The Top Ten Films Of 2012 So Far

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2012 has been a fantastic year for movies. I’ve been reviewing films for eight straight years now, and never has my job been so enjoyable as it has been over the past six months. Where most years don’t start churning out memorable works until June or July, 2012 has provided a consistent string of great – not good, but legitimately great – films since January.

So today, as we enter the seventh month and official halfway point of the year, it’s time to take a look at the best 2012 has had to offer so far. This is the first time in my career I’ve even felt compelled to make a mid-year top-ten list, but there was more than enough movie magic to fill these ten slots and beyond.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the Top Ten Films of 2012 So Far….

10. The Hunger Games 

Several films I’d consider critically stronger than this one wrestled for the number ten slot, but in the end, I’m most impressed with The Hunger Games for delivering such a strong artistic triumph despite massive commercial pressure and social expectations. As the horrid Twilight films proved, quality has no bearing whatsoever on what young-adult audiences will pay to see, and it would have been ridiculously easy for Lionsgate to churn out absolute garbage and let the dollars roll in. Instead, they hired acclaimed director Gary Ross to helm the picture, gathered an ensemble of highly respected actors, and crafted a breathtaking film that, at its worst, still verges on great.

A massive improvement on its source material in every way imaginable, The Hunger Games is filled with gorgeous, provocative imagery, genuine suspense, hard-hitting pathos, and three-dimensional characters worth caring about. Where Collins’ novel featured half-baked ideas about social inequity and entertainment culture, Ross’ film speaks directly and profoundly to the challenges facing our modern world, and leaves the viewer with so much more to ponder than your average action blockbuster. Performances across the board are spectacular, but Jennifer Lawrence deserves special mention for turning in one of the most beautiful, nuanced star turns of the modern era. I do feel commercial restraints stopped Ross from going as far as he needed to – the Games themselves aren’t as horrific as the first hour suggests – but he comes breathtakingly close, and most importantly, respects the audience every step of the way. In today’s cinematic landscape, that’s something worth celebrating.

The Hunger Games is no longer playing in most theatres, but will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray August 18th, 2012.

9. Safety Not Guaranteed 

Safety Not Guaranteed 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 deeper into the psychology behind time travel than any film I’ve ever seen, and creates warm, memorable, three-dimensional characters worth investing oneself in. In fact, the film marks one of the only times I’ve ever fallen head-over-heels in love with a character, but that’s what happens when you write Aubrey Plaza one of the year’s best characters. She’s just incredible in this movie, as is her co-lead Mark Duplass, and the journey of self-discovery they take together engages the heart and imagination in equal measure.

Safety Not Guaranteed is now playing theatrically in limited release.

8. The Amazing Spider-Man

Possibly the most underestimated film of the summer, Marc Webb’s greatest accomplishment in crafting The Amazing Spider-Man is that he a turned a completely unnecessary cash-gab project into a strong artistic statement. I’m not prepared to say whether Webb’s interpretation of Spider-Man is better or worse than Sam Raimi’s; it’s just different, focusing on other aspects of the character’s mythos and psychology, and that’s what I love about it.

Conventional logic says we don’t need another Spider-Man origin so soon, but Webb’s film is so insightful, so filled with heart, pathos, and uncompromising mediations on the emotional toils of adolescence, that I now find it difficult to imagine the pop-culture landscape without the film. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone couldn’t possibly be better as Peter and Gwen, James Horner’s score is a thing of ethereal beauty, and the cinematography and action set-pieces are breathtaking. Though some will no doubt remain cynical, I’m firmly convinced The Amazing Spider-Man is a superhero film for the ages, and one of the best films of 2012.

The Amazing Spider-Man opens in theatres everywhere July 3rd, 2012.

7. The Grey 

If the Academy Awards do not recognize Liam Neeson with a Best Actor Oscar for his work in The Grey, they will have proven themselves obsolete once and for all, because performances don’t come any better than this. Intense, vulnerable, mysterious, intelligent, broken…the descriptors go on and on. Neeson’s Ottway is a profound mass of extremely human contradictions, just as The Grey is a film that revels in ambiguity. The only certain conclusion all viewers can draw is that it is a tremendous film, the first great movie of 2012.

Were it nothing more than an empty survival thriller, it would still be impressive, for co-writer/director Joe Carnahan weaves tension, dread, and bottomless fear into every frame, seemingly with ease. The film is remarkable, though, for its philosophical aspirations, its thoughtful and uncompromising mediations on masculinity, faith, and above all else, death.  The thoughts and musings it conjures in the viewer’s head are far scarier than any number of wolves, and though The Grey is a harrowing experience, it is also a meaningful and unforgettable one.

The Grey is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

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Comments (24)

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  1. AdamBrittensays:

    Have only seen a handful of these – I gotta get to the movies! I love Aubrey Plaza, so that will probably be next on my list.

  2. EruThePhenomsays:

    I forget that a separation came out this year, because I always do my list on the same schedule as oscar’s.

