The Big List: Ranking Every Movie I Saw in 2012

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I saw 103 movies in 2012- meaning, 103 movies released during the calendar year. That sounds like a lot- especially for a guy with a full-time job and two young kids- but it’s really not.

It works out to about two a week. I went to about one critics’ screening a week, sometimes two, and usually watched at least one thing a week either on Netflix, Amazon, on-demand or HBO. I binged quite a bit in December, too.

However, nearly 400 movies were released in the U.S. in 2012. And Roger Ebert- a man who’s 70 years old, battling all sorts of health problems, and can no longer speak- saw nearly three times as movies this year as I did. 

At any rate, here’s the final ranking of every movie I saw this year. Links are to original reviews. Here’s the 2011 list. 

1. “Zero Dark Thirty” (Kathryn Bigelow) Long-form journalism as a movie, totally tense, absolutely amazing

2. “Moonrise Kingdom” (Wes Anderson) Anderson’s delightful, beautiful return to form

3. “Lincoln” (Steven Spielberg) Best cast of the year, and the best movie ever made about legislating

4. “Les Miserables” (Tom Hooper) Ignore the backlash; the best movie musical in years

5. “Argo” (Ben Affleck) Somehow combines 5 different genres, and all of them work

6. “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Benh Zeitlin) A rare triumph of magical realism

7. “Oslo August 31st” (Joachim Trier) Possibly the most devastating film about addiction ever

8. “The Queen of Versailles” (Lauren Greenfield) THE story of the last five years, and not only for the Schadenfreude

9. “Holy Motors” (Leos Carax) I don’t even know what this was about, but I know I loved it

10. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (Stephen Chbosky) Amazing high school drama, featuring a breakthrough performance from Ezra Miller


11. “How to Survive a Plague” (David France) Searing, emotionally devastating AIDS documentary.

12. “The Dark Knight Rises” (Christopher Nolan) Not quite up to the first two, but still pretty damned exciting

13. “Wreck-It Ralph” (Rich Moore) Loving, very entertaining tribute to ’80s video game culture

14. “Ruby Sparks” (Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris) Brutal evisceration of the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” archetype

15. “The Grey” (Joe Carnahan) Liam Neeson is much more fun fighting wolves than Eastern European sex traffickers

16. “The Avengers” (Joss Whedon) Non-stop fan service has never been so fun

17. “Skyfall” (Sam Mendes) One of the better recent Bonds, and a huge improvement over the last one

18. “Magic Mike” (Steven Soderbergh) Way more universally entertaining than a male stripper movie has any right to be

19. “Bernie” (Richard Linklater) “Fargo,” in Texas, with a way-dialed-down Jack Black as a friendly murderer

20. “21 Jump Street” (Phil Lord, Chris Miller) The year’s most overachieving comedy


21. “Cosmopolis” (David Cronenberg) Who knew Edward Cullen could actually act?

22. “The Cabin in the Woods” (Drew Goddard) Absurdly entertaining horror movie deconstruction. Too bad there can’t be a sequel

23. “Django Unchained” (Quentin Tarantino) Some great stuff, but too long by about 45 minutes.

24. “Goon” (Michael Bowse) The second-best movie ever made about minor-league hockey

25. “Jack Reacher” (Christopher McQuarrie) A crazily enjoyable action picture, showing that Tom Cruise can still kick ass at 50

26. “Killing Them Softly” (Andrew Dominik) A first-rate gangster film, bogged down by fifth-rate political allegory

27. “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” (David Gelb) This movie made me very hungry

28. “Flight” (Robert Zemeckis) One of the best plane crashes ever in a movie, although the rest was hit-or-miss.

