Friday, January 3, 2014

My Favorite Films of 2013

As you all probably know, 2013 was an awesome year for movies. I had to expand my list from 10 to 15 films. I almost pushed it to 20! While I tried to see all of the best stuff this year, I did not see everything. While I would've liked to see Dallas Buyers Club, The Wind Rises, and Saving Mr. Banks, I couldn't see them soon enough. But I did see enough to make this list. As I said, 2013 was a fantastic year for film. So good, that not every movie made it on to my list. So I'll start off with some honorable mentions.
Honorable Mentions: Side Effects, Stoker, Pacific Rim, This Is the End, The Way Way Back, Much Ado About Nothing, Star Trek Into Darkness, and The Counselor. (I almost didn't put The Counselor on here, but I did enjoy it and I felt it was really over hated and under seen. Plus the performances were good and the dialog was awesome) All of those films are worth seeing. They just aren't as good as the ones on my Top 15 list. So without much ado, My Top 15 Movies of 2013!

15. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. People love to hate on Peter Jackson's Hobbit films. Sure, the first one was overlong and nothing compared to the LOTR movies, but the second installment was a huge improvement in many ways. The CGI and pacing was a hell of a lot better than the first one. It was also vastly entertaining and a really fun viewing experience, especially in 3D (which I don't usually say). It's not award worthy, but I really enjoyed this Hobbit film.

14. Behind the Candelabra. While Side Effects was quite good, Steven Soderbergh's other film he released this year was a little better.  It chronicled the relationship between Liberace and his much younger lover, Scott Thorson, and did it in a emotionally heavy and tasteful way that I really liked. Soderbergh's direction has never been smoother or more assured. Not to mention the movie boasted two great performances from Matt Damon and Micheal Douglas.

13. Nebraska. Alexander Payne's newest film is one of his best. His story about a sad old man chasing a fantasy with the help of his reluctant son was hilarious and really damn touching. Bruce Dern has never been better and June Squibb gave one of the funniest and best performances of the year. Really a good movie.

12. Mud. Matthew McConaughey has went from mediocre rom-com star to fantastic actor and Oscar contender. Mud is another great example of that. Jeff Nichols crafts a wonderful coming of age story that I haven't seen since Stand By Me. After some promising stuff like Shotgun Stories, Nichols shows he can make really good and meaningful cinema with Mud. The kids acting here are pretty good too, which is definitely rarer then it should be. Mud would be much higher on this list if so much good stuff didn't come out this year.

11. Captain Phillips. Movies don't often have the level of sheer intensity that Captain Phillips has. Paul Greengrass' action movie style direction certainly helped. Tom Hanks already showed he can carry a movie on his back in Cast Away. He just reinforces that here, especially in a powerful last ten minutes. Newcomer Barkhad Abdirahman was fantastic too as a Somali pirate.

10. Frances Ha. Yeah, Frances Ha doesn't tackle big subjects like racism or disease. But it doesn't have to. Noah Baumbach did a great job of showing us a touching snapshot of the life of a struggling artist in New York. Frances Ha has a great performance by Greta Gerwig, a fantastic screenplay, and some very good direction. I highly recommend this film, and it's a shame it's getting snubbed for so many awards.

9. The Place Beyond the Pines. When I saw this in theaters back in April, I was completely blown away. Derek Cianfrance last did the very good Blue Valentine. The Place Beyond the Pines is more ambitious, better acted, and just an extraordinary film in all. Eva Mendes gives a surprisingly great performance along with Bradley Cooper, Ben Mendelsohn, and Ryan Gosling. It weaves together three stories over about a fifteen year period and is exciting, sad, and just very, very good.

8. The World's End. I really love this film. I've seen it twice now and own it on DVD. I'm actually tempted to put it higher on the list. Director Edgar Wright does an amazing job with mixing wild comedy, great filmmaking, surprisingly heartfelt statements about coming home and addiction, and really good performances (specifically Simon Pegg) to make an almost perfect movie. Definitely a satisfying end to The Cornetto Trilogy. I can't recommend this enough.

