As happens every year, the last 12 months have come and gone and the new year is already upon us.
2012 was the year of the blockbuster, most of which served as the first installment of a new franchise or a continuation of an existing one. Audiences were treated to the first installment of The Hunger Games franchise, a reboot of a beloved comic book character in The Amazing Spider-Man, a new installment in The Avengers saga, and final installments (or so we think) in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy and the Stephanie Meyer-novel-based Twilight franchise.
We also saw continuations of the Bourne series and a remake of the beloved sci-fi flick Total Recall, a sort-of prequel to Ridley Scott’s Alien and a new Men in Black movie. But the list doesn’t end there.
2012 also brought about a third Madagascar movie, a new Middle Earth-based film from Peter Jackson in The Hobbit, and a long-awaited installment in the beloved James Bond franchise. And we even got a new Pixar film, the princess story Brave.
Yes, on the surface 2012 was all about big budget films looking to bring in even bigger revenues. And to some extent, that was the case. With 1.36 billion tickets sold in the U.S. and Canada, Hollywood brought in $10.83 billion in revenue this year, a staggering number that is a new record for the industry.
But the intriguing thing about all of this is that, of all the big-budget films already mentioned, only one of them earned a spot on my year-end Top Ten list. And that’s not to sound elitist — I love a good blockbuster. But this speaks, I think, to the strength of the other releases, ones whose budgets and grosses may not necessarily be as large but whose impact I felt greatly.
On the surface, 2012 was the year of the blockbuster. But beauty, as they say, is only skin deep, and you need to dive past the surface to find the biggest gems of 2012.
There are films I still haven’t seen — Killing Them Softly, Rust and Bone, The Sessions, Cloud Atlas, and Amour chief among them — but with my spring semester of school starting already, I feel that now is as good a time as any to compile and publish my year-end list. Plus, I was already having trouble keeping this list to ten films anyway.
With that said, below are my “Honorable Mentions” for 2012, followed afterward on page 2 by the selections for my year-end Top Ten list.
MY 2012 HONORABLE MENTIONS (in alphabetical order)
- The Avengers: While I still believe that Iron Man is the gold-standard when it comes to Marvel’s Avengers franchise, The Avengers is a vastly entertaining and ultimately great film, and an excellent kickstart to the summer movie season.
- Beasts of the Southern Wild: A film that is emotional, impactful, and ultimately good. It proves that you don’t need $200 million to make a movie worth watching.
- The Cabin in the Woods: For those who love slasher flicks and the gore that they possess, you are in for a treat with this one. There is plenty of mayhem to be found here, with chainsaws and axes and knives and guns and teeth and bear traps and beasts and zombies and every single horror trope, trick, and gambit under the sun. But wit, self-awareness, originality, and laughs define The Cabin in the Woods just as much as its scares do.
- The Dark Knight Rises: The most anticipated film of the year wasn’t the rousing success I hoped it would be, but Christopher Nolan certainly makes the case that huge epics can still be made in today’s Hollywood. A big-budget spectacle, if nothing else, and quite a bit of fun — especially on that huge IMAX screen!
- End of Watch: All that seems to come of found footage films are largely un-scary horror movies like The Blair Witch Project or the Paranormal Activity franchise. But David Ayer’s buddy cop flick End of Watch, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña as two partners who stumble onto a dangerous drug cartel, breathes new life into this tired brand of filmmaking.
- Jeff, Who Lives at Home: Jason Segel is probably one of my favorite working actors today. If I was a woman, I would marry him. He may not be the hunkiest of Hollywood actors, but he is charming, funny, and above all, lovable. Which is funny, because that is exactly how I would describe Jeff, Who Lives at Home.
- Looper: 2012 was a banner year for thoughtful sci-fi, and director Rian Johnson’s rousing Looper is part of the reason why. Obviously time travel doesn’t (yet) exist, and any form of it that shows up in the film is purely speculative in nature. And so Johnson chooses not to focus on it as the driver of the story and the action, instead turning the focus on his characters and their own stories, and the film is much better off as a result.
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Much like any teenager in the high school world it portrays, Perks of Being a Wallflower displays a vast array of emotions. It’s a film driven by its characters, and your ability to like the movie really depends on whether or not you can — or perhaps want to — relate to them. Something I remember from high school is that no matter who you are, you still have real, human emotions that don’t care about your “label.” And Perks of a Being a Wallflower drives that lesson home.
- Prometheus: Very few summer blockbusters can be at once visually arresting, packed with entertainment, and spark an intellectual dialogue. Prometheus is all three, and aside from a few missteps, it works to a great degree.
- Safety Not Guaranteed: A cute, quirky, and altogether fun indie film about a man who seeks a partner to travel with him to the past and the girl who agrees to go with him. Featuring the acting talents of Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake M. Johnson, and the relatively unknown Karan Soni, this movie is an adventure worth embarking on.
Well, there you have it for the Honorable Mentions. Hit the next page to see what I think are the 10 best films of 2012!