My Top 20 Films of 2012

It’s that time of year again, so here’s my top 20 films of what 2012 has had to offer.

I think it’s fair to say that it’s been a very hit and miss year for film this year with some exceptional releases scattered throughout 2012, but with some completely disappointing films filling in the months between (Anything involving Taylor Kitsch, I’m looking at you!). From the end of trilogies (The Dark Knight Rises) to the start of new ones (The Hunger Games, The Amazing Spider-Man), to the combination of many film characters into one big blockbuster (Avengers Assemble) and to some brilliant novel adaptations (On The Road, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower), we’ve certainly had it all. Read below to see what I thought of the year in film, and feel free to let me know what you thought about the year too.

I still need to see a couple more films, of course, so for a more up to date list you can visit my Letterboxd page. (Also, please note that I go by UK release dates.)

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20. Rust and Bone

It is for this film that I watched the trailer for most this year, but Rust and Bone wasn’t what I was expecting at all, which is both a good and a bad thing. The soundtrack (excluding Katy Perry) and cinematography are huge qualities, but I was hoping for more underwater scenes with the orcas. Instead, we were faced with more of a focus on the male character, and whilst the scenes with his son provoke a lot of emotion, the scenes of fighting didn’t give the contrast I was hoping for. Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts are both excellent but, again, I was expecting more passion in their relationship so I was somewhat let down by that. Despite this, Cotillard is one of my favourite actresses so it was hard not to fall in love with her performance and therefore find some of the story quite moving. The film just didn’t have the captivating power I was so ready to feel from it. I just expected a little more.

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19. Take This Waltz

This film won’t be on many people’s top list this year, as I think it’s the type of film that you need to relate to to really enjoy it. Without the engagement that I felt I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much, but it kept tugging on my heart strings which resulted in me thinking about it for days after viewing. I found quite a few flaws in this film, mainly the out of place “sex montage” as, whilst the cinematography was constantly appealing, I didn’t feel these scenes fit with the rest of the story line, but it did come together in the end. Michelle Williams is one of my favourite actresses and I loved her performance here, but her role also meant that it was only too easy to compare the film to Blue Valentine, in which she starred alongside Ryan Gosling in a similar anti-romantic storyline. Because of this comparison, there is so much to knock Take This Waltz down on, not quite have the same raw emotion and character depth. Again, it was the effect this film had on me that made me see the film as more than average, whilst I can also see the flaws that it has. As for the rest, Seth Rogen and Luke Kirby were both average and didn’t bring much to the film, but there were a couple of funny moments and I loved the fairground ride scenes.

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18. Jeff, Who Lives At Home

I was extremely surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. It is a brilliant and dramatic comedy from The Duplass brothers, that is excellently written and directed with a lovely score running throughout, helping to set it aside from just another Segel comedy. The premise is thoughtful and therefore both moving and engaging, and it even makes you laugh. Great performances from Segel, Helms, Greer and Sarandon, and what a combination they make!

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17. Killer Joe

Well this was pretty fucked up, yet still somewhat disturbingly brilliant. Matthew McConaughey is terrific and it’s great to see that he’s sticking with some pretty decent roles lately. Whilst his character is awfully creepy, unlike the rom-com hunk we are unfortunately used to, his scenes are filled with such intensity that it’s hard to lose your focus from him. Juno Temple also excels, but kudos have to go to Gina Gershon for an awkward scene involving some fried chicken. Full of graphic violence and dark comedy throughout, this isn’t the easiest films to watch at times but it will definitely leave an impact. I’m not sure about the ending though, but on the other hand this also helps to make the whole story seem scarily believable.

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16. Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World

Now this is an apocalyptic drama with a sense of reality. Approaching the end of the world scenario in a humanistic and somewhat believable way, the film focuses on missed opportunities, reconciliations, apocalyptic sex (because let’s face it, we all would), and the need for somebody to share the experience with. Steve Carell and Keira Knightley make an unlikely leading duo but nonetheless their coupling really works and even brings in a sense of emotional engagement. Carell is his typical comedic but serious-when-needs-be self, whilst Knightley brings something new to her stereotype, giving a more modern yet still raw performance. Concluding in the sweetest way it possibly could, there’s one scene especially that brings a tear to the eye. Avoiding any horrible over-the-top situations that would ruin the moment, although some are included purely for comedic value, it’s just a lovely film.

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15. The Amazing Spider-Man

For me, this is the best Spider-Man yet. The Amazing Spider-Man works at a much better level because it has an emotional depth to it. Because of both Garfield’s acting and Webb’s direction, this time around we actually care about who Peter is and what he becomes. Garfield is brilliant for the role, re-vamping a superhero that isn’t always as well-favoured as the many others. Garfield’s on-screen chemistry with Emma Stone, too, is extremely enjoyable.

