2013 was just overflowing with fantastic movies from beginning to end. From big blockbusters to small indie flicks, 2013 delivered some high quality entertainment. I tried to put together a Top 10 list but I just couldn’t do it. There were just so many good movies that I genuinely enjoyed very much this year. So let’s dive right in:
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
2013 was not short of blockbusters, and while many failed to deliver, others shined. One of those is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the second film in The Hunger Games Saga. It’s immensely enjoyable, thanks to some well-directed action scenes from new director Francis Lawrence. It’s thought-provoking and also bitterly funny. Good performances from Jennifer Lawrence and newcomers like Jenna Malone and Phillip Seymour Hoffman help pave the way for what will hopefully be an exciting finale.
Greta Gerwig gives the performance of her career in this indie dramedy, one that almost slipped past my radar, but I happened to stumble upon on Netflix. Frances Ha tells the story of a young girl trying to start her life right out of college. The film is one of the best portrayals of modern young adult post-college life, in the same accurate way found in HBO’s Girls. It’s worth checking out, for more than just Gerwig’s acting, but also for its biting accuracy and sharp wit.
Star Trek Into Darkness
J.J. Abrams has made a name for himself with the Star Trek reboot films, and Into Darkness adds onto the world he established in the 2009 original. A sharp story and a fantastic villain come to mind when recalling this great thrill ride, as the crew of the Enterprise are faced with a completely new threat. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are now household names in the Trek universe, and as Abrams moves onto Star Wars in 2015, we’ll always remember the outstanding changes he brought to the Star Trek world.
The Wolf of Wall Street
You may have heard of Martin Scorsese’s new film, but not in a very positive light. It’s crass, it’s outrageous, and it’s terrific entertainment. Leonardo DiCaprio gives one of his best performances as Jordan Belfort, telling the story of a real man who played the Wall Street game. Jonah Hill also surprises, and The Wolf of Wall Street features some of the most ridiculously memorable moments in movies in 2013.
The Way Way Back
Growing up is hard, and in directing duo Jim Rash and Nat Faxon’s summer indie, no where is this more evident. A great coming of age story, it’s unconventional yet also familiar. Sam Rockwell delivers some of the funniest and most quotable lines all year, as he takes young Duncan under his wing at Water Whizz water park. It’s honest, and it’s endearing, in a “we’ve all been there” kind of way, and it’s definitely worth seeing.
As a complete stranger to the world of Formula One, what drew me to Rush was not the high-octane intense racing sequences, but the intense rivalry between Nicki Lauda and James Hunt. Ron Howard’s directing is perfect here, with gorgeous cinematography to boot. But it’s all about the two stars here, and Daniel Bruhl is simply captivating. You don’t have to be a racing fan to enjoy Rush, just a movie fan.
Romantic comedies are the punching bags of cinema, yet in Nicole Holofcener’s latest, she changes the game. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini (in his final role) play your not-so traditional couple. Both divorced, with children of their own, they fall in love despite some awkward circumstances. It’s both a sincere look at middle age, and a great and refreshing love story. Enough Said should not be passed over because of its genre.
An under appreciated thriller, Prisoners is an intense and harrowing drama, elevated to new heights with great performances from Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhall. A thriller with an emotional center, Prisoners breaks the rules of the genre. It asks you to figure out the mystery, it guides you but never cheats you. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, and you won’t want to take your eyes away until the film’s finale.
August: Osage County
Family is full of ups and downs, and John Wells’ adaptation of the stage play is a real and true family drama. Meryl Streep leads the cast of the outrageous and unlikable Weston family, as they reunite after a family crisis. There’s a lot of shouting, and a lot of crying. Osage County isn’t pretty, but neither is family. Wells isn’t afraid to give the film an unhappy ending, and I commend him and writer Tracy Letts for giving us a brutally honest film.
David O. Russell joins the ranks of esteemed directors with an impressive record with his latest film American Hustle. With a sharp and smart plot, and a cast that I’m still impressed with, American Hustle is an outstanding crime drama. It’s a movie made for movie lovers, reminding us why some stories are better suited to the medium. O. Russell will be remembered for his sharp dialogue and captivating stories, and American Hustle is another brick in his growing wall of films.
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen Brothers give us another outstanding and real film with Inside Llewyn Davis, telling us the story of a folk singer in 1960s New York. It’s a somber and surreal film, that uses music to not only entertain, but to complement the gloomy story. It’s not a particularly happy film, but with a great performance from Oscar Isaac, Llewyn Davis is another film that isn’t afraid of unconventional endings.
No one does family better than Alexander Payne, and Nebraska is another impressive showcase for his films that are full of original and complex characters. In his latest black and white dramedy, we are reminded of life’s fragility. With excellent acting from Bruce Dern and June Squibb, Nebraska is chock full of both laugh out loud moments and quieter honest moments that truly show the bond between father and son.
Disney’s latest is their best film ever made. I don’t say that jokingly. Frozen is a modern animated tale. No princesses trapped in towers, no dashing heroes, Frozen changes the game with a story that breaks the rules of traditional fairy tales. Frozen is a miracle, and in a time when Disney has been overshadowed by Pixar, Frozen is a beautiful and perfect film. It’s the studio’s best film to date, and will be remembered for its new morals and new story for a more modern audience.
If you ask me which movie on this list I will remember in 20 years, that answer is Gravity. Alfonso Cuaron has given us a beautiful and wonderful film. Technology aside, Gravity is still a awe-inspiring experience, in the same way ‘2001’ and ‘Avatar’ changed cinema. Sandra Bullock gives a tour de force as a mother lost amid space. Gravity displays themes of isolation, moving on, and rebirth in a smart fashion, never throwing on the themes lightly. It’s only 90 minutes, yet Gravity displays more complexity than your typical 150 minute drama. Cuaron gave us the most impressive film you’ll see all year, one that will change cinema forever.
Saving Mr. Banks