2. "Zero Dark Thirty"
Kathryn Bigelow's startling achievement chronicles the 10 year hunt for Osama Bin Laden and intentionally leaves you pondering what's next.  Not just for Maya (Jessica Chastsain), the CIA operative who makes it her personal obsession to find Bin Laden, but the nation as a whole.

1. "The Impossible"
A remarkable masterpiece from director Juan Antonio Bayona, "The Impossible" transports the viewer into the perilous journey of a family whose life is almost swept away by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami while on holiday in Thailand. Based on a true story - perhaps more true than any "true story" this year - the drama is a riveting experience that will leave you breathless and emotionally drained. No other film moved me more.


"Silver Linings Playbook"
A career pinnacle for David O. Russell.  Funny, moving and oh, so real.

"Perks of Being a Wallflower"
A great coming of age movie for adults. Will grow in stature over the years.

"Anna Karenina"
A gorgeous, expertly directed adaptation of Tolstoy's classic novel. Imagine if Kate Winslet had been the lead instead of Knightley?

Two very good movies in one.

"The Cabin in the Woods"
Would have been a sensation if released two years ago as planned.  Now, an instant cult classic.

"The Dark Knight Rises"
Unfairly judged under a microscope because of its predecessor, "Rises" is still one of the best 20 movies of 2012 and easily one of the best comic book or superhero movies of all-time.

"End of Watch"
A very good movie featuring the best work of Jake Gyllenhaal's career.


"Rust and Bone"
A great movie until it severely falters in the third act.

"Magic Mike"
The most unexpected polarizing studio release of the year.

"21 Jump Street"
Funnier than anyone ever expected. Almost makes you hope they don't make the scheduled sequel.

"The Master"
Knockdown, classic performances. Unfortunately, most of the critics in America won't admit they have no idea what it wants to say (and no, Anderson didn't intend for it to be a rorschach test for moviegoers).

Loved the performances, but not sure some of Haneke's choices work as intended though.

"Life of Pi"

The most beautiful second act of any film in recent memory.

Frustrating, but compelling.

Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts below.

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With over a decade of experience in the movie industry, Ellwood survived working for two major studios and has written for Variety, MSN and the LA Times. A co-founder of HitFix, Ellwood spends his time relaxing hitting 3’s on the basketball court and following his beloved Clippers.