“Top 10 Films of 2013” – by Daniel Rester

“Top 10 Films of 2013” 

by Daniel Rester

Well, here we are once again with another year gone and another year full of great films. And now I have the difficulty of boiling it all down to the very best of the year. Note that I did not get to see every single film from 2013, but I saw many, many more films than the average viewer. Also, my choices will be going by U.S. release dates (which means having had a limited or wide release outside of just festivals).

Keep in mind that these are just my picks and not to everyone’s tastes, but I value my list-making (it’s one of the more enjoyable things about being a film critic) and love to hear what others think of my choices. I also love to hear what others have for their favorites, so make sure to comment down below and let me know. Without further ado, let’s get to the best cinematic achievements of 2013.

Some well-regarded films I missed in 2013 but will eventually see (alphabetical order): August: Osage County, Blue Jasmine, Concussion, Disconnect, The East, Enough Said, God Loves Uganda, The Great Beauty, A Hijacking, No, Stories We Tell, A Touch of Sin, 20 Feet From Stardom, What Maisie Knew

            The Many Honorable Mentions (alphabetical order): Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Don Jon, Elysium, Evil Dead, Frances Ha, Frozen, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Kon-Tiki, Lone Survivor, Man of Steel, Much Ado About Nothing, Philomena, Prisoners, Rush, Spring Breakers, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Way, Way Back

The Honorable Mentions that Came Even Closer to the Top 10 (alphabetical order): The Act of Killing, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, The Crash Reel, Dallas Buyers Club, Fruitvale Station, Nebraska, Short Term 12, The Spectacular Now, This is the End, The World’s End

10. Inside Llewyn Davis: The Coen Brothers’ latest is a somber, slow burn of a film, but it’s also a deeply felt examination of personal determination versus compromise. With a soulful, star-making performance by Oscar Isaac, catchy folk music, and exceptional lighting and camerawork, Davis is able to resonate in a soft and melancholy way. The Coens’ usual dark humor and character flavor are here, but the film also contains a certain emotional core that is refreshingly different from much of their recent work.  


9. Gravity: Gravity was the visual highpoint in filmmaking from 2013, courtesy of master director Alfonso Cuaron. From the long camera movements to the seamless effects to the grand music score, the film delivers the thrills. This is a cinematic ride like no other in recent years, and it also features a top-notch performance by Sandra Bullock. See this on the biggest screen possible.


8. Mud: Jeff Nichols’ southern-fried, Mark Twain-inspired drama is like no other coming-of-age story of recent years. Every character has depth and reason, and the locations pop with the storytelling. Matthew McConaughey (who had an amazing year) and Tye Sheridan are simply remarkable.


7. The Hunt: This Danish drama from director Thomas Vinterberg features a nuanced, memorable performance by Mads Mikkelsen. The movie details the wildfire that starts after a man is accused of molesting his friend’s child. With such a topic, Vinterberg expertly explores the toppling of morals and the power of mob mentality. This is a quiet but heavy film, both frightening and beautiful in very human ways. It’s also one of the more overlooked films of 2013. 


6. The Place Beyond the Pines: Derek Cianfrance’s underrated gem is one of the most ambitious dramas of the year. In dealing (in nearly Shakespearean ways) with such topics as fatherhood, fate, and destiny in surprising ways, Pines packs a wallop. It also comes with stellar work by Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelsohn, and Dane DeHaan. Though its reach is larger than its grasp, the film is still a triumphant family drama.


5. Before Midnight: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke’s continuation of their love story (which began in 1995 with Before Sunrise and was continued in 2004 with Before Sunset) still manages to dive deep into the lives of Jessie and Celine and make us care every step of the way. The dialogue is dynamite, the Greek scenery is lovely, and Hawke and Delpy are still bringing their A-game. This entry may just be the best of the trilogy, though also the most bittersweet — dealing with elements of fatherhood, lost opportunities, and drifts in relationships. Warning: don’t see this film without first seeing Sunrise and Sunset.


4. The Wolf of Wall Street: “The craziest and most profane film of the year” title belongs to Martin Scorsese’s latest. In examining the greediness and excessiveness of the dirty side of the American Dream, Scorsese lets the guns blaze as far as displaying sex and drug use goes – energizing every frame of this three-hour crime epic. Street also features Leonardo DiCaprio giving a performance like none he’s ever given. It’s brilliant work by the actor, and among the best acting of his career. The film features rotten people doing rotten things, but it’s also biting, funny, and relevant.    


3. Blue is the Warmest Color: This three-hour lesbian drama (which is also in French and is rated NC-17) is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to subject matter, but it undoubtedly features some of the finest filmmaking of the year. Yes, it goes on too long and features a notoriously long sex scene along the way (which contains an uncomfortable “male gaze”-type of feel behind the camera), but it also features characters and situations that are completely believable and have a lot to say about growing up, love, class, infidelity, etc.; all of this is rendered with plenty of pathos and intelligence. Kudos to writer-director Abdellatif Kechiche and supporting actress Lea Seydoux for their work, but even further praise deserves to go to lead actress Adele Exarchopoulos – who easily gave the best female performance of the year.


2. 12 Years a Slave: Steve McQueen’s drama may just be the finest film ever to deal with the subject of American slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a powerhouse performance in the lead, and he’s surrounded by plenty of other talented performers. The film also features exquisite production values, plunging us into America’s dirty past and gripping us by the throat. It’s a tough sit, but also not a film to miss.


1. Her: Spike Jonze’s latest film is one of the more unique and beautiful films in years, though it may be a bit too slow and bizarre for some tastes. Still, this is a singular achievement in ways and will likely be hailed as a masterpiece in the years to come. The film features touching performances by all involved (with a standout vocal performance by Scarlett Johansson as “Samantha”), daring writing that’s full of heart, humor, and thought-provoking ideas, and a mesmerizing look and feel. Jonze has fashioned a sci-fi romance that puts humanity and its love of technology under a microscope. It all seems small at first, but let it sit with you for a while. It’s a cinematic dream.

Don’t forget to comment down below and have a great 2014!


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