10. The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)
The Academy Award winner for Best Picture is a thrilling, intense piece of work from director Kathryn Bigelow. The vignette-esque structure of the film is actually a character study of a man who works in the bomb disposal unit during the Iraq War and how his psyche is shaped by the horrors of war. It features a star-making performance by lead actor Jeremy Renner who takes through the pulse-pounding masterfully directed sequences with the bombs.
09. The Road (John Hillcoat)
I actually debated with myself whether or not to place this film in my list because I'm such a HUGE fan of the Cormac McCarthy novel. I will say off the bat, this is not a perfect adaptation but the novel is so poetic and so literary that its translation into celluloid is going to be very tricky. It is far from perfect but I do think it MOSTLY pulled it off thanks to the excellent performances of the two leads, Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee as the nameless father-son duo trying to survive a harsh, bleak, post-apocalyptic world. The strength of the material shines through and therefore earns a place in my list.
08. A Prophet (Jacques Audiard)
This is quite possibly the best prison film of this century so far. It is an intense, brutal and violent film about a 19 year old French Algerian who gets himself caught in the battle between two major groups of inmates, the Corsicans and the Muslims. It features one of the most unforgettable and shocking murder scenes of recent memory and fantastic performances.
07. Up (Pete Docter)
06. District 9 (Neil Blomkamp)
05. In The Loop (Armando Ianucci)
This is a spin-off of sorts of the BBC comedy television series The Thick of It. But you need not be a fan of that show to love and appreciate this biting and hilarious satire on the politics concerning the war on Iraq. F-bombs and cracking insults fly almost as soon as it starts and it almost never stops and the outstanding ensemble lead by Peter Capaldi all make it a joy to watch.
04. Up in the Air (Jason Reitman)
Writer-director Jason Reitman continues his ascent as one of his generation's best filmmakers with this smart, wonderfully acted comedy-drama about a man who simply travels the country firing people and suddenly is forced to deal with his own humanity. George Clooney gives probably one of his career-best performances and he is supported by the wonderful Anna Kendrick and the luminescent Vera Farmiga.
03. The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke)
02. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson)
01. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
Runners-Up: Where The Wild Things Are (Spike Jonze), (500) Days of Summer (Marc Webb), A Serious Man (Joel Coen/Ethan Coen), Moon (Duncan Jones), An Education (Lone Scherfig).