Movie Talk

The Top 25 Films of 2012

Movie Talk

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Photo: Warner Bros/Lionsgate/Focus Features/Sony

After a couple of tense meetings, long discussions, and at least one shouting match, we have put together a list of the best flicks of 2012. There were a lot of movies that we wanted on the list that didn't quite make it, from big-budget blockbusters like "Dark Knight Rises" to bizarre art house faves like "Holy Motors." But by the end, we managed to cobble together a pretty good list. Check out the Yahoo! Movies 25 films of 2012:

25. 21 Jump Street
24.
The House I Live In
23.
Compliance
22.
The Beasts of the Southern Wild
21.
Marvel's The Avengers
20.
Rust and Bone
19.
Lincoln
18.
Silver Linings Playbook
17.
Wreck-It Ralph
16.
The Raid: Redemption
15.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
14.
End of Watch
13.
Magic Mike
12.
Lawless
11.
The Cabin in the Woods

Click ahead to see our top 10:

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Photo: LionsGate

10. The Hunger Games
Another director may have exploited the extreme kid-on-kid violence that fills the pages of "The Hunger Games." But Gary Ross adeptly plays it down in his film adaptation, instead focusing on the sheer horror and emotional toll of such barbarism. The film plays out from the point of view of Katniss, an archer and overall skilled survivalist played expertly by Jennifer Lawrence. She owns the role, able to convey with a simple glance extreme stress, deep concentration, and visceral anger. The brilliance of "Games" is truly in what it isn't: a "Rambo"-esque bloodbath of a spectacle, as is the similarly themed 2000 Japanese film "Battle Royale" (also based on a book). When the games start, Ross cuts all dialogue, simply showing shaky flashes of the carnage as a delicate score plays, setting the viewer at the center of the action. It is light, deliberate touches like these throughout the film that give each character their humanity, allowing moviegoers to share in the horror when they are unjustly killed and celebrate when just a few survive. -- Meriah Doty (@meriahonfiah)

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Photo: Focus Features

9. Moonrise Kingdom
Observing quirky characters played by some of Hollywood's finest, a sense of throwback that recalls a simpler time, and a yarn that lies somewhere between bizarre and sublime, you definitely know you're watching a Wes Anderson film. But with "Moonrise Kingdom," the writer-director gives us something he hasn't since "Rushmore": A protagonist we can truly root for. In Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman), we get a doe-eyed youngster, untainted by shark attacks or Tennenbaums, whose underlying motivation is love, and young love at that. It's the ingredient that's been missing from Anderson's recent work, and it's the gel that brings all of Anderson's idiosyncrasies together so beautifully in this heartfelt flick. -- Adam Pockross (@AdPoc)

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Photo: AP Photo/Sundance Selects, NY Daily News

8. The Central Park Five
"The Central Park Five" is a tough and perfect feature documentary by Ken Burns ("The Civil War"), his daughter Sarah, and her husband David McMahon. It's about a tough and imperfect moment in Manhattan history: when a group of boys went "wilding" in Central Park in 1989, a jogger was raped, and the police put two and two together and got five. Like a reverse view of "Law & Order," the movie captures how these dark-skinned boys aged 14 to 16 were rammed through the system, made to fit the crime by a team of detectives, and convicted without physical evidence based on confessions given under duress -- and an entire city fanned on by tabloid newspaper covers allowed a shameful miscarriage of justice to occur. Many know about the convictions -- very few know that a judge freed the accused when a single serial rapist already in the police system confessed to the crime years later. -- Thelma Adams (@thelmadams)

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Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

7. Amour
Michael Haneke's "Amour" is an unrelenting look at an aging woman's decline and death and her husband's valiant attempts to look after her in her last days. True to its title, this movie is indeed about love. But it's not about the oft-told beginning of a love affair; it's about the messy 'til death do us part" ending of one. Haneke tells this story almost entirely from the confines of the couple's apartment, using long takes, a mostly fixed camera, and no score. This seemingly simple way of making a movie is in fact staggeringly difficult to pull off. Without using most of the cinematic tools in a director's toolbox, Haneke rests all the weight of the movie on his actors' performances. And wow, what performances! In a perfect world, veteran actors Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant would get Oscars for their work in this movie. I watched this movie a couple of months ago during a mid-afternoon press screening, filled with some of the most jaded filmgoers you're likely to find. By the end of the movie, the entire audience was on the brink of bawling. Depending on where you are in life, it's the sort of movie that forces you to think about the mortality of your parents, your spouse, and, most uncomfortably, yourself. If you don't feel affected by this movie, make sure you have a pulse. -- Jonathan Crow (@jonccrow)

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Photo: The Weinstein Company

6. Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino's latest feature, an epic Western fantasy of love and revenge set in the slavery-era South, is everything you've come to expect from the celebrated video store warrior turned auteur -- shocking, ultraviolent, and wickedly entertaining, in all its anachronistic glory. In what other western could you witness a John Woo-style shootout -- even the blood splatter has its own choreography -- set to a 2Pac/James Brown jam? It's so Tarantino, it hurts. Populated with the director's usual rogues gallery mix of marquee stars and nearly forgotten character actors and crackling with his lethal trademark dialogue, this is the extreme cinephile's fever-dream "Southern" that only Tarantino could craft. -- Philip Yu (@heyphil)

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Photo: Warner Bros

5. Cloud Atlas
"Cloud Atlas" is an easy movie to ridicule. This is after all the flick that had Halle Berry play a male Korean doctor. But for all its goofiness, Tom Twyker and Lana and Andy Wachowski's adaptation of David Mitchell's novel is perhaps the most ambitious and unrepentantly romantic movie of the year. It is also so dense that it demands multiple viewings, jumps back and forth between six very different narratives, including an 18th-century nautical adventure and a sci-fi saga set in Korea during the 22nd century. For the first hour, the stories seem utterly unconnected, and you might be left wondering what the hell you're watching; but as the film gathers steam, the individual plots start to resonant off one another in strange and striking ways. What's the deal with the birthmark? By the end, the narrative brilliantly pulled together leaves you feeling surprisingly moved and flush with an unexpected feeling of optimism -- something of a rarity in an age of dour blockbusters. Though this film failed to find an audience in the theater, "Cloud Atlas" is a great film to watch (and rewatch) on DVD. -- Jonathan Crow (@jonccrow)

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Photo: Tri-Star Pictures

4. Looper
Writer-director Rian Johnson's original sci-fi thriller is a crafty new take on the well-worn time travel narrative. It turns out, organized crime in the future will not be so different from the current state of things, with one significant difference: time travel. What happens when an assassin's job is to dispatch his older self, sent back 30 years from the future? Not all goes as planned. "Looper's" smart, fully realized plot includes enough great twists to keep you on your toes, and just when you think you've got it figured out, it takes a few more fearless leaps to throw you for a loop. Amid a dense release slate of tired action remakes, board game (!) adaptations, and kids-meal-friendly comic book sequels, "Looper" is a thrilling and thoughtful breath of fresh air. -- Philip Yu (@heyphil)

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Photo: Warner Bros.


3. Argo
Having a screenwriting background and being overly nitpicky, I don't often see a film without obvious and distracting holes. From a story standpoint, Ben Affleck's "Argo" has none, gaping or otherwise. Another thriller, "Zero Dark Thirty," may be the only other film I saw this year in which a story gap didn't jolt me from being fully immersed. Though "ZD30" is certainly one of the best films of the year, it's nowhere near as enjoyable as "Argo." Both thrillers are taut, timely, and deal in matters of perplexing gray. But "Argo" is also subtly balanced, with comic relief laced deftly throughout, luring you in with laughs, shedding just enough light to make the dark more glaringly scary. Because of this, the tension is ratcheted up nice and slow, and the result is captivating. The end of the film was the first time in two hours I realized I was actually sitting in a theater. Even when it's done, "Argo" lingers, and I've been thinking about 1979 ever since, wondering how come it looks so much like today. -- Adam Pockross (@AdPoc)

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Photo: Columbia Pictures

2. Skyfall
The one thing that the 23rd film in a 50-year-old franchise shouldn't be able to do is surprise you. And yet, amazingly, "Skyfall" did just that. Coming a half-century after "Dr. No" first hit the big screen, 007's latest outing wasn't just a great Bond flick, but a great film, period. This was due in no small part to the Oscar-caliber talent both in front of and behind the camera. Javier Bardem was unforgettable as sly, entrancing, and seriously frightening Silva, and Ralph Fiennes added a good measure of stiff-upper-lip Britishness to the proceedings.

Of course, returning stars Daniel Craig and Judi Dench also got to stretch further than they'd ever been allowed to in a Bond picture, with a story that for the first time highlighted Bond's physical and emotional vulnerability. Credit is also due director Sam Mendes, screenwriter John Logan, cinematographer Roger Deakens, and composer Thomas Newman for giving the film true depth and feeling. Like they said in the earlier Bond song by Marvin Hamlisch (whom we lost in 2012): "Nobody does it better." -- Matt McDaniel (@themattmcd)

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Photo: Columbia Pictures

1. Zero Dark Thirty
I fell in love with "ZD30" at first sight in a way that was as unequivocal and driven as Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow. In her ninth theatrical feature, Bigelow reunites with "The Hurt Locker" screenwriter Mark Boal for an uncompromising edge-of-your seat drama about the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden. And, in this most male of genres -- a hybrid of espionage thriller and military action-adventure -- the driving force is a pretty, petite CIA agent. Maya (Jessica Chastain) acts tough not because she has a chip on her shoulder or Daddy issues, but because she's the chief crusader on a mission to eradicate bin Laden. It's a dirty job but somebody has to do it. And, as Maya enters one torture chamber after the next, violently extracting intel that could lead to bin Laden's hiding place, she may employ another man's muscle to beat out a confession, but she understands that she is the power behind the fist. She's culpable. "Zero Dark Thirty" explores the theme of retaining humanity while doing inhuman things to prevent future mass casualties. Engrossing, complicated, and urgent, "ZD30" makes no apologies and takes no prisoners -- except the captive audience. -- Thelma Adams (@thelmadams)

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