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The 30 Best Films of 2013

Anyone who tells you that 2013 wasn't a spectacular year for movies is either lying through their teeth or is someone who spent most of the year cooped up in their apartment watching episodic television on Netflix. Here go the 30 best films of the year.

30. Fruitvale Station - Directed by Ryan Coogler
29. Post Tenebras Lux - Directed by Carlos Reygadas
28. Side Effects - Directed by Steven Soderbergh
27. Room 237 - Directed by Rodney Ascher
26. Before Midnight - Directed by Richard Linklater
25. Lenny Cooke - Directed by Joshua and Ben Safdie
24. The Place Beyond The Pines - Directed by Derek Cianfrance
23. Blue Jasmine - Directed by Woody Allen
22. Nebraska - Directed by Alexander Payne
21. Mud - Directed by Jeff Nichols
20. Gravity - Directed Alfonso Cuarón
19. The End of Love - Directed by Mark Webber
18. American Hustle - Directed by David O. Russell
17. Inside Llewyn Davis - Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
16. Her - Directed by Spike Jonze
15. 12 Years A Slave - Directed by Steve McQueen
14. Leviathan - Directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel
13. Captain Phillips - Directed by Paul Greengrass
12. Heli - Directed by Amat Escalante
11. All The Memory In The World - Directed by Mike Olenick

10. The Wolf of Wall Street - Directed by Martin Scorsese

Without question, Scorsese's most high-fueled motion picture. Leonardo DiCaprio delivers one of his career best performances in a film that beams with booze, drugs, sex and money--but is really about the hollowness of excess and the supposed American dream (or at least what it once was).

9. Dallas Buyers Club - Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée

While it tiptoes on the subject near the end, Dallas doesn't devolve into a total "message" movie. Instead, we get Matthew McConaughey in a raw, physically exhausting portrayal of a Texas roughneck with AIDS. It's one of those true stories that still feels thrillingly alive on the screen, even as it tallies the days gone by.

8. To The Wonder - Directed by Terrence Malick

More experimental than his magnum opus The Tree of Life, Wonder is a challenging work of art, one that requires the viewer to take a leap of faith, leaving traditional narrative tropes at the door and inviting an impressionistic dance of moving images to say what words cannot.

7. With My Heart In Yambo - Directed by María Fernanda Restrepo

Criminally under-seen in the United States, this searing, passionate feature length documentary from Ecuador is part procedural on the back-door governmental wrongdoings in Quito and part cathartic closure for the filmmaker's family, as they must learn to bear with the ambiguous disappearance (and more than probable murder) of their two sons.

6. Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? - Directed by Michel Gondry

Breathing new life into the standard talking head documentary format, Gondry goes to painstaking lengths to hand-draw intricate animations for all of the insightful discussions he has with the great mind that is Noam Chomsky. This is Gondry's best work since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

5. Out Of The Furnace - Directed by Scott Cooper

A modern day companion piece to Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter, Furnace follows disillusioned and desperate Iraq war veteran Casey Affleck as he dangerously ventures into the New Jersey countryside to bare-knuckle box for cold cash. Meanwhile, Affleck's older brother Christian Bale, fresh out of prison, must learn to readjust into his small town life while running into a direct course with Affleck's dark underworld associates. Violent and lyrical, it's destined to be rediscovered as an American classic years from now.

4. Blue Is The Warmest Color - Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche

The year's most powerful love story. It's vital for its examination of the turmoil found in the finite endings to relationships that we all experience. The film is sexy, full of warmth and is genuinely exuberant too. By focusing on the everyday, Blue morphs into an epic film, a cinematic survey of the human condition.

3. A Touch of Sin - Directed by Jia Zhangke

Using four protagonists--each existing in a corner of China's underexposed working class--as his subjects, Zhangke is able to run the gamut on the palpable, frustrated sentiment felt across the land in real life. Masterfully directed and unpredictably violent during several instances, Sin is the best foreign film of the year.

2. Spring Breakers - Directed by Harmony Korine

Korine's crowning achievement, a brilliant mix of his 'enfant terrible' cinema from the 90s and today's pop cultural obsession with instant gratification (YouTube, spring break partying, gangster mysticism, etc.). James Franco's Alien character feels like an indelible icon on the silver screen, a mix of malice and misguided machismo, cowering behind a ridiculous grill on his teeth (not to mention cornrows on his head). His "Look at my shit" speech is already one of the most quotable soliloquies in recent memory.

1. Prisoners - Directed by Denis Villeneuve

A brooding, gorgeously photographed masterpiece that boasts award-worthy turns by Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman. Ironically enough, because this film was a success at the box office, many critics and pundits didn't see it as anything more than a surprise September hit, which is a shame because it is the most commercially vital work of art of its dark subject matter kind since The Silence of the Lambs (and Lambs actually won the Best Picture Oscar). Gyllenhaal in particular excels as Detective Loki, the buttoned up, tattooed down edgy hero who is juxtaposed against the vigilante actions that Jackman's character makes. Tense, superbly acted and with a thorough script that has layers upon layers of plot, twists and heavy motifs, Prisoners is going to be around for a long time. This is the film that people will return to time and time again, recommending it to others as that great movie that didn't win any Academy Awards. Simply put, it is the best film of the year.


  1. I admire your ability to give an honest opinion in the midst of so many film review blogs who completely ignore so many of the films you list here. Very admirable! For example, just the fact that you mention To the Wonder, Out of the Furnace or Prisoners at all is wonderful!! Even better that you make them part of your top ten. Great top thirty list!

  2. I am extremely happy that Prisoners is placed at number one and that Mud found a place here as well. Great list!


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