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The Best Indie Movies of 2012 So Far, According to Criticwire

Indiewire By Steve Greene and Eric Kohn | Indiewire June 28, 2012 at 12:26PM

With nearly six months of 2012 already gone, Criticwire takes a look back at the films with the highest averages of the year. Some are new favorites and some are holdovers from 2011 festivals, but there a number of 2012 movies that might become more well-known in the months (and years) to come.
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(clockwise from top left) "Sleepless Night," "Sleepwalk with Me," "High Tech, Low Life," "Graceland," "Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story"

With the year in film halfway over, over 200 critics listed in Indiewire's Criticwire network have submitted thousands of grades for movies that have played at film festivals in addition to opening in theaters and VOD.

Halfway through 2012, Criticwire’s lists of the top films of the year feature an interesting blend of films that have largely been discovered at festivals such as Sundance, Cannes, Toronto and Tribeca.

Overall, documentaries performed especially strong, with a trio of Tribeca offerings topping the list. Of the films that qualified for these lists, three of the five films to average a 10.0 or higher on our Criticwire grading scale were documentaries. As June winds down, Raymond De Felitta's "Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story" holds the mid-2012 mantle, occupying a spot that went last year to Steve James' "The Interrupters."

Different festivals wound up providing fodder for each of the individual lists based on their various specialties. Sundance helped launch many of the top English Language films, while Cannes gave rise to nearly half of those in the Foreign Language category. Seven of the top ten theatrical premieres were films that debuted at 2011 festivals, suggesting that some of the top films on this list may have significant staying power if their distribution plans extend into 2013.

As with any ongoing grading system, these ratings are intended to serve as a temporary glimpse at some of the buzzworthy films to screen this year, rather than a final, definitive statement on any film's worth. For each list, we've indicated the number of grades that each film has received in order to distinguish between the juggernaughts that seemingly everyone has discussed and those that only a select few critics have seen.

We broke down the highest graded films into five main categories: Theatrical Premieres, Festival Premieres, Documentary, English Language, and Foreign Language. In order to qualify, the film must have premiered at a 2012 festival or received a theatrical release over the past six months. Additionally, to pare down the sheer volume of potential entries, we limited the field to movies for which at least five different Criticwire members had submitted grades.

Continue to the next page for the lists.

Note: While all grades are accurate at the time of this article's publishing, they remain subject to change as always.

Top Theatrical Releases of 2012:

1. Sleepless Night (Film Page), directed by Frederic Jardin (2011 TIFF - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (10.125 out of 12.0, 16 reviews)

2. This is Not a Film (Film Page), directed by Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmas (2011 Cannes - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.75 out of 12.0, 28 reviews)

3. The Turin Horse (Film Page), directed by Bela Tarr (2011 Berlin - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire rating: A- (9.714 out of 12.0, 20 reviews)

4. The Island President (Film Page), directed by Jon Shenk (2011 TIFF - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.5 out of 12.0, 10 reviews)

5. Under African Skies (Film Page), directed by Joe Berlinger (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (9.375 out of 12.0, 8 reviews)

6. The Raid: Redemption (Film Page), directed by Gareth Evans (2011 TIFF - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (9.349 out of 12.0, 43 reviews)

T7. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (Film Page), directed by David Gelb (2011 TIFF - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire rating: B+ (9.25 out of 12.0, 11 reviews)

T7. I Wish (Film Page), directed by Hirozaku Kore-Eda (2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (9.25 out of 12.0, 16 reviews)

9. The Kid with a Bike (Film Page), directed by Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne (2011 Cannes - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (9.2 out of 12.0, 54 reviews)

10. 5 Broken Cameras (Film Page), directed by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (9.143 out of 12.0, 14 reviews)

Runners-up: "The Secret World of Arrietty," "Oslo, August 31st," "Attenberg"

Top Documentaries of 2012:

1. Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story (Film Page), directed by Raymond De Felitta (2012 Festival Premiere - Tribeca)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (10.286 out of 12.0, 7 reviews)

2. High Tech, Low Life (Film Page), directed by Stephen Maing (2012 Festival Premiere - Tribeca)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (10.125 out of 12.0, 8 reviews)

3. Journey to Planet X (Film Page), directed by Myles Kane and Josh Koury (2012 Festival Premiere - Tribeca)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (10.0 out of 12.0, 7 reviews)

4. The Invisible War (Film Page), directed by Kirby Dick (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.9 out of 12.0, 10 reviews)

5. Tchoupitoulas (Film Page), directed by Bill Ross and Turner Ross (2012 Festival Premiere - SXSW)
Average Criticwire rating: A- (9.833 out of 12.0, 6 reviews)

6. This is Not a Film (Film Page), directed by Jafar Panahi and Majtaba Mirtahmas (2011 Cannes - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.75 out of 12.0, 28 reviews)

7. Side by Side (Film Page), directed by Chris Kenneally (2012 Festival Premiere - Berlin) 
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.583 out of 12.0, 12 reviews)

T8. The Island President (Film Page), directed by Jon Shenk (2011 TIFF - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.5 out of 12.0, 10 reviews)

T8. West of Memphis (Film Page), directed by Amy Berg (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.5 out of 12.0, 10 reviews)

10. Under African Skies (Film Page), directed by Joe Berlinger (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (9.375 out of 12.0, 10 reviews)

Runners-up: "Searching for Sugar Man," "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," "How to Survive a Plague"

Continue to the next page for lists for the top foreign-language films, English-language films and festival premieres.

