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The Best Movies of 2012: #20 – #1

February 8, 2013

Here we are, folks. My super subjective Top 20 for 2012. All in all, not a bad year for movies. And in case you’re just joining us, here’s how the other 82 fared:

Day 1: #102 – #81
Day 2: #80 – #61
Day 3: #60 – #41
Day 4: #40 – #21

And with that being said, so it goes…

house i live in

20. The House I Live In
As enlightening as it is appalling from both deeply personal and historical standpoints. Further proof that while drugs themselves are badder than bad, our war against them has been far costlier on more levels than I had known. Give it a watch before shooting the messenger on this one.

searching for sugar man

19. Searching for Sugar Man
Wonderful. Just wonderful. Makes you long for the days when there was still mystery to music.


18. Monsieur Lazhar
A subtle, poignant, human story that’s as timeless as it is universal. Not to mention it’s home to one of the best endings of the year and some of the best child actors I’ve ever seen.

kid with a bike

17. The Kid with a Bike
Comes this close to irreparably shooting itself in the foot, yet somehow ends up being that much better for it. All in all, an exceptional coming-of-age story driven by brutal honesty, tough love, and two of the most genuine characters I saw in a movie all year. Not since Fish Tank has growing up felt so real.

secret world of arrietty

16. The Secret World of Arrietty (Full Review)
One of the best movies that Studio Ghibli’s ever made. And that, dear readers, is some awfully high praise.


15. Samsara
A tad heavy-handed, but nothing short of stunning in what it has to say and how it goes about saying it. Unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

14. The Queen of Versailles
What an inspired, bizarre way to approach the economic crash. Still can’t believe how emotionally torn I got while watching this, but boy, does it work like gangbusters. Mark my words, folks, because it’s only a matter of time before this family winds up on Bravo.

13. Dredd (Full Review)
Color me shocked and don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. It was the biggest surprise of the year, it was the best action movie of the year, and it was so much better in every way than I was expecting it to be. If you’re going to reboot a franchise, this is how you should do it. We’ll get back to that subject shortly.

island president

12. The Island President
Mohamed Nasheed: the latest addition to my shortlist of personal heroes. A terribly important doc on one of the most important issues of our time. As enthralling as it is infuriating, and bonus points for a score made up entirely of Radiohead songs. A rarest of treats if there ever was one.

dark knight rises

11. The Dark Knight Rises (Full Review)
Remember what I was saying about how to reboot a franchise? Nitpick all you want, this was one hell of a sendoff for one of the greatest movie trilogies you can find. Chris Nolan, man. Christopher-freaking-Nolan.


10. How To Survive a Plague
In a year where many docs revolved around a need for change, it was really something to find one where that change actually happened. A knock-you-on-your-ass, powerhouse of a movie that provides an utterly compelling, emotional insight into a movement that changed our world. Really makes you wonder what else we as a people could accomplish with the right leadership, determination, and focus.


9. ParaNorman (Full Review)
Wouldn’t have seen it if it hadn’t been for my 10-year-old brother, but good gravy, am I that much more grateful to be rolling with my 10-year-old brother. The best “kids movie” of the year by a long shot that has more humor, wisdom, and creativity than most “grown-up movies” I saw this year. Terrible name, but man, was this something special.


8. Looper (Full Review)
Time paradoxes aside, this is exactly why Rian Johnson needs to make more movies. What a great premise, and holy hell, was it executed to a tee. And can we all agree that 2012 was the best year Bruce Willis has had in years? Keep it up, dude.

beasts of the southern wild

7. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Full Review)
More so than any other movie on this list, I’ve had a damn hard time articulating what it is that I loved so much about it. But at the end of the day, it’s just one of the most human, palpable, and life-affirming movies I saw all year. Really something else, folks.


6. Amour
Incredibly sad and incredibly beautiful. Reminiscent of the humanity and power that was once commonplace in movies. And while she probably won’t get it, Emmanuelle Riva absolutely deserves Best Actress this year.

django unchained

5. Django Unchained
Not only the most important movie Tarantino’s ever made, but also home to what might be the best characters he’s ever written (if not the best character in Django himself). I really keep waiting for the day when I’m gonna get tired of Tarantino, but now I’m starting to wonder if that day will ever come.

cabin in the woods

4. The Cabin in the Woods (Full Review)
Been waiting a long, long time for someone to make this movie, and couldn’t have imagined a smarter, funnier, or more flat-out brilliant result. Might not be the scare-fest some were hoping for, but in my humblest of opinions, it’s the biggest game-changer for the genre since good old Shaun of the Dead.

