Another year, another batch of amazing movies to bring attention to. There were fewer masterpieces last year than in 2011, but there were significantly more near-masterpieces.
Some honourable mentions that just didn’t make it into the top 25:
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (a reboot origin story that achieved everything the 2002 web-slinging thriller failed to)
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (an entertaining fish-out-of-water comedy with a cast of British thespians to die for)
LINCOLN (a powerful bio-pic of America’s 16th president with one of the best performances of the year, courtesy of Daniel Day-Lewis)
THE LONELIEST PLANET (a quiet, haunting, and gorgeous study of a couple whose stability is shattered by a split-second poor decision)
MOONRISE KINGDOM (a visual and deadpan near-classic from the gloriously quirky Wes Anderson)
THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY (a retelling of Mary Norton’s “The Borrowers,” in vividly hand-drawn anime)
THE WORLD BEFORE HER (a documentary examining life for two young women in India: one competing for the title of Miss India, the other training Hindu Nationalist child soldiers)
After the incredibly clever Brick and The Brothers Bloom, writer-director Rian Johnson delivered an incredibly clever time-travel thriller about an assassin hunting down his future self. With an intelligent take on time travel and a gloriously unpredictable plot, Looper is one of the smartest sci-fi movies since Minority Report.
The question of whether or not it was an Alien prequel quickly took a backseat to the visual splendour of Ridley Scott’s return to science-fiction. Prometheus is a flawed movie, and there are admittedly more questions asked than answered, but minor quibbles about the plot or characters’ behaviours can’t take away from one of the most remarkable cinematic achievements of the year.
23. THE INTOUCHABLES
A feel-good movie from France that truly does make you feel good, The Intouchables takes a worn-out premise that aims at virtually every demographic (a old, rich paraplegic hires a young, uncouth man to be his caretaker). Even so, when a feel-good movie does its job right, you don’t mind your emotions being played like instruments and The Intouchables does it masterfully.
22. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
One of the most anticipated movies of the year, The Dark Knight Rises was bound to disappoint people’s expectations, especially after the massive critical and commercial success of The Dark Knight. Bloating excesses aside, though, Christopher Nolan’s final Batman movie ended about as well as it could have and on its own terms, if unfortunately echoing Inception’s open-to-interpretation ending a bit too much.
21. THE PIRATES!:
BAND OF MISFITS
The makers of Chicken Run and the Wallace & Gromit movies returned with a razor-sharp comedy, with gags and background jokes flying by at as brisk a pace as those of Airplane! or The Naked Gun. In a year that marked a strong return for stop-motion animation, The Pirates!: Band of Misfits overcomes an unfortunate title and ends up not just the best animated film of 2012 but one of the funniest movies of the year.