Creating this list has filled me with a dizzying amount of joy and dread. 2012 was a year that offered so many examples of daring and thrilling cinema that it was difficult to even determine what the criteria should be for a list of my personal ten favorites. In the end, I went with my gut, selecting those films that not only hit me hard in the theater, but also lingered with me for days, weeks, or months afterwards. All of which I can still vividly recall.

I focused on the films first, ignoring their periphery. But afterwards I was pleased to see films released from each season, as well as a mix of studio and indie features, made here and abroad (well, the U.K. and Canada.) And with so few female directors getting buzz this awards season, I was happy that three films helmed by women not only made my list, but moreover made my top five!

My only regret in this moment is that I couldn't include festival favorites, Sally Potter's Ginger & Rosa, as it won't get a domestic release until February of 2013, and the enigmatic yet haunting Indonesian drama Postcards from the Zoo, which shamefully hasn't gotten U.S. distribution. Still, I'm in love with this collection of movies, some of which messed with my head, others rattled my nerves, and the rest played with my heart, swelling it and breaking it in turn. Just reflecting back on them all was as exhausting as it was rewarding.

#10: Cosmopolis
I have to confess, ten minutes into David Cronenberg's deeply bizarre political thriller, I was slouched in my seat scowling and hating it. The performance style was so wooden it was grating. The lighting made everything look flat and ugly. The dialogue was stuffed with business talk I couldn't follow, so I gave up. I quit trying to understand Cosmopolis. Then, the rush of words and weird imagery, from riots with effigy rats, to a squirm-inducing proctology exam, and mountingly strange sexual encounters, washed over me. At some point along the world's most winding path to get a haircut, I found myself totally riveted. To get across a story of a man so wealthy he feels above everyone and everything, Cronenberg made his movie revolting, and in doing so delivered a more fascinating and bolder political message about the age of Operation Wall Street than any other filmmaker has yet dared.

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