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The 50 best movies of 2011

41. Crazy, Stupid, Love.

The Movie: Expert womaniser Ryan Gosling teaches Steve Carell a few pick-up tips, even though he's pining for the one that got away (Emma Stone). A thinking person's rom-com oozing with sex appeal.

Impact: Released in the UK the same week as Drive, this made Gosling the inescapable man of the moment. The film also reignited the debate about crazy, stupid movie title punctuation.

40. How I Ended This Summer

The Movie: Two Russian men fall out on a remote Arctic weather station. The kind of action movie Tarkovsky might have made.

Impact: It beat The King's Speech to Best Film at the London Film Festival, but as it turned out the audience for Russian art-house action cinema wasn't as wide as the one that went to see stammerin' King Colin.

39. Warrior

The Movie: Brothers Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton take each other on in a mixed martial arts championship. Unusually for a sporting movie, you want them both to win.

Impact: A surprise box-office failure, but once The Dark Knight Rises comes out this is going to be a slow-burning hit on DVD.

38. Contagion

The Movie: Steve Soderbergh reinvents the disaster movie with a sober, scientific approach that makes this outbreak scarier than, say, Outbreak. Bonus points for casting Gwyneth Paltrow as the monkey.

Impact: Audiences desperately trying not to touch anybody as they left the cinema, and regarding anybody who coughed as bringers of destruction.

37. Meek's Cutoff

The Movie: John Ford's Westerns printed the legend. Kelly Reichardt's tale of pioneers lost in the desert paints those wagons as they really were: long, slow and uncomfortable.

Impact: Reichardt's deliberately obscure anti-Western divided opinion, not least for using the old 1:33 aspect ratio. Expect confused Blu-ray owners to ask for their money back.

36. X-Men: First Class

The Movie: A stuttering franchise finds its mojo, a la Austin Powers, in the 1960s. Bond-esque cool, a hot cast (Fassbender, Lawrence) and smart retconning of history make this the summer's most stylish movie.

Impact: With characters emphasised over action set-pieces, this brought a relatively low return on investment for Marvel. Expect more pyrotechnics in the prequel-sequel.

35. The Interrupters

The Movie: Steve James, director of documentary classic Hoop Dreams, finds another inspirational and heartbreaking slant on the American Dream with his look at Chicago's violence interrupters, ex-cons who break up fights to make the world a better place.

Impact: A film that has already made a difference. The Bermudan Government is apparently planning to create its own interruption programme to bring down crime rates.

34. Arrietty

The Movie: The story of the diminutive junk-hoarding Borrowers, as reimagined by Studio Ghibli. Small in stature, a giant in spirit. It was the year's finest animation.

Impact: Veteran Ghibli animator Hiromasa Yonebayashi made his debut, suggesting that the studio is in safe hands whenever Hayao Miyazaki retires for good.

33. Thor

The Movie: The first of two feature-length advertisements for The Avengers this summer succeeded (where Iron Man 2) failed in being an enjoyable stand-alone adventure mixing culture-clash comedy and high-camp aesthetics.

Impact: Kenneth Branagh's appointment as director was a reminder that the more leftfield the choice, the more distinctive the result. Joe Johnston's more orthodox Captain America could only suffer in comparison.

32. The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn

The Movie: A Belgian cartoonist. A crack squad of British writing talent (Moffat, Wright, Cornish). And an American beard-wearing legend. The 'Berg's most purely enjoyable popcorn flick since the 80s.

Impact: A bizarre feud between generations. Younger bloggers loved it, but The Guardian published at least half a dozen negative op-ed pieces from established critics.