The 50 best movies of 2012

50 shades of yay

Ah 2012. A better time; a more halcyon age, an era of love and understanding. It played host to everything from the London Olympics, to that one clumsy astronaut who fell off his own rocket, before tricking everyone into believing he’d planned a ‘record breaking skydive’.

In the world of film, Leonardo DiCaprio enjoyed yet another year’s worth of free champagne at the Oscars, before sobbing uncontrollably against his mantelpiece. Oh, and Hollywood decided to rerelease The Phantom Menace in 3D, a move aimed at introducing a whole new generation to the concept of diminishing returns. There were also a fair number of new movies released, many of which were so darn good, they demanded to be ranked as a big top 50 list.

50. Seven Psychopaths

The Movie: Martin McDonagh’s follow-up to the mighty In Bruges reunited the writer/director with Colin Farrell and added a fistful of eccentric stars (Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken) in this post-modern comedy about Hollywood, gangsters and a kidnapped shit tzu.

Impact: Loved/loathed by critics as a throwback to the Tarantino-obsessed 1990s, this is a meta, mental odyssey of splattered blood and in-jokes. With QT himself back in cinemas in January, consider it an appetite whetter.

49. Sound Of My Voice

The Movie: A duo of documentary filmmakers infiltrate the cult of alleged ‘time traveller’ Brit Marling. Is she or isn’t she? Zal Batmanglij’s indie thriller keeps us guessing.

Impact: You couldn’t swing at cat in a cinema this year without hitting a film about a cult. Aptly, a genuine cult is forming around star/co-writer Marling (Another Earth), an actress with a knack of fashioning smart indie pictures out of genre-friendly concepts.

48. Liberal Arts

The Movie: Writer/director Josh Radnor casts himself as the thirtysomething getting a premature mid-life crisis when he meets beguiling student Elizabeth Olsen, in the kind of talky, erudite romcom (Before Sunrise, Garden State) that comes along once every few years.

Impact: Radnor looked to be in danger of being the only star of How I Met Your Mother not to break out, especially after Cobie Smulders wowed in Avengers Assemble. With this film, he could have a film career to rival co-star Jason Segel’s. As for Olsen, we’ll be hearing more about her later.

47. Your Sisters Sister

The Movie: An unlikely love triangle (aren’t they all?) emerges between grieving Mark Duplass, his late brother’s ex Emily Blunt, and her lesbian sister Rosemarie DeWitt, underlining that writer/director Lynn Shelton’s (Humpday) is the queen of American relationship indie.

Impact: Along with Jeff, Who Lives At Home (co-directed by this film’s star Mark Duplass), here was proof that the lo-fi mumblecore aesthetic could survive – and, indeed, be improved by – the casting of a big star like Emily Blunt.

46. The Hunger Games

The Movie: It might have been marketed as the new Twilight and been dismissed by some as a 12A certificate Battle Royale, but exceptional casting and attention to world-beating made a formidable blockbuster out of Suzanne Collins’ kids-killing-kids dystopia.

Impact: The film that anointed Jennifer Lawrence as a star also became the only new mega-franchise contender to rival assorted superheroes, vampires and British secret agents at the box office. With the sequel one of 2013’s hottest prospects, Katniss Everdeen is truly Catching Fire.

45. Frankenweenie

The Movie: Tim Burton returned to his breakthrough hit – the 1984 short of the same name – for the stop-motion tale of a boy named Frankenstein who resurrects his dead dog Sparky. A kids’ film, of course.

Impact: Scaring kids was the theme of the Autumn, with Frankenweenie competing with ParaNorman and Hotel Transylvania in a crowded marketplace. While he wasn’t the box-office winner, Burton could take solace in an overwhelmingly positive critical response (his best reviews in years).

44. Damsels In Distress

The Movie: 1990s indie legend Whit Stillman returned after a lengthy absence as if nothing had changed, with his archly whimsical comedy about a gang of college girls (led by Greta Gerwig) who want to improve the lives of their peers.

Impact: Definitely a love-it-or-hate-it affair, but it underlined that Gerwig’s presence extends beyond her mumblecore roots and also introduced a new dance craze: the sambola.

43. The Amazing Spider-Man

The Movie: Marc Webb directs Andrew Garfield in the tale of how Peter Parker was bit by a radioactive spider and found his Spidey-senses tingling. Nothing to do with the 2002 Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire film, honest.

Impact: This could well be 2012’s most influential movie, in terms of showing that even relatively new franchises can be restarted and still rake in millions at the box office. Oh, and Hollywood? Please cast Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in everything. Thank you.

42. Margin Call

The Movie: Senior Risk Analyst Zachary Quinto realises that his investment bank has been taking the most senior risks imaginable. The fallout explains how the world got into its current financial mess via a series of crackling scenes with heavyweights Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany and Jeremy Irons.

Impact: There have already been several worthy documentaries about the current financial crisis, but J.C. Chandor’s Oscar-nominated screenplay transforms it into grand drama without the audience getting lost in the minutiae of the stock markets (anyone remember Ewan McGregor in Rogue Trader? Exactly).

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