Oh, what a year it's been at the movies! Inarguably the best year for film since 2012, and possibly 2011 before that.
Okay, clearly we're a bit spent when it comes to reflecting on the year that was, and each of the various features below opens with a lucid and wise look back on the movies that defined the last 12 months. So before we get to the site's official, collective list of the year's 10 best, enjoy all of our Year in Review coverage in one convenient place:
THE 10 BEST FILMS OF 2013: FILM.COM'S OFFICIAL LIST:
And now for the final touch. The site's official list was assembled rather simply. Nine writers submitted their ranked top 10 lists. Each #1 pick was awarded 10 points, each #2 pick was awarded 9 points, and so on and so on. Obviously that formula favors films that had a slightly broader appeal and explicitly works against more polarizing choices, but we encourage you to to take a close look at the writers' individual lists on the 2nd page of this post. With 90 possible slots, 52 different films received votes, which is compelling evidence that 2013 offered great movies for viewers of all kinds.
From all of us at Film.com, thank you so very much for reading.
Honorable Mentions: "Museum Hours", "Short Term 12", "At Berkeley", "The Wolf of Wall Street", "Mud", "Beyond the Hills", "The Wind Rises", "Philomena", "Spring Breakers"
10.) STORIES WE TELL (Sarah Polley)
"Any attempt to portray an event through personal recollection is already a doomed affair, as the past is remembered falsely, our minds working overtime to change events, making them more palatable or interesting, sometimes even worse. Polley seems to believe that if she can get enough personal accounts of the same stories, that there’s a way to sift down through the silt to a few grains of truth that might explain not only who she is, but who they all are. It is in our relation to one another, and especially in our relation to our families, that we are reflected back most truly."
9.) FRANCES HA (Noah Baumbach)
"To be fair, the film is so engaging because it’s so damn funny. Baumbach and Gerwig’s co-authored script is lucky enough to be populated with people who place a premium on being quotable, so les bon mots are frequent and furious. It’s Nick and Nora Charles removed from the Waldorf-Astoria and placed in a Brooklyn walkup. If you cross your arms at this film and say, “fmmf, people don’t really talk like THAT,” well, sorry, you just need to find cooler friends."
8.) THE WORLD'S END (Edgar Wright)
"Gary’s anxiety over shedding his teenage mindset for a rational adult existence is palpable throughout, countered equally well by Frost’s long-simmering frustrations over his comrade’s self-destructive tendencies. Both kinds of fights offset a certain degree of familiarity with the formula of Wright’s informal blood-and-ice-cream trilogy. A knowing take on movies and maturity alike, 'The World’s End' is just as thoroughly thoughtful as those which came before it, and maybe more than ever, you’ll find yourself laughing to keep from crying."
7.) BEFORE MIDNIGHT (Richard Linklater)
"If Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy do indeed give their beloved Celine and Jesse a break from reuniting every nine years in a different European locale to hash out their romance, no small comfort could be taken from the fact that “Before Midnight” manages to be an emotionally astute and tremendously enjoyable conclusion to this rather improbable trilogy."
6.) BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (Abdellatif Kechiche)
"Love comes in all kinds of flavors but none linger like first love. It might not be the right love, or the best love, but it is a transformative love, a necessary love – and there is no dearth of films that have tried to capture its special blend of exuberance and heartbreak. Abdellatif Kechiche’s 'Blue Is The Warmest Color' (also known as 'La Vie D’Adele: Chapitre 1 & 2') ranks in the very highest percentile of such attempts. If you don’t see yourself in its fierce depiction of intense emotion I both envy and pity you. It is a masterpiece of the genre, a damn near perfect film."
5.) LEVIATHAN (Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verena Paravel)
"The fish-eyed view of the world offered by 'Leviathan' is made all the more alien by its fleeting human counterpoints — those brief on-board excursions among the ship’s thoroughly waterlogged crew. It’s telling that despite the natural vigor of the footage captured at the bleeding edge of possibility, 'Leviathan's' most memorable sequence is a static long take filmed in the inner reaches of the boat’s lower decks: there we find a lone crewman watching the heightened reality of one of those ‘extreme’ fishing shows on the Discovery Channel, bored senseless and gradually drifting off to sleep. It’s perhaps co-directors Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel’s boldest move, but the payoff is immeasurable."
