50 best movies of 2012

41. Dredd

The Movie: If at first you don't succeed Memories of Sylvester Stallone were blitzed by Karl Urban's helmet-stays-on performance as 'the law,' backed by a sick, slick adaptation from Alex Garland.

Impact: Unfairly overshadowed by the similarly-themed The Raid, this is likely to find a natural home on DVD as a lean, mean, take-no-prisoners antidote to the all-American heroism of other comic book movies.

40. Brave

The Movie: The first Pixar original this decade saw the studio on turf more commonly used by parent studio Disney (princess, castles, critters). But the fact that the latter was a non-speaking killer bear proved the difference between the two.

Impact: Damned with faint praise by critics on release but even middling Pixar is better than most rivals' A-game. Along with The Hunger Games' Katniss Everdeen, Merida was a poster girl for archery as the cinematic ladies' hobby of choice.

39. 21 Jump Street

The Movie: Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum went back to school in this adaptation of the old Johnny Depp TV show about undercover cops, only to find that geeks are now cooler than jocks. A surreal, belly-laugh spin on the high school comedy.

Impact: Proof that you can successfully recycle old programmes without running out of ideas, especially if the casting is right and with three films passing the $100 million mark at the U.S. box office, 2012 was Channing Tatum's year.

38. Marley

The Movie: Definitive documentary about the reggae superstar that underlines Bob's talent with an incisive portrait of the Rastafarian culture that shaped him.

Impact: Commissioned by the singer's family, this could have been a puff-piece but here's proof that if you hire the right person (here, Touching The Void's Kevin MacDonald) even a hagiography can be complex, compelling cinema.

37. Cosmopolis

The Movie: The second of two David Cronenberg films released in the UK this year was a return to his weird roots, as Robert Pattinson is driven across riot-stricken Manhattan so he can have a haircut. The sex, death and horrendous hand injuries were classic Cronenberg, but most people noticed only the endless talk, talk, talk...

Impact: Mass walkouts from disgruntled R-Pattz fans who didn't want to see their hero having his prostrate examined. And, alongside Holy Motors, a sudden surge in 'guy in a limousine' movies.

36. Tiny Furniture

The Movie: Life's a drag for film graduate Aura (writer/director/star Lena Dunham), in a comedy that escapes the whimsical indie ghetto by the honesty of its self-reflection. Fact: Dunham cast her own family members as Aura's relatives.

Impact: Dunham, as every broadsheet and style mag has pointed out, is the Next Big Thing, with her caustic TV comedy Girls currently a leftfield hit on Sky Atlantic.

35. Prometheus

The Movie: Ridley Scott's return to the Alien universe (or was it?) proved to be a damp squib (or was it?), as the crew of the titular ship discover that humanity and xenomorphs alike were created by stern, godlike aliens (or were they?)

Impact: The year's most fiercely debated movie, what with the sheer amount of blogs being written to a) explain the symbolism and/or b) angrily denounce the whole thing, it's a wonder the Internet didn't buckle. We liked it, though.

34. The Descendants

The Movie: It was inevitable that George Clooney's mission to work with every cool indie director in America would eventually reach Alexander Payne. It was equally inevitable that the result would be a bittersweet, surprisingly affecting dramedy about a guy (Clooney's slacker widower) getting his life back on track.

Impact: Descendants won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, making Payne a double-winner in the category (and ironically beating Clooney for The Ides Of March). What couldn't be taken for granted was newcomer Shailene Woodley's exceptional performance as Clooney's daughter.

33. Once Upon A Time In Anatolia

The Movie: A three hour journey into the Turkish wilderness in the company of an incompetent police investigation sounds like torture, but Nuri Ceylan Bilge's anti-epic had the sophistication of a novel.

Impact: A Grand Prix at Cannes 2011 underlined Ceylan's growing stature in world cinema, not least because somebody finally managed to use the 'Once Upon A Time' tag without ripping off Sergio Leone.

32. Jack Reacher

The Movie: Amazingly, this is the first screen adaptation of Lee Child's mega-books franchise about an ex-cop turned vigilante drifter, as Christopher McQuarrie directs Tom Cruise in the title role.

Impact: "He's too short!" yelled the Reacher fanboys. Doesn't matter: nobody can do the tentpole action movie quite like Cruise and McQuarrie brings a fresh eye to proceedings, especially in the leftfield casting of Werner Herzog as the villain.