29. “This is 40″ (Judd Apatow) This one’s flaws have been well-documented, but its much better than its reputation

30. “Prometheus” (Ridley Scott) Yes, its problems are myriad, but the visuals were so incredible that I can let some of it slide


31. “Seven Psychopaths” (Martin McDonaugh) Maybe the best comedy cast of the year, but ran out of ideas with 20 minutes to go

32. “Promised Land” (Gus Van Sant) Much better than it should have been, before falling apart at the end

33. “Bachelorette” (Leslye Headland) Like “Bridesmaids,” only druggier and more mean-spirited

34. “Arbitrage” (Nicolas Jarecki) Like a remake of “Bonfire of the Vanities,” only done slightly better

35. “Haywire” (Steven Soderbergh) Enjoyable but mostly forgettable, though Gina Carano has potential

36. “Bad 25″ (Spike Lee) Michael Jackson documentaries are so much better when he’s not wandering around while near death

37. “The Deep Blue Sea” (Terrence Davies) Totally devastating- almost as devastating as getting eaten by a shark

38. “The Invisible War” (Kirby Dick) Tragic, infuriating documentary about rape in the military

39. “Chronicle” (Josh Trank) Entertaining teen sci-fi film; much better is likely to come from this director

40. “The Master” (Paul Thomas Anderson) Outstanding performances, I just don’t see the greatness, I really don’t.


41. “Cloud Atlas” (Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer) So damn ambitious, even though about two thirds of it crashes and burns

42. “Life of Pi” (Ang Lee) Beautiful visuals, but hurt by weak plotting, including a lame framing device

43 “Looper” (Rian Johnson) Most overrated film of the year. Just another warmed-over “Terminator” rehash

44. “Killer Joe” (William Friedkin) Some great ideas, but just a bit too rapey for my tastes.

45. “Silver Linings Playbook” (David O. Russell) Just another “love cures mental illness” movie, Eagles stuff notwithstanding

46. “Savages” (Oliver Stone) Some fun stuff, but Stone has lost his damned mind.

47. “Ted” (Seth MacFarlane) About a third of the jokes hit, but the ones that do hit hard

48. “The Raid: Redemption” (Gareth Evans) Quite creative, but just didn’t do it for me

49. “Shut Up and Play the Hits” (Will Lovelace, Dylan Southern) Pretty strong music documentary about a band I don’t really care about

50. “Brave” (Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman) Should we be worried about Pixar? I think maybe we should


51. “Casa de Mi Padre” (Matt Piedmont) A one-joke movie, but I kept laughing at the joke.

52. “The Bourne Legacy” (Tony Gilroy) I didn’t mind Bourne-without-Bourne; I just wonder what the point of it was

53. “Think Like a Man” (Tim Story) About as good as a movie can be if based on a questionable self-help book

54. “Red Tails” (Anthony Hemingway) Inspiring but generally forgettable.

55. “Klown” (Mikkel Nørgaard) A Danish Curb Your Enthusiasm knockoff with intermittent laughs. I’m not looking forward to the inevitable Adam Sandler/Kevin James remake

56. “Taken 2″ (Olivier Megaton) More a remake than sequel. Fun but disposable.

57. “Safety Not Guaranteed” (Colin Treverrow) A decent idea, and I love Aubrey Plaza, but no

58. “2 Days in New York” (Julie Delpy) The first movie in years to use Chris Rock properly, but not much else worked

59. “Friends With Kids” (Jennifer Westfeldt) A first-rate cast in a highly dislikable movie about highly dislikable people

60. “Take This Waltz” (Sarah Polley) Oh, stop whining, will you please?


61. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” (Kirk Jones) Some good moments, but I’m kind of sick of the star-studded-self-help-adaptation genre

62. “Anna Karenina” (Joe Wright) As ill-conceived as it is deathly boring

63. “American Reunion” (Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg) A little bit of nostalgia value, but come on, enough already

64. “The Amazing Spider-man” (Marc Webb) The Spidey origin story, in case you missed the exact same thing only ten years ago

65. “Wanderlust” (David Wain) Makes the miscalculation that hippiedom, in 2012, is inherently hilarious

66. “The Hunger Games” (Gary Ross) Jennifer Lawrence’s appeal was about the only thing holding this long slog afloat

67. “The Five-Year Engagement” (Nicolas Stoller) This felt way, way longer than five years. Especially since the baby conceived at the beginning is 10 by the end.

68. “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” (Lasse Hallstrom) Until its inexplicable Golden Globe nomination, I forgot this movie even happened.

