Overstreet’s Favorite Films: 2012

Here is the current list of my favorite films from 2012.

Notice, I didn’t say “the best films of 2012.” Nobody, not even the most experienced and devoted cinephile, can claim to report that. We experience, interpret, and remember art as individuals with particular strengths, weaknesses, memories, loves, and fears. When we share what moves, inspires, challenges, discomforts, and offends us, we reveal a lot about ourselves. I share this list so you know what meant the most to me in 2012, and if you want to understand why… that’s why I write reviews.

After you peruse this list-in-progress, feel free to share your own list in the Comments.

There are a lot of important films I have yet to see, films that might even end up in my top 10. (I am especially eager to see Michael Haneke’s Amour and Bela Tarr’s The Turin Horse. And I might eventually get around to Cloud Atlas, if only because the great divide between my friends about this film is very intriguing.)

This year, for the first time, I am publishing two versions of the list. Yes… two.

The first is the World Premieres Edition: My favorite films that played anywhere in the world for the first time in 2012.

The second list is the American Release Edition: This is more like lists published by other American film critics, because it’s excludes new films that haven’t been commercially released yet in the U.S. … and it includes films (titles marked with asterisks) that premiered more than a year ago, in 2011, but didn’t arrive in the U.S. for a commercial release until 2012.

Now, one more thing: If you want to understand the color-coding of the titles, as well as what this list really represents, read my introduction to the Looking Closer Favorite Films lists.

So, here they are: The films that inspired, moved, challenged, and intrigued me in 2012.

Red = Treasures, Purple = Favorites, Blue = Achievements, Gray = Decent/Noteworthy, Green = Unseen or Undecided
* = This film was released in America in 2012, but it played before that elsewhere in the world.

2012

TOP 30 FAVORITE FILMS: WORLD PREMIERES EDITION
(Movies that played for audiences for the first time in 2012, festivals and foreign countries included, according to IMDB.)

  1. Museum Hours (Jem Cohen)
  2. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson) - review
  3. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson) – review #1, review #2, and “On Difficult Films
  4. Holy Motors (Leos Carax) - review
  5. Neighboring Sounds (Kleber Mendonça Filho, Brazil)
  6. Lincoln (Steven Spielberg) – review
  7. Like Someone in Love (Abbas Kiarostami)
  8. Margaret – The Extended Cut (Kenneth Lonergan) – review
  9. Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel) – capsule review
  10. Amour (Michael Haneke) – review
  11. Brave (Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman) – review
  12. Barbara (Christian Petzold) – review
  13. Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley)
  14. Mud (Jeff Nichols)
  15. The Queen of Versailles (Lauren Greenfield)
  16. Planet of Snail (Yi Seung-jun)
  17. Frances Ha (Noah Baumback)
  18. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino) – review
  19. Anna Karenina (Joe Wright)
  20. Marvel’s The Avengers (Joss Whedon) – review
  21. Safety Not Guaranteed (Colin Trevorrow)
  22. Skyfall (Sam Mendes) – review
  23. Sinister (Scott Derrickson) – review
  24. Lore (Cate Shortland)
  25. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)
  26. To the Wonder (Terrence Malick)
  27. Life of Pi (Ang Lee)
  28. Wreck-It Ralph (Rich Moore)
  29. Argo (Ben Affleck) – review
  30. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Peter Jackson) – reviews #1 & #2 
  31. Rust and Bone (Jacques Audiard)
  32. Arbitrage (Nicholas Jarecki)
  33. Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell)
  34. Blue Like Jazz (Steve Taylor) – review
  35. A Royal Affair (Nikolaj Arcel)
  36. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin) – review
  37. Chronicle (Josh Trank)
  38. Lawless (John Hillcoat)
  39. Looper (Rian Johnson)
  40. John Carter (Andrew Stanton) – review
  41. ParaNorman (Sam Fell and Chris Butler)

FAVORITE FILMS: AMERICAN RELEASE EDITION
(My favorite movies that opened commercially in the U.S. in 2012. Asterisks mark titles that are not technically 2012 movies, as they played for audiences before 2012, sometimes in festivals, sometimes in other countries.)