4.) GRAVITY (Alfonso Cuarón)
"Much like any art form, great cinema is defined by its ability to transport those who experience it — to an invented place, to a bygone time, even into a stranger’s state of mind. The medium can take us where we could never otherwise go, and in the case of Alfonso Cuarón’s effortlessly riveting 'Gravity,' it can introduce us to fears that we never knew we should have in the first place."
3.) HER (Spike Jonze)
"Perhaps the most striking thing about Spike Jonze’s 'Her', a tender Vonnegut-esque fable about a man who falls in love with his phone’s sentient operating system, is how seldom the film feels like a high-concept exercise. It’s to the immense credit of Jonze’s script, a sensitive and genuinely curious look at programmed living and the follies of possessive love that unfolds like “When Harry Met Skynet”, that the film’s central relationship ultimately feels like a somewhat typical portrait of modern romance. The story evinces such empathy for its characters and respect for their emotions that the film never threatens to become a gawking sideshow that makes a spectacle of redeeming its hero (I’m looking at you, 'Lars and the Real Girl'), and the movie’s premise seldom overwhelms its plot. Of course, in this day and age it would be harder to imagine someone who isn’t in love with their cell phone."
2.) 12 YEARS A SLAVE (Steve McQueen)
“'12 Years a Slave' might be the most grimly accurate depiction of American slavery committed to film, which in turn threatens to render monotonous countless inhumane offenses as the story stretches into its third hour. It’s not that McQueen and writer John Ridley (working from Northup’s own memoir) could help it, assuming they even wanted to. The subject matter doesn’t exactly invite comic relief, while cutting away to Solomon’s surely concerned family up north would have rung false and detracted from such an aptly oppressive experience.
McQueen nonetheless manages to reinvigorate these cruelties on each occasion, whether cutting between the sounds of music and the sights of agony during scenes of mandatory celebration or forced separation, or subtly incorporating his trademark long take during an extended whipping scene as the potential for maximum emotional and physical anguish aligns with a harsh sense of inevitability."
1.) INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (Ethan & Joel Coen)
"While I do sometimes get misty-eyed at the movies, it’s rare that tears ever start pouring down my face. And when it happens (and, again, it’s rare) it most often happens at some point of catharsis – when characters I know and love experience great triumph or tragedy. Why was it, then, that I was bawling at the five-minute mark during Joel and Ethan Coen’s 'Inside Llewyn Davis?' The story hadn’t started. I didn’t even know anyone’s name. Was it the cat?"
READ OUR WRITERS' INDIVIDUAL TOP 10 LISTS ON PAGE 2
2. Museum Hours
3. At Berkeley
4. The World's End
5. Drug War
7. Inside Llewyn Davis
9. Like Someone In Love
10. Spring Breakers
1. “Inside Llewyn Davis”
2. “Frances Ha”
4. “12 Years a Slave”
5. “Blue Is the Warmest Color”
6. “Fruitvale Station”
7. “Short Term 12”
8. “Pain and Gain”
9. “The Bling Ring”
10. “The Past”
