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The 19 Best Movies That You Didn't See in 2011 - Stellar Indie Gems

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February 22, 2012

19 Best Movies That You Didn't See in 2011

The best of the best - that you didn't see. It's back again and we're a bit late, but with the Oscars coming up, perfect timing once again. Back by popular demand is our fifth annual list of the 19 Best Movies That You Didn't See in 2011 (you can find our past lists here: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007). Featured below is a hand-picked selection of the best independent and/or mainstream films that were either quietly dumped, ignored by audiences, or just not marketed well enough. So to give them some extra time in the spotlight, and to support some of the best filmmakers out there, we've put together a 2011 recap. Read on for the list!

I would like to encourage everyone to watch at least one of these that they haven't heard of (or didn't see) beforehand. If you spend the two hours or so that it will take to watch even one of these movies mentioned below, it would mean that much more to the filmmakers who put so much time and effort into making each of these movies. This isn't about getting kudos for mentioning certain films, this article is about pointing out movies that don't deserve to be forgotten and are begging to be watched. So pick one and watch it tonight.

A Better LifeA Better Life
Opened on June 24, 2011
Directed by Chris Weitz
A Mexican gardener in East L.A. struggles to keep his son away from gangs and immigration agents while trying to give his son the opportunities he never had.
Why it's on here: For the lead performance alone. Demián Bichir, who nabbed a surprise Best Actor Oscar nomination for A Better Life, certainly deserves it for his role as a struggling father just trying to provide a better life for his son and the hell he goes through when someone steals his work truck. It's a subtly beautiful yet powerful film, that even impressed Guy Ritchie quite a bit, and I think it's worth seeking out and watching simply to honor the brilliance on display with Bichir. The scene at the end where he's speaking to his son will make anyone cry. One of the most heartwarming films that simply couldn't get any traction this year.

The BeaverThe Beaver
Opened on May 6, 2011
Directed by Jodie Foster

A troubled husband and executive adopts a beaver hand-puppet as his sole means of communicating.
Why it's on here: There's a reason this film made my list of the Top 10 Films of 2011, and that's because this is one of the most underrated films of the year, possibly of the decade. Not only is it evidence that Mel Gibson still has some powerful acting chops, despite his public foibles, but Jodie Foster makes an amazing return to director's chair after over a decade away from it. A story that is darkly funny but strikingly poignant with an approach to depression that hasn't been brought to the big screen before courtesy of a phenomenal script by Kyle Killen. There's a reason Ms. Foster is sending screeners of the film to members of the Academy and that's because it deserves to be seen by everyone, even if it doesn't win any awards. (Written by Ethan)

Being ElmoBeing Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey
Opened on October 21, 2011
Directed by Constance Marks & Philip Shane
The Muppet Elmo is one of the most beloved characters among children across the globe. Meet the unlikely man behind the puppet - the heart and soul of Elmo - Kevin Clash.
Why it's on here: A story of true inspiration and dedication, this documentary touched my heart when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival back in 2011. Not only does it show a miraculous series of events and opportunities for an aspiring puppeteer, but it shows Kevin Clash's struggles and sacrifices as he quickly gains much fame and recognition for bringing the fuzzy red Sesame Street puppet Elmo to life. Seeing how happy children of all ages and races become at the sight of Clash and Elmo is enough to make this the feel-good film of the year, but there's so much more to bring a smile to your face from this charming film. It's also available on Netflix Instant so check it out now! (Written by Ethan)

Certified CopyCertified Copy
Opened on March 11, 2011
Directed by Abbas Kiarostami

In Tuscany to promote his latest book, a middle-aged British writer meets a French woman who leads him to the village of Lucignano. While there, a chance question reveals something deeper.
Why it's on here: To make you think. Really think. It might even frustrate you. And, if it's doing what it's set out to do, it will lose you… if only for a bit. But when it catches you, reaching its hand toward yours just fingertips away from careening off that cliff, you'll stop watching a movie and become lost in an experience. You'll no longer be watching Juliette Binoche and William Shimell or the characters they play, but, instead, the characters their characters are playing. Copies of themselves. Facsimiles. Reminiscent of Linklater's Before Sunrise, Certified Copy will compel you to question reality, fantasy, and that space between both where we most often interface. (Written by Brandon Tenney/@Brotodeau)

The Devil's DoubleThe Devil's Double
Opened on July 29, 2011
Directed by Lee Tamahori
A chilling vision of the House of Saddam Hussein comes to life through the eyes of the man who was forced to become the double of Hussein's sadistic son.
Why it's on here: Another film worth seeing simply for the performances - both of them! Dominic Cooper plays two separate lead roles in this, two twins, and it's remarkable to see, he is extraordinary. While the movie itself is occasionally over-the-top in its dialogue (since it is in English), it's an intense and riveting look at the crazy lives of Saddam Hussein's sadistic son and his household, and Cooper is part of what makes it so damn interesting. There definitely is as much gold as is on the poster, and plenty more craziness. This also couldn't get much traction despite many glowing reviews and endless praise for Cooper, who should probably be winning awards for his double-performance.