  1. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson) - review
  2. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson) - review #1review #2, and “On Difficult Films
  3. Holy Motors (Leos Carax) - review
  4. The Loneliest Planet* (Julia Loktev) – review
  5. The Kid With a Bike* (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne) – review
  6. Neighboring Sounds (Kleber Mendonça Filho, Brazil)
  7. Lincoln (Steven Spielberg) - review
  8. Margaret – The Extended Cut (Kenneth Lonergan)  - review
  9. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia* (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
  10. Amour (Michael Haneke) – review
  11. Brave (Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman) - review
  12. This is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi)*
  13. Barbara (Christian Petzold) – review
  14. Let the Bullets Fly* (Wen Jiang)
  15. The Queen of Versailles (Lauren Greenfield)
  16. Planet of Snail (Yi Seung-jun)
  17. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino) - review
  18. Anna Karenina (Joe Wright)
  19. Haywire* (Steven Soderbergh)
  20. Bernie* (Richard Linklater)
  21. The Cabin in the Woods* (Drew Goddard) – review
  22. The Deep Blue Sea* (Terence Davies)
  23. Marvel’s The Avengers (Joss Whedon) - review
  24. Safety Not Guaranteed (Colin Trevorrow)
  25. Skyfall (Sam Mendes) - review
  26. Jiro Dreams of Sushi* (David Gelb)
  27. The Secret World of Arrietty* (Hiromasa Yonebayashi)
  28. Sinister (Scott Derrickson) - review
  29. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)
  30. Life of Pi (Ang Lee)
  31. Wreck-It Ralph (Rich Moore)
  32. Argo (Ben Affleck) - review
  33. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Peter Jackson) - reviews #1 & #2
  34. Elena* (Andrei Zvyagintsev)
  35. Take This Waltz* (Sarah Polley)
  36. Rust and Bone (Jacques Audiard)
  37. Alps* (Yorgos Lanthimos)
  38. Miss Bala* (Gerardo Naranjo)
  39. Arbitrage (Nicholas Jarecki)
  40. Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell)
  41. Blue Like Jazz (Steve Taylor) - review
  42. A Royal Affair (Nikolaj Arcel)
  43. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin) - review
  44. Chronicle (Josh Trank)
  45. Lawless (John Hillcoat)
  46. Looper (Rian Johnson)
  47. Your Sister’s Sister* (Lynn Shelton)
  48. John Carter (Andrew Stanton) - review
  49. Damsels in Distress* (Whit Stillman)
  50. ParaNorman (Sam Fell & Chris Butler)
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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • Joy

    Did you see ‘Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World’? Haven’t heard much about that film since it came out.

  • Michael Hovey

    For me the overall best film from 2012 was easily Pixar’s Brave, but these others followed closely behind:

    Rise of the Guardians (the best Christian secular movie I’ve seen since Pan’s Labyrinth)
    LOL (Miley Cyrus’s most mature relatable movie to date)
    The Lorax (the best Seuss adaptation ever made in my mind)
    Trouble with the Curve (another masterpiece starring Clint Eastwood)
    Chimpanzee (another great one from Disney Nature)
    American Reunion (a welcome addition to the Pie franchise)
    The Master (not PTA’s best film by a longshot, but still well worth puzzling over)
    Madea’s Witness Protection (Tyler Perry’s best film since I Can Do Bad All By Myself)
    Big Miracle (a great feel-good family inspirational tale)
    A Thousand Words (surprisingly one of Eddie Murphy’s deepest films)
    What to Expect When You’re Expecting (a very good if not quite great chick flick)

  • Antonio Magana

    1. End of Watch
    2. Flight
    4. Life of Pi
    5. Les Miserables
    6. The Amazing Spider-Man
    7. Django Unchained
    8.Prometheus
    9. The Avengers
    10. Sinister

    Did you see End of Watch by any chance? If so, is there a review of it I could read? If not, what did you think of it?

    • Jeffrey Overstreet

      Haven’t seen it yet. Hopefully sometime in 2013.

  • The Pachyderminator

    Fascinating lists. But why is This is Not a Film on the first list, when it’s a 2011 film according to IMDb?

    • Jeffrey Overstreet

      Good catch! My error. I’ll fix it.

  • Cody Latimer

    I’m glad you included Safety on your list. It was one of my favorite films of the year and I wish more people had been aware of it. There’s a signed poster from the three actors proudly hanging on the wall in my apartment.

  • http://catholiccinephile.wordpress.com/ Evan

    As of right now, my favorite films list (with colors as I would code them) is as follows:
    1. Frankenweenie (red)
    2. Moonrise Kingdom (purple)
    3. Skyfall (purple)
    4. Marvel’s The Avengers (purple)
    5. Anna Karenina (purple)
    6. The Dark Knight Rises (purple)
    7. Les Miserables (purple)
    8. The Master (purple)
    9. Lincoln (purple)
    10. Silver Linings Playbook (blue)
    11. For Greater Glory (blue)
    12. Argo (blue)
    13. Safety Not Guaranteed (blue)
    14. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (blue)
    15. Brave (blue)
    16. Django Unchained (blue)
    17. Sinister (blue)
    18. Looper (blue)
    19. Hitchcock (blue)
    20. Beasts of the Southern Wild (blue)
    Films that I still have yet to see: Holy Motors, Amour, Zero Dark Thirty, The Impossible
    And films that I missed and have yet to catch on DVD: The Kid with a Bike, Ruby Sparks, Cabin in the Woods

  • http://filmsweep.blogspot.com/ Persona

    Nice lists. There are a few on here that I absolutely love right along with you, and a few I have yet to see. But your list makes me think 2012 wasn’t as much of a wash as I was thinking a month or two ago. I’m gonna wait about six weeks to determine what I really think… ps You’d be proud of me, I saw BRAVE last week. I don’t know if it’s a year-end contender, but I swear it almost brought me to tears at one point. :)

    • Jeffrey Overstreet

      I’ve seen Brave four times, and my appreciation deepens with each viewing. It is a severely underrated achievement, in my opinion.


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