Thu
Dec 27 2012 10:00am

The Ten Essential Genre Films of 2012

The Ten Essential Genre Films of 2012

Every year, a new pack of science fiction, fantasy, horror, superhero and other genre films tease us with hyped-up anticipation, peppering the zeitgeist with their characters, situations, catch phrases, and imagery. Going to see these movies while thinking about the inevitable discussions that will ensue is part of the fun of the cinematic experience and, I’d argue, part of what makes the internet so great. We can immediately find like minds or someone to debate with about our favorite new film.

But which of the many genre films released this year were the important ones? Which films, be they good, bad, or Prometheus, demanded our discussion? Below are the ten I think we had to talk about whether we wanted to or not!

10. Rise of the Guardians

The concept of this movie—Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, et al. as superheroes— might have sounded like a film to skip and leave in the Ice Age/Happy Feet/ Madagascar bargain bin. But seeing Santa Claus wielding swords and being charmed by Chris Pine’s Jack Frost was beyond compelling. This concept could have been executed cynically but instead Rise of the Guardians was a corny family film that felt like a slightly normal movie. It looks beautiful, and best of all, it’s unique.

 

9. Cabin in the Woods

I’m not crazy about Joss Whedon. It’s a terrible thing for a good nerd to admit, but I often find something a little too cutesy about his dialogue, his characters and his conceits; it’s like he can’t play anything straight. But Cabin in the Woods, a collision of all the various horror tropes with a high-concept meta-fiction layered over it created something any fan of storytelling had to see. Regardless of whether you liked the “twist” at the end of the film, this story stayed with us for weeks and will likely factor in to every conversation about horror films from now on. Cabin in the Woods is a game-shaker.

 

8. Looper

Well, I absolutely, positively, hated the ending of this film (Spoilers here!) and was disappointed by aspects of the film on so many other levels. BUT, Looper was an original science fiction film, set in a future that did not deal with spaceships. There was no franchise or foreknowledge that it relied on and it was far more beautifully shot than your standard blockbuster. Buried in Looper is a better, more thoughtful, tidier movie about the paths we do and don’t take that doesn’t rely on cheap narrative tricks. The performances were all fairly solid, as well, from Joseph-Gordon Levitt, to Bruce Willis, to Emily Blunt, and even Paul Dano! (More Paul Dano, please.)

 

7. The Dark Knight Rises

This statement puts me in a definite minority among Batman fans, but here goes: I’ve never totally loved the Christopher Nolan iterations of Batman. There’s something about these movies that feels as it they’re bullying the audience into liking them, as they translate Batman mythos and characters into something more fiercely earnest, then fill those roles with awesome, respectable actors.

My biggest issue with both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight is the essential problem plaguing all Batman movies: the character’s actions are inexplicable and Batman himself never changes. And while The Dark Knight Rises is probably a poorer film than its predecessor, and has all sorts of heavy-handed political imagery, it is a better Batman movie than the other two. And that’s because the caped crusader himself actually seems to be—for once—the main character. Instead of the intentionally affected brooding Bruce Wayne, the Batman of The Dark Knight Rises admits he actually might want to be happy some day.

 

6. Skyfall

It’s so strange that despite the basic terribleness of Quantum of Solace, the culture was collectively excited for the newest James Bond film. Was it because they knew American Beauty director Sam Mendes was at the helm? From anecdotal evidence only, I’d say this wasn’t the case. Just like no one knew Michael Chabon was partially responsible for the John Carter script (we’ll get to that soon enough) the big legit names attached to Skyfall weren’t really part of why we were so excited for it. Instead, I’d argue James Bond is one of these immortal fictional spirits. No matter how much culture moves past the antiquated notions of the super spy, he keeps finding new ways of haunting us. Luckily, Mendes and everyone else involved were aware of this and as such, put Bond’s relevance on trial in this film. The results were unlike any Bond film before, and all the better for it. This one might be impossible to top.

 

5. The Hobbit

Worth seeing for the “Riddles in the Dark” scene alone, The Hobbit has a lot going for it when you subtract tedious talk about the frame-rate and the 3D. Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen are fantastic, the New Zealand Middle-earth scenery still delights and there are a few funny scenes with the dwarves.

The reason this one is on the discussion list here is because the verdict is still out on whether The Hobbit movies will matter. And though Tolkien scholars (apologists?) may strike me down, I can’t help but think a really tight single film would have been a slam dunk, whereas the drawn-out trilogy threatens to make this beloved story less about its titular hobbit and more about the other characters who orbit him.

