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

February 22, 2012

← Back to the first page. Here's the second half of the best movies from 2011 that we suggest watching:

Margin CallMargin Call
Opened on October 21, 2011
Directed by J.C. Chandor

Follows the key people at an investment bank, over a 24-hour period, during the early stages of the financial crisis.
Why it's on here: If Wall Street and The Social Network got together and had a baby, it would be Margin Call. Thankfully, that baby has some pretty amazing Hollywood connections as the ensemble cast of this financial crisis drama is nothing to scoff at with Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, Penn Badgley, Stanley Tucci all igniting a powerful script. At a time when financial dramas became as abundant as films about the Iraq War, this one stands out, and obviously Oscar voters thought so as well since the film snagged a Best Screenplay nomination for writer J.C. Chandor, who also directed this gripping drama that, despite some naysayers, is a fascinating thriller if you let yourself get into it. (Written by Ethan)

Miss BalaMiss Bala
Opened on October 14, 2011
Directed by Gerardo Naranjo
The story of a young woman clinging on to her dream to become a beauty contest queen in a Mexico dominated by organized crime.
Why it's on here: For Stephanie Sigman as Laura Guerrero. Another one of my favorite films from Cannes last year that didn't break out at all. This has a City of God-like feeling in the way it portrays the brutal reality - almost in real-time - of one innocent teenage girl who gets caught up in the mayhem of the Mexican drug wars. Sigman stars as a wannabe beauty contest queen who takes the audience on a wild ride through the streets, slums and backyards of Mexico on a thrilling adventure into the drug underworld. This is one of those starts-and-doesn't-stop kind of intense films, so damn good, and I feel like it barely got a release. I'm still wowed by it almost a year after first seeing it.

Perfect SensePerfect Sense
Opened on December 30, 2011
Directed by David Mackenzie

A chef and a scientist fall in love as an epidemic begins to rob people of their sensory perceptions.
Why it's on here: To make you feel. Here's science fiction at its most emotionally rich. Seductively written, fascinatingly plotted, beautifully directed, this film acts as an allegory for our collective disconnectedness, humans' sheer force of will for adaptation, and what it means to be human even as we lose our very human-ness. All of this loftiness, however, is rendered on a small scale through haunting performances by Eva Green and Ewan McGregor. There was another film last year, Another Earth, that attempted to do—but ultimately could not—what Perfect Sense is able to accomplish: elucidate a macro-level event on a micro-level scale through emotionally resonant, flawed characters. All of that is to say: Perfect Sense is a film about what it is to be human even when feeling human seems impossible. (Written by Brandon Tenney/@Brotodeau)

A SeparationA Separation
Opened on December 30, 2011
Directed by Asghar Farhadi
A married couple are faced with a difficult decision - to improve the life of their adolescent daughter by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimers.
Why it's on here: This Iranian film is receiving immense acclaim from numerous critics for good reason - it's a phenomenal film. An intimate, complex look at law, religion and married life in Iran, the film received two Oscar nominations, and deservedly so. Let's hope it wins at least one, because it's a great film that lives up to the acclaim, with fierce performances from leads Leila Hatami and Peyman Maadi as Simin and Nader, and a story that will leave you bewildered, exhausted, and stunned by the end. A Separation is being talked about as the Best Foreign Language Film of last year, and I think it is, which means it's unquestionably worthy of being watched - you'll appreciate that you did.

Opened on December 2, 2011
Directed by Steve McQueen

In New York City, Brandon's carefully cultivated private life -- which allows him to indulge his sexual addiction -- is disrupted when his sister Sissy arrives unannounced for an indefinite stay.
Why it's on here: Michael Fassbender. He gives the performance of a lifetime in this, one of the most intricate, intimate character profiles of the year (he should've got an Oscar nomination). Made like a piece of art by Steve McQueen, the artist, with stunning long-takes in New York, like jogging for 4 blocks or a 15 minute dinner conversation - all one shot. This film didn't take off because of the NC-17 rating it received, but I say throw that out, screw the MPAA, this is brilliant cinema and should be seen at any cost. One of my very favorite films of 2011 from the moment I saw it in Telluride, and cannot recommend it enough, it needs to be seen. Plus, if not for Fassbender, then for Fassbender's Fassbender.

The Skin I Live InThe Skin I Live In
Opened on October 14, 2011
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar
A brilliant plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig: a mysterious and volatile woman who holds the key to his obsession.
Why it's on here: Almodóvar is back! With a dark and deceptive, mysterious yet intense film, starring Antonio Banderas in a role that takes him and Almodóvar back to their roots. This Spanish romantic medical thriller, also starring Elena Anaya in an excellent breakout performance, will shock you with its twists and turns and reveals all the way up until the end - don't spoil it. The film makes the viewer uncomfortable, it makes them think and makes them curious, and I love subversive cinema that does that, especially when it's so entertaining and well-made, like this. Anaya is so beautiful to look at (until you really think about it?) and Banderas is fantastic too, do not miss this, but be prepared to be shocked.

Opened on June 3, 2011
Directed by Richard Ayoade

15-year-old Oliver Tate has two objectives: To lose his virginity before his next birthday, and to extinguish the flame between his mother and an ex-lover who has resurfaced in her life.
Why it's on here: Take the dark twisted humor from across the pond, a Martin Scorsese inspired shooting style, and a coming-of-age story that spans across generations and you get this fantastic directorial debut from comic actor Richard Ayoade. Complete with breakthrough performances from young stars Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige, the film has flares of iconic filmmakers like Woody Allen and Hal Ashby. The film has a personality that feels contemporary and classic all at once to the point that I'd go so far as to call it timeless. This is a film that will go down as an overlooked classic and one that could very well be used to enlighten film students decades from now. (Written by Ethan)

Take ShelterTake Shelter
Opened on September 30, 2011
Directed by Jeff Nichols
Plagued by a series of apocalyptic visions, a young husband and father questions whether to shelter his family from a coming storm, or from himself.
Why it's on here: To put you on edge. This film will make you feel uneasy, it has a remarkable atmosphere that Michael Shannon helps elevate to a gulp-inducing crescendo, and the way it ends will leave you talking about it for hours afterward. There's a reason why this has topped many Best Of lists, like Jeremy's Favorites of 2011 as his #1 film, that's because it's a phenomenal film made up of so many intricately crafted, beautiful details that together create a powerful, unforgettable, moving modern thriller. The score is great, the technical work is perfect, Shannon and Jessica Chastain are outstanding, this is one of my favorites as well as and a must see that you need to go into without knowing anything and just go along for the ride.

We Need To Talk About KevinWe Need To Talk About Kevin
Opened on December 9, 2011
Directed by Lynne Ramsay

Kevin's mother struggles to love her strange child, despite the increasingly vicious things he says and does as he grows up. But Kevin is just getting started, and his final act will be beyond anything anyone imagined.
Why it's on here: For Tilda Swinton. This film will take your breath away, and anger you at the same time, it's an exhilarating experience thanks in large part to director Lynne Ramsay, adapting from Lionel Shriver's novel. Swinton stars as the mother of one of the most demented, evil kids ever, Kevin, who eventually goes on a killing spree. Both Swinton and the kid who plays Kevin, actor Ezra Miller, are incredible in this, giving the film a chilling backbone that makes it so riveting to watch, along with all the lush red motifs Ramsay loves using. It should be seen for Swinton's performance alone, but also for the darker, complex story it plays with and exploring the psyche and life of a person like this.

Win WinWin Win
Opened on March 18, 2011
Directed by Tom McCarthy
A struggling lawyer and volunteer wrestling coach's chicanery comes back to haunt him when the teenage grandson of the client he's double-crossed comes into his life.
Why it's on here: Everyone enjoys an inspiring sports drama, this is an excellent one. Win Win delivers all the joy that those film brings with fresh comedy and a more grounded approach to the competitive side of the story than we've seen in a long time. Where there's usually contrived family melodrama there's a genuine family unit brought to life by Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan and newcomer Alex Shaffer with the help of a great script and direction from actor Tom McCarthy. This was yet another feel good movie from Sundance that is full of laughs, heart and really works for the whole family. Movies like this don't come along very often, but Win Win deserves to be seen. (Written by Ethan)

I hope we've been able to introduce everyone to a few more great must-see films that you have never seen. Not everyone will love all of them, that's certainly expected, but I guarantee there is something unique to discover in every last one of these. Support an indie filmmaker today, watch one of these 19, it will make a difference! Let us know what you think of it after, too.

