I saw 506 movies in 2011, so narrowing down a list of 10 isn't easy. But here are the films that stood out for me...
1. THE ARTIST
The best time in the cinema all year was watching this hugely engaging romantic comedy-drama about a silent movie heartthrob, his adoring girlfriend and his hilarious dog.
2. A SEPARATION
Asghar Farhadi's personal drama is one of the finest written, directed and acted films of this or any year. Manages to be thoroughly Iranian while letting us sympathise with its fascinating characters.
So achingly cool that it hurts, this sleek, mean thriller stars Ryan Gosling at the peak of his considerable powers. Plus rightfully acclaimed performances by Carey Mulligan and Albert Brooks.
4. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
Tilda Swinton is simply staggering in this internalised, dreamlike drama about a mother who thinks she might have caused her son to turn into a monster. Or maybe he was born that way.
5. KILL LIST
British filmmaker Ben Wheatley smashes genres to keep us on our toes as this fiendishly clever movie shifts from marital drama to buddy adventure to creepy-cult thriller.
Anchored by Anna Paquin's outrageously unsympathetic performance, this complex, involving film unravels a young woman who simply can't understand that the world doesn't revolve around her.
7. THE SKIN I LIVE IN
Pedro Almodovar creates one of his most unnerving thrillers with this slick, gender-bending exploration of revenge. And it's great to see Antonio Banderas back on top form.
The funniest comedy of the year actually has some substance, thanks to Kristen Wiig's snappy script and hilariously playful performance. Plus fabulous scene-stealers Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne.
9. JANE EYRE
Overlooked at awards time, this is easily the best-yet adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's novel. The first-rate cast includes Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Judi Dench and Jamie Bell.
10. CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS
In a year awash with 3D blockbusters, the best use of the technology was in this astounding documentary by mad genius Werner Herzog. Watching the film is as close to time travel as you'll ever get.
Here are five runner-up festival films worth looking out for in art-house cinemas or on DVD: Poetry (Korea), Weekend (UK), Tomboy (France), Melancholia (Denmark) and Snowtown (Australia).
And also keep an eye out for five performance-based 2011 films turning up in UK cinemas in January: The Descendants (starring George Clooney), Shame (Michael Fassbender), Carnage (Kate Winslet), Young Adult (Charlize Theron) and The Iron Lady (Meryl Streep).
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