I’ve now seen 136 films that came out in 2013. I liked about three-quarters of those movies to one extent or another, but I loved a far smaller section of those movies.
I’m going to list my 25 26 favorite movies (I had 25 written then saw another great one), which is kind of obnoxious but this is the internet and there’s no space limitation and you can either stop reading right now or just scroll really fast. It’s up to you. I’m listing my favorite movies; not the best movies. One of the best movies I saw all year was 12 Years a Slave, but I’ll never watch that again because it was so uncomfortable. These are the movies that made me smile and laugh and enjoy myself more than any others.
But first! Some honorable mentions for movies that didn’t make it into my Top 25, but very easily could have: Upstream Color was trippy and awesome and a worthwhile follow-up to Primer, and juuuuuuust missed my top selection. Over time, it could be my favorite movie of the year, but I don’t understand nearly enough to put it that high. V/H/S/2 was also great, and better than the first, and probably the best horror anthology I’ve ever seen (though my count is probably at, like, 3, so whatever). Hell Baby had tons of hilarious people doing lots of hilarious things. The Place Beyond the Pines was more ambitious than almost every other movie on this list, and I feel bad about not having this in my Top 25, but whatever. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints was beautiful and lovely and perfectly acted, and I feel bad about not having that in my Top, either. Finally, here are some movies that flew a little under the radar but that you should hunt down and see: The East, Upside Down, Black Rock, The Hollywood Complex, Escape From Tomorrow, Stoker, Sightseers. Cool, right? Okay, done. NOW MY FAVORITES.
26. The Bling Ring
Why I Love It: Because it was an awesome example of young kids being awful in a way that was really fun to watch. (More on that later, obviously.) Because the soundtrack was great and perfectly used. Because “Your butt looks AWESOME” is maybe my favorite line of the year. Because the scene where they rob Audrina Patridge’s house is incredible to watch. Because Paris Hilton (and all the rest of these insanely rich Hollywood stars) let Sofia Coppola actually shoot in their houses, and you can see how gaudy their lives are. Because Emma Watson is incredibly attractive and because of this GIF.
25. White House Down
Why I Love It: Because it never took itself seriously and was all the better for it. Because “GET. YO’. HANDS. OFF. MY. JORDANS.” Because Tatum and Foxx are a better duo than I ever would have thought. Because it makes an Independence Day joke that should bomb spectacularly but is one of the funniest lines of the movie. Because it’s loud and obnoxious and just plain FUN. Because it actually, kind of, uses the internet and social media in a way that it’d be used in real life, which is dumb but no movies do that and it bothers me when technology is horribly misused in movies.
24. Pain and Gain
Why I Love It: Because it’s the most American movie of the year, in good and bad ways. Because poor people invented salads. Because Marky Mark just wants to get his pump on. Because “Jesus Christ himself has blessed me with many gifts and one of them is knocking someone the FUCK out!” Because I like Michael Bay and I’m glad to see he still has good movies in him. Because it’s beautifully shot and just impressive to look at. Because it’s based on a true story and that’s just totally bonkers. Because The Rock is awesome.
23. This is the End
Why I Love It: Because I thought I’d hate it and wound up loving it. Because almost everything about this movie is hilarious, and the special features (the first I’ve watched in years!) are somehow just as good. Because Michael Cera and that windbreaker are insane in all the best ways. Because Aziz Ansari has the funniest death (spoiler! sorry) all year. Because the final scene has the best surprise cameo in the history of cinema. Because Jonah just wants to snuggle.
22. Monsters University
Why I Love It: Because it provided a great prequel to a great movie. Because Charlie Day is in it and because his character (Art) is the best character. Because somehow it took away the best part of the original (Boo) and created an even better movie. Because it used jokes in the trailer that it didn’t use in the movie, making the movie more fresh than I had anticipated. Because it’s Pixar, and they can do (almost) no wrong.
