Top Five Best Movies of 2012 That Offer More than Just Entertainment

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures
December 25th, 2012

Top Five Best Movies of 2012 That Offer More than Just Entertainment

-- As another year passes, it's time to consider the year in cinema. Critical evaluations of 2012 movies abound, but every critic has a mix of personal favorites selected after viewing many films over the course of the year. Here are some films that spark the imagination and offer more than meets the eye.

"Zero Dark Thirty"

Respected and acclaimed director Kathryn Bigelow teamed up with screenwriter Mark Boal to bring this emotional rollercoaster about the war on terror to the big screen. From its stunning start in the burning Twin Towers to the climatic end, this movie resonates on every emotional level. It also captures the spirit of a naïve nation awakened by a call for blood and vengeance. The viewer is left to wonder if it has a happy ending, as the circumstances concerning victory are left fairly ambiguous. CIA agent Maya, played by Jessica Chastain, also brings the question to the table of whether the endgame truly was the capture of Osama bin Laden.


Just the pedigree of this film-with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Daniel-Day Lewis, and Tony Kushner-is enough to make most serious connoisseurs of film salivate. There have been many films about our sixteenth president, but none have worked on the level that this film does. Instead of making a sweeping narrative about Lincoln's life, Spielberg chose to focus on a narrow time period-the year 1865, the last year of the American Civil War. Lincoln is faced with a tough choice: He wants to push through a Constitutional amendment that would ban slavery but fears it must be done before the war is over. Congress is being uncooperative, and the window of opportunity closes more as each day passes because the Confederacy is running out of the willpower and resources needed to keep fighting. In the eyes of many, Lincoln was a demigod, but this film and Day-Lewis give the man a gentle and soft-spoken aura, backed by the courage needed to convince people to see his view.


Followers of the James Bond franchise released a collective sigh of relief after seeing this far superior follow-up to "Quantum of Solace." This installment, directed by Sam Mendes, gets back to the roots of the character and gives a feeling similar to the older Moore or Connery renditions of the legendary spy. Plus, what is a Bond flick without a memorable villain? Javier Bardem runs away with his scenes as the nefarious and eccentric Silva. Reliance on gimmicky gadgets has no place here; instead, there is good old-fashioned action featuring Bond's ingenuity. Daniel Craig does a stellar job playing a Bond with some deep-seated emotion. The film works so well because Bond is more than just an action hero. He's painted as a man with a very deep and vulnerable soul.

"Cloud Atlas"

This film was hit or miss with general audiences for many reasons, including a three-hour run time and a highly complex, era-jumping series of intertwined stories. However, "Cloud Atlas" deserves a place on this list. Its directorial and writer team are no strangers to producing works on an epic scale. After all, the Wachowskis are responsible for bringing the groundbreaking "Matrix" trilogy to fruition. There simply isn't a dull moment in this film, from the beautifully filmed start to the ponderous ending. It masterfully connects six storylines that cross many centuries, all the while artfully blending state-of-the-art cinematography and special effects. It is science fiction at its finest-juggling action, romance, comedy, and many other genres. It has its flaws, but overall, it enchants and teaches about kindness and the rights of all humans, no matter what form they come in.


It's hard to believe that the once annoying friend of Matt Damon's character in "Good Will Hunting" would become an accomplished director. However, Ben Affleck scored a winner with this thrilling and tightly written film, a pseudo-historical account of a group of six Americans who were trapped in Tehran during the protests and occupation of the American embassy. By pretending to be a film crew instead of a perceived threat to the Iranians, some creative fun and edge-of-the-seat drama ensues. Although it's totally a work of fiction set against a backdrop of real, harrowing times, "Argo" is one entertaining film that should not be missed.
While lists like these are subjective, this one offers films that have lasting value. Top blockbuster films like "Avengers" have their place, of course, but these are thought-provoking films that offer qualities that ensure they'll be watched again and again because they so brilliantly capture beauty on film.