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14. Chronicle

This is one of the best found footage style films of recent years, dealing with both this type of filming and the ‘superhero’ genre very uniquely. With a lot of background story, it was much more in depth than I expected as well.

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13. Beasts Of The Southern Wild

Beasts Of The Southern Wild is an absolutely beautiful film. The premise is quite simple but there’s still a depth to it, making it powerful and emotional, but light hearted and extremely cute at the same time (I hate the word ‘cute’ but it really is!). There’s a lot of meaning behind what happens, mainly expressed through the young girl’s narration, mixing an incredible piece of imagination with a strong sense of reality. It’s completely refreshing, and a huge reason for this is because of the beautiful performance given by the lead star Quvenzhané Wallis, who really manages to pull on your heart strings.

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12. The Raid

The Raid is a brilliantly choreographed 100 minutes of pure chaos. I’m not a big action fan but when fight scenes are as good as this it’s hard not to enjoy a film full to the brim of them; it was pretty much just twenty different brutal ways to kill a man. Although the film was in subtitles, I felt that it didn’t even need much of the dialogue at all, and have since re-watched it on mute and enjoyed it just as much. It’s just visually incredible.

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11. Argo

What an incredible directorial piece of work for Affleck, hey? He handles this true story amazingly, and has created quite the periodic thriller with Argo. The whole feel of the film is captured so well, from the music to the clothing, and the tone of the film really keeps you engrossed. I found that the first half dragged a little bit but the second half was absolutely brilliant so it more than made up for it. The performances are all great and the cast is very strong, with interesting roles, especially, for the likes of Bryan Cranston. Alan Arkin and John Goodman. On a whole, it’s just a great piece of filmmaking.

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10. On The Road

This was one of my most anticipated films of this year and whilst I’m still yet to read the novel it is based on, I wasn’t completely satisfied but it was still a good watch. The cinematography is stunning, and for as far as I can comment I found that the casting worked well too. The lead males, especially Sturridge, had a strong, and very homoerotic, chemistry, whilst Stewart, who I am a fan of anyway, gave something more than her morbid expression that many often criticise her for. It felt a little empty in places but it was an adventure I enjoyed going along with. And now I want to go travelling, but whilst I save up money I’m going to go read the book.

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9. The Hunger Games

This was another one of my most anticipated films after reading the trilogy (or most of it) beforehand. This first instalment is a great adaptation, working really well on screen with director Gary Ross managing to capture Collin’s dystopian world incredibly. This was it’s biggest quality, creating a real sense of fear in this futurstic setting. With a host of solid performances, too, Jennifer Lawrence was superb in the lead and the whole cast generally fit their parts really well. The one flaw, I found, was the romance between Peeta and Katniss which was played out horribly on screen; it needed to be emphasised more that she was doing it all for the cameras and that she was always longing for Gale back home, but instead it came across a bit too Twilight-y. Apart from that, I had no other complaints and I absolutely loved it.

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8. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Adventure

Whilst I have to agree with a large part of the criticisms for this film in that it does fall short on story line in places and that it is padded out by much walking and many, many chaotic chases, I don’t feel that the film ever felt slow or that it became tedious in its three hour length. In fact, some of these walking scenes were the most epic (the goblin chase, the rock giants). It had everything I loved about the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and, because of that, I find it hard to fault. It even improved with the addition of some much welcomed comedy (the trolls, Gollum’s riddle game) and a cast of brilliant new characters, with Martin Freeman, especially, standing out as a much better protagonist to follow than Elijah Wood. For many reasons I will always prefer the original trilogy, but this new trilogy definitely had, and is sure to bring more, brilliant moments.

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7. Moonrise Kingdom

Another wonderful Wes Anderson classic, and probably my favourite so far. It’s quirky, with stunning cinematography, and it is, as always, very well scripted. Yes, it’s set around another detached reality that is sometimes Anderson’s biggest downfall in his films, but the innocent structure works at its best here with the boy scout premise. And let’s not forget the cast, one of the most stand out qualities of Anderson’s films, which this time includes a number of brilliant additions to Anderson’s originals, including Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, and Tilda Swinton, but it is the young stars that lead the film who deserve the credit here. Everything about it is just charming.

