The 25 Best Movies of 2012
Like every year, 2012 seems to have gone by far too quickly. But, unlike almost every year, 2012 was filled to the brim with great movies. From moving dramas and unforgettable indies to shockingly worthy comedies and actually super superhero blockbusters, Team NextMovie really had a difficult time narrowing down our 25 favorite flicks of the year.
In fact, the only thing we all agreed on unanimously was what film should sit at the very top. What was it?
As if we'd tell you this early! Read on to see what made our shortlists and let us know in the comments what made yours.
With "Twilight" coming to a close, many pundits kicked off 2012 wondering which franchise would fill its major money-making shoes. "The Hunger Games" may have been lucky to be the first out the gate – 2013 will see many others jockeying for a place in Twi-hards' hearts – but it set the bar extremely high. Gary Ross' adaptation of Suzanne Collins' novel may not have been perfect, but, as a huge fan of the series, seeing Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) battle mutations, tracker jackers and evil President Snow on the big screen filled my heart with glee. – Breanne L. Heldman
What took Seth MacFarlane so long to make a movie? The man (and many voices) behind "Family Guy" took to the big screen in the shape of a foul-mouthed, womanizing, pot-smoking teddy bear who is both man-child Mark Wahlberg's BFF and worst influence. Easily the year's most original comedy of the year, "Ted" is laugh-out-loud funny, coarse, edgy and equal-opportunity offensive. Like too many great comedies, it turns a little cheeseball in the third act (despite Giovanni Ribisi's best efforts), but considering this movie has the best man-on-bear violence ever captured on celluloid, we'll call it even. – Kevin Polowy
I loved Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" trilogy – well, two-thirds of it – and I thought Tobey Maguire made the perfect Spidey in '02, so I was wary of the reboot... until I heard they'd cast Andrew Garfield in the role. I don't care that he's British; we didn't complain when Bridget Jones' accent came out of Renee Zellweger's face, so we're even now, England. I do care that he's gangly and believably nerdy, but still charming and magnetic. Even though, ultimately,"The Amazing Spider-Man" was overshadowed by eleventy-trillion-dollar superhero blockbusters like "The Avengers" and "The Dark Knight Rises," Spidey had a buddy-like appeal the others lacked, and his chemistry with real-life girlfriend Emma Stone crackled off the screen. To grotesquely mangle a line from the Marvel universe, Maguire was the hero we deserved, but not the one it needs right now. – Brooke Tarnoff
22. 'This Is 40'
"This is 40" may be a "sort-of sequel" to "Knocked Up," but it manages to sidestep some Apatovian tics and come out the other side as a nuanced, funny, sweet and sometimes sad portrait of family life and its ups and downs. It's not necessarily laugh-a-minute like Judd Apatow's previous offerings, but familiar situations (sneaking a cupcake after swearing off sweets, a tween girl throwing a fit and saying that she hates all her clothes, passive aggressive snark between couples) make it uncomfortable-chuckle-a-minute, at the very least. It has only been five years since the release of "Knocked Up," but "This is 40" is light-years ahead. – Kase Wickman
If you didn't see this movie (and let's face it, you probably didn't) go see it now. Mark Duplass as the cringingly earnest time travel enthusiast and Aubrey Plaza as the deadpan journalist secretly investigating him? Yes please! It's one of 2012's sweetest (and funniest) offerings, and while safety isn't guaranteed, your enjoyment is. (Sorry.) – KW
20. 'Wreck-It Ralph'
Wait a minute – this wasn't a Pixar movie?! I'm so confused. Apparently, Disney picked up a little Pixar mojo when it acquired the animation studio because this had the something-special feel of Pixar favorites like "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille." Filled with nods to classic video games, this follows old video game baddie Ralph (voices by John C. Reilly) as he leaves his game to try to find glory and good-guy love in others. In the meantime, he befriends "glitch" Vanellope and vows to help her become a heroine of her own game. Lessons are learned, laughs are abundant and love (between Jane Lynch's militant leader and Jack McBrayer's wholesome Fix-It Felix, natch?) abounds. – BLH
19. 'Ruby Sparks'
Zoe Kazan takes on the romantic-funny-creepy implications of wishing you could bring your ideal girl to life in "Ruby Sparks." Not only are Kazan and real-life boyfriend Paul Dano great in their performances as a fictional character come to life and the emo man-child who wrote her, but the script itself seems to be pushback to the obnoxious manic pixie dreamgirl trend that seems to dominate rom-coms these days. And if you come for nothing else, at least come to see a small part of Chris Messina's stealth cinema takeover – dude is everywhere, and he's awesome. – KW
This early February flick sat at the top of my personal best of 2012 list for the vast majority of the year – all the way until mid-September, when it was unseated (and then unseated several times again). A trio of mostly unknown actors – except for "Friday Night Lights" standout Michael B. Jordan – give us a moving, emotion-filled origin story for potential superheroes (and/or super-villains) that, unlike several other "super" movies this year, forces us to wonder what we would do with such powers and reminds us just how easy it might be for some to cross that line between good and evil. – BLH
