It’s that wonderful time of the year again. The time when all critics think back on the year that has passed and all the great films they watched during it, creating lists of the films that became their favourites. Due to my upcoming vacation, I belive I won’t be seeing any more films in the theatre this year, do it seems to be time for me to do a list of my own.

Now, keep in mind that I haven’t seen the films most critics would probably see on the list, so don’t get mad or anything if you don’t see Life of Pi, Cloud Atlas, The Perks of Being a Wallflower or Rise of The Guardians on here. These are just my personal favorites out of the films I had the privelege to see. Another important note is that some very good 2011 films were released in my homeland in 2012 and hence I consider them to be 2012 films. If, however, I saw a good 2011 film in 2012 even though it was released here much earlier, then it doesn’t really count – only if the actual release was prolonged and not only my vieweing.

With that said, let’s take a look at my favorite movies from the past year! Here we go!

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10. The Expendables 2

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Talk about getting right what the first film got wrong. Sylvester Stallone‘s bombastically action-packed sequel to The Expendables is one of the most major improvements I’ve seen in terms of follow-ups. If you were one of those disappointed at how the first film barely featured Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, plus how grossly limited the interaction was between the alleged main cast of action stars, then you will probably be more happy with this sequel.

Not only do Jet Li, Terry Crews, Jason Statham, Randy Couture, Dolph Lungren and Stallone himself all return (and recieve an equal amount of memorable scenes this time around), but the cast is joined by Jean-Claude Van Damme, Liam Hemsworth, and, I shit you not, Chuck Norris!  Not only that? Remember how Bruce Willis, Arnold and Stallone barely even interacted last time? Well, this time they kick an incomprehensible amount of ass together AND exchange some of their classic catchphrases. If you don’t love that, I am judging you big time!

This is film is basically everything the first one wanted to be. A bombastic, insane, hilarious and completely out-of-control fan service film that pleases everyone who loves action movies and the stars associated with them. It is quite simply, with lack of a more apt term, one of the most badass movies ever made!

9. The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey

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Peter Jackson takes us right back to the world of Middle Earth in The Hobbit, set quite a few years before the events of his masterful Lord of The Rings trilogy. It is true that some of the new techniques he used (48 fps, anyone?) fell flat and that since the tone of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s book was originally a lot brighter and fairy tale-ish than Lord of The Rings, the tone of the film itself is a bit all over the place, but in my opinion, this can easily be forgiven.

Martin Freeman puts on a priceless performances in the part of a younger Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who gets dragged into a spectacular adventure with dwarves, dragons, trolls (who speak like something out of Simon the Sorcerer), scrotum-chinned Goblin Kings and, of course, Orcs by an old wizard named Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen). Bilbo likes to keep to himself in his quaint little house and is at first reluctant to join, but eventually he comes to realize that an adventure might just be what he needs. Funny moments and intense battles ensue, and amidst it all we got to see familiar faces from The Lord of The Rings trilogy, such as Elrond (Hugo Weaving), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Saruman the White (Christopher Lee) and, looking better than ever before, Gollum (Andy Serkis), from whom Bilbo aquires the evil ring of the original trilogy in one of the greatest scenes in the movie.

You may not enjoy its unusual frame rate or goofy characters like Radagast the Brown (Sylvester McCoy) or at times the dwarves, but you still have to admire tha imagery that Peter Jackson presents to us, set to, as always, a brilliant soundtrack by Howard Shore. Despite its flaws, it made me crave seeing more. And more there shall be!

8. Iron Sky

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I’ve never been a huge fan of films from my country. In Sweden all you can possibly get is either obnoxious comedies, detective movies starring Mikael Persbrandt, Mikael Persbrandt and Mikael Persbrandt, or sappy teen dramas about bullying. Why is it like that I wonder, when our neighbours in Finland give us a film about frickin’ Nazis from the moon?!

That there is the premise of the movie Iron Sky, directed by Timo Vuorensola and financed almost entirely by fan donations – a wickedly satirical science fiction movie that tells the story of how, after World War II came to an end, the remaining Nazis constructed spacecrafts which they used to travel to the dark side of the moon, where they were hidden until the year 2018 when it’s time to start invading. This whole set-up makes for an incredibly funny movie with memorable lines and good enough acting, paricularly from Udo Kier who nails it as the leader of Nazis.

But the most astounding part about Iron Sky has got to be the special effects. If you keep in mind that the film didn’t have that high of a budget, the fact that they were able to create all these impressive visuals and cool steampunk sets becomes pretty mind-boggling. It may not be a modern masterpiece but it deserves recognition for it’s ambition, hilarity and originality, no questions asked.

Also, with a soundtrack done by Laibach it’s really difficult to go wrong, wouldn’t you say?

7. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

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I’ll just point out right away that I am aware that this is not technically a 2012 picture, but sinse this is the year I saw it, this is also the year it ends up on my list. Tom Cruise returns as IMF agent Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and with Brad Bird in the director’s chair he couldn’t be in a much safer pair of hands.

