The top 10 films of 2012, according to AP Movie Critic Christy Lemire:
1. "Argo" - Directing just his third feature, Ben Affleck has come up with a seamless blend of detailed international drama and breathtaking suspense, with just the right amount of dry humor to provide context and levity. The story of a rescue during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis sounds like eat-your-vegetables cinema, and mixing it with an inside-Hollywood comedy sounds impossible, but Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio pull it all off.
2. "Beasts of the Southern Wild" - This is sheer poetry on screen, one of the most visceral, original films to come along in a while. The story of a little girl named Hushpuppy living with her daddy on a remote, primal strip of eroding land in the southernmost reaches of the Louisiana bayou is so ambitious and so accomplished, it's amazing that it's only director Benh Zeitlin's first feature.
The Associated Press
Daniel Craig starred as James Bond in “Skyfall,” the most critically acclaimed film in the history of the series.
3. "Skyfall" - One of the best James Bond films ever starring the best Bond yet in Daniel Craig. It's also the most gorgeous installment in the 23-film franchise, with Sam Mendes directing and Roger Deakins as cinematographer. It's full of the requisite thrills but also complicated and meaty, featuring an agent who isn't always slick and doesn't always have the answers in hunting an elusive cyberterrorist (a fantastic Javier Bardem).
4. "Holy Motors" - Yes, this is a capital-A art film, one that challenges the viewer and leaves a lot of room for interpretation, but that's part of the adventure. Denis Lavant gives a tour-de-force performance, assuming nine different roles as a mysterious man who travels around Paris in the back of a limousine all day, carrying out various assignments. Hop in and buckle up.
5. "Zero Dark Thirty" - A huge achievement from both technical and storytelling perspectives. Following the Oscar success of "The Hurt Locker," director Kathryn Bigelow reteams with writer Mark Boal to tell an even larger and more complicated story: the decade-long hunt for Osama bun Laden. The attention to detail, to getting it right each step of the way, is evident in every element.
6. "The Master" - Paul Thomas Anderson has created a startling, stunningly gorgeous film, with impeccable production design and powerful performances from stars Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams. But this story of a wayward man and the charismatic cult leader who guides him is also his most ambitious film yet.
7. "The Imposter" - A gripping documentary about a missing boy filled with the kind of twists, turns and dramatic character revelations of a page-turner mystery. Director Bart Layton takes a story that was already fascinatingly weird to begin with and makes it even more compelling by structuring it as a shadowy film noir.
8. "Moonrise Kingdom" - If you love Wes Anderson, you'll love this: The best of what he can do is vibrantly on display. The contradiction inherent to all of Anderson's films - the juxtaposition of the meticulous artificiality of the settings and the passionately wistful emotions that are longing to burst free - is at its most effective in a while in this tale of first love.
9. "Oslo, August 31st" - A film of quietly intense precision and vividly honest humanity. Anders Danielsen Lie gives one of the great, underappreciated performances of the year as a heroin addict who's allowed to leave rehab for the day to head into the Norwegian capital for a job interview. It's a performance of both subtlety and darkness, as director Joachim Trier leads him down an unpredictable and poignant path.
10. "This Is Not a Film" - Veteran Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi's homemade documentary is simultaneously depressing as hell and brimming with hope and defiance. It finds beauty in the mundane and even boring details of daily life. Panahi shot it over the course of a day in his Tehran apartment while under house arrest and had it smuggled out in a cake. The most modest film on the list but also the most important.
The top 10 films of 2012, according to AP Movie Writer David Germain:
1. "Moonrise Kingdom" - Wes Anderson presents a wondrous romance about two 12-year-old runaways seeking refuge from life's cruelties and disappointments. Newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward beguile us with performances precociously passionate yet disarmingly innocent, complemented by a group of sweet adult sad-sacks - Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis and Edward Norton - who find respite from disillusionment with a glimpse through the kids' pure eyes.
2. "Life of Pi" - A film about a youth alone on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger has no business working. But Ang Lee adapts Yann Martel's introspective novel with inspired narrative wiles and glorious visuals presented in 3-D that lovingly enfolds and enlarges the action. Newcomer Suraj Sharma is a marvel as the teen cast adrift.
3. "Zero Dark Thirty" - Kathryn Bigelow follows her Academy Award triumph on "The Hurt Locker" with a docudrama of even greater ambition and scope. Collaborating again with screenwriter Mark Boal, Bigelow crafts a studiously detailed, relentlessly paced chronicle about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Jessica Chastain is ferocious as a CIA analyst tracking bin Laden with almost blind obsession.
4. "Argo" - Ben Affleck surges forward as both actor and director with this true-life story of a CIA operative who concocted an incredible ruse to free six Americans from Iran disguised as a movie crew after the 1979 embassy takeover. The film has it all - smarts, suspense, dark laughs, exacting attention to period style.
5. "Searching for Sugar Man" - Imagine the bitterness of the true artist who fades back to obscurity after being on the verge of stardom. Now imagine a soul so noble that bitterness never enters the picture. That's a guy who truly deserves another chance. Singer-songwriter Rodriquez gets just that as Malik Bendjelloul's inspiring documentary recounts apocryphal rumors about his fate - then reveals what really happened.
6. "Rust and Bone" - Jacques Audiard delivers one of the oddest of screen couples in this deeply involving and completely unpredictable romantic drama about a whale trainer (Marion Cotillard) who loses her legs in an orca accident and a negligent single dad (Matthias Schoenaerts) training as a mixed martial-arts fighter. Audiard and his devoted stars find so many moments of grace and pathos that the relationship grows from tenuous to genuine with complete conviction.
7. "The Master" - Good thing Joaquin Phoenix's retirement turned out to be a hoax. He does his best work ever in his return to the screen as a volatile World War II vet who becomes both disciple and antagonist to an L. Ron Hubbard-style cult leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman, in a performance rivaling his own career high in "Capote").
8. "Lincoln" - Few performances qualify as monumental. That's the best word to characterize Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, though. He vanishes into the president's awkward, folksy, melancholy spirit, creating an unforgettable portrait of greatness that pretty much puts to rest any thought of another actor trying his hand at a serious portrayal of Lincoln for a good long while.
9. "West of Memphis" - This is a vote not only for a film, but for artists who joined in protest to save three men from prison after they were convicted in the 1993 slayings of three Cub Scouts. Inspired by an earlier documentary about the case, Peter Jackson and wife, Fran Walsh, bankrolled their own investigation and produced this new film by Amy Berg. The story's enthralling, the climax triumphant.
10. "Looper" - For someone who thinks Bruce Willis' "Twelve Monkeys" is the defining time-travel flick, it's irresistible to see him in another clever, careening tale of time-hopping. Joseph Gordon-Levitt wonderfully channels the younger Willis as a hit man whose latest assignment is to snuff his older self.
- The Associated Press