17. '21 Jump Street'
This movie is 2012's slacker anti-hero: Where "Magic Mike" didn't quite meet the expectations of some, Channing Tatum made up for it when he exceeded admittedly low expectations with the reboot of the classic Johnny Depp series. Some of the best laugh lines of the year (Most notably: "F**k you, science!") combined with surprise cameos and straight up goofiness make this movie not only easily watchable but totally enjoyable. – KW
It's difficult to bring an entire room of movie writers and editors – especially one where the majority would rather be called something a bit more pretentious – to tears, but mere minutes into this documentary, the sniffles were in stereo. I wasn't immune either. In fact, the next morning, as I recounted one mother (whose son was being treated so poorly by other kids and his school's administration that the filmmakers had to knock down the third wall and intervene) breaking down on Mother's Day because she felt she'd been a bad mother for not knowing what was happening, I wept all over again. As a film, "Bully" is terrific. As a call to action, it's even better. – BLH
It'll shoot you up and leave you for dead – God knows that's the fate of pretty much everyone else in this movie. Quentin Tarantino's latest ultra-violent righting of historical wrongs takes on slavery, and star Jamie Foxx's synopsis on "Saturday Night Live" – "I kill all the white people" – pretty accurately sums it up. For a movie about slavery, it's surprisingly hilarious, and the anachronistic music cues come close to genius. And, for all you bleeding hearts out there: There's romance, too! Well, sorta. It's bloodstained romance, but do we really need qualifiers when it comes to love? – KW
You either love or hate Wes Anderson movies; there's really no middle ground with his style of precious absurdity. As you might have guessed from his presence on this list: I love him, and I really loved "Moonrise Kingdom," though (or... because?) Anderson out-twees his twee-est "Royal Tenenbaums" scenes by making his latest entirely about precocious children who listen to age-inappropriately cool music and attempt to elope. It's weird, it's stylish, it's nostalgic without any resemblance to my actual childhood or the childhood of any person I've ever met… and I could watch it every day for a week without getting bored. (Plus, it makes me wonder where Anderson goes from here. My suggestion: well-spoken toddlers in jaunty berets, working out their issues. French accents wouldn’t hurt, either.) – BT
Spoiler alert: time-travel isn't a real thing. But that hasn't stopped sub-par sci-fi movies from explaining their pseudo-science into the ground. One of the amazing things about "Looper" (aside from some exceptional performances, a riveting plot and a physical transformation so incredible I didn't recognize Joseph Gordon-Levitt though I had just met him for an interview) is the grace with which it backed off from its own time-travel logic. "If we start talking about it, then we're going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws." Indeed, Angry Bruce Willis From the Future. Indeed. – BT
12. 'Pitch Perfect'
"Glee" + "Bring It On" = something totally aca-mazing. In fact, just trying to write about this hilarious college acappella competition comedy, starring Anna Kendrick (who just might be the coolest chick since Emma Stone), the adorable Skylar Austin (from the original cast of "Spring Awakening," just like Lea Michele!) and scene-stealing Rebel Wilson, has me pining for the Blu-ray (which comes out tomorrow, BTW) and pressing play on its infectious soundtrack. In other words, this is the movie of 2012 most likely to be watched over and over (and hummed in between). It's just that much fun. – BLH
A reinvention of the Bond brand (it openly mocks itself!), an origin story and a standalone ass-kicking action film all in one, "Skyfall" is a movie that bristles with intensity; it's slick, stylish, loud and sexy. "Casino Royale" was a pleasantly surprising yay-fest, "Quantum of Solace" a relative disappointment, but "Skyfall" is not only the best Blond Bond movie yet, it's one of the best Bond. Movies. Ever. (just ask Sir Roger). And while we're getting all hyperbolic, it also boasts perhaps the greatest Bond villain yet in Javier Bardem's genius, bi-curious, creeptastic (also blond) sleazeball. Anton Chigurh would be proud. And then try to kill him with a cattle gun. – KP
I'm no fan of slashers, but I'm a huge fan of writer/producer Joss Whedon, writer/director Drew Goddard, and clever twists (à la early Shyamalan, sans resemblance à latter day Shyamalan) so I approached "Cabin in the Woods" with an open mind. Still, I was unprepared for how much I could love a slasher – I don't care what you say, it's still a slasher: people get slashed – based on the genre-bending elements of humor, fantasy, whip-smart writing and those twisty, twisty twists. – BT
