Deciding on the "best" films of any particular year is never an easy task, especially depending on how seriously you take that task. On the final page of this list of my top ten films of 2012 I've included links to my previous top ten lists from the years 2003-2011 and while the majority of the films on those lists remain favorites of mine, it's quite evident how much more seriously I take this process from one year to the next, not to mention how many more films I actually see each year.
Going through the list of films I saw in 2012, I was pleased to see how much easier I found it to come up with movies I considered candidates for my top ten. Two thousand and eleven offered several good films, but I had a hard time making a list of ten I considered "great". This year, from numbers 1-10, I had no such dilemma and just as easy as it was to come up with a top ten, it was easy to come up with several more vying for a place among my favorites for the year.
I already listed my five favorite documentaries of the year (find that list here), where films such as Chasing Ice and The Queen of Versailles should certainly not be forgotten when it comes to making a list of the year's best. Fellow docs including Samsara, Side by Side, The Central Park Five and Spike Lee's Michael Jackson documentary Bad 25 are worth noting when discussing the year's crème de la crème.
Two heartfelt dramas that almost made my final list begins with the French phenomenon The Intouchables in which a wealthy quadriplegic (François Cluzet) decides to hire a young man from the projects (Omar Sy) to be his caretaker. The film is based on a true story and if you don't crack a smile and are attempting to hold back tears while watching it then I really don't know what to say.
Another film that left me floored by its performances was The Sessions, which holds something of a narrative kinship with The Intouchables as it too is based on a true story and stars John Hawkes as a man in an iron lung who begins working with a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) in an effort to finally lose his virginity. Written and directed by Ben Lewin (whom I'd never heard of prior), the film is a wonder for its performances and its lovely screenplay. It's certainly one of the year's best.
Also falling short is Ben Affleck's Argo, further proof Affleck is a director whose future work is worth anticipating. Disney's animated Wreck-It Ralph shows the studio is finally learning. Tangled made my Top Ten of 2010 and two years later Disney Animation is showing Pixar isn't the only animated house worth keeping an eye on.
At the end of the year we find Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty and Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained making headlines for their so-called controversial nature, but one film I hope you don't forget due to controversial material that actually didn't bolster the overall box-office was Compliance, a creepy little small-town drama that had people shaking their heads thinking "That would never happen." Only problem... it did.
Two more films that deserve a little more attention, in my mind, include Sound of My Voice and Red Lights. Sound of My Voice ran into similar problems to that of Compliance in that the audience is never convinced people would do what the people in these movies do, while Red Lights ran into back-and-forth debates over its ending, which I found to be quite fascinating.
And when it comes to romantic comedies there is hardly ever anything worth noting come the end of any particular year, especially when it comes to a top ten. And while Think Like a Man didn't make my final list, to not mention it would be a major oversight as this is one of the best straight-up romantic comedies to come along in a long time. From the NBA All-Star Weekend to the box-office, this was a year Kevin Hart won't soon forget.
I could watch any one of those 14 films over again and yet, there are ten more I felt were better this year along with others that I, at the very least, respect on one level or another including Cloud Atlas, Sinister, Looper, The Master, Lawless, Cosmopolis, The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus, Amour, The Avengers, Jeff, Who Lives at Home and Haywire. Even the B-level craziness of Premium Rush deserves a mention, if only for Michael Shannon's performance.
Finally, before I get to my top ten, I wanted to make special mention of Xavier Dolan's Laurence Anyways, which I saw at the Cannes Film Festival and absolutely loved. The story centers on Laurence Alia (Melvil Poupaud) and his struggles, along with those of his one-time fiancee (Suzanne Clement), after revealing he wants to live his life as a woman. It's an excellent film, and one to be on the lookout for in 2013. You can read my Cannes review right here.
And now, the drum roll has come to an end and it's time to reveal my list of the Top Ten Movies of 2012. My list is based on the films I not only enjoyed, but have every intention of watching again and will be recommending to others. As much as they could be called the films I consider to be the "best", they very well could simply be labeled my "favorite" and with that said, let's get started...
I watched Steven Spielberg's Lincoln a second time only hours before finalizing this list and while I still have a few of nitpicks as seen through a critical eye, the film itself remains one of my favorites of the year.
The obvious area of emphasis is the towering performance by Daniel Day-Lewis who truly makes you feel you've spent two hours and 29 minutes with the 16th President of the United States, but the performances all around are worthy of note, particularly those of supporting actors including Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader and I found a personal joy watching the wide-eyed terror of Walton Goggins.