WOW… What a year it has been for film in 2013. Starting off slowly, this year quickly turned into one of the best years for film that I’ve ever seen (keep in mind that’s only 18 years). This being my first eight months as a critic, I’ve changed how I view movies substantially, but I’d like to think that I never forgot why we all go to movies. We want to escape our lives for a moment and be entertained by someone else’s. I may do star ratings (which suck), but I try to factor in a number of things when I rate a movie. Entertainment is always a key factor, followed by characters, direction, writings, etc. I don’t like picking films apart because that’s not what I, nor you all want. Is the movie good? That’s the most common question I receive and try to answer in my reviews.
Below, I’ve created “Best Films of 2013” list for 20 movies that really stuck with me. Some of the picks may not make sense to you and I can totally understand that. Some of my highest rated films may not be in my Best Films of 2013 list. Over the course of this year, my opinions may have changed , or I personally felt stronger about something than I did before. Either way, this is my list and it only reflects what I think. I liked a lot this year, but these are the Glengarry’s. If you have any questions or seek elaboration, feel free to comment. I’ve included my reviews in the title’s and trailers at the bottom of each pick. Some reviews may look different, as they were written in an earlier style of my reviewing. Without further ado, here are my Best Films of 2013!
Talk about a great time at the movies. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has been one of the most enjoyable films that I’ve seen all year. Ben Stiller does a great job acting and directing his passion project. The character of Walter Mitty is a great resemblance to most people, as we all daydream when we’re working. We want to go out and experience life and this film captures that so well. With the help of a love interest (Kristen Wiig) and a carefree photojournalist (Sean Penn), Walter Mitty goes and finds adventure for himself. The gorgeous scenery and the things he experiences are enough to make you want to book a flight for the most interesting and remote place you can find. Dreams are one thing, but experiencing life is where the real fun happens. I took that and much, much more away from this delightful film.
Matthew McConaughey is having one hell of a year. In the last six films he’s been in, the actor has turned his career around and is more serious than ever. There’s no question that his best work is in Dallas Buyer Club, the true story of a Dallas man who contracted AIDS, which would come to change his life and the way he looks at life. Before the disease, Ron Woodroof was a racist, sexist, homophobic, and disgusting man. After meeting Rayon (Jared Leto), a transvestite, he slowly learns to see things from another prospective. When government drugs aren’t helping, Woodroof begins selling memberships to AIDS patients and gives them unapproved vitamins that actually help them fight the disease. Leto, lead singer of 30 Seconds to Mars, also gives his best performance in what may be the most talked about role this year. Both McConaughey and Leto dropped a lot of weight for their roles and lose themselves within their characters, making this film even more touching.
18. American Hustle
In the last two years, director David O. Russell has made two tremendous films, with two incredible casts. The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook were two of the best films in their respective years and their casts are the main reason for that. With American Hustle, O. Russell fused his two casts to create a film about hustling and the reason why people hustle all the time. With knockout performances from Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Jennifer Lawrence, as well as the best performances I’ve seen from Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner, this film succeeds because of its amazing characters. The dialog is crisp and quick and the film rarely lags. It may be a bit long and a bit unsure of itself, but the cast holds it together and makes this one of the more entertaining films of the year.
I’d hope that everyone has a basic understanding of what WikiLeaks is but, if not, We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks does a wonderful job giving you the whole story on what this organization is all about. Oscar winning director Alex Gibney traces the origins of the site back to founder Julian Assange‘s childhood as a hacker. Assange started the organization to the let the whistle-blowers of the world reveal the dark secrets they hold. The film explores government cover-ups, how the site has managed to stay alive, and also focuses on the good and bad that the site brings. What I loved most about this film, was the fact that it never took a side. You’re presented with all the information and it’s up to you to decide what you believe. I think it takes a hell of a director to not pick a side and as a result, this film stands as my second best documentary of the year. You’ll leave informed and concerned, which I think is a good thing.
16. The Way Way Back
The first coming of age film on this list, The Way Way Back left a huge impression on me. Nat Faxon and Jim Rash wrote last year’s The Descendants and now have successfully written and directed this hilariously, touching film. Liam James plays your typical introvert teenager who just doesn’t belong. His mom is dating a man he hates and nobody really understands him. It’s after he meets Owen, played spectacularly by Sam Rockwell, that he breaks out of his shell and learns to have some fun. Rockwell delivers one of the funniest and most heart-warming performances this year and shines brighter than anyone in this star-studded cast. He steals every scene and will grow on you very quickly. This movie also made me hate Steve Carell‘s jerk of a character and hating Carell never seemed possible. With The Way Way Back, you get comedy, truth, love, and a lot of great lessons.