Indie Game

3. Indie Game: The Movie (Full Review)
For an industry that’s made a habit out of butchering and debasing everything I love about video games, it’s about damn time we got a movie that treats them as art. Really hit home on a whole lot of levels, and did wonders to help me forget about the damage done by Wreck-It Ralph. Just crossing my fingers that this is a sign of things to come.

moonrise kingdom

2. Moonrise Kingdom (Full Review)
I’ve been pretty jaded about Wes Anderson for a while now, but after this, I am totally back on the bandwagon. Not only his best live-action movie since The Royal Tenenbaums, not only home to the best ending of the year, but also the only movie I saw twice in theaters. And believe you me, that is saying a lot. God, do I love those kids.


1. Undefeated (Full Review)
Hesitated to even put this on the list since it already won the Oscar for Best Doc last year, but since it didn’t get a theatrical release until last February, I’m making an executive decision. Folks, this is the culmination of every great sports movie you’ve ever seen, only it’s non-fiction. It’s not just lightning in a bottle, it’s everything I could ask for in a moviegoing experience, and if you give it a chance, it might just restore your faith in humanity. This is why I watch movies, this is why movies are important, so do yourself a favor and see this before Hollywood goes and remakes it. You can thank me later.

And that should do it. Even with 102 movies down, there are still a bunch that I’m kicking myself for missing (eg: Seven Psychopaths, End of Watch, This is Not a Film, Holy Motors, Detropia, Ted, Your Sister’s Sister, Neil Young Journeys, Brooklyn Castle), but alas, I’m just one man. At any rate, thanks a mil for tuning in, would love to know what your favorites were, and look for more new reviews starting up next week. Keep it real, folks!

30 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2013 12:23 am

    I have yet to see Undefeated, but I really need to, as it is obviously very good. I also have Indie Game toward the top of my queue on Netflix, so should be getting to that soon. Did not see the appeal of Cabin in the Woods. But I seem to be alone on that. I just watched ParaNorman, and I really liked it. Overall, a pretty solid list with tons of stuff that I still have yet to see.

    • February 8, 2013 8:01 am

      Thanks, man! A damn shame that Undefeated isn’t on Netflix Instant right now, but at least there’s still Indie Game to look forward to. And don’t sweat it, man, you’re not the first person who’s said that to me about The Cabin in the Woods, not by a long shot. Seems to be an acquired taste of sorts.

      And ParaNorman was the bomb. Glad to hear you saw that as well.

  2. February 8, 2013 12:57 am

    Dude, I wish I had the time to see a third of these movies this year. I’m lucky to one movie of any kind in about once a week. But that’s all movies, not new ones. Well done sir. Love reading your reviews. I have a humble little review blog myself, but I’m not in the same class. Keep it up!

    • February 8, 2013 8:05 am

      Haha. Yeah, I went big last year, some may say too big even. I owe much of the credit to Netlix Instant and my trusty iPhone on my bus commute to and from work. And thanks for the kind words, man, much appreciated! But don’t let me catch you putting yourself down like that again, yo. Will not tolerate that ish around these parts! So keep up the great work on your end, too. Oh how I wish I had the time to write about more than just movies…

  3. February 8, 2013 9:29 am

    Why isnt ‘Argo’ and ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ not in the top 20?

    • February 8, 2013 9:39 am

      A fine question, and a warranted one at that. Really liked both of ’em (Argo especially), but in my heart of hearts, I just felt there were other movies last year that hit home in bigger ways. As far as moviegoing experiences are concerned, I don’t think I recommended any movie to more people than I did with Argo last year. Like I said, killer script, killer cast, and one hell of a story – there’s something there for everybody. But at the end of the day, while it was a really well-made movie and a great time at the theater, it didn’t really linger with me past being an awesome experience on the surface (if that makes sense). If it had been a bit deeper and had more of a message, I don’t see how it wouldn’t have breached the Top 20. But as is, there were just other movies that better accomplished that last year. And while Silver Linings Playbook is no Argo and was a bit too busy for my liking, who am I kidding, I ended up having a ball with that movie.