Top Foreigh-Language Features of 2012:

1. Sleepless Night (Film Page), directed by Frederic Jardin (2011 TIFF - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire rating: A- (10.125 out of 12.0, 16 reviews)

2. Graceland (Film Page), directed by Ron Morales (2012 Festival Premiere - Tribeca)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (10.0 out of 12.0, 6 reviews)

3. Holy Motors (Film Page), directed by Leos Carax (2012 Festival Premiere - Cannes)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.92 out of 12.0, 25 reviews)

4. Amour (Film Page), directed by Michael Haneke (2012 Festival Premiere - Cannes)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.8 out of 12.0, 30 reviews)

5. No (Film Page), directed by Pablo Larrain (2012 Festival Premiere - Cannes)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.786 out of 12.0, 14 reviews)

6. The Turin Horse (Film Page), directed by Bela Tarr (2011 Berlin - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire rating: A- (9.714 out of 12.0, 20 reviews)

7. The Raid: Redemption (Film Page), directed by Gareth Evans (2011 TIFF - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (9.349 out of 12.0, 43 reviews)

8. I Wish (Film Page), directed by Hirozaku Kore-Eda (2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (9.25 out of 12.0, 16 reviews)

9. The Kid with a Bike (Film Page), directed by Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne (2011 Cannes - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (9.2 out of 12.0, 54 reviews)

10. Yossi (Film Page), directed by Eytan Fox (2012 Festival Premiere - Tribeca)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (9.167 out of 12.0, 6 reviews)

Runners-up: "The Secret World of Arrietty," "Oslo, August 31st," "Attenberg"

Top Festival Premieres of 2012:

1. Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story (Film Page), directed by Raymond De Felitta (2012 Festival Premiere - Tribeca)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (10.286 out of 12.0, 7 reviews)

2. High Tech, Low Life (Film Page), directed by Stephen T. Maing (2012 Festival Premiere - Tribeca)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (10.125 out of 12.0, 8 reviews)

3. Journey to Planet X (Film Page), directed by Myles Kane and Josh Koury (2012 Festival Premiere - Tribeca)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (10.0 out of 12.0, 7 reviews)

4. Holy Motors (Film Page), directed by Leos Carax (2012 Festival Premiere - Cannes)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.92 out of 12.0, 25 reviews)

5. The Invisible War (Film Page), directed by Kirby Dick (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire rating: A- (9.9 out of 12.0, 10 reviews)

6. Tchoupitoulas (Film Page), directed by Bill Ross and Turner Ross (2012 Festival Premiere - SXSW)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.833 out of 12.0, 6 reviews)

7. Amour (Film Page), directed by Michael Haneke (2012 Festival Premiere - Cannes)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.8 out of 12.0, 30 reviews)

8. No (Film Page), directed by Pablo Larrain (2012 Festival Premiere - Cannes)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.786 out of 12.0, 14 reviews)

9. Side by Side (Film Page), directed by Chris Kenneally (2012 Festival Premiere - Berlin)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.583 out of 12.0, 12 reviews)

10. West of Memphis (Film Page), directed by Amy Berg (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire ratingA- (9.5 out of 12.0, 10 reviews)

Runners-up: "Under African Skies," "Searching for Sugar Man," "Sleepwalk with Me"

Top English-Language Features of 2012:

1. Sleepwalk with Me (Film Page), directed by Mike Birbiglia and Seth Barrish (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire rating: B+ (9.364 out of 12.0, 11 reviews)

2. Sightseers (Film Page), directed by Ben Wheatley (2012 Festival Premiere - Cannes)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (9.083 out of 12.0, 12 reviews)

3. Compliance (Film Page), directed by Craig Zobel (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (9.0 out of 12.0, 27 reviews)

4. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Film Page), directed by Benh Zeitlin (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (8.962 out of 12.0, 53 reviews)

5. Sound of My Voice (Film Page), directed by Zal Batmanglij (2011 Sundance - 2012 Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire rating: B+ (8.875 out of 12.0, 16 reviews)

6. The Surrogate (Film Page), directed by Ben Lewin (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire rating: B+ (8.857 out of 12.0, 21 reviews)

7. Moonrise Kingdom (Film Page), directed by Wes Anderson (2012 Festival Premiere - Cannes, Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (8.842 out of 12.0, 57 reviews)

8. The Cabin in the Woods (Film Page), directed by Drew Goddard (2012 Festival Premiere - SXSW, Theatrical Release)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (8.821 out of 12.0, 5 reviews)

9. Liberal Arts (Film Page), directed by Josh Radnor (2012 Festival Premiere - Sundance)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (8.818 out of 12.0, 11 reviews)

10. Somebody Up There Likes Me (Film Page), directed by Bob Byington (2012 Festival Premiere - SXSW)
Average Criticwire ratingB+ (8.8 out of 12.0, 11 reviews)

Runners-up: "You Are Here," "Your Sister's Sister," "Bernie"

This article is related to: Sleepless Night, This is Not a Film (In Film Nist), The Turin Horse, The Island President, Under African Skies, The Raid: Redemption, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I Wish, The Kid With a Bike, 5 Broken Cameras, Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story, High Tech, Low Life, Journey to Planet X, The Invisible War, Tchoupitoulas, Side by Side, West of Memphis, Graceland, Holy Motors , Amour, No, Yossi, Sleepwalk With Me, Sightseers, Compliance, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Sound of My Voice, The Sessions, Moonrise Kingdom, The Cabin in The Woods, Liberal Arts, Somebody Up There Likes Me



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