2013 was one tough, frustrating, and eventful slog of a year! We saw corporations, governments and celebrities taking steep dives into oblivion and irrelevance. We saw sporting greats, politicians, and journalists become idiots, and Ben Affleck redeem himself with a hearty Academy Awards speech. 2013 in cinema was also a mixed bag. The Oscar season drew to a close in spectacular fashion whilst Hollywood comedies hit one new low after another (seriously, don’t ever watch Movie 43!). Over the past couple of years, the internet age has soured our way of analysing movies and expressing opinions. The influx of articles (highlighting the exhaustive amount of set pictures, marketing ploys, trailers, and interviews that come with every Hollywood movie) and fiery internet comment sections have distorted our idea of what big-budget movies could and should be. Some movies bombed miraculously (The Lone Ranger, After Earth) while others soared up into the sky in more ways than one (Iron Man 3, Gravity). I looked back on 2013’s crop of movies to give several of them my own kooky form of gratitude. PS. these lists only include movies I saw at the cinemas, and reviewed, this year despite significant release date shifts.
PPS. Judged specifically between January 1st, 2013 – December 31st, 2013.
Best Movies of 2013
Pulling us into his spooky yet enrapturing style, South Korean director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) continues his stellar run with Stoker. This scintillating drama-thriller, dripping with punishing character motivations and sexual awakenings, is one of 2013’s surprise hits. Mia Wasikowska delivers a career-defining performance, along the way. It even brought Nicole Kidman’s acting talents back from the grave. Very spooky, indeed.
From take off to landing, Flight is a profound and enthralling character study. Following Denzel Washington’s depraved yet regret-filled anti-hero, director Robert Zemeckis’ latest drama delves into a life worth salvaging. Peppered with hysterical supporting characters, an intense plane crash sequence, and compelling dialogue moments, Flight soars higher than anyone had anticipated.
8. Django Unchained
Pulling its punches at every correct moment, Django Unchained illustrates that acclaimed writer/director Quentin Tarantino still has what it takes. Proudly earning the Best Original Screenplay Oscar, this spaghetti western ably transition into an African-American revenge fantasy. Chilling performances, a kinetic soundtrack, and excessively powerful blood splatters enhance this comedically frantic romp.
7. Side Effects
Turning up the heat on its morally ambiguous characters, Side Effects caps off director Steven Soderberg’s sterling career with style. His entertaining directorial style, trademarking his many thought-provoking efforts, boosts this disturbing drug-addled drama. Brilliant performances (from Rooney Mara and Jude law, in particular), valuable messages, and a startling attention to detail develop an addictive and infectious psychosexual thriller.
6. Captain Phillips
As the sea-fairing version of United 93, Captain Phillips is a tightly edited, claustrophobic, and exhilarating hostage-thriller. Tom Hanks’ emphatic performance as the titular hero earns him yet another Oscar nomination. Excruciatingly tense throughout its taut run-time, the movie places a real-world sheen on the hostage-thriller genre. Credit, of course, goes to director Paul Greengrass for delivering yet another fearless and detailed post-9/11 drama. Despite the intensifying material, this is a profound roller-coaster ride.
Touching upon media-powered fear-mongering and suburbia’s darkest secrets, Prisoners is an intense, expansive, and gripping crime-thriller. With an ingenious narrative and remarkable performances, this kidnap-drama explores one man’s actions during a worse case scenario. Switching it from kidnap-drama to torture-thriller, director Dennis Villeneuve keeps us guessing throughout. In addition, Roger Deakins’ pulsating cinematography lends dimensions and malice to this already engaging drama-thriller.
4. American Hustle
With money, hair, boobs, and attitudes sent flying across morose settings, American Hustle develops one enlightening dialogue sequence after another. Director David O. Russell’s style lends itself to this intricate and enigmatic crime-drama. Based on a bizarre true story, this con-man flick breaks the rules and delivers thrills, laughs, and noteworthy performances. Christian Bale and Amy Adams soar above everyone else in this juicy and scintillating puzzle.