21. World War Z
Why I Love It: Because I thought it was going to be a generic zombie movie and it turned out to be so, so, so much more and so, so, so much better than that. Because Brad Pitt is awesome in it. Because that ascension through the stairwell (pictured above) is insanely tense. Because most of the entire movie is insanely tense. Because the movie feels like it actually has an epic scale, which is hard to say about a lot of movies. Because it’s better than almost every other zombie movie of the past five years.
Why I Love It: Because Matthew McConaughey is on a roll, and he absolutely shines in this movie. Because there are young kids in the lead and they not only don’t detract from the final picture but only serve to enhance it. Because it takes place in a setting that feels like a real place. Because of the final confrontation.
19. Fast & Furious 6
Why I Love It: Because the runway sequence was the best action sequence of the year, no matter how impossible it was. Because it has the most exciting scene in the credits sequence of any movie ever, to the point where I STOOD UP AND CHEERED IN THE THEATER. Because it was the latest great addition to my favorite film franchise. Because of that fight between Gina Carano and Michelle Rodriguez. Because of that other fight, happening at the same time. Because the last hour is one of the most exciting hours of any movie all year long. (Sad note: This movie was waaaaay higher on my list, like Top 10, and then I re-watched it after Paul Walker died and I was so sad … so, so sad … and I didn’t like it as much. I didn’t expect that.)
Why I Love It: Because wow, June Squibb is hilarious. Because everything about the movie is so funny and cute and heart-warming and charming. Because Bruce Dern is awesome and Will Forte is awesome and the two are awesome together. Because Alexander Payne makes great movies and this is no exception. Because it’s quirky and weird in a way most other movies weren’t quirky or weird this year. Because the trailer set it up to be great and it delivered.
17. In a World…
Why I Love It: Because Lake Bell is the greatest, and it’s amazing that this is her first movie. Because this is a movie full of my favorite people, all with great parts. Because Tig Notaro is in here, because why not? Because it somehow manages to balance funny and real and does both things well. Because I finally liked Demetri Martin, and that’s gotta count for something, right? Because Michaela Watkins is in this movie and she’s my favorite person.
16. Drinking Buddies
Why I Love It: Because it’s amazing and real and really well made and almost nothing about it could be any better. (It’s scary that this is #15 because I love this movie a whole lot.) Because I love everyone in it, and they all pull off their parts so well. Because Jake Johnson digs into this role in the same way he does with Nick Miller on New Girl and he comes out with something real. Because Olivia Wilde and Anna Kendrick are both awesome and amazing and beautiful and I’m jealous of Jake Johnson. Because, hey, look it’s Peter Gibbons! Because it’s all about beer. Because it tells a small story in a great way, which Joe Swanberg does so well.
15. American Hustle
Why I Love It: Because it’s one of the funniest movies of the year, and I totally didn’t expect that. Because I absolutely HATED Silver Linings Playbook, and David O. Russell followed that up with this. Because I somehow didn’t know that Louis C.K. or Robert DeNiro were in the movie, and both of their appearances blew my mind. BECAUSE OF THE HAIRPIECES, OBVIOUSLY. Because the music was great. Because it has a star-studded cast that doesn’t disappoint. Because Jennifer Lawrence wasn’t overused (is that even possible?) and she made the most of her screen time.
Why I Love It: Because LET IT GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Because it stacks up with – and may be better than – almost any of the classic Disney Princess movies. (I have no idea if I actually feel this way, but I like it a lot.) Because Olaf is a great character and I normally don’t like Josh Gad. Because the music was awesome. Because if you don’t like this movie, you don’t have a heart. Because I got a super cool pin when I went to the theater to see it.
Why I Love It: Because I’ve never seen a movie like this before, and I don’t think I ever will again. Because I whole-heartedly and unabashedly love Sandra Bullock like a middle-aged woman, and you can’t show me any movie (not even All About Steve, somehow) that I won’t love her in. Because Alfonso Cuaron is the master of the extended shot, and the first, like, 15 minutes of this movie are worth the price of admission alone. Because I love small stories and that’s what this is … it just happens to be in space. (The only reason this isn’t higher on the list is because I don’t know that it’ll have the same impact on a second viewing; I totally loved this from start to finish, but I think it’s probably less re-watchable than the other films above it on this list, which is sort of how I rank my favorites. Ho hum.)