      Still, wouldn’t knock anyone who had either of those movies in their Top 10 or 20. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. February 8, 2013 10:17 am

    Glad to see Cabin in the Woods, Dredd and Looper getting so high 🙂

  5. February 8, 2013 10:31 am

    Movies I haven’t watched on your list that I do plan on watching: “Searching for Sugar Man”, “The Kid with a Bike”, “Dredd”, and “Cabin in the Wood”.

    Love your #2 choice, but I have not watched your #1.

    • February 8, 2013 10:36 am

      Oh, buddy, have you got some winners to look forward to. Kid with a Bike is on Netflix Instant right now, too.

      And what was not to love about Moonrise Kingdom, huh? With the exception of Undefeated, no movie made me feel quite so elated about life as that one did.

      But yeah, you should really check out Undefeated. The high praise is warranted.

  6. February 8, 2013 4:48 pm

    There is a surprising amount of documentaries in your top 20…

    • February 10, 2013 2:21 pm

      Haha. There were a surprising amount of good docs last year! Or maybe it isn’t all that surprising…maybe I just really like docs. Probably a little bit of column A and column B.

  7. Branden permalink
    February 8, 2013 8:37 pm

    I applaud that you could come up with 100 films. I can barely come up with my top ten list. I was disappointed with a couple of major releases.

    • February 10, 2013 2:22 pm

      Thanks, bud! Yeah, ranking them this year was actually harder than last year for some reason. Think it might have to do with not being as wowed by some of the bigger releases as well.

      • Branden permalink
        February 10, 2013 7:25 pm


  8. February 9, 2013 3:20 pm

    Reblogged this on Flocus Studios and commented:
    Check out this list, Specs! 😉

  9. February 9, 2013 3:21 pm

    Completely agree with most of the films on this list! Great job on the article! 😀

    • February 10, 2013 2:23 pm

      Thanks for the comment and thanks for the reblog! Any of my favorites line up with yours from last year?

  10. February 10, 2013 4:20 pm

    Man, those are the weirdest Top10 I’ve seen up to now.

    Will we be able to remain friends?, she wondered.


    • February 10, 2013 4:34 pm

      Hahaha. We’ve managed this long, I think we can pull through. Have you seen any of them? Thoughts?

  11. February 10, 2013 4:55 pm

    I’ve seem ’em all! Just bragging. A lot of them.

    Working on my own Top10. I will share them with you once I have made up my mind. Still have to see The Master and Les Miz and Pi, them I’m through with what I wanted to see.

    Haven’t seen Beasts. Curious about it, since many people like it so much. Of course I hated Moonrise Kingdom. I actually liked Django quite a bit. I have my problems with Tarantino, but Leo ‘made’ me watch the film and I gotta say it was quite enjoyable. And definitely one of the best ones of the year. I loved the soundtrack there. I’m a huge fan of Haneke, but ‘Amour’ didn’t gel too well with me, maybe cause the subject hit too close to home, or maybe it’s because I thought it was much tamer than Haneke’s previous films. In a way I just missed the ‘intense crazy stuff’, I guess.

    I don’t usually watch documentaries, but I saw ‘Queen of Versailles’ and thought it was a fantastic portrayal of this couple and their family, and how differently they deal with things.

    I’m thinking if you’d have seen ‘Seven Psychopaths’, it might have ended up in your Top10. It was my favorite film of the year. I would like you better, in that case 😉

    Nah, seriously, you should check it out. It’s great. Also, have you not seen The Paperboy and Arbitrage?

    I gotta say I like reading your list ’cause I like that you’re not afraid to go against yhe general opinion. Liked ‘Silver Linings’, but in the end, it just wasn’t that memorable and there were better movies this year. Been trying to watch ‘Argo’, but I end up turning it off all the time. Feels a bit like homework to me.

    PS: Also, is there a way I can comment without being on Facebook, Twitter, or WP? Cause every time I wanna say something to you, I actually re-activate my inactive Facebook account. Imagine! As much as I think you’re worth it, I’d rather find another way. Is there one?

    • February 11, 2013 4:25 pm

      Well color me impressed!

      And shoot me those Top Ten when you’re ready. Chomping at the bit over here!