Everything Must GoEverything Must Go
Opened on May 13, 2011
Directed by Dan Rush

When an alcoholic relapses, causing him to lose his wife and his job, he holds a yard sale on his front lawn in an attempt to start over. A new neighbor might be the key to his return to form.
Why it's on here: One of those "Will Ferrell was in something that's not a comedy?" kind of indie discoveries, but it's actually pretty good. Everything Must Go was a blacklist script that ended up just being directed by its writer, Dan Rush, and stars Will Ferrell as a guy who comes home to find everything he owns on his front lawn. His wife left, he lost his job, and is locked out, so he starts living right there and befriends a neighborhood kid as his helper. It's a good script, the film is solid, and it also stars the beautiful, knocks-me-out Rebecca Hall, and is lightly amusing, with dramatic notes. A light watch that if you let the script play like it should, you'll appreciate, especially with Ferrell because he does give such a great, unique performance in the end.

I Saw the DevilI Saw the Devil
Opened on March 4, 2011
Directed by Kim Ji-woon
When his pregnant fiancee becomes the latest victim of a serial killer, a secret agent blurs the line between good and evil in his pursuit of revenge.
Why it's on here: One of the darkest, and perhaps bloodiest, on the list this year, but ohh so good, and ohh so dark. This Korean film is about a detective who pretty much goes insane when his girlfriend is killed by a serial killer and he goes after him in very sadistic ways. Yea it takes some awesome twists and turns, it's the kind of Korean film, like Oldboy or The Chaser, that you've just got to see because it's so phenomenally well-made, yet so bloody, violent, and just nightmarish, but that's why it's such brilliant cinema. Kim Ji-woon is now making his first US film, The Last Stand, but before you see that get acquainted with some of his original work, like this. Lee Byung-hun (J.S.A., A Bittersweet Life, Storm Shadow in G.I. Joe) is great in it.

Le HavreLe Havre
Opened on October 21, 2011
Directed by Aki Kaurismäki

When an African boy arrives by cargo ship in the port city of Le Havre, an aging shoe shiner takes pity on the child and welcomes him into his home.
Why it's on here: For a taste of some French charm and hospitality. This charming film takes place in the French sea port city of Le Havre, where an elderly shoe shiner, played by André Wilms, takes in an African immigrant boy who has lost his family, and helps him find his way while keeping the police off their tracks. It's a fun French comedy, almost a fable. The performances are all wonderful, the whole film just a delight to watch, a joy for anyone who finds it. If you're already familiar with Aki Kaurismäki, then you know what to expect, otherwise have fun with this one - it's guaranteed to make you smile.

Like CrazyLike Crazy
Opened on October 28, 2011
Directed by Drake Doremus
A British college student falls for an American student, only to be separated from him when she's banned from the U.S. after overstaying her visa.
Why it's on here: To show you how to fall in love again. This honest, beautiful, raw portrait of a young couple in love, and what it's like to go through hardships like long distance disconnects, was instantly one of my favorites after seeing it at Sundance last year and has stuck with my ever since. Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones play two college kids, and it feels as if director Drake Doremus captured a real look at these two falling in love, and presents it in a fresh, captivating, emotional way. Give it a chance, let it sweep you away like it swept me away, and you may find yourself falling head-over-heels for Felicity (or Anton) because of how honest and exquisite their performances are. A stellar romantic portrait that is well worth falling in love with.

