#3: Zero Dark Thirty
After providing a grim outlet for Iraq War exhaustion with The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal have more than outdone themselves, unspooling the complex and riveting tale of the hunt to kill Osama bin Laden. Beginning with an audio recreation of 9/11 and ending on the bewildered face of the woman (the amazing Jessica Chastain) who led the hunt, the film never loses sight of the emotional stakes, but revels in the tiny wonky details that led to immense rewards. The death of bin Laden was cathartic for an entire country, but this is the much more complicated, endlessly fascinating story that made that possible.

Best Moment: Maya meets with CIA chief Leon Panetta (James Gandolfini) to show him how she found bin Laden's compound, and shows an incredible spine of steel.

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