 

4. The Hunger Games

Like Looper, here’s another science fiction film not involving spaceships or robots. Hell, there isn’t even any time travel! And while the Suzanne Collins novel is significantly better than this adaptation, it’s notable that Collins has not only a story credit on the film, but a screenwriting credit, too. Even Rowling didn’t have as much impact on the Harry Potter films as Collins had on this. And while the film was plagued by too much arty-shaky cam, The Hunger Games is a memorable milestone and, in many ways, a solid indication as to where action-adventure science fiction is headed. Is Katniss the Luke Skywalker of our time? In all fairness, she’s certainly a more realistic character, and despite what’s in store for her in the next two film adaptations, she seems poised to hang around the zeitgeist for a while.

 

3. The Avengers

Okay, okay. So you know my feelings about Joss Whedon. We all know why The Avengers mattered. Because it was awesome. Right? Look at all the cool heroes fighting together! Wow. Robert Downey Jr. is funny. How great was Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk? Cry for Agent Coulson! Love Cobie Smulders!

But is that all there was to The Avengers? A bunch of flashy nonsense that made us all collectively squee and then pretend to be excited about the person who shows up in the post-credit sequence? I’d say the deeper importance of The Avengers is in its sheer audacity. And while I find myself agreeing with aspects of A.O. Scott’s New York Times review in which he worried that “the price of entertainment is obedience,” I’m not sure it’s oppressive as all that.

Personally, I have no burning desire to see The Avengers again anytime soon, but for all accounts, this experiment shouldn’t have worked. 10 years ago no child would have cited Thor or the Hulk or even Iron Man as his or her favorite hero. But now, through damn smart marketing, and some genuine affection for these characters, they’re all back. Some of us have been fans of them forever, but it doesn’t really matter, because ultimately the reinvention of something that had effectively died in the public consciousness is impressive. And despite my concern over The Avengers (and Whedon) possibly being overrated, there’s no denying the smile on my face as I left the theatre.

 

2. John Carter

What is this movie doing on the list? John Carter sucked, right? I mean, it failed at the box office and it was totally stupid. What were they thinking with this movie? Consider this: John Carter is a film based on a novel called A Princess of Mars, the first book in Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter of Mars series, published nearly 100 years ago. The first John Carter story is actually called “Under the Moons of Mars” which was published in 1912, making the film John Carter, the 100th birthday celebration of the character.

Unlike some other classic pulp SF heroes like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, John Carter has never really been adapted or depicted on film. This movie, then, was the return of a classic hero who’d been forgotten by a good portion of the culture. Further, part of the screenplay was written by Michael Chabon, who lovingly attempted to make the character relevant without destroying the basics of the story. (Honestly, the results are genuinely charming.) But like John Carter himself, this film is plucked seemingly out of time and place, making it feel…odd. It’s too bad, because with different marketing and not so much wiz-bang stuff to compete with, John Carter might have been a hit. As it stands, it was a great experiment, and case study in where we’ve been in science fiction. Should it have looked at where we’re going? I don’t think that was the point. 

 

1. Prometheus

For me, Prometheus is the ultimate gift to a science fiction fan/critic. The film looked beautiful, had amazing performances, impressive scenes, and was genuinely trying to be a science fiction movie. Add into that the notion of it taking place in the Alien movie universe and actually serving as a kind of sideways prequel. On top of that, the themes in the movie are about as big as a movie’s can get: what is the meaning of life? Where do we come from? Where are we going? Best of all, the movie is a total mess.

Prometheus is like the love child of Star Trek: The Motion Picture and well...Alien. Was it deeply, deeply flawed? Did aspects of the movie make zero sense both logistically and thematically? You bet! But does the movie suck? No way! I think dismissing Prometheus as “sucking” is depriving oneself of the fun of figuring out the endless ways the movie could have been great. For fans of science fiction, Prometheus was the one we really can’t stop talking about.

And if Ridley Scott makes a sequel as aesthetically cool as this, we’ll be talking about that one for a while, too.

 

Now readers, let me know how wrong you think I am and which genre films you thought were essential to the discussion!


Ryan Britt is a staff writer for Tor.com.

50 comments
Uncle Mikey
1. Uncle Mikey
I know there are a lot of people who aren't all that keen on Robert Downey, Jr. and his ego, but here's the truth: the entire cinematic Avengerverse exists, and works, because the original Iron Man movie did such a good job of making superhero-types believable in a modern context, and then, eventually, Captain America provided a second such anchor. Thor was OK, Hulk was not, Iron Man 2 is better than most people credit but simply not as good as the first...but even with those three being mediocre at best, Iron Man proved you could do it, and Captain America proved you could do it more than once.