7. Gravity. Alfonso Cuaron's sci-fi thriller is nothing short of mind blowing. People complain that it's short on plot and character, but they're kind of wrong. The simplicity of it is what makes it work so well. While I feel Gravity was quite over hyped, it was still amazing. Especially in 3D, which as I said before, I don't usually say.

6. Prisoners. I walked away from Prisoners with my jaw to the floor and my head filled with thoughts about the film. Not only did it turn the whole mystery genre on it's head, but it was original and intense as hell. Denis Villeneuve nailed it with this. The performances by Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman, Paul Dano, and Melissa Leo were terrific. This was actually at my number one spot for a while, you really should see it.

5. Inside Llewyn Davis. The Coen Brothers have quite obviously mastered the craft of filmmaking. Their newest film, Inside Llewyn Davis is a funny, emotional, and interesting look at one struggling musician's life in the 60's New York folk scene. It was hilarious at times and sad at others, and very well done. The cinematography was beautiful. Oscar Isaac and Carey Mulligan both are great here, along with a nice appearance by John Goodman. Not to mention, it had a killer soundtrack.
4. American Hustle. Christian Bale's performance is one of the best things in a movie filled with great things. American Hustle was one of the more entertaining films of the year and was chock full of great performances. It's 70's setting was spot on and the script was very funny. David O. Russell is definitely doing something right.

3. 12 Years a Slave. Never has a film showed suffering as 12 Years a Slave has. Steve McQueen shows slavery as it was, nothing more and nothing less. And boy is it horrifying. Yet, it is so well made and well acted that you must see it. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives one of the best performances of the year as the tortured Solomon Northup. 12 Years a Slave is a film I won't forget for as long as I am alive.
2. The Wolf of Wall Street. Martin Scorsese is my favorite director, and the case could be made that he is America's greatest director. The Wolf of Wall Street is Scorsese's best film since The Departed, and possibly GoodFellas. It's entertaining as hell, while still showing us the excess and greed personified in 90's Wall Street. Some have criticized the movie for 'condoning' the actions of the people it portrays. This isn't true, and we shouldn't have to be told that these guys are bad. It's the audience's fault if we can't understand that what Jordan Belfort did was bad. The film also houses Leonardo DiCaprio's best performance ever. Give that man an Oscar! I loved The Wolf of Wall Street.

1. Her. I haven't seen a film as astounding as Her probably in a really long time. It makes a relationship between a man and an operating system seem normal, even understandable. Writer/director Spike Jonze also asks and answers so many questions about artificial intelligence and consciousness. Her is beautiful in so many ways. The performances are great. Namely Joaquin Phoenix, but also Amy Adams and Scarlett Johansson (even though you never see her). Spike Jonze's screenplay is terrific and his direction is the best it's been since Being John Malkovich, if not better. I can barely express my feelings and love for Her, it's just such a masterpiece. Her is without a doubt, the best movie of the year.
 Well thanks for reading! As Always, Happy Viewing! You can follow me on Twitter @WhitsMovies and like me on Facebook at


  1. I wish I could agree with the Top 5 but living in England they're yet to come out! Really good list though, and I'm sure I will agree by the time they're released over here. Gravity, Place Beyond the Pines and Mud were certainly four of my favorites. I'm sure I'll love Her too, especially if its anything like Being John Malkovich!

    1. Thanks! Definitely give em a go when they come around to the UK! Her was amazing, possibly better then Being John Malkovich if that's possible.

  2. Some nice picks here, Whit. Glad to see The Counselor get a nod, too. You aren't lying about how over-hated that movie is, but is actually made it onto my own list this year. ;)

    Sadly, still waiting on Her (as well as Inside Llewyn Davis) to actually release in my town. :P

    1. Thanks man! Yeah I really can't understand where the hate for The Counselor came from. Trust me, they are both worth the wait (especially Her).