The Best (And Worst) Movies of 2012 — Plus Best Docs, Best for Families, Most Fun, and More

Posted on December 28, 2012 at 8:00 am

My list of the best movies of 2012:


Zero Dark Thirty



Beasts of the Southern Wild


Silver Linings Playbook

Middle of Nowhere

The Avengers


Runners-up: Life of Pi, Moonrise Kingdom, Arbitrage, The Sessions, Looper, Skyfall, Wreck-It Ralph


Best documentaries (any could be included in the top ten of the year): The Queen of Versailles, Searching for Sugar Man, Chasing Ice, The Waiting Room, Escape Fire, Brooklyn Castle, How to Survive a Plague


The top 10 for families:






Wreck-It Ralph

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

Mirror, Mirror

Pirates: Band of Misfits

The Secret World of Arietty

Hotel Translyvania


Ice Age: Continental Drift

The movies that gave me the most pure popcorn pleasure this year:













Joyful Noise (best songs of the year, too)



21 Jump Street

The Avengers


Wreck-It Ralph


Best Development of the Year:




Unquestionably, the best development of the year was actresses who created great roles for themselves by writing or co-writing their own films.  “Ruby Sparks,” “For a Good Time, Call….,” “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” and “Sound of My Voice” were all written by their lead actresses and therefore featured some of the most interesting female characters and female perspectives ever put on screen.  I hope for more from writer/stars Zoe Kazan, Lauren Miller, Rashida Jones, and Brit Marling, and I hope they inspire other actresses and writers to create more great roles for women and that next year we see fewer talented actresses stuck in one-note, “Johnny, it’s time for you to grow up” girlfriend roles as the wonderful Mila Kunis was in “Ted.”

Runner-up: “The Hobbit’s” 48-frames-per-second filmmaking was not entirely successful, but I think once the props, costumes, make-up — and audiences — adjust to it, that technology will create a thrilling new range of opportunities for visual story-telling.


Must-see moments:




Some of my favorite scenes this year were in movies that are not on the “best” list, including:

Liberal Arts (Writer/director/star Josh Radnor explains how listening to a classical music mix as he walks around New York changes the way he sees the world around him)

Hyde Park on Hudson (FDR and King George V meet as the world is about to go to war)

Arbitrage (Nate Parker gives one of the year’s best performances as the son of a former employee of Richard Gere’s Wall Street mogul who gets an emergency call for help)

The Master (The movie is overly opaque, but Philip Seymour Hoffman was mesmerizing as the cult leader who was both enigmatic and charismatic.)

Flight (John Goodman shows up to save the day by curing Denzel Washington’s hangover with cocaine in a scene that is simultaneously horrifying and hilarious and tragic — with some of the best acting on screen this year.)

Joyful Noise (When Keke Palmer says her mother is jealous of her because she is pretty, Queen Latifah explains that she has no doubt of her own incandescent beauty and power.)

Jeff Who Lives at Home (In this fim and in “Arbitrage” Susan Sarandon gives two of the best performances of the year.)

Battleship (Get over it — I thought it was a lot of fun and I loved the way they brought the title vessel and the grid from the original game into the 21st century.)

Step Up: Revolution (Director/choreographer John Cho is the Busby Berkeley of the 21st century and the dance numbers in this “Dirty Dancing” for the Occupy Wall Street era are pure cinematic joy.)

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (Kristen Scott  Thomas is a hoot as a working mother who handles press relations for the Prime Minister — in both situations, she is surprised by nothing and capable of anything.)

And the worst!












I think we can all agree that any year with an Adam Sandler movie means everyone else is playing for second.  After “That’s My Boy” I needed that scrub-down Meryl Streep got in “Silkwood.”  It wasn’t just the jokes about incest and child abuse, the obese stripper or the fact that the most appealing performance in the movie was given by Vanilla Ice.  The worst part was the deeply unpleasant desperation of writer/star Sandler, who asked us to believe that his loathsomely scrofulous character was irresistible to everyone.  Cluelessness about how unappealing the characters are was a theme in many of this year’s worst movies.  Not coincidentally, they were often produced by their writers or stars as well, eliminating that all-important ego check.   “One For the Money” had producer/star Katherine Heigl’s rom-com rhythms wildly out of place in a gritty detective story.  “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” “Wanderlust,” “Parental Guidance,” and “This is 40” asked us to root for characters who are smug, selfish, spoiled, and superficial.  And then there was “Alex Cross,” which asked Tyler Perry to show show devastating grief and incendiary fury, make threats, throw punches, run with a gun, banter with his wife and partner, and take over a part played twice on screen by Morgan Freeman. The 6’5? Perry’s most believable moment is when his character has to reach something from a high shelf.  That felt real.

Related Tags:



2 Replies to “The Best (And Worst) Movies of 2012 — Plus Best Docs, Best for Families, Most Fun, and More”

    1. Keith, I loved Anna and the music, but there was just too much barfing and gross-out material for it to be on my end-of-year list. I’d love to see your list…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2020, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik