The Best and Worst Movies of 2012

  • Comments: ↓ 3 user comments
  • Publish Date: January 7, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty is the best-reviewed movie of 2012

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2012 Zero Dark Thirty 95
2011 A Separation 95
High Scoring Movies by Year
(Minimum 7 Reviews)
2010 The Social Network 95
2009 The Hurt Locker 94
2008 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days 97

The critical buzz has been deafening for Zero Dark Thirty 95 since it first premiered in early December, which makes it a bit anticlimactic now to crown Kathryn Bigelow's follow-up to The Hurt Locker 94 as our highest-scoring film of 2012. Like its best picture-winning predecessor, ZDT returns to the American military and the war on terror, this time focusing on the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Bigelow once again finds herself and her film an Oscar frontrunner; we'll know on Thursday how many nominations it receives (while on Sunday it will contend for four Golden Globe trophies).

Although it is only playing on 60 screens at the moment, Zero Dark Thirty opens nationwide on Friday, making Bigelow's thriller just the second wide-release film to earn Metacritic movie of the year honors in the last five years (with The Social Network 95 being the other). Note that this slow theatrical rollout means that the film's Metascore may change by Friday when it expands to additional cities, but since it has a considerable lead over the #2 film (Michael Haneke's French-language drama Amour 92), and since the majority of reviews have already been included in the score, we are confident the score won't change enough to affect our final standings.

Overall, the Metascore numbers in 2012 were about on par with 2011's figures. Out of the 561 releases with seven or more reviews from professional critics, 34 received a Metascore of 81 or higher, the cutoff we use to indicate "universal acclaim" from critics. That nearly matches 2011's total of 35 such films, while the average Metascore of all releases actually ticked up in 2012 to 57.2 (from 57.0). On the other hand, only 44.7% of all releases in 2012 received green Metascores (of 61 or higher, indicating generally positive reviews), representing the lowest success rate since 2008. And there were seven films last year to score below 20, up from five equally awful films in 2011 and just three in 2010.

Below, we rank the highest-scoring films of 2012 in a variety of genres, while on the following pages we offer more complete lists of the year's best and worst wide and limited releases. If you are looking for even more of 2012's best movies, be sure to check out our Film Awards Scorecard and our collection of film critic top-ten lists elsewhere on our site.

2012's Best-Reviewed Comedies (English-Language, Live Action)
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Image bar Image bar Image bar Image bar Image bar
84 81 75 72 72
Moonrise Kingdom Silver Linings Playbook Bernie Magic Mike Safety Not Guaranteed
2012's Best-Reviewed Dramas (English-Language)
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Image bar Image bar Image bar Image bar Image bar
95 86 86 86 86
Zero Dark Thirty Lincoln Argo The Master Beasts of the Southern Wild
2012's Best-Reviewed Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Superhero Films
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Image bar Image bar Image bar Image bar Image bar
84 78 69 69 67
Looper The Dark Knight Rises The Avengers Chronicle The Hunger Games
2012's Best-Reviewed Horror Films
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Image bar Image bar Image bar Image bar Image bar
74 72 72 71 70
Frankenweenie The Cabin in the Woods ParaNorman The Road Sleep Tight
2012's Best-Reviewed Documentaries
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Image bar Image bar Image bar Image bar Image bar
90 87 87 86 84
This Is Not a Film The Gatekeepers How to Survive a Plague Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters The Waiting Room
2012's Best-Reviewed Foreign-Language Films (Dramatic Films Only)
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Image bar Image bar Image bar Image bar Image bar
92 87 87 87 84
Amour Barbara Elena The Kid with a Bike Holy Motors
2012's Best-Reviewed Animated Films
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Image bar Image bar Image bar Image bar Image bar
80 77 76 74 74
The Secret World of Arrietty Consuming Spirits Chico & Rita Frankenweenie The Rabbi's Cat
2012's Best-Reviewed Films in Other Genres (English-Language)
Action Musical Remake Rom-Com Western
Image bar Image bar Image bar Image bar Image bar
95 63 54 81 80
Zero Dark Thirty Les Miserables Sparkle (2012) Silver Linings Playbook Django Unchained

For this and all tables in this article, only movies with seven or more reviews released between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012 were considered. Re-releases are excluded. The Metascore is a weighted average of scores from top professional critics, on a scale from 0 (bad) to 100 (good). Although scores have been rounded to the nearest whole number, movies are ranked prior to rounding. All scores in this article are from January 6, 2013.

On the next page ...

Continue reading for a look at the best and worst wide releases of 2012.

Comments (3)

  • Regal4point1  

    Beasts of the Southern Wild

  • dvjhdvjhfbh  

    This list shows why I hardly watch movies anymore. Looper, Dark Knight Rises, Avengers, and Lincoln? None of them were all that good. I hate to be Negative Nelly but what has happened to Hollywood?

  • rgp11  

    @dvjhdvjhfbh then what the fnck do you watch? The Hunger Games

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