Even so, Avengers still could have flunked, very easily. All it would have taken would have been one misstep with the ensemble cast and it all would have fallen apart. That, I think, was the main skill Joss brought to the piece: he managed to make every character relevant to the story, even though there were an absurd number of characters to track.
Uncle Mikey
2. i can't think of an alias
I have to agree. We forget how really awful most SFF movies were in the past when we nit-pick The Avengers and The Hobbit. Both movies could easily have been total failures, the fact that they work at all is a testiment to Whedon and Jackson. I'd rather see a director take chances with something really ambitious and fall a little short than play it safe.
Jack Flynn
3. JackofMidworld
Personally, I thought John Carter was a lot better than it gets credit for. Agreed that the marketing could've been better but it's a great, if incredibly expensive, popcorn-muncher. I'm sorry that I didn't go see it at the theater.

And having said that, I still can't decide if I like Prometheus or hate it. Taking it as a stand-alone pic and not tying to the Alien franchise makes it a lot easier for me to like it, though.

and #2? Best name ever!
Uncle Mikey
4. Eugene R.
"Prometheus is like the love child of Star Trek: the Motion Picture and well ... Alien"
Yes, I'll buy that. I will be stealing that line in future, Mr. Britt.

As for genre films without spaceships or robots, how 'bout Safety Not Guaranteed, a neat time-travel (or is it?) film? And if you will allow robots, then please consider Robot & Frank, which has both a robot and Frank Langella. Or if you like total messes, could it get any messier than Cloud Atlas?
Lisa Grabenstetter
5. magneticcrow
There are some great films on here, but overall it reads like an 'off-the-top-of-my-head, what were some of the biggest films that came out of enormous American studios this year?' list. I was really hoping that this being Tor.com I'd be seeing smaller, or non-US productions getting some acknowledgement. :\

Or even that I'd hear about something new.
Aeria Lynn
6. aeria_lynn
I'm thinking that Wreck-It Ralph needs a place on this list.
David Moran
7. DavidMoran
I don't think as many Batman fans disagree with you about Nolan as you think. While EVERYONE went to see the trilogy, one refrain I hear over and over again is how those movies get worse every time you re-watch them. Personally I hate all three of them, with the exception of Ledger's lone, saintly performance in the second.
Uncle Mikey
8. Wodan
I'd rather see a director take chances with something really ambitious and fall a little short than play it safe.

Pretty much describes John Carter, don't you think?

Some general musing.... Honestly, I find that too many people take their baggage into the theatre, forgetting that movies are, first and foremost, entertainment. While it's very human to do so, and impossible to completely not do, I think that making an effort to just "let it all go" beforehand really lets you just experience and enjoy the film.

Later on, we can all psychoanalyze and nitpick it with our fandom friends. But having watched with more of an open mind, we are much mpore likely to judge it on its own merits rather than all the baggage we ourselves brought in. And, bottom line, it's a bit unfair to judge based on our own preconceptions rather than the film's own vision.
Alan Brown
9. AlanBrown
Count me as another fan of John Carter. I grew up reading the ERB books that had been squirrelled away in our basement, and was pleased to see how well the movie treated the story and characters. This one failed more because of bad marketing and bad buzz, not because the movie was bad.
And regarding seeing characters I loved from books making the transition to the big screen, I was also happy with the Avengers and the Hobbit. After seeing so many terrible SF films during my 50+ years, I feel like we are living in a 'golden age' of SF cinema, and I am enjoying every minute of it!
Uncle Mikey
10. Hedgehog Dan
aeria_lynn: My thoughts exactly! :)
William Wible
11. Wodan
After seeing so many terrible SF films during my 50+ years, I feel like we are living in a 'golden age' of SF cinema, and I am enjoying every minute of it!

Amen, brother. The quality SF/F flicks in past decades were few and far between. I'm also glad to see that awards/critics are starting to take SF/F seriously. Used to be that you only saw one for "special effects" categories... they were routinely ignored for filmmaking, acting, etc.

As an example, remember the first Captain America back in the '80's? ::shudder::
Chris Hawks
12. SaltManZ
I loved John Carter, and everyone I know who saw it enjoyed it, too. I don't think there can be any debate that it was done in by atrocious marketing, as well as Disney's desire to see it fail.
Uncle Mikey
13. Tumas-Muscat
@2: Well said!

