2. Beasts of the Southern Wild
Great movies transport us to wondrous lands that we might never experience if not for the courage and fortitude of a gifted filmmaker. It amazes me that The Bathtub – the waterlogged Bayou community at the heart of Beasts – exists in our country. Director Benh Zeitlin doesn’t just introduce us to the incomparable denizens of this surreal (yet wholly recognizable) land … he also convinces us why these Southern folk would fight to the death for the ability to stay in the place they proudly call home. Beasts bursts with valuable lessons about family, survival, human strength and paternal love. But the jaw-dropping performances, emotional score and sheer originality of Zeitlin’s storytelling make it my No. 2 pick for the year.

Best Moment: The Bathtub’s mangy residents hold a festive funeral for friends and neighbors they couldn’t find after the storm. When prideful father Wink sees another man teaching Hushpuppy how to open a crab shell with a knife, the overprotective patriarch demands his daughter “beast it” open, knowing that she’ll have to toughen up to fend for herself after he is gone.

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