(thanks Marshall!)

Top 10 Films

1. AMOUR (Michael Haneke) With ruthless clarity, but also with tact and compassion, Mr. Haneke invites us to look at the arrival of death at the end of a Parisian couple’s long marriage, and shows, almost as if for the first time, how the saddest and most intractable facts of life can be transformed into art. Months after its debut at Cannes this film already feels permanent.

2. LINCOLN (Steven Spielberg) A great, flawed movie about a great, flawed president of a great, flawed nation. Argue about the flaws, but allow yourself to be moved by the grand, noble sentiments that swirl through Tony Kushner’s eloquent script and Daniel Day-Lewis’s sly performance.

3. BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (Benh Zeitlin) A thousand years from now scientists will know that there was a Hushpuppy, who lived in the Bathtub with her daddy.

4. FOOTNOTE (Joseph Cedar)

5. THE MASTER (Paul Thomas Anderson)

6. ZERO DARK THIRTY (Kathryn Bigelow)

7. DJANGO UNCHAINED (Quentin Tarantino) Mr. Tarantino follows “Inglourious Basterds,” his action-cartoon about the Holocaust, with an even bolder provocation: a blaxploitation spaghetti western about American slavery. More than any other director he tests and extends the power of pop-culture fantasy to engage the painful atrocities of history.

8. GOODBYE, FIRST LOVE (Mia Hansen-Love)

9. NEIGHBORING SOUNDS (Kleber Mendonça Filho)

10. THE GREY (Joe Carnahan)

Manohla Dargis:

  1. “Amour” (Michael Haneke)
  2. “The Deep Blue Sea” (Terence Davies)
  3. “The Gatekeepers” (Dror Moreh)
  4. “Holy Motors” (Leos Carax)
  5. “The Master” (Paul Thomas Anderson)
  6. “Moonrise Kingdom” (Wes Anderson)
  7. “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
  8. “Searching for Sugar Man” (Malik Bendjelloul)
  9. “Silver Linings Playbook” (David O. Russell)
  10. “Zero Dark Thirty” (Kathryn Bigelow).

Full details at the NYTimes. Honorable mentions and docs after the cut.


“Argo” (Ben Affleck)
“Barbara” (Christian Petzold)
“Brave” (Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman)
“Consuming Spirits” (Chris Sullivan)
“The Deep Blue Sea” (Terence Davies)
“Moonrise Kingdom” (Wes Anderson)
“Pitch Perfect” (Jason Moore)
“Rust and Bone” (Jacques Audiard)
“Take This Waltz” (Sarah Polley)
“The Turin Horse” (Bela Tarr).

Top Five Documentaries


2. THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES (Lauren Greenfield)


4. THIS IS NOT A FILM (Jafar Panahi)

5. THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE (Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon) A notorious crime — the rape of a jogger in Central Park in 1989 — is revisited in this painful, angry, scrupulously reported story of race, injustice and media frenzy.


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  • Tony

    C’est l’Amour…

  • Daveylow

    Barbara is a much stronger film than Amour. It’s a shame it doesn’t have a campaign behind it.

  • AP

    Good to see mentions of Barbara, Take This Waltz and The Turin Horse (even though they’re all in the HMs). Something tells me I really need to see Neighboring Sounds.

  • Daveylow

    I find Scott’s top 10 pretty unsurprising. I really hated The Master and I am not alone.

  • Daveylow

    Scott’s second list of 10 is more interesting!

  • So happy that THE GREY made it on a list. I saw it late on DVD and I was surprised how good it was. I really think years from now there are going to be lots of people who say it’s their all-time favorite film.

  • Zach

    A thousand years from now, BOTSW is not the first film I hope scientists watch.

  • Radich

    …and I knew I could trust A.O. Scott with this task. I not always agree with his reviews, but I’ve always respect what he has to say about films. I don’t know, I just like the way he writes his reviews, being good or bad ones.

    Loved what he said about Lincoln, his Honorable Mention list and happy to see a Brazilian production in his top 10. 🙂

  • Radich

    Sorry, *respected. Damn, this English as a second language… 😀

  • filmboymichael

    Good list, but The Grey, for me was one of the worst movies of 2012.

