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Best Movies of 2012

December 24th, 2012 12:00pm EST

The Avengers 2012 was a great year for superheroes, James Bond, a former President of the United States and Ben Affleck. What defines a great film? It's different for everyone, but first and foremost it must entertain. Many movies did just that over the past year.

"The Avengers" was the highest grossing film of 2012, earning $623 million in the United States and a staggering $1.5 billion worldwide.

The number-three grossing film of all time (behind James Cameron's "Titanic" and "Avatar"), starred Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, Chris Evans as Captain America and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow.

Check out other films that thrilled fans at the box office and/or made critics giddy while they wrote their reviews...

Adolescents everywhere eagerly anticipated the debut of "The Hunger Games" on the big screen. The film, based on the best-selling young adult novel by Suzanne Collins, was an international hit, making nearly $700,00,000 worldwide. Sequels are already in the works.

"Life of Pie" was a sleeper at the box office but was lauded for its visual effects. Yann Martel's ponderous adventure novel got the big-screen treatment by director Ang Lee. The coming-of-age story surrounds the son of a zookeeper who survives a shipwreck by stowing away on a lifeboat with a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena, and a Bengal tiger by the name of Richard Parker.

Many people groan when they hear the word "musical," but "Les Miserables" is an exception. The musical version of Victor Hugo's classic novel centers on the obsessive quest of Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) as he spends years in an effort to capture escaped convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman). Anne Hathaway andAmanda Seyfried also star. It opens in theaters on Dec. 25.

"The Dark Knight Rises" was Christopher Nolan's and Christian Bale's final batman film, but we have a feeling the franchise isn't over just yet - particularly after what happened in the last scene with Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character. The film showed The Dark Knight pitted against Bane, an unstoppable foe possessed of tremendous physical and intellectual strength. The film was the second highest grossing of the year, making $448 million nationwide and $1 billion internationally.

"Silver Linings Playbook" has already received tons of award nominations. Bradley Cooper plays Pat, a bipolar man who spends eight months in a mental hospital. Pat moves in with his father (Robert De Niro) and wants to get back together with his wife, even though there is a restraining order keeping him from contacting her. He soon befriends a depressed young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who's mourning the death of her husband by engaging in compulsive sex with almost everyone she meets.

"Skyfall" shattered the box office records of previous James Bond films. The film made $87.8 million during its opening weekend alone. Exclusive screenings in IMAX theaters boosted the earnings by $2.2 million, for a total of $90 million. In the film, 007 (Daniel Craig) becomes M's (Judi Dench) only ally as MI6 comes under attack, and a mysterious new villain named Silva (Javier Bardem) emerges with a diabolical plan. Sam Mendes directed.

Teen and tween girls everywhere camped out to get into screenings of "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2." The final film in the franchise topped the worldwide weekend box office during its November debut and raked in $141.3 million in just the United States.

"Zero Dark Thirty" details the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and Jessica Chastain stars as the intelligence expert who dedicated a decade of her life to tracking down the world's most wanted terrorist. The film has a 94 percent approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes. The film opened in limited release earlier this month and goes wide in theaters on Jan. 11.

"The Amazing Spider-Man" was one of the blockbusters of summer, with Andrew Garfield taking over from Tobey Maguire. In the film, typical teenager Peter Parker (Garfield) embraces his incredible destiny after uncovering one of his father's most carefully guarded secrets. You know a film is successful (see "Hunger Games") when two sequels are already in the works.

If Ben Affleck hadn't already been on the map, "Argo" would have definitely put him on it. Entertainment Weekly's "Entertainer of the Year" both starred in and directed the film, which centered on CIA agent Tony Mendez who created a fake Hollywood film production in order to rescue a group of American diplomats holed up in Iran amid the nation's revolution in 1979.

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is part one of three, and although it was met by mixed reviews it still dominated the box office in its opening weekend. The film had the biggest December debut in history, taking in $84.8 million at the weekend box office. No matter what the critics said, fans of the "Lord Of The Rings" trilogy could not stay away.

"Django Unchained" hits theaters on Dec. 25, but it already has a lot of buzz. Why? Quentin Tarantino. Jamie Foxx. Leonardo DiCaprio. Set in the South two years before the Civil War, the film stars Foxx as Django, a slave whose brutal history with his former owners lands him face-to-face with German-born bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Schultz is on the trail of the murderous Brittle brothers, and only Django can lead him to his bounty.

Not a lot of people saw "The Master," but it's been showing up on several award nominations lists. Joaquin Phoenix plays a psychologically damaged war veteran who finds himself working for Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a charismatic figure building his own religion. The film is said to be inspired by Scientology.

Sure to be a favorite at the Academy Awards, "Lincoln" has garnered seven Golden Globe nominations and 13 Critics Choice Award nominations. The film stars Daniel Day-Lewis and chronicles the President's time in office between 1861 and 1865 as he dealt with personal demons and politics during the Civil War.

Related: Argo, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Skyfall, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Hunger Games, The Master, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, Zero Dark Thirty, Starpulse Exclusives, Movies

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