3. West of Memphis
Director: Amy Berg
Prepare to have your hearts and guts beaten to pulps. An astoundingly researched and exhaustive look at social injustice, director Amy Berg's magnificent West of Memphis is the year's epitome of powerful, awe-inspiring documentary filmmaking. And, it's worth pointing out, 2012 was a phenomenal year for documentaries (see, in addition to those previously included in this list: The Queen of Versailles, The Invisible War, How to Survive a Plague, The House I Live In, and Searching for Sugar Man).
At a sprawling yet justified 146 minutes, West of Memphis leaves no figurative stone unturned, probing deeply—through multiple interviews with those who lived through the events—into the controversial case of the West Memphis Three. They're Damian Echols (who co-produced the film), Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr., three guys who, as teenagers back in 1993, were targeted for their antisocial ways and interests in occultism as the savage murderers of three little boys.
Berg's harrowing film unflinchingly shows every aspect of the actual killings, the investigation, the subsequent trials, and the eventual evidence of wrongful imprisonments. West of Memphis is intimate, shocking, maddening, and revelatory.