I can honestly say that 2013 was an incredible year for cinema, in both domestic and foreign releases. From genre comedies, to heartfelt dramas, this past year not only broke records, but managed to reinvigorate my faith in cinema as a whole. While a few years ago, due to the death of celluloid in the movie business, I began to think that there would be no way to come back. Sure, there would always be something to watch, but it lack that magic touch, that made people fall in love with film in the first place. There was a great amount of films that I didn’t get to check out in time and a bunch of films that wont make it on this list, but never the less here’s what I thought was worth watching in 2013.
10. Only God Forgives
One of the most polarizing films of the year, which managed to showcase how much Nicolas Rinding Refn just doesn’t care about anyone, but himself. In its purest sense, Only God Forgives is cinematic masturbation, a template where Refn throws so many visceral elements on screen, just to see what happens. The outcome is sure to frustrate many, but those who are willing to surrender to the onslaught of violent imagery and Oedipal themes, might just find something that’s unlike anything else we’ve seen.
9. American Hustle
Containing an all-star cast and a fantastic script, David O. Russell once again proves why he’s a master craftsman with his latest film, American Hustle. The entire set-up, the chemistry between all of the actors, the elaborate production design and a plethora of other details highlight why Russell’s latest is a must see. While she had the highest grossing film of 2013, American Hustle showcases one of the best performances that Jennifer Lawrence has given to date. Under the guidance of Russell, Lawrence has managed to ignite the screen twice, full of fortitude and I look forward to her working with the director once again.
8. The World’s End
Edgar Wright’s final piece of the Cornetto Trilogy was a satisfying one and a hell of a genre film. A delectable blend of sci-fi, horror, buddy comedies and apocalyptic films, The World’s End contains some of the straightest stuff that Nick Frost has put to screen, as well as Simon Pegg, straying from the norm, by playing a major screw-up of a protagonist. It certainly helps watching all three of Wright’s films together, to get the most out of The World’s End, but one can still find much to enjoy out of this latest offering from Mr. Wright.
7. This is The End
This is The End was one of the funniest films to come out this year and while I typically wouldn’t put a comedy like this on a top ten list, this film just presents the right amount of laughs to justify it. From the great ensemble cast of friends, to the amazing cameos, that should crack a smile on anyone’s face. This is The End also presents a solid attempt at poking fun at other Post-Apocalypic films.
6. The Place Beyond The Pines
Derek Cianfrance’s follow up film to 2010’s Blue Valentine, happened to reunite him with his lead actor, Ryan Gosling, in this crime story that spans an entire generation. The Place Beyond The Pines shows the skills of Cianfrance, in both the way brings out some great performances in his cast and the way that he constructs his narrative, that spans over a major portion of time. Engaging from its opening tracking shot, The Place Beyond The Pines was one of the best crime films to be released in a very long time.
5. The Grandmaster
After years of waiting, Wong Kar-Wai has finally delivered his Ip Man film, in the guise of The Grandmaster and its nothing but glorious cinema. Utilizing the talents of Yuen Wo Ping for fight choreography and casting the likes of Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi, The Grandmaster plays like an exquisite ballet of kung fu, romance and drama. After shooting for 4 years and having to deal with his actor’s getting injured on set, Wong Kar-Wai’s The Grandmaster shows how graceful the filmmaker is, even when making a kung fu film.
Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity is proof of the power of 3D in cinema and how it can be an effective storytelling tool. As we follow Sandra Bullock on her journey to escape from space, Cuaron manages to tell an effective story of a grieving mother. While Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki has managed to wow us before, with his work in Children of Men and Tree of Life, his work in Gravity is a testament to his craft and deserves to be seen on the largest screen possible.
3. Pacific Rim
Guillermo Del Toro knows how to make a fun movie, as his giant mecha vs kaiju film, Pacific Rim was not only one of the best films of the summer, but one of best films of the year. With great SFX from ILM and an international cast, Pacific Rim showcased how an original property can fare, even amongst some of the biggest sequels and tried popcorn cinema. Here’s hoping that Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures can work out a deal and crank out another Pacific Rim film in a few years.
2. The Wolf of Wall Street
Easily one of Martin Scorsese’s greatest works, The Wolf of Wall Street is a cocaine fueled odyssey, that manages to entertain for its entire 3 hour running time. The exploits of Jordan Belfort was something that many critics left feeling more disgusted at what Scorsese had explored. I feel like the exact opposite, while DiCaprio’s performance is full of charm and excitement, Scorsese gives a critical examination of corporate greed and white collar crime, unlike any other film before it. The comedy contained in the film is some of the best that Scorsese’s ever done and is sure to make people laugh and ponder about these cowboy’s of the financial sector for many years.
1. 12 Years a Slave
Easily the strongest drama to emerge from 2013 and one of the best films of Steve McQueen’s early career. 12 Years a Slave is an extremely harsh film, but one that I feel that needed to be made. Its entire cast give performances of a lifetime and the attention to detail in the production design, make for some intense imagery that can haunt one for a lifetime.