69. “Liberal Arts” (Josh Radnor) For How I Met Your Mother fans who didn’t think Ted was douchey enough

70. “Seeking A Friend for the End of the World” (Lorene Scafaria) Or, “Manic Pixie Apocalypse”


71. “Lawless” (John Hillcoat) I forgot absolutely everything about this movie by the time I got in the car

72. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (Peter Jackson) The unalloyed boredom and non-stop stalling, rendered in breathtaking clarity

73. “Sparkle” (Salim Akli) Whitney Houston deserved a much better sendoff than this by-the-numbers Motown musical

74. “The Lucky One” (Scott Hicks) This year’s Sparks adaptation had a plot that could’ve been resolved with one sentence in the first five minutes

75. “Hit and Run” (Dax Shepard, David Palmer) A decent crime comedy undone by unfunny, virtually nonstop rape jokes.

76. “Your Sister’s Sister” (Lynn Shelton) I really need a vacation from Mark Duplass

77. “Not Fade Away” (David Chase) Another totally pedestrian boomer nostalgia exercise, from someone who can do way better

78. “The Loneliest Planet” (Julia Loktov) A tediously long movie in which nothing happens, and the earth-shattering twist is that one thing does

79. “People Like Us” (Alex Kurtzman) Another of Ebert’s “idiot plots.” Tell your stupid secret so the movie can be over!

80. “Damsels in Distress” (Whit Stillman) Stillman should’ve hibernated a bit longer, because this was ghastly.


81. “Me @ the Zoo” (Chris Moukarbel, Valerie Veatch) The “Leave Britney Alone” guy gets an unnecessary documentary. I was sympathetic at the beginning, sick to death of him by the end

82. “Mirror Mirror” (Tarsem) A DOA, modern-reference-filled fairy tale; at least it’s not the worst Snow White movie of the year

83. “Red Hook Summer” (Spike Lee) Hums along decently for awhile until the WORST PLOT TWIST EVER .

84. “The Dictator” (Larry Charles) Sacha Baron Cohen hits bottom with a faux-shocking rehash of “Coming to America”

85. “Men in Black 3″ (Barry Sonnenfeld) The movie this year most obviously made to sell toys.

86. “Woman in Black” (James Watkins) Harry Potter in a movie about child-killing, just in case you want to have nightmares tonight

87. “Jeff Who Lives at Home” (Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass) Oh, enough with this mumblecore crap. Even with big stars it’s still worthless

88. “Seeking Justice” (Roger Donaldson) Generic Nic Cage New Orleans thriller of the year. Not quite deranged enough to be a camp classic

89. “The Three Stooges” (Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly) The Stooge stuff worked, with a plot so contrived and silly.

90. “Total Recall” (Len Wiseman) A remake no one wanted to see, even if it hadn’t been totally worthless


91. “Sleepwalk With Me” (Mike Birbigilia, Seth Barrish) There’s nothing this movie attempts that wasn’t done better by every episode of Louie

92. “The Campaign” (Jay Roach) One of the more toothless “political comedy” films in memory.

93. “Dark Shadows” (Tim Burton) Did we really need another third-generation remake from Burton and Depp?

94. “One For the Money” (Julie Ann Robinson) When I think “gritty,” “blue collar,” and “New Jersey,” the first name that pops up is always “Katherine Heigl”

95. “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” (Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim) I was with it until the first mass-defecation scene.

96. “The Words” (Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal) A totally shallow film, pretending to be about things that were important.

97. “The Watch” (Akiva Schaffer) Bottom-feeding crap comedy, featuring ever bottom-rung comedy cliche there is.

98. “This Means War” (McG) Completely embarrassing love triangle featuring weapons, CIA surveillance and bad Chelsea Handler jokes

99. “Trouble With the Curve” (Robert Lorenz) The most reactionary, insulting “baseball movie” ever made

100. “Snow White and the Huntsman” (Rupert Sanders) “I’d rather die today, than live one more day of this death!”


101. “Bully” (Lee Hirsch) Condescending, manipulative documentary that added no insight to an important subject.

102. “God Bless America” (Bobcat Goldthwait) Great timing! A 2012 movie about a guy who guns down innocent people by the dozen, including in a movie theater

103. “Rock of Ages” (Adam Shankman) A celebration of bad music, featuring performers who can’t sing, with a mind-bogglingly stupid story

 See all reviews here.

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