  ← The First 9 Best Movies You Didn't See in 2011

Honorable Mentions (aka Runner-Ups) other worthy films: Mike Cahill's Another Earth, Asif Kapadia's doc Senna, James Gunn's Super, Andrew Haigh's Weekend, Cary Fukunaga's Jane Eyre, Dee Rees' Pariah, Jason Eisener's Hobo With a Shotgun, John Michael McDonagh's The Guard, Mike Mills' Beginners, Emilio Estevez's The Way and maybe Gavin O'Connor's Warrior, though I hope enough people have finally seen it.

For previous years of The 19 Best Movies You Didn't See, visit any link: 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007.

Commentary on The Beaver, Being Elmo, Margin Call, Submarine and Win Win written by Ethan; Certified Copy and Perfect Sense written by Brandon Tenney. We hope you enjoyed this year's selection of the 19 Best Movies That You Didn't See from 2011, as we're always happy to bring you a list of films that should be added to your Netflix or Must Watch lists right away. Post your thoughts on any you see in the comments!

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Find more posts: Discuss, Editorial, Feat, Indies



Wait: I've seen ALL of these! Good list though 🙂 

Jordan Raup on Feb 22, 2012


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?

Alex Billington on Feb 22, 2012


Great list, I've seen 11 of these and the rest are on my "to see" list. 

Linda on Feb 22, 2012


Haven't seen a lot of these, but Win Win was awesome.

Peter Kosmal on Feb 22, 2012


I've seen 8, and if I didn't live in Cleveland, I would have seen 4 more. Adding the rest to Netflix. Thanks!

Award Contenders on Feb 22, 2012


Seen 'em all. Great list.

Andrew DiDonato on Feb 22, 2012


wow, so impressed. You're so tributary.

brcassell on Jun 28, 2012


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!

JackFact on Oct 19, 2012


I thought DD was a solid thriller

sonicred on Dec 6, 2012


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. 

AugustWest99 on Feb 22, 2012


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!

DAVIDPD on Feb 22, 2012


Just saw 'Shame'.  Such an incredible film.

The Christian Illustrator on Feb 22, 2012


I completely agree with Devil's Double. I actually saw it at Comic-Con. Dominic Cooper is an amazing actor.

Daniel Koelsch on Feb 22, 2012


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 on Feb 22, 2012


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.

Isildur_of_Numenor on Feb 22, 2012


i loved another earth.

alternate earthling. on Feb 22, 2012


We Need to Talk About Kevin and Another Earth both stayed in my mind for days after

happy camper on Feb 22, 2012


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.

RidgeRacer4 on Feb 22, 2012


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.

The Christian Illustrator on Feb 22, 2012


i wasnt sure about the devil's double yet and ive been tempted to watch it but now im deffinitely sure ill enjoy it.

Zade on Feb 22, 2012


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.

peloquin on Feb 22, 2012



lane on Feb 22, 2012


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

Ravenhill15 on Feb 22, 2012


I love these lists, I was hoping there would be one for 2011! I wish Melancholia was on that.. 

Davide Coppola on Feb 22, 2012


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.

97point6 on Feb 22, 2012


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.

Robert L. Tuva on Feb 22, 2012


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).

The_Kid89 on Feb 22, 2012


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.

Annielicious on Feb 22, 2012


Nice list Alex..I would have added as honorable mentions: Tyrannosaur, Bullhead and The Woman...

jah p on Feb 22, 2012


This is why commas need to be used before the word "and." I couldn't find any movie titled "Bullhead and The Woman."

Comma on Aug 9, 2012


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"

evilplatypus on Jan 2, 2013


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.

MikeA on Feb 12, 2013


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!

Jace LeRoy on Feb 22, 2012


I've only seen 3. Ashamed.

M.K. Nielsen on Feb 23, 2012


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.

poofy_and_boofer on Feb 23, 2012


I will check some of these out. I thought Another Earth was excellent, including one of my favorite endings ever.

wpmsd on Feb 23, 2012


Alphabetical? It should be in recommended order.

ccoltmanm on Feb 23, 2012


Thanks Alex, I love when this list comes out.   Lots of interesting looking stuff.

