“Les Miserables”

You went because you love the musical, you went to see Hugh Jackman sing, you went only because your girlfriend dragged you – no matter the reason, it’s easy to say “Les Miserables” was one of the best films of the year. Based on the classic novel by Victor Hugo, this enthralling story of redemption, love and sacrifice follows the life of Jean Valjean (Jackman) as he attempts to escape his past in 19th century France. The star-studded cast introduced through Valjean’s journey includes Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen. Hathaway’s heart-wrenching performance as Fantine won her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Unlike many musicals-turned-movies, the vocals for “Les Miserables” (or as many fans – and people who don’t speak French – call it, “Les Mis”) were recorded live on set with the help of piano accompaniments played through ear pieces to guide the actors. Because almost every line in the film is sung, director Tom Hooper felt this choice made the verses seem more natural and gave the actors more freedom. Fans and critics responded positively, as did the box office; the movie broke the record for the highest opening day gross for a musical film. “Les Mis” made us laugh, it made us cry, it made us say, “Eugh, Russell Crowe, please don’t sing” – and it was one of the best movies of this year by far.

– By Jenna Kingsley

“Django Unchained”

“Django Unchained” was one of the most highly acclaimed films of 2012, as can easily be seen from its myriad of nominations for a variety of awards, including a win for Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars. Quentin Tarantino succeeded in making his latest film as incredible as its predecessors, mixing a film of the Wild West with dark, twisted humor.

The film revolves around Django, played by Jamie Foxx (“Dreamgirls,” “Horrible Bosses”), a slave in the South circa 1858. Forcibly separated from his wife Broomhilda, played by Kerry Washington (“Scandal,” “Fantastic Four”), he lives a harsh life until rescued by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz, “Water For Elephants,” “Inglourious Basterds”), a bounty hunter who enlists Django’s help. The two of them then set out to rescue Broomhilda from her master, a sleazy gambler played by Leonardo DiCaprio.

The film somehow manages to be both disturbing and humorous: some scenes are filled with torture and violence but then buffered with well-injected humor. The adventure is easy to get caught up in, and the chemistry between Foxx and Waltz is fun to watch. At times, the film borderlines on ridiculous but manages to stop before getting too farfetched – a well-honed skill of Tarantino.

The perfect blend of drama and comedy, this film is an emotional roller coaster: a fast-paced one that leaves you hooked from start to finish.

– By Dhvani Ghatlia 

“Silver Linings Playbook”

Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro. These three names alone should be enough to tell you that “Silver Linings Playbook” is awesome. Yes, this acting trifecta certainly helps confirm this movie’s claim to greatness. It’s really not all about the cast, though. I swear.

That being said, Jennifer Lawrence triumphs for her role with wit and finesse. The Oscar it earned her was well-deserved and not just because everyone felt bad for her when she tripped.

She plays a widow named Tiffany who, donned in modern mourning clothes, acts as confident on the outside as she is crushed on the inside.

“Silver Linings Playbook” offers audiences a distinct blend of romance, drama and comedy that’s a far cry from typical rom-com material. The leading couple, should you care to call them that, comes to know each other through frank discussions of their various psychiatric conditions.

Mental health is a topic not often explored with such openness and humor in film – or in life – and “Silver Linings” handles it admirably.

Screenwriter/director David O. Russell balances the serious issues with dialogue full of quick quips, a whole lot of Eagles football, a Raisin-Bran date and, of course, a ballroom dancing competition. The film manages to be edgy without losing its heart. Some call it the rejuvenation of the romantic comedy.

I just call it genius.

– By Emily Jackson