  3. SadieHeldbergsays:

    You hit a home run again Jonathan; I have been appalled that Neeson has been disregarded considering his talent, and I won’t rave about the Academy or you may disregard my post. It’s funny, my movie club, which is predominately made up of my co-workers from Dish, have spent quite a few get-togethers discussing his talent. With the release of “The Grey”, I can only imagine that he will be a heated topic again. Although my time is limited and I don’t get to the theater as much as I would like, I subscribe to Blockbuster @Home making my time restraints less of a burden to my movie obsession. Moreover, it’s so much easier to have a discussion on an actor or his films when the selection is vast and easily streamed to my TV.  Perhaps if we can collaborate enough “evidence” from Neeson’s many movies we can submit a complaint to the Academy; you in?

  4. KennethLysays:

    The fuck!!? The Avengers is clearly a number one. The Secret World of Arrietty was boring and stupid(my friend loves Studio Ghibli and forced me to watch it). As a long time anime fan I always hated everything Studio Ghibli produced(except Spirited Away). Studio Ghibli movies has always had shit animation style and horrible quality and the stories are just lame.  There are tons of animes out there that are way better then that trash.
     
    The Avengers is perfect in every sense. Until The Dark Knight Rises comes out it’s without doubt the best movie ever made so far 2012 and definitely one of the best movies all time.

  5. Christian Pflueglersays:

    Oh Boy…there is another “specialist” talking about best and worse movies….good thing that this only mirrors your personal opinion….and then of course, if you are looking to get bored out of your mind then we all should really follow your “expert” advise….Good Job!

    1. The_Face_of_Boesays:

      If this even is his own opinion and not a mirror of what he thinks is popular opinion as he’s shown to have done on other lists.

  6. abw2says:

    …You put together a pretty solid list, I think, but I would add The Amazing Spider-Man and, at best, The Dark Knight Rises to the list…, but of course, that’s just me… *cool*/P 🙂

    1. Amysays:

      Spider-Man is on the list. Dark Knight Rises? Sorry, but I live too close to Aurora to ever think of that movie as good. The franchise is too dark. Look what happened to Heath Ledger. Love Hunger Games on the list, but not sure if I agree with the comment about the games not actually being as bad as the first hour suggests. 13 kids are brutally murdered in the first few hours, all but one in the first few minutes.

      1. abw2says:

        Oops, I missed that… Nice, and to each his/her own on The Dark Knight Rises, I guess… *cool*/P 🙂

  7. Mikesays:

    Wait a sec…you put John Carter as one of the worst five but Spiderman makes your best ten. You really do have terrible taste in films.

    1. n8csquaredsays:

      How someone could say John Carter was better than Spiderman is beyond me…but I suppose that’s what makes us unique as individuals.

      1. Briansays:

        John Carter is better than anything with Andrew Garfield.

      2. John Carter was much better than Spiderman. I agree completely!

  8. Grantsays:

    Anyone else notice that the preview pic for this category on the page leading to this is actually Susan from The Chronicles of Narnia and not Katniss?

  9. Timmysays:

    The Dark Knight Rises
    The Avengers
    The Hunger Games
    The Amazing Spider Man…. these are the movies i liked the most. but this list is pretty good.

  10. Kyle4says:

    I’m very surprised you’d suggest Liam Neeson for on Oscar win, as even a nomination wouldn’t be expected. It’s going to be tough to compete with Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln or Joaquin Phoenix in the Master (films which came out after this article).

    This list was okay, my personal favourite of the year so far is The Dark Knight Rises.

    1. Briansays:

      When The Grey was still in theaters the people in charge were talking about re-releasing it come Oscar season. I hope they do and I hope he gets a nomination.

  11. thebasedonesays:

    The Secret World of Arrietty actually originally came out in 2010 but it’s just now being released in the US. Great film but I don’t think it’s fair to put it on the top of the list for best films of 2012 because it’s not even from this year.

  12. BONOSLIDEsays:

    AND THE DARK KNIGHT RISES?

  13. Sheesh, what moron came up with this list? Amazing Spiderman makes the list but the Dark Knight doesn’t. And The Hunger Games?…Really? And some no-name cartoon as the top movie? WTF?

    1. Dracontiarsays:

      Hey, just because you don’t follow animation, doesn’t mean that it’s insignificant. It happens to be one of my favorite genres, and Miyazaki is bar none the leading genius of the medium. Studio Ghibli has created some of the greatest masterpieces I know. The Secret World of Arrietty is not just a cartoon, and it’s certainly not “no-name”.

  14. patopaolosays:

    Hunger games (a copy of the 80’s action movie) and Spiderman(nothing new in this sequel????

  15. Johnny99says:

    Did you not see Beasts of the Southern Wild?? It’s better than most of the films on your list. I know this is a subjective game, but your critical faculties don’t seem particularly sharp.

  16. Solitudesays:

    You gotta be kidding me, why there is Cabin in the woods? Its one of the lousy and lamest film I’ve ever watched! Duh!

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