Teamed up with Jeremy Renner, Puala Patton and the always hilarious Simon Pegg he goes on a mission stop a Swedish nuclear strategist (Michael Nyqvist) from launching a massive missile; a mission which ends him up in several locations, the most memorable of which being Burj Khalifa in Dubai, where the greatest stunt of the entire film (I dare say the entire year) is pulled without stuntmen or CGI by Tom Cruise himself. When you thought that Tom Cruise was maybe getting a bit old and losing it, he proves in Ghost Protocol that he is even more intense than before. The word admirable does not cover it.

The film is a perfectly balanced mix of action, comedy and serious moments. It contains great characters played by great actors and an investing story that keeps you captivated from beginning to end. Is it the best film of what I totally thought was going to be the totally watered down Mission Impossible series? You can bet it is!

6. The Avengers

Avenger 2012

I don’t even know if I need to go into further detail about The Avengers. You all already know how great it is. It arrived in May 2012 and it simply exploded. Marvel fans loved it, newcomers to comic books loved it, hipsters loved it (but pretented not to), dogs loved it, cats loved it, everyone just loved it.

Directed by Joss Whedon and starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Tom HiddlestonJeremy Renner and Samuel L. Jackson, The Avengers pleases comic-book fans just about everywhere with its fast and witty dialogue, delightful character writing, priceless interactions and one of the first instances of Hollywood ever getting the personality of the Hulk right. With all these silly characters and concepts all sharing the same film, it is extremely hard to think of a way to create the right tone for the film to be self-aware and funny but not so much that it feels like a parody. Whedon, God bless him, did find a way. And I love that!

And so do you. You might as well admit it!

If the insane multitude of unfunny and forced memes based on the film is anything to go by, this is most definitely one of the most successfully made superhero movies ever to be created. But is there a way to take the superhero concept in another direction with the same amount of success? Can a similar concept actually be done 100% serious? Well, join me for my next pick:

5. The Dark Knight Rises

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Christopher Nolan‘s Batman trilogy reaches a spectacular final chapter in The Dark Knight Rises – an intesne and dramatic film about everyone’s favourite caped crusader, played once again by Christian Bale.

After hiding for a few years after the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne is soon propmted to but his Batman suit back on and take on a large mercenery going by the name Bane (Tom Hardy), before he sets his sinister plans in motion and finishes the work of The League of Shadows from the first movie. On his mission, Batman runs into the sexily sneaky Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), a police rookie named Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and a bunch of characters from the previous films, like Alfred the butler (Michael Caine), Commisioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). All of them provide lovely character interactions and dialogue.

The task of Christopher Nolan must surely be even more difficult than that of Joss Whedon. This man has created three movies based on a concept that generally looks much better on paper and hasn’t only made it look great for the big screen, but also treated it as seriously and darkly as you possibly could without it becoming too campy. Set all that hard work to some Hans Zimmer music and you got yourselves some quality entertainment! Does the film have a share of plot holes and faults? Sure, but even great films have their noticable flaws sometimes and The Dark Knight Rises is still a damn good film and a great finale to a splendid franchise.

4. ParaNorman

ParaNorman

ParaNorman is basically this year’s Rango, though depressingly it isn’t nearly as popular or praised in how it treats its audience seriously and doesn’t let the sheer fact that it’s animated let it succumb to the dumbed-down and kiddified level of most animated works these days. Instead it is macabre, grotesque and intensely ballsy in what dark themes it chooses to cover. Also it’s done in stop-motion similar to that of Coraline. How can you not love that?

The main character is a Bart Simpson-looking boy named Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who has the extraordinary ability to see ghosts, which he is calm and open about, but also bullied for as a result of no one believing him. Things get somewhat more serious, though, when his crazy uncle (John Goodman), who shares his power to see spectres, warns him of the return of an evil witch, seeking revenge on the zombies of the people who had her executed back in the 1880’s; an execution which turns out in the end to have been a pretty dark misunderstanding. Especially for a family film.

During his quest to stop the witch (something he, in another great twist, does somewhat differently than prophecised) he is helped by a nerd named Neill (Tucker Albrizzi), his snarky sister (Anna Kendrick), a school bully ((Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and a dumb jock (Casey Affleck) who is also, and excuse my spoiler, the first openly gay character I’ve ever seen in a kid’s film. It is inexplicable how a film that takes such a huge leap in the right direction in the world of animation can’t have become more praised and famous. The poor marketing might be due to it being considered too scary for kids, which is yet another case of us taking children for granted. They deserve a film like ParaNorman. Such creativity, humour and genius must not go unnoticed.

3. Chronicle

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The found-footage shtick is shaping up to be one of the most trite gimmicks Hollywood has ever exploited. There was a time where it was so relentlessly overused that I thought that I would never enjoy a film of that genre ever again. Then Chronicle came along and made things interesting again.

