Best of 2013

With the lists stalling at a count of 840, it is time to wrap up 2013.  It was a great year for films, with Steven McQueen’s brilliant 12 Years a Slave leading the way.  The film made 464 lists and was placed in the number one spot of 117 critics – both records.  GravityInside Llewyn Davis and Her were its closest competitors, making 2013 a very memorable year.

50. The Way Way Back (37 lists; 3 top spot)

Authenticity gives the movie its witty, heartwarming, hopeful, sentimental, searing and relatable edge. It is merciless in probing the tender spots of times like these, and tough-guy sweet in patching up the wounds. — Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times

49. Pacific Rim (38 lists; 1 top spot)

Pacific Rim’s ability to make monster-walloping feel fun again will no doubt make Atlantic Seaboard (or maybe Mediterranean Coastal Region) as inevitable a follow-up as the return of the Kaiju through that pesky underwater portal. — Dana Stevens, Slate

48. Rush (39 lists)

Fine filmmaking, a smart, visually engorged, frequently thrilling tale of boyish competition – inspired by a true story. At heart it’s “Amadeus” on wheels, only this time Salieri is the Austrian. — Kyle Smith, New York Post

47. Beyond the Hills (39 lists; 4 top spots)

There are no easy villains or heroes in this sad and slow but forcefully told tale, which exhibits the same humanity Mungiu brought to 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, his abortion drama that won the 2007 Palme d’Or. — Peter Howell, Toronto Star

46. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (40 lists; 2 top spots)

The double, or even triple, meanings behind Catching Fire — the subtitle, as if you didn’t know, of the second Hunger Games movie — burns through this exciting, thoughtful adventure drama like a torch to tinder. — Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News

45. The Wind Rises (41 lists; 1 top spot)

‘Airplanes are beautiful dreams’ is a phrase reprised throughout Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, and the same could be said about Miyazaki’s films. — Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

44. Bastards (46 lists; 2 top spot)

“Bastards” is a thriller truly etched in darkness, pools of black broken mostly by the stricken yet soldiering faces of her main characters, like ships in a sea of stormy nights. — Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times

43. No (47 lists)

Explores the power of popular dissent, and the coordinated persuasions of media, marketing, and targeted advertising in shaping the word no to invigorate a populace pessimistically conditioned to think that nothing will ever change for the good. — Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

42. Saving Mr. Banks (47 lists; 2 top spots)

Like the Mary Poppins film Disney would eventually serve up, Saving Mr. Banks is an affable, enjoyable spoonful of sugar that sweetens into palatability the sinus-clearing bite of the books – and the implacable iron lady who wrote them. — Ella Taylor, NPR

41. Philomena (49 lists; 1 top spot)

Director Steven Frears deserves special mention. A lesser filmmaker could so easily have turned this project into mushy, sentimental junk. The tear-jerking moments here are heartfelt and real. It’s the kind of filmmaking we see too little of today. — Bill Zwecker, Chicago Sun-Times

40. The Grandmaster (50 lists; 2 top spots)

There are sequences in Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai’s new film, The Grandmaster, that are as gorgeous as anything you’ll see on a screen this year, or perhaps this decade.  — Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail

39. The Past (50 lists; 3 top spots)

The narrative complications can be distracting, at times exasperating, but they’re finally irrelevant because Mr. Farhadi’s filmmaking is so fluid, and the performers, Ms. Bejo, in particular, are so attractive. — Manohla Dargis, New York Times

38. Like Someone In Love (50 lists; 4 top spots)

The film deepens a style Kiarostami has been refining for years. Characters ride in the backs of cars, sealed off from the city and yet constantly moving. Reflections in windows and mirrors both bring characters