1. Under the Skin
Jonathan Glazer's woozy hallucination of a movie -- and Scarlett Johansson's performance, as an alien who learns the hard way just what it takes to be human -- confounded and challenged me, and moved me in ways I wouldn't have thought possible. Why else go to the movies?
An ambitious and clever undertaking that could easily have turned into a filmmaking disaster. Instead, in telling the story of one family's life over the course of 12 years -- and allowing the actors to age in real time -- Richard Linklater ends up with a quiet stunner of a movie that yields to time, rather than try to bend it to its will.
3. Only Lovers Left Alive
In Jim Jarmusch's lush vampire romance, Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton play a couple in love forever: With music, with literature, with each other, and with the whole sorry world. This is Jarmusch's most emotionally direct film since Dead Man; he has never been better.
4. Mr. Turner
This free-verse biopic about 19th-century artist J.M.W. Turner, painter of misty, turbulent, luminous seascapes and arguably the first Impressionist, may be the finest picture ever made by English curmudgeon Mike Leigh, and features the performance of Timothy Spall's career. Hmmmf.
5. The Immigrant
Is there room for romantic melodrama in American movies? James Gray thinks so, and he's raised the stakes with this one. Marion Cotillard is transcendent, pouring despair, anxiety, and more than a few drops of defiance into this wondrous performance.