John from Long Island on Feb 25, 2012


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".

Phil at Nokia on Feb 25, 2012


Another Earth and Melancholia are the most emotionally crushing two films I think I have ever seen. Good call on those two films.

Patrick Jonathan on Aug 16, 2012


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.

General Zod on Mar 2, 2012


Attack the Block is absolutely amazing.

Patrick Jonathan on Aug 16, 2012


"The Beaver" was really good. I need to freshen up my Netflix que with a few of these! http://www.freddysopenmind.blogspot.com

facebook-1160704211 on Jun 24, 2012


Great list - seen a lot off here. Loved Like Crazy, Win Win and Take Shelter especially.

Movie Man Dan on Jun 25, 2012


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!

lando on Jun 27, 2012


No one saw them because they sound lame.

S. E. Roberts on Jun 27, 2012


The Beaver. Was. Terrible. I'm passing on the list. Thanks.

Ray Wulfe on Jul 2, 2012


Perfect Sense and Shame - yes. Not sure about the rest.

waterbase on Jul 3, 2012


Great list!! I hope you liked Drive.

Buddy on Jul 4, 2012


You're seriously going to leave Warrior off the list? Nobody saw it, but it was the best film of the year.

Austin Bach on Jul 8, 2012


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.

Josh Haddad on Sep 9, 2012


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.

remy on Jul 20, 2012


Sorry but I CANNOT believe that Silenced was not on this List!

{Drea} on Jul 25, 2012


well... u didn't dissapointed me, i didn't saw any single one of them 😀

Gryat on Aug 6, 2012


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.

Andrew Joshua Jenkins on Aug 9, 2012


And this... is why I love FirstShowing! I will be searching for the ones I haven't seen yet.

kevjohn on Aug 10, 2012


like this list watching them all what i have seen on this list i loved so....

H8Nate on Aug 13, 2012


5 out of 19! I'm really happy to see such great titles on this list. Cool.

valdezlopez on Aug 14, 2012


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.

Patrick Jonathan on Aug 16, 2012


Going to watch them all 8D

na na na nancay. on Aug 24, 2012


Being Elmo is not just a documentary about a cool, genuine guy, but about how to raise a cool, genuine guy. His parents rocked.

NM2000 on Aug 24, 2012


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

kyky1001 on Jan 11, 2013


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,

Marlee90 on Aug 30, 2012


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.

Alieninthissociety on Sep 7, 2012


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?"

twistintulsa on Sep 15, 2012


I was about to get upset over Warrior being ignored again. Thanx! Great list--- I'll get my best people on it!

Lizzie Elliott on Oct 31, 2012


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.

Crimson Lasher on Nov 7, 2012


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.

mkc on Dec 3, 2012


ill be seeing this 🙂

John Andrian Marcelo Bueta on Dec 4, 2012


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.

Brandi on Dec 6, 2012


His accuser recanted. See the movie. It's a gem.

CJ on Jan 19, 2013


Loved the movies I've already seen on this list. Glad to see these films getting much deserved recognition!

Sel on Dec 12, 2012


no one saw them because they probably are all low budget art-crap

☆ForeverAeon☆ on Dec 12, 2012


Being Elmo seems a bit dated now... Being Elmo II should have quite a different tone.

bumboclot on Dec 19, 2012


watching the Kevin movie was like hearing finger nails on a black board

SneakyPete on Jan 9, 2013


The Beaver? Really??? You must have watched a different movie than I did because the one I watched was bloody awful.

vangpo on Jan 10, 2013


We need to talk about Kevin... Just Brilliant.... Superb.

Angie24xS on Jan 15, 2013


i hated everything must go ones the did not make the list the fall goon happy texas strange wilderness wild target brothers bloom

jenn on Jan 15, 2013


Yay shame that s got to be the most underrated but incredible movie I've ever seen. All about Fassbender

Ellie on Jan 15, 2013


Everything must go was dogshit.

sechernbiw on Mar 24, 2013


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).

ChrisPavona on Mar 31, 2013


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.

ericmvan on Apr 26, 2013


Really appreciate the list, well done. Cheers.

Jess Badran on Aug 23, 2013


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.

Ralph E. on Oct 22, 2013

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