Though the GIF is now 25 years old, the raw animation format is having a moment in 2012. This internet sensation has been the source of countless memes as well as a way to succinctly capture our favorite pulp culture moments, and express oh-so-many feelings. Most prestigiously, the Oxford American Dictionary has selected GIF as its word of the year! So what better way is there to look back on the year in movies—its blockbusters, bombs, and breakouts—than through this looping web essential?

The Avengers smackdown all comers

While critics and the Academy battle out what is the best film of 2012, the biggest hit was The Avengers, hands down. The action-packed superhero ensemble not only dominated its opening weekend with a whopping $207 million, but also the entire month of May…then the summer, then the year, pulling in more than $623,000,000 domestically, and over $1.5 billion worldwide! But that's not all. Though critics delivered mixed reviews on Christopher Nolan's much anticipated Dark Knight Rises, Joss Whedon's epic won almost universal praise. Some even say it has a shot at becoming the rare superhero flick that scores a Best Picture nod at the Oscars.
The Hunger Games catches on like wildfire

After the behemoth successes of such YA adaptation franchises as Harry Potter and Twilight, The Hunger Games had some insanely high expectations to meet, from fans as well as box office watchers. Yet we were all blown away by its results. Critics cheered the dystopian thriller, and audiences turned out in droves upon droves, driving The Hunger Games to break one box office record after another. Amassing more than $686 million worldwide, it became the third highest grossing film of the year, and proved once and for all that a female heroine is not a box office liability. Plus, its star Jennifer Lawrence has shown to be a girl on fire in her own right, drawing rave reviews for this feature and Oscar buzz for her 180 degree turn as an unhinged young widow in Silver Linings Playbook. May the odds be ever in her favor.
The Dark Knight Rises, check please.

As the release of the third installment of Christopher Nolan's game-changing Batman trilogy approached, some fans were so fervent in their anticipation that they threatened any critic who dared say a word against it. But once The Dark Knight Rises actually opened in July, audiences divided over the franchise's finale, in which Alfred spots Bruce Wayne alive and well in a café with Selina Kyle. Some decided this was a satisfying happy ending after so much tragedy. Others insisted Bruce is dead and this scene was a wishful thinking projection on Alfred's part, while the rest bemoaned the whole sequence as sloppy and sentimental. Half a year has gone by. The film has become a bona fide blockbuster earning more than $1 billion worldwide. Yet this is still a touchy subject to many devoted fans of The Dark Knight movies.
Brave's unbearable twist?

Hopes were high for Pixar's latest, which boasted their first female protagonist. But following an ad campaign that was extremely elusive about the particulars of the feature's plot, the critic community split on whether Brave was a hit or a miss. Here at Cinema Blend we adored the movie, and were perplexed by the hatred some od our peers felt for it. Ultimately, we determined many detractors were outraged over the adventure's bear-centric plot twist. But while critics bickered about Brave's place in the Pixar hierarchy of greatness, audiences were awed by Merida's fantastical tale, resulting in a box office of more than $535 million worldwide, awarding it the #7 spot for highest grossing film of the year. So, it appears the fates were with Brave after all.
Ted dirty talks his way to the top

After spewing his fearlessly lewd and crude brand of comedy into television with Family Guy, American Dad! and The Cleveland Show, Seth MacFarlane made the leap to movies with a warped tale of a boy and his bear. Much like audiences have taken to his TV pairings of manchild and magical talking buddy, moviegoers adored Ted. Pulling in more than $500 million worldwide, this raunchy comedy was not only a financial success ten times over, but also the 8th highest grossing film of the year. Moreover, it's the highest grossing R-rated movie of the year with 21 Jump Street being its closest competition at #18. And all this outstanding success spurred the chronically austere Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to invite MacFarlane to be this year's Oscar MC… for better or worse.
Moonrise Kingdom breaks out

One of the most coveted tickets at the Cannes Film Festival this year was the debut of Wes Anderson's 1960s-set love story Moonrise Kingdom. Critics cheered the film, which broke box office records upon its limited release weeks later. Opening in only four theaters, the quirky comedy earned the best per-theater-average for a non-animated feature, and its release soon expanded.