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  • http://www.thefilmstage.com Jordan Raup
    Wait: I've seen ALL of these! Good list though :) 
    • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
      Thanks. It's cause you're now my festival compadre, we see everything together! ;) And you run a great site of your own. Favorite of these 19?
  • Linda
    Great list, I've seen 11 of these and the rest are on my "to see" list. 
  • http://twitter.com/PGKosmal Peter Kosmal
    Haven't seen a lot of these, but Win Win was awesome.
  • Award Contenders
    I've seen 8, and if I didn't live in Cleveland, I would have seen 4 more. Adding the rest to Netflix. Thanks!
  • http://twitter.com/TheRealDiddles Andrew DiDonato
    Seen 'em all. Great list.
    • brcassell
      wow, so impressed. You're so tributary.
    • JackFact
      Great list...almost. The Devil's Double is one of the WORST films of the DECADE! Dominic Cooper gurns his way through this in the most hammy performance. He's like Jerry Lewis in the Nutty Professor. Absolutely terrible film and laughably awful performance!
      • sonicred
        I thought DD was a solid thriller
  • AugustWest99
    Nice list. Quite a few of these were on my 'best of' list for the year, proof that there WERE some great movies made last year. I will check out some of the others. 
  • DAVIDPD
    LOL. I laughed because I saw, WIN-WIN, EVERYTHING MUST GO, & SUBMARINE on planes last year. I saw SHAME, THE SKIN I LIVE IN, THE BEAVER, and I SAW THE DEVIL, at my local Indie Theater. I still want to see TAKE SHELTER & THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE. Great list Alex!
  • http://thechristianillustrator.com/ The Christian Illustrator
    Just saw 'Shame'.  Such an incredible film.
  • http://movieviral.com Daniel Koelsch
    I completely agree with Devil's Double. I actually saw it at Comic-Con. Dominic Cooper is an amazing actor.
  • Isildur_of_Numenor
    If you look at this list you realize how good this year was, despite the backlash. This list is so much better compared to the best picture nominees. My favorites are A Separation and I Saw the Devil, but I haven't seen them all... but I undoubtedly will.
  • Isildur_of_Numenor
    If you look at this list you realize how great this year was for films, despite the backlash. This list is so much better than the best picture nominees. My favorites are A Separation and I Saw the Devil, but I haven't seen all of them... I will, undoubtedly.
  • alternate earthling.
    i loved another earth.
  • happy camper
    We Need to Talk About Kevin and Another Earth both stayed in my mind for days after
  • RidgeRacer4
    Dominic Cooper was intense in Devil's Double, Win Win was pretty sweet and surprising, but Shame is one of, if not the best film here. Phenomenal! Though Submarine just didn't quite hit home for me.
    • http://thechristianillustrator.com/ The Christian Illustrator
      I agree.  Saw Submarine in Britain and was a disappointment.  Too much hype and didn't seem to have its own identity.  Wes Anderson-lite.
  • Zade
    i wasnt sure about the devil's double yet and ive been tempted to watch it but now im deffinitely sure ill enjoy it.
  • peloquin
    My favorites are definitely A Better Life, We Need to Talk About Kevin, and Margin Call.  The only one I haven't been able to see is Shame and that's because no theater around me has the balls to show it.
  • lane
    BELLFLOWER, man, BELLFLOWER!
  • Ravenhill15
    Senna was awesome. Am not a F1 fan but it was just such an interesting subject. Loved I saw the devil also. Would have had Tyrannosaur on the list. Peter Mullan was great, as was Olivia Colman
  • http://twitter.com/darktaxidermist Davide Coppola
    I love these lists, I was hoping there would be one for 2011! I wish Melancholia was on that.. 
  • 97point6
    Great list Alex. Four I've seen, the rest are on my soon to-see list. What's nice is only one, "Certified Copy", I had never heard of before. Hat's off to you especially, and similar sites, for bringing to "our" attention movies such as these throughout the year. Kudos.
  • http://twitter.com/rltuva Robert L. Tuva
    Great list! Great comment comparing from Isildur back up. I would've added Melancholia myself, The Boy with the Bicycle, The Guard, TV-formatted Mildred Pierce, also Cedar Rapids was quite entertaining and The Hunter quite interesting in my opinion, though perhaps both not quite up to the here list.
  • The_Kid89
    I've only seen Submarine. But there are a lot of films on here that i wanted/want to see (Everything Must Go, we need to talk about Kevin).
  • Annielicious
    I've seen a few of these .......... standing ovation for "A Separation".  I missed Like Crazy ...... Must say Shame with Michael Fassbender was brilliant.  I had the opportunity to see "The skin I live in" at TIFF....... WOW!  I'll get a chance to see "We need to talk about Kevin" as it's still here.  Also gonna check out In Darkness and Monsieur Lazhar!  Nice list though.
  • jah p
    Nice list Alex..I would have added as honorable mentions: Tyrannosaur, Bullhead and The Woman...
    • Comma