Though he may be known for his Sci-Fi television shows, or his Billion Dollar film The Avengers, Joss Whedon (King of the Nerds) is a Shakespearean enthusiast at heart. Every month, Whedon holds a Shakespeare production at his home, with a cast composed of his former collaborators. This time around, he decided to film their performance of Much Ado About Nothing and it couldn’t have turned out better. Not only does this film highlight how great of a writer Shakespeare was, but it also highlights just how great Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Reed Diamond, and Fran Kranz are at acting. This movie is so much fun and its replay value has no limit. I have seen this film at least ten times this year and I can’t get enough. This modern retelling is a blast and will make those on-the-fence about Shakespeare adore him. Shot in black-and-white, this film doesn’t try to be all that and its simplicity makes it all the more delightful. If you’re looking for a fun time with amazing acting, look no further.
I only saw this movie about three times in theaters and I don’t think that’s nearly enough. Alfonso Cuaron brought this year’s most game changing film to the realm of IMAX 3D and blew the minds of millions. Gravity is a cinematic experience that is like no other and it’s something that everyone should try at least once. Whether it was the breathtaking views of Earth, or the empty void of Space, this film was full of enriching scenery that aided us through the journey of a stranded astronaut. The concept for this film is frighteningly realistic and you couldn’t help but wonder what you would do, had you been in Sandra Bullocks shoes. The dead silence and realistic environment was captivating and I couldn’t help but gaze in awe as I saw Sandra fight to stay alive. Space really is the harshest environment, but fortunately, this movie is easily among this year’s best (technically and overall).
The second of two documentaries to make my “Best” list, The Act of Killing has been the best documentary I’ve seen all year. Gruesome and hard to watch at times, the film details the Indonesian genocide that occurred from 1965-1966 and follows Anwar Congo, the man at the head of the Death Squads. Director Joshua Oppenheimer approached the issue in such a unique manner and single-handily changed the format of a Documentary. Upon learning that Congo is a movie fan, Oppenheimer asked Congo to portray the styles of killings that went on in Indonesia, by acting them out according to different movie genres. The end result is horrific and revealing and makes for the most eye-opening film this year. It may be tough, but it’s one of the best films you’ll find this year.
12. About Time
Richard Curtis is writer and a director whom I simply adore. He’s the man responsible for nearly every great British Romantic-Comedy and he’s also the man behind my favorite Christmas movie, Love Actually. With About Time, Curtis tells another great story of love that has a hint of Science-Fiction to it. Tim, played brilliantly by Domhnall Gleeson, finds out from his father (the wonderful Bill Nighy) that he can travel in time and he uses that power for love. Despite the fact that he finds love with Rachel McAdams, the film is more about his relationship with his father and it’s one of the more beautiful and touching films that I’ve seen. It’s the best and most fragile that I’ve seen from Nighy and his relationship with Gleeson makes this terrific movie and even greater finish to Curtis’ efforts as a director.
11. 12 Years A Slave
Making waves at every awards show and theater that it plays, 12 Years A Slave is quite possibly the most talked about film of this entire year. Director Steve McQueen has made two smaller, yet still stupendous, films and has now been thrust into the public with his latest and most “controversial” film. Recounting the true story of freeman Solomon Northup, this film follows Chiwitel Ejiofor as Northup, as he’s abducted and sold into slavery for 12 long years. Filled with tear-jerking scenes and powerful images, this film is easily the hardest film to sit through this year. Ejiofor does one of the finest jobs this year and makes you feel this characters pain. With outstanding supporting performances from Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong’o, this film details the horrors of slavery that are often swept under the rug. If you’ve got the stomach for it, this film is a must see for this year.
Like a bat out of hell, Ron Howard‘s latest film comes at you with full force. It’s a shame that not too many people saw this film, because they missed out on one of the most exhilarating films of the year. The speed and risk of Formula 1 racing comes alive when leads Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl spark the most enticing rivalry that I’ve ever seen portrayed in film. The ability to better oneself through competition is amazing and two see the two characters grow after every race is amazing. The cinematography is wonderful and the inner-workings of the cars is also pretty fun to see. For the most part, Rush is entertainment to the max and stands out as one of the best and most fun movies this year.