@6: You're not the only one.

I appreciate your opinion on The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. I, for one, love Whedon's work, be it on TV, big screen or in comics. That didn't stop me from being objective on The Avengers, and believe me, it has its flaws too. If you want these pointed out, just try watching the 'Honest Trailer' on Youtube. But it's just such a great chunk of fun that I found myself not caring for these flaws. And, as you said, its success with the general public and further raising awareness of comic books were quite the accomplishment.

As for The Dark Knight Rises, like you pointed out, it was the low point of the series in terms of logic and/or entertainment. I think most fans were frustrated with the film's ending because the literal death of Bruce Wayne was hinted so heavily in marketing beforehand, and because it differs from the comic books. What they unfortunately failed to appreciate is Nolan was intentionally producing a definite end to the character. While comics need Bruce to remain unhappy and brood (and probably immortal) just to continue, I found it to be so refreshing and fitting for Bale's Batman to find a measure of happiness after all he went through. Anyway, since Nolan's conceptualisation of Batman is ground so much in reality, I thought it made sense for Bruce to want to die happy instead of perpetually protecting a newly-saved Gotham himself.
Uncle Mikey
14. joelfinkle
I liked, but didn't love John Carter. It was draggy in spots, and has the same problem the Hobbit has: an obsessive need to explain the backstory at the start, rather than letting the plot draw it into play. But it had fun, it had adventure, and had the right spirit, if not the Frazetta details.

But to put Prometheus as #1? Here we have a film that shows people being just plain stupid. Let's pet the alien cobra-thing! Let's go out and talk to the guy we thought was dead and is no longer wearing his spacesuit! And when it boils down, the plot is just Alien redux: (SPOILERSPOILERSPOILER) an android's hidden agenda leads to the deaths of everyone on the crew except the plucky woman.
Uncle Mikey
15. coliptt
I really liked John Carter. I have never read the books but did buy them for my 14 year old grandson after seeing the movie. I have read other ERB books though.

Looper was one of my favorite movies this year, especially with Joseph Gordon Levitt and Paul Dano in the cast. They are young men to watch.

I must admit that I am a die-hard sci-fi fan, movies and books, my favorite being Phillip K Dick. As hokey as they seem I have liked all the movies based on his stories, even the ones that weren’t done as well as they could be. I also agree that Wreck-it Ralph should have a place on this list. What a well done script and over-the-top animation. Such fun.

I just finished reading Wool by Hugh Howey. Great story, great author and am looking forward to this book being made into a movie. I wonder if there is any hope?
Uncle Mikey
16. Veejay J
Prometheus?! Are you kidding me?! BECAUSE it was so visually impressive, the fact that the story was a total piece of crap makes it that much worse. It was a horrifically missed opportunity. It IS NOT worth watching more than once. It insults our intelligence. I'm not even looking forward to Ridley Scott's next movies in whatever genre.

As far as I'm concerned, Lindelof is radioactive. Any movie he's involved with is DOA. Goodbye "1952" and Goodbye Brad Bird's live action directing career.
Uncle Mikey
17. Veejay J
...and on top of all that, they were on the wrong planetary body. There's NO connection with LV-426 WHATSOEVER. I just hate this movie.
Uncle Mikey
18. Dennis McDonald
Any way you look at it, this was a good year for SF films. Hope 2013 is as good!

Also, any list that has two of my favorites in the same list -- JOHN CARTER and PROMETHEUS -- is a great list in my book!
Uncle Mikey
19. wingracer
I haven't seen The Hobbit or Rise of the Gaurdians yet so I can't comment on them but as for the rest, they were all good. No, none of them were perfect but how many truly perfect movies have ever been made? I mean even Shawshank isn't quite universally loved.

9. Cabin in the Woods. Went to see it with a good friend and we had a blast. Truly great popcorn flick. Yes I've seen better but definitely wasn't a waste of money.

8. Looper. Yeah I have serious issues with the plot but you know what? I still really enjoyed it. Give me more flawed but original stories like this one.

7. The Dark Knight Rises. I am a big Nolan fan but this for me is probably his worst film. I still loved it if for no other reason than Anne Hathaway. My god I love that woman.

6. Skyfall. Simply brilliant.

4. Hunger Games. I enjoyed the book and the movie. I have to admit though that I am not all that excited about the coming sequels.

