The 10 Best Movies Of 2012

Daniel Day Lewis Abe Lincoln


The Atlantic’s film critic picks the year’s 10 best titles—and doles out some less-conventional awards.A few boilerplate caveats: I saw a great many films this year, but by no means all of them.

See the best films of 2012 >
In particular, I missed a few documentaries that might well have made their way onto this list. It was also a very good year for film—the best, perhaps, since 2007—so a number of movies that could have made the list in weaker years (“Argo,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Life of Pi,” “Les Miserables,” “Skyfall,” etc.) have instead been consigned to honorary mentions.

Finally, lists such as this one are inevitably silly, idiosyncratic things, and mine is no exception. So have at it. And after (or before!) you’ve gone through the slideshow of the best (ranked from one to 10), don’t neglect the still-more-idiosyncratic-categories that follow.

From TheAtlantic – shaping the national debate on the most critical issues of our times, from politics, business, and the economy, to technology, arts, and culture.

10. 'Frankenweenie'

Not quite a kid's movie and not quite a grown-up one, Tim Burton's animated tale of a boy and his (reanimated) dog went largely unseen. Which is a shame, because it's his best film in nearly 20 years.

9. 'Amour'

In the past, I've taken strong exception to director Michael Haneke's cinema of extremity. But here he proceeds not from a horror-movie premise but from an all-too-common facet of modern senescence and mortality.

Be forewarned: You're unlikely to watch a more heartrending film this year, or any other.

8. 'The Cabin in the Woods'/'Seven Psychopaths'

I couldn't quite bring myself to put either of these devilishly inventive genre demolitions--by Drew Goddard and Martin McDonagh, respectively--on the list by itself. Together, though, I couldn't bring myself not to.

7. 'Silver Linings Playbook'

Like its protagonists, David O. Russell's film is delightfully off-kilter, at least until it coasts in for a more conventional conclusion.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence show that they have both, in their respective ways and at their respective paces, grown up as performers.

6. 'The Master'

Not as searing and indelible as 'There Will Be Blood' or 'Magnolia,' Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film is nonetheless a fluid, moody portrait of tumultuous souls grasping needily at one another.

5. 'Moonrise Kingdom'

With this touching, witty fable of adolescence, Wes Anderson again turns his eye to the triumphs and travails of precocious youth. The result is his best film since 'Rushmore.'

4. 'The Avengers'

Yes, I know: It's a movie about people in tights who fly around smiting each other. But Joss Whedon's sharp script and deft characterization--not to mention the sheer degree of difficulty in pulling off this collision of storylines--elevate it near the top of its genre.

3. 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'

2. 'Lincoln'

Not without its flaws--artistic and historical alike--but Spielberg's portrait of the passing of the 13th Amendment is among the best political films of recent years. Daniel Day-Lewis is quietly mesmerizing in the lead role.

1. 'Zero Dark 30'

Vast in scope yet meticulous in detail, Kathryn Bigelow's riveting tale of the hunt for bin Laden raises troublesome questions about secrecy and authenticity but represents a genuine tour de force of filmmaking.

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