Top 30 Films of 2013
It's that time again, me and everyone else creating their "Best of" Lists. This year has been an impressive year for cinema, specifically from America, where many more "mainstream" films impressed. I typically try not to include documenataries on my list but this year I found myself compelled too, given three documentaries I couldn't resist adding. Keep in mind the line between 2012 & 2013 can be a little hard to pin down, notably with foreign and independent films, with this list being my favorite films I saw this year in theaters and/or at film festivals. Per usual, the list is probably longer than it should be but there were just a few films I felt compelled to mention. Note: I provide a small dialogue about each film but feel free to use the search function on the welcome page to get a little more in-depth analysis of why I felt so strongly about these films.
Stranger By The Lake - Alain Guiraudie
An unforgettable experience for me, Alain Guiraudie's A Stranger By The Lake is an intoxicating study of the power of lust and passion, capturing how more often than not it can supersede our better judgement.
The Bastards - Claire Denis
There have been many films this year commenting on the faults of capitalism and the greed which it breeds but none were better than Claire Denis's film. Bastards touches on many fascinating ideas but its searing portrait of dysfunction and greed make it an unforgettable experience that makes it not only one of Denis' darkest films but one of her best.
Blue is the Warmest Color - Abdellatif Kechiche
An epic love story that cares little about sexual orientation as it pertains to love and companionship, Blue is the Warmest Color is a empathetic and engrossing epic love story that is a astonishingly well-acted character study, truly capturing part of the human condition in a way few films ever have.
Her - Spike Jonze
Spike Jonze's most mature and impressive film yet, Her is an incredibly poignant look at modern love and humanities increasing reliance on technology.
Twelve Years A Slave - Steve McQueen
A film of such power and grace, Twelve Years A Slave is the quintessential Slavery movie that captures this dark time in American history in a way that never relies on cheap theatrics or forced sentimentality.
A Touch of Sin - Zhang Ke Jia
Another film that offers a rather scathing commentary on the faults of capitalism, A Touch of Sin is a complex and insightful look at modern China, capturing the dehumanizing effect that unbridled capitalism has had.
Only God Forgives - Nicholas Winding Refn
A visceral, almost spiritual experience, Only God Forgives is a haunting exploration of death, violence, and environment, which ultimately becomes a tale of redemption in a way only Refn could deliver.
To The Wonder - Terrence Malick
Undoubtedly receiving unnecessary scorn because of The Tree of Life's divisive nature, To The Wonder is a much better piece of filmmaking, being far more streamlined. This is a film that examines the ideal of love in all of its carnations with every frame being a work of art.
The Attack - Ziad Doueiri
The best film about terrorism since Julia Loktev's Day Night, Day Night, The Attack is a film that wisely never picks sides but presents a much more profound truth which illustrates how both sides firmly believe in their convictions and will never be swayed from what they believe is morally just.
The Act of Killing - Joshua Oppenheimer
One of the few documentaries to make this list, The Act of Killing is one of the most emotionally devastating films I've seen in recent memory. It's best to go into this film relatively blind but it's powerful, surreal, terrifying and unforgettable.
Spring Breakers - Harmony Korine
Could end up being one of the most mportant films from 2013, Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers is an assaulting barrage of style and theatrics which perfectly captures how vapid and empty Youth culture has become.
Drug War - Johnnie To
Johnnie To is one of the busiest filmmakers on the planet and because of that his films can sometimes suffer in quality from time to time. Fortunately for us, Johnnie To's Drug War is one of his better efforts in recent years being a fast-paced and engaging crime story that highlights why Johnnie To is considered a master of the genre.
Before Midnight - Richard Linklater
The last film in Linklater's trilogy, Before Midnight is the most mature entry, encapsulating what love is, while exploring all sorts of interesting themes and dynamics. Before Midnight's most important statement lies in its dissection of love being not something magical like a fairytale but something that must continuously be worked on (something that many people in our current society don't seem to grasp).
Sarah Prefers to Run (2013) - Chloe Robinchaud
A film that hit me on a personal level, Sarah Prefers to Run is a fascinating exploration of a character’s intense passion, capturing how such drive can sometimes leave other important aspects of life by the way side.
Pretty Butterflies - Salvatore Mereu
Pretty Butterflies captures the youth perspective of a young woman living in run-down Sardinian neighborhood with such sincerity, the audience feels they are more of a confidant than an observer
Stories We Tell - Sarah Polley
The other documentary to grace this list, Stories We Tell is an emotionally poignant study of how we remember the stories of our past, capturing how memory and perception play a major role in how we create our own truth.
Paradise Hope - Ulrich Seidl
By far Ulrich Seidl's most empathetic film I've seen, Paradise Hope is a poignant tale of adolescence that still maintains the unsettling quality of Seidl's other features.
Circles - Srdan Golubovic
One of the best narrative films of the year, Srdan Golubovic's Circles is an emotionally affecting ensemble drama about cause and effect, capturing how a single act can influence the lives of many.
