Note: These may not be the best movies of 2013, just the ones I enjoyed the most and can watch more than once.
10. The Way Way Back
Directors: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Cast: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Liam James, Sam Rockwell, AnnaSophia Robb
A coming-of-age tale of a boy named Duncan (Liam James), who goes on summer vacation with his mother (Toni Collette) and her jerk boyfriend (Steve Carell), and ends up working at a water park where he becomes good friends with the manager (Sam Rockwell), who is awesome and funny. I was surprised how much I actually enjoyed this movie. It hit home for me in a way. It’s also interesting to see Steve Carell play an asshole, since he’s usually the goofy nice guy. Sam Rockwell is just hilarious and I love him in this, and the kid does a great job too. It’s a simple story, but it has great characters and it’s executed incredibly well.
Director: Jeff Nichols
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Reese Witherspoon, Jacob Lofland, Sam Shepard, Michael Shannon
Two young boys, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), find a fugitive named Mud (Matthew McConaughey) living on a remote island across the Mississippi River, and promise to help him reunite with his love (Reese Witherspoon) and evade the law and the men looking to get revenge for his crime. I must love coming-of-age tales for some reason, because this is one of those as well, although a lot different from my #10. McConaughey made quite a few smart role choices last year, and this was one of them. I hadn’t really recognized his capacity for talent until I saw Mud. Tye Sheridan was amazing as well. I really enjoyed this movie. It’s an engaging drama with a great story about love and friendship, and has a lot of top notch talent.
8. The Place Beyond the Pines
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Dane DeHaan, Rose Byrne, Ray Liotta
There are three acts to this movie. The first focuses on Luke (Ryan Gosling), a motorcycle stunt rider who begins robbing banks in order to provide for his love, Romina (Eva Mendes), and his newborn son. The second act focuses on a cop named Avery (Bradley Cooper) who is coping with some of his own actions as well as being mixed up in a corrupt police force. The third act focuses on two teenage boys, Luke’s son and Avery’s son. Without giving much of the plot away, these three acts are interwoven (obviously) to produce a well-written drama that deals with cause and effect. We see what type of people the boys grow into due to the actions of their fathers. The story builds slowly, but that’s because the characters develop in a very realistic way over time. I think that Dane DeHaan, who plays Luke’s son, is great in this movie and is quickly becoming one of the most talented young actors of our generation. This is one movie that I think was wrongfully overlooked.
7. Short Term 12
Director: Destin Cretton
Cast: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Rami Malek, Kaitlyn Dever
Grace (Brie Larson), a young woman who works at a foster care facility for at-risk kids, struggles with helping young kids who are emotionally scarred, as well as dealing with her scars from her past, while being faced with a new tough life decision. I just have to put it out there that this movie made me cry. There’s a lot of raw emotion, and the acting by the kids is just amazing. It’s tough to see kids who have been hurt so much in their life. I think that’s why this is one of my favorites of 2013, any movie that can get a real emotional response out of me is worth seeing. Despite the fact that I’m a girl, it still takes a lot to really break me down, and this just hit me right in the damn heart.
6. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland
Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are thrown back into the games after their victory strikes rebellions in Panem. I think this sequel was a big improvement from the first movie. It’s less corny, and more real. I mean, shit gets real after what went down in the first one. People are beaten and executed for supporting any rebellious behavior whatsoever. In the first one, you barely get a sense of the kind of inferior life some of the districts are living, besides the fact that the government takes their children and throws them into an arena to kill or be killed. Here, you really get a sense of what kind of dictatorship they’re living under when they send men into the districts to enforce the law and beat people up in order to do it. Besides that, I think they did a pretty good job of really making something substantial and entertaining out of a mediocre book. Sorry to book fans, but making your main character so naive and literally unconscious for 50% of the story is lazy writing–although this is more of an issue in the third one. Hopefully they will take many liberties for the next film.
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
An astronaut (Sandra Bullock) struggles to survive, with some help from George Clooney, of course, being adrift in space after their shuttle is destroyed by debris. I’ll admit, I only enjoyed this movie for the effects and the cheap thrills. It really had me on the edge of my seat for 90% of it. This story is a bit ridiculous, though. Maybe not so ridiculous if you believe in Murphy’s law (anything that can go wrong will). I mean everything goes wrong for this woman. Think of a problem that can happen in space, and it happens. It’s really awful to watch in a way, because you start thinking, “Jesus, can’t this woman catch a break?” The point is, though, that it is entertaining as hell. I was actually stressed out watching it. Also, the cinematography and special effects were gorgeous, and seeing it in IMAX definitely helped.
