Starring Django Unchained, Argo, Looper, Skyfall and More.
This year has taken us on cinematic adventures across the world, backwards through history, and forward through time. It's taken us into other realities, dimensions, parallel universes and, well, everywhere in between. We've seen astonishing, ground-breaking work all around — in both the big blockbuster megaplexes and the small indie art houses, and across every genre at that.
In short, 2012 was a damn good year for going to the movies.
But which movies were most worth the while in 2012? Glad you asked.
12. Beasts of Southern Wild.
Benh Zeitlin's Sendakian Southern fairy tale was absolutely one of the most inspiring and idiosyncratic films of the year, with some of the most genuine and heartfelt performances to grace the silver screen.
11. The Master.
Paul Thomas Anderson's a master of movies, and, if ever that was self-evident in his esteemed body of work, it was with this year's The Master, perhaps the most poignant bromance tale of all time. The Master also gave us the triumphant return of Joaquin Phoenix, who gave this film an award-worthy performance. That face alone gives this film its rightful place as one of the year's best.
10. Moonrise Kingdom.
Wes Anderson brought us one of his most endearing and adorable tales of innocence and adolescence this year with Moonrise Kingdom. And to see Anderson finally get to play with a time period that has been of so much influence throughout his work, well, that was just like seeing Mordecai spread his wings!
9. The Grey.
Most plane crash survival dramas tend to be the same. But that's exactly what made Joe Carnahan's raw and intense look at the nature of man versus wild (or Liam Neeson versus wolves) so bracing.
8. The Cabin in the Woods.
This year actually turned out to be a pretty great year for the horror, what with all the new, original, genre-bending films that broke all the rules in 2012. But none obliterated convention more than Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon's self-reflexive and twisty-turny romp through the “woods.” Out of all the films released this year, it's The Cabin in the Woods that I hope had the most impact and influence in terms of what we'll see get made in the years to come.
If I were to give a film from this year an award for being the most appealing to the ten-year-old version of my former self, it would have been Chris Butler and Sam Fell's beautifully animated and stop-motion spooky throwback. A film that captured the spirit of Spielberg's Amblin films of the '80s, ParaNorman was wonderful, whether you're a kid or kid at heart.
In his 50 years on screen, we've never quite seen James Bond like we were privileged to see him in Sam Mendes' take on the super suave super secret agent in Skyfall. Like Nolan did with his Batman trilogy, this film brought a pinnacle to the franchise — making it the Dark Knight of 007 films.
That Ben Affleck guy sure is turning into quite the motion picture maker! I think the kid's going places! Especially so after bringing us one of the year's most tension-filled dramas, adapted from one of the best written scripts of the past few. As a film filled with every emotion that can be humanly experienced in two hours, Argo was absolutely one of the most enjoyable (albeit stressful) movie going experiences of 2012.
4. The Avengers.
If it had failed, it would have been a Titanic-sized disaster like nothing we've ever seen before in Tinseltown. Instead, it was quite the opposite — though still something we had never seen before, especially with something so covered in popcorn butter. But geek god Joss Whedon pulled off Marvel's four-years-in-the-making (and hilarious) action-packed superhero brodown in a way that was transcendent of both comic book films and big budget blockbusters.
3. Holy Motors.
There's really no describing this film experience, other than to say it was one of the oddest, most beautiful, most unexpected journeys I went on with a movie this year. Truly a “holy” experience in the church of cinema.
Rian Johnson proved three things with his futuristic, noirish tale of regret and redemption. No. 1: Smart and sci-fi can work harmoniously together. No. 2: A film can exist as a “studio film” and still be an original piece of work true to the director's vision. And, lastly, No. 3: You don't have to have a DeLorean in your film to make it a transcendental time-travel flick. He also gave us a film with one of the most brilliant performances of the year with Joseph Gordon Levitt's emulation of Bruce Willis. From the performances and Johnson's smart screenplay and directing to Steve Yedlin's cinematography and Nathan Johnson's score (and everything in between), I truly loved everything about this film. Don't be surprised if you see it end up on my “Best Of The Decade” list.
1. Django Unchained.
Quentin Tarantino's first true foray into a genre that has influenced so much of his work proved to be his best film yet. And, considering his canon, those words should carry a lot of weight. In my review of the film, i wrote: “Having so much of his canon dusted in Western influence, seeing Tarantino now unholster his love for this genre is akin to watching Jackson Pollock slop calculated paint strokes all over a canvas — if that paint was blood, his paint brush was Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz, and his canvas was the Old West.” Yes, this truly was Tarantino Unchained. And a director getting to make a “mainstream” film as counter culture and abrasive as this today (and for it be as truly magnificent as it is) is something well deserving of top placement on this list. And that's before we even mention the countless awards it will likely earn this upcoming awards season.
12 Honorable Mentions:
21 Jump Street
The Dark Knight Rises
End Of Watch
Life of Pi
The Loved Ones
The Raid Redemption
Safety Not Guaranteed
Films I Unfortunately Did Not See In Time To Make This List (But That I Have A Feeling May Have Made It On Here Somewhere):
Perks of Being a Wallflower
Silver Linings Playbook
Sleepwalk With Me
Zero Dark Thirty