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Best Films Of 2011: 11 Great Films You May Have Missed

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 12/20/2011 11:00 am EST Updated: 12/20/2011 6:11 pm EST

The top seven highest-grossing movies of 2011 were all sequels, many of which were tricked out with epic battles, blinding explosions, vampires, werewolves, wizards, pirates, giant alien robots and Bangkok drug overdoses. But 2011 also provided a number of movies whose most spectacular moments were not so flamboyant.

These 11 movies are the ones you may have meant to see -- a solemn documentary about the death penalty, an expansive epic about all of human existence, a quiet drama about a grandmother learning to write poetry -- but, for one reason or another, slipped you by.

Instead of vampires, you get Kirsten Dunst's Justine, from Lars Von Trier's "Melancholia" -- no blood is sucked or shed, though the world ends, and all of petty human cruelty is laid straight-up on the table. Instead of castle-shattering magical guerilla warfare, you get Terrence Malick's soaring half-hour long sequence depicting the birth of the universe in "The Tree of Life."

Kids may dream of being Jack Sparrow (or, for that matter, Bella Swan) -- but while few, if any, of the characters you encounter in these films have lives you'd fantasize about stepping into, many of them have lives that seem almost too familiar. Unsettling, ecstatic, psychotic, conflicted, impassioned; sweeping, intimate, grandiose, delicate, mysterious or all too plain, these 11 films won't necessarily let you escape reality, but might just help you come to terms with it, instead.

Read on for our list:

The Skin I Live In
1  of  12
Pedro Almodovar's tale of obsession gone sociopathic features Antonio Banderas as a deranged plastic surgeon intent on obtaining revenge by transforming the target of his ire into a physical copy of his dead ex-wife. "The Skin I Live In" is cooler, and more contained than many of the films that made Almodovar famous -- though, as when a freed convict appears at his mother's home in a tiger suit, not without flourish. Like many of Almodovar's films, the prettily packaged box that is the movie (pretty clothes, pretty homes, pretty people) soon opens up into a painful complicated consideration of gender, desire and identity.