Honorable Mentions: ParaNorman, Prometheus, Anna Karenina, Frankenweenie, A Royal Affair (En kongelig affære), Klown, Perfect Sense, Ruby Sparks, Flight, Safety Not Guaranteed, Jiro Dreams of Sushi
15. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
A coming-of-age high school film that manages to bypass the genre’s stereotypes with honest performances combined with a fantastic soundtrack.
14. The Grey
What a pleasant surprise this was: a Liam Neeson film with a brain.
13. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
A simple, heartfelt drama with my two favorite British actors and a refreshing mixture of whimsy with romance.
12. Holy Motors
As a clever allegory for the changing cinema landscape, this odd head-scratcher contained beautiful imagery and insight.
11. The Avengers
Initially dreading such a huge ensamble piece, my fears were quelled as Joss Whedon worked his character magic to mold a definitive blockbuster.
10. The Hobbit
After a HFR (high frame rate) viewing of this film nearly spoiled my experience, a repeat viewing in 24fps showed a worthy predecessor and great promise for the additional prequels.
This was my favorite Spielberg film since Munich, mixing unexpected humor with a soul-stirring performance by Daniel Day-Lewis.
8. Moonrise Kingdom
Although not my favorite Wes Anderson film, Moonrise Kingdom confirmed the fact that nobody creates a quirky childhood fantasy like this visionary director.
7. Pitch Perfect & The Sapphires (tie)
This tie brings together two great music-based films of the year: one that gives an hilarious portrayal of college a cappella and the other that tells the true story of an Australian Aboriginal girls group.
6. End of Watch
A buddy cop drama that successfully uses the found footage technique to highlight a bittersweet story of friendship, portrayed by two actors who had the best cinematic chemistry of the year.
5. Django Unchained
Containing his most linear form of storytelling, Django Unchained shows great maturity for Tarantino while still embracing his signature dialogue and outlandish violence.
As a true story that I couldn’t wait to see on the big screen, Ben Affleck and company built a fully-realized 1970s that managed to be quite suspenseful even though the ending was already known.
3. Monsieur Lazhar
Set and filmed in Montréal, this subtle French language drama—which deals with how children can overcome a shared traumatic experience—felt especially timely and even therapeutic.
2. Zero Dark Thirty
Kathryn Bigelow, who seems to be on a creative roll, changed the film’s original ending once Osama bin Laden was actually killed and crafted the best historical thriller since All The President’s Men.
As possibly my favorite dystopian Sci-Fi film of all time, Looper is Rian Johnson’s best film yet and one that left me both speechless and artistically jealous by the time the credits rolled.