Film Comment’s comprehensive best-of survey of the most plugged-in minds in film criticism inevitably includes many features that haven’t been released in the United States. In a nod to the best movies this year that warrant seeking out, with or without a distributor, Film Comment’s year-end coverage also includes the 50 Best Unreleased Films of the Year, many of which will hopefully make it to theaters in the coming year.
Topping the list is This is Not a Film, Iranian director Jafar Panahi’s intimate and disarmingly hilarious portrait of his house arrest by Iranian authorities, who prosecuted him for vaguely defined crimes against the state. He has since been sent to prison. When the film screened at the New York Film Festival, Associate Program Director Scott Foundas said it begins as a documentary but then “becomes a much more complicated and playful kind of essay film about Panahi’s approach to filmmaking.” Smuggled out of Iran in a cake so that it could premiere at Cannes, the film opens in a limited run in February.
The rest of the list features many titles familiar to NYFF attendees—Béla Tarr’s The Turin Horse, Miss Bala, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia—alongside a number of more obscure works that face a rockier path to theaters stateside. It joins a traditional sister list of the year’s 50 Best Released Films, which crowned Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life as the movie of the year. (That film begins a limited five-day run today at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.) More than 120 film journalists contributed.
The complete 50-film list is reproduced below, and don’t forget to check out the accompanying list of the best released films of the year. Film Comment Editor Gavin Smith and Associate Program Director Scott Foundas also sat down to discuss and contextualize the lists, a video of which is available to watch here.
The Top 10
1. This Is Not a Film, directed by Jafar Panahi, Iran
2. The Turin Horse, directed by Béla Tarr, Hungary/France/Switzerland/Germany
3. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey
4. The Kid with a Bike, directed by Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France
5. The Loneliest Planet, directed by Julia Loktev, U.S./Germany
6. Miss Bala, directed by Gerardo Naranjo, Mexico
7. Footnote, directed by Joseph Cedar, Israel
8. Kill List, directed by Ben Wheatley, U.K.
9. Sleeping Sickness, directed by Ulrich Koehler, Germany
10. Play, directed by Ruben Östlund, Sweden/France/Denmark
The Next 20
11. Policeman, directed by Nadav Lapid, Israel
12. The Color Wheel, directed by Alex Ross Perry, U.S.
13. Two Years At Sea, directed by Ben Rivers, U.K.
14. Alps, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, Greece
15. Goodbye First Love, directed by Mia Hansen-Løve, France/Germany
16. 4:44 Last Day on Earth, directed by Abel Ferrara, U.S.
17. Dreileben, directed by Christoph Hochhäusler, Christian Petzold & Dominik Graf, Germany
18. The Return, directed by Nathaniel Dorsky, U.S.
19. The Deep Blue Sea, directed by Terence Davies, U.K.
20. Wuthering Heights, directed by Andrea Arnold, U.K.
21. Corpo Celeste, directed by Alice Rohrwacher, Italy/France/Switzerland
22. Oslo, August 31st, directed by Joachim Trier, Norway
23. The Student, directed by Santiago Mitre, Argentina
24. Attenberg, directed by Athena Rachel Tsangari, Greece
25. Elena, directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev, Russia
26. You Are Not I, directed by Sara Driver, U.S.
27. Words of Mercury, directed by Jerome Hiler, U.S.
28. Crazy Horse, directed by Frederick Wiseman, France/U.S.
29. Faust, directed by Alexander Sokurov, Russia
30. Seeking the Monkey King, directed by Ken Jacobs, U.S.
31. Disorder, directed by Huang Weikei, China
32. Psychohydrography, directed by Peter Bo Rappmund, U.S.
33. Patience (After Sebald), directed by Grant Gee, U.K.
34. Green, directed by Sophia Takal, U.S.
35. We Can’t Go Home Again, directed by Nicholas Ray, U.S.
36. Killer Joe, directed by William Friedkin, U.S.
37. Damsels in Distress, directed by Whit Stillman, U.S.
38. Slow Action, directed by Ben Rivers, U.K.
39. Bonsai, directed by Cristian Jimenez, Chile/France/Argentina/Portugal
40. Michael, directed by Markus Schleinzer, Austria
41. A Simple Life, directed by Ann Hui, Hong Kong
42. Take This Waltz, directed by Sarah Polley, Canada
43. Hors Satan, directed by Bruno Dumont, France
44. Dark Horse, directed by Todd Solondz, U.S.
45. Curling, directed by Denis Côté, Canada
46. Almayer's Folly, directed by Chantal Akerman, France/Belgium
47. 20 Cigarettes, directed by James Benning, U.S.
48. Polisse, directed by Maïwenn, France
49. Without, directed by Mark Jackson, U.S.
50. The Innkeepers, directed by Ti West, U.S.