4. Dallas Buyers Club
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Denis O’Hare, Steve Zahn
Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is diagnosed with AIDS in 1985. He works around the FDA to provide people with alternative drugs after he realizes his life had been prolonged with simple vitamins and protein drugs given to him by an unlicensed doctor in Mexico. He is assisted by Rayon (Jared Leto), a transsexual who also has the disease. Together they form the “Dallas Buyers Club.” Both McConaughey and Leto won Oscars for these two roles, and rightly so. They are fantastic is this movie. This movie really highlights the taboo behavior in the 80’s surrounding HIV and the idea that it was only a homosexual disease. Woodroof himself thought the same until he contracted it. It shows his growth as human being and newfound acceptance of homosexuals and his sympathy towards others with his disease. It’s a wonderfully told story of a big epidemic that scared people shitless back in the day. It also shows how much things have changed medically and behavior-wise when it comes to HIV/AIDS.
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara
A story about the rivalry between two Formula One drivers in the 1970’s, Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth). My theory is that if you watch a movie about a subject you know nothing about and end up liking it a lot, it is a well-made success. That is the case for me here. The only other thing I’ve ever watched having to do with Formula One racing was Senna, the documentary about Brazilian racer Ayrton Senna, which was also really well-made. Other than that, I’ve never watched a race. I don’t know how it works, I don’t know crap about it. Yet, this ended up being almost my favorite of the year. Although I think the movie probably exaggerates the rivalry between these two drivers, the way it is played out is still entertaining. They are both jerks, so it’s really hard to root for one or the other. The cinematography and the shots of the cars racing is superb. I think this movie was extremely underrated last year.
2. American Hustle
Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Louis C.K., Jeremy Renner, Jack Huston
Con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his partner Sydney (Amy Adams) are forced to work for FBI agent Richie DiMasso (Bradley Cooper) and end up mixed up in a world of politics and the mafia. Irving’s impulsive wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), has a big mouth that could cause their whole world to come crashing down. The way the script is written and the movie is filmed reminds me of Scorsese’s work–with the voice-over narration and the outrageous characters. Jennifer Lawrence was hilarious as the big-mouth Jersey housewife, although I think her Oscar nomination was a little much. I think she’s amazing and everything but she’s not the first, last, or even the best at playing a Jersey housewife in a movie. Amy Adams really stole the show, though. The costumes, set designs, and the soundtrack are amazing and really bring the audience back in time to the 70’s. This movie is just a lot of fun with enough humor, drama, and silly exaggerated caricatures screwing each other over and having a great time doing it.
1. The Wolf of Wall Street
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, John Bernthal
Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), a wealthy stock-broker, ends up in a downward spiral involving crime, corruption, and some rather funny scenes with substance abuse. I may only be saying this because I am a huge Scorsese fan, but this movie had to be the best of the year. You have DiCaprio, who, despite never winning an Oscar (poor Leo), is one of the best actors out there playing this scummy, cocky, drug-addicted stock-broker who basically just steals from everyone, and every now and then he makes a very long, motivating speech. Jonah Hill, who is always hilarious, playing Belfort’s partner who marries his cousin, shows us his (prosthetic) penis, gets Leo to smoke crack, and acts as one of the best funny jerks you’ll see all year. Margot Robbie, who basically came out of nowhere as an Australian actress who nails the New York accent down perfectly, playing Belfort’s wife. Not to mention, she’s quite gorgeous. Then, you have some of the funniest scenes I’ve seen all last year. One, particularly, is when DiCaprio and Hill get high off some old Lemmon Quaaludes, and then DiCaprio discovers what he calls “the cerebral palsy stage,” while rolling down some steps and dragging himself into his car. I laughed so hard there were actual tears. Plus, Scorsese, director of amazing movies like Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, and Casino. Need I say more?
12 Years a Slave for being a well-made, best picture-winning film, but not one that I would watch more than once or twice.
Her for making me think how cool it would actually be to have a smarter operating system than Siri.
Pacific Rim for being awesome with robots, monsters, and just pure entertainment.
The Act of Killing for being one of the most messed up documentaries I’ve seen in a while, with scary Indonesian gangsters re-enacting the ways they brutally murdered Communists in the 60’s.
Prisoners, which I totally forgot about while making this list, for being the best thriller I’ve seen all year with amazing performances by Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman, and Paul Dano.