It was an excellent year for theatergoers in 2010, and by all accounts, 2011 is shaping up to be just as exciting. From high octane action thrillers and comic-book adaptations to gut-busting comedies and family fare, there’s no shortage of highly anticipated films coming our way in the New Year.
We’re offering a detailed look at 30 of the most exciting movies that 2011 has to offer, starting chronologically with this January’s slate of flicks and culminating with next December’s holiday releases. Monday, we revealed the first 10 must-see movies of 2011 (“Green Hornet,” “Sucker Punch,” etc.), yesterday we unveiled 10 more awesome ’11 flicks (including summer blockbusters “Thor,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2″ and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”), and today we’ve got the final 10 films on our list (including superhero tentpole “Captain America” and surefire holiday-season hits like “Sherlock Holmes 2″ and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”). So hit the jump for the scoop on these movies, and click on the photo below to see pics from 2011’s most eagerly anticipated flicks.
“Captain America: The First Avenger”
Release Date: July 22
What It’s About: Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) transforms himself from scrawny civilian to super-soldier as Captain America. The star-spangled superhero goes to the front lines of World War II to stop Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) and his Hydra forces from taking over the world.
Why We’re Excited: Cap is the final piece to the puzzle that is “The Avengers,” so we’re eager to see how this 1940s-era superhero flick shakes out from that standpoint if nothing else!
“Cowboys & Aliens”
Release Date: July 29
What It’s About: When a mysterious gunslinger (Daniel Craig) walks into the desolate town of Absolution without a single memory of who or what he is, he has no idea that he’s about to become the only man who can stop an army of invading alien forces.
Why We’re Excited: If the title alone wasn’t enough to hook us into theaters, the promise of Craig and Harrison Ford kicking alien butt in the wild, wild West thanks to director Jon Favreau certainly is!
Release Date: September 23
What It’s About: Brad Pitt is Billy Beane, former Major League Baseball player and current general manager of the Oakland Athletics whose methods and tactics were the subject of the 2003 book “Moneyball” from Michael M. Lewis.
Why We’re Excited: With “Capote” director Bennett Miller behind the lens and “The Social Network” screenwriter Aaron Sorkin on script duties, not to mention a cast that includes Pitt and Jonah Hill, “Moneyball” is already a home run without even leaving the park.
Release Date: October 14
What It’s About: A Norwegian science team discovers an alien spacecraft frozen in Antarctica, and American paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) joins the expedition. But when the craft’s alien passenger is freed from the ice, the crew must band together and fight for their survival.
Why We’re Excited: John Carpenter’s 1982 horror masterpiece “The Thing” hit the ground running with a Norwegian helicopter pursuing an Alaskan Malamute (aka the titular Thing in disguise) into an American research camp. The film never revealed too much about what happened at the Norwegian camp, but this prequel should fill in the blanks.
“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1″
Release Date: November 18
What It’s About: The two-part finale of the “The Twilight Saga” begins at the end of this year with “Breaking Dawn – Part 1.” The newfound married bliss between Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) is put to the test due to a series of betrayals and a world-ending threat.
Why We’re Excited: For the franchise’s biggest fans, it’s the beginning of the end. For the franchise’s biggest detractors, it’s the beginning of the end. Win-win for everybody!
Release Date: November 23
What It’s About: “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” collaborators Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller reboot the “Muppets” movie franchise. Segel stars as a very human Muppets superfan who gets Kermit, Piggy and the gang back together for a benefit show to save their beloved theater. Fingers crossed they perform Segel’s Dracula musical!
Why We’re Excited: If you’re not excited for the big screen return of Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzy Bear and the rest of the gang, you have no soul. It’s that simple. But even if you have no soul, there’s a long, distinguished list of celeb cameos that should entice: Jack Black, Zach Galifianakis, Emily Blunt and, rumor has it, Lady Gaga.
“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”
Release Date: December 16
What It’s About: Little is known about the plot for the fourth outing in the “Mission Impossible” franchise, except that Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is heading to a variety of international locations including Dubai and Moscow.
Why We’re Excited: J.J. Abrams and Cruise’s “Mission Impossible III” was strong enough on its own that we’re already excited for round four, but Brad Bird on directing duties and a cast that includes Jeremy Renner and Josh Holloway make for some delicious icing on the cake.
“Sherlock Holmes 2″
Release Date: December 16
What It’s About: After defeating Lord Blackwood two years ago, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and partner John Watson (Jude Law) are at it again, this time going head-to-head with arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris).
Why We’re Excited: RDJ and Law’s dynamic as Holmes and Watson remains one of our favorite on-screen pairings of 2009. We’re pretty sure they’ll achieve similar status in 2011.
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Release Date: December 21
What It’s About: Disgraced financial reporter Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is given a shot at redemption when a possible client offers him the chance to bury an old enemy. In exchange, Blomkvist must solve the mystery of a young girl’s disappearance many years earlier. He’s aided in his quest by Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), an eccentric hacker with secrets of her own.
Why We’re Excited: As big fans of both the novel series and the Swedish films, we’re a little bit nervous about the American remake of “Dragon Tattoo.” But we have enough confidence in David Fincher and his talented cast to create a remake that’s worth our while.
“The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn”
Release Date: December 23
What It’s About: In the performance-capture CGI “Secret of the Unicorn,” we’re introduced to globe-trotting explorer Tintin (Jamie Bell) on his first adventure with Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) to discover the secret treasure of Sir Francis Haddock.
Why We’re Excited: Not only are we excited to see Georges Remi’s classic characters on the silver screen, we’re equally jazzed about seeing Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson’s long-awaited collaboration!
Tell us which movies you’re most excited for in 2011 in the comments and on Twitter!