I’m going to go with favorites instead of must-see for this list. The reason for this being that, while I’ve certainly missed plenty of games this year, I’ll probably get to those sooner than I’d ever get to the vast amount of award-season movies I’ve missed. Also, the numbering’s a...bit odd on this. There are just too many movies that would be a shame to leave out, or even place in the runner-up category. If it’ll make you feel better, put 3 of the runner-ups (your choice) into the main category. Starting again with the runner-ups:
-Thor: Thor may have played it a little safe in the Marvel movie realm, but it was a fully enjoyable summer blockbuster that I could easily sit through again.
-Rango: I feel that making animated movies that don’t target kids is one of those arts we rarely see. Yet Rango did something with a movie that took an intelligent look at the Western genre as a whole, with a movie that both parodies it and clearly loves it.
-The Adventures of Tintin: Fully brought Hergé’s work to life, and easily provided the action and adventure quotient for the year…
-Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol: At least, the parts of it that weren’t fulfilled by a movie that brought Brad Bird’s direction to a franchise that needed a shot in the arm, and got it with wit, tense action sequences, and—perhaps most importantly—fun.
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: Believe me, I’m sure there’s some people who would put this at the very top of their list for the year. For me, while I enjoyed the movie and understand exactly how good it is in many ways, the full realization of a franchise…it wasn’t necessarily my favorite of the year. I’m not even sure it was my favorite Harry Potter movie (clearly a marathon is in order). But it fully deserves a place here just for being one of those events. And if I had gone with the must-see list, I’m pretty damn certain this would be at the top.
6. Winnie the Pooh: Disney screwed this one up. A mere 70 minutes, releasing it against Harry Potter…these are rookie mistakes, signs of a movie being thrown out with no thought. Which is a shame, because those 70 minutes may very well have been the most enjoyable 70 minutes in a movie theater I had this year. It may not have the emotional complexity of pretty much any other movie on this list, but it has joy. And sometimes, that’s all you need.
5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes: To my knowledge, before Rise, Planet of the Apes was a franchise that was dead and buried. But those damn dirty studios just can’t keep their paws off it (sorry, I didn’t write the review so I had to get this joke in sometime), and…what do you know, it was a good thing they brought it back. Bringing together excellent special effects with a great motion-captured performance, Andy Serkis’ Caesar was easily one of the best characters on-screen this year, and worth seeing the movie just for that.
4. Moneyball: When is a sports movie not a sports movie? When it’s not focused on the team, but on the manager and the creation of a whole new system in choosing players. It’s intelligent while still being entertaining. It engages the audience even through exposition, thanks to Aaron Sorkin’s script and some wonderful performances from Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. It’s just a great movie.
3. X-Men: First Class: This list is full of franchises that were gone or dying up until the right people came along and did the right thing. In this case, X-Men got a full facelift that took it back to the 60s, brought in a whole new cast, and changed the movie from summer action to a character study framed with a James Bond-style plot. And it worked in ways that so rarely do, with a movie that’s thrilling and thoughtful.
2. Hugo: In a time when Alvin and the Chipmunks gets a third movie and Cars 2 forgoes anybody who doesn’t buy the toys, it’s nice to see a family movie that doesn’t aim for the kids, but actually aims for the whole family. And Hugo is everything you’d want out of Martin Scorsese doing a family movie. Great performances from actors that range from Ben Kingsley to Sacha Baron Cohen, a use of 3D which has been widely applauded, and a history lesson in silent cinema all wrapped up in one movie. Does it get better than this? Well, there’s still that last slot…
1. The Muppets: I was hyped for The Muppets from the moment it was vaguely talked about by Jason Segel. There was always this lingering doubt that maybe it wouldn’t deliver, maybe all the excellent parody trailers would be wasted for nothing. But it delivered. It’s a movie that’s as heartfelt as it is hilarious. It touched my heart, that part of me that’s been a Muppets fan for years and just couldn’t wait to see these characters again. And I swear, I could’ve just sat there watching them be for hours.