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You heard that right: Audiences are directly bankrolling the films they want to see. The old business models may be broken, but this year the movies flourished. So much so that a single Top 10 list won't contain the bounty. So I'll break it up.

Here are the top 10 foreign or independent films

Neighboring Sounds

The feature-film debut of Brazil’s Kleber Mendonca Filho, set on a high-rise residential block in the city of Recife among the cocaine towers of the Latin-American boom, is a chilling and suspenseful portrait of haves and have-nots in combustible proximity.


Pablo Larrain’s eighties-set Chilean drama is a sly, darkly comic tale of the real-life ad man (Gael Garcia Bernal) who brought down General Pinochet, not by revolution, but with tacky television advertising.

Blue is the Warmest Color

Despite the on-set controversies and some onscreen missteps, Abdellatif Kechiche’s lesbian love story is a generous portrait of a young woman with an appetite for life, featuring exceptional performances from Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos.

Beyond the Hills

Cristian Mungiu’s drama about two women survivors of the Romanian orphanage system is a clear-eyed portrait of the long shadow of evil and the failure of goodness.

A Touch of Sin

Jia Zhangke’s scathing portrait of contemporary China is illustrated in four violent episodes taken from the headlines. It burns with moral outrage.

Computer Chess

Andrew Bujalski’s deadpan black-and-white mockumentary about a computer-chess convention in the early eighties is a wry examination of the past’s attempt to grasp the future.

Short Term 12

Brie Larsen’s standout performance as a caseworker in a group home for troubled teens is a heartfelt portrait of compassion.

Museum Hours

Director Jem Cohen traces the friendship between a Canadian woman (Mary Margaret O’Hara), who comes to Vienna to visit a cousin in a coma, and a Dutch museum guard (Bobby Sommer) as they explore the wise art of Pieter Bruegel.


Haifaa Al-Mansour’s winning comedy, the first feature by a Saudi Arabian woman, condemns gender oppression with a deft touch in this story of an 11-year-old girl who enters a religious contest to win money to buy a bike that she is forbidden to ride because of her sex.

The Grandmaster

This epic journey through mid-century Chinese history doubles as a fragmented biography of Bruce Lee’s teacher, Ip Man (Tony Leung Chiu Wai). The film scores as a gorgeous folly, with the most ravishing action sequences of the year.
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