  • Houstonrufus

    filmboymichael, thank you. I’m so glad someone said it. I thought The Grey was ridiculous.

  • Chris138

    Nice to see some love for The Grey. Easily one of my favorites of the year.

  • PaulH

    I prefer this from MTV’s website:

    MTV.com restores a bit of sanity to this undertaking:

    1. “The Dark Knight Rises”
    How do you follow up one of the best comic book-inspired films of all time anchored by an immediately iconic performance? You go bigger. You raise the stakes. And you put an exclamation point on the end of it. That’s what Christopher Nolan did to close out his awe-inspiring take on the legend of Batman in “The Dark Knight Rises,” and it’s why it’s our favorite film of 2012. From Tom Hardy’s hypnotic take on Bane (a character generally dismissed as second-tier in the Batman canon) to Anne Hathaway somehow living up to and perhaps exceeding Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal in “Batman Returns,” Nolan made brilliant choice after brilliant choice. And then there are the final 20 minutes, a skillfully edited sequence of escalating action and emotion that gave us all goose bumps. Bruce Wayne’s story is over. But the Batman will live forever, and so will this film. — Josh Horowitz

    2. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”
    Literary adaptations can be as complicated as an AP calculus assignment — take one too many liberties with the source material and you’ll have a legion of literature lovers passing you dirty notes in class. Perhaps, then, much of the magic of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is owing to author Stephen Chbosky, who took on the dual role of screenwriter and director for this coming-of-age tale. Add in stellar performances by Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and, in particular, Ezra Miller, and this high school saga has earned a rightful seat in the cafeteria next to classics like “The Breakfast Club” and “Dead Poets Society.” — Amy Wilkinson

    3. “Looper”
    What do you call a movie that’s about time travel, makes you theorize about the possible alternate timelines, but then directly tells you not to worry about it? You could call it “exciting,” “innovative” and “outrageously entertaining,” but mostly, I just refer to it as “Looper.” The western-sci-fi hybrid from writer/director/genius Rian Johnson pits Bruce Willis against a version of Joseph Gordon-Levitt that looks a hell of a lot like Bruce Willis, and I loved every second of it. — Kevin P. Sullivan

    4. “Zero Dark Thirty”
    Spoiler alert: bin Laden dies at the end! But you already knew that, and it doesn’t matter because Kathryn Bigelow’s thriller about the hunt for the al-Qaeda founder reanimates the recent past so that CIA paper-pushing somehow becomes seat-gripping drama and the realities of terrorism and torture reveal themselves as freshly gruesome. Jessica Chastain’s monomaniacal intelligence analyst, Maya, may not be as flashy as James Bond nor have the leisure-suit swagger (and Justin Bieber hair) of Ben Affleck in “Argo,” but the success of her impossible mission promises a far bigger payoff for audiences: We’re all safer because the bad guy dies. — Eric Ditzian

    5. “The Avengers”
    There is no question that Marvel’s superhero epic is one of Earth’s mightiest comic book adaptations, but that wasn’t always a sure thing. Early trailers left many fans nervous, as did the sheer size of the film’s cast. Chalk it up to any number of factors — the writing/directing of Joss Whedon, the master-class performances by Tom Hiddleston and others — but for my money, the success of “The Avengers” really boils down to four little words: It had a Hulk. What more do you need to know? — Josh Wigler

    6. “Skyfall”
    A reinvention of the Bond brand (it openly mocks itself!), an origin story and a standalone ass-kicking action film all in one, “Skyfall” is a movie that bristles with intensity. It’s slick, stylish, loud and sexy. “Casino Royale” was a pleasantly surprising yay-fest, “Quantum of Solace” a relative disappointment, but “Skyfall” is not only the best Blond Bond movie yet, it’s one of the best Bond. Movies. Ever. And while we’re getting all hyperbolic, it also boasts perhaps the greatest Bond villain of all time in Javier Bardem’s genius, bi-curious sleazeball. Give this man another Oscar nomination. — Kevin Polowy