Seen through the lens of not one, but several video cameras, cell phones and camcorders, Chronicle tells the story of three teenagers who get to know each other at a party, but once they move away from all the fun they discover some kind of inexplicable crystal down in a crater, which it later turns out have given them all superhero-like abilities, such as flight, telekinesis and super strength. Instead of doing a clichéd Spider-Man or Fantastic Four-type scene of them trying to learn how to use their powers, we get one of the most realistic depictions of how teens probably would react to gaining superpowers I’ve ever seen in a film – they go out, mess around with them and have huge laughs.

Chronicle is really some kind of miracle. It uses a tired shtick in one of the most inventive ways I’ve seen, it gets the nature of teenagers more right than Hollywood usually does and it provides a balanced amount of serious moments and pricelessly hilarious ones. If you haven’t seen this film, I strongly urge that you do that as soon as possible.

2. Hugo

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Again, techincally not released this year, but it was released late in my homeland so I’ll just say to heck with it and give it a much deserved spot on my list. Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is a film for anyone who loves film. In it Ben Kingsley plays one of the most significant people in the history of cinema, Mr. Georges Méliès, who has long since forgotten his days of yore.

The story is about him, techinically, but the main character of the film is Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), who through his late father (Jude Law) is greatly fascinated with a new form of art known as cinema. He has seen everything from trains moving towards an audience to a space shuttle crashing into the eye of the Man in The Moon. He is of course intrigued when he discovers that Mr. Méliès is still alive. Together with his goddaughter Isabelle (Chloë Moretz) he tries to find out more about this great artist.

Hugo is simply a delight for anyone interested in movies and their history. On top of that it provides astonishing visuals, eye candy sets and some of the best 3D (yes, I said it) I’ve seen in a film. So, if you love movies as much as I do, you too will become teary-eyed and enchanted when watching Hugo.

And yet… there is one film that scores higher on my list of great movies this year. Ready? Okay, here we go:

1. The Cabin In The Woods

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Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner! The Cabin in The Woods is Joss Whedon‘s loving hate letter to horror movies and a satirical parody of the genre that runs on all cylinders. It seems that fans of the genre either love or hate this film, depending on how they interpret the intentions behind it. Is it an homage or a bashing? Hmm.

Explaining just how smart, original and unpredictable the film is is impossible to do without revealing the first twist, so here’s my warning before we proceed.

The plot is deliberately as basic and trite as it gets. Five young people (Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz and Jesse Williams) end up in a spooky cabin in the forest where they get high, have sex and do a bunch of stupid stuff. So let me guess, you say, the cabin is haunted by some ghosts, psycho killers or zombies, right? Wrong. This whole area with the cabin in it is part of a series of experiments that run worldwide where unsuspecting people are put in horror scenarios selected by the tecnhician-type guys in the main office. They basically sit around the water cooler and discuss whether they’re gonna do the werwolves or the Cenobites this week.

And from there the film only gets more interesting and sly in how it fools the most hardcore horror fans into thinking they know exactly what’s going to go down and how the plot will develop, and let me tell ya, I rarely have as much fun watching a movie as I had watching the ever twisting and constantly decieving Cabin in The Woods. Looking back at how much I loved it and still do, I really see no reason for me not to put it as my number 1 film this year. It is simply a remarkable film!

And now, as a bonus treat, comes a film that isn’t an “official” part of my list due to it technically not even being a film:

?. To Boldly Flee

To Boldly Fly

Doug Walker bids his lovably hatable Internet persona The Nostalgia Critic farewell in To Boldly Flee, the fourth out of the annual anniversary specials created for TheGuyWithTheGlasses.com, and the best one of the bunch by far with its wonderful interactions between the characters, surprisingly dramatic moments and jabs at the very worst things about Hollywood policies and copyright laws.

The plot revolves around The Nostalgia Critic, who has been put under house arrest for his crimes against said copyright laws, but this house arrest needs to be broken (but not quite) when he realizes that his old frien Ma-Ti, who was been thought dead for a year, is still alive, but merged with a powerful object in space known as The Plot Hole.

The Critic assembles the other reviewers of Channel Awesome and travels together with them to the Plot Hole in order to find Ma-Ti before the priceless villain duo Terl (Noah Antwiler) and General Zod (Walker) reaches it first, so that a corrupt Hollywood producer/Darth Sidious parody (Rob Walker) can use its power to destroy all critics and create new worlds without critics to guide them, meaning there would be no such thing as “art over money”. The thought is truly horrible.

The film is funny, smart, well-made and a charming love letter to film itself as well as an appropriate farewell to a character I’ve enjoyed watching for almost five years. He will be missed and even though he insists that we don’t have to, we will always remember him. And that’s the truth.

Runners-up:

Unexpected delights – 2012 films that weren’t great, but better than expected:

And yes folks, that was my list. I hope to see you all again next year and that you have a Happy New Year! See you on the other side, guys!