We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
It was a really good year. I went to Cannes for the first time ever. I went to Fantastic Fest for the first time ever. I went to SXSW for the fourth time … ever, but finally stayed for the musical festival. More importantly, it was a great year for films even if you remove all of the festivals. Normally I have a tough time deciding on a Top 7 (or Top 10) because there aren’t enough films that definitely should be on the list. This year, I have 21 films that I loved, or at least really, really liked. The 21st film, that just barely made the cut? The Avengers. Again, it was a really good year.
7. The Impossible
Recap: Based on a true story, this is the account of a family of five trying to survive the 2004 tsunami that hit Southeast Asia.
Reason: It’s a disaster movie puts you in the moment, and allows you to stay there through all the pain, survival and love. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor are great dramatic additions to this film that uses the location, and sound effects to make you feel the emotional and physical trauma.
6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Recap: A quiet freshmen (Logan Lerman) is befriended by two seniors, attempting to welcome him to high school.
Reason: My dislike for Lerman is gone, and it was a strong dislike. This wasn’t my high school experience, but I felt connected to every character. Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin) and Emma Watson (Harry Potter) were able to shed those previously powerful characters and blend in perfectly to this film. Having the novelist write and direct this film completely paid off. It is my favorite high school genre film in the last decade.
5. Zero Dark Thirty
Recap: The decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden after 9/11, mainly through the perspective of one CIA agent (Jessica Chastain).
Reason: This is a procedural that delivers an amazing final punch. I absolutely loved Chastain’s Maya, especially because the fact that she’s a woman rarely entered in with this character. Sure, she’s venerable at times, but that’s not strictly a female thing. This is the closest I’m going to get into understanding how our government and military operates under extreme conditions (and I feel like I got really close).
Recap: British Secret Agent James Bond’s (Daniel Craig) trust in M (Judi Dench) is tested as a past agent (Javier Bardem) comes back to haunt her. MI6 is under attack, and Bond must track down and destroy the enemy.
Reason: The opening scene is flawless. The first thing we hear are two blaring musical notes of classic Bond music, that seem to declare, “You get to have fun, sit back and enjoy this ride.” As the saying goes, you’ve got to shake 22 Bond films, before the 23rd is stirred to perfection. Without a doubt, this is the best James Bond movie ever.
Read Bayer’s entire “Skyfall” review
3. Moonrise Kingdom
Recap: A pair of kids (Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward) run away on a New England island, which causes parents, troop leaders and the police to go searching.
Reason: With all of the techniques and beauty Moonrise offers, it still has an emotional connection. There is death and danger. This is Anderson being Anderson. I’m quite happy with that. It’s realistic imagination overload.
Read Bayer’s entire “Moonrise Kingdom” review
2. Cloud Atlas
Recap: The actions of individuals impact the entire world over the course of thousands of years. From the past, present and future, different souls have the chance to be villains and heroes.
Reason: Connect the dots. Unless you have little ones at home, it has probably been a long time since you’ve connected the dots to form a full picture. Cloud Atlas allows you the chance, in this very beautiful, engaging, emotional film. It is the simplest story, told in the most complex way possible.
Read Bayer’s entire “Cloud Atlas” review
1. The Cabin in the Woods
Recap: Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods. There are bigger things at play then they realize.
Reason: They thought of everything. That sentence is all you need to know. Stop reading this and make sure you go in fresh to The Cabin in the Woods. I know I say that a lot, but it’s never been more true with this film. The horror comes from all of our collective nightmares, allowing us to observe, get scared and still have an intelligent distance from the horror, trying to figure out the bigger puzzle.
Read Bayer’s entire “The Cabin in the Woods” review
There’s the Top 7, now here’s 7 more
9. Django Unchained
10. Friends with Kids
11. Your Sister’s Sister
12. End of Watch
13. Killer Joe
14. The Raid: Redemption
There’s the Top 14, now here’s 7 more
16. Silver Linings Playbook
17. The Grey
18. Seven Psychopaths
19. Les Misérables
20. The Bourne Legacy
21. The Avengers