Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The 100 Project: The Top 25 Movies of 2012

During most years in human history, something happens to make us think, "Uh-oh, this is it. The end of the world is upon us." In 2012 that feeling was amplified because of the Mayans. If you've forgotten, ancient Mayans made a calendar that ran out in 2012. Of course, a bunch of folks took that as a prediction for Armageddon. Alas, we're still here, though seemingly hanging on by a string, and we wound up with lots of movies to talk about. To see what I initially thought of this year's crop of movies, click here. My feelings have changed, somewhat. Here they are.

My Top 25 Movies of 2012

  • According to my Letterboxd account I've seen 156 movies that were released in 2012
  • I saw movies in theater, 2 make the top 25
  • I've seen all 9 movies nominated for Best Picture. 4 make the top 25, 4 more are honorable mentions.
  • The year of the documentary: 3 docs make the top 10, 3 more make the top 25, while another is a honorable mention.
  • 4 films with young children in the lead make the top 25. 3 more are have high school students as the main character.

25. Wreck-it Ralph

24. Luv

23. 21 Jump Street

22. The Sessions

21. Silver Linings Playbook

20. Byzantium

19. The Invisible War

18. The We and the I

17. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

16. Chronicle

15. Frankenweenie

14. The Imposter

13. Moonrise Kingdom

12. Seven Psychopaths

11. Life of Pi

10. Searching for Sugar Man
Lots of documentaries are shocking and disheartening. On this list alone, there are a handful of them that leave feeling worse about the world after you watch them. This one does the opposite. It starts off as a curious mystery and ends up tugging at your heartstrings. A must for fans of folk music.

9. Looper
It takes its delicious premise fills it with action and never forgets about the simultaneously internal and external conflict that grabs our attention once the plot is set in motion. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis literally play two sides of the same coin and shine at it. This is possibly the last really good performance from Willis.

8. Compliance
Lots of horror flicks have unkillable masked men, ghosts, goblins, demons and devils. I love lots of them. However, the overwhelming majority of them are disposable. Once the psycho hacks up all the teenagers, the ghosts and goblins run the family out the house, or the demons and devils are exorcised I’m off to a restful night of sleep with barely a thought given to what I’ve just watched. Compliance has none of those things. Some people wouldn’t even call it a horror. Yet, this is the movie that got further under my skin than any in 2012. It’s ripped from the headlines plot helps in that regard. What happens here did actually happen, more or less. And could happen again. I have daughters just embarking on adulthood. So yeah, this movie creeped me out.

7. The Avengers
By now, cinematic superhero team-ups seem commonplace now, but in 2012 everyone wondered if it could work. It had been done in things like Mystery Men, and more seriously, Watchmen. The difference is those were all one-shot deals where we were meeting all the characters as once. For this, these characters had built up in separate movies and carried their own legacies into the film. On top of that, those movies were also connected through various MacGuffins, so their storylines had to come together along with their personalities. It works wonderfully, somehow without being a cluttered mess.

6. Spring Breakers
More than anything else on this list, Spring Breakers is a love it or hate it kind of movie. Some will find it to be slick social commentary on a generation of attention whores willing to do any and everything to bring themselves fame or infamy. The many directorial flourishes will dazzle their eyes and come off as an infinite amount of style infused with just the right amount substance. Others will find it a sleazy, voyeuristic mess trying to obscure its lack of meaningful insight with flashy camera work, fancy filters, and nudity. I have it pretty high up on this list, so you can guess where I stand.

5. How to Survive a Plague
If you’re old enough, you remember that when AIDS first became a prominent disease in the late 1970s/early 1980s, it was seen as a disease that only affected gay men. Indeed, the vast majority of its victims fit that description. It was also a death sentence, with most people dying within a year or two after being diagnosed. The government didn’t seem particularly pressed about helping them. This doc is about the activists within that community who spearheaded the efforts to speed up the process of funding research and creating medicines to deal with the issue. It’s full of passion, empathy, and unfortunately, death. I don’t mean death in the grisly, horror movie kind of way, but simply people dying while fighting for their cause. It’s an amazing, though not always easy to watch, documentary.

