The Top 10 Foreign Films of 2012
After counting hundreds of your votes, we’ve compiled the final list of the 10 best international films of 2012.
It was a stellar year for film, with over 40 different movies submitted by you in the voting process.The final ten are from all over the world – including Russia, France, Iran and Turkey.
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10. A Royal Affair (Denmark)
Nikolaj Arcel’s lavish period piece won this year’s Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, and was critically acclaimed around the world. It was the best costume drama we saw all year, managing to be both visually stunning and tell a compellingly salacious tale. Starring Mads Mikkelsen and Alicia Vikander, A Royal Affair tells the story of a young queen, who is married to the insane King Christian VII of Denmark, but falls in love with her physician.
9. Holy Motors (France)
This completely off-the-wall film, written and directed by Leos Carax, was as impressive as it was impossible to describe. Celebrating the surrealism of Luis Buñuel with a visual panache reserved for Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s films, Holy Motors astonished critics and audiences worldwide. It tells the bizarre story of Oscar (Denis Lavant), who drives around in the back of a limousine, changing costumes and living various lives around Paris. If that wasn’t enough, it also features Kylie Minogue singing a song she wrote especially for the film. This wonderfully insane feature is a rollercoaster of a film-experience, and one of the best releases of the year.
8. Amour (Austria)
No film was as highly celebrated this year than Michael Haneke’s Amour. It won the coveted Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, going on to sweep the European Film Awards and now most commonly found in the upper echelons of ‘Best-Of-2012’ lists. The revered Austrian director concocts a spell-binding drama about the shock of mortality and the strength of love. Based on an exact incident that happened in Haneke’s family, Amour follows an elderly couple, Anne and Georges, whose relationship changes dramatically when Anne has a stroke and can no longer look after herself.
7. Elena (Russia)
When Vladimir, a brazen businessman, is hospitalised with a heart attack, it is revealed that his daughter is set to inherit everything from him. His shy housewife Elena and her unlucky son are left out of the equation and, desperate for money, mastermind a devious scheme that will have disastrous consequences for everyone involved. Superbly handled by Andrey Zvyagintsev (The Return), with a haunting score from legendary minimalist composer Philip Glass, Elena takes a simple premise and makes it into a thrilling masterpiece of Russian cinema.
6. Beasts of the Southern Wild (US)
It may be a US film, but Beasts felt distinctly non-Hollywood in every way. Raucous and whimsical one moment, heartbreaking the next – this wildly innovative film is hinged upon the brilliant performances of six-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis as Hushpuppy, and Dwight Henry as her tough-love father. Both non-actors breathe life into the story of a bizarre community who live in ‘The Bathtub’ – an area disconnected from the rest of New Orleans by an imposing dam. This magic-realist world is the work of Benh Zeitlin, the first-time director who won a swag of awards for Beasts including the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. We dare you not to get teary in this film.
5. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Turkey)
Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan eschews the conventions of the crime-thriller genre to bring us this story of a group of men searching for a body on the Anatolian steppe. While they look, the men unintentionally philosophise on topics ranging from yoghurt to suicide, and that’s what makes this a truly fascinating and insightful feature film. Critically acclaimed around the world, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes and is your number 5 favourite film of 2012.
4. Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
Nominated for the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar, Monsieur Lazhar is the harrowing yet hopeful story of a newcomer at a French Canadian school. When a teacher kills herself, the school scrambles to replace her and care for her confused and grieving students. Bashir Lazhar, an Algerian immigrant, is hired as a substitute teacher but he is recovering from a recent tragedy of his own. Not only did Philippe Falardeau’s film explore sensitive issues of mourning and grief, it brilliantly portrayed the student-teacher dynamic.
3. The Raid (Indonesia)
Halfway through this year we said: “It’s hard to imagine another film this year beating The Raid in the adrenaline-pumping, furiously-paced action film stakes.” Turns out, we were right. No film from Hollywood or mainland Asia came close to the ferocious fists and wild weaponry of this Indonesian film, which exposed the traditional martial art of Pencak Silat to the world. Helmed by Gareth Evans, it follows a violent police raid of a building riddled with gangs and drug lords. The US film industry is already working on a remake, while an Indonesian sequel is in the works, so get ready for more Indonesian ass-kicking.
2. The Intouchables (France)
This film was voted the cultural event in France in 2011, and it was undoubtedly one of the best cinematic releases of 2012. The Intouchables is a comedy-drama from directors Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano, which follows a quadriplegic billionaire and his unlikely live-in carer. But what sounds like a grim premise is actually a sensational celebration of joie de vivre, gracefully tackling prickly issues of racism, class divide and disability – with lead actors François Cluzet and Omar Sy turning in award-winning performances. This feel-good buddy movie is a must-see
1. A Separation (Iran)
With the most votes, your favourite international film for 2012 was Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation. An Oscar-winner for Best Foreign-Language Film 2012, this masterful Iranian film has been celebrated around the world since its release last year. Set in contemporary Iran, it depicts the separation of a middle-class Iranian family, and the conflict between family ties and a better, new life. With outstanding performances from the entire cast, and particularly from Leila Hatami, A Separation is brutally honest in its humanity – doing what all good international films do: communicating a powerful story that overcomes language barriers and cultural differences.