An Iranian uproar cooled by Hollywood fakery, a failed boy scout on the hunt for true love, fast food friction, the true price of greed, the slaughter of reality show stars, the quest to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, positive thinking put to the ultimate test, shaken and stirred, a mechanical best friend, and a visit to a nightmare factory via the woods. These are the best films of 2012 (and here is what our members think).
With "Moonrise Kingdom," writer/director Wes Anderson once again proves his excellence with stylized stories of longing and family. A beautiful ode to young adult fiction and the rough and tumble world of the boy scouts, the feature is stunningly photographed, masterfully designed with a pronounced Anderson fingerprint, and charmingly acted by the gifted ensemble. Anderson has developed into a formidable force of idiosyncrasy, making specific movies for a specific audience, in the vein of Woody Allen and Robert Altman. With "Moonrise Kingdom," Anderson strikes a particularly irresistible balance between whimsy and adolescent wonder, spiked with a shot of deadpan humor and period fetishism that's mesmerizing, creating a distinct identity (and spotless filmography) that's impossible to resist.
Ben Affleck's name was once synonymous with embarrassing tabloid headlines and mediocre movies. Today, he's one of the finest directors around. After the Massachusetts misery of "Gone Baby Gone" and "The Town," Affleck goes global and period with "Argo," a sublimely tilted thriller that combines knowing Hollywood satire with nail-biting political unrest, generating a hostage drama that somehow remained unpredictable, despite its true story stamp. Smartly executed and generous with unbearable suspense, "Argo" brings Affleck the filmmaker (Affleck the actor is equally as persuasive) into clear view, continuing his astonishing career reinvention.
Writer/director David O. Russell captures the electricity of thought in "Silver Linings Playbook," his ode to manic love and profound obsession, based on the novel by Matthew Quick. The feature's balance of euphoria and distress is simply masterful, with Russell investing in character to pull off complex breakdown scenes and itchy familial dynamics. It's an open wound of a film, though mindful of inaccessibility, dishing up audience-pleasing moments of dance floor release and tender human connection that are well-earned by Russell and his sublime dedication to the quaking power of positive thinking.
Zero Dark Thirty
Kathryn Bigelow's barnstorming take on the manhunt for Osama bin Laden is a rich tapestry of suspense, frustration, and intricate plotting, resulting in a sophisticated picture that's bravely determined to inspect the underbelly of anti-terrorism efforts while sustaining a riveting political and emotional tension. Anchored by Jessica Chastain's fierce work as the shell-shocked woman determined to bring bin Laden down, "Zero Dark Thirty" truly belongs to its gifted director, who brings a hauntingly thunderous quality to a story largely concerned with meetings and theories. It's a masterfully crafted movie with an unexpectedly relentless pace.
For a franchise that's been burning bright for 50 years now, the four-year gap between Daniel Craig adventures was enormous for fans of James Bond. "Skyfall" proves the delay was worth the wait. Genuinely epic, raw, and superbly crafted by director Sam Mendes, "Skyfall" provides Craig with his finest outing yet as the iconic character, while returning the series back to its roots of suave heroism and grand villainy. It's always a treat to have Bond around, but when the results are this thrilling, it's easy to get excited for the next 50 years of 007 activity.
Aiming for controversy, writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait achieves his goal with this violent comic fantasy. Confidently constructed with a brave tone of darkness to support its clearly satirical foundation, Goldthwait pulls off an amazing balance between horror and laughs, refusing to cop-out as this askew tale of friendship, pop culture disgust, and revenge makes its way to its triumphantly bonkers finale. It's not a film for all tastes, and perhaps not an effort to cheer on as the U.S. deals with unimaginable tragedies involving firearms, but as caustic, gonzo entertainment goes for 2012, "God Bless America" was as close to authentically dangerous as it got, sold with a pronounced wink and an itchy trigger finger.
"The Cabin in the Woods" isn't exactly a horror film, but it's not a comedy. It's something of a satire, but also a celebration. That the picture is largely indescribable is part of its charm, asking typically finicky genre fans to take a chance on this cheeky, violent thrill ride, near-brilliantly designed by screenwriters Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (who also directs), who twist their adoration for all things nightmarish and clichéd into a loving ode to the traditional fright feature. "The Cabin in the Woods" is genuinely exciting moviemaking in a genre that's usually half-asleep, best accepted with an open mind, an avoidance of spoilers, and an appetite for superlatively blood-soaked chicanery.
