With this ring, I vow to kick your ass.
For me at least, the year in film started with a bang in the form of Gregg Araki's crazysexycool apocalyptic collegiate comedy Kaboom and ended with the whimper that was Stephen Daldry's flat, feeble 9/11 drama Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. In between those two bookends, 2011 proved a pretty great year for movies, particularly if you thought outside the Hollywood box. After lumbering through a mostly fallow winter, spring and summer, the big movie studios rebounded with a strong fall slate of releases that included the bold new works from veteran filmmakers (Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Steven Soderbergh among them), star vehicles that actually emphasized brains over brawn (Moneyball, The Descendants) and even a few above-average franchise entries (Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol, Paranormal Activity 3). And when Hollywood faltered, the independent and international film industries picked up the slack. If you lived nearby an art house or had access to a video-on-demand service, every month brought a steady stream of terrific titles that ran the gamut of genres, from ultraviolent samurai tales (Takeshi Miike's 13 Assassins) to moody Westerns (Kelly Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff) to stories of young love in bloom (Andrew Haigh's Weekend). Some years, I struggle to decide which films absolutely deserve a place on my Top Ten list. This year, I struggled to decide which ones I could leave off without too much regret. (That explains, by the way, why my list of Honorable Mentions includes another twenty-odd movies I couldn't bear not to single out.) So without further ado, in one of the best years for movies in some time, here are the best of the best.