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BEST 10. How to Survive a Plague
A rigorous, impassioned, and powerful-as-hell report on heroism and bravery during the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic.
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BEST 9. The Loneliest Planet
A small, emotionally profound indie that works as a relationship study set against big, stark foreign mountains.
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BEST 8. Skyfall
Dark, sleek, aware of mortality, and making way for the new — in other words, one of the best James Bond pics, ever.
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BEST 7. Beasts of the Southern Wild
A wildly original, magic-tinged eco-fable, washed up on the shores of a post-Katrina world and starring the year's littlest acting phenom.
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BEST 6. The Gatekeepers
This vitally important Israeli documentary is a feat, first of access (to former heads of the Israeli Secret Service) and second, of passionate and appropriately unsettling political commentary.
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BEST 5. Argo
Not only a crackerjack thriller, but also improbably true — mostly!
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BEST 4. Amour
The year's most exquisitely adult story, about loving and aging and dying.
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BEST 3. The Master
The year's greatest cinematic enigma, personified in an electric duet between Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
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BEST 2. Lincoln
A remarkable action movie: The action consists of a brilliant president engaged in the vital, messy work of American democracy.
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BEST 1. Zero Dark Thirty
Filmmaking in towering command of a true search-and-destroy story, wired to be powerfully personal for each viewer.
NEXT: Lisa's picks for the worst movies of the year...
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WORST 5. Trouble With the Curve
Tired ''Get off my lawn!'' growls from Clint Eastwood in an irredeemably derivative sports-redemption drama.
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WORST 4. Butter
A rancid political comedy, self-righteous and smug, that backfires in pandering to its intended liberal audience.
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WORST 3. Hyde Park on Hudson
Tacky, tittery conjecture about FDR's sex life, disguised as a tra-la-la Downton Abbey spin-off.
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WORST 2. That's What She Said
The nadir of equal-opportunity femme raunch, featuring a stubborn vaginal yeast infection.
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WORST 1. Hitchcock
A square, synthetic, and unconscionably doctored ''bio''-drama about one of cinema's most unsquare directors.