1. Beyond the Hills
2. Laurence Anyways
3. Stories We Tell
4. The Square
5. Ginger and Rosa
6. The Last Time I Saw Macao
7. Cutie and the Boxer
8. The Act of Killing
9. Blue Jasmine
10. Berberian Sound Studio
01. Before Midnight
04. Short Term 12
05. Stories We Tell
06. Blue is the Warmest Color
07. The World's End
09. Upstream Color
10. The Wolf of Wall Street
1. Wolf of Wall Street
4. Museum Hours
5. The World’s End
6. 12 Years a Slave
7. Inside Llewyn Davis
8. Spring Breakers
9. Drug War
10. At Berkeley
1. 12 Years a Slave
2. American Hustle
4. Inside Llewyn Davis
5. The Spectacular Now
8. Stories We Tell
9. The Broken Circle Breakdown
10. The Hunger Games - Catching Fire
ERIC D. SNIDER
1. 12 Years a Slave
2 Inside Llewyn Davis
3 Frances Ha
6 Short Term 12
7 All Is Lost
10 Enough Said
1. Before Midnight
2. The Wind Rises
3. Inside Llewyn Davis
4. 12 Years a Slave
5. The Grandmaster
6. Spring Breakers
7. At Berkeley
8. A Touch of Sin
10. Post Tenebras Lux
1. Inside Llewyn Davis
2. 12 Years a Slave
4. The Wolf of Wall Street
5. Frances Ha
7. Upstream Color
8. Man of Steel
9. Blue is the Warmest Color
10. Cutie and the Boxer
1. Frances Ha -For being wall-to-wall delightful.
2. The Wolf of Wall Street - For being balls-to-the-wall.
3. Stoker - For being the best movie Brian De Palma never made.
4. John Dies at the End - For being a truly eccentric romp in an era that thrives on homogenous genre fare.
5. Zero Charisma - For being the closest we'll ever get to "Confederacy of Dunces" onscreen.
6. Only God Forgives - For telling the truth: gangsters and drug dealers are scumbags who deserve to die.
7. The World's End - For being a Swiss watch of hilarity that improves on every viewing.
8. To the Wonder - For absolute emotional rawness.
9. Pacific Rim - For reigniting my inner-12-year-old with gusto.
10. GMO OMG - For being the most effective horror movie of the year, making me afraid of my food.
10. "The Croods"
The best animation of the year, only it came out in March, and so it's been long forgotten. Kudos for this one include 1) A female main character who wasn't a princess and 2) Somehow finding a way to use Nic Cage effectively. Kind of a miracle all the way around, actually.
9. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"
If there was a theme this year it was of movies "starting weak, ending strong". That's "Mitty" for you, a film that would seem, initially, to have zero momentum or purpose, only to then end like a freight train. This Ben Stiller guy can direct, look out for him going forward.
8. "Upstream Color"
A movie that still haunts me, "Upstream Color" did so much with so little. Genuinely jarring, featuring insanely captivating imagery, with a story that belies easy explanation, "Upstream Color" was a pleasant little surprise.
7. "Inside Llewyn Davis"
For my money (about twelve dollars) Oscar Isaac gave the best performance of the year as the lead folk singer in "Inside Llewyn Davis". He was asked to do a lot, like singing, carrying cats, and coming off as curmudgeonly yet sympathetic. He pulled all of that off with ease. This is more of an actor's movie than a totally accessible narrative, but The Coen Brothers almost always make rich and compelling cinema, well worth a watch.
Featuring the most compelling visuals of the year, the opening 15 minutes of this film are obscenely captivating. I wish Cuaron had gone completely linear with the storyline, because logically it has troubles, but all that is washed away by Sandra Bullock's excellent performance and those aforementioned visuals. A very brisk 90-minute winner.
The best "true" story of the year? (checks notes) Yep, this is the best adaptation of a "real life" happening of 2013. Judi Dench is never not good, pardon the double negative, and Steve Coogan shows surpassing range as journalist Martin Sixsmith. This one has plenty of twists and turns, but it ends up being a heartfelt look at family and religion.
4. "Beautiful Creatures"
One could make the case that young adult cinema had a stronger year than superhero films, I know I'd rather watch "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire", "Warm Bodies", and "Beautiful Creatures" than any of your "Thor" or "Superman" efforts. There was something odd and well, beautiful, about this adaptation, and it featured under the radar performances from Emma Thompson, Viola Davis, and Jeremy Irons. If you haven't seen it, give it a shot, and take special note of young Alden Ehrenreich's eery similarities to a young Jack Nicholson.
3. "Side Effects"
Rooney Mara, Jude Law, and Channing Tatum were excellent in this topsy-turvy Hitchcockian drama. I watched it a couple of times just to see the lovely restraint Steven Soderbergh showed throughout, this is a great film to use as a litmus test with friends. If they don't like this, they don't really like film. At least you'll know!
2. "Blue is the Warmest Color"
NC-17, loaded with controversy, and yet also the best example of the life cycle of young love we've seen in quite some time. Oddly enough, it's the graphic sex scenes that detract from the work, they come off as a deliberate attempt to provoke, as opposed to serving the storyline, but even that's not enough to dissuade me from loving this one. It's almost three hours, and you'll feel like you've been put through the emotional ringer afterward, but "Blue is the Warmest Color" is a tremendous example of non-formulaic filmmaking, a real gem.
A profoundly strange sci-fi romantic drama, almost a new category if not for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", "Her" asks about hundred questions that will be relevant within the next twenty years. Our relationship with technology continues to get more complicated as we interface with, well, ourselves and computers far more than actual live human beings. "Her" is the logical extension to that dichotomy, and Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson turn in riveting performances. From director Spike Jonze, whose pedigree includes "Adaptation" and "Being John Malkovich", "Her" is a sentimental work of art, but it also manages to feel fresh and vibrant. A must-see for any film lover.