    7. “The Cabin in the Woods”
    Simply calling this “Joss Whedon’s other 2012 movie” doesn’t do it justice. Produced and co-written by Whedon and directed and co-written by “Buffy” and “Angel” vet Drew Goddard, this hilarious horror flick has something for everyone, including beautiful young victims, ancient evil gods, a giant bong/ coffee mug/ weapon, a merman, Sigourney Weaver, a nefarious unicorn and zombies — rather, a zombie redneck torture family. “The Cabin in the Woods” features Whedonverse faves like Fran Kranz and Amy Acker (plus the Australian dude who plays Thor), and the brilliant dialogue is classic Whedon all the way. — Tami Katzoff

    8. “Silver Linings Playbook”
    Who knew Bradley Cooper had it in ‘im? The pretty boy who once brought us gems like “All About Steve” turned in a shockingly beautiful performance in “Silver Linings Playbook” as Pat, a bipolar wreck of a man, fresh from a court-mandated stint in a mental-health facility. Despite the grim circumstances — his female lead is Jennifer Lawrence as a brittle, short-fused young widow — the movie is hopeful, funny, uplifting. It’s a silver lining, if you will. — Brooke Tarnoff

    9. “The Hobbit”
    Feelings on frame-rate aside, the first part of “The Hobbit” trilogy is, for my money, as good as Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth movies have ever been. Sure, the stakes are not as high as they were in “Lord of the Rings,” and yes, there is a sad lacking of Viggo Mortensen. But what it misses in doomsday scenarios and Aragorn, it more than makes up for in humor, heart, heroes and one hell of a score. Seriously, try getting Howard Shore’s “Misty Mountains” theme out of your brain. Not. Possible. — Josh Wigler

    10. “The Hunger Games”
    Never mind the fact that all the performances in this movie are killer, the casting, set and costume design superb, or the film’s very impressive haul at the box office; “The Hunger Games” is great because it is about something: survival. Also, it’s a story that finally revolves around a female protagonist worth celebrating. Katniss Everdeen has real problems and imperfections, she struggles with overwhelming responsibility, second-guesses her actions, self-defensively pushes away her emotions, and yet she is strong, resilient and intelligent. And we’ve only scratched the surface of her self-discovery and what it might mean for making real change for everyone living under the desolate, ominous rule of the Capitol. — Kara Warner

  • Hanson

    So I guess Scott review of Django will be a rave. Django as of right now has 26 reviews in RT all fresh. 80 on Metacritic and 88 BFCA. Looking great people.

  • matt

    Pitch Perfect strikes again!

  • Corvo

    Mia Hansen-Love! Classy choice! She’s great.

  • the other mike

    man, AO Scott and Manohla are national treasures. I think Tony is a great stylist who has grown as a thinker about film, and Manohla has always been very knowledgable and gangsta with it. thats a heck of a team they have at the NY times. Zero DArk 30, amour and the master were on both their lists, so thats the consensus we are seeing.

  • rufussondheim

    That MTV list is not a bad one. Sure it skews young, but there’s still not an embarrassing choice on it.

  • Joe Clinton

    That MTV list seems perfectly reasonable, assuming it’s from a fifteen-year-old.

  • As to the comment above that BARBARA is “a much stronger film than AMOUR” I can’t say definitely that such a statement is either true or false, though I strongly suspect it’s probably off the mark.

    My site colleague Allan Fish (a British film genius but a hopeless misanthrope who never comments at any sites. Ha!) having seen BARBARA (and AMOUR on a Manchester, UK theatre screen) and presently owning a screener of the film sent this brief comment to me by e mail after reading the above comment:


    Somehow that probably sounds just about right, though I have every intention of seeing Petzold’s film ASAP.

  • K. Bowen

    Amour is moving, but it’s the signature movie for the rut of existential despair in which European film finds itself, and not nearly as interesting about it as Melancholia. It’s a continent desperately in need of a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

  • Lars

    Even though Scott’s list has some weird inclusions (Footnote[I really don’t like this], and The Grey), both lists surprisingly exclude Argo (to me, rightly so because the film is technically accomplished but flat and uninspired), Les Miz. It’s a refreshing list since it’s not a prediction for the Oscars.

