So here it is finally, my list of the top films of 2012. It’s been a long and perilous journey but I finally (sort of) completed the list of films I wanted to see. This list was kind of a bitch to make because it was a fantastic year for movies. Boiling it down to just 10 was bound to be tough. I had to discard very good and critically acclaimed films like Lincoln and Beasts of the Southern Wild because, well, I just think there were more memorable and quite frankly more enjoyable movies this year. After a lot of sweat and plenty of tears, it’s done, and just in time for the Oscar predictions, too. Enjoy.
Honorable Mention: The Cabin in the Woods You might think you “get” what this deconstruction of the horror genre is all about, but by the end of the film you’ll be telling yourself “nope, wasn’t expecting that” and that’s what makes this film great. You’ll never look at horror the same way again.
10. Argo This being Ben Affleck’s third directorial success, I think we can all stop being surprised about his talent as a filmmaker and just accept it: Affleck is one of the best directors today. This part dark comedy, part nail-biting thriller of a true story cements that. Not only does Affleck direct but he gives a great performance along with Alan Arkin who provides plenty of humor in an otherwise serious story.
9. Life of Pi Ang Lee’s film about a boy stranded at sea with a hungry Bengal tiger sounds simple enough, but Lee’s vision brings the film to exciting life. Utilizing the best 3D since Avatar and Hugo, Lee’s film is both visually beautiful and inspirational. The tiger is all CGI (brilliant CGI) but the story could not feel more human.
8. Looper Looper is one of the most creative films in recent years. The great thing about it is that it doesn’t give a damn if you don’t understand time travel. The characters don’t even understand it. The writers don’t understand it. Director Rian Johnson doesn’t understand it. They just want you to get over it and enjoy the ride. It’s a pretty crazy ride that includes telekinetic toddlers and Bruce Willis with hair. It’s not for everyone, but the film is bound to be a cult classic.
7. Silver Linings Playbook So yes, it’s a romantic dramedy. But it’s a romantic dramedy with a smart and witty script brought to life by an all-star cast that includes Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence, and…Bradley Cooper? That’s right, Cooper turns in a great dramatic role. Sure, he’s still got plenty of charm and wit, but this isn’t like any role we’ve seen Cooper in before. Playing a bipolar man with a tendency to wake his parents at unbelievable hours, fling books out windows, and participate in screaming matches, Cooper surprisingly gives one of the best performances of the year. And I just wanna say, thank God Robert De Niro is in a good movie again.
6. The Dark Knight Rises Four years ago, The Dark Knight would have topped this list. Just because its follow-up isn’t even in the top 5 doesn’t make it bad, though. I could have easily put it lower on the list, but I have to be honest with myself in that despite its flaws, I enjoyed TDKR more than the films below it and its more culturally impactful. For nearly a decade, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy raised the bar for comic book films. Not only that, but Nolan transcended mere comic book gimmicks and made the Dark Knight a culturally significant figure and the films epic crime dramas that even took a glance into our society’s morals and economy. If The Dark Knight Rises isn’t “as good” as The Dark Knight, then it’s at least a satisfying end to one of the greatest trilogies of all time. Following The Dark Knight was bad enough. Ending a beloved trilogy is even harder. I say a job well done on that part.
5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower High school can be brutal, and few films illustrate this quite as well as Perks. Honest, heart-warming, sad, and most likely relateable, Perks is probably the most underrated film of the year. It’s both uplifting and kind of depressing at the same time, but never ceases to be a perfect examination of a troubled kid’s venture into high school. At a time when mental illness has become a discussion, perhaps more people should pay attention to Perks, for it may be more relevant than it seems. And how about those where-did-that-come-from performances from Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller?
4. Skyfall After 2008’s Quantum of Solace was a disappointment, especially since its predecessor Casino Royale did such a great job of reviving James Bond, 007 needed yet another revival. In comes Sam Mendes, the director of American Beauty, to take the franchise back to its roots while simultaneously ushering it into new territory. Skyfall is an Oscar-worthy Bond film, beautifully shot and featuring a perfectly evil villain in Javier Bardem. It’s the closest thing we’ll get to a Batman movie starring Daniel Craig.
3. Les Miserables No other film in 2012 tugged as much emotion out of an audience quite like Les Mis did. It’s an enthralling piece of cinema, one that has to be experienced rather than read or heard about. Despite it’s lengthy run-time, the film is a truly visceral experience, one with a powerful message of redemption. Hugh Jackman is better than ever, and Anne Hathaway will give you chills with her short, but more-than-impressive performance as a woman who has hit rock bottom. Her rendition of “I Dreamed A Dream” cements her Oscar alone.
2. Django Unchained Damn it, Quentin Tarantino. You can not fail. Django Unchained is quite possibly his best film since Pulp Fiction, or at least his most entertaining. A “western” unlike any we’ve seen, Django is a bloody ride from beginning to end with cajones that only Tarantino can get away with. At its heart, though, it’s a heroic tale of a man rescuing his wife, and in any good western, we want the good guy to win and ride off into the sunset. There’s great performances all around, most of all from Leonardo Dicaprio, who creates an electric villain and doesn’t stop even when he cuts his own hand.
1. Zero Dark Thirty Kathryn Bigelow returns with her follow up to The Hurt Locker and it’s the best film of the year. If there are two films that define our generation, it’s 2010’s The Social Network and Zero Dark Thirty. The former, about the creation of Facebook and founder Mark Zuckerberg, is much more than that. It could be seen as an examination of our current culture, the film that truly embodies our internet savvy age. And if The Social Network examines our culture, then Zero Dark Thirty is the film that pops the lid on our government, or more to the point, its “greatest manhunt in history.” And it’s all from the viewpoint of calculative and passionate CIA operative Mia, played with firery passion (or obsession) by Jessica Chastain, and in a way, she represents all of us. Zero Dark Thirty is the best film of the year because it not only echoes our country’s desire for a decade to see Bin Laden found, but is the most relevant film to our country’s history today.