From Ridley Scott exploring a far-off alien world to raucous comedy involving Mark Wahlberg and talking teddy bears, there's been plenty of big-screen excitement to keep movie fans happy in 2012. Read on to see our countdown from 20-11, and make sure to check back tomorrow (December 16) for the top 10.
Our verdict: "Noomi Rapace's central turn doesn't click immediately, her wide-eyed wonder initially sitting at odds with the general tone of hard-headed stoicism, but as the plot cogs begin to turn she hardens and loosens, becoming the beating heart Scott's sinewy thriller desperately needs.
"On the opposite end of the spectrum is Michael Fassbender's dimly creepy, precisely calibrated performance. Scratch the surface of any of Fassbender's past characters, and you'll find depths of anguish beneath the placid surface - here, you'll find only a void." [ED]
19. The Imposter
Our verdict: Serial identity thief Frédéric Bourdin took centre stage in this riveting documentary about a Texas family duped into believing they'd found their missing son. Bourdin, a Frenchman whose life as an imposter has seen him cross continents assuming the identities of more than 500 people, is simultaneously compelling and detestable in Bart Layton's documentary.
The Imposter has all the tension and nail-biting intrigue of high-end Hollywood thrillers, and its subject is a man and a movie villain who's as much of an enigma as Keyser Söze. [SR]
18. The Raid
Our verdict: "Have you heard the one about the Welshman who wrote and directed a martial arts film set in Jakarta? It's bloody brilliant. What may initially sound like a joke delivers a powerful punchline in Gareth Evans's brutal and engrossing action thriller.
"A simple tale of a group of police officers trapped in an apartment block infested with criminals is given a ferocious visual treatment by Evans. The audacious fight sequences are pure and raw spectacle, often leaving you wondering how in the hell the actors pulled off the moves. Not that the movie leaves you much time to ponder, given that it hurtles along at breakneck speed." [BRJ]
Our verdict: "So wrong and yet so right; this tale of devotion between a child and his teddy bear is everything you least expected. For one thing, the child is a 35-year-old (Mark Wahlberg) and the bear has a stand-up comedy routine that would make even Jim Davidson pause and ask, 'Really...?'
"Everyone else watching - provided they aren't easily offended - will be rolling in the aisles as Ted (filthily voiced by writer-director Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy) lets rip with his hair-raisingly funny and hopelessly twisted views on life, love and race relations." [SP]
16. Martha Marcy May Marlene
Our verdict: "Elizabeth Olsen is mesmerising at the heart of Martha Marcy May Marlene, an indie drama that first made waves on the festival circuit way back in January last year. The actress, who's the younger sister of Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen, makes an astonishing breakthrough as a young woman bearing serious mental scars from her time spent with a cult in the Catskills. You can't afford to take your eyes off her for a second." [SR]
15. Berberien Sound Studio
Our verdict: "Jones, so often a supporting player, delivers a hugely impressive turn as Gilderoy. His splintering psyche (making him a narrator the audience can't trust) recalls Jack Torrance from The Shining and Black Swan's Nina Sayers. It's to Berberian Sound Studio's credit that it could easily sit as a triple bill companion with those aforementioned films and not look out of place.
"High praise should go to Strickland, too, for his clean direction, inventive editing (blood-curdling soundbooth scream to tomato juice swirling in a blender) and almost fetishistic look at the process of celluloid moviemaking." [SR]
14. The Woman in Black
Our verdict: "While The Woman in Black will not be a satisfactory journey for many of those who prefer plot-driven movies, there is a great deal to invigorate and thrill viewers who can accept that style is substance. Allow yourself to be consumed by the eerie tone and convincing performances, and there is every chance you will be consistently gripped for this impressive foray into old-school horror." [BRJ]
13. Beasts of the Southern Wild
Our verdict: "Beasts of the Southern Wild is a flawless debut feature, and one that lingers on the mind long after it's over. It's brief at 90 minutes, but for a film so slight it cleverly articulates ideas about man's relationship with nature, the fragile ecological environment and childhood wonder. The cruelness of mortality also weighs heavy on Beasts's mind, but despite all that it's a hugely uplifting and inspiring work." [SR]
12. Magic Mike
Our verdict: "Channing Tatum lays himself bare in more ways than one in this delightful, surprise package of a movie about male strippers. Despite having to get his kit off at regular intervals, his turn as Magic Mike is his least self-conscious performance to date and his most endearing.
"The loose, naturalistic approach of director Steven Soderbergh probably helps bring the best out of his star, but Tatum is also the producer, tapping into his early experiences on the 'exotic dancing' circuit. What's startlingly clear from the beginning is that, unlike The Full Monty, there is no noble cause here - the guys are in it for the money, the kicks and the girls." [SP]
Our verdict: "Marrying a twisted and twist-filled sci-fi concept with visual flair and grounded performances, Rian Johnson's third feature is a pulpy and cerebral sucker punch that falters only when it strays too far from its pitch-black beginnings... Looper is up there with Duncan Jones's Moon and Source Code in the ranks of this century's most genuinely exciting sci-fi films.
"It deftly builds up its intricate world, populates it with flesh-and-blood characters, sharp dialogue and recognisable dilemmas, and makes it all look just about effortless." [ED]
What do you make of these Top 20 entries? Leave your comments in the space below!