As 2012 draws to a close, we’re already casting our eye towards next year’s cinematic offerings, but before 2013 gets underway it’s time to reflect on the past twelve months as we present our selection of the very best films to arrive on screens over the past year.
Like previous years, the team here at Flickering Myth have put together individual lists of our personal favourites, which we’ve used to produce an overall selection of our Top Ten Movies of 2012. The list is compiled by UK release dates, so with several of 2012’s big hitters yet to arrive on these shores there was no chance for the likes of Cloud Atlas, Django Unchained, Hitchcock, Les Miserables, Lincoln, Wreck It-Ralph and Zero Dark Thirty to make the cut (this year, at least), while Ang Lee’s Life of Pi probably arrived just a little too late to make a real splash.
So, without further ado, here are our choices for the top ten movies of 2012…
Ben Affleck is certainly building himself a fine reputation as a director, with his third feature Argo demonstrating his ever-increasing maturity as a filmmaker. Based upon an audacious CIA operation to rescue six American diplomats from Tehran by posing as a Hollywood movie crew scouting locations for a possible shoot, Argo has already been nominated for five Golden Globes and has a real chance at securing Affleck his first Best Director and Best Picture nominations when the Academy Awards announce the Oscar contenders next month.
For a time, it looked as if MGM’s financial troubles would prevent a cinematic return to Middle-earth, but after taking over the reigns from Guillermo del Toro, 2012 saw Peter Jackson deliver the first of his now-three-part prequel to The Lord of the Rings with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. While the movie itself may have become overshadowed by the debate over HFR – not to mention Jackson’s decision to stretch J.R.R. Tolkien’s book across three films – this shouldn’t detract from the fact that An Unexpected Journey is the best fantasy film to hit screens since… well, The Return of the King.
You can read our thoughts on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey here.
Weaving together the popular superhero and found footage genres to superb effect, first-time director Josh Trank and screenwriter Max (son of John) Landis delivered one of the most entertaining movies of the year with their debut feature Chronicle. A refreshing spin on the superhero origin story, Chronicle was one of the surprise hits of the year, banking $126m from a budget of just $15m; a sequel has already been announced (although Fox are apparently unhappy with Max Landis’ script), and its success has paved the way for Josh Trank to try his hand at a big budget superhero blockbuster with Fox’s Fantastic Four reboot.
2012 saw Paul Thomas Anderson make a welcome return to cinemas after a five year absence with the controversial drama The Master, which stars Joaquin Phoenix as a young World War II veteran who gets involved with a philosophical movement led by PTA regular Philip Seymour Hoffman’s L. Ron Hubbard-esque Lancaster Dodd. The recipient of the Silver Lion at the Venice International Film Festival (and the jury’s original choice for the Golden Lion), The Master has secured a trio of Golden Globe nominations for Phoenix, Hoffman and Amy Adams and should go on to feature prominently in the acting categories at the Academy Awards.
While 2012 saw Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris lining up together in The Expendables 2, these old school action icons found themselves overshadowed by the relentless all-out action offered up by Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans’ The Raid. From such a simple set-up – a SWAT team raiding an Indonesians apartment block packed with bad guys – The Raid delivers a non-stop action tour de force as fists fly, bones break and blood splatters from start until finish. The Raid is the only foreign language film to make our top ten this year – see it now, before the inevitably-inferior Hollywood remake.
Following on from his acclaimed 2008 feature film debut Hunger, British writer-director Steve McQueen reunited with leading man Michael Fassbender for Shame. A powerful and unflinching portrayal of sex addiction, Shame fell afoul of the MPAA due to its sexually explicit content and was slapped with a NC-17 rating, while it was shamefully (sorry) overlooked by the major industry awards, presumably due to its controversial subject matter. Still, a UK release date of January 13th meant that Shame was eligible for inclusion in our top ten of 2012, where it takes fifth place.
You can read our thoughts on Shame here.
