As 2012 comes to a close, it’s once again time for us to look back over the year of movies and pick our 10 favorite cinematic moments; a hard task in a year that was rich with both cinematic milestones (The Avengers, Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit) and some unexpected (but welcome) surprises (Ted, The Raid: Redemption).
From iconic imagery to things that either deeply amused or horrified us, these are the scenes and sequences from 2012 that we will never forget. Did your favorite moment make the list? Read on to find out.
[WARNING – SPOILERS FOR MOVIES MENTIONED IN OUR LIST!!!]
The brainchild of writer/director Gareth Evans (Merantau), the Indonesian martial arts action/thriller The Raid: Redemption was undoubtedly the most pleasant surprise of 2012.
Of the many threats that super-cop Rama (Iko Uwais) faces in notorious Boss Tama’s criminal stronghold, none were more menacing than a group of butchers known as ‘the machete gang,’ who roamed the halls of the building hacking up anything in their path.
Rama battling a half-dozen machete-waving maniacs was awesome enough – but when he grabbed one killer by the head, jumped backwards, and slammed the man’s face down on the shards of a door he had just kicked a different gang member through, the whole audience erupted. In that moment, the Indonesian martial arts style “Pencak Silat” gained worldwide attention.
We all know the type of scene in which a henchman fails in his appointed task and must be punished by the big boss; however, we doubt you’ve seen it the way that Jack Reacher presents it.
When Pittsburgh thug Linsky (Michael Raymond-James) fails to halt the investigation of Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise), he must answer to the shadowy mastermind known as “The Zec” (Werner Herzog). In a monologue that only Herzog could deliver, the Zec (translation: “prisoner”) gives Linsky two options: take a bullet to the head, or prove his dedication to the cause by eating his own fingers – just as the Zec had once been forced to consume his own.
If you’ve seen the film, you know what choice Linsky ultimately makes, but writer/director Christopher McQuarrie (Usual Suspects) managed to milk sweet, cringe-inducing angst out of the audience for the entire span of seconds that poor Linsky must ponder an unfathomable decision.
Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane’s first live-action film, Ted, was another pleasant surprise of 2012, mixing the comedian’s raunchy, pop-culture-laced humor with a genuine and heartfelt story about growing up and maturing.
When the titular CGI teddy bear (voiced by MacFarlane) causes ruin in his friend John’s (Mark Wahlberg) life, the two have an all-out brawl in a motel room, after John drops a particularly hurtful remark about wishing that he had received a Teddy Ruxpin (instead of Ted) on that fateful childhood Christmas day.
Seeing a cinematic tough-guy like Wahlberg battle a CGI teddy bear was hilarious; seeing Ted’s dirty fighting tactics was more hilarious; and there was even a level of meta-humor to be found in the realization that we were, in fact, watching Wahlberg throw himself around a motel room. Talk about commitment to a role…
There’s a long-standing tradition of Quentin Tarantino opening his films with a scene that firmly establishes the witty, outrageous and often violent nature of his cinematic stories – and Django Unchained is no exception.
After a montage of a slave chain-gang being taken on a brutal march across harsh terrains, we are introduced to the charismatic Dr. King Schultz (Christop Waltz). Schultz tries to acquire his query, Django (Jamie Foxx), in well-mannered fashion, but when the finicky Speck Brothers choose the route of violence, Schultz reveals to them (and the audience) his own violent nature.
In a monologue that is pure Tarantino, Dr. King (get it?) leaves the remaining slaves with “two options”: help the surviving Speck brother reach the nearest doctor, or free themselves from bondage, kill their cruel master and follow the North Star to a more “enlightened area of the country.” After that introduction, we were saddled up for the entire bloody ride.
You may need a chart to explain how it actually happened, but the short version is that after some sexually-transmitted exposure to alien bacteria, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) becomes “impregnated” with an alien organism. In an act of masochistic bravery, Shaw climbs inside the ship’s “surgery pod” for an impromptu C-section to remove the grotesque squid-like baby inside of her.
Several viewers made a swift exit from the theater during my viewing of Prometheus, and those of us who remained were writhing in our seats. Ridley Scott is a master at reflecting the horrors of biology, and we’re pretty sure that men everywhere gained new respect for the pains of motherhood after viewing this sequence.
Life of Pi was a whimsical and beautiful tale of spirituality and survival – and nowhere was this better demonstrated than in a sequence in which the titular character, Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma), spends a night at sea marveling at the bioluminescent lights of the sea organisms below.
In keeping with his own unique spiritual sensibilities, Pi closes his eyes to better feel the connection between himself and all living things, and director Ang Lee uses that moment to treat audiences to one of the most gorgeous (and psychedelic) sequences ever filmed in 3D.
