The List: Top 10 Best Films of 2012

With every "Worst of..." list, there must be a "Best of..." list. Here are my picks for the ten best films of 2012 I saw by year's end.

10. Jack Reacher

Released only a short time ago, Jack Reacher finds Tom Cruise in the titular role investigating a sniper attack. As I said in my review, this is a solid, if unspectacular, film that knows what it is. An old school, action/thriller that doesn't skimp on either. Cruise brings everything you'd expect, but writer/director Christopher McQuarrie is the star as he brings a stripped-down feel and gives you a film that does not overload you with CGI.

9. Killer Joe

Another film that was just reviewed! Matthew McConaughey stars as Killer Joe Cooper, a Dallas detective who moonlights as a killer. When hired by a redneck family who are trying to recover a life insurance policy, the family gets more than they bargained for. McConaughey does career work here as does Gina Gershon as the extremely trashy wife of this redneck family. Dark humor and twisted characters directed by William Friedkin make for a film that should be seen.

8. Frankenweenie

Tim Burton takes an idea he had from the mid-80's and turns it into a feature-length film. And by providing the audience this gem, Burton gives us his best film since the 1990's. After an accident, a boy reanimates his dog so their friendship can continue. Bringing back his dead dog, though, does not sit well with some of the local townsfolk. As stated in my initial review, Tim Burton shows his love for old-school monster films and brings a charming and fun story to life using stop motion animation in glorious black and white!

7. Moonrise Kingdom

Being a fan of Wes Anderson, I felt this film had a solid chance of making my ten best films of the year list. And he did not disappoint. Making his best film since The Royal Tenenbaums, Anderson takes us to the fictional town New Penzance where two young children find adventure and love while the town locals, including: Bill Murray, Bruce Willis and Edward Norton attempt to find them. This is a sweet and funny film that had me reminding myself of what it was like to be a kid. Granted, I never went on adventures like these, but still...

6. Chronicle

Writer Max Landis and Director Josh Trank take us on a new take for a superhero story. Told through the "found footage" genre, three boys appear to get superpowers and document how they use these powers in everyday life. As such with superhero films, one kid has to use the powers for evil. For a PG-13 film, this actually had a lot of dark elements which helped make it stand out amongst other superhero films. The "found footage" genre has really worn out its welcome, but this film used it as a tool and not as a crutch.

5. The Cabin in the Woods

I'm not really sure why this film gets a lot of hate. A smart, clever and hilarious take on the cliched horror trope, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard take the tried-and-true story and spin it on its head. I don't really want to go into the plot, as the less you know, the better. Take mine and most people's words for it: The Cabin in the Woods is a very good film.

4. Looper

I know there is a lot of hate for this film, but I didn't see it that way. Rian Johnson provides a smart and entertaining time travel film. Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt play the same character; 30 years apart. Both are in the year 2044 with different agendas. What follows are the plots of both Young Joe and Old Joe as they work to close in on each other and also, to close whatever loop they have in their life. Another film where I don't want to go into the plot too much, but my review certainly will tell you more. This is a film that you need to see for yourself.

3. The Master

By far, the most plotless film on the list; that doesn't make it bad though. Joaquin Phoenix, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams do amazing acting work in a film that is vaguely based on Scientology. The plot is non-existent, but what matters here are the performances. For my money, though, as said when I first reviewed this film, Phillip Seymour Hoffman gave one of the best and most subtle performances of the year as the charismatic leader Lancaster Dodd. This is not P.T. Anderson's best film, but this certainly one of this year's best films.

2. Django Unchained

Another recent film I reviewed shows up in my top ten best films list! Quentin Tarantino tackles race in his bloody and hilarious Django Unchained. Though needing another run through the editing bay, just about this entire film works. With the exception of the ending, this film flows and moves at its leisurely pace as we follow freed slave Django along with the man who freed him: Dr. King Schultz. The first half of this film sets up as a buddy picture, then we move on to Leonard DiCaprio's Calvin Candie and his plantation; where Django's wife is being held. This is where the film kicks it into an extra gear. Calvin and his house slave Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) then go head to head for Django's wife. Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson are so good in this movie; I just wish the ending was better because this film would have been number 1...

1. Argo

...not to say Argo is bad. Not by a long shot! Ben Affleck stars and directs the film based on the Iranian hostage crisis. Six members escape the U.S. Embassy when it is stormed and seek refuge at the home of the Canadian Ambassador. CIA Specialist Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) comes up with the idea of the U.S. shooting a fake movie in Iran and to have the six members pose as a film crew to escape Iran. This film is tense, funny and very satisfying. Argo is a really, really good movie. Even when I first reviewed the film, I called it one of the year's best. Now I can just call it the year's best film.

With good movies, it seems less fun to write about them. It's always much more fun to joke about the bad films that are out there.

These are the ten best films that I was able to see in 2012. I wish I could have seen more, as the list may have changed. As is, though, these are what I saw and these are what I felt were best in my opinion.


  1. Nice list, handful of films I've still go to watch but we agree on a lot of the overlap.

    The Master has gotten a lot of hate for it's plotless story but I rather enjoyed it for the same reason you did, the performances are some of the best of the year.

    1. Totally agree. Some films are just about acting and that is really it. The Master is one of those films.

  2. Great list although I will never support Tom Cruise being on any best of list - you know how I feel about him! ;-)

    There is still quite a bit on here that I have yet to see but it is great to see Chronicle popping up in a lot of the Best Of lists.

    K :-)

    1. Magnolia.
      Minority Report.
      Days of Thunder.

      Every one of those belongs on a Best Of list...

    2. K,

      This was my top 10 as of 12.31.12. I wasn't able to see Lincoln, Skyfall, Zero Dark Thirty, Les Miserables, The Hobbit, This is 40 or Parental Guidance. So Jack Reacher probably would have been knocked out, but going off what I saw through the end of 2012, Jack Reacher just squeaked in.


      I didn't do the 10 greatest films ever list. Obviously all of those would make it, Days of Thunder topping the list, obviously.