"Robot & Frank" emerges from unexpected directions, fusing together sobering dramatics surrounding the difficulties of aging and family management with a mildly futuristic tale of a man and his robot and the mischief they cause. Led by Frank Langella's best work in ages, "Robot & Frank" captures an ideal tonal balance and sense of humanity as it goes about its strange business, with director Jake Schreier delicately shaping a surprising picture with a hearty sense of humor and a tough sense of realism in the midst of all the intriguing futureworld ornamentation and cultural warnings.
2012's best documentary supplies a potent message on the dangers of greed and the cheap thrills of excess. The world of David Siegel and his trophy wife, the unforgettable Jackie, is ideal fodder for a screen exploration, with director Lauren Greenfield handed access to the crumbling of a timeshare empire, the divide of a marriage, and the panic of destitution. "The Queen of Versailles" avoids cheap jokes to paint a disturbing portrait of unimaginable wealth taken to absurd extremes, with the journey articulated by the subjects themselves, who eagerly share their secrets and fears with Greenfield. It's sickening yet highly amusing, moving beyond easy schadenfreude to capture the shock of the 2008 economic collapse in slow motion.
Rare is the film that causes genuine outrage inside a movie theater, where ticket buyers are compelled to yell at the screen and huff with disgust throughout the presentation. Leave it to "Compliance," a picture about a real life prank call turned into a marathon of manipulation and humiliation, to pull an instinctual reaction out of typically subdued, popcorn-gobbling masses. An unusual odyssey of evil and gullibility that's almost entirely rooted in fact, director Craig Zobel's escalation of mischief and misconduct is exquisitely managed, with remarkable tension and a searing understanding of minimum-wage workplace behavior. Volcanic post-screening conversation is guaranteed with this one.
God Bless America is a nice surprise. The Cabin in the Woods, Skyfall, and Moonrise Kingdom are the only ones on my personal top 10 an for the record it's really refreshing to see a top ten WITHOUT Lincoln, that's not an insult to those of you who liked it, I'm just personally glad that someone other than me agreed that it wasn't as great as many other movies this year.
Wait Madagascar 3 got a spot on the "also of note" section over Avengers AND Django Unchained? I'm usually not one to be of "mob mentality" on lists like these,but I even have to cry foul there. I mean Madagascar 3 was enjoyable,but to be mentioned over Avengers and Django is just....wrong.
are you kidding me ? God Bless America is easily one of the years worst, extremely over-rated and not funny. Also shocked that Django Unchained, The Master, and 21 Jump Street didnt make the list. WTH ?
Somehow people are surprised that not everybody shares their opinion (even if most people might)? Huh? This list is fine and I can see valid points being made about the quality of these works. I don't necessarily agree with it all (nor do I have to) but it's an interesting read.
It's nice to see some smaller films getting the nod in this best of list.. Particularly Cabin in the Woods and my favorite runner up in the 2011 Midnight Madness program at The Toronto International Film Festival "God Bless America" Even though Cabin was really a 2009 film that sat for the majority of that year while it's owner went into receivership and eventually picked up by Lionsgate, it was the perfect Friday the 13th film for me while not being a Friday the 13th film.. Simple story that had a ton more layers to it much like peeling an onion away, and the amount of carnage at the end of the film within 2 minutes was flat out awesome..
As for my runner up at Midnight Madness 2011 behind "The Raid" God Bless America was smartly written, disturbingly funny, and perfect type of film for that audience.. It's the perfect way for Bobcat to vent what he hates about America in this day and age.. Plus his 20 minute impromptu stand-up routine while the weird Japanese film "Smuggler" being delayed till about 1:30 am was classic.. Although the film's target audience was not exactly in attendance "Canadians getting a hell of a good laugh at the faults of American pop culture" it worked well enough for the distributor to buy it.. For anyone interested in it here's a link for the stand-ip video filmed by my buddy Rob Mitchell http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdjME2OAjIE
I don't care what anyone says, Prometheus was probably the most enjoyable theatrical experience of 2012 for me. If only for the great audiovisual theater experience, I would think Prometheus should be in this Top 10 list or least on your "Also of Note" list...
