2012 was a pretty big year for movies. The start of The Hunger Games, the finales to Marvel’s Phase One, the Dark Knight Saga and Twilight (hooray!), three stop-motion movies, along with big news like Disney buying Lucasfilm. Here’s my top 10 favorite movies of 2012 (and links to my reviews when applicable).
(Note: I have not seen a good deal of the big movies this year, including most of the Best Picture nominations, and I probably won’t see them for a while. This is just my list for what I enjoyed most of what I’ve seen)
10. 21 JumpStreet: The often haphazard premise of taking old TV shows and turning them into movies produced gold here, mainly thanks to its playing with tropes in the car chase, a humorous look at what was serious subject matter, and a comedic turn by Channing Tatum. The directorial team of Lord and Miller have proved that they know how to do absurdity well.
9. The Secret World of Arietty: Studio Ghibli’s release this year may be one of the last times we’ll see Amy Poehler and Will Arnett as a couple. This just adds to the movie’s surprisingly dark and melancholy tone, trading out magical worlds of past features with quiet reality of a family that ends up forced out of their home, the one twist being that they’re tiny and face danger at every turn. For all of Ghibli’s unrelenting fantasy, this is a nice reminder that they can also deliver solid drama.
8. The Dark Knight Rises: The finale of Nolan’s epic trilogy did have its share of problems that are still being discussed. With a movie of this stature and hype, though, it was inevitable. In the end, Nolan did one thing perfectly: closing the book on his interpretation of Batman with a movie that’s emotionally satisfying and thrilling, all with a fantastic performance by Anne Hathaway as Catwoman that I hope to see again.
7. Life of Pi: If you want to see how Ang Lee’s Hulk should’ve looked, simply watch Richard Parker, the tiger that Pi Patel gets trapped on a boat with. The impressive CGI throughout is added with some fantastic cinematography that transports and fascinates, even when 80% of the movie takes place on a boat in the middle of the ocean. Along the way, there’s a fascinating story about religion that doesn’t necessarily overtake the movie for non-religious viewers, and an incredible acting job by what I believe is a snubbed Suraj Sharma.
6. Skyfall: After Quantum of Solace, the future of Bond was worrying. After Skyfall, I’m ready for another 50 years. Recapturing the fun that looked lost in the move to Craig-Bond would be good enough, but it adds in serious themes about old age and loss that manage to elevate the movie. Strong performances by Judi Dench and Javier Bardem and impressive directing truly put this on the list.
5. ParaNorman: Between this, Frankenweenie, and Pirates!, stop-motion made a huge comeback…at least, for the people that actually saw the movies. ParaNorman is the one that makes the list, though, with its inventive twist on the zombie genre that makes it kid-friendly while also creating dark adult themes. It was also one of the best-looking 3D movies of the year (I admit to not seeing Life of Pi in 3D, though), and its gorgeous character design and impressive effects are the reason.
4. TheAmazing Spider-Man: The biggest fear with Amazing was that it was simply too soon to be rebooting the franchise. Amazing overcame the potential plot problems to actually create a different take on the franchise, one that takes its time to build up emotional scenes. At the same time, we get the wise-cracking Spider-Man back and a villain that gives him an even match both in power and smarts.
3. TheCabin in the Woods: The much-delayed collaboration between Joss Whedon and Cloverfield’s Drew Goddard paid off big. A horror movie that ends up not only ripping apart every horror movie trope it comes across, it also shatters the fourth wall with its look at the relationship between characters, creators, and audience. As gory and scary as it is hilarious, if you’re tired of found footage movies and clichés, it’s the perfect horror movie for you.
2. Wreck-ItRalph: A movie that threatened to be overtaken by cameos instead proved to be an emotional love-letter to video games and outcasts. Ralph’s big brother relationship with Vanellope is the real drive of this movie, and the strong voice work by John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman gives them life. They apparently improvised off of each other, and it shows. Wreck-It Ralph is funny and heartwarming, easily the best Disney Animation movie since Bolt.
1. TheAvengers: I think you could probably guess this was coming. Avengers showed Joss Whedon flexing his directorial and writing muscles, creating a movie that was fun while still intelligent, action-packed but with plenty humor, filled with characters without being overly complicated. A movie so big that it could’ve collapsed in on itself and instead just managed to branch out to everybody, from comics fans to people who don’t know a Skrull from a Kree. No, it’s not going to win any Oscars. But when I think of the movies on this list I’d most want to rewatch, this is the one that will always come in first.