For what it's worth, here's my list of the top movies I've seen this year. There are a few movies I did not have a chance to see yet that I am sure would make it somewhere in this list, such as Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, Midnight in Paris, Ides of March, Driver, The Artist, and Martha Marcy May Marlene. Nonetheless, I have seen a large swath of the movies released this year and I have noticed that the ones I believed to be the best were nowhere to be found on the lists others have set up (for instance Rotten Tomatoes). In particular, I strongly felt Hugo was an astounding piece of film despite being unanimously panned and dismissed, unlike the popular clunker that the Descendants was and yet unanimously hailed as being the year's strongest.
The movies here are what I felt were some of the best and most worth watching. I had more of a 'take it or leave it' mentality for movies like Contagion and Transformers, and hence are included here.
A visually stunning movie where Scorsese delivers a doctoral thesis on why film is important and how 3D can be used to tell a story. This is a masterful movie where each character is well rounded and utilized to their full potential. Most under-rated movie of the year.
This was an astounding movie in how real and powerful the subject matter of cancer was presented. The performance by Joseph Gordan Levitt was inspiring and the script was strong. Levitt definitely deserves an Oscar nod, if not the prize itself.
3. War Horse
It begins with a Disney-esque sequence but quickly turns into a Spielberg classic thereafter. This is a movie constructed around several vignettes that approach the subject of war from a few different angles and manages to do so deftly and with great thought. What surprised me the most was that considering I am not someone who cares for animal centric movies, I was moved and attached to the character of the horse by the end of the film.
4. The Muppets
To be fair, I am a little biased in my opinion of this movie as I was already a fan of this franchise. However, the people that went to see the movie with me were not but quickly became fans thereafter. I loved how witty and original the songs were, how gifted the jokes were, and how the new movie stayed true to the original conception of the Henson Muppets.
5. Young Adult
This movie stands out from many of the other movies I saw this year for it's unparalleled acting from Charlize Theron and the level of detail that director Jason Reitman brings to the screen. The story is flawless with having a twisted nature that makes you simultaneously sympathize and hate the main character.
6. Crazy Stupid Love
Hands down the biggest surprise of the year. Going in I thought I would encounter a generic romantic comedy but instead left seeing a well thought out and composed drama. A multitude of well conceived characters both in story and acting are presented.
7. Money Ball
The acting is superb and the cinematography is captivating. The love for the game is on center stage and interest in the characters is abound. The movie falters, however, with not presenting enough on the characters themselves and would have done better if the supporting characters were developed more.
8. Captain America
It has the thrills as expected with a summer block-buster, but it also had some of the strongest characters to be found in any movie this year. The movie is filled with fun and excitement, which pleased me on a visceral level but also left me surprised with the breadth of story and character. By far the best of the summer block busters.
9. Friends with Benefits
Reminded me of 300 Days of Summer, but came up short in the story's grandeur and originality. However, I greatly appreciated the refreshingly real substance of this romantic comedy, which is why I draw parallels to it and 300 Days of Summer.
10. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Like Captain America, I came in expected a generic summer blockbuster but left seeing something much more. While falling in the category of sci-fi, this is more of a drama that focuses on the relationship between an ailing father and his son. This is an incredibly bleak movie with strong acting and a surprisingly sophisticated story line. One of the year's dark horses.
11. Arthur Christmas
Funny and touching. The subject matter is not unique as it features the squabbling relationships within a family, but it is executed very well with numerous well timed laughs to make it perhaps the best animated movie of the year.
12. Harry Potter
The ending of an epic franchise. By itself, the movie is strong but not excellent. However, in the context of the series this finally acts as a terrific bookend. I left the theater feeling satisfied with how the characters were left but was aggravated how it completely dropped the Deathly Hallows' storyline that the previous two movies had been working towards.
There is nothing deep or Oscar worthy found in this movie. However, this was one of the most fun movies of the year besides The Muppets. Some of the best casting was featured in this movie, with a story line that had a perfect pace and amount of laughs that filtered through the screaming action sequences. The biggest flaw, however, was that a lot more story could have been told. In particular, this story focuses on the decent and resurrection of Thor, but the story pays hardly any time to showing Thor's decent.
While funny, I did not find this movie as hysterical as some. It is obviously a female take on The Hangover, and does so with a considerable amount of originality. One of the better comedies of the year.
15. X-Men: First Class
Like Thor, X-Men had some of the year's best casting. The acting was outstanding but the film suffered from several slow moments in the story; Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy stole the show.
16. Super 8
I want this movie to be better! The first 4/5 of the movie reminded me of the best Spielberg films but the ending was so damn poor and cliched! The movie opens with an original premise and uses aliens as a foil to understand the relationship between father and son, and the loss of the mother character. Excellent dialogue and acting all around, but with such a weak and generic ending it reminded me of District 9 where again we had an original movie that ended like a generic action flick.
I don't get why people love this movie so much. George Clooney is good but he is only playing himself; I do not see a noticeable difference from how he portrayed characters in other movies. The directing is well executed with some terrific cinematography, however the story is segmented with characters being haphazardly dropped and a different storyline being awkwardly jammed in half-way through the movie.