As a firm believer in keeping with traditions (as long as they're fun/good traditions), I have created my list of the 25 movies I feel are the best, most entertaining, interesting, etc. As is always the case with something like this, this is just my own personal opinion, so the entire ordering and contents of this are chosen and arranged solely by me. I have found this year to be amongst the most upsetting when it comes to movies I went into with high expectations and was ultimately let down by, so don't be surprised if you don't see one of your personal favorite movies of the year on here, because odds are I just didn't like it. So, just as a final reminder, this list is the product of a cynic. Consider yourself warned.
Here, at the beginning of 2013, instead of looking forward to what is yet to come, I'll be looking back at what I've seen from 2012. I have 25 movies I want to remind people of. They are as follows:
25. ZERO DARK THIRTY
A dramatization of the hunt to find and kill Osama Bin Laden
I didn't wind up liking this movie as much as I was hoping (not even close), but I can't deny the technical precision and swift pacing of this movie. Jessica Chastain gives one of the strongest female performances of the year, and even at 150+ minutes, it's never boring.
A struggling writer moves his family into the house of a mass killing to study for his new true crime novel, but finds there's something else there with them.
Though the overall effect was diminished by an ending filled with problems, it's hard to deny how thoroughly creepy the entire movie leading up to it was. High on shock value and filled with suspense, this is one of the better horror movies of recent years.
An aging couple struggle to cope when the wife suffers from a series of strokes that leaves her largely helpless.
Very slow, largely uneventful, but totally engaging. The two lead performances in this movie are fantastic, and paired with Haneke's minimalistic direction and excellent screenplay, you get one of the most subtly brilliant dramas of the year.
22. THE INTOUCHABLES
A quadriplegic and his caretaker form an unlikely friendship as their bond effects both of their lives in largely positive ways.
Generic as it may be, it's hard to deny just how effective and entertaining this movie really is. Two excellent lead performances, an uplifting story, and a beautiful musical score all blend together with great results.
21. END OF WATCH
Two cops, who are also best friends, get in way over their heads investigating and antagonizing a crime circle that may cost them their lives.
One of the best cop dramas I've seen in some time, the found footage style of this film may be a slight detraction at times, but all is forgiven thanks to Gyllenhaal and Pena's particularly strong performances and great chemistry. A very well-executed action/drama.
An aging James Bond comes out of retirement when a series of terrorist attacks on MI6 threaten to expose the identities of fellow agents.
Though I find myself having quite a lot of problems with this movie, it's hard to deny the incredible step up this is from most of the previous Bond films. Bardem is excellent and Deakins' incredible cinematography makes this one of the best-looking movies of the year.
19. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED
A group of led by a magazine writer travel to find the author of a classified ad asking for a time-travel companion in hopes of writing an interesting story.
Excellent chemistry between its two leads, a very fun and interesting concept, and a very tight running time. It's very entertaining and touching while it lasts, which at times feels not quite long enough. It's just that much fun to watch.
18. BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW
A strange scientist with unknown intentions performs mental experiments on a young woman in his laboratory.
Definitely one of the most eerily unsettling movies I've seen in quite some time, this is a movie ruled by its moody musical score and strange visual style. An intriguing motion picture experience, and one not easily shaken.
In a world where time-travel exists, a hitman is hired to kill a future version of himself, but things take an unexpected turn.
Riddled with confusing plot-holes and other oddities, none of which winds up mattering at all due to the great execution of its story, which is definitely one of the most interesting concepts found in a movie this year.
16. CLOUD ATLAS
Six somewhat related stories all focusing on peoples' lives intertwining over a period of hundreds of years.
Taking a concept that seems, at a glance, very contrived and potentially messy, the Wachowski's make it all work thanks to some great directorial choices and fantastic visuals. Another of the best-looking movies of the year, without a doubt.
15. HOLY MOTORS
An actor performing for an unseen audience inhabits a certain number of roles over the course of a few days, leaping from one existence and reality to the next.
It's been called by many the "weirdest movie of the year", and I'm inclined to agree. Denis Lavant gives one of the strangest performances I've seen in years, a perfect match for the rest of this movie. I don't understand it, but I don't think I need to: I found it strangely compelling and kind of brilliant.
14. THE AVENGERS
A group of superheroes band together to take on the villainous Loki, as he attempts to take over/destroy the planet.
One of the biggest, most entertaining superhero movies I've ever seen. Joss Whedon was the perfect choice to write and direct, giving the material much more wit than I had expected. I haven't had much more fun watching a movie this year than with this. Pure entertainment.
13. THE GREY
A plane crash in Alaska leaves a group of survivors stranded in the cold with little chance of survival.
A huge surprise, especially considering its January release, this is one of the most effective survival movies in recent years. Liam Neeson gives his best performance since Schindler's List, and the cinematography is equally incredible. An excellent movie that really pulls you into the action, whether you want to be there or not.
A young boy uses his scientific knowledge to bring back to life his precious dog/best friend.
The best Burton movie since Ed Wood, and one of the finest homages to Universal monster movies ever made. The animation is wonderful, and the story itself very touching. One of the most emotional, and surprisingly entertaining, movies of the year.
11. GOOD NIGHT GOOD MORNING
Two strangers have a long, deep phone conversation over the course of an evening as they slowly grow attached to one another.
One of the most simple dramas of the year, and still one of the most effective. It almost seems too simple, but it never feels less than it should be. An exercise in the power and effectiveness of dialogue and acting and nothing more.