Whether you're a die-hard drama geek or you wouldn't be caught dead trying to put on a French accent, you won't be miserable leaving "Les Miserables." Voltaire said that anything too stupid to be said should be sung, and "Les Mis" certainly fits the bill. There's an eyerolly love-at-first-sight plot and melodramatic dying words aplenty, but the power of the vocal performances more than makes up for sometimes-contrived plot points. Plus, who doesn't love a Tom Hooper period piece? It's basically "The King's Speech" but with sopranos instead of stutterers. – KW
"Lincoln" is exactly what you'd expect from a Steven Spielberg-directed biopic starring Daniel Day-Lewis: Epic, intelligent, perfectly portrayed and a tad sentimental. You could complain it's a little slow or laborious at times, but you try making a movie about the passage of a constitutional amendment that's more entertaining. Then there's DDL, who proves once-again he's bar-none the greatest actor alive. Favorite part about the "Lincoln" experience: discovering what a kooky dude Abe could be; he's just like your crazy uncle. The only thing it's missing here, really, are vampires. – KP
Allow me to quote to great Patton Oswalt, who was at the screening I attended: "That was something else." That was something else, Patton. Christopher Nolan's thrilling finale to his game-changing Batman series feels less like a movie than an experience: It's a thoroughly intense, visceral and rewarding spectacle, a remarkable conclusion to a remarkable trilogy. We do feel obligated to complain one last time about the voice of Bane, who sounds like Patrick Stewart playing Santa Claus piped in through a loudspeaker. But hey, minor blemish, and definitely not any sort of reckoning. – KP
A superhero supergroup and nerd-god auteur Joss Whedon: two great tastes that taste AWESOME together. "The Avengers" contains the best features of its single-hero predecessors and corrects some of their failures: it retains the wit of "Iron Man" (filtered and refined through Whedon's iconic voice) and the bravado of "Captain America," and despite Marvel's repeated "Hulk" failures, finally finds the perfect green goliath in Mark Ruffalo. Yup, somehow, amidst the charisma of Tony Stark, the black-clad posterior of Black Widow and the arrow-flinging gun show that is Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye, Ruffalo is the smash hit of "The Avengers." (Get it? Smash? Yeah... sorry.) – BT
5. 'Life of Pi'
There's no question: Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" was easily the most beautiful movie to behold in 2012. The fact that I was never quite sure what I was looking at – whether Richard Parker was a real tiger or CGI, or whether or not I should trust the film's narrator, Pi (Suraj Sharma) – made the experience all the more magical. At the end of the day, I didn't care which elements were real or CGI, I was just along for the ride, and it was a stunning one at that. – BLH
Again and again and again – that's how many times I want to watch this movie. It's funny, it's sad, it's sweet, it has Robert DeNiro and a big goofy dance number, Hemingway references and Raisin Bran to boot. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence give sweet, dimensional performances that don't turn away from the less-sweet realities of mental illness and human fault – a rarity in film. I feel like Stefon on Weekend Update, but "Silver Linings Playbook" has it all. (But not a human fire hydrant.) – KW
1970s beards and tan suits have no right to be this riveting. "Argo" proves that Ben Affleck, while decent as an actor and fair-to-middling as a tabloid personality, is one hell of a director. The tension he infuses into a Wikipediable true story is remarkable. Affleck also plays the lead, Tony Mendez, a real person who led the far-fetched rescue of six U.S. diplomats during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, using a fake sci-fi movie production to cloak his attempt. Even though the mission's outcome is now a matter of public record, the implausibility of its success makes "Argo" more than a nail-biter – "Argo" is a whole-finger-biter. Thanks, Affleck. I needed those. – BT
Let's all take a moment to thank the movie gods that Kathryn Bigelow was able to tell this story and inject it with the type of gravitas it needs before other action directors in Hollywood could get ahold of it. Can you imagine Michael Bay's "Zero Dark Thirty"? It would not be awesome. Clinical, yes, but Bigelow's rehashing of the events leading up to and during the killing of Osama Bin Laden is the work of a master (sorry, Mark Boal, masters). This is a riveting thriller that puts you in the thick of the action – or lack thereof, it doesn't matter. Every scene, every moment is captivating; this is a movie every American man, woman and child should see. Okay, maybe not child. – KP
The most criminally underseen movie of the year, and also the best. No doubt devotees of Stephen Chbosky's melancholy bestseller turned out for the author's impressive screen adaptation of his own work, but too many others missed out on a bittersweet treat. Just when the coming-of-age/suburban family dysfunction genres seemed stale as could be, Chbosky arrives with a film that's heartfelt, relatable, deeply resonant and utterly transcendent, not to mention perfectly cast (where's the awards love for Ezra Miller, people?). We can only hope this movie follows in the paths of films like "Office Space" and "Donnie Darko" and finds the audience it deserves on DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix, cable… However you need to see it, just see it. – KP