The best films of 2012

The best films of 2012

Joaquin Phoenix in The Master

Featuring The Master, Shame, Berberian Sound Studio, Tabu and Skyfall

1 The Master

Five years after 2007’s multi-award-winning There Will Be Blood there was more than a little anticipation for Paul Thomas Anderson’s next project. The Master is the director’s tale of an enigmatic leader of a cult-like group called The Cause. It led to some minor controversy when it was first announced due to its similarities to Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard. Regardless, the film wooed critics with two outstanding performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix. Expect it to sweep the board come awards season.

2 Shame

Many wondered what artist Steve McQueen would do next, after the critical success of his gruelling, yet astonishingly crafted film Hunger, the story of Irish republican Bobby Sands. He chose to team up with screenwriter Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady, The Hour) for a film set in New York about a sex addict. Working again with Michael Fassbinder, Shame is a powerful depiction of emotional alienation with impressive performances from Fassbinder and Carey Mulligan as his vulnerable sister.

3 Berberian Sound Studio

Peter Strickland’s second feature is a claustrophobic thriller set in the world of 1970s Italian horror film production. The story of a mild-mannered British sound engineer (played by Toby Jones) who travels to Italy to work on a particularly gorey, low-budget film was a finely crafted mystery which blurred the lines between reality and fiction. It was also a celebration of the hidden art of foley – with rotting vegetables, used to make sound effects, becoming an atmospheric visual motif in the film.

4 Tabu

One of the most distinctive films of the year, Portuguese director Miguel Gomes’ second feature is a rich tale about memory and the passing of time interweaving two stories, one set in contemporary Lisbon and the second in colonial Africa. It premiered at Berlin Film Festival where it won the FIPRESCI prize before coming to Edinburgh International Film Festival this June for its UK premiere.

5 Skyfall

The plot might be a bit thin but how could you not be carried away by this spy romp, filled with some of the best action sequences the silver screen has seen in a long time. From the opening scenes involving a motorbike chase across the rooftops of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar to a close shave with a komodo dragon and a fitting finale in a Highland manor house: Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) delivered a thrilling and spectacular Bond.

The Master - Official Trailer (2012) [HD]

SHAME Official UK Trailer

Berberian Sound Studio official trailer - in cinemas 31 August

TABU - Official HD Trailer

SKYFALL - Official Trailer


  • 5 stars
  • 2011
  • UK
  • 1h 40min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Steve McQueen
  • Written by: Abi Morgan, Steve McQueen
  • Cast: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan
  • UK release: 13 January 2012

Brandon Sullivan (Fassbender) is trapped in his own world of sex addiction. Then his sister, club singer Sissy (Mulligan), drifts into his life and apartment, upsetting the precarious knife edge of his existence. Fassbender is stunning in a strangely lyrical film about ugly desperation.


  • 4 stars
  • 2012
  • UK
  • 2h 25min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Sam Mendes
  • Written by: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
  • Cast: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe
  • UK release: 26 October 2012

When cyber-terrorists steal an MI6 hard drive, 007 is ordered to recover it. After the let-down of Quantum of Solace, the 23rd official Bond movie is a belter; the script is smart, Craig is better than ever, and Bardem is a thrilling villain. 50 years on from Dr No, it's a well-wrapped birthday present.

Berberian Sound Studio

  • 4 stars
  • 2012
  • UK
  • 1h 32min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Peter Strickland
  • Cast: Toby Jones, Cosimo Fusco, Antonio Mancino, Fatma Mohamed, Salvatore Li Causi, Chiara D'Anna, Tonia Sotiropoulou, Eugenia Caruso, Susanna Cappellaro, Guido Adorni, Lara Parmiani, Jozef Cseres, Pál Tóth, Katalin Ladik, Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg
  • UK release: 31 August 2012

In the 1970s, a British sound technician (Toby Jones) is brought to Italy to work on the sound effects for a gruesome horror film. His nightmarish task slowly takes over his psyche, driving him to confront his own past. Striking and unsettling, this is boundary-stretching, genre-fuddling work.


  • 4 stars
  • 2012
  • Portugal, Germany, Brazil, France
  • 1h 58min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Miguel Gomes
  • Cast: Teresa Madruga, Laura Soveral, Ana Moreira, Henrique Espírito Santo, Carloto Cotta, Isabel Cardoso, Ivo Müller, Manuel Mesquita, Cándido Manuel
  • UK release: 7 September 2012

In contemporary Lisbon, kind-hearted Pilar becomes concerned for her paranoid neighbour Aurora; this starts an investigation that goes back to Aurora’s childhood in Africa. Gomes’ wonderfully cinematic film is really two films in one, conversing with each other on themes of childhood and colonialism in a delightful…

The Master

  • 5 stars
  • 2012
  • US
  • 2h 17min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams
  • UK release: 2 November 2012

Freddie Quell (Phoenix) falls under the spell of Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), charismatic founder of a Scientology-style cult. Complex, sincere, elegantly interrogative filmmaking from Anderson, with Phoenix and Hoffman at the top of their game.