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6. The Dark Knight Rises

Whilst I found The Dark Knight Rises a little boring at first, after the first hour and half it was completely epic. The score was amazing, the latest villain Bane was brilliant, and there was so many great surprises! It definitely has its flaws – mainly a lack of an emotional core until the very end – but nonetheless, it is a fantastic end to Nolan’s brilliant trilogy.

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5. Prometheus

Despite the negative reviews I read beforehand, I bloody loved Prometheus. It’s agreat sci-fi that is full of suspense, the kind of horror that Scott’s Alien films are all good for, and there was pretty decent visuals throughout. With brilliant acting and an excellent cast, whilst it wasn’t a direct prequel I felt that the story line was strong enough to set the film up as a stand alone film as well as being part of the Alien franchise.

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4. Looper

Oh boy, this was good. Looper quickly flew to the top of my list as an all-round brilliant sci-fi. The best part about this film, for me, was the “TK” sub-plot as none of this was to be expected from the film’s promotion. Because of this, the plot had a depth to it that I wasn’t expecting, and I found myself constantly being surprised even though I went into the cinema thinking I knew all that was going to happen. This part of the story also opened up some visually striking scenes of slow motion action, which looked absolutely fantastic. Even JGL looked good, becoming a believable younger Bruce Willis in his prosthetics, both of whom gave solid performances throughout. I was a little put off by the child actor, only because he was five years old and acting in a ten-year-old’s part, which didn’t fit visually, but at the same time this is only more reason to applaud his flawless acting. JGL and Emily Blunt definitely needed more chemistry, or a chance for their chemistry to fly, though, and the lack of emotion here would be my only real flaw. On a whole, the film was pretty powerful and left a huge impression on me, from the scene where a man’s limbs disappear making my stomach knot to the film’s end which even made me shed a tear; I was undeniably impressed.

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3. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

Directed by Stephen Chbosky and adapted from his own novel, it was hard for this film to go wrong, yet it still exceeded my expectations on so many levels. Following a modern day John Hughes’ type high school drama, the film tells the honest coming of age story of a troubled boy, and the people he meets who help him to find out who he really is. Highly relatable, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is emotional, heartfelt, and has a surprising depth that will leave most audiences effected in some way. It’s main quality, however, is its three fantastic lead performances – Logan Lerman finally takes a decent lead with a role that is both engaging and moving, enabling the audience to feel something for his every action, Emma Watson shows that she is no longer Hermione Granger and gives a brilliant and sexy performance as a slightly promiscuous non-wizard teenager, and Ezra Miller, well, just wow! Seeing his transition from We Need To Talk About Kevin to this is impressive in its own right, giving such a contrasting performance that it’s no wonder he stole the limelight in so many of the scenes. The trio are completely likeable, even loveable, and have such an incredible chemistry which brings the film together beautifully. I think I have a new favourite film, and now I can’t wait to read the book!

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2. Shame

I know this was released in 2011 in the US, but I didn’t get to see this until January over here. Despite it’s early release in the year, this was undeniably a film that stuck with me. Shame is raunchy yet deeply informed, dealing with its subject matter brilliantly. Michael Fassbender is just beautiful and he gives such a strong (get it?) performance. Carey Mulligan, as well, is brilliant, just like her role in my top film of last year, Drive. Because of their brilliant chemistry it’s really easy to engage with what’s happening, and it is for that reason that it leaves such an impact.

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1. Avengers Assemble

And of course, Avengers Assemble remained at the top of my list for most of the year. With some of the best CGI and 3D I have seen, which only enhanced the action scenes rather than blurred them, the film had an hilarious script written by the incredible Joss Whedon, yet it still managed to avoid becoming a comedy. The mix of genres was just spot on, and the whole cast came together superbly with a brilliant chemistry, whilst each of them were developed really well individually at the same time. It was just amazing in every way.

10 thoughts on “My Top 20 Films of 2012

Add yours

  1. An interesting list. Slightly similar to my top 20 films of the year. Some on yours I haven’t seen but I’m keen to. Love the On the Road picture. I’ve been a fan of Stewart for her indie work rather than Twilight – Adventureland, Into the Wild etc. Great list.

  2. Good list – I’ve done mine too and agree on quite a few, especially The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. It was second on my list and I loved it for the same reasons you did. The Avengers & Looper weren’t quite as high on my list but I definitely enjoyed them. I wish Prometheus was as high on my list – that was very disappointing. I still need to see Shame – I really like Carey Mulligan. And I really recommend that you read On The Road. 🙂

    1. What do you mean ‘forget’? It’s a list of my top 20 films not everything I have seen. Didn’t enjoy Lawless or Cabin In The Woods that much but am still yet to see Skyfall, though I’m not a fan of James Bond films at all.

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