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Flight starring Denzel Washington

Top 20 Movies for Grownups in 2012, Including Skyfall, Bernie, Compliance and Argo

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skyfall

Bring it, Bond 24. We’re ready.

Let’s take a look at my Top 20 Movies for Grownups in 2012. Keep in mind that I haven’t seen Silver Linings Playbook, Amour or Zero Dark Thirty, so those may have made the list.

Or not. Sometimes I don’t go for movies that everyone else seems to think are great. I still haven’t made it all the way through The Hurt Locker, even though that movie won an Oscar for Best Picture in 2010. And since Kathryn Bigelow directed both that and Zero Dark Thirty, maybe I won’t be crazy for Zero. I’ll report back as soon as I see it.

Until then, however, here are my Top 20 Movies for Grownups from 2012.

Bryan Cranston and Ben Affleck in Argo

Bryan Cranston and Ben Affleck in Argo

1. Argo. If you were around in 1979, you probably remember how gripping the Iran hostage crisis was. While this movie doesn’t follow the story exactly, it certainly makes for a very cool escape flick.

Director and star Ben Affleck re-creates the situation by revealing a behind-the-scenes story that no one knew about until years later. Intriguing and entertaining, you’ll be on the edge of your seat through the end credits, which feature the real-life people involved in the crisis.

2. Lincoln. Daniel Day-Lewis once again morphs into his character as he brings Abraham Lincoln out of the pages of history books and onto the big screen. While this movie features a LOT of talking — Lincoln was a crack orator, after all — it’s also a thrilling story about how things get done — or not — in Washington. Read my review here.

3. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Yet another movie where Dame Judi Dench looks fabulous while wearing a scarf. This movie is a virtual who’s who of British actors, following the lives of several retirees who move to India and take up residence at a neglected hotel run by an overly enthusiastic proprietor. It proves once and for all that growing older doesn’t have to be fraught with loss and despair. Check out DVD featurettes here, and read my review over at A Traveler’s Library.

Traverse City Film Festival: Susan Sarandon and Penny Lane

Susan Sarandon and Penny Lane at the Traverse City Film Festival 2012 | Jane Boursaw Photo

4. Arbitrage.  If, like me, you think that most rich people lead a charmed and stress-free life, this movie will set you straight. Richard Gere plays a troubled hedge fund magnate who’s desperate to complete the sale of his sinking-ship trading empire, while keep his wife (Susan Sarandon) as he carries on an affair.

When he makes a fatal error, he turns to an unlikely person for help and puts both their lives in jeopardy. This movie just draws you in and won’t let go — and look for a cameo by Sarandon’s adorable dog Penny (@MissPennyPuppy on Twitter).

5. Les Miserables. Ok, so I wouldn’t call this the best movie of 2012 (read my review here), but it certainly ranks right up there for the legacy of Victor Hugo’s story and the ability of director Tom Hooper to make it seem fresh on the big screen.

Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks and Anne Hathaway turn in lovely performances. And I even give Crowe a lot of credit for trying to sing.

6. Django Unchained.  It takes a certain type of chutzpah to watch a Quentin Tarantino film. You have to be willing to throw caution to the wind, expect that anything can happen (and probably will), and agree to not be grossed out by rampant bloodbaths. I signed the contract for Django Unchained and think it’s one of the best movies of 2012. It also made me a huge fan of Jamie Foxx, which I heretofore had not been.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz turn in their usual brilliant performances, and Kerry Washington is heartbreaking as a slave. I haven’t given this movie the full treatment yet, but Joe Morgenstern over at the Wall Street Journal calls it “outrageously entertaining.” Yes. I’m down with that.

7. Skyfall. James Bond needed a reboot, and he got it in this 23rd installment of the franchise in which we learn a bit of his backstory (read my review here). Old meets new as Daniel Craig’s Bond and Judi Dench’s M meet a new generation of cyber criminals led by evil incarnate Silva, played chillingly by Javier Bardem. Who offers a way out? A beautifully geeky young agent named Q (Ben Whishaw). Bring it, Bond 24. We’re ready.

8. The Bourne Legacy.  I missed Matt Damon in this reboot, but no matter. Jeremy Renner picks up the torch wonderfully and carries it forward. He plays Aaron Cross, an agent who learns some unsettling things about himself and has to do the impossible: outwit the agency who created him without dying in the process. Read my review here.

Flight9. Flight. Oh my goodness. I’m never stepping onto a plane ever again. If the terrifying crash scene in Flight isn’t enough to turn you off flying forever, you’re a braver woman than me. Denzel Washington plays Capt. Whip Whitaker, a commercial pilot who’s also an alcoholic. But he sure knows how to land a plane in the most dire of circumstances. Read what the cast and crew have to say about the movie.

10. Life of Pi.  Melanie Votaw called this movie “transcendent,” and I quite agree. On the surface, it’s about a skinny Indian boy who loses his family in a devastating shipwreck and has to survive in a small lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. Go deeper, and it’s a movie about faith, hope, survival and love — all wrapped in cinematic majesty.

11. The Words. What happens when you steal another man’s work? The ramifications are more than Bradley Cooper anticipates as he plays Rory Jansen in this movie about books, envy and consequences. Jeremy Irons shines as an old man who doesn’t mind being confrontational. Read my review here.