It’s safe to say that most everyone has thought about running away from home. What if, however, you actually did and went off into the woods with your best friends? You would build your own house and live by your own rules. Nothing could touch you and you’d be free to do whatever you want. The Kings of Summer hits teenage angst on the head with a very large hammer. With modern dialog (meaning swearing and dirty subject matter), realistic situations, and a firm grasp on how teenagers deal with stress, this film is perfect for any high schooler or adult who’s ever felt like they needed an escape. Led by Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises, and Nick Offerman, this film balances comedy and drama extremely well. It’s so easy to relate to these characters and understand where they’re coming from, because they’re YOU! I laughed my ass off at much of the film, but I also thought hard about what it would be like if I ran off with my friends. Would I be able to survive? Would I immediately come back home? Whatever the answer, I knew that I’d always have my best friends and this film exemplifies that in every way.
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen are two of the most well-known directors to ever live and their filmography never ceases to amaze. With such hits as Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and No Country For Old Men, you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get from this director duo. With Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen’s do it again and create more movie magic. Following the life of a struggling Folk Singer in New York, this is a story of music, ambitions, reality, and sadness. As we all know, Folk music never really caught on and the artists who played it never rose to fame. Llewyn only has his music to keep him going and the constant rejection is beginning to wear him down. Rather than selling-out and switching to catchy Pop tunes, Llewyn stays true to himself and his music, even if it means he has to live on stranger’s couches and barely get by. The Soundtrack is one of the finest this year and Oscar Isaac is soon going to become a household name. His performance as Llewyn Davis is nothing short of star-making and his resemblance to anyone struggling to follow their dreams is almost saddening. Suffice to say, the Coen’s are really on top of their game.
Disney is starting to gain traction, as its last three films have all been great successes. With Frozen, we’re taken back to a time when Disney Princesses ruled our childhoods and their sweet songs filled our households. The ever-charming Kristen Bell and new Broadway legend Idina Menzel voice Anna and Elsa, two princesses who live cooped up in a castle. The reason being, is because Elsa has the ability to freeze things and create frozen structure with her hands. After their parents die, Elsa ascends to the throne, but things go awry when her powers are revealed and she runs away to the mountains. Anna, Olaf the Snowman (Josh Gad), Mountain Man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), and a reindeer must rescue her with their singing and powers of love. With a Broadway-like Soundtrack (composed by Avenue Q. and The Book of Mormon writers), stunning visuals, and two of the best written female characters this year, this film will tug at your heart and immerse you in the world of Disney. I have the soundtrack on repeat and can’t wait to see this film for the third time. The magic of Disney is back!
Being the first film I saw in 2013, The Place Beyond the Pines holds a special place in my heart. A film composed of three separate, yet intertwining, stories, this film really leaves a great impression with each. Following the life of a new father (Ryan Gosling) who will do anything to provide for his son, a police officer (Bradley Cooper) caught between moral decisions, and two teenagers (Dane DeHaan & Emory Cohen) affected by their surroundings, these raw characters are some of the best this year. Director Derek Cianfrance displayed his talents for the raw and emotional with his feature film Blue Valentine and his skills have only progressed since then. This is a film that will touch fathers who want the best for their sons and sons who want to understand their father’s decisions. The writing is spectacular and the development of the characters is something else. The emotion and passion within the actors really amazed me and their performances are still among the best this year, along with this film as a whole.
I saw this film with a good friend of mine and we sobbed in our seats and were completely immobilized by the end of the film. Tackling the true story of Marcus Luttrell and Seal Team 10‘s Operation Red Wing, this film follows four members of the team who went into the Afghanistan mountains in search of a Taliban leader. When compromised by Taliban members, the men decide to let the men go, rather than kill them or leave them overnight. Knowing that they would be met by Taliban forces, the men fought for one another and endured multiple bullet wounds, falling off multiple cliffs, and shrapnel from constant RPG firings. Outnumbered over 200:4, Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Lt. Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch), and Matt Axelson (Ben Foster) fought in the mountains until only Luttrell became the Lone Survivor. Luttrell has traveled the world and has recounted his story of terror and true bravery in order to preserve the memory of his fallen brothers who helped save his life. With this film, director Peter Berg has paid homage to the men who protect our country, by showing everything they go through and how much they care for one another. When I saw this film, I immediately knew it was among the best this year and it stands as one of the best war films that I’ve ever seen.
