Face Off: 2012 Movies vs. 2013 Movies

Last Updated on August 3, 2021

When Rocky and Raging Bull got into the ring for last week’s Face Off, it seems that more of you agreed that Rocky was the reigning champ. Yo, Adrian!

Another 52 weeks of movies is now in the rearview mirror, and Hollywood gave us seemingly endless attractions that made them ungodly amounts of money. But how did the high points of 2013 movies measure up against the previous year in theaters?

THE AVENGERS – Assembling Marvel’s mightiest heroes (that they have the rights to) on the big screen turned out to be greater than the sum of its parts and something just about everyone wanted to see, judging by the colossal success of writer-director Joss Whedon’s efforts — it’s the third biggest moneymaker of all time.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES – The end of Christopher Nolan’s “realistic” Batman trilogy had Christian Bale’s retired billionaire return to the cowl and growl to duel with curiously cheerful Gotham-breaker Bane. Though not as successful or satisfying as THE DARK KNIGHT, TDKR was the second-biggest box office draw of the year.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN – Just five years after Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire put away their Spider-suit, the wall-crawler got rebooted for a whole new generation of people who didn’t exist or pay attention five years before. Despite a poorly realized villain, jarring editing, dangling subplots, hints at a convoluted “genetic destiny” origin, and a rather dickish Peter Parker, the movie ended up being one of the summer’s blockbusters.

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE – Nicolas Cage returned to the role of demon-possessed biker Johnny Blaze to rescue a gypsy kid and urinate flames. Let us not discuss further.

DREDD – Though not technically “super”, Mega City One’s top lawman still has comic book origins. The Urban-ized DREDD was DOA in theaters, but the gritty flick has since become something of a cult fave.

IRON MAN 3 – With assistance from his KISS KISS BANG BANG writer-director Shane Black, Robert Downey Jr. proved he doesn’t need the rest of the Marvel roster for a thrilling hit — the biggest of the year, in fact. I’m just glad to know that Dummy was recovered.

MAN OF STEEL – The world’s most recognizable superhero returned (well, re-returned after returning in SUPERMAN RETURNS) to save the planet by punching General Zod and his Kryptonian cohorts through most of the major structures in Smallville and Metropolis. Audiences cheered, or at least saw it enough times to make it the fourth-biggest release of 2013.

THOR: THE DARK WORLD – Marvel’s second post-AVENGERS feature took the Thunder God back to his native Asgard for a more appealing solo outing that overcame a weak villain mostly by providing more Loki. Tumblrs rejoiced.

THE WOLVERINE – Logan’s trip to Japan was a step up in quality from the (justifiably) maligned X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, and yet domestically, Hugh Jackman’s latest adamantium adventure was the lowest-grossing mutant movie so far.

KICK-ASS 2 – The first KICK-ASS couldn’t convert Comic Con buzz to box office, but still ended up being a slow-burn success. Crowds didn’t turn up at all for the sequel, which was vibrant and violent yet strangely lifeless.

Actor MVP’s


Sandra Bullock (GRAVITY, THE HEAT)


Jennifer Lawrence (THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE, AMERICAN HUSTLE, her interviews)

Box Office Biggies
Katniss Everdeen, Bilbo Baggins, massive sequels, computer-animated hits, and a gallery of lucrative comic book characters.

But 2012 also had: James Bond’s most productive mission ever (SKYFALL), a foul-mouthed Teddy bear that audiences adored (TED), the sad end of everyone’s favorite sparkly-vampire franchise (THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2), and a great President casting a long shadow over the box office (LINCOLN).

Katniss Everdeen, Bilbo Baggins, massive sequels, computer-animated hits, and a gallery of lucrative comic book characters.

But 2013 also had: A dizzying space-based thriller (GRAVITY), a globetrotting Brad Pitt battling zombies and production troubles (WORLD WAR Z), an early trip somewhere over the rainbow (OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL), and a handful of original R-rated comedies (WE’RE THE MILLERS, THE HEAT, IDENTITY THIEF).

Other Surprises
Bruce Willis is more engaging as an uncooperative future version of Joseph Gordon-Levitt (LOOPER)

There are still other ways to make interesting use of “found footage” and superpowers (CHRONICLE)

Quentin Tarantino’s controversial slavery Western DJANGO UNCHAINED went on to be the filmmaker’s biggest movie yet

Disney demonstrated that they don’t need Pixar or fairy tale source material for animated success — WRECK-IT RALPH became one of the year’s highest grossers (even if Pixar’s lesser effort BRAVE ultimately finished higher on the list…)

Maybe summer isn’t such a bad time to release a serious drama (THE BUTLER) or an adaptation of required school reading (THE GREAT GATSBY)

The low-budget Mexican romantic comedy INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED was more popular than movies featuring Ryan Reynolds, Vin Diesel, Vince Vaughn, Steve Carell, and One Direction

Emotional zombies are actually quite endearing (WARM BODIES)

Gerard Butler had more star power than Channing Tatum, at least when it involved saving the President and annihilating White House invaders (OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN)

Taylor Kitsch is absolutely not an A-list star (BATTLESHIP, SAVAGES, JOHN CARTER)

Putting “too many major characters” together is okay if they have colorful costumes and good writing (THE AVENGERS)

Unfortunately, audiences just don’t gravitate to stop-motion animation (PARANORMAN, FRANKENWEENIE, THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS)


A-list stars are in no way guaranteed to hit $100 million (THE LONE RANGER, AFTER EARTH, A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD, WHITE HOUSE DOWN)

Low-budget horror = big returns (THE CONJURING, MAMA, THE PURGE, INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2)

Old action stars are not a huge box office draw unless you put like 15 of them together (BULLET TO THE HEAD, THE LAST STAND, GRUDGE MATCH, ESCAPE PLAN)

Bestselling young-adult novels do not necessarily translate to hit movie franchises (THE HOST, THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES, BEAUTIFUL CREATURES)

2012 Movies
As far as actual total box office figures, this was almost a dead heat — 2013 made a few bucks more overall, but 2012 got there in more satisfying style.

Sure, 2013 had its share of dazzling moments (GRAVITY), some genre gems (THE WORLD’S END, WARM BODIES) and plenty of potent performances (12 YEARS A SLAVE), but SKYFALL was 007 at his best and THE AVENGERS was a such an overwhelming pop-culture milestone and defining moment for geeks (particularly lifelong Marvel fans like myself) — what had once seemed unimaginable was very real and ridiculously entertaining, swiftly prompting other studios to get the wheels cranking on their own attempts at profit-maximizing crossover projects.

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