3. Avengers. Look, this should have been an absolute train wreck. I mean come on, no one could make any kind of good movie out of this mess. It should have been an all time classic BAD movie. Joss managed to make something out of it that people actually cared about and will enjoy for years to come.

2. John Carter. I had no real desire to see this. Finally saw it on cable and you know what? I liked it. I do agree with Ryan that there is something out of its time about it. I mean why are they making movies from badly dated, 100 year old novels whan there are so many great novels from more recent times? I think I would like this movie more if it had been black and white and made in the 50's but even as it is, it was enjoyable.

1. Prometheus. I completely understand why some people hate this movie. If you were expecting another Aliens (which is what we were kinda led to believe it was) you were disapointed. But there is something else going on with this movie. If you can totally forget that any previous Alien movies exist and just take it as a new, standalone film, it's pretty freaking great. No, still not perfect but I would LOVE to see more in this vein. Leaving all the other Alien baggage behind, this to me is what I want from a good SF movie.
Doc Tobin
20. thegooddoctor
what a hack job. prometheus was a terrible, highly disappointing mess, just like this article.
Uncle Mikey
21. Kaski
On the Hobbit...it suffers trying to be the prequil to LOtR. Take out the stuff that isn't in the book and it probably would have ben a much better movie.

Couldn't stand Promethius. Sorry not on my list at all.

On the Avengers..marvel figured it out. They just want to make a fun summer movie using cool characters and stories theat they have had some success with in their comic books. DC with Batman decided to go dark and thought provoking but that only makes us critique it more.

He is to a great 2013 in sci fi- Knock on wood for "Ender's game."
Walker White
22. Walker
To borrow a phrase from someone, Prometheus is a dumb person's idea of what a smart movie looks like. Simply asking questions about the origin of life does not mean it has anything meaningful to say about it.

Dredd, which is not on this list, was a better movie with a higher Rotten Tomatoes rating.
Uncle Mikey
23. Samantha Atkins
Sorry but Prometheus totally sucked. It is very few science fiction movies that at the end I feel totally and completed empty of any enjoyment. This was one of the few. The science was lame, the characters were shallow, the premise was idiotic, the relevance to transhumanism or even life extension was nearly non-existent. There was nothing here to make you think or even be particularly entertained.
Uncle Mikey
24. Nina13
I haven't seen half the films on that list (including Prometheus) but after reading it I think I might have to watch John Carter.

I am glad I'm not the only one that has issues with some of the aspects of the Batman films. Maybe my problem with them is that everyone in the film is so goddam serious all the time - it's just one long bleak film about how terrible the world is and how tortured Batman is. And in this last one I thought Bane was probably the most boring oponent Batman has ever had and the twist at the end doesn't really add much. I think it would have been a better story had we known about it right from the start and wondered when Batman puts the pieces together.

I am a big Whedon fan (all started with Buffy) and unlike Batman the Avengers film was a lof of fun. IMO he took the best parts of the already established world (Stark, Thor, Loki) and added some great things - like Hulk. I do wish the female characters where a bit more interesting (and powerful) - the black widow is just a bit of a bore really and Smoulders character wasn't much more exciting. A shame, since Whedon normaly has really strong female characters - Firefly, Dollhouse or The Cabin in the Woods being good examples of this.
I really enjoy the Cabin aswell - I don't normally like Horror films but his was more a comment on the genre as a whole and my favorite character by far was Marty - the clever stoner. Maybe he can pop up in the next avenger film.
Jetse de Vries
25. Jetse
Wait a second: Prometheus at number 1 (cringe-inducing, massively stupid script. My intelligence still hurts just thinking about it. The stupid, oh it burns!), and no mention at all of Cloud Atlas?
But which of the many genre films released this year were the important ones? Which films, be they good, bad, or Prometheus, demanded our discussion? Below are the ten I think we had to talk about whether we wanted to or not!
I agree that under these rules, Prometheus applies. But under these same rules, Cloud Atlas should have been there, too. Love it or hate it: it's the singular most audacious SF movie of the year.
Rob Rater
26. Quasarmodo
I'm glad to hear that people are liking John Carter. I haven't seen it yet myself, but plan to soon. I just wish they'd left "of Mars" in the title. Maybe if I buy it, I'll wright it in myself.
Uncle Mikey
27. pekingducklord
Cloud Atlas should NOT be on this list at all. Audacious? Ambitious? Expensive? Sure. Essential? In now way shape or form. Going into that movie with almost NO expectations, I was genuinely shocked to find myself so disgusted. Pandering and on-the-nose, while at the same time incredibly confusing and senseless. And this coming from someone who read and liked the novel quite a bit. (Speaking of writers who clearly had no control over the adaptation....) This movie was garbage - the performances were utterly forgettable at best. A text book study in how to completely ruin your source material. To put this movie on an "Essential..." list of any kind besides "Essentially why we never need to discuss the Wachowski siblings again" is absurd and I thank you Mr. Britt for your good sense.
Uncle Mikey
28. tigeraid
Prometheus was an absolute disaster. Pretty or not. The lack of intelligent writing or plausible plot makes it an insult to the viewer.