4. Beasts of the Southern Wild
I like stories of survival. I also like films about relationships between a father and their children, particularly if those fathers are Black men. This movie is both. Here, a dad and his daughter live off the coast of Louisiana. Their existence, and that of everyone else around them, is threatened by the coming storm. We dive into their culture, as well as their relationship. I’ve given lots of attention to Dwight … as the dad, because he’s the character most like me. He gives an amazing performance. If I’m being honest, however, the real star of the movie is Q Wallis as his daughter. She melts your heart, is cute as can be, yet still pulls genuine emotion out of her role. Her chemistry with D is fantastic and makes the movie a bittersweet masterpiece.

3. The Central Park Five
As a Black male teenager in late 80s New York, I was already used to other people looking at me and thinking of me in broad stereotypical terms. I was already aware that the actions of one of us meant the public damnation of all of us, even if those actions never actually happened. In this case, five such teens were arrested, and seemingly confessed, to the rape and possible attempted murder, of a woman who came to be known as The Central Park Jogger. The case was in the news for months on end with the entire city, already racially charged before this event, following the proceedings. To many New Yorkers, mostly White, these kids should have been buried as far under the jail as possible. This includes the real estate mogul (?) who went to become president, Donald Trump. To the rest of us, the facts weren’t lining up. That includes me, who read about it every day in the newspaper. This doc examines the case, and gets us inside the lives of these, now grown men, and the journey their lives have been ever since.

2. Skyfall
Even if you’ve never seen a James Bond, you probably have a pretty good idea of what happens in them. A suave super spy saves the world while bedding lots of women. The brilliance of the Daniel Craig era of the franchise is that it is a deconstruction of that behavior and all the tropes used to create the character. Skyfall is the height of this run of films. In addition to deconstructing the character, it studies where Bond fits in a modern world, both personally and professionally. Therefore, it’s a great character study, it’s self-aware, and still has plenty of great action scenes. For my money, this is the best Bond movie ever made.

1. Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino has achieved godlike status among a certain set of movie fans. He often starts with the genres he loved as a young film buff, puts them in a blender, and drops in lots of witty banter built on pop culture references. When it comes to history, he rewrites it, turning victims into victors. He does the same here, starting with the spaghetti western, adding splashes of blaxploitation, sexploitation, and of course, slavery films. He gets help from an amazing cast, including a never-better Leonardo DiCaprio. Yup, I said never-better. It all comes together phenomenally. I might get some flak for this, but to me, this is the last great Tarantino film.

Honorable Mentions (alphabetical): The Act of Killing, American Mary, Amour, Argo, Brave, Cloud Atlas, Dredd, End of Watch, Les Miserable, The Man with the Iron Fists, The Master, Mud, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Place Beyond the Pines, Rust and Bone, Ted, Zero Dark Thirty


  1. We share a lot of films based on our respective lists yet having Django Unchained as your #1 film warms my heart. That was one of the last films my dad watched before he passed away a few years ago. Even though he saw it on TNT, he still thought it was one of the best westerns he had ever seen.

    1. That is a fantastic, but bittersweet story. Sorry you lost him, but glad you this memory.

  2. I don't know how I missed this post, but I'll take the nine new additions to my list of suggetions.

    Amour, for me, is not my favorite movie of the year, but I think it's the best. Dredd would definitely make my top-10 for the year; it's one of those films that is in yearly rotation for me.

    Others I liked from this year are:
    The Battery
    Frances Ha
    The History of Future Folk
    I am a Ghost
    It's Such a Beautiful Day
    John Dies at the End (weird, but worth it)
    Kill Me Now (very stupid, but funny)
    Robot & Frank
    Safety Not Guaranteed (track this down, thank me later)

    1. Amour is a fantastic movie, but not one I think I'll watch again.

      I've seen a fair number of your suggestions.

      Frances Ha - didn't work for me. I found Frances annoying.
      John Dies at the End - enjoyed it well enough, definitely a weird one.
      ParaNorman, Robot & Frank, Safety Not Guaranteed - all very good & close to being honorable mentions. I think I've reviewed all of them on this site.