The Wolf of Wall Street - Martin Scorsese
An explosion of energy and style, Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street is the most fun I've had at the movies all year while also delivering a poignant commentary on the thin line between the American dream and greed.
Nebraska - Alexander Payne
Much like life, Nebraska is both a fun comedy and poignant drama, featuring extremely strong performances by everyone involved.
Kid-Thing - David Zellner
Certainly up to interpretation and reminiscent of early Harmony Korine, Kid-Thing is one of the most unique films I saw all year, delivering a minimalist look into a neglected child's growing psychosis.
The Wall - Julian Pölsler
A visually stunning examination of humanities place with nature, Polsler's The Wall is like a more cerebral Robinson Crusoe tale, touching on a lot of fascinating ideas about the relationship between man and his surroundings.
Blue Ruin - Jeremy Saulnier
An atypical revenge thriller which begins with the actual act of vengeance. This is a film about the circular motion of violence and revenge but how it gets there is the real treat
Leviathan (2012) - Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verena Paravel
Too many documentaries these days are lazily put together with little style or artistic intent. Leviathan certainly doesn't have this problem, being a nightmarish experience that throws the viewer into the world of these fisherman, capturing the clash between nature, man and machine while simultaneously showing the collaboration between these forces which are forced to co-exist.
Exhibition (2013) - Joanna Hogg
Exhibition is a film that had to sit with me for several weeks before I truly appreciated it. Joanna Hogg's Exhibition is a very slow paced intricate study of the artistic process, capturing the power and comfort one can feel in a place where they call home. The main protagonist is an individual who has a lot of trouble expressing herself to others and Hogg captures this lack of expression and how it translates to her artwork with incredible precision.
Short Term 12 - Destin Cretton
Short Term 12 is a deeply personal film, giving a poignant and honest portrait of the foster care system from the underprivileged children to the people who are so desperately trying to make their lives better.
Juvenile Offender (2013) - Yi-kwan Kang
Yi-kwan Kang's Juvenile Offender is a deeply affecting drama that sets its eye on the juvenile justice system. A very sensible film, Juvenile Offender makes its message clear but it never lets it over-shadow the characters.
Breathe In - Drake Doremus
Drake Doremus' Breathe In is a complex and riveting Lolita-esque story that is a fascinating examination of forbidden love. It explores the idea of being free to do what you want and what that truly means and entails in a life where you can't just live for yourself
Aftermath - Wladyslaw Pasikowski
Probably the most intense film I've seen this year, Aftermath is a dark gothic tale that burns to the core of the audiences emotions, taking a deep look at the relationship between morality and selfishness/greed
Prisoners - Denis Villeneuve
Making his American debut, Denis Villeneuve's Prisoners is an unsettling crime drama exploring the moral and ethical complications that arise in tragedy and desperation
Blue Caprice - Alexandre Moors
The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears - Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani
The Dirties - Matt Johnson
A Long and Happy Life - Boris Khlebnikov
Gimme The Loot - Adam Leon
Jin - Reha Erdem
Prince Avalanche - David Gordon Green
My Dog Killer - Mira Forney
Inside Llewyn Davis - Joel & Ethan Coen
Faro - Fredrik Edfeldt
The Fake - Yeon Sang-ho
Gravity - Alfonso Cuaron
Blue Jasmine - Woody Allen
Great Performances of 2013
Adèle Exarchopoulos - Blue is the Warmest Color
James Franco - Spring Breakers
Stephen Dorff - The Motel Life
Paulina García - Gloria
Dennis Quaid - At Any Price
Joaquin Phoenix - Her
Cate Blanchett - Blue Jasmine
Juliette Binoche - Camille Claudel 1915
Michael B. Jordan - Fruitvale Station
Keith Stanfield - Short Term 12
Lupita Nyong’o - 12 Years A Slave
Isaiah Washington - Blue Caprice
Bill Sage - We Are What We Are
John Goodman - Inside Llewyn Davis
Barkhad Abdi - Captain Phillips
Daniel Brühl - Rush
Andrea Riseborough - Shadow Dancer
Jared Leto - Dallas Buyers Club
Biggest Disappointments of 2013
Not necessarily bad films by any means but films that didn't live up to my expectations considering the talent involved or praise they have received.
A Place Beyond The Pines - Derek Cianfrance
The Bling Ring - Sofia Coppola
The East - Zal Batmanglij
Broken Circle Breakdown - Felix Van Groeningen
Kings of Summer - Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Pacific Rim - Guillermo Del Toro
The Woman And The Passenger - Valentina Mac-Pherson & Patricia Correa
Big Bad Wolves - Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado
Underrated Films of 2013
Like most films, these selections do have flaws but many of these films never got the exposure or respect they deserved. Some have received far too harsh criticism, some simply didn't get the marketing or recognition they deserved.
Byzantium - Neil Jordan
Kiss of the Damned - Xen Cassavetes
Son of Cain - Jesus Monllao
Lords of Salem - Rob Zombie
Pain & Gain - Michael Bay
Shadow Dancer - James Marsh
Out of the Furnace - Scott Cooper
The Grandmaster - Wong Kar Wai