The 15 Biggest Movie News Stories of 2012

[caption id="attachment_154757" align="alignleft" width="300"]Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2" Summit[/caption]

As another movie year comes to a close, it's time to look back at the biggest film-related stories of 2012 and take stock of all the highs and lows. And while there certainly were some major movie highs this year — from acclaimed period pieces to crowd-pleasing blockbusters to surprise comedy hits — frankly, we're more than happy for 2012 to be over.

That's because, as cool as the action was on screen, the headlines being made off-screen were often sad, disappointing or downright terrifying to think about. So let's look back at the year that was — and hope that 2013 is a whole hell of a lot more fun.

15. Johnny Depp Crashes and Burns

[caption id="attachment_127729" align="alignright" width="300"]Johnny Depp in "Dark Shadows" Warner Bros.[/caption]

For the last decade or so, Johnny Depp has pretty much been the biggest star in the world. But in 2012, Depp's smooth sailing came to an abrupt end. First came the release of "Dark Shadows," which surprisingly bombed at the box office in May. Then, barely a month later, Depp and Vanessa Paradis, his partner of 14-years and the mother of his children, abruptly called in quits. And to top things off, Depp finished off the year by releasing the trailer to his new movie "The Lone Ranger" only to have it roundly lambasted by critics and fans alike. When things go bad, they go bad fast.

14. James Bond Finally Returns

James Bond may have celebrated a half-century of feature films in 2012, but for the last four of those fifty years, fans have been wondering if they would ever get a chance to see 007 on the big screen again. That's because the studio that produces the Bond films, MGM, went bankrupt after 2008's "Quantum of Solace," throwing the future of the series into doubt and presenting the very real possibility that the wildly popular Daniel Craig relaunch would be cut short after just two films. Luckily, though, the bigwigs in management finally got their act together, resulting in Bond's return in "Skyfall" last month — a return that eager fans have rewarded to the tune of over $900 million worldwide so far. Welcome back.

13. 'Ted' Is a Shocking Hit

[caption id="attachment_134618" align="alignright" width="300"]Ted Universal[/caption]

Hollywood loves nothing more than a winning formula, which is why we get fed so many hackneyed films over and over. But here's a formula Hollywood never expected: An animated sitcom star directing an R-rated movie about a foul-mouthed teddy bear. So much for conventional wisdom: "Ted" ended up earning over half a billion dollars worldwide, turning Hollywood on its ear and pretty much giving Seth MacFarlane carte blanche to do whatever the hell he wants for the rest of his life. Oh, and by the way, it turns out that Mark Wahlberg is really funny, too. Who knew, right? It all adds up to one of the biggest box office surprises in years.

12. 'The Artist' Wins Best Picture

[caption id="attachment_98125" align="alignright" width="300"] The Weinstein Company[/caption]

Hey guys, remember how great the Best Picture field was back in 1929? Man, who can forget "Wings," which was not only the first Best Picture winner ever but also the last silent film to win Best Picture at the Oscars. Good times! Unfortunately for hardcore trivia buffs, though, that little nugget of useless knowledge was shocking rendered obsolete by "The Artist," a whimsical silent picture which came out of nowhere (or France, whichever) to take Hollywood's top honor away from Hollywood's top movies. For all the talk about new technologies like 3D and CGI dominating cinema, it turned out that the oldest technology in movies was still the best of 2012.

11. Tom and Katie Call It Quits

[caption id="attachment_157358" align="alignright" width="300"]Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes Getty Images[/caption]

It was the inexplicable romance that defined a tabloid era: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, aka TomKat, aka WTF? He's 50, she's, like, a teenager or something; he jumps on a couch to prove his love; they sell pictures of their baby to the makers of iPhone (or ... whatever). And what was the deal with that whole Scientology thing? For the last seven years, Tom and Katie have been a constant source of headlines, head-scratching and amazing Internet memes. But all of that came to an end this year, as the couple divorced amidst an all-new round of tabloid gossip and Hollywood rumors. The story of their marriage may finally be over, but whatever your opinion of TomKat, don't worry — the story of whatever comes next will no doubt be front page news, too.

10. 'The Hobbit' Is Here ... and It's a Trilogy!

[caption id="attachment_136134" align="alignright" width="300"]Martin Freeman in The Hobbit New Line Cinema[/caption]

Nine long years ago, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" debuted and went on to rake in over a billion dollars worldwide and earn 11 Oscars. So it seemed like a no-brainer that director Peter Jackson would follow it up with an adaptation of "The Hobbit." Now, almost a decade of legal wrangling and false starts later, that dream has finally become a reality. And it comes with a surprise twist, as Jackson announced earlier this year that "The Hobbit" was going to be a whole trilogy rather than just the originally planned two films. That's what we call making up for lost time.

Also Check Out: The 10 Best Trailers of 2012

9. Channing Tatum's Amazing Year

[caption id="attachment_134916" align="alignright" width="300"]Magic Mike Warner Bros.[/caption]

There have been stars in the past who have had big years, but it's rare that someone has had a year as amazing as the one Channing Tatum just completed. Not only did Tatum headline no less than three different films in three completely different genres — "The Vow" was a romance, "21 Jump Street" was a comedy and "Magic Mike was a drama — but all three went on to become massive box office hits. It wasn't long ago that Tatum was just that guy from "Step Up;" now he's a bona fide A-list international superstar. We can't wait to see what he does next.