3D still gets a bad rap, but in the hands of filmmakers like Ang Lee, one can quickly see how the format can potentially add new dimensions to the movie-viewing experience.
With Argo, director Ben Affleck turned a slice of history into an intense drama/thriller movie experience – and that edge-of-your-seat tension reached a fever pitch when the six Americans hiding out in Iran attempted their bold airport escape under the wing of CIA exfiltration guru, Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck).
In addition to seeing “The Six” have to sell Iranian guards on their fake identities and faux sci-fi film production, we got a delicious and humorous moment of stress watching Alan Arkin and John Goodman’s Hollywood power-players stranded on a movie set, while the most important phone call in the world was ringing away in their faux studio office.
Down to the last second of escape, the tension (and ultimate catharsis) of this exodus to freedom made for one of the most enjoyable movie experiences of the year.
For fans of J.R..R. Tolkien’s novel, The Hobbit, this scene represented one of the most standout chapters of the book; for fans of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, it was a re-introduction to fan-favorite motion-capture character, Gollum.
Time has vastly improved technology; and apparently the skills of iconic (and undervalued) motion-capture actor Andy Serkis, as well. Gollum was back and looking better than ever, and Serkis managed to once again give the character a balance of charm and fright that most live-action actors would struggle to maintain.
Aided by the wit and timing of Hobbit star Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, the game of riddles sequence in An Unexpected Journey is arguably the best character cameo of any prequel film ever made. Fans will be missing ol’ Gollum during the rest of this Hobbit Trilogy.
For comic book geeks, it was about seeing one of the most famous moments of ’90s-era Batman finally play out on the silver screen. For fans of Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, it was a moment that trailers and posters had already promised would be one of Batman’s darkest hours: his first confrontation with the terrorist brute known as Bane.
Unlike so many modern fight sequences – with their martial arts choreography set to thumping techno music – this duel was as much a mental and verbal sparring as it was a physical contest. Batman had underestimated Bane at every step – and he paid dearly for it.
In relative quiet and darkness (both literal and metaphoric) two titans brawled for control of a city, and a hero fell. The Dark Knight Rises would live up to its title by the end, but in this moment, the world cringed as The Batman was truly broken.
Millions of people crowded movie theaters for weeks on end just to see it. Then re-see it. Then re-see it again. After half a decade of waiting, anticipating and hoping, Marvel’s The Avengers finally assembled to kick some alien ass.
This is what a superhero team-up film is all about: seeing your superheroes actually team up to fight some baddies – and we truly believe that it took an insightful comic book geek like Avengers director Joss Whedon to make a sequence like this work for both casual viewers and fanboys alike.
But oh man, did it ever work! The collective heart swell in the theater during that Avengers vs. Chitauri tracking shot officially set a new benchmark in blockbuster epicness. Best of all, that ‘Hulk punches Thor’ finale ended the sequence with the perfect lighthearted touch.
We can’t highlight every great moment at the movies – and we’re sure you have some great ones to share with us in the comments. In the meantime, here are a few moments that, while not epic enough for our Top 10, still left a pretty strong impression on us:
Amazing Spider-Man – “High School Rumble” – It was a battle sequence that truly captured the mechanics of Spider-Man’s powers, and it looked pretty spectacular, to boot. It also contained the best Marvel movie cameo by Stan Lee, ever. We can’t praise the entire film, but this particular sequence is what Marvel Movie magic is made of.
Magic Mike – “The Tao of Dallas” – Matthew McConaughey had a fairly strong comeback year, highlighted by his role as a low-rent strip club manager in Magic Mike. His character Dallas’ speech to new recruit “The Kid” (Alex Pettyer) – about the strategy of male stripping – sits right up there on the shelf with David Wooderson’s breakdown of high school girls in Dazed and Confused. Classic McConaughey.
Moonrise Kingdom – “What Kind of Bird Are YOU?” – The film had so many great moments, but this scene in which young Sam (Jared Gilman) first meets young Suzy (Kara Hayward) stands out. Everyone dreams of that moment when they’ll lock eyes with their one true love (the one who stands apart), and Wes Anderson captures that sentiment both beautifully and humorously.
Sinister – “Lawnmower Facial” – You just knew it was coming, but when it happened it was still pretty horrific – even without you actually seeing it. Lawnmower POV cam? Yeah, that could only end badly.
Skyfall – “The Shanghai Job” – Director Sam Mendes thoroughly impressed in this noir sequence of James Bond tracking a deadly assassin into a Shanghai skyscraper. From the cinematography to the gorgeous use of lights, reflections and shadow during that climatic battle to the death, Mendes turned a Bond action set piece into a work of cinematic art.
What were your favorite movie moments of 2012? Let us know in the comments.