I watched 439 new-to-me films in 2012 (so far), and the majority of them were new releases. So, it is with no small measure that I say that this has been a spectacular year for movies, both domestic and foreign made, and anyone who claims otherwise is a dipshit. Narrowing the great ones down to just twelve was predictably difficult… so I’ve included twenty honorable mentions. There are still a few high profile films I need to see, most notably Zero Dark Thirty, and I’ve caught the vast majority of the big titles, but stay tuned through to the end of the piece for all the necessary sidenotes.
And this should go without saying, but any film critic’s best-of list is essentially nothing more than a list of his or her objectively preferred movies, and what follows below is mine for 2012.
That said, the movies listed below are in fact the twelve (correct) best films of the year. In alphabetical order.
The Iran hostage drama in 1979 was a mainstay on the nightly news for well over a year, but a small part of the story wasn’t revealed until nearly twenty years later. A small group of Americans were rescued, and their story is a particularly amazing slice of movie magic. Some of us stopped viewing Ben Affleck as a punchline after the release of his first film as director, Gone Baby Gone, and his second film (The Town) converted even more fans. His latest film seems to have sealed the deal with its simple execution, incredible suspense, fantastic entertainment and near perfect cast. There’s a bit of a backlash now due to the film’s relatively lightweight nature, but that’s an empty complaint for a film this terrifically crafted. [Available on Blu-ray/DVD on February 19, 2013]
Marvel‘s greatest superhero team come together to stave off an alien invasion led my an intergalactic god named Loki, but can personalities as diverse as Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk learn to work together? This is the kind of film that really shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does, but writer/director Joss Whedon corrals these egos (both on and off screen) into what may be the most purely entertaining comic book film ever made. All four leads are given time to please their fans and win new ones with some exciting action and big laughs, and Whedon manages to show off some of the smaller characters too. [Available on Blu-ray/DVD now]
The Cabin in the Woods
A group of young adults head to a cabin in the woods for a night of partying, but they soon awaken an evil hungry for their tender flesh. They also discover something else when they stumble upon the secret behind things that go bump in the night. Director Drew Goddard and writer Joss Whedon (again!) deliver an amalgamation of horror, comedy and genius with this incredibly smart, funny and bloody love letter to genre films. It’s so confident in itself that what some people see as its biggest twist is essentially revealed in the first few minutes, but there’s so much more to this thrill-filled feature than any single twist could contain. [Available on Blu-ray/DVD now]
A substitute teacher (Adrien Brody) used to a rotating series of jobs without personal connections arrives at a new school where everything changes. The pressure and loneliness combine to beat him down as he develops platonic relationships with three women (a teenage student, a young prostitute, a fellow teacher), and over the next few weeks he’ll either be re-engaged or broken forever. Director Tony Kaye (American History X) delivers a powerful, harrowing and difficult watch that leaves viewers in the same predicament as Brody’s teacher. This is easily the lowest profile American film on this list, but it’s also one of the most important and one that will stay with you long after viewing. [Available on DVD now]