No, I don't want to hear anything. This kick ass film did it for me on every level, and I'm not going to apologize. Bloody action, a severely f***able Amber Heard, cool as a cucumber William Fichtner, and Nicolas Cage hasn't looked this committed since Face/Off (1997).
Director Josh Fox's deeply personal take on the environmental problems caused by fracking - the process that extracts natural gas from the ground. Very moody and very engaging. This is not just a good documentary. It's simply a good film.
11. Stool Pigeon
An intense and heartbreaking Hong Kong thriller that reminds me of all the great Asian films I saw in the '90s. Only reason it isn't higher up on the list is the rather slow start.
10. Page Eight
An very slight thriller about an intelligence officer who is thrust into a moral dilemma, following a report that puts the government in a very uncomfortable position. A pleasantly subdued performance by Bill Nighy, with solid support from Rachel Weisz, Michael Gambon, and Ralph Fiennes.
9. Apollo 18
A found-footage film about the failed Apollo 18 mission that discovers something bad on the moon. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the whole film, and I loved the visual style, which cleverly matches footage from the real lunar missions.
This Norwegian faux-documentary about a troll hunter had just the right mix of humor and scares. I found it quite irresistible.
7. The Last Exorcism
This tight little horror movie took the faux-documentary style and give it a little twist. Plus, anything with demons freak me the hell out! Haven't seen lead actor Patrick Fabian since 1999. Hope to see more of him in the future.
6. I Saw the Devil
A bitter, but highly effective Korean revenge film, so tough and driven that you can't help but feel ashamed that you love it so much. Actors Lee Byung-Hun and Choi Min-Sik are ferocious in the two lead roles, and director Kim Jee-Woon is one of the most dependable Korean helmers.
5. TRON: Legacy
Much to my surprise I found this followup to the classic science fiction fiasco TRON (1982) to be quite amazing. Beautiful designs, a story with real pathos, and one of the best scores of the year. The only flaw: The young CGI version of Jeff Bridges.
4. Source Code
One of the truly original films from 2011, a sci-fi version of Groundhog Day (1993) and a great followup to Moon (2009) from director Duncan Jones.
3. Margin Call
This tight little thriller had a simple premise, a stellar cast, and a perfect mood. Director J.C. Chandor is a name we need to keep an eye on, while star Zachary Quinto proves he can play something else than serial killers and aliens.
2. Kung Fu Panda 2
This is one irresistible panda. The sequel was less funny than the original, but more touching. The visual style, however, is breathtakingly beautiful.
1. Super 8
This film oozes nostalgia and love for movies. JJ Abrams managed to make a Spielberg film in 2011. Good thing, because Spielberg himself can't make that kind of film any more.
That's it. Now we've got to make it through the Oscars and we'll be all done with 2011.