- Fright Night
- The Muppets
- Rise of the Planet of the Apes
- X-Men: First Class
2011′s best surprises raised eyebrows in two different manners. Sometimes it was the way a revitalizing reboot turned a flagging franchise around, corrected the ship’s course, and steered it towards a brighter future. Not only did Disney resuscitate The Muppets after they had long been forgotten, but the musical comedy wowed critics to a 96% approval rate on Rotten Tomatoes. Rise of the Planet of the Apes touched critics and audiences alike by shifting the focus away from humans and onto digitally created hero Caesar in a well executed tale that promisingly (and hopefully) sets up additional chapters. After The Last Stand and Wolverine resulted in lost hope from many fans, X-Men: First Class returned the quality of the popular Marvel series back to that of the first two films, thanks to director Matthew Vaughn’s vision and Michael Fassbender’s and James McAvoy’s dramatic portrayals of Magneto and Xavier, respectively.
Other times, surprises are born from bad trailers. Take the preview for the remake Fright Night. Is this supposed to be funny or scary? Cuz it doesn’t look either. Surprise! It actually was both. But our biggest surprise of 2011 goes to the mixed martial arts movie Warrior. Despite a cheesy preview that nearly gave away everything, the movie made impact that rivaled The Fighter from the previous year, and it hit hard emotionally with awesome performances from Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, and Nick Nolte. Winner: Warrior.
Honorable Mentions: Attack the Block, Bridesmaids, Happy Feet Two, The Lincoln Lawyer, Real Steel, Something Borrowed, Tower Heist