The Ten Best Films of 2013

Firstly, on the occasion of my 28th annual Ten Best Films of the year list, I want to state that I believe that I am wildly misunderstood (boo-hoo for me…like who doesn’t feel that way about themselves, right?). People often refer to me as a film snob. Usually I just smile and nod my head. Often I will mildly object…sometimes I deny it vociferously. I do occasionally see blockbusters, you know…and I always review them right here on the blog along with the headier stuff. I appreciate finer films though. It is my yearly mission to watch as many motion pictures as I possibly can that have been deemed exceptional. Doesn’t matter what country it’s from, or what language it’s in, or what genre it falls into, or if it’s a cartoon or a sequel. If it cost 200 million dollars to make it, or just twenty thousand, if it’s supposed to be good–I’m there. So, I’ve been alerting people for quite some time, that if you label me a “snob”, it’s simply an attempt to make yourself feel better. My tastes aren’t lazy, stagnant or exclusive. On the contrary, they are wide, varied and inclusive. Tell me about a film or a director that’s making a splash, and garnering a lot of attention, and I have to see his work. For instance, I’m fortunate to have caught Shane Carruth’s latest before compiling my annual list, because I nearly didn’t get to it. And that would have been a shame, because it is absolutely incredible. Which brings me to my point, so I can wrap up this latest rant. There is nothing wrong with solely enjoying mainstream films. Absolutely nothing at all. If that’s your bag, baby–I’m totally in support of it. However, if 99% of the time you watch movies with high grosses and big name stars, don’t once in a blue moon view something off-the-radar…and then express to me how terrible it is. Because if it’s a film that boasts the quality of an “Upstream Color” or “Museum Hours” and you’re bashing it incessantly, I’m going to tell you point-blank–you are missing something. Yes, believe it or not, lo and behold–you probably didn’t “get it”. People hate to hear that…and I honestly avoid saying it (I almost never actually do). All of this doesn’t mean that I’m a smartypants, and you’re not. It usually just means you are accustomed to a steady diet of easy. Like the people who will tell me that they enjoy “arty” films, and then throw up “The King’s Speech” or “Slumdog Millionaire” as evidence. Ahhh, guess again. Mickey D’s or caviar, folks–it’s your choice. I’ll take the fish eggs. My Top Ten list usually comes with a lecture because I suffer through the naysaying and accusations all year long. But now I’m finished, so let’s move on.

Regular readers (so many of you lately…thank you!) will have little problem guessing what my #1 film is. I’ve promoted it steadily the last month or so, and I’m proudly giving its director the top slot for his last two consecutive films. And he’s made my Top Ten since 1999 every time he’s released a new feature, on 4 separate occasions total (for the record, 1999, 2002, 2009 & 2013). Come to think of it, he’s always cracked the top five of my list. It’s safe to say that I eagerly await any news of a new work from S.J. He’s freaking brilliant. My #2 entry is from the guys I’m now calling the best American filmmakers working today. That’s my proclamation and I’m sticking to it. Consistency? These “dudes” are almost never off point. Also, I really wanted choice #3 to be #1…but I couldn’t deny that its usurpers were superior. I still love it, and I adore the series, and I hope it keeps going. And its director has one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever heard of opening later this year. It’s wowing them at Sundance this month, and it features one of the stars of my #3 selection. My #4 is so unconventional and brilliant and stunning that I can’t wait to watch it again. More to decipher, more to unlock—I love that shit. #5 & #6 are two of the most incredible documentaries I’ve ever watched. Both are unforgettable…and one is nigh unwatchable. #7 will be rewarding only for the extremely patient and thoughtful. #8 steals back from the teenagers a sub-genre that they’ve polluted lately, and returns it to adults. #9 bludgeoned its way into the Top Ten, I just couldn’t deny it. I adore it and its charming starlet. It sports the most wonderfully giddy trailer of the year, and co-stars a rock god’s daughter. And finally #10 would make Mark Twain smile. I’d lay money that its male lead will win an Oscar this year. Alas, not for this particular film.

There are nine runners-up for the 2013 Top Ten, and they are listed alphabetically. Some are a bit better than others of the group, but they’re all damn good. 66 2013 features were considered for this list–beating last year’s “new” record by 2. And yes, I’ve seen all 9 Best Picture nominees, but you won’t find most of them listed here. However, I’m frankly astonished that my #1 garnered a nod. Sometimes the Academy can’t deny quality no matter how hard they try. I attempt to avoid really awful films, and I rely on my most trusted critics to guide me. It’s necessary to count on them because I can’t possibly watch everything. They are not always correct, but the ones I read regularly have forgotten more about cinema than most will ever know. Truth to tell, I only went to an actual theater for a movie 13 times out of the 66 films watched—and I really only had to attend once (for “The Wolf of Wall Street”, the most recent one). 22 of my 66 choices were experienced on industry screeners, digital downloads or “at-the-same-time-as-in-theaters” VOD. And it could’ve been many more. I hate the thought of a screener not arriving, and me missing something vital–no sense waiting for the crapshoot of if it’ll be released on DVD before awards season or not. And the idea of watching something like “Gravity” on a screener is appalling. That has to be seen in 3D IMAX…so many works now are format specific. Have I tooted off enough? Yeah, I think so. Last year contained the first ever tie. This year both my #1 film and my #10 film each have titles only three letters long. And the Ten Best Films of 2013 are:

1) Her

2) Inside Llewyn Davis

3) Before Midnight

4) Upstream Color

5) Stories We Tell

6) The Act of Killing

7) Museum Hours

8) Byzantium

9) Frances Ha

10) Mud

Honorable Mention

All Is Lost


Blue Jasmine

Computer Chess

Fruitvale Station




The World’s End

The Worst of the Year:

A Good Day to Die Hard (which hopefully kills the tired series)

Dishonorable Mention

Labor Day (soapy and ridiculous)


Saving Mr. Banks (syrupy and inexcusable)


4 comments on “The Ten Best Films of 2013

  1. I can’t wait to see her, whilst Inside Lleywn Davis got a 5/5 review from me it was amazing! Really glad to see Black Fish mentioned somewhere too, that was my favourite documentary 🙂 good list! Although I disagree with Saving Mr Banks 🙂 have a spoon full off sugar next time you watch it!

  2. Great picks mate 🙂 loved seeing Die Hard on the bottom.

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