The best films of 2012

We asked over 90 international critics to nominate their top five films and their highlights of 2012. Their top picks are below, with a selection of their comments; you can read more selections in our January 2013 issue.


1 The Master

Paul Thomas Anderson, USA

The sheer, radioactive strangeness of the film is what exerts the initial grip – then the outstanding performance of Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Quell. Perhaps it should have been called ‘The Disciple’.
—Peter Bradshaw

Read Nick Pinkerton’s review online
→ Read Graham Fuller’s analysis of the film and James Bell’s interview with Paul Thomas Anderson in our December 2012 issue [Subscribers’ link]

2 Tabu

Miguel Gomes, Portugal/Germany/France

In turning a melancholy drama about three lonely women in modern Lisbon into an African colonial idyll of adulterous love, Portuguese director Miguel Gomes pulled off the year’s greatest conjuring trick.
—Graham Fuller

Read Trevor Johnston’s review online
→ Read Mar Diestro-Dópido’s interview with Miguel Gomes in our September 2012 issue [Subscribers’ link]

3 Amour

Michael Haneke, France/Germany/Austria

A devastating experience that joins Michael Haneke’s icy, immaculate style to an intrinsically emotional subject: what happens to a harmonious marriage when the wife suffers a series of debilitating strokes.
—Kenneth Turan

Read Catherine Wheatley’s review online
→ Read Geoff Andrew’s career interview with Michael Haneke in our November 2012 issue [Subscribers’ link]

4 Holy Motors

Leos Carax, France/Germany

Born from the womb of cinephilic history, raised into a many-headed beast, dangerous and passionate, it shows how cinema can recall its past and augur its future.
—Kong Rithdee

Read Ginette Vincendeau’s review online
→ Read David Thompson’s decoding of the film in our September 2012 issue [Subscribers’ link]

5= Beasts of the Southern Wild

Benh Zeitlin, USA

I’ll never forget Quvenzhané Wallis cookin’ up a storm with a blowtorch, or the miracles unfolding in the sweaty Cajun bayou. First features don’t get much better.
—Kate Muir



Read Isabel Stevens’ interview with Benh Zeitlin online
→ Read Nick Pinkerton’s review in our November 2012 issue [Subscribers’ link]

5= Berberian Sound Studio

Peter Strickland, UK/Germany

Sound is pivotal in Peter Strickland’s blackly comic, stylish and off-kilter riff on 1970s Italian horror, which thumbs its nose at English pastoral roots – with a very English irreverence.
—Carmen Gray


Read Sam Davies’ review online
→ Read Jason Wood’s interview with Peter Strickland and Geoffrey Macnab’s with Toby Jones in our September 2012 issue [Subscribers’ link]

7 Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson, USA

Wes Anderson’s film struck a chord in its exuberant use of Benjamin Britten’s music, but I also loved it for its great humour and surprising (for this director) humanity.
—David Thompson

→ Read Nick Pinkerton’s interview with Wes Anderson in our June 2012 issue [Subscribers’ link] and Sam Davies’ review in our July 2012 issue [Subscribers’ link]


8= Beyond the Hills

Cristian Mungiu, Romania/France/Belgium

The brilliant final scene cemented my faith in Cristian Mungiu’s sensitive and searing realisation of this story – based on real events – of a disruptive intruder persecuted by a religious community.
—Nick James

Read Geoff Andrew’s festival blog post online

8= Cosmopolis

David Cronenberg, Canada/France/Portugal/Italy

David Cronenberg’s sleek adaptation of Don DeLillo’s urban road movie, as elegant, cool and rebarbative as the stretch limo Robert Pattinson’s antihero travels in.
—Philip French

→ Read Jonathan Romney’s interview with David Cronenberg and Nick James’s review in our July 2012 issue [Subscribers’ link]


8= Once upon a Time in Anatolia

Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey/Bosnia & Herzegovina

Like a nod to Yilmaz Güney’s 1982 classic Yol, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s film takes on the multilayers of Turkish life in an epic road movie. Perfect cinema, for me.
—Suzy Gillett



→ Read Geoff Andrew’s interview with Nuri Bilge Ceylan on page 28 and Wally Hammond’s review on page 72 of our April 2012 issue [Subscribers’ link]

8= This Is Not a Film

Jafar Panahi & Mojtaba Mirtahmaseb, Iran

A sketch for an imagined film, an essay on both the nature of reality and the ever-expanding properties of lo-fi digital cinema, this is a funny and moving portrait of the artist as prisoner of conscience.
—Sophie Mayer

Read Amy Taubin’s festival report
→ Read Jonathan Romney’s review on page 78 of our April 2012 issue [Subscribers’ link]

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