      Check out Beasts, you might just dig it. Of COURSE you hate Moonrise Kingdom! Psyched to hear you liked Django, doesn’t really strike me as your kind of thing, but this was the best Leo vehicle since Catch Me if You Can, IMHO. Hell of a soundtrack, too. And while I know what you mean about the “intense crazy stuff” that’s so great about Haneke movies, I think Amour TOTALLY had one of those moments, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him execute it so well either. Didn’t feel like it was there just to fuck with us or anything (which is how I often feel with those scenes), it was really was as moving as it was shocking. Still, I’m talking like I’m a Haneke expert over here and I’ve only seen 2-3 of his movies. So take that one with a grain of salt.

      And you said it with Queen of Versailles. At first I wanted to despise that family, but I really just couldn’t by the end, it was just such a fascinating, American look at what the American dream has morphed into. Crazy stuff.

      And I really should see Seven Psychopaths. Just checked Apple TV yesterday and saw that that and Brooklyn Castle were both available to watch. Serenity now. One of these days though, keep hearing good things.

      I actually have a screener of Arbitrage at my house, just never got around to it. Should I be kicking myself? And didn’t see The Paperboy, heard mixed things. Should I be kicking myself even more?

      And thanks! I was kind of nervous about what folks would think of the Top Ten since they’re such a mess of genres and whatnot, but what can I say, they earned their spots. Feel the same way about Silver Linings (got more shit about where I ranked that than any other movie on the list), but sorry to hear that about Argo, as funny as your reaction is. Sounds like it might be time to move on.

      And that’s a damn good question. Think you might want to tweak the settings on your WP account so that it’s not connected to your FB account, but I could be wrong on that. Wish I could be of more help, but that’s my sage guess.

  12. Anna Imhof permalink
    February 11, 2013 7:21 pm

    I personally loved The Paperboy. I can’t really say why. It’s just a really unique film, and I’m kinda trying to spread the love…

    Please do yourself a favor and watch Arbitrage and Psychopaths as soon as you can. All of these films are on my Top10, which I will gladly share with you.

    Which was the scene in Amour that was ‘intense crazy stuff’? Where he puts the pillow over her? I liked the moment when they walk out together. That should have been the end scene. The ending was really bad, I think. I get what you mean that you liked that it didn’t feel like Haneke wasn’t just out to fuck the audience, but… meh. There’s no one out there like him, and I don’t want to see him disappear into the abyss of sentimental TV dramas. Woah, harsh.

    But it was an interesting year. Hated what I thought I’d love. And love what I thought I’d hate. In any case, it was a great movie year, much better than the last few years, don’t you think?

  13. saritaem permalink
    February 12, 2013 6:25 am

    I am definitely with you on Moonrise Kingdom and Django Unchained. I was so impressed with how entertaining it was to watch, I mean I know Tarantino is talented but I usually do not find the characters that interesting or make that connection with them to actually enjoy the film but in Django Unchained I was really absorbed in it. Great performances by the actors as well!

    • February 12, 2013 6:59 am

      Right there with you on the characters in Django, probably the best he’s ever written, and that’s saying something. Great movies all around, really, and glad you dug ’em as much as I did! Thanks for stopping by!

  14. February 13, 2013 8:36 pm

    Haha, I should have known a doc would be your #1. 🙂 Still need to see Undefeated myself.

    Hell yes to Indie Game: the Movie being #3! Loved the hell out of that movie — it made me fire up Super Meat Boy and Braid immediately afterward.

    Also really happy to see The Kid with a Bike ranked so high. Just watched that one a couple days ago. If I re-did my top 10 list, that would probably make it. So good.

    Great work counting down 100 films dude!

    • February 14, 2013 9:00 am

      Haha. What can I say, man, docs are where it’s at. Get at me once you’ve checked out Undefeated though, it’s a good’n alright.

      And I was ALL about Super Meat Boy after watching Indie Game. High time I picked that up again, and while it’s been a few years since I played through the awesomeness of Braid, might be time I gave that one another go as well. Great movie though, right? That shit is right in your wheelhouse!

      Glad to hear you checked out Kid with a Bike as well. If it weren’t for Amour, I’d say that’d have a damn good chance at winning Best Foreign Film this year. Really raw, phenomenal stuff.

      And thanks, dude! Hopping over to your Top 10 right quick!


  1. Undefeated (2012) – What the Hell Should I Watch on NETFLIX?
  2. ParaNorman (2012) – What the Hell Should I Watch on NETFLIX?
  3. How to Survive a Plague (2012) – What the Hell Should I Watch on NETFLIX?

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