So, is it possible to run a movie review/conversation website and get away with not having a “Top X” list for a year? Well, I don’t think so! Actually, I think it’s one of the more fun things to do in this non-business. Taking a look back at the year in movies gives you an idea, not only what stuck with me or flopped (IMHO), but what themes and ideas culture really couldn’t get enough of. With that said, here is a list of my 13 favorite films of 2013. I had originally thought it was a poor year for films, but the year end really redeemed things!
A quick note first– there were a number of films that I simply did not get to see but wanted to mention because they garnered a lot of acclaim, and may have made this list if I had seen them (or not). So, here are some honorable unseen mentions: Philomena, Nebraska, Fruitvale Station, and Inside Llewyn Davis.
On with the show!
13. Dallas Buyers Club
I was able to sneak a viewing of this movie in right before I finalized this list. This movie features a hard-to-love anti-hero, who faced with his own mortality has to reevaluate everything. Not only is this film powerful because it’s based on a true story, but the ultimate “David vs. Goliath” battle that takes place between Ron Woodfroof and a mix-prioritized FDA. The biggest downside to this film is that with so many outstanding performances, we are also saddled with Jennifer Garner who looks lost most of the time.
12. Thor The Dark World
The MARVEL machine continues to roll on in phase two. While I think this doesn’t make a lot of the mistakes Iron Man 3 does, this isn’t a perfect film. But, it does, finally, envelop us in an Asgard that has its own struggles and shows us that even beings labeled as gods have very relatable problems.
11. Captain Phillips
This film probably stakes its claim here on the power of its two lead characters, alone. There have been few more powerful scenes in film from 2013 than the PTSD scene that Tom Hanks plays out on screen for us at the end of this movie. Two characters who must do whatever they have to in order to survive– from very different perspectives.
10. The World’s End
Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg bring a refreshing comedy in their final installment of the Cornetto Trilogy. As usual, it’s not only about laughs like many, more crass, American comedies, but the film struggles with some familiar themes about lost youth and extended adolescence as its predecessors do.
9. Much Ado About Nothing
It would take something special to allow a simple adaptation to make the “best of” list of the year– and Joss Whedon does just that. After proving he can do it with a huge budget, he also proves he can do it with a small budget. The classic comedy of love, family, stubbornness, and betrayal play itself out beautifully in this adaptation… so well, in fact, it almost makes you forget about that version with Keanu Reeves.
8. American Hustle
David O. Russell is now famous for giving us characters we love through the good times and bad. We just want to be on the journey. It’s why this movie, which is not his best, is still so full of amazingly interesting characters and situations with just enough at stake to keep us wondering how things would pan out.
I want to clarify by saying that I really enjoyed Gravity… but, outside of seeing it in IMAX 3D, I don’t really have a lot of desire to see it again. This film was the most beautiful film I have seen in a theater and it was worth every penny, but the story was a little too simple in retrospect, though it did raise a lot of good questions about how and why one should let go of their past.
6. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
One of only two films I saw this year where I immediately wanted to go right back in the theater and watch it again. Not only are the stakes of the franchise raised in every way in this installment, but the quality in which it was done was as well. The struggle for Panem is becoming very real and the very nature of government resistance and control comes into question more with each viewing.
5. The Wolf of Wall Street
Most people I know who lambasted this film did so without watching it. Not only was this film laugh-out-loud ridiculous in showing the debauchery that the lifestyle of greed and one-upsmanship brings, but it leaves the viewer with some fundamental questions about the failures of the economic systems that are in place and the people who thrive in them. It has been a long time since a movie this long flew by because of such sharp story-telling.
In what turns out to be one of the most unique and interesting films of the year, Her manages to hit you on nearly every level and emotion. Joaquin Phoenix is also amazing in displaying the emotions of a character who is truly in the middle of a self-discovery; letting go of his past, self-actualization, understanding the need for companionship. Her tells us a lot about ourselves that we probably aren’t ready to listen to.
3. The Way, Way Back
Small budget coming-of-age tales seem like a dime a dozen in most award years, but the simple, yet powerful story that is told in The Way Way Back is one that is frighteningly relatable. It doesn’t hurt that Sam Rockwell and Steve Carell deliver some incredibly surprising performances to throw us into a world of a fatherless teenager.
2. Pacific Rim
I don’t care what anyone says because this movie was awesome. Not only do we see humanity on the brink and the many different ways people deal with that– but this is a movie about giant monsters fighting giant robots to save the planet from destruction and even with those two classic tropes, at no point did this movie feel silly or pandering. I would consider this one of Guillermo del Toro’s masterpieces.
1. 12 Years A Slave
Tough, rough, and hard to watch at times. I sat through most of this movie with my jaw hanging wide being sucked into the injustice of Solomon Northup’s story. While I never felt that I was supposed to feel guilty for what befell him, I did feel as if I had a glimpse into history and was completely immersed in that history by a strong script, fantastic directing, and some of the most gut-wrenching performances in 2013.
Honorable Mentions (see also. almost made the list) in order: World War Z, Don Jon, Saving Mr.Banks, Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
What made your list of best of the best this year? Where do we agree? Where do we disagree? Let me know in the comments– I’d love to know what connected with people this year.