The best (and worst) films of 2011: Joshua Rothkopf's picks

Ryan Gosling revs into a glorious L.A. noir.



The best

1. Drive
Through a glittering, nighttime Los Angeles—and the terrain of '80s-synth-scored loner cinema—Ryan Gosling steers his way to a neonoir classic.

2. Shame
Not since American Psycho has there been this keen a portrait of NYC excess and our city's special flavor of swanky self-abuse.

3. We Need to Talk About Kevin
When the most fearless actor of her generation, Tilda Swinton, tops herself in a portrait of grief and recrimination, it's indeed worth taking about.

4. 13 Assassins
More than a decade after Audition (and countless misfires), Takashi Miike makes good on his promise with a bold samurai classic.

5. The Trip
This bickering British road comedy is endlessly quotable, but it also contains an affecting glimpse into middle-aged frustration.

6. Coriolanus
Making Shakespeare work onscreen isn't easy; director-star Ralph Fiennes and a perfect cast lend the Bard's warlike tragedy bite.

7. A Separation
The intimate, humane virtues of Iranian cinema reach their apotheosis in Asghar Farhadi's densely plotted divorce drama, a triumph of propulsion.

8. Incendies
Two Montreal siblings are drawn into their troubled Middle Eastern heritage in the year's most potent political drama, worthy of Bernardo Bertolucci.

9. My Perestroika
Today's Russia, a shifting post-Soviet landscape of McDonald's and hazy memories of uniformity, comes to life in this vital, moving documentary. 

10. Attack the Block
A great American thrill-maker, John Carpenter, is saluted in every frame of Joe Cornish's subversive alien-invasion movie, the most delirious fun of the summer.

The next ten...

The worst

Film Socialisme
It brings me no joy to heap scorn on a movie by Jean-Luc Godard, but he soils his own legacy with this depressing hash of half-baked ideas and sour poses.

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