Last year was brutal for beards: Matisyahu and Conan O’Brien shaved theirs, and Osama bin Laden’s became a sea life habitat, thanks to SEAL Team 6. But 2012 has been fantastic for facial hair, from movies to TV to video games to “The Hunger Games.”
Without further ado, the greatest whiskers of the past 12 months…
Best Superhero Facial Hair: Bruce Wayne, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’
Not so long ago, comic book heroes were clean-shaven while villains twirled their mustaches. But in “The Avengers,” bare-faced Loki is no match for bearded Thor, Iron Man and Nick Fury. That said, the only crime-fighter more badass than Batman is unkempt, clinically depressed Batman. Until caveman-style Wolverine hits screens next year.
Best Nostalgic Facial Hair: Agent J, ‘MiB 3′ and Gandalf, ‘The Hobbit’
You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. Fortunately, Will Smith and Ian McKellen brought back their signature looks in a sequel and a prequel respectively. Truth be told, Gandalf is the clear winner here, but Smith’s old-school mustache brings back happy ’90s memories of “Fresh Prince” and “Independence Day,” so we’ll call it a draw.
Best Cartoon Facial Hair: Master Splinter, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’
“The Lorax” had a good mustache to match its good message, and the captain’s beard from “Pirates! Band of Misfits” is a strong challenger, but Splinter’s rodent soul patch goes forever in the new “Ninja Turtles” cartoon. Keep that beaut away from Shredder.
Best Lincoln Facial Hair: Daniel Day-Lewis, ‘Lincoln’
Second Best Lincoln Facial Hair: Andrew Lincoln, ‘The Walking Dead’
Best Video Game Beard: May Payne, ‘Max Payne 3′
In his 2001 and 2003 outings, Max Payne had a smooth face and a full head of hair. In 2012, he apparently got hooked on “Breaking Bad.” The Walter White look is difficult to pull off–especially while wearing a Hawaiian shirt–but this effort is exemplary. Why not replace Mark Wahlberg with Bryan Cranston for the movie sequel?
Best Liam Neeson Facial Hair: Liam Neeson, ‘The Grey’
His beard was longer in “Wrath of the Titans” and the re-released “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” but size doesn’t matter. Just look at his snow-capped face in the above still! If we were wolves, we’d want to chew it off too, just so it would be ours forever. (Sorry, did we get creepy for a second? We’re kinda intense about this subject matter.)
Best Facial Hair in Music: ZZ Top
Credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images
Many rappers have unquestionably great beards, sure, but Texas rock legends ZZ Top–who released their first album in nearly a decade earlier this year–have the lushest natural growth face forests on earth. Better luck next time, ?uestlove.
Best Villain Facial Hair: Abu Nazir, ‘Homeland’
This Showtime series about a U.S. Marine-turned-terrorist is full of fine beards–specifically, Mandy Patinkin‘s–but it takes real evil to rock one like Abu Nazir. Too bad he shaved it halfway through the current season. (Yeah, the villain’s name has the word “Nazi” in it. Subtle!)
BONUS: Worst Facial Hair of 2012: Tom Hanks, ‘Cloud Atlas’
We didn’t see “Cloud Atlas” (and neither did anyone else, according to the box office), but we can’t unsee this. We almost admire that goatee and those ‘burns for sheer ridiculousness, but nope… this is definitely a fail. Some guys just need a close shave.
“The Big & Best of 2012: A Year End Celebration Presented by T-Mobile” goes LIVE at 12 p.m.-8p.m. ET on 12/12/12. Watch at BigAndBestOf2012.com for eight hours of live performances from stars like Bruno Mars and Miguel, surprise guest appearances, prize giveaways, special editions of “RapFix Live,” “Big Morning Buzz Live,” “MTV After Hours,” “You Oughta Know” and much more!