Top 10 Films of 2013

Tom Hanks

And here it is: my Top 10 for 2013! (In case you missed 11-20 and the rest, check it out here.) Without further ado, #10…

10. Dallas Buyers Club

One of the best films about the earlier years of the AIDS epidemic. While not a comedy, it’s surprisingly funny at times. It deftly avoids the overly sentimental treacle one often expects with this subject matter. Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto give the best performances of their respective careers.

9. Philomena

Judi Dench has still got it (as if there were ever any doubt). Steve Coogan’s script could’ve easily treated its main character as just a stupid country bumpkin, and for a while you think it does. Before long though, you realize you’re looking at a deeply complex, intelligent individual and the Coogan’s big city journalist may me the short-sighted one. It also sheds much-needed light on a horrible true past, but to say more would be giving away too much.

8. Rush

Do you think this is a sports movie? Think again. This is a hugely enjoyable character study of two Formula One drivers whose complex relationship is one of the most riveting things on screen in years. Chris Hemsworth and especially Daniel Brühl are perfectly cast.

7. Mud

McConaughey continues his amazing “McConnaisance,” but the real stand outs are Tye Sheridan as main kid, Ellis, and director Jeff Nichols who continues his run of incredibly poignant portraits of rural American south. (His last, Take Shelter, was one of the most defining films of the decade.)

6. Captain Phillips

Paul Greengrass’ greatest gift is his ability to strip the sentiment and judgment away so that the only emotion left is genuinely your own. Tom Hanks’ final scene will break you.

5. Prisoners

What looks on the surface to be an average popcorn thriller, turns out to be a deeply layered, tightly wound, and deftly directed morality play. This will haunt you for a very long time after the credits roll.

4. 12 Years a Slave

Director Steve McQueen drops the pretension of his first two films (Hunger, Shame) but keeps the artistry to create the most powerful vision of slavery ever put on film. Chiwetel Ejiofor is outstanding as always in the lead and Michael Fassbender is terrifying as his brutal owner. Beware the hanging scene – I’ll say no more.

3. Gravity

The groundbreaking visual effects make better use of 3D than any film in history. That alone would make it one of the best movies of any year. But it’s the deceptively simple structure and struggle for survival at its heart that makes it one of the greatest films ever made.

2. Nebraska

Alexander Payne’s best film since Election is the most relaxing and pleasant time I’ve spent in a movie theater all year. It’s at once measured and hilarious. Bruce Dern gives a completely lived-in performance as Woody, but the biggest stand out is June Squibb as his un-self-censored wife. (See my review here.)

 -TIE- 2. Her [UPDATE: Added 1/21/14]

Spike Jonze hits refresh on the romance genre with this love story between a man and his computer. Set in a gorgeously designed near-future, this film moves beyond the usual genre tropes to explore the very concept of relationships. (See my review here.)

1. The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese one-ups his own legendary repertoire by taking the true life of the worst of Wall St scumbags and making it an outrageous comedy. Leonardo DiCaprio gives the best performance of his illustrious career. But don’t confuse the deceptively light tone with a lack of seriousness. The raucous chaos at the very heart of the film paints an extremely poignant vision of corporate greed and excess. (See my review here.)

Agree? Disagree? Think I missed something? Let me know in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “Top 10 Films of 2013

  1. Greg Goldman says:

    It is lovely to see you using your eye for cinema in this structured public way, Aaron. I am excited to see all of these! (but will probably see 1-2 if I’m lucky)

  2. […] Scorsese and Alexander Payne crafted incredible films – #1 and #2 respectively on my Top 10 List. Nevertheless, they’re all but sitting this one out. This is a close 2-man race, with a third […]

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