2012 was a pretty great year for a night at the movie theater, and now that it's over you probably have a big pile of films to rent or buy. We at GameZone covered a ton of this year's biggest and best films, so we've compiled them into two top 5 lists. First up, we've got the Top Movies of 2012, a list of movies that met or exceeding our already huge expectations. Second, we have our biggest surprises—five films that squashed all our doubts and shocked us with their quality.
Top Movies of 2012
1 – Skyfall
Skyfall continued the trend of making Bond films smarter, classier, and darker than ever. It is easily the most personal the series has ever been, exploring the characters of Bond and M as they are assailed by a villain intent to take them down a peg. In the end, this Sam Mendes directed Bond takes everything from the character, reduces him to guerrilla tactics and survival, drops the mic, and walks off stage. We're not really sure how you follow that up.
2 – Cabin in the Woods
Cabin in the Woods dissects the tropes of the horror genre in a way only the most loving horror fans could. Despite what the trailers may indicate, the actual film wastes no time in revealing that something strange is going on, and the twists along the way only add to the fun. Not only does it lay out exactly what's wrong with all the other horror movies that came out this year, it is also the best horror movie to come out in years. It's amazingly rewatchable, and thankfully, leaves absolutely no room for a sequel.
3 – Looper
Looper takes the parts of time travel that seem like logic gaps and rolls with them. What happens when your past self has a vendetta to kill you? Looper's premise rests on some shaky ground, but the themes and story that result are phenomenal. What you end up with is an intense character study of someone played by two actors (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis), a present and future self existing on the same timeline. The resulting conflict is a stylized bit of gripping noir sci-fi.
4 – Wreck-It Ralph
Wreck-It Ralph is all kinds of wonderful. This Disney CG movie may not be Pixar, but it sure feels like it. In fact, it out-Pixar’d Pixar this year. Whether you’re a gamer or just a fan of observational comedy, Wreck-It Ralph is a riot from beginning to end. Even when it strays from the video game premise, the heartfelt and surprisingly well-constructed tale will win you over. Knock-out amazing performances from John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, and several others hammer home a perfect animated film.
5 – Django Unchained
Coming in just under the wire for 2012, Django Unchained is yet another excellent bit of filmmaking from director Quentin Tarantino. Django offers a socially conscious spaghetti western full of heated battles of both wits and firearms. Like Inglourious Basterds before it, Django Unchained is just as exciting for its deliberately-paced moments as it is for the gloriously bloody shootouts. One of Tarantino’s best.
Biggest Surprises of 2012
1 – Cloud Atlas
Cloud Atlas came and left theaters like a red-hot supernova that erupted and shrank down to nothing in an instant. Blame mixed critical reception and an impossibly bold vision for it’s short-lived run, but don’t forget about it. Cloud Atlas accomplished something so profound that it probably won’t get the respect it deserves for years to come. Six wildly different stories all blended together into a brilliantly-paced epic that spanned genres and defied convention.
2 – Hit & Run
Dax Shepard’s pet project was a labor of love that succeeded because it was genuine. He got some of his best actor friends, his wife Kristen Bell, and a love of cars together for what resulted in a surprisingly excellent action comedy. Hit & Run is what happens when you take that horrible action/romance genre that popped up in the last few years and decide to make something excellent instead.
3 – The Expendables 2
The Expendables 2 was everything the first film should have been: self-aware, big, dumb, and hilarious. There’s barely an actor in this movie who isn’t grunting through a face full of wrinkles and muscle. It’s a bunch of old men spouting their old one-liners and living it up one last time. The difference this time is that they know they’re too old for this, and play into it in hilariously intentional and unintentional ways. It isn’t a “good” movie by normal standards, but The Expendables 2 wasn’t just fun, it was funnier than most of this year’s comedies.
4 – The Dictator
The Dictator was a surprise for several reasons. For one, it skipped over Sasha Baron Cohen’s typical candid camera antics in favor of a standard scripted comedy. It took a character that seemed horribly offensive and made him kind of lovable (while still being horribly offensive). On top of that, and most importantly, it was funny…really funny. Cohen took an immediately unlikable concept and made it brilliant, political, and hilarious.
5 – Dredd 3D
Sometimes a trailer is just too good. Dredd was one of those examples where the trailer made the film look so great that you could only assume it would be a disaster. What a surprise it was then, when Dredd ended up being awesome. With a straightforward concept and a hero that’s cold and efficient, Dredd dishes up brutal justice in a fascinatingly dystopian sci-fi world.