1. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – Lorene Scafaria’s intimate and seductively layered comedic romantic drama involving an apocalypse was easily one of the year’s most unjustly maligned and forgotten gems.
2. Lincoln – Daniel Day-Lewis is as brilliant as you’ve heard portraying America’s most revered President, director Steven Spielberg delivering easily his most subtly self-assured drama in what feels like forever.
Ben Mendelsohn and Scoot McNairy in Killing Them Softly
4. Safety Not Guaranteed – Director Colin Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly’s sarcastically hysterical and rapturously romantic debut is the time travel experience of the year, while the fact Aubrey Plaza isn’t getting talked up for a Best Supporting Actress nomination is a colossal shame of the first degree.
5. Kill List – Is it a horror film? Is it a hitman thriller? Is it a relationship drama? Discovering what Ben Wheatley’s Kill List is ends up being the name of the game, the movie building to a devastatingly brutal coda that is as disturbing as it is unexpected.
8. Cloud Atlas – Andy Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Lana Wachowski’s adaptation of the surreal David Mitchell novel was one of the more audaciously ambitious projects of the entire year, filled with highs and lows so spectacular they simply must be seen, and experienced, to be believed.
10. Sound of Noise – Sonic terrorists produce percussion-fueled mayhem against an unsuspecting city helping craft a movie that’s a joyous cacophony of sound, fury, silence, ingenuity and inspiration that is as original as it is entertaining.
11. The Secret World of Arrietty – Studio Ghibli’s The Secret World of Arrietty, a reworking of Mary Horton’s The Borrowers, is a beautiful animated treasure trove of imagination and emotion that stirred my heart and made me want to do joyful backflips as I exited the theatre.
12. A Royal Affair –Nikolaj Arcel’s stupendous costume drama chronicling the affair between a Norwegian Queen (Alicia Vikander) and her mentally ill husband’s (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) conscientious doctor (Mads Mikkelsen) a delectable, emotionally fragile treat signifying the arrival of a major directorial talent.
13. The Cabin in the Woods – Director Drew Goddard and co-writer Joss Whedon’s invigorating horror deconstruction is a divine mix of the terrifying and the absurd, everything building to the type of apocalyptic climax John Carpenter would have been proud to have called his own.
14. Looper – Filmmaker Rian Johnson takes sci-fi time travel thriller conventions and then believably spins them on their head, building to a brutal, emotionally satisfying climax that’s as good as it gets.
17. Sound of My Voice – Director Zal Batmanglij and actor/writer Brit Marling join forces to craft a surreal and disturbing drama involving cults and cultists. It’s never what you think it is going to be, and that’s good thing.
18. Barbara – Nina Hoss commands the screen in Christian Petzold’s multifaceted Cold War thriller about an East German doctor who must decide if the price of freedom can come at the expense of her patients’ wellbeing.
20. John Carter – The year’s most unjustly libeled spectacle, Disney’s lavish take on the highly influential Edgar Rice Burroughs’ character a thrilling, eye-popping epic that deserved better both from critics and audiences.
WORTHY OF DISCUSSION (in alphabetic order)
Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained