The Best Films Of 2012: 21 Runner-Ups (#30-#11)

Screen Shot 2012 12 17 at 12.25.51 PM 567x360 The Best Films Of 2012: 21 Runner Ups (#30 #11)

Last Wednesday, I published my list of the Top 10 Films of 2012. As I said at the time, this has been a truly exemplary year for cinema, one rich with great movies in all corners of the cinematic landscape. Whittling down the best films of 2012 into a mere 10 slots was no easy task, and I had to leave many, many great movies off as a result.

Today, I aim to rectify that by expanding my Top 10 picks out to 30 (or 31, given that I cheated and included a tie), counting down the best runners-up from the number 30 slot all the way down to number 11. Even with so many more films represented here, there were still plenty of tough omissions, good and great films like Argo, Holy Motors, The Hunger Games, Arbitrage, Celeste and Jesse Forever, and even animated fare like Frankenweenie and Rise of the Guardians. If this countdown continued forever, those and other excellent films would be represented, but the festivities had to end somewhere, and I am more than happy with these 30 films representing my favorite cinematic memories of 2012.

The countdown begins on the next page, and clicking on the title of each movie will take you to my original review of the film, except in cases where the review has not yet been published. Several links will take you away from We Got This Covered to my personal blog, where my work was published before I joined the staff of this website.

So without further ado, let us discuss (more of) the Best Films of 2012. Enjoy…

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30. The Master

The Master The Best Films Of 2012: 21 Runner Ups (#30 #11)

Though I was largely ecstatic with this film when it first arrived, subsequent viewings have tempered my enthusiasm. Paul Thomas Anderson is a great writer and visual craftsman, but The Master is, thematically speaking, one-note, and though it is staggeringly powerful at times, I do not believe it succeeds at its own ambitions as well as the rest of the films on this countdown. That being said, the film features some of the absolute best acting of the year, including career-best turns from Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams, gorgeous cinematography, and stunning production design. The film is certainly worth watching, and stands as one of the 30 best films of 2012, but does not reside in the upper echelon. 

The Master is not currently playing in most theatres, but is expected to arrive on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2013.

29. Sound of My Voice

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This low-budget indie from Zal Batmanglij is, to my mind, a stronger and more meaningful look at the allure and dangers of cults than The Master, primarily because Brit Marling – who co-wrote the film with Batmanglij – is simply entrancing as a cult leader who claims she is from the future. Watching Marling for five minutes, I immediately understood where a cult may derive its power – if a leader is this caring, nurturing, and utterly piercing, how could you resist?

Sound of My Voice is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

28. Beasts of the Southern Wild 

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A powerful and refreshing burst of originality, insight, and total, enveloping authenticity, Behn Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild is a fantastic story of community, love, and endurance through tough times. Young Quvenzhané Wallis does not just give one of the best performances of 2012, but one of the all-time great pieces of child acting, while her on-screen father, Dwight Henry, stuns as one of the year’s most complex and genuine characters.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray. 

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27. Trouble With the Curve

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I love this movie for exceedingly simple reasons: Clint Eastwood is fantastic, Amy Adams is even better, their father/daughter chemistry is absolutely magical, and my favorite sport, baseball, serves as the backdrop for their evolving relationship. Not one of 2012’s absolute best films, but as a rich emotional experience, it is difficult to top.

Trouble With the Curve arrives on DVD and Blu-Ray December 18th.

26. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

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Subsequent viewings have tempered my love of this little end-of-the-world drama from Lorene Scafaria, but I still feel Steve Carrell and Keira Knightley are absolutely fantastic together, and when they are alone on screen throwing Scafaria’s wonderful dialogue back-and-forth, the film excels like little else this year.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray. 

25. Moonrise Kingdom

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Wes Anderson’s latest feature is not quite his best, but there’s no shame in that given what a rich, layered, and utterly enchanting cinematic landscape he has crafted this time around. With a wealth of fantastic characters and performances and an intimate, heartfelt story, Moonrise Kingdom is a pleasure, even if I feel it does not entirely hold up on subsequent viewings.

Moonrise Kingdom is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

24. The Pirates! Band of Misfits  

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Aardman Animation’s latest clay-mation feature is a superb family comedy, one so impeccably crafted, well paced, cleverly written, heartwarming, and hilarious from start to finish that one can easily see why it took five long years to finish the project. If the only bad thing one can say about Aardman these days is that we just don’t see their work often enough, I believe the studio is in fine shape indeed.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

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23. Safety Not Guaranteed

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Colin Trevorrow’s pleasantly surprising debut effort is that most wonderful kind of comedy, one where the laughs are big but the heart is even bigger. It wrestles with complex and genuine human emotions, dives deep into the psychology of one of science fiction’s most fascinating concepts, and creates warm, memorable, three-dimensional characters worth investing oneself in. The film is a small-scale triumph deserving of celebration.

Safety Not Guaranteed is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

22. The Amazing Spider-Man  

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A much better film than many have given it credit for, Marc Webb’s Spider-Man reboot may not be inherently necessary a mere five years after Sam Raimi’s trilogy ended, but with a perfectly assembled cast, top-notch technical credits, a warm emotional core, and a compelling spin on the origin-story mythos, The Amazing Spider-Man is a very worthwhile addition to the modern superhero canon, and one of my favorite films of the year.

The Amazing Spider-Man is currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

21. Les Miserables

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My thoughts remain complicated on Tom Hooper’s ambitious film adaptation of the celebrated stage musical; it falls flat too frequently for me to put it any higher than this, but when everything clicks, the film is absolutely entrancing, as stunning and powerful as anything else released this year. Anne Hathaway’s supporting turn as Fantine is my second-favorite performance of 2012, and her devastating, show-stopping delivery of “I Dreamed a Dream” may be my single favorite scene of the year. Les Miserables is not quite a great film overall, but it is brilliant enough often enough to place this high. 

Les Miserables arrives in theatres nationwide December 25th.

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20. Wreck-It Ralph

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The best American animated film of 2012, Wreck-It Ralph is nothing short of a glorious, full-blown rebirth for Disney Animation Studios. This is the most creative, energetic, intelligent, and powerfully heartfelt film to come out of the animation department in decades, one of the very best in the entire Disney canon, and one of the year’s most pleasant surprises.

Wreck-It Ralph is currently playing in theatres nationwide.

19. Hope Springs

Hope Springs1 The Best Films Of 2012: 21 Runner Ups (#30 #11)

Speaking of surprises, David Frankel’s Hope Springs was so mismarketed and undervalued before it arrived that even after earning heaps of critical praise, the film still failed to find quite the audience or awards traction it deserved. But this is a staggeringly powerful little film nevertheless, one of the most achingly authentic looks at trust, intimacy, and partnership I have ever seen.

Hope Springs is currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

18. Flight 

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Robert Zemeckis’ Flight may hook us with one of the most expertly staged plane crashes in cinematic history, but the film actually rises to greatness as an intense and intimate portrait of alcoholism, beautifully executed on the exact same creative strengths that propel that amazing plane crash: Attention to detail and an absolutely stellar performance from the incomparable Denzel Washington. As smart and mature commercial drama goes, Flight stands among the best of 2012, and makes me very happy to finally have Zemeckis return to the land of the living.

Flight is currently playing in theatres nationwide.

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17. Seven Psychopaths

Seven Psychopaths The Best Films Of 2012: 21 Runner Ups (#30 #11)

Martin McDonagh’s first feature, In Bruges, was a powerful home run when it arrived in 2008, and if Seven Psychopaths does not quite reach those same exhilarating heights, it was more than worth the wait. This clever and introspective meta-narrative is a marvel of screenwriting and characterization, and is as purely, blissfully entertaining as any other film in 2012.

Seven Psychopaths is not currently playing in theatres, but will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray January 29th, 2013.