12. Pacific Rim
Why I Love It: BECAUSE IT’S ROBOTS FIGHTING MONSTERS AND WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT?! Because I saw it in IMAX 3D and my seat and the theater shook when said robots and said monsters hit each other. Because, “Sensei, I love you.” Because Charlie Day is awesome in this movie. Because it was super saturated and gorgeous to look at. Because Ron Perlman is an awesome bad guy. Because it still holds up its super enjoyable feel, even on a TV instead of an IMAX screen. Because Guillermo del Toro has awesome ideas for creature designs, and they’ve never been bigger (or better). Because they use a boat as a sort-of-baseball-bat and it’s the greatest. Because, seriously, it’s robots fighting monsters and what more do you need?
11. You’re Next
Why I Love It: Because I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to see it in a theater, but I did, and I saw it at midnight and it was an amazing experience. Because it’s totally badass, and Sharni Vinson is a totally awesome and badass lead character. Because it reminds me of The House of the Devil, one of my all-time favorite horror movies in a lot of ways. Because Ti West is in it (see also: The House of the Devil) and that’s always fun – and because it came from that cluster of filmmakers who are all friends with each other and pop into each other’s films. Because it’s brutal and gory and, at the same time, really, really funny.
10. Stories We Tell
Why I Love It: Because it tells a really unique and intimate story in a way that could be incredibly uncomfortable but is instead wonderful. Because Sarah Polley knows exactly what she’s doing. Because we get a glimpse into her life and see her entire family talk about something extremely personal, and it’s okay because it’s all about Sarah Polley and she’s okay with it. Because it’s structured beautifully and is more of a mystery than you’d think it could be. Because the re-enactments are so good that you think they’re real. Because it’s, hands-down, the best documentary of the year.
9. Catching Fire
Why I Love It: Because it was my favorite book in the Hunger Games trilogy and it exceeded my enormous expectations. Because it took the few things good from the first movie, got rid of the rest and created an awesome film on so many levels. Because the arena was as awesome as I had hoped it would be (even if it was on screen for less time than I thought it would be). Because the stuff outside the arena was more interesting than the stuff inside the arena, and I totally didn’t expect that. Because it sets up an awesome final story in Mockingjay (which they shouldn’t have split into two films, but whatever). Because of Finnick and Johanna and Beetee and Wiress, and because all were played perfectly (especially Finnick and Johanna).
8. The Way, Way Back
Why I Love It: Because: Sam Rockwell. Because, seriously, Sam Rockwell is the best and is on fire the whole time. Because I know who Duncan (aka Pop ‘n’ Lock) is and I feel bad for him and it’s awesome to see him grow. Because of that whole Pop ‘n’ Lock section and everything that comes after it. Because it’s another Faxon/Rash joint, and because Jim Rash is awesome on-screen, too. Because Maya Rudolph is awesome, too. Because it’s almost somehow better the second time watching it. Because Steve Carrell is so unlikeable and he doesn’t let up for a second.
7. The World’s End
Why I Love It: Because it’s the best of the three Cornetto movies, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. Because it’s a perfect conclusion to the unrelated trilogy of those movies, in so many ways. Because it tells the most grown-up (and best) story of the three movies in the same loveably childish way of the first two without sacrificing any substance or impact. Because there are robots (except they’re not robots, by definition, natch) who are violent and bleed blue blood. Because Pierce Brosnan shows up because why not? Because you wait almost two hours to see the Cornetto tie-in, and then it happens, and then it’s gone, and it’s perfect.
6. The Spectacular Now
Why I Love It: Because Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are amazingly talented and perfect for these roles. Because the supporting cast members – from Brie Larson to Bob Odenkirk to Jennifer Jason Leigh to Kyle Chandler and beyond – are all great characters that help make the leads even better. Because it tells a great story, and tells it at the right pace and lets the audience keep up. Because it tells a small story in a great way (like a lot of my other favorite movies). Because James Ponsoldt makes good movies. Because the end is perfect.