      This is why commas need to be used before the word "and." I couldn't find any movie titled "Bullhead and The Woman."
      • evilplatypus
        A comma is not necessary. If "Bullhead and The Woman" were one movie, you wouldn't have it separated from Tyrannosaur with a comma. You'd have another "and" or "as well as"
      • MikeA
        I agree, an Oxford comma would have clarified the sentence. Nonetheless, the sentence is not grammatically incorrect with regard to commas because the Oxford comma is no longer required in American grammar. That being said, there was no need for the ellipsis (...) at the end.
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=203001398 Jace LeRoy
    I just have to say, I've been coming to this site for over 3 years now and I always look forward to this article. Even though I've usually seen half of them, there are always some sweet gems that I missed, or forgot about!
  • http://twitter.com/Nielsen700 M.K. Nielsen
    I've only seen 3. Ashamed.
  • poofy_and_boofer
    Did not see a single movie from this list. Netflix is not available here. My country sucks. I will now cry in a dark corner.
  • wpmsd
    I will check some of these out. I thought Another Earth was excellent, including one of my favorite endings ever.
  • ccoltmanm
    Alphabetical? It should be in recommended order.
  • John from Long Island
    Thanks Alex, I love when this list comes out.   Lots of interesting looking stuff.
  • http://conversations.nokia.com Phil at Nokia
    My favorite annual post from FirstShowing.  Been coming here everyday for the past month waiting for this. Adding to that list: "Another Earth", "Senna", "Melancholia", "Hanna", and "The Rum Diary".
    • Patrick Jonathan
      Another Earth and Melancholia are the most emotionally crushing two films I think I have ever seen. Good call on those two films.
  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/YGKABTTKKZTZQMCFMLVPU2U32M General Zod
    Miss Bala and I Saw the Devil were pure awesomeness!  Most of the others I intend to watch some day.  Also, if anyone hasn't seen Attack the Block, they need to check it out.
    • Patrick Jonathan
      Attack the Block is absolutely amazing.
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1160704211 facebook-1160704211
    "The Beaver" was really good. I need to freshen up my Netflix que with a few of these! http://www.freddysopenmind.blogspot.com
  • Movie Man Dan
    Great list - seen a lot off here. Loved Like Crazy, Win Win and Take Shelter especially.
  • lando
    this is a great list! Ive seen about 17 of these and was nicely surprised by most of them! I think another subtle but good movie was "Terry" and "The Mill and The Cross" (watching a painting come to life) great list!
  • http://twitter.com/Sargonarhes S. E. Roberts
    No one saw them because they sound lame.
  • Ray Wulfe
    The Beaver. Was. Terrible. I'm passing on the list. Thanks.
  • waterbase
    Perfect Sense and Shame - yes. Not sure about the rest.
  • Buddy
    Great list!! I hope you liked Drive.
  • Austin Bach
    You're seriously going to leave Warrior off the list? Nobody saw it, but it was the best film of the year.
    • Josh Haddad
      THANK YOU, Finally somone who recognizes how great of a movie it was and how good of a job the cast did, & that Nick Nolte even though he is made out to be carzy in the media a & there are plent of pictures of him that would indicate that (police Mug shot) lol, He is a great great freakin actor and is so underrated it's unbelieveable.
  • remy
    You ruin all the tension and payoff for We Need To Talk About Kevin by telling people he goes on a killing spree. Yeah, that is kind of called a spoiler.
  • {Drea}
    Sorry but I CANNOT believe that Silenced was not on this List!
  • Gryat
    well... u didn't dissapointed me, i didn't saw any single one of them :D
  • http://www.facebook.com/andrew.j.jenkins.3 Andrew Joshua Jenkins
    Submarine if you think about it, bares much more resemblance to the directorial work of Wes Anderson and has shreds of Woody Allens original sense of sight.
  • kevjohn
    And this... is why I love FirstShowing! I will be searching for the ones I haven't seen yet.
  • http://twitter.com/Nate_DlxR H8Nate
    like this list watching them all what i have seen on this list i loved so....
  • valdezlopez
    5 out of 19! I'm really happy to see such great titles on this list. Cool.
  • Patrick Jonathan
    We Need to Talk About Kevin is one of the most depressing films I've ever seen. On another note I Saw The Devil is definitely one of my favorite movies of all time. I highly suggest watching it. One of the most epic, badass, three-hour-long films I've ever seen.
  • http://twitter.com/Qpillowcase na na na nancay.
    Going to watch them all 8D
  • NM2000
    Being Elmo is not just a documentary about a cool, genuine guy, but about how to raise a cool, genuine guy. His parents rocked.
    • kyky1001
      My friend put it on one day when he came over when I was sleeping ever since that day I have to watch it once a week
  • Marlee90
    For the people addicted to RedBox. Ive seen a good bit of these films. The Skin I Live In is by far one of my favorites,
  • Alieninthissociety
