The list below is a strange one, and that’s why we like it. This year had many good movies, and the ones we really love, the ones that stick out as the countdown to 2014, are the films that don’t feel like anything else we saw this year.
In 2013, a movie about gun-toting, bikini-clad co-eds fits right beside a nearly absurd, three-hour-long look at corporate greed in the 90s and a film where five friends go on a pub crawl and encounter a town overrun by robots. (Well, technically they’re not robots.) Looking back on the year that was, it all makes a weird amount of sense when everything is said and done.
This is our take on the incredible year for movies that was 2013 and the ten films we liked best.
10. “The World’s End”
It’s a weird thing to say about a movie that’s plot boils down to “four friends get as wasted as possible in order to stop the apocalypse,” but this is the most mature work in Edgar Wright, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg’s “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy.” Though “Shaun of the Dead” might be more quotable, and “Hot Fuzz” a more action-packed story, the emotional bond between the main characters in “The World’s End” is stouter, richer, and more full bodied.
It also completely captures what it’s like to grow up and grow apart from those you care about. Beyond that, though, the action is the best mix of stunts and comedy since “Ghostbusters.” Though we’re sad to see the trilogy end, here’s hoping there may still be a reunion in the future. — Alex Zalben
9. “World War Z”
This zombie thriller had all the ingredients of a disaster. The script left most of the beloved source material behind. Director Marc Forster’s previous big-budget effort was the one of the worst James Bond movies ever. And that was all before “Lost” veterans Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard were brought in to write an entirely new ending. Yet, “World War Z” caught audiences off guard not only in its quality, but in how it plays with scale, both large and small.
The trailers pushed an impressive tower of CGI zombies as the main selling point, but an intimate conclusion with a strong performance throughout from Brad Pitt topped off an exciting and, most of all, scary undead surprise. — Kevin P. Sullivan
8. “Spring Breakers”
Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers” won this year’s Honorary “Drive” Award for Misleading Marketing That Got People to See a Better Movie Than They Expected.
It wasn’t about the coming-out of two former Disney stars or James Franco doing another weird character. “Spring Breakers” is neither of those things. “Spring Breakers” is about people who talk a lot about being bad and what happens when they meet the real deal. — KS
7. “American Hustle”
Let’s be real: “American Hustle” pretty much made our list the moment we first saw images of the cast in full ’70s hair and makeup. Watching it is like attending an all-in costume party where all of your favorite movie stars are just screaming in each others’ faces, to satisfying end.
Fans of previous David O. Russell movies “The Fighter” and “Silver Linings Playbook” will find plenty to love in the third in the director’s “East Coast People Being Loud” (unofficial title) trilogy, and for everyone else, there’s Jennifer Lawrence yelling about “science ovens.” — Kase Wickman
6. “12 Years a Slave”
First thing: “12 Years a Slave” is an important film that everyone should see at least once (not an easy task, given its graphic images). It’s important because of the subject matter, and we need to be reminded that not too long ago our country was a hellish place for a sizeable portion of the population. But “12 Years a Slave” is also a great film.
The harrowing story of Solomon Northup’s journey from freedom to slavery and back again would be absolutely unbelievable if not for the fact that it actually happened. And the way Chiwetel Ejiofor portrays him, with every stab of physical and mental anguish etched onto his face, is worthy of every award he’s given for this performance. — Tami Katzoff
5. “Iron Man 3″
For Marvel, “Iron Man 3″ was the big test that came immediately after the final exam that was “The Avengers.” They were able to bring together a group of (previously) lesser known heroes to make a billion at the box office, but could they undo the team and let these characters exist on their own once again?
The third movie with brand mascot Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark was a big, fat $1.2 billion “yes.” The success of “Iron Man 3″ wasn’t limited to the box office, however. By hiring Shane Black and allowing him to make a movie that was so thoroughly his own style, Marvel blurred the line between corporate product and auteurist film and made one of its most satisfying standalone entries to date. — KS
4. “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”
The second installment in the “Hunger Games” series was certainly not a case of second verse same as the first. Yes, the core characters of Katniss, Peeta, Gale, Haymitch and Effie were back, and yes, there was another murder arena, but “Catching Fire” beat “The Hunger Games” at its own (hunger) game.
For one thing, fights to the death aren’t just for teens anymore. Newcomers such as Finnick (Sam Claflin, who may have stolen James Franco’s face right off his face) and Johanna (Jena Malone, who memorably strips down in an elevator and curses up a storm) add interest, and the brewing revolution shot darkly through director Francis Lawrence’s lens doesn’t hurt either. That’s not to say it’s so grim that we won’t be watching it again and again — the odds are ever in its favor for that. — KW
3. “The Wolf of Wall Street”
We’ve seen this story before, haven’t we? No less a filmmaker than Oliver Stone made a stone cold classic about 80s greed and excess and hell it even shared half the title of this one.
But you’ve never met a character like Jordan Belfort (a charismatic and cutthroat Leonard DiCaprio). And we’ve never seen a filmmaker like Martin Scorsese, who pairing his talents with a gleeful darkly comedic script by Terence Winter, seems more ballsy and bold behind the camera than ever at 71, and that’s saying something. If you thought the end of “Gravity” was the wildest ride of the year, just wait until Leo and Jonah Hill pop some qualudes. An instant classic. — Josh Horowitz
2. “This Is the End”
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s apocalyptic comedy features just a few of our favorite things: self-deprecating celebrities, comically underdeveloped special effects, a laugh-a-minute script and more than a few surprise cameos.
We like to think of “This Is The End” as that rare unicorn of raunch-fests, one that not only became a hit with audiences, but won over the hearts of notoriously comedy-hating film critics as well. (Who knew that Jonah Hill being raped by the devil could be such a crowd pleaser?) Add a heartfelt story of friendship and redemption to the mix? Cinematic gold, we tell you. — Sophie Schillaci
Before there was an actual movie to see, there was a lot of talk about “Gravity.” About how it took four years to make, about how they invented technologies specifically for it, about how James Cameron called it the best space movie ever made.
But when “Gravity” actually opened in theaters with that massive first look at the Earth and the little, insignificant beings floating above it, there was just silence. Audiences watched, completely wrapped up in what they were seeing, trying to figure out how they could be seeing it, and promising to tell everyone they knew about it. Alfonso Cuarón, Sandra Bullock, George Clooney and the crew may have killed the “TV is the new cinema” argument in one fell swoop. — KS