It is a well-worn tradition for entertainment outlets to put out their BEST lists at the end of a year. Movies, albums, fashion trends, hand sanitizers – the lists in December are never ending.
Well, we’re going to do it too. Sorry.
Except this isn’t really a best list. We aren’t grading these films like the Academy (that’s Academy with a CAPITAL A); we’re just revisiting the ones that were our personal favorites. A lot of them won’t be winning any gold come February, but each holds a special place in the hearts of our editors. These were the singular movie-going experiences that reminded each of us why we are so often willing to sit in a dark room filled with strangers and shell out upwards of $30 for naught but admission and stale popcorn.
Thor: The Dark World
Thor: The Dark World not only builds on the first movie, but easily leapfrogs Iron Man to become my second favorite movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Everyone justifiably squees at Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, but there are so many perfectly executed sub-plots as well. Frigga proves to be not only the familial glue for Odin, Thor, and Loki, but also quite a badass in her own right. Her character’s portrayal is perfect in getting the audience to buy in to her importance, which makes her death that much more poignant. It also makes for a legitimately believable reason for the two brothers to team up, often a hard thing to do with enemies. Many other deserving minor characters get a chance to shine too, especially Heimdall in his one-man attack on the dark elf flagship. I also enjoy the subtlety of the Thor/Sif relationship. The movie could have easily pushed for an ill-advised love triangle, complete with turning Sif into a petty, jealous woman, but keeps every character’s dignity and respect instead. Special effects-wise, when the first “implosion bomb” went off, our whole row gave an, “oh shhhh…” Marvel is killing it with these movies, which is all the more reason to trust their imminent approach to a gun-toting, talking raccoon. – Johnny
The Spectacular Now
The Spectacular Now, written by the same team as 500 Days of Summer and the upcoming The Fault in our Stars, is a sweet coming-of-age love story. Subtle in its message but big in storytelling, the strangely beautiful and dark story follows two high school seniors: the troubled and reckless character Sutter (Miles Teller) and the straitlaced and naive Aimee (Shailene Woodley). The two find and change each other, mostly for the better. The story tackles drug addiction, alcoholism, and depression, but most importantly, it explores the fragility and imperfectness of the human condition in the most subtle and inspiring of ways. A few shocking moments mesh mostly well with the otherwise un-spectacular plot that still manages to leave you wanting more in all the right ways. It’s a fun, sweet, intelligent, and high-quality movie that is worth watching again and again and again. As a bonus, we also got to see Shailene Woodley before she appears in two of the YA community’s most anticipated movies this coming year, Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars. She proved how much she is up to the task of playing complex, somewhat-broken, and all-together beloved YA characters and is likely to gain just as much praise, if not more, if she continues on her impeccably high standard of bringing these characters to life so perfectly. – Jennifer
The World’s End
The World’s End, the final film in the Cornetto trilogy, is also arguably the best entry. Centering on a group of high school friends reuniting to attempt the Golden Mile, the pub crawl to end all pub crawls, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright deliver one of the funniest films of the year. While getting progressively drunker, our band of heroes begin to notice something is not quite right in their childhood town. Everyone seems to act exactly the same. There’s also a nice ongoing gag about how every pub now looks identical. I’ll be honest. I wasn’t a huge fan of the previous two films, so I was a bit unsure what to expect with The World’s End. What we got, though, was one of the most continuously funny films I’ve seen in recent memory. By the end of the film, I was laughing so hard that my abs hurt and I was wheezing. The final scene lost me a bit, but everything leading up to it was pure hilarity. It could also serve as a fantastic public service announcement against alcohol abuse. Entertaining and thought-provoking. What more could you want from a film? – Amanda W
Be honest – did you forget to see Pacific Rim? Yeah, I thought so. What was easily my favorite movie of the year, and one of my favorite movie-going experiences ever, was overshadowed by nothing but the news of its underperformance at the domestic box office (thank goodness for overseas). If you didn’t see this movie in theaters YOU. MISSED. OUT. Pacific Rim isn’t a masterpiece of storytelling or character growth or anything else. It is, however, the perfect example of a movie that gives you childlike glee while watching. I consider myself to be a grown-up. But me, my coworker, and every other adult in the audience spent nearly the entire movie bouncing up and down in our seats. The ridiculous Jaeger v Kaiju scenes in this movie elicited cheer after cheer from the auditorium I was in. There was even a moment, I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it, when a Kaiju unexpectedly sprouts wings. I am not exaggerating when I say at least 1/3 of the audience went “IT FLIES?! YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” And that’s just the battle scenes. The movie also boasts a kickass lady POC, Idris. Elba. In. Uniform., Charlie Day being hilarious, the voice of GLaDOS, an immensely intense score, and a wicked cute bulldog. And above it all, it has a director who just gets it. Del Toro is a nerd. A 12 year old geek hiding in the adult body of a cinematic genius from Mexico. He made Pacific Rim purely because it’s exactly the type of film he would want to see. Bless you, Guillermo. Bless you. – Leah