    Since seven movies I think are awesome are in this list, I feel safe renting the others. There are a couple I once wanted to see anyway but have forgotten about them.
  • twistintulsa
    I've seen every show that Richard Ayoade is in...Dark Place, Man to Man with Dean Learner, IT Crowd, and now Submarine. He wasn't in the show physically...but his fans can clearly see his influence, especially the way that Craig Roberts eyes move...very classic Ayoade shifting back and forth. I've made many new fans of his, showing this movie and his other dozens of times to new people...I've even watched the "Interviews" from Dark Place..."do you believe in the Horned One?"
  • http://www.facebook.com/lizzie.elliott.18 Lizzie Elliott
    I was about to get upset over Warrior being ignored again. Thanx! Great list--- I'll get my best people on it!
  • Crimson Lasher
    Wasn't so impressed with TAKING SHELTER or SUBMARINE. TAKING SHELTER, in particular, started off beautifully, but built towards something quite underwhelming. MISS BALA, I SAW THE DEVIL, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, and A SEPARATION my favorites of your picks. SHAME a little overrated, too, although the performances were excellent.
  • mkc
    i saw all but the two french films. I thought about seeing Copy but after reading the synopsis and reviews ill be skipping it. Also the korean film sounds rest but i haven't seen that yet. the rest were on demand or netflix so i can't imagine they're too hard to track down if you want to see them! i wish everything must go want on the list, it seemed like a plotless melodrama about a guy with his head up is as& who i never felt sorry for or even liked. i also hated the fat kid.
  • http://www.facebook.com/iandestructible John Andrian Marcelo Bueta
    ill be seeing this :)
  • Brandi
    I wonder if you still enjoy the movie Being Elmo in light of what he is accused of. Never seen the movie but kinda do not want to anymore.
    • http://twitter.com/cjmoose CJ
      His accuser recanted. See the movie. It's a gem.
  • Sel
    Loved the movies I've already seen on this list. Glad to see these films getting much deserved recognition!
  • http://twitter.com/ForeverAeon ☆ForeverAeon☆
    no one saw them because they probably are all low budget art-crap
  • bumboclot
    Being Elmo seems a bit dated now... Being Elmo II should have quite a different tone.
  • Whoovian
    "If you're already familiar with Aki Kaurismäki, then you know what to expect, otherwise have fun with this one - it's guaranteed to make you smile." Clearly the man's changed since he made the movies of his that I've watched. Those were some pitch-black comedies.
  • SneakyPete
    watching the Kevin movie was like hearing finger nails on a black board
  • vangpo
    The Beaver? Really??? You must have watched a different movie than I did because the one I watched was bloody awful.
  • Angie24xS
    We need to talk about Kevin... Just Brilliant.... Superb.
  • jenn
    i hated everything must go ones the did not make the list the fall goon happy texas strange wilderness wild target brothers bloom
  • Ellie
    Yay shame that s got to be the most underrated but incredible movie I've ever seen. All about Fassbender
  • sechernbiw
    Everything must go was dogshit.
  • http://twitter.com/ChrisPavona ChrisPavona
    I was hoping to find Love (by Angels and Airwaves) on this list... while a little over-tree-hugging and bombastic a the end with is little "message," this movie was nonetheless beautifully filmed and features great music (obviously).
  • ericmvan
    This is very nice, but not only does it just scratch the surface of great films no one saw, the omitted include 5 of my top 8 of the year. So I’d like to mention not just Margaret, Poetry, Mysteries of Lisbon, Love Exposure, and doc Pina, but Incendies, The Future, Aurora, Tyrannosaur, King of Devil's Island, The Names of Love, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, A Dangerous Method, Meek's Cutoff, Attack the Block, Even the Rain, Sidewalls, Too Big To Fail, Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries), A Somewhat Gentle Man, Archie's Final Project, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, The Music Never Stopped, When We Leave, Tomboy, 3, The Princess of Montpensier, Cell 211, Fish Story, City of Life and Death, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Trip, The Wave, and Another Earth, and docs Bill Cunningham New York, Crime After Crime, If a Tree Falls, We Were Here, The Arbor, The Interrupters, Into the Abyss, Project Nim, My Perestroika and a special mention to Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. Those were all must-see movies for me. I could add another two dozen that I'm glad I didn't miss, but I'll just name some of the least seen-- Le Quattro Volte, Life Above All, Carancho, Kinyarwanda, The Double Hour, Kaboom, Neds, and Dirty Girl.
    • Jess Badran
      Really appreciate the list, well done. Cheers.
  • Ralph E.
    I thought Devils Double was one of the best movies i saw that year, And i thought Dominic Cooper should have had an Oscar for Playing that role so well.

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