5. Short Term 12
Why I Love It: Because it tells so many small stories about people that coalesce into one amazing story about a place. Because Brie Larson has been so good in support in so many movies and she totally delivers in the lead here. Because of Brie with the baseball bat. Because the story is cyclical and bookends in a perfect way. Because everyone in this movie is so young and they’re all such insanely talented actors. Because it’s happy and sad and funny and depressing, all at the same time. Because I had to wait forever to see this movie and it was still worth the wait.
Why I Love It: Because it’s far, far, far funnier than I thought it would (or could) be. Because I want an OS like Samantha. Because of that idiotic video game character (and also because I want to play that video game). Because Olivia Wilde is a total nut-job in her one scene and she nails it. Because Amy Adams is great throughout the movie. Because Scarlett Johnansson is never on-screen yet she’s there the whole time. Because, oh yeah, Joaquin Phoenix single-handedly carries like three-quarters of this movie and is unbelievable … just so, so, so good (and he should totally win an Oscar for this). Because I want to live in Spike Jonze’s brain. Because of the job – and whole industry – that Joaquin Phoenix has and works in. Because of those pants.
3. The Wolf of Wall Street
Why I Love It: Because it’s three hours of debauchery and never feels like it’s that long. Because there’s no way Leonardo DiCaprio should be that effortlessly funny – in both delivery and in physical humor – and yet he is. Because of Jonah Hill’s teeth – and the scene where he first sees Margot Robbie. Because, uh, Margot Robbie is fairly attractive. Because of that scene where she and Mackenzie Meehan dance to “Gloria.” Because of the ‘ludes – and the Lemmons. Because I’m able to enjoy a movie like this and understand it doesn’t glorify the deplorable behavior of many Wall Street brokers. Because of Jon Bernthal, and because of how he can sell me a pen. Because of Leonardo DiCaprio dancing at his wedding. Because of Matthew McConaughey steals the show in his, like, four minutes on screen – and because of his chest-beating and because, “Those are rookie numbers.”
2. Spring Breakers
Why I Love It: Because love it or hate it, this is the most divisive movie of the year (and the most divisive in recent memory). Because it’s awesome to see these teen role models go bad. Because Alien – and James Franco – ain’t from this planet, y’all. Because he’s got shorts – in every color. Because it uses music perfectly: from start to finish, from Skrillex to Gucci Mane – and especially Britney Spears. Because: “Pretend it’s a video game,” and you have to do that as the audience, too. Because it uses editing as a tool and a weapon in a way I’ve never seen it used before. Because of the final confrontation. Because so many people hate this movie and misunderstand this movie. Because Harmony Korine can make a movie making fun of young people, and young people can love it and not understand they’re the butt of the joke – or because he can celebrate their debauchery and they can revel in it.
1. Sparrows Dance
Why I Love It: Because I loved this movie completely, from start to finish. Because I knew almost nothing about it going in, other than seeing a vaguely positive review written about it, and it blew me away. Because I’d never heard of Marin Ireland before and she is OUTSTANDING in this movie. Because she’s never named, and she doesn’t have to be. Because Paul Sparks is just as good, and just as quirky (in a totally different way) and is a perfect fit for her. Because it has the best title credits in the history of movies. Because the cinematography truly gives you a sense of claustrophobia and panic and a feeling of being boxed in. Because it’s, essentially, a bottle movie. Because it’s essentially a stage play, and the camera shot that proves this is perfect. Because it tells the smallest story of any movie on this list – a woman’s toilet breaks – and it’s more than enough to fill a movie. Because at 80 minutes it’s a perfect length, but I would watch it for hours. Because no one’s heard of this movie, but everyone should.
Finally, Academy Award guesses? I don’t know. I had picked these before the Golden Globes, and I’m glad to see a lot get recognized there.
- Best Picture: The Wolf of Wall Street
- Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave (this category is going to be insane; I’m pulling for Joaquin Phoenix in Her)
- Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
- Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
- Best Supporting Actress: Scarlett Johansson, Her
- Best Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze, Her
- Best Adapted Screenplay: Terence Winter, The Wolf of Wall Street
- Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
- Best Soundtrack: Gravity