To date, the $16 million movie has made more than $66 million worldwide, and is gaining traction in the awards race, scoring praise from various critic circles as well as a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture in the musical or comedy division. And according to Katey, this pastel-colored romance is poised to be a contender for The Academy Awards' Best Picture honor as well.
The Cabin In The Woods shocks and awes

For years this horror comedy was lost in the downward spiral of MGM. When production on Drew Goddard's directorial debut wrapped in the spring of 2009, the movie was slated for a release in early 2010. But before filing for bankruptcy, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer bumped back the opening to 2011 with plans to paste on some retrofitted 3D. Thankfully, the studio sold the original film's distribution rights instead, and Lionsgate snatched it up, finally unveiling it in April of 2012.

Getting bounced around like this often hurts a movie's buzz, but unveiled at South by Southwest The Cabin in the Woods surprised and thrilled critics, who rained far more praise on the feature than horror films typically garner. And as Top 10 lists pop up, this title is resurfacing on many of them, including three of own.
The Hobbit finally emerges

The Hobbit was another production that got tripped up in MGM's financial problems, but finally made its way to theaters this year. After the spectacular success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it seemed a no-brainer to make a prequel of J.R.R. Tolkein's beloved tale of Bilbo Baggins. But it was no easy task to get the massively budgeted project on track.

Memorably, Guillermo del Toro was slated to helm what was once planned to be a two-part film series. However, after two years of delays and financing issues, he walked away and Jackson returned to direct. Then, there was the marathon production of 266 days to get through. Following wrap this past summer, Jackson delighted many fans by announcing two films would be three. At long last, December saw the release of An Unexpected Journey, which is being warmly received by critics and audiences, already passing the $100 million box office marker domestically. It seems safe to say Jackson is as chuffed as his fans.
A terrible year for Taylor Kitsch

With the impending releases of John Carter, Battleship, and Oliver Stone's Savages, the roguish star of the beloved TV drama Friday Night Lights was poised for potential movie mega-stardom this year. Of course, that would have required at least one of those films hitting big. Though John Carter is now finding a second life and new admirers on DVD, it was initially panned upon its release. And with a production budget of $250 million, it's domestic box office of $73 mil made it one of the year's most resounding box office bombs. Then came Battleship, the $209 million sci-fi thriller that was loathed by critics and sank financially, earning only $65 million domestically. Each did better in the international market, but neither to the point where their reputations were spared.

By July it seemed Savages could be Kitsch's saving grace, but the ultra violent and chaotic crime drama was also scorned by critics and its meager box office success wasn't enough offset all Kitsch's losses. Still, there's hope for Kitsch in 2013, as he reteams with Battleship's director, Peter Berg, for the SEAL Team thriller Lone Survivor and co-stars opposite Brendan Gleeson in the Ken Scott comedy The Grand Seduction. Remember, Riggins: clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!

A great year for Channing Tatum

Ending on an up note, 2012 was undoubtedly the year of Channing Tatum. Just days before the release his first of three collaborations with Steven Soderbergh, our own Katey Rich declared there was more to Tatum than his good looks and charm. This year he proved it.

He leapt from the critically heralded espionage thriller Haywire to the glossy romance The Vow, which took in an impressive $196 million worldwide. The very next month he delighted critics and audiences with the surprisingly hilarious reboot 21 Jump Street. This is not only his highest rated release on the Rotten Tomatoes scale, but also one of the highest-grossing R-rated movies of the year. Yet this was all prelude to Tatum's summer stunner Magic Mike.

His second brush with Soderbergh received mostly rave reviews from critics, but more impressively this art house character drama about a stripper with ambition pulled in massive audiences, earning more than $167 million worldwide. Plus, it not only displayed Tatum's drama chops, sexy skin and jaw-dropping dance moves, but also made him a household name. In short, it's been a very good year, both for Tatum and for those of us who can't get enough of him.

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