2013 in Review: Jordan’s Top 25 Movies [Updated]
The time has finally come. Although we officially transitioned from 2013 to 2014 about a week ago, I finally got around to tallying, organizing, ordering, reordering, and well, reordering again, to come up with my favorite movies of 2013.
As a whole, I initially thought 2013 couldn’t touch 2012. Looking back, I adored so many movies from the previous year. They ranged from indies (Beasts of the Southern Wild) to blockbusters (The Dark Knight Rises) with pretty much everything in between (Life of Pi, Seven Psychopaths, and so on).
However, many pundits and entertainment outlets have gushed over 2013’s movies. While there have been a fair amount of great movies, I never really was wow’ed quite like 2012.
But, then I started to group the 106 movies I saw and realized there truly have been a ton of great movies. To give a little insight on how I track movies, I compile a list of all the movies that a) I want to see and b) are generally well-received (once they release). When I see them, I check them off and give it a grade (A-F). To my count, I graded 34 movies B+ or higher (which I consider to be upper echelon movies).
Then, it was just a matter of whittling those 34 movies down to 25. Here is what I came up with…
(As an aside, this list doesn’t include the movies I missed, including The Act of Killing, Frances Ha, and Philomena)
[Update (3/2/14): After finally seeing Her, Frozen, and Inside Lewlyn Davis, I’ve added them in. This explains why the list is now 28 deep instead of 25.]
28) Don Jon
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut blends comedy with some real world, afraid-to-talk-about problems.
27) The Kings of Summer
Even though it’s the third best coming-of-age movie, The Kings of Summer still does a fantastic job making growing up problems real problems.
26) Enough Said
Love is generally nothing like romantic comedies. It’s much more like Enough Said.
25) A Hijacking
Captain Phillips eventually proved that hijacking movies can have big budgets and still work. Before that, A Hijacking proved the opposite – small budgets can work, too.
24) The World’s End
As far as pure comedies go, The World’s End was this year’s best. You can thank the smart script and the great performances across the board.
Continuing this trend, as far as straight thrillers go, Trance is this year’s best. Twists, turns, and suspense galore.
22) Star Trek Into Darkness
While the blockbusters were, for the lack of a better term, lackluster, Star Trek Into Darkness was definitely the standout.
21) My Brother The Devil
Just when this movie looked like it was going one direction, it added an unexpected hitch that surprisingly worked out.
20) Fruitvale Station
Even if you know exactly what is tragically going to happen, Fruitvale Station is still worth watching…even if you won’t exactly be beaming afterward.
19) Europa Report
Gravity, deservingly so, got a lot of attention this year; however, Europa Report lacks only in cinematography. The story is still fantastic.
18) The Way Way Back
The second place coming-of-age award goes to The Way Way Back, which is altogether funny and charming. Plus, it has the always entertaining Sam Rockwell.
The closest thing I could find to a horror movie was Stoker. It’s grossly overlooked and any Alfred Hitchcock fan should go rent it right this second.
16) The Hunt
Plenty of movies make me happy I’m not the protagonist. None have made me think this more than The Hunt, especially since I used to work at a daycare.
[Updated] 15) Inside Llewyn Davis
I’m a sucker for folk music and a sucker for movies that are a little more depressing than you’d expect. I know that makes me a pessimist, but Inside Llewyn Davis is a real look at what it means to dream…and fail.
It’s kind of a tough sell for general movie audiences, but Alexander Payne’s comedy drama should be appreciated from everyone 18-118 years old.
[Updated] 13) Frozen
Another surprise from this year was Frozen, although it wasn’t because I didn’t think the movie would be good. I just didn’t think the movie would be THAT good. It deserves the recognition it will get during the Oscars.
12) Dallas Buyers Club
Matthew McConaughey continues his hot streak with an Oscar-worthy performance in an Oscar-worthy drama. Oh yeah, and Jared Leto is even better.
There’s a reason this film is 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. Jeff Nichols, if you didn’t know, is 3-for-3 when it comes to feature films with Mud being the most accessible. The movie is another contributing factor to McConaughey’s rising stock, but it is the newcomer Tye Sheridan that really shines.
10) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Just like the original Hunger Games movie, there is a small contingency of people that hate the movie just because it’s so popular. However, the latest adaptation warrants even less backlash than the original and is almost a perfect page-to-screen adaptation. Jennifer Lawrence is easy to praise, but I most appreciate the themes that crossover. In a time where woman aren’t represented enough in films (especially younger women), Catching Fire proves they can…and should.
9) The Wolf of Wall Street
After 106 movies, there is a tendency for movies to run together. Certain movies, like The Wolf of Wall Street, contradict this. Martin Scorsese’s borderline NC-17 movie arguably celebrates the asshole behind the story (millionaire scammer Jordan Belfort) and runs an absurd 3 hours. However, it also is fantastically hilarious and truly one-of-a-kind. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to everyone, but the ones I would recommend it to would absolutely love it.
8) Prince Avalanche
The token under-the-radar pick goes to Prince Avalanche. While bigger usually means better, and raunchier generally means funnier, David Gordon Green’s (Pineapple Express) comedy (that stars Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch) is very simple and still very funny. It’s also surprisingly deep (even if the main characters seem to have an IQ south of 50) and makes for a fun experience.
7) 12 Years a Slave
At the end of the decade, I’d be shocked if 12 Years a Slave wasn’t mentioned on just about every Best of the Decade list. Steve McQueen’s (Shame) drama deserves the recognition because it doesn’t shy away from America’s darkest time, and it serves as a vehicle for some great performances (from pretty much every cast member). Seriously, go see this movie.
6) Blue Jasmine
I brought this up when I mentioned Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games, but I still need to reiterate that we don’t see enough leading ladies in Hollywood. When we do get them, though, they tend to really stand out. Cate Blanchett’s performance in Woody Allen’s (Midnight in Paris) is not only the best of the women this year, but it’s probably the best of all performances. For those wondering, Natalie Portman’s performance in Black Swan is very comparable. The buck doesn’t stop there, though, because the film is all-around great.
5) American Hustle
David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook stood out because it was different than most genre films. Likewise, American Hustle is much more than your typical crime/drama/thriller. Whether it’s the exuberant style or the comic relief (again, thank you Jennifer Lawrence for existing), Hustle just feels a lot different than similar movies.
[Updated] 4) Her
Although it took me awhile to finally see Spike Jonze’s Her (dang you limited releases), I can’t think of a more relevant or original love story. Her is chalk-full of social commentary and portrays human interaction in a shocking (yet subtle) way. I think we’ll look back on this film in years and see it as a prelude to many films to come.
In case you didn’t know, I am all for original storytelling. Alfonso Cuaron’s (Children of Men) Gravity definitely doesn’t lack originality, both in storytelling and cinematography, and it’s a rare movie I’d urge you to see in the theater (although that’s impossible now). Gravity is also the most gorgeous film of the year, reminding us why space is truly the great unknown.
2) The Spectacular Now
As much as I ream on romantic comedies (perhaps mostly to myself), when a good one comes along, I tend to really gravitate towards it. The Spectacular Now is this year’s 500 Days of Summer (and for good reason, since it’s written by the same screenwriters). Miles Teller, who stars alongside the more recognizable Shailene Woodley, has the most honest performance of the year, and honesty is a perfect word to describe the movie. The Spectacular Now will be under appreciated for all of eternity and that is seriously unfair.
1) Before Midnight
I could probably say the exact same thing here as I did for The Spectacular Now. The biggest difference is that Before Midnight is part of an overarching trilogy that validates why sequels should exist (a statement I didn’t think I’d ever say). Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke are absolutely amazing at creating real characters, real situations, and real dialogue. This has truly been lost in most movies, and it’s movies like Before Midnight that remind us that writing is not only important, but essential. It also reminds us that love isn’t easy.
As for honorable mentions, I had to leave out Blue Caprice, Captain Phillips, Lee Daniel’s The Butler, The Place Beyond the Pines, Prisoners, Rush, Saving Mr. Banks, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and Still Mine.
What else did I miss?
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