In advance of the Academy Awards broadcast on Sunday, I present my annual list of the best films of the year. Usually I stick with a top twenty, but the field of movies was so strong in 2012 that I must expand the list to a top twenty five. 2012 was without doubt one of the strongest movie years in a long while. You'd have to go back to 1998 to find such a strong year. As it is, there are a number of films that were nudged out of the top twenty five, and I feel compelled to list them here as they could have made the list in a weaker year: Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Hunger Games, The Avengers, Moonrise Kingdom, Magic Mike, Anna Karenina, Frankenweenie, ParaNorman, Safety Not Guaranteed, Liberal Arts, Sleepwalk with Me, Bernie, and Your Sister's Sister. As always, please feel free to comment, as the following list is completely subjective. Unless you think Breaking Dawn: Part 2 should be on the list, in which case you can keep your thoughts to yourself.
25. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
A sweet apocalyptic comedy starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley as strangers who fall in love on the eve of the world's destruction. Both a skewering of the disaster genre and poignant love story.
This clever sci-fi story of three teenagers who acquire superpowers reinvigorated the tired found footage genre, and made me wish that Dane DeHaan had played Anakin Skywalker.
23. The Dark Knight Rises
Richard Gere gives an Oscar-worthy performance as a hedge fund manager trying to cover up both his financial malfeasance and the death of his mistress. The best thriller that absolutely no one saw last year.
21. The Grey
I don't know when Liam Neeson became an action star, but this is the perfect vehicle for his world-weary badassery, as he plays an oil worker struggling for survival in the Arctic after a plane crash. Bleak and fatalistic, but very entertaining.
20. Ruby Sparks
Paul Dano stars as an author who conjures the girl of his dreams out of this air just by writing about her. What follows is a quirky, wholly original romance that should make a star out of Zoe Kazan, who plays the titular character and also wrote the screenplay.
Ridley Scott's prequel reminds us that this is the guy who directed both Alien and Blade Runner, two of the best sci-fi films ever made. Prometheus is an exciting action picture that dares to ask the big questions posed by the likes of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.
I never would have thought it, but Daniel Craig is James Bond to me, even more so than Sean Connery. Skyfall is the best Bond movie ever, thanks to the expert directing of Sam Mendes and an amazing villain courtesy of Javier Bardem.
Rian Johnson's time travel epic establishes complex rules for its universe and then dares to actually follow them. Bruce Willis proves what a good actor he can be when given the right material, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is spot on as his younger self.
15. End of Watch
14. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
A group of British retirees vacation in India. It's not hard to see why the ensemble was nominated for a SAG award, a group of fine British actors including Judy Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, and Maggie Smith. A delight to watch.
13. Cabin in the Woods
As much as I loved The Avengers, this is the best movie that Joss Whedon was involved with last year. Cabin in the Woods takes the dead teenager genre and turns it completely on its head to wickedly entertaining results. The third act is so good and such a payoff that it made me want to cheer.
Denzel Washington gives what could be the best performance of his career as a pilot who saves a planeload of passengers while flying drunk. The trailers sold it as a thriller but it is really a masterful character study of a basically good man ruled by his addictions.
11. Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino applies his genre-bending sensibilities to the western in the story of Django, a slave turned bounty hunter in the antebellum south. The best thing in the movie, as is true in all of Tarantino's films, is the dialogue, spoken here with relish by Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, and Leonardo DiCaprio in what is easily the most despicable role of his career as a sadistic plantation owner.
Stay tuned for my top ten movies of 2012.