Haven't seen Cloud Atlas so cannot comment. I do agree that John Carter was underrated. Taylor Kitsch was bad but it was a good ol' fashioned pulpy romp, I enjoyed it and it didn't deserve the bad reviews at ALL.

Avengers was outstanding and probably #1 on my list, but I also loved The Cabin in the Woods, Looper, and The Dark Knight rises. It was a really great year for genre films overall.

Shame Ridley Scott had to go and spit all over it.
Uncle Mikey
29. Cold Drake
I agree with this article on Wedon and Prometheus. Disagree about Nolan's Batman- they're that damn good.
John Carter is defended by a lot of internet nerds which is puzzling. I wanted to like it but it's really just not good. It deserved to bomb in the box office.
Uncle Mikey
30. Matthew Carpenter
I was a big John Carter fan in grade school. In fact, when I was introduced to new classmate in graduate school who was named John Carter I actually asked him so how is Dejah Thoris (I got a blank look in reply). But the movie was just abysmal. I really wanted to like it but the unbelievable CGI, the hash of a script and the uninvolving charcters just killed it.

I would much rather you have included Safety Not Guaranteed, even though the time travel aspect is a such a tiny piece of the movie. Interesting script and characters will always trump cheesy special effects. Or what about introducing us to very small budget movies that we should seek out, instead of big budget tripe like Prometheus (which proved almost unwatchable)? For example, Die Farbe, a German language version of The Colour Out of Space just recently became available on DVD. It is a much better way for a real genre fan to spend their time than some of the turkeys listed (although I would also not have objected to Wreck It Ralph being included).
alastair chadwin
31. a-j
Not seen all the films on the list, but of the ones I did catch:

Skyfall - a great return to form and the best Bond film since the '80s
The Cabin in the Woods - a witty and stylish attack on generic US horror films. A slasher film for people who do not like slasher films.
The Avengers - fun and cheerful. Did what it set out to do in a highly entertaining manner.
Prometheus - I saw this at last only a few weeks back on DVD and have never been so angered by a film. This is a movie that treats the audience with complete contempt with what must be the worst scripting I have ever come across. For sure the first 30 minutes were good, but the rest! I am genuinely startled that anyone can defend this film or claim to like it. A deeply cynical and insulting film. And I'm glad I've got that off my chest.

Not mentioned on the list:

Iron Sky - an entertainingly silly film which while not as funny as it thinks it is, has more intelligence and wit in a single frame than Prometheus has in its entire bloated appallingness.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - noisy and brash, but I'll forgive it a lot for the excellent Holmes/Moriarty face-off over a chess game and a genuinely sinister scene in a restaurant.
William Fettes
32. Wolfmage
Echoing others above, there are some peculiar choices in this list.

I’m sorry, but putting Prometheus at number one simply because it is a visually striking return to the Alien universe is rather bizarre given its manifest flaws. The ancient astronauts thesis qualifies as a genre sci-fi but it’s hardly as profound and philosophically interesting as suggested, especially when the character-vehicle driving this, Dr Shaw, is such an uneven and inscrutable disaster. In terms of acting, Fassbender was a standout as David, but the rest of the cast simply make do with pretty poor dialogue despite their talents. I mean, Idris Elba could make paint drying charismatic but that doesn’t mean we should celebrate paint drying. The material was poor and even Elba can’t make it good. There’s also major pacing and sequencing issues throughout the film.