It’s fitting that in its 50th anniversary, the James Bond movie franchise produced one of the best instalments in the series, and one of the finest films of the year, as Academy Award-winning director Sam Mendes teamed up with Daniel Craig’s 007 for the super spy’s 23rd official adventure, Skyfall. Backed by acting heavyweights such as Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes and Javier Bardem, Skyfall received near-universal acclaim from critics and moviegoers alike and has gone on to become the third-biggest release of 2012, not to mention the highest-grossing UK release of all-time. While the Bourne series faltered with the Bourne-less The Bourne Legacy, Skyfall put Bond back on top in a big way.
Brick and The Brothers Bloom writer-director Rian Johnson enjoyed his first bona fide box office hit this year as he reunited with Joseph Gordon-Levitt for the ambitious sci-fi action thriller Looper. The film sees JGL as a hitman contracted by the mob as a ‘looper’ – an assassin who eliminates targets sent back in time from thirty years into the future, and eventually has to ‘close the loop’ by eliminating his future self, who is portrayed by Bruce Willis. A smart, intelligent and thoroughly engrossing sci-fi offering, Looper narrowly edged out Skyfall to claim third place in our list of the year’s best.
You can read our thoughts on Looper here, here and here, as well as our interview with writer-director Rian Johnson here, and our coverage of the TIFF press conference featuring Johnson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis here.
Arguably the most ambitious project of the year, The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble as it’s known here in the UK) saw Joss Whedon and Marvel Studios assembling Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on the big screen as they brought together Marvel’s four big movie franchises to fulfill every fanboy and fangirl’s dream. Shattering box office records to become the highest-grossing film of 2012, The Avengers was a near-perfect summer blockbuster, offering up a superb blend of action, humour, excitement and spectacle. The Avengers is without doubt one of the greatest comic book movies ever made, but it’s not our favourite movie of the year. It’s not our favourite comic book movie of the year either…
Well, you didn’t think it would be The Amazing Spider-Man, did you?! Yes, our pick for the best movie of 2012 is of course The Dark Knight Rises – the epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, which sees Christian Bale’s Batman saving Gotham City from destruction at the hands of Tom Hardy’s brutal terrorist leader Bane. Despite a gallant effort from Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, The Dark Knight Rises was a clear favourite among the team here at Flickering Myth, topping no less than six our of writers’ individual lists, as Nolan delivered a stunning finale to his Batman saga, and rounded out one of the finest trilogies ever put to film in the process.
Just missing out on a place in the top ten were…
Silver Linings Playbook (dir. David O. Russell)
Seven Psychopaths (dir. Martin McDonagh)
The Muppets (dir. James Bobin)
Dredd 3D (dir. Pete Travis) – Execution: The Making of Dredd 3D
Ted (dir. Seth MacFarlane)
The Woman in Black (dir. James Watkins)
The Descendants (dir. Alexander Payne)
The Cabin in the Woods (dir. Drew Goddard)
Moonrise Kingdom (dir. Wes Anderson)
The Grey (dir. Joe Carnahan)
Our individual favourites…
Gary Collinson – The Avengers
Oliver Davis – Shame
Trevor Hogg – The Master
Luke Owen – The Avengers
Liam Trim – Shame
David Bishop – The Raid
Kirsty Capes – Looper
Simon Columb – The Dark Knight Rises
Chris Cooper – The Dark Knight Rises
Scott Davis- The Dark Knight Rises
Martin Deer – Life of Pi
Luke Graham – The Master
Anghus Houvouras – Argo
Piers McCarthy – The Intouchables
Robert W Monk – Amour
Simon Moore – Moonrise Kingdom
Rohan Morbey – The Master
Helen Murdoch – The Dark Knight Rises
Jake Peffer – Silver Linings Playbook
Matt Smith – The Dark Knight Rises
Jake Wardle – The Dark Knight Rises
And our previous Top Tens…
What are your choices for the best movies of 2012? We’d love to hear your thoughts…