Concluding what is my fourth favorite trilogy, Before Midnight is a really special film. It’s been nine years since Before Sunset, and Before Sunrise was nine years before that. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy create the best on-screen relationship of any film and their writing, as well as the writing and directing of Richard Linklater, has stuck with me since seeing this film. The reality of relationships and how they work has been the theme of this trilogy and this last installment focuses on growing up, raising a family, and the struggles that come with it. The writing is perfect and the characters seem like the most believable couple ever. Whether they’re engaging in a half-hour car trip conversation about jobs and the future, or bickering in a hotel room and nearly ending it all, Hawke and Delpy serve up two of the best performances of the year in one of the best films of the year. Whoever says guys can’t like Romance films should go watch this trilogy and bask in its greatness.
Quite possibly the most heartbreaking film on this list, Short Term 12 is one of the most emotional films that I know of. Following the lives of volunteers and inhabitants at a foster care facility, this film brings the issues of foster care children front and center. You can only know so much by looking in from the outside and this film takes you deep within the recesses of the minds of children and young adults who have lost everything. Brie Larson leads the film in a role that demands understanding, tragic circumstances, and love, and she excels in every respect of the word. Her gentle nature and care for the children is enough to get your heart warm and her tragic past will leave goosebumps all over. “So You Think You Know”, a song by Keith Stanfield (who plays Marcus, an almost 18-year-old about to phase out), will leave you immobilized and in tears. We have no idea what these children go through, but you’ll leave the film knowing how you can help and make a deference. This film is so important and needs to be seen by everyone. I can only hope that this film’s audience grows when it comes to DVD because I believe that it will change you and your outlook on things, as it did mine.
If you thought Wes Anderson was the only one who could be quirky and charming, think again. Spike Jonze has delivered the most unusual and original love story in ages. In a time where originality in Hollywood was lacking, Jonze rebelled and went against all odds to create Her, an unorthodox love drama that takes place in the near future. In a world where technology consumes our everyday lives, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) finds himself alone and without anyone to interact with. That is, until he gets the newest operating system and discovers that it can think for itself and also expand its knowledge. Calling herself Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), Theodore’s new operating system quickly grows into a charming and curious almost-being that wildly intrigues the audience and Theodore. Eventually, the two form a bond closer than friendship and begin to fall in love. But how? He’s a human and she’s an operating system! I know, I know… It sounds really odd, but it’s something of magic and mystery. Jonze managed to write two amazing and complex characters who, against every thinkable obstacle, fall in love and try to make it work. Scarlett Johansson’s voice work is the best I’ve ever heard from an actor/actress and you may even fall in love with Samantha too. However, you can’t deny the amazing work that Phoenix does as a man who emotes his love of an operating system. This film stays with you and that’s a really great thing, as it’s runner-up for my best film of the year.
For those who know me, this pick doesn’t come as much of a surprise. For the entire year, The Wolf of Wall Street has been my most anticipated film. Leonardo DiCaprio is my favorite actor and Martin Scorsese is my favorite director. I read the book that this is based on and immediately knew that this was the film to wait for. I went in with an open mind (still expecting to be wowed) and left with my eyes out of my head and a smile from ear-to-ear. Not only did this film exceed my high expectations, but it also blew every other film this year (and quite possibly the last few years) out of the water for me. From start to finish, this three-hour film is full of: sex, money, drugs, hookers, profanity, and it all goes by in what seems like an hour-and-a-half. Barely receiving an “R” rating, this film doesn’t hold back with its visuals and the always foul language. DiCaprio really brings it and loses himself in one of the most disgustingly interesting humans to work on Wall Street. I mean, he goes nuts and delivers his best performance of all time. Also turning in his best work, is Jonah Hill, who plays DiCaprio’s partner in crime. The two create the most outrageous chemistry and also provide the world with one of the greatest scenes ever that involves lots of Quaaludes. With incredible direction from the legendary Martin Scorsese, this film covers one of the most interesting and revolting stories that you’ll ever hear. Margot Robbie also makes a star of herself with this film and I’m sure she’ll be People’s “Sexiest Woman Alive” in no time. I knew that this film was the best at only five minutes in. There has not been a film that’s been this entertaining, funny, and shocking in a long time. If you’re seeking pure enjoyment, or the best film of 2013, The Wolf of Wall Street is the film for you.
Thanks for reading and thanks for an amazing year!