I agree with Cabin in the Woods and Avengers was solid. I think Dredd deserved to be on there.
Brett
33. OniId
Gotta disagree about Prometheus. I thought the movie was utter pants. Very disappointed by what they did with the story. Yeah it was gorgeously shot and had some very pretty things to go along with it, but the story was just so awful and predictable. I can see why it was dropped by Fox, there wasn't much of a movie there, IMO.
Uncle Mikey
34. Garymcc23
Saying Prometheus and Looper were, in any way, good films means that you'll happily keep paying to see crappy movies. Sorry, but with the money involved in these films, there's just no excuse for such terribly poor filmmaking. Ridley Scott should be embaressed to have his name on Prometheus and as for Looper - it would have pretty much been a Terminator rip-off without the TK sub(?) plot.
Tim Hayes
35. LordDarkstorm
It's amazing how one little scene can make a movie.

"Puny god"....

I haven't laughed that hard at a movie in ages.
Tad Ottman
36. T_Ottman
Until people stop giving science fiction movies a pass when they are not very good because they are "original" or "different", we're going to continue to see a bunch of crappy science fiction movies. Nobody goes to a bad comedy and says it sucked, but it was original so I want to support it. Hunger Games and Avengers were good. No qualifiers necessary. Prometheus and Looper were not, interesting ideas and great visuals notwithstanding. They don't deserve a pass for being bad movies just because they are genre pictures.
Uncle Mikey
37. John in Arlington
I'd argue that Beasts of the Southern Wild is a genre film and, if so, then certainly worthy of being included on this list.
Uncle Mikey
38. Ask Wyatt
Mr. Britt,

You've accomplished your task. People will talk about these movies for awhile, mostly because you're trying to stir up people's emotions so that they will talk about them. You've given us your little pot-shots on Nolan and Whedon. I have my own problems with their work, but in the end, I and many others enjoy their movies. Do you know why? Because they actually know how to make a movie. Their storylines work, at times you get some good character development, and they know how to throw in scenes that will touch people in emotional ways, and they know how to not sacrifice the overall picture for mindless action. They also know how to incorporate themes into their movies that don't bog down the essential story.

One of the other commenters was right when he said that The Hobbit and John Carter would have been better served by not shoving the back story in our faces.

You could have saved space for other movies by taking Skyfall off of the list. It's a great Bond film (the story, as it is with all Bond films, has a lot of problems), but really, I don't consider it genre enough to be included in a list of films that are mostly Sci-Fi and Fantasy films.

And, as is the problem with so many critics, you try and shove stupidity in the faces of the masses and call it brilliance. Prometheus? Sometimes it seems like critics and Hollywood often say, "Here's some dog poop. Have a bite. I think you'll like it."

There are tons of films that have brilliant "aspects" but are still crappy films. Do those brilliant aspects turn the entire thing around. No. In the end crap is still crap.

And then you chose Rise of the Guardians over Wreck-It Ralph or even an indie flick like Safety Not Guaranteed. I'm sorry, Mr. Britt, but having a novel idea or concept can never replace something that's well executed. And in the end, Wreck-It Ralph and Safety Not Guaranteed had novel ideas and concepts that worked better than some of the films you chose. People will forget some of these films soon enough and not keep talking about them.

Maybe with the exception of Prometheus. Because, yes, it really was that bad.
Uncle Mikey
39. Jayson Lorenzen
Want to throw in another "I liked John Carter". I am a fan of all the ERB books and stories and was terrified and excited to hear this one was being made into a movie. I both wanted to see this done, and didn't want to see it done the way most hollywood crap is done. But ... well I liked what they did. They changed some things, added some things, but overall it was a lot of fun. Disney did mess up the marketing (and where are the TOYS!!!) but kids that saw it should have liked it. My son (6) loves it and watches the DVD often. If there were toys he would have had to have had em. I hope they let these same people do the next two books in the Barsoom series, minus the bad marketing (and I want to see an isle at Target full of John Carter toys dang it!)
Uncle Mikey
40. Nintendo Loyalist
I had been hearing about John Carter on AICN for ages before I saw it. While not a great movie, it was a good popcorn movie. Avengers was OK, but it just seems like none of these superhero films are great. I couldn't even be bothered to see the new Spiderman, although that was probably because I was underwhelmed by Spiderman 3. Hobbit was amazing, and most of the others I haven't seen yet, and can wait for the public library to get them.