12. Beasts of the Southern Wild. It’s called “the bathtub,” but the place where six-year-old Hushpuppy struggles to survive after her beloved bayou community floods is so much more. Faced with both her hot-tempered (and I’ll say it – abusive) father’s fading health and melting ice-caps that unleash ancient aurochs, the young girl must learn the ways of courage and love. Full review here.

13. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. I love this movie so much, I weep with joy just thinking about it. A fisheries expert is approached by a consultant to help realize a sheik’s vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert, and embarks on an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible possible. Emily Blunt, Amr Waked, Ewan McGregor and Kristin Scott Thomas star.

Jack Black in Bernie

Jack Black in Bernie

14. Bernie. In a story that’s stranger than fiction, I found myself once removed from the real-life tale upon which this movie is based. In small-town Texas, Jack Black plays a local mortician who strikes up a friendship with a wealthy widow (Shirley MacLaine). Then he kills her and goes to great lengths to create the illusion that she’s alive. Richard Linklater directs the quirky tale that has you straddling both sides of the law.

15. The Intouchables. The crime-fighting Untouchables could learn a thing or two from Philippe (Francois Cluzet), a French aristocrat who becomes a quadriplegic after a paragliding accident and the rough young man from the projects (Omar Cy) that he hires to be his caretaker. Stay open to the possibilities, and don’t forget to dance.

16. Compliance. How far would you go if told to do something by an authority figure? Maybe further than you think, as demonstrated in this chilling true-life tale that caused an uproar at a Sundance screening.

I came home from seeing this movie and told my two teenagers to always, always be wary if put in a situation like Becky (Dreama Walker) found herself. The young employee of a fast food restaurant and others are physically and emotionally traumatized when a prank caller convinces her manager (Ann Dowd) to interrogate her.

17. Magic Mike. Sure, it’s a movie about male strippers, but it’s also a heartwarming, sweet tale about a young man figuring out what’s important in life. Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey can also dance the heck out of a stage.

Kristen Bell at Traverse City Film Festival 2012

Kristen Bell at Traverse City Film Festival 2012 | Jane Boursaw Photo

18. Hit and Run. Not just a movie about muscle cars — though this girl loved that part of it — this tale of a wild cross-country road trip is both entertaining and thoughtful.

Dax Shepard plays driver Charlie Bronson, a former getaway driver who jeopardizes his Witness Protection Plan identity in order to help his girlfriend (real-life girlfriend Kristen Bell) get to Los Angeles, only to be pursued by Charlie’s former gang chase.

19. Lawless. Set in Depression-era Franklin County, Virginia, a bootlegging gang is threatened by a new deputy and other authorities who want a cut of their profits. The cautionary tale about brewing up your own liquor stars Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Jason Clarke, Guy Pearce and Jessica Chastain.

20. Looper. In 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Someone like Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who one day learns the mob wants to ‘close the loop’ by transporting back Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) to kill … himself. It’s a mind-bending tale that spans several time-warp zones, but it’s also really entertaining.

What were your favorite grownup movies from 2012? 

Jane Boursaw is the founder and editor-in-chief of Reel Life With Jane. Her credits include hundreds of print and online publications, including The New York Times, People Magazine, Variety, Moviefone, TV Squad and more. Follow her on Twitter at @reellifejane.

Jane Boursaw has written posts on Reel Life With Jane.


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16 comments

  1. How could you NOT be a fan of Jamie Foxx after “Ray”? He’s fantastic. Did all the piano/singing himself in that too.

  2. Thank you for including “Lawless” which I thought, with Argo and Zero Dark Thirty to be the top three that I’ve seen..and I’ve seen many on your list.

    • Thanks for saying that, because I feel like Lawless has gotten lost in the crowd of movies released towards the end of the year. I thought it was a great movie, but it hasn’t landed too many nominations this awards season. I’m not sure why.

  3. Thank you so much for this list, Jane. I’ve seen and enjoyed many on it – Life of Pi, Bernie,
    les Mis- but have also missed many that I must see – The Intouchables, Salmon Fishing on the Yemen, to name a few. And i cant wait for Zero Dark Thirty. Time to catch up!

  4. Brette Sember

    Well I’ve only seen one of these so I guess I’d better get my Netflix list updated! Thanks for this list!

  5. We just watched Bernie and it was such a strangely intriguing film. Jack Black was amazing in it.

  6. Alexandra

    What about Amour?  I have not seen it yet, but have heard such praise.  I rented Salmon Fishing in Yemen and was disappointed.  I guess, again, I had heard too much praise.  What I did just see and really enjoyed was Promised Land.  Looking forward to your review.  Maybe it will make your list in 2013?

  7. Compliance (2012) – Movie Review
    The Dumbest Movie Ever
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZlttXngDdg&feature

  8. I’ve only seen Lincoln of these and it was spectacular. Cannot wait for Flight to come out on DVD next month!

  9. thanks for this thoughtful and varied list, Jane.
    Kerry Dexter recently posted…BCMfest: celebrating communityMy Profile

  10. Agree with almost all your opinions, except for Beasts of the Southern Wild (seemed to me no one was untouched by the movie, either loving or hating it). One of our friends called it “poverty pornography” — which stuck in my mind.
    ruth pennebaker recently posted…12 Best Blog Posts of 2012My Profile

  11. So many good choices here. You’ve filled up this non-movie goers year. LIncoln is first on my list.
    Donna Hull recently posted…How do you like our new look?My Profile

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