Speeding through Rush‘s purposeful run-time, the two lead characters face off in a heated battle for glory and respect. Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl fill out these roles with passion and, ahem, drive. Acclaimed director Ron Howard builds the tempo with the exhilarating and intensifying race sequences. Ultimately, Rush is a visually stimulating and attentive docudrama. Pushing its narrative with brute force, this enjoyable sports-drama moves at the speed of light.
2. Zero Dark Thirty
Longingly delving into the 21st century’s hottest topic, Zero Dark Thirty is a sickening, honest, and visceral sensory assault. Drawing a line between explosive action-war flick and extensive procedural drama, director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal make for a kinetic and exciting duo. In addition, the final action sequence is worth the price of admission. With intensifying set-pieces, cutting dialogue, and an acute attention to detail, this war-drama deserves repeat viewings.
Reaching for the stars, Gravity is an engaging, thought-provoking, attentive, and intensifying sci-fi action flick. As edge-of-your-seat entertainment, this sci-fi extravaganza holds steady throughout its taut 90-minute run-time. Director Alfonso Cuaron’s heartening style throws the audience into an engaging survival tale. Unlike most blockbusters, every detail serves a specific and profound purpose. With Sandra Bullock and George Clooney delivering charismatic performances, the heartening story stands up to the electrifying and breath-taking technical achievements. This is cinema at its most ambitious and entertaining!
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Life of Pi
World War Z, 2 Guns, Warm Bodies, Olympus Has Fallen, Pain & Gain, 20 Feet from Stardom, The Last Stand
Great movies I caught later on:
The Conjuring, You’re Next, 42, Mud
Worst movies of 2013
5. The Great Gatsby
Director Baz Luhrmann, once again, chooses style over substance when bringing a renowned story to the big screen. His version of The Great Gatsby, despite its positive elements, tries and fails to capture Hollywood’s true power. Choosing glitter cannons and anachronistic music cues over efficient story-telling intricacies, Luhrmann frustrated audiences everywhere with this overlong, hollow, and vacuous adaptation. From here on out, he should keep his favourite stories to himself.
4. The Bling Ring
Spending 90 minutes with these five mean-spirited, inane, and self-indulgent people is a torturous concept. Add director Sofia Coppola’s undercooked style to the mix, and The Bling Ring becomes even worse. Despite the visual flourishes, Coppola mishandles the bizarre and thought-provoking material. This repetitive, vapid, and uninspiring docu-drama wastes the audience and Emma Watson’s precious time. It’s about as scintillating as watching your bestie go shopping for six hours straight.
3. The Hangover Part 3
As painful and time consuming as an actual hangover, this unnecessary, cynical, and brainless third instalment officially wears out the Hangover series’ welcome. Featuring an underdeveloped heist-thriller plot, useless villains, laugh-less stretches, and screechy supporting characters, this instalment is little more than a made-by-focus-group big-budget comedy. Adding to the already disastrous year for Hollywood comedy, The Hangover Part 3 is an unforgivable, bland and stupefying waste of time, money, and resources.
2. A Good Day to Die Hard
Destroying John McCLane’s good name, A Good Day to Die Hard (2013’s worst movie title) is a silly, forgettable, and torturous action flick. Divorced from the 1986 classic, and even its worthwhile sequels, this series hit an embarrassing new low with this instalment. Sleep-walking through another action movie role, Bruce Willis has all but given up on regaining his charismatic and magnetic former self. However, after this instalment, everyone has given up on him.
1. Machete Kills
Director Robert Rodriguez needs to take a gigantic step back from the director’s chair after this self-indulgent, cheap, and stupefying sequel. Dragging a good cast and intriguing concepts through the Mexican desert, Machete Kills is an unwelcome and uninspired sequel to an already forgettable original feature. Removed from its faux-trailer roots, the Machete franchise contains only 2-3 minutes of engaging and fun material. Sadly, this movie’s marks this A-list director’s fall from grace. Having once made stunning action flicks, Machete Kills strips him of his valour. For shame!