If 2011 felt like a down year for great movies, it was only because you had to look a little harder to find them.
For the most part, the big blockbusters weren’t all that good, and the crop of presumed Oscar-caliber films held a lot of disappointments. But there were enough gems sprinkled throughout the year to make it all worthwhile.
It was a great year for movies featuring the end of the world and/or Jack Russell terriers.
For a movie about sports management (and math!), it was shockingly engaging, funny and entertaining. Credit writer Aaron Sorkin, who also made coding a website entertaining in “The Social Network.”
9. “Hanna”/”Source Code”
Two smart and drum-tight action flicks that popped up this spring and made the summer action season seem even stupider.
Yeah, it was hands-down the funniest movie of the year, but it was also full of hearts and smarts. Oh, and farts.
7. “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
The disconcerting, disorienting film about a young girl who escapes from a cult compound had a shockingly good performance from Elizabeth Olsen.
6. “Win Win”
Writer-director Tom McCarthy (“The Station Agent”) is a master a creating endearing but flawed characters. His blend of comedy and drama here was pitch-perfect.
5. “The Tree of Life”
Director Terrence Malick reflects on how people (and planets) are formed. Also: Maybe the most beautiful cinematography ever.
In the wake of his gay father’s death, Ewan McGregor falls in love. If the story and performances don’t get you, the little dog will.
3. “Take Shelter”
A working-class husband (an Oscar-worthy Michael Shannon) has visions of the end of the world as he knows it. He doesn’t feel fine.
Ryan Gosling channels Steve McQueen in the violentest, pulpiest, most broodingest movie of the year. And it also had one of the most touching love stories.
Lars von Trier reflects on the end of the world through the eyes of some terrible rich people. It’s depressing as hell. And, somehow, beautiful.
Honorable mention: “Midnight in Paris,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Skin I Live In,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
Great movies that haven’t come to Columbus yet: “The Artist,” “Margaret”