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One can’t discuss first half of 2012 at the movies without mentioning a certain pop culture juggernaut called The Hunger Games (see: its $403 million domestic gross to date), so here goes: The Hunger Games will not make an appearance on the following countdown of the year’s top flicks thus far. Sorry, all those who worship at the bow-and-arrow of Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Katniss Everdeen. Please consult our review for any further explanation.

Now, on to what did make the cut, a diverse array of exceptional films ranging from box office titans to independent gems that have unfortunately been overshadowed. Getting off to a strong start in January, with Liam Neeson’s heady survival drama disguised as a popcorn action exercise (The Grey), the film world’s creative momentum hasn’t subsided since.

In fact, the film that tops our list of The 25 Best Movies Of 2012 (So Far) opens in theaters this week. And what might that be? Spoiler alert: It’s not Magic Mike, Channing Tatum's and director Steven Soderbergh's foolproof crowd-pleaser about male strippers that, according to critics who’ve seen it, is an undeniable winner (alas, we haven’t seen it yet).

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Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

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