So glad someone else has Robot & Frank on the list for me that and Hugo [released in Australia in 2012] were head and shoulders above anything else I saw
Cabin In The Woods would be in my worst list though
This list looks less like a "best of 2012" and more like a "here are all the movies I saw in 2012" list. Example: Madagascar 3 was pretty and fun, but Avengers was masterfully executed. But it doesn't even get a shout-out.
That a list can omit The Master and Lincoln but include God Bless America is suspect. The Avengers is a good movie--fun but by no means Great--but Looper is (as mjcavinder said) at best a B+ movie. Moonrise Kingdom is a beautiful movie but there's nothing there, yet another style-but-no-substance release from Anderson.
You seriously might want to CHANGE THE NAME OF THIS PIECE TO: "Brian Orndorf's Best Theatrical Releases of 2012", because this is clearly an opinion...and the title is very misleading, as if you're speaking for the entire site.
Why do people get angry at "Top 10" lists? It's beyond silly. They're just opinions, pure and simple. Make your own list and share it in the comments if you like. But to lash out with insults because your opinions happen to differ to the list makers'? Sad....
I don't agree with everything that made this list, but I'm happy to see The Queen of Versailles on it. I caught this the other day on Netflix Instant and it's fascinating, albeit a little sickening. I urge everyone to see this documentary.
No Looper, no Hobbit, no Haywire, no Killing Them Softly, no Ted? There are some good movies on the list but the fact that Looper isn't on this list is pure rubbish. Titanic 3D was pretty bad ass too, and I also saw Raiders of the Lost Ark when it was re-released in September, that shoudl be on the list. It was certainly better than Argo and Skyfall.
Why are people assuming that if their favorite movie isn't on this list, the writer hated it?
Why has no one here ever heard of a byline before?
Why are people asking why their favorite movie isn't on this list when there's an ENTIRE THEATRICAL REVIEW SECTION TO THIS WONDERFUL SITE that contains answers to all questions? (ex. the review for "Lincoln" on this site is mixed, hence why it's not in the top ten.)
Why are people asking why their favorite movie didn't make the list when it made the list?
Beat me to it, beckman. It really doesn't matter who anyway, the only thing that matters is your own opinion. I'm never going to let anyone who thinks they're opinion is more valid than someone else's tell me what to like and not to like.
How does Hunger Games not make this list? Half these movies i've never even heard of. The only one i agree with is Cabin in the Woods. Maybe Silver Linings Playbook but i haven't seen it yet. But in my opinion the Hunger Games was THE best movie of 2012!
"Cabin in the Woods" was one of the worst films of the year. "Lincoln" was good but was a complete bore, good time to take a nap. "Looper" was one of the best. I have a morbid fascination with " Promtheus" but as a whole it stunk. "Batman Rises" was over the top bad, but I still enjoyed it.
I think another movie that has to be brought up and should definitely be on the list is The Perks of Being A Wallflower. No one has mentioned it and it's definitely an under the radar film but it definitely stands head and shoulders along side any number of the films that have been mentioned for top theatrical releases of 2012. If any number of people haven't gotten a chance to check it out, i would give it a chance and who knows, you might find yourself putting it in your top ten, I know I sure have.
I have big issue with these films that get a 10 theater release in December just so they can get the Oscar wheels going. The Weinstein Bros do it all the damn time. They get all this push without earning an audience in the year they are released.
My personal list, just 'cause I feel like posting it:
1. The Master
2. The Paperboy
3. The Expendables 2
4. Moonrise Kingdom
5. The Comedy
6. Magic Mike
7. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
8. Jeff, Who Lives at Home
9. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
10. Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning
Honorable Mentions: Dark Horse, Indie Game: The Movie, After Porn Ends, Goon, The Queen of Versailles, Seven Psychopaths, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
And it's worth noting that I still have yet to see Django Unchained, Cosmopolis, Zero Dark Thirty, Wuthering Heights, Amour, Bad 25, The Deep, Hello I Must Be Going, The Hunt, or Maniac. Though I think only a few of those could possibly be real contenders.
I enjoyed it. Loved the story (particular faves were the movie theater scene and the pig parker scene). It was nice to see Joel Murray again (I remember him from some of the 80's movies).
I'm rooting for Bobcat Goldthwait after seeing his appearance (for this movie) on Jimmy Kimmel. He thanked Kimmel for hiring him to direct the Kimmel show when he was "a punchline" to people in Hollywood. He teared up and seemed very genuine. Hope he continues to get work directing and acting.