2013 was a good year for film. Especially American film. Any year that I can reorder the entire list and still feel happy about it is a good one. That being said, the order below is based purely on my feelings at the moment. Tomorrow it might change and the day after it might change again.
What that really means is that any of the below films are worth your time. Watch them all, learn something, feel something, and appreciate the power of movies.
My 10 Favorite Films of 2013
10) Mud – Jeff Nichols, USA
Matthew McConaughey picks another great role for himself with this one, something he has become exceedingly good at in the past few years. He plays a fugitive hiding out on an island, who enlists the help of some young boys to find his true love. It’s a love story, alright, but not in the way you think.
9) Side Effects – Steven Soderbergh, USA
It’s a shame Soderbergh will not be making feature films anymore. This perfectly constructed thriller shows just how much he knows his craft. It’s well-paced, with a great atmosphere and a really solid script. You’ll never look at prescription drugs the same way again.
8) Before Midnight – Richard Linklater, USA
A fitting continuation of the life of Jesse and Celine. Fitting, because the film, like the entire series, feels completely natural and real. It’s about the dialog, which is as mesmerizing as it was in the previous films. The two still have chemistry, even when arguing. In my mind they are a real couple, and when a movie makes you believe that then it’s done something special.
7) Upstream Color – Shane Carruth, USA
This film makes you work, but that’s the joy of it. Everything is there for you to feel and experience, but what route will you go? Will your brain latch on to the ideas about relationships? About souls? Fate? Science? Memory? All of it and more? It’s a challenging film for those who want to be challenged.
6) Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – Jay Oliva, USA
The DC Animated movie line has been incredible, and this year they released the best of the bunch, combining Batman Returns Part 1 and Part 2 into one epic film. If you are familiar with the comic then you know how important it is to the mythology of Batman. And this film gets it right. One of the best comic-book adaptions ever.
5) Gimme the Loot – Adam Leon, USA
A great little film following two aspiring graffiti artists as they go through the day trying to scrape enough money together to pull off a big score: tagging the big apple at Met’s Stadium. It has wonderful little performances, and gives a unique glimpse inside a world and a life I knew nothing about.
4) Short Term 12 – Destin Cretton, USA
This film hit me like a punch in the face. It’s the story of a short term housing unit for troubled children. It follows the issues the inhabitants are going through, as well as the issues the workers have in their personal lives. And it does it all without turning into melodrama. It also has the best opening and closing scenes that I’ve seen in a while.
3) Philomena – Stephen Frears, UK
The best script of the year. A mother who gave her son up for adoption many years ago enlists the help of a reluctant journalist in order to find out what happened to him. The journey, the dialog, and the ending is great. A subtle, beautiful gem of a film.
2) Wolf of Wall Street- Martin Scorsese, USA
DiCaprio gives one of the best performances of the year here. The film is three hours of over-the-top excess. The script is frequently hilarious and always entertaining. It felt like I was on a journey with the characters, and when we reached our destination I was fully satisfied. This film is a big hearty meal of drugs, sex, money and power. Things Scorsese has always been good at filming. This might be one of his best films, and that is saying a lot.
1) Gravity – Alfonso Cuaron, USA
A technical achievement of the highest order. From the incredible opening shot that lasts thirteen minutes, all the way to the end, this film is always brilliant. It is impeccably shot and choreographed, and contains a great lead performance by Bullock. My jaw was on the floor the entire time. Kudos to Cuaron. I can’t fathom how he conceived of this film, let along shot it. One of the most intense and exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had in a theater.