8. 'Twilight' Ends

[caption id="attachment_152740" align="alignright" width="300"]Breaking Dawn - Part 2 Summit[/caption]

Ah, remember all those good times? Arguing with "Harry Potter" fans over which franchise was better? Arguing with "The Hunger Games" fans over which franchise was cooler? Arguing with each other over which "Twilight" star was hotter? Well, all that good, clean fun came to an end this year, as the "Twilight" phenomenon reached its hotly anticipated conclusion with "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2." Just what lies in store for stars Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart — not to mention author Stephenie Meyer's wildly popular characters Edward, Jacob and Bella — has yet to be seen, but one thing is sure: It will be a long time before we see another pop culture phenomenon as overwhelming as "Twilight." Just ask Katniss.

7. 'The Hunger Games' Mania Sweeps America

[caption id="attachment_142397" align="alignright" width="300"]The Hunger Games Lionsgate[/caption]

Speaking of which, just as "Twilight" came to an end this year, a new young adult heroine with a new film franchise and a new love triangle to argue over hit America like an arrow to the knee. Like "Twilight," "The Hunger Games" first built momentum as a popular series of novels (by author Suzanne Collins) before exploding onto the big screen in March. By the time "The Hunger Games" left theaters, it and star Jennifer Lawrence had become genuine pop culture phenomenons, capturing the attention of the entire country to the tune of $408 million domestically. And this is just the beginning: Taking a page from the "Twilight" playbook, the folks behind "The Hunger Games" have already announced they are turning the trilogy of books into four films, just to make sure you get as much Katniss and company as possible. Out with the old and in with the new.

6. Tony Scott Commits Suicide

[caption id="attachment_143928" align="alignright" width="300"] Getty Images[/caption]

For three decades, Tony Scott has been one of the most prominent and successful directors in Hollywood, creating popular films like "Enemy of the State," "Crimson Tide," "Unstoppable" and the iconic 1986 hit "Top Gun." On August 19, though, that all came to a shocking end when the 68-year-old younger brother of "Prometheus" director Ridley Scott took his own life by jumping off a Los Angeles bridge. The reasons for Scott's suicide are still unknown, but what is known is the terrible sadness and sense of loss all movie fans feel at the passing of a true artist. A senseless and unthinkable tragedy.

5. 'The Avengers' Dominates World Box Office

[caption id="attachment_156612" align="alignright" width="300"]The Avengers Marvel Films[/caption]

After years of build-up, 2012 finally gave us the payoff to one of the biggest gambles in film history: Marvel's attempt to create a shared universe comprised of several intersecting franchises. And that gamble provided an even bigger payoff than Marvel could have possibly anticipated, as Joss Whedon's epic superhero crossover "The Avengers" racked up over $1.5 billion worldwide, instantly turning "The Avengers" into the preeminent action franchise on Earth. With "Ion Man 3" and "Thor 2" set to hit theaters next year and "Avengers 2" already in the works, we may look back at 2012 as the year when Marvel took over Hollywood for good.

Also Check Out: The Top 10 Avengers of 2012

4. K.Stew Cheats On R.Pattz

[caption id="attachment_134701" align="alignright" width="300"]Robert Pattinson & Kristen Stewart Getty Images[/caption]

Ever since they first burned up the big screen with their sizzling chemistry in 2008's "Twilight," rumors swirled that stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart were secretly an off-screen couple as well as an on-screen sensation. So when they finally admitted as much, it came as a surprise to nobody; their seemingly perfect storybook romance just seemed fated to be. Which is why this summer's bombshell that K.Stew had been caught cheating on R.Pattz with her married "Snow White and the Huntsman" director, Rupert Sanders, sent shockwaves through both "Twilight" fandom and Hollywood in general. Now rumors are that they may or may not have gotten back together, but whatever the case, this is one news story that fans will never forget — and may never forgive.

3. Whitney Houston Dies

[caption id="attachment_157361" align="alignright" width="300"]Whitney Houston Getty Images[/caption]

Celebrity death are, of course, nothing new; heck, there's a whole segment at the Oscars every year dedicated to the departed stars of the silver screen. But rarely has a death hit home for so many as the sudden and unexpected death of legendary singer and actress Whitney Houston. Houston, one of the most popular singers in pop history, was found dead in her hotel room on February 11 after drowning in her bathtub. The star of the 1992 smash hit "The Bodyguard" as well as several other '90s films, Houston had her final movie, "Sparkle," released posthumously in August; sadly, she never had a chance for the comeback she hoped the film would spark.

2. The Tragedy in Aurora

[caption id="attachment_138527" align="alignright" width="300"] Getty Images[/caption]

On the night of July 19, tens of thousands of fans across the country gathered at theaters to celebrate the midnight premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises," the hotly anticipated finale to director Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. By the time the sun rose the next morning, the nation was in shock at the terrible news out of Aurora, Colorado, where a gunman opened fire inside a packed theater, killing 12 people and injuring 58 others. The tragedy cast a pall over the rest of the year in cinema and sparked a debate over gun laws and theater safety that continues to this day; the final legacy of the Aurora tragedy has yet to be written.

1. Disney Buys 'Star Wars'

[caption id="attachment_152918" align="alignright" width="300"] NextMovie[/caption]

For 35 years, George Lucas' "Star Wars" franchise has been the single biggest force in Hollywood and pop culture, spawning an empire (no pun intended) of movies, books, video games, toys, comics and basically anything else you can think of. Anything, that is, except the long rumored Episodes 7-9, which Lucas had announced he would never make. Well, guess what? At the end of October, Disney rocked Hollywood to its core with the stunning announcement that they were purchasing Lucasfilm and the rights to "Star Wars" for $4 billion — and that they would be filming Episodes 7-9 after all with the intent of landing the first new film in theaters as early as 2015. It's a game changer like none before it, with the potential to permanently reshape the face of popular entertainment. And with the same studio now owning both "Star Wars" and "The Avengers," well, we hope you like mouse ears, because the next decade at least belongs Disney.

Get more Best of 2012 here.