Special Mentions: The Help (incredible cast, great performances, but the impact falls short of the book as it fails to capture the brutal racism in the books), Margin Call (possibly one of the best Wall Street dramas ever), The Muppets (mahna mahna).
10) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
An impeccable cast. A complex narrative. A gloomy Cold-War atmosphere. All these three come together to make a fine spy film, one with no action but a lot of story. Director Tomas Alfredson has successfully made the thinking mans espionage thriller.
9) War Horse
Sure you can deride it by saying it's schmaltzy. But this is Spielberg we're talking about, back in his war film mode but this time with a difference. The film is shown from the perspective of a horse! Sure it's sentimental, but its a worhty follow up to Saving Private Ryan and I can't give it higher praise than that.
8) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
After a couple years of making oscar-bait films, David Fincher returns to his thriller roots. Rape, Violence, muder, Nazis, this movie has it all. I won't deny it, the film, like the book has certain problems, especially an elongated prologue. But Fincher rises above the source material. That and Rooney Mara's mesmerizing performance as Lisbeth Salander echoing both toughness and vulnerability in the same breath, combine to give us a really well made thriller.
An old fashioned noir film, but presented a sleak, modern manner, Drive is as close to a perfect arthouse action film that we'll ever get, which is arthouse without being pretentious. Stylized violence, Ryan Gosling, and a great score make a memorable neo-noir.
6) Midnight in Paris
Woody Allen always makes great 'ode to city' movies. Sure he's had several misfires over the years, with few in the recent past rising to the levels of Annie Hall, but Midnight in Paris is his best work in years. A truly well written film in which Owen Wilso (playing a Woody Allen substitute) finds a way to go to Paris in 20s. The interactions he has with historical greats such as Fitzgerald and Hemingway are a joy to watch, while the films funniest moments are when Salvador Dali is shown.
Moneyball is a sports drama unlike any other. A movie about how Oakland A's Manager Billy Beane led the team to a record breaking 20 straight wins, using the 'moneyball' technique, its more about number crunching than an actual baseball film, but at no stage in the film does it feel so. Also Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill give the performances of their careers.
A cancer drama, a bro comedy, a romcom all in one, 50/50 was a true gem of a movie. Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, screenwriter Will Resier and director Jonathan Levine make cancer funny. I wish more people had seen this movie, because it truly is one of the best of the year.
3) The Descendants
A movie about a man who learns that his comatose wife was cheating on him, The Descendants is equal parts funny and heartbreaking. This movie would have been good on its own, but what makes it great is George Clooneys mesmerizing performance. If this doesn't get him the Oscar for Best Actor, I don't know what will.
I'm sure a lot of people went 'WTF?!' when they heard Martin Scorsese was making a kids film. But make no mistake, this is a tribute to cinema in the guise of a children's film. Scorsese steps right out of his comfort zone to make a truly spellbinding film which is more personal than any of his previous works. It's right up there with the likes of Raging Bull and Goodfellas, and is a must watch for every cinemaphile.
1) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
And speaking of spellbinding films, here's one which will be remembered for generations to come. The finale to one of the best film franchises ever to have graced the big screen was not only the best film of the year, but in my personal opinion one of the best of all time (And IMDB agress). It truly was the motion picture event of the year, a grand epic like they used to make and a film which catapulted the entire franchise into the league of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. I don't think I'm alone in thinking that this was a cinematic spectacle, one which we might not see for several years hence.
PS: Screw you Oscars.