The 12 Best Movies of SXSW 2012

Killer Joe

William Friedkin’s film is either for you or it isn’t. I find it hilarious, but there will be those who’ll say anyone who finds this material funny is insane. I’ll take that label, especially taking into account how much fun Killer Joe is. The film can play as both a straight B-movie or a dark, thematically rich love story. The characters here aren’t the sharpest, and when they make bad decisions, things get entertainingly bad, plot-wise. The only character who has something resembling a brain is the one played by Matthew McConaughey who adds a suave, disturbing, and funny charm to the film as a whole. – Jack Giroux (Read our full review)

King Kelly

A young woman with an iPhone represents America’s worst traits as she embarks on a nocturnal adventure of self-involvement even as violence, chaos, heartbreak and betrayal swirls around her. Writer/director Andrew Neel’s narrative feature debut is a smart take-down of a society that makes stars out of Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton. Kelly thrives on attention and documents her life on camera (the film is shot almost entirely on iPhones), but when her selfishness leads to a wildly unpredictable night (tonally akin to Doug Liman’s Go) her expectations and reality diverge. Lead Louisa Krause is talented, sexy and hilarious, and you can’t help but hate and love her simultaneously. It’s a sad, funny must-see film. – Rob Hunter (Read our full review)

The Raid: Redemption

Despite the fact that I wasn’t present for every single screening of SXSW 2012, I find it hard to believe that any film in the festival line-up did to a crowd what Gareth Evans’ The Raid: Redemption did to a packed house at the Paramount Theater on Sunday night. It wasn’t just oohs and aahs, it was cheers and triumph. This simple tale of a small police force trying to take down a well-fortified bad guy has been called a milestone for action cinema. Yes, by me. It is also an expertly crafted explosion of good old fashioned hand-to-hand-to-machete-to-fist-to-head-to-wall brilliance. Again, I said that. It’s all so true, and it doesn’t even begin to describe how much fun it really is. The campaign of The Raid won’t stop with this “best of” list, it will most likely carry on until we write our lists for best of the year. – Neil Miller (Read our full review)

Safety Not Guaranteed

A want-ad appears in a Seattle paper looking for a partner willing to travel back in time, but when a trio of journalists investigate expecting a simple, humorous story for their magazine they get far more than they expected. Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly’s feature debut is a comedy that finds a near perfect blend of big laughs and genuine, romantic sweetness. Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass (as the eccentric guy behind the ad) have spectacular chemistry together with Plaza going beyond her usual range to find real emotion and depth, and Jake Johnson also brings an inordinate amount of the funny. Listen, I’m a cynical bastard, but this is the most wonderfully hopeful film of the past few years. – Rob Hunter (Read our full review)


Sinister isn’t your average horror movie. It doesn’t provide the basic thrills or catharsis you generally get from a haunted house movie. Our lead, a writer played by Ethan Hawke, isn’t a hero and is a bit of an empathetic dick. And there is no loud and banging score to tell you how creepy it is when a character sees something he shouldn’t be seeing. Sinister is an atmospheric and idea-driven horror movie, the kind that works best with time versus a knee-jerk reaction. – Jack Giroux (Read our full review)

Sleepwalk with Me

Mike Bribiglia’s take on his own material was a pleasant surprise at Sundance, and a second watch at SXSW sealed that it’s an accomplished and amusing work about quarter-life crisis ennui and how we move past it, even if it’s just sort of messy and weird. Not self-indulgent, not glossy, but constantly funny and appropriately touching, it’s a bonafide winner. – Kate Erbland (Read our full review)

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