P.S. I thought Prometheus was fantastic.
Uncle Mikey
41. Rackhamtree
I thought that 'Moonrise Kingdom' should have been on this list. It was, afterall, a perfectly marvelous retelling of Peter Pan. Not a big fan of wes Anderson films but this was one of my favorite films ever. And absolutely, 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' should have ben on this list too.
Aquila G
42. Aquila1nz
I agree about Beasts of the Southern Wild. Absolutely magical.
Kerly Luige
43. Celebrinnen
@AlanBrown:
I was going to make a posting but then found it quite unnecessary. The only things I would change in your post is that I have only 30-a few years to your 50+, and I keep my ERB books on the bookshelf (though the first copy my father clipped from a newspaper when I was little and where I first met John Carter was in the attic for some years). Other than that, I could have written your posting myself (regarding all three)
:)
Matt Hiebert
44. Blackhand
I was with you until Prometheus. Honestly, why does Tor keep giving it a pass? Is there a financial connection? Yes the actors were fine, the costumes and sets were fine, but the script, story, ridiculous behavior of the characters, continuity inconsistencies and strucutre made it a complete fail. Enough with Prometheus. Let it fade from the Alien canon.
Uncle Mikey
45. Dick S
Having only seen 3 of the films on the list, I probably can't comment too much. But if Ryan is such a big Paul Dano fan, I am surprised that Ruby Sparks didn't show up somewhere. But others have noted the lack of indie films on the list.
Michał Kubalski
46. nosiwoda
Well, if "Skyfall" somehow made the list (not a SF thingy in it), why "Bourne legacy" hadn't? It has a virus which enhance human intelligence, it has "Flowers for Algernon" kind of storyline - it's more SF than action movie, and certainly more SF than "Skyfall".
T C
47. Freelancer
Dark Knight Rises surpassed my expectations on several levels. I could wish for a different Catwoman than Anne Hathaway, and less idiotic "99%"-style politics (it was still less troublesome in that regard than Avatar, which felt like a glossier and less intellectually valid ripoff of Medicine Man), but it was entertaining enough to overcome its own weaknesses.

The Hobbit scored on all points. One must be a significant book snob to refuse to recognize one of the most faithful film adaptations going, at least so far. Every location, from the Lone Lands, to the Misty Mountains, to Goblin Town, were instantly recognizable from the mental imagery delivered by the book. Likewise, the dwarves were presented as comically as did the novel. Tolkien's art was certainly done with bolder, brighter colors and broader strokes than many fantasy authors of today, and this film held that distinction. Martin Freeman was wonderful, it was a genius choice to use Arthur Dent as Bilbo. Finally, I was worried that the 3-D would be overdone, and was quite pleased that the effect wasn't blown out of proportion. I'd read about the queasy sensations brought about by the high capture frame-rate, but nobody who saw it with me sensed any such issue.

I expected to hate The Hunger Games, and didn't. The characters were compelling, whether you were meant to love or hate them. I'm no fan of Woody Harrelson, he left his best acting on the set of Cheers, but he didn't make me cringe once. Clearly adapted to reach a broader audience than aimed at by the novel, the movie was well balanced overall, and followed through on its premise.
Lynn Kucera
48. LV426
I am a big Alien fan (as my nick refers to) so I probably had my expectations too high for Prometheus and my brain must have been in the back seat because the beginning did not make sense to me the first time. I thought finally the master is back but the story really was crap.
The Avengers for me was just entertainment and fun, I'd go to another movie if they make one and of course they will, $$, I'm hooked on Tony Stark and I'm waiting for Iron Man 3.
Uncle Mikey
49. JLPS
WOW, so much anger at Prometheus!! I enjoyed the film immensly. Yes, the science behind the DNA is a little bizarre, as if that is a first for Science Fiction, and the biologist wasn't being very professional for petting the alien. Thats it? I think you guys just don't like Ridley Scott. Despite the science and the dumb biologist, it was a thouroughly entertaining Science Fiction movie. It had me gripped from beginning to end, and it had a real Arthur C. Clarke "golden era sci fi" feel to it, IMO.

Now, I don't think this was the best Sci Fi of the year, I think it was #2. #1 was Looper. But lets be honest here, Looper is absurdly stupid. Ignoring the GIANT plothole near the end of the movie that essentially makes the rest of the film meaningless, Bruce Willis basically says to ignore the science in the first 20 minutes of the movie. I find that far more offensive than the wacky DNA stuff from Prometheus. And this is what people are saying is "smart" science fiction?

Again, despite the science I still think both of these movies are probably the best non-ST sci fi we have had in 5 years of cinema, I will happily take them and hopefully the prometheus sequel(s)!
Uncle Mikey
50. excessivelyperky
I feel the need to stand up here for FRANKENWEENIE. See, my husband teaches chemistry, and he *really* wants the science teacher's speech to the PTA on his blooper reel.

"no, that's not the word...yes, STUPID!"

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