    Tell me Bowen, how “interesting” do you want “Amour” to be? Do you want an asteroid starts to hit Earth, and Riva suddenly comes alive while Trintignant goes weaker and weaker? And it’s very easy to just lump a film into one particularly theme (i.e. existential despair), but “Amour” is more than that. What about true love? To me, it’s closest to the questions asked in “The Deep blue Sea” when the caretaker of the house talks to Rachel Weisz and says, “True love is wiping someone arse but still letting them keep their dignity” (paraphrasing).

  • K. Bowen

    I want Europeans to start making movies imbued with the vitality of life again. Like they did in the sixties. I’m hopeful for Holy Motors.

  • K. Bowen, I am listening. I will see AMOUR on it’s opening in NYC on the 19th.

  • Daveylow

    Dargis’s list of likes beyond top 10:

    The rest of the best, alphabetically: “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” (Alison Klayman); “Argo” (Ben Affleck); “August and After” (Nathaniel Dorsky); “Auto-Collider XV” (Ernie Gehr); “Barbara” (Christian Petzold); “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Benh Zeitlin); “Bernie” (Richard Linklater); “Brooklyn Castle” (Katie Dellamaggiore); “The Dark Knight Rises” (Christopher Nolan); “Departure” (Mr. Gehr); “Footnote” (Joseph Cedar); “The House I Live In” (Eugene Jarecki); “The Kid With a Bike” (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne); “Life of Pi” — only at sea (Ang Lee); “Magic Mike” (Steven Soderbergh); “A Man Vanishes” (Shohei Imamura); “Middle of Nowhere” (Ava DuVernay); “Miss Bala” (Gerardo Naranjo); “Napoleon” (Abel Gance, restored by Kevin Brownlow); “Oslo, August 31st” (Joachim Trier); “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” (Peter Lord); “Rust and Bone” (Jacques Audiard); “Skyfall” (Sam Mendes); “Starlet” (Sean Baker); “This Is Not a Film” (Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb); “The Turin Horse” (Bela Tarr); “View From the Acropolis” (Lonnie van Brummelen and Siebren de Haan).

  • It is telling to say the least that both Dargis and Scott BOTH named AMOUR as Best Film of the year. Add to that mix, many other Top Ten appearances, the LA Film Critics Best Picture Award, a probable Best Foreign Film Oscar and Globe, universal adoration of film scholars and the crowing Palme d’Or………well we get the picture loud and clear.

    I will be at the Film Forum next week with bells on, but with a packet of tissues my wife will be carrying.

    On another note I can well understand many of us are blogging today (though this site has unreal adoration, especially at this time of the year) to divert our attention from the horrifying, unspeakable tragedy that happened to us yesterday. Nothing seems to matter after that, but we all go on. What else can we do? That we might feel guilty because of that adds to the anguish.

  • Lars: Agreed on THE GREY having no place here for sure, but I was one who really liked FOOTNOTE, though of the 2011 foreign-film releases that opened on statewide screens in early 2012 (hence we do consider them 2012 for our lists) I though THE TURIN HORSE, THE KID WITH A BIKE and MONSIEUR LAZHAR greater.

  • Daveylow


    I never said Barbara was close to Amour, I just was more affected by the German film than the Austrian/French film. I’m pretty sure I was expected much too much with all the hype over Amour. It’s beautifully acted but the type of film that usually gets an Oscar. I just didn’t love it and I found it rather conventional. Barbara just affected me more emotionally and the story surprised me.

    And to compare Barbara to The Hangover is idiotic.

  • Really, DaveyLow???

    This was the statement you made above:

    “Barbara is a much stronger film than AMOUR. It’s a shame it doesn’t have a campaign behind it.”

    You said that BARBARA was a MUCH stronger film than AMOUR. How would any reader translate that? You only now bring in the whole idea of what film affected you more, but either way your original statement made it clear that you genuinely believed that BARBARA was the better film and “easily” to boot.

    As far as Allan Fish’s HANGOVER comment, he was obviously being sarcastic, using what is in effect the same “over emphatic” language you used when you injected the word “easily” into your original statement.

    He wasn’t being idiotic at all. He was playing YOUR game, methinks, and he’s a scathing master at it.

  • Agreed on THE GREY having no place here for sure

    If it’s A.O. Scott’s list then he’s the one who gets to decide what has a place and what doesn’t.

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