So you might be asking why I’m doing a top 20 instead of a top 10 like a normal person. Well, I’ll tell you; this year was so jam packed with great movies and I couldn’t just do 10 movies. I was gonna do a top 10, but 2012 was one of the best years for movies I’ve ever seen, so I just had to double it. That’s also why so many good movies are low on this list, every movie included is simply amazing.
For the record I haven't seen; Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Master, or Amour
20. John Carter: This may seem an auspicious way to begin my top 20, seeing as how John Carter is now infamous for losing a ton of money. However last year’s big box office loser was Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was pretty awesome too, and let’s face it John Carter’s budget was insane, few movies could hope to make that back. John Carter has all the makings of a cult classic, like other box office failures including Princess Bride, Fight Club and Blade Runner.
19. Prometheus: I’ll take a dark and gritty realistic weather worn alien world over a bright cartoon alien world any day. I honestly think people missed the point when they complained about the lack of answers. The movie’s message is about belief, and not fact, a very powerful message with interesting religious overtones in the film. It suggests that the search for answers may be more important than the answers themselves. It also works great as a thriller about both our creators and our creations wanting to kill us.
18. Dredd: The best reboot since J.J. Abram’s Star Trek. Karl Urban gives a great performance as the stoic Judge Dredd; unlike Sly Stallone he actually leaves his helmet on the entire time. It’s a simple yet great action flick, reminiscent of Die Hard, and great science fiction like The Matrix.
17. Cloud Atlas: Without a doubt one of the most ambitious movie ever made. It’s actually six separate stories, each in a different genre. They are each connected in varying ways. It’s a moving piece about the human experience, and although some critics hated it (Time named it the worst film of the year) its complexity and beauty really drove home the themes of everything and everyone being connected.
16. Haywire: At first glance Haywire seems like a movie that should be absolutely terrible. It’s plot is incredibly generic and it stars an athlete that’s never been in a movie before, Gino Carano. The first clue that it might not be so bad is the big name actors in supporting roles, including Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas and Michael Douglas. The cast is stellar and Carano’s physicality makes her perfect for the role. Under another director the movie may still have been awful, but Steven Soderburg’s realistic dialogue and unique visuals, reminiscent of his Ocean’s trilogy, make it an unforgettable film.
15. The Grey: The first time I saw the trailer for The Grey I actually laughed at how stupid it looked. I decided to give it a chance when I found out it was directed by Joe Canahan, who’s directed some of my favorite action films of the last few years. Little did I know that The Grey would be much more than some action film. It’s a tragic story about a man’s struggle with wanting to kill himself and then coming face to face with death.
14. The Dark Knight Rises: It manages to bring a satisfying close to the Batman saga, something exceedingly rare in superhero films. It’s plot connects to both previous Batman films, impressive considering that neither of them were that connected to each other plot wise. A truly epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s trilogy.
13. Wreck-it Ralph: Good video game movies are hard to come by, in fact the only other video game movies I’ve ever really enjoyed were also Disney films, remember Tron anybody? Seeing all the classic video game characters was pretty amazing, but this movie really had heart. It’s so good that internet speculation has claimed that Pixar actually made it while the regular Disney crew made Brave. There may be a nugget of truth in there since Disney’s animated films have improved in quality substantially since Pixar’s John Lasseter got the promotion to head of all Disney animation.
12. Chronicle: In a year where superhero movies ruled, my favorite was the low budget one about three kids in high school who strangely get superpowers. It didn’t feature a nuke threatening to blow up a major city; it was a much smaller character focused story about how power corrupts and the difficulties of adolescence.
11. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: It may not have been perfect, the pacing was off and there was a tad too much CG, but as long as you go in not holding it to the ridiculously high standards set by its predecessor you’ll really enjoy yourself. Middle Earth is just as magical as it always was and both new and old characters are great. It feels like a fun adventure more than a epic like Lord of the Rings, and that’s fine. It’s chalked full of exciting and memorable scenes, with the “Riddles in the Dark” being one of the best.
10. ParaNorman: More and more animated films are starting to look the same, but ParaNorman is beautifully unique. It’s beauty dosen’t come from perfection, it comes from imperfection, everything is crooked or off kilter, it somehow manages to look real and fantastic at the same time. It’s more than just ascetics though, the characters are relateable, tragic, and this kid’s movie deals with deeper and more complex issues than most of the films all year.
9. Looper: One of the coolest time travel movies in years, and one that brilliantly addresses the loopholes and paradoxes present in almost all time travel movies by telling the audience not to overthink it. A great concept for a science fiction movie only goes so far, and this easily could have been a huge disappointment like In Time, but luckily it turned out to be one of the sleekest sci-fis in years.
8. Argo: Ben Affleck proves once again that he is one of the best directors in Hollywood in this incredible film. He also seems to give a much better performance under his own direction than anybody else’s. The story of Argo is moving and true, Affleck drew upon real images from the Iran hostage crisis to create this masterpiece. It certainly deserved the Golden Globe for best drama that it received and you won’t hear any complaints from me if it comes home with Oscar gold too.
7. Magic Mike: Yes, the movie about male strippers. Much like Haywire Steven Soderberg takes this shaky premise and turns it into a masterpiece. The film doesn’t even feel like a movie, people stumble over each other’s lines and stutter, and people basically act like real people, not movie characters. Mike, his mentor and his protégé all represent the same character arc at different points and Mike must choose whether or not to change his life in this dark morality tale.
6. Moonrise Kingdom: Pure movie magic. I felt like a little kid watching this movie, it feels like a film from a long gone era. It throws out the James Cameron school of thought of hyper-realistic special effects and goes with only practical effects, it dosen’t try to fool you that you are watching a movie, the effects embrace it, along with the film’s narrator. It’s a quirky movie about your first crush and it would take a heart of stone not to be moved by this absolutely beautiful film.
5. 21 Jump Street: Probably the funniest movie of the year, it is hilarious on multiple levels. The film is a brilliant critice of today’s trends, action movies, buddy cop films, reboots and even the show it’s based on, which it references in the greatest way possible. It's absolutely crude and vile, intentionally stupid and crass, and yet even my own mother loved it
4. Flight: Robert Zemekis, director of Cast Away and Back to the Future triumphantly returns to live action films after a twelve year absence. Flight is a gripping character story, Denzel Washington gives the performance of his career as one of the most likable assholes ever to grace the big screen. We see the life of one Mr. Whip Whitaker, played by Washington, and it’s almost like a Greek tragedy. He is a man who wants to change, but his own vices and selfishness prevent him from doing so.
3. Les Misearbles: I’m not usually one for musicals, but I am rarely moved by a movie like I was by this one. I struggled to hold back tears at multiple points in the film. The performances are moving, the characters are incredible, and the decision to have the songs sung live makes them feel so much more real and heartfelt. Traditional good and evil is thrown out with the antagonist being an good principled individual. The story is one about redemption, love, hope and honor.
2. The Cabin in the Woods: An amazing play on horror movie tropes and clichés. It’s deconstructs horror films in a way both brilliant and hilarious. It is an absolutely self-aware movie, without ever actually breaking the fourth wall. Like 21 Jump Street it is a meta masterpiece, and has one of the best endings I've ever seen.
1. The Hunger Games: The themes about crumbling society, authoritative government, reality T.V. and difficult moral choices all make this an incredible film. Adapting a book done in the first person can be very difficult, but the Hunger Games is not a shot for shot literal adaptation of the book. Instead the film tells the same story as the novel in a way perfectly suited to the medium of film, and the result is nothing short of extraordinary.