From January 2012 through January of 2013, I kept track of all the movies made in 2012 that I watched, ranking them immediately after viewing. If a movie was released in 2011, but not available for general viewing (beyond festivals) in the U.S. until 2012, it counted.
The point was to keep up with the current films. It’s a lot of fun, plus, as screenwriters, it’s good to know what’s in the market for so many reasons.
And so, below is my list of the best and worst movies of 2012. I’m sure some of you will disagree with the choices, but I hope others will see these lists as a way to be introduced to new films. I know I do.
Special thanks to TV Script Doctor Joey for the original idea behind this contest, and to Carman Tse who encouraged me to see more foreign-language films and documentaries this year. As you can see by the list (two European films in the top 10) I listened, Carman.
The Best (and Worst) Movies of 2012
by Script Doctor Eric
1. BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD – I can see why some people (Scriptcast Matt) would dislike it, but to me, this is what poetry looks like on film.
2. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES – Not the top Batman of the bunch, but still a thrill from start to finish.
3. LINCOLN – Could have been a dry period drama, but in the hands of masters is transformed into an engaging political dogfight.
4. BERNIE – A rich, dark comedy that combines actors with the real townsfolk who experienced this true – and truly morally ambiguous – story.
5. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK – Everyone is crazy and that’s more than OK.
6. ARGO – Skillful blend of suspense and humor in a story that would be unbelievable if it weren’t true.
7. THE INTOUCHABLES – I’ve never heard middle-aged people laugh so loud in the theater.
8. COMPLIANCE – The most disturbing, thought provoking, controversial, and important movie of 2012.
9. KLOWN (Klovn) – Finally released in the U.S., this Danish film shows that the best vulgar comedy can come from the most unexpected places.
10. MOONRISE KINGDOM –Tears, laughter, great sets, and Bruce Willis. Solid work, Wes. Keep it up.
11. CHRONICLE – Teen angst and superpowers are a dangerous(ly awesome) combination.
12. THE AMBASSADOR – Mads Brüger lives up to his first name in this sly documentary (or is it?) about buying diamonds in Africa.
13. DJANGO UNCHAINED – Insane? Yep! Fun? For the most part. Weird ending? Unfortunately, yes.
14. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS – A perfect, fun horror film until that free-for-all finale… Should have ended with “Tequila is my lady!”
15. THE HUNGER GAMES – Except for the shaky cam and bad CGI fire-dress, it felt about as good as a PG-13 version of the book could be.
16. JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI – Beautifully shot doc of the hardest-working man in the raw fish business. The perfect film for anyone who loves sushi, Tokyo, or life.
17. HAYWIRE – Who cares if Gina Carano can’t act? She kicks ass like you’ve never seen it kicked before.
18. MARLEY – Enthralling documentary that will alter your perception of the Rasta legend and his music.
CHECK OUT IF YOU GET THE CHANCE
19. 2 DAYS IN NEW YORK – A solid French romantic comedy starring Chris Rock.
20. SKYFALL – The name’s Bardem. Javier Bardem. And I’m saving this overly long Bond film.
21. SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN – Far less salmon fishing (and Yemen) than you might expect by the title.
22. MEN IN BLACK 3 – Time travel + Will Smith + Josh Brolin impersonating Tommy Lee Jones = a lot more fun then you might expect.
23. LES MISERABLES – If you film a classic musical, does that make it a good movie or a good rendition of the musical? Discuss, while I try to get Russell Crowe’s singing voice out of my head.
24. JESUS HENRY CHRIST – Good, but a little too Wes Anderson-y for a filmmaker who is not Wes Anderson releasing a movie the same year as Wes Anderson.
25. LOOPER – Good, but I don’t buy the “I could explain how this works, but it would be too confusing for you in the audience.” Try me.
26. CASA DE MI PADRE – The jokes are fast and insane, so sit back and laugh at the absurdity. Mark my words – this will become a cult classic.
27. RUST AND BONE – Intense. Some folks adore this French drama, but structurally it just doesn’t have legs. (Yes, I said “legs.”)
28. THE MASTER – I’m not sure who is more obsessed with sex, Joaquin Phoenix’s character or Paul Thomas Anderson.
29. INDIE GAME – Intriguing look at what it takes to make independent video games like BRAID. Don’t know BRAID? It’s like Mario, for depressed intellectuals. In other words, it’s awesome.
