The annual disclaimer: I will not be so bold as to say these are the “best” movies of the year – they are my personal favorites.  These are the movies that have stuck with me; movies I’m really glad I saw and think you should see, too.  Frankly, I didn’t see all of the 600+ movies released in 2012, and I admittedly missed some major contenders.  Let me also point out that if you were a KCRW Angel, you could have seen most of these films for FREE, WITH A FRIEND, before they came out.  

And so, in no particular order, here they are.  Enjoy!

Polisse – The story of a Parisian police squad dedicated to fighting child abuse is not as serious as it sounds: in fact, it’s a rip-roaring, often hilarious ride that includes a great love story.  This is one of those flawless movies that moves seemlessly from beat to beat, idea to idea, emotion to emotion.

Amour – Michael Hanneke’s Palme D’Or-winning look at what love really means is sure-handed and powerful from the first frame.  Yes it’s devastating, but it’s also lovely and, in it’s own way, very romantic.

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon – This tiny little bar-bet of a movie could have been just silly, but the story of two grown brothers fighting for superiority through a series of childish games manages to be uber-entertaining and pack an emotional punch.

Beasts of the Southern Wild - Some movies are movies, some are an artistic vision; this is one of the latter.  This a film that creates an astonishing, fully-formed world (and captures it with it’s own cinematic vocabulary) that is separate but inextricably linked to our own.  It’s not a perfect movie, but it is perfectly amazing.

The Intouchables - The story of a rich, handsome quadriplegic and his street-smart caregiver is the feel-good movie of the year…and I hate feel-good movies.  But the chemistry between the two leads and the director’s light-touch tore down my defenses…my face still hurts from smiling.

Tonight You’re Mine - Filmed on location at Scotland’s sprawling T in the Park music festival, it captures all the messiness, madness and magic of a single night at one of the world’s biggest parties.

Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan’s Hope - A movie about geeks, nerds and outcasts that makes you desperately want to be one.  More than just an amazingly well-made, fun document of a very particular world and the people who love it, it’s a moving portrait of dedication to craft and the search for family.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi - Japan’s greatest sushi maker (a man who looks remarkably like a turtle) plies his fastidious trade at a tiny shop in the Tokyo subway.  This is a beautifully shot homage to – and condemnation of – perfectionism and a deft (and possibly unintended) commentary on Japanese culture.  You’ll be dying for sushi afterwards, but no place will seem adequate.

Miss Bala - A rollercoaster of a movie about an innocent girl who becomes a pawn in the Mexican drug war.  It’s a rootin’-tootin’ entertainment that puts a human face on the terrible news that’s constantly bleeding across our southern border.

The Gatekeepers - Six former heads of Israeli’s security service speak eloquently, honestly and disturbingly about the fight against terror.  A powerful gut-punch of movie…and maybe the best doc this year.

Other terrific movies: Beauty is Embarrassing  Bestiare, The Ambassador, Kumare’, Argo, Monsieur Lazhar, Sister, Starlet, Oslo August 31st, Brave, Django Unchained, The Waiting Room, The Impossible, Bullhead, Klown, How to Survive a Plague, Planet of Snail, Samsara, The Imposter, The Central Park Five, Hecho En Mexico, The Island President, The Invisible War, Ballplayer: Pelotero, Beware of Mr. Baker, Looper, The Snowtown Murders, Bernie, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, The Deep, 17 Girls, The Deep, We Have a Pope.

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  • Anonymous

    This is an excellent list, Matt! There’s an amazing documentary, however, that I feel is missing from your list: “Women with Cows.” Have you seen it? If you like cows, women, and good filmmaking, it will not disappoint.

  • Anonymous

    Idiot.

  • Anonymous

    How can I have seen so few of these… I’m really falling down. I need to get on top of it! Pronto!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Steve. I needed that.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, I have heard tell of it. It really does sound wonderful. However, it was not distributed here in good ol’ the US of A, so I didn’t include it. Thank you so much for your bovine input.

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