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The 25 Best Movies of 2012

11. Django Unchained

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Johnson, Walton Goggins, James Remar, Laura Cayouette

Any new Quentin Tarantino movie is immediately an event. Who else can make a hardcore genre movie about a freed slave who viciously kills dozens of white slave owners and have it instantly be up for serious Academy Awards consideration?

The same guy who—with the backing of old friend, and Hollywood capo, Harvey Weinstein—earned multiple nominations and statues for films that included a sliced-off ear (Reservoir Dogs), man-on-man rape scene involving gags and Samurai swords (Pulp Fiction), and Adolf Hitler's face being shot to smithereens (Inglourious Basterds). And Django Unchained—Tarantino's latest dose of reverential, in-your-face throwback cinema—is Tarantino's goriest and most audacious movie yet.

So, yes, it's one of the best times you'll have in a theater all year. Django Unchained works best as an exciting revenge flick, finding Jamie Foxx's titular ex-slave teaming up with a hilariously deadpan German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) to rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from a despicable yet charming plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio). The performances are top-shelf across the board, though Samuel L. Jackson's genius-level turn as Dicaprio's Uncle-Tom-worthy righthand man is by far the film's crowning acting achievement.

Is Django Unchained Tarantino's best movie? Not quite, due to some pacing issues and a double-ending that's viscerally satisfying but narratively clunky. But guess what? Minor flaws are powerless in a crowd-pleaser that features, amongst other attractions, arguably the funniest KKK scene in movie history, a fiendish DiCaprio delivering a dynamite phrenology monologue, and horse dancing.

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