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Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Steve Greene and Eric Kohn
June 28, 2012 12:26 PM
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The Best Indie Movies of 2012 So Far, According to Criticwire

(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.


  • T.J. | January 27, 2014 7:32 AMReply

    I am hoping someone can help me find the name of a film. I believe it was a 2012 Independent film. The film centered on teenagers living in a halfway house for various reasons. The film was not a documentary. Many of them center on mental health issues. The film dealt with the affects of living in, and leaving a halfway house because some teenagers were about to become legal adults. Any help would be appreciated!

  • Shams | March 20, 2014 6:29 AM

    Is it Short Term 12 ?

  • Nahomy | May 24, 2013 4:15 PMReply

    1. Moonrise Kingdom
    2. Remember the daze
    3. The myth of the american sleepover
    4. Holy Motors
    5. 50/50
    6. Seeking a friend for the end of the world
    7. Precious
    8. Silver linings playbook
    9. It's kind of a funny story
    10. 500 days of summer
    11. Take this waltz
    12.Safety not guaranteed
    13. The best exotic marigold hotel
    14. 17 girls
    15. The kids are all right
    16. December boys
    17. The Deep
    18. Were the world mine
    19. Beasts of the southern wild
    20. The runaways
    are my to 20 favorite indie films :)

  • me | January 10, 2013 7:45 PMReply


  • AJ | November 19, 2012 5:59 PMReply

    You should probably have at least listed a synopsis for each movie. With no details, the list is pretty worthless.

  • brian godshall | June 29, 2012 2:37 PMReply

    I think that SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED is one of the best indie films so far this year.

  • Ethan | December 20, 2012 1:04 PM

    i 100% agree with you also Moonrise Kingdom is one of the best movie I have seen this year