A SERIOUS MAN (Joel Coen) — In this brilliant black comedy, the Coen Brothers pose philosophical questions as they drag their poor protagonist through one humiliation after another, ending it all with a beautifully enigmatic shot.
THE WHITE RIBBON (Michael Haneke) — A haunting portrait of a small town in Germany on the eve of World War I, where mysterious cruel acts go unexplained and unpunished.
LORNA’S SILENCE (Luc and Jean-Paul Dardenne) — Yet another compelling movie from the Dardenne brothers about people living on the margins of society in Belgium, filmed and acted so realistically it looks like a documentary. A horrifying story that builds to an oddly rapturous climax.
IN THE LOOP (Armando Ianucci) — The year’s funniest movie, this sharp political satire from Britain features hilarious streams of bile flowing from the mouth of Peter Capaldi.
THE HURT LOCKER (Kathryn Bigelow) — Tense, realistic and sharply focused, this is what action movies should be.
POLICE, ADJECTIVE (Corneliu Porumboiu) — This Romanian film is a sort of deconstruction of cop movies: A stakeout where not much of anything happens. The climax, if you can call it that, is a cop looking up words in a dictionary. Slow-paced but absorbing, it’s a thoughtful exploration of exactly what we mean by law and order.
REVANCHE (Götz Spielmann) — This Austrian film has some of the elements of a crime caper or thriller, but it’s also a moral and philosophical drama, with superb acting and filmmaking.
SÉRAPHINE (Martin Provost) — Yolande Moreau gives one of the year’s best performances in this lovely film, starring as the French naïve painter Séraphine de Senlis.
ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL (Sacha Gervasi) — A great documentary about what it’s like to be in a rock band year after year without making it big. Funny and surprisingly heartwarming.
ADVENTURELAND (Greg Mottola) — A cool coming-of-age story that captures all the frustrations and awkwardness of being a young person groping toward romance and adulthood. (Awesome soundtrack, too.)
11. The Baader-Meinhof Complex (Uli Edel)
12. Bright Star (Jane Campion)
13. The Informant! (Steven Soderbergh)
14. Where the Wild Things Are (Spike Jonze)
15. Tulpan (Sergey Dvortsevoy)
16. Broken Embraces (Pedro Almodovar)
17. Eastern Plays (Kamen Kalev)
18. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Terry Gilliam)
19. The Beaches of Agnes (Agnes Varda)
20. Goodbye Solo (Ramin Bahrani)
21. The Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson)
22. Julia (Erick Zoncka)
23. 35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis)
24. Sita Sings the Blues (Nina Paley)
25. Tokyo Sonata (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
Nymph (Pen-ek Rantanarung)
Face (Tsai Ming-Liang)
Avatar (James Cameron)
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno (Ruxandra Medrea Annonier and Serge Bromberg)
The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel)
Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone)
An Education (Lone Scherfig)
Apres Lui (Gäel Morel)
Cropsey (Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (David Yates)
In Search of Beethoven (Phil Grabsky)
O’Horten (Bent Hamer)
Patti Smith: Dream of Life (Steven Sebring)
The Eclipse (Conor McPherson)
The Girl on the Train (Andre Techine)
Up (Pete Docter)