2011 was a big year for cinema, with multiple blockbusters premiering and multiple award winners being revealed.

It was a year that was dominated by the success of The Hobbit trilogy, with all three films debuting at the top of the box office in their respective countries. It was also a year that saw the resurgence of older films, with a number of actors making a comeback after years in retirement. Finally, it was a year that saw the emergence of a number of new directors, with Guy Ritchie, David O. Russell and Gareth Edwards all stepping up to the plate with major releases.

This year may not have had the kind of seismic impact on cinema that the previous year did, with fewer superhero movies and more reality TV show soundtracks dominating the scene. But it did see some interesting developments, with new forms of cinema evolving to fit the screen trends of the 21st century.

The Hobbit Trilogy

There was no other film that dominated the year 2011 quite like Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy. The British writer and director’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel was always going to be a major event on the big screen, but it absolutely smashed box office records when it was released in December.

The Hobbit trilogy became the highest-grossing series of all time, raking in over $13 billion at the box office worldwide. It also received critical acclaim, picking up multiple awards along the way including the coveted Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Jackson’s epic journey to Middle-earth, which saw him revisit his previous successes in King Kong and The Lord of the Rings, is still seen as a triumph by many.

Despite its critical and commercial success, The Hobbit trilogy was by no means the only film gracing cinema this year. Far from it. In fact, Jackson’s bankable success led to a number of other big-budget tentpole films being greenlit, with studios keen to replicate the director’s magic.

American Hustle

The year 2011 also saw the arrival of David O. Russell’s American Hustle, the stylish comedy-drama that won numerous accolades and became one of the surprise hits of the year. The film follows a con man (Christian Bale) who sets up a fake corporation in order to swindle some wealthy Middle-Easterners (played by Mel Gibson and Rosie Perez) out of their fortunes.

It’s a film filled with sharp humour, addictive storytelling and intricate plotting. But at its heart, American Hustle is really about a group of friends and colleagues trying to navigate the murky waters of New York City’s high-stakes world of conning. The film also features an incredible performance from Jennifer Lawrence, who delivers an Oscar-worthy turn as the film’s femme fatal.

Ultimately, it’s Russell’s gift for creating fascinating worlds that weaves a spell over viewers, whether they’re familiar with the criminal underworld or not. Anyone who has seen the film will know that it’s impossible to look away, even when the credits are rolling. Indeed, it’s a film that will go down in history as a classic of modern cinema. Although no official figures have been released, it’s estimated that around 12.2 million people saw the film worldwide in its first year.

Silver Linings Playbook

The year 2011 was the big screen coming out party for the acclaimed director David O. Russell, with his third film, Silver Linings Playbook, taking the box office by storm and picking up numerous awards along the way including the coveted Golden Globe for Best Screenplay.

Based on the novel by the same name by AA Milne, Russell’s cinematic adaptation of the story of an emotionally-stunted widower (played by Jack Nicholson) whose life is turned around by a chance encounter with a beautiful divorcee (Jennifer Lawrence) is both funny and endearing.

Jack Nicholson is the standout among an ensemble cast, delivering a career-best performance as the titular character. The actor’s versatility was on show as he effectively shifts his persona from mentally-ill old man to affable charmer, which makes for some compelling storytelling. Lawrence also turns in an impressive performance, especially considering that she is essentially playing dual roles as both Lawrence and co-star Bradley Cooper’s characters have to interact with each other. She gives the film its emotional core as she tries to navigate the complexities of a romantic relationship while also ensuring that her son (Cooper) doesn’t get hurt by the emotionally-stunted old man.

The film also features an incredible soundtrack by Future, whose pulsating electronic music sets the scene for much of the action, with the exception of some truly vintage Hitchcock-style theatrics that the Coen brothers would be proud of.


It was really a banner year for stars ageing gracefully, with three major Hollywood legends stepping up to the plate and delivering career-best performances. Three films that deserve to be mentioned in this context are Michael Sheen’s Biutiful, George Clooney’s The Descendants and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The Intouchables.

Sheen plays an ageing thief who, after a botched job leaves him with a heart condition, adopts a more low-key lifestyle. But he still has enough tricks up his sleeve to outwit the French-Algerian criminal underworld (led by Djimon Hounou) that he belongs to.

Based on the novel by W. Somerset Maugham, George Clooney’s The Descendants sees the legendary actor deliver another career-best performance, this time in the form of a father coping with a string of unfortunate events that befall his family.

The film charts the intersecting fates of five characters as they struggle to make sense of the past, present and future, revealing a lot about the precarious nature of our modern-day society in the process. It’s a film that works on many levels, with the five-star cast delivering blistering comedy as well as dramatic scenes filled with poignancy and heartbreak.

One of the year’s most delightful surprises was the final installment of the long-running buddy cop series, The Bourne Legacy. But more on that later.

The year 2011 also saw the arrival of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s latest film The Intouchables, the incredible story of a millionaire philanthropist (Francois Pigneault) who finds himself unable to live independently due to a crippling illness. It’s a film that won the hearts of audiences around the world with its stunning visuals and sumptuous art direction. In fact, it won the coveted Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Sadly, the acclaim the film received hasn’t been reflected at the box office, with audiences turned off by the expensive-looking nature of the film and story. Still, for those who love a stunning cinematic experience that feels like an old-school Hollywood production, Jeunet’s The Intouchables is certainly worth a watch.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

It was a big year for women in cinema. From the indomitable Helen Mirren in Stephen Frears’ The Queen to the brimming with charisma and talent Kate Winslet in Joe Wright’s Dark Materials, it was a year overflowing with strong, independent characters. But it wasn’t just the leading ladies who stole the show this year, with the likes of Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep also turning in brilliant performances in The Devil Wears Prada and The Iron Lady, respectively.

The year 2011 also saw the arrival of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the eagerly-awaited film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved fantasy novel The Hobbit. It boasted an incredible ensemble cast, with many veteran British and American actors putting in great performances as they navigate the ups and downs of life in a majestic Indian Hotel. It was the kind of performances that made you forget whether or not you’d seen these actors before. An incredible achievement for a film that was three-quarters of the way through production when it premiered in December.