16. The Dark Knight Rises 

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Christopher Nolan’s epic conclusion to his Batman trilogy is not quite on par with 2008’s The Dark Knight – easily the best film of its year – but it is still a pretty tremendous movie in its own right, filled with big ideas, an ambitious scope, and great character work all around. Even with some questionable narrative logic here and there, The Dark Knight Rises soars as a more than satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, and as one of 2012’s greatest treats.

The Dark Knight Rises is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

15. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey   

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Yes, I have several major structural complaints about Peter Jackson’s first Hobbit film that led me to call it “mildly disappointing” in my initial review. But this is still a very, very good return to Middle Earth, one of the best cinematic landscapes ever created, and a more-than-solid companion piece to The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, which are my favorite films of all time. So even though I have more critical things to say about The Hobbit than other movies on this list, it deserves a high spot for the simple knowledge that I will be returning to this film more than most movies in 2012. Imperfect as it is, the film will have great longevity in my life, and that has to count for something.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is currently playing in theatres nationwide. Just be sure to see it in 2D. 

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14. TIE: The Avengers and The Cabin in the Woods

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I equate these two films largely inseparably not just because they share Joss Whedon’s distinctive voice and vision – though Drew Goddard co-wrote and directed Cabin, doing a spectacular job on both counts – but because both breathed new, innovative life into their respective genres. The Avengers is quite possibly the best superhero film ever made, and though The Cabin in the Woods is more comedy than straightforward horror, it is still the sharpest, most hilariously insightful deconstruction of modern horror one is ever likely to see. Groundbreaking, unexpected, and gleefully defiant of expectations in every possible way, these films provided two of the purest, most enthusiastic shots of unadulterated cinematic joy I have seen in years. 

The Avengers and The Cabin in the Woods are both currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

13. Jiro Dreams of Sushi 

JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI Trailer 1 The Best Films Of 2012: 21 Runner Ups (#30 #11)

I am sad to say I saw too few documentaries in 2012, but of the ones I watched, David Gelb’s Jiro Dreams of Sushi is far and away my favorite. More than just one of the best films about food ever produced, Jiro is a fascinating and profound exploration of humanity’s capacity for artistic drive, one with meaning and applicability that extends far outside the (delicious) realm of sushi.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is currently available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and all manner of digital streaming services.

12. This is 40 

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This is 40 is far and away the best film of Judd Apatow’s career, a deep, funny, and blisteringly honest statement on the enigmatic nature of family. Through protagonists Debbie and Pete – previously seen in Knocked Up and played beautifully here by Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd – Apatow has found the perfect touchstone for his own observations and worldview, the thematic center shining through so loud and clear that the rest of the film seems to just fall into place. This Is 40 is whole and complete in a way none of Apatow’s previous work can even approach, and the cumulative impact is as powerful and poignant as nearly anything released this year.

This is 40 arrives in theatres nationwide December 21st. 

And the best runner-up film of 2012 is…

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11. Zero Dark Thirty 

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The absolute toughest omission from my main top ten list, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty ultimately missed the countdown by just a hair, as I ultimately felt that the more character-centric dramas I chose for the final list personally resonated with me on a greater level. But that should not take anything away from this film’s incredible power. As I said when I reviewed the film, this is as smart, confident, and accomplished a piece of drama as I saw all year, a tremendous feat of journalistic storytelling illustrated with spectacular craft and an awe-inspiring lead performance by the incomparable Jessica Chastain. Zero Dark Thirty is unquestionably one of the best films of 2012 – that it missed out on the main Top 10 list speaks only to the sheer number of great movies released this year. On its own, this is as close to perfect as filmmaking gets.

Zero Dark Thirty arrives in theatres in very limited release December 19th, and will expand nationwide January 11th.

Continue the countdown with my Top 10 Films of 2012.

What films did you enjoy most in 2012? Would any of these movies rank among your personal best? What films did you love that were not included? Sound off in the comments and help us reminisce on a wonderful year at the movie theatre!

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  • Glides The Man

    I heard all kinds of crap about This is 40 and Les Miz. Just saying.