30. SLEEPWALK WITH ME – Despite its weak premise, there’s a lot of heart and humor packed into this indie comedy.
31. THE AVENGERS – A good time, but we never feared the superheroes would fail. Also, if Banner could control the Hulk all along, why were they worried?
32. SIDEWALLS – Artistic and touching, atmospheric romance as much about the city of Buenos Aires as the people in it.
33. WRECK-IT RALPH – Sometimes a kids move is just a kids movie. I’ve come to expect more from animated films. (Thanks, Pixar!)
34. THE RAID: REDEMPTION – If I were a 14-year-old boy (or screenwriter Emily Blake) this would be my favorite movie of all time.
35. BRAVE – Too many bears. Again, I’ve come to expect more from animation (Thanks Pix…hey, wait a second…)
36. WE ARE LEGION: THE STORY OF HACKTIVISTS – Fascinating documentary on the group “Anonymous,” who is so powerful they could easily hack into this site anD AHCACK COUGH…WHY IS “WE ARE LEGION” RANKED SO LOW! I MEAN, AHEM, THIS ISN’T ANONYMOUS, THIS IS ERIC, AND I NEED TO ADJUST MY RANKINGS JUST A LITTLE…g..s.gs.asdfsd….Woah, what happened? The screen flickered for a second while I was reviewing the 41st best film of 2012…hey, wait a second…
37. JOHN CARTER – Hard to get into a movie featuring a world called “Balloon” (I mean “Barsoom”) and a city named Helium (no, really). A lightning-fast dog helps, though.
38. ZERO DARK THIRTY – Most overrated film of the year. Felt more like a reenactment of events than a cohesive story. Quick summary of the non-existent plot: Suspected terrorists are tortured and/or killed.
39. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED – Still not sure what happened in the end or this quirky mess, but Aubrey Plaza is pretty great.
40. 21 JUMP STREET – Starts strong but loses comedic steam as the thin plot descends into a free-for-all.
41. THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES – Lifestyles of the rich and…the rich.
42. FLIGHT – Though marketed as a plane crash – courtroom drama, this is a dry (or wet?) study on alcoholism. And a little cocaine.
43. MAGIC MIKE – Spoiler: Channing Tatum dances and takes off his clothes.
44. CRAIGSLIST JOE – What could have been an intriguing exploration of America just kind of wanders…
45. THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT – Hard to get on board with two characters that aren’t likable. Randall Park is not one of them. He’s great in everything, including our screenwriting podcast (Randall on Scriptcast).
46. SAFE HOUSE – Learned that if you’re in the CIA, the most dangerous place you can be is in a “safe” house in South Africa. Even if you’re just killing time before a promotion, don’t do it.
47. A THOUSAND WORDS – Hokey, but funny. (Or was it “funny, but hokey?”)
48. THE TALL MAN – Kids disappear in a small town and then it’s one twist after another. The message? Small towns suck.
49. PINA – Dancing. Dancing. And…explosions! Just kidding, it’s just more dancing.
50. SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN – It’s Narnia meets Lord of the Rings except instead of hobbits it’s dwarves, and instead of a story there’s nothing.
51. PROMETHEUS – A beautiful, beautiful mess. Dwayne Perkins said it best when he asked: “Is Prometheus the Greek god of disappointment?”
52. WANDERLUST – Neither Paul Rudd nor Jennifer Aniston can save this mediocre comedy about hanging out a commune. Probably because it’s about hanging out at a commune.
53. MANSOME – A light documentary that starts off fine, but then collapses in confusion while half-heartedly asking, “What makes a man?”
54. JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME – I suppose one coincidence after another is a sign…of a poorly constructed screenplay. (Zing!)
55. CONTRABAND – Spoiler: Marky Mark saves the day. Everyone else gets beat up.
56. THE FAIRY – French “comedy.”
57. FRIENDS WITH KIDS – A crass rip-off of When Harry Met Sally. Everyone involved with this has done better work. (See: everything else they have done.)
58. THIS MEANS WAR – Reece is attractive, sure, but worth giving up your lifelong buddy and risking your career as a CIA operative? I don’t buy it, nor anything else in this colossal waste of money. Tom Hardy, you can do better.
So…that’s it for The Great Movie Challenge of 2012! Thanks to everyone who participated!
I hope you keep watching current films and keeping a list! It’s a lot of fun to discuss the best and worst of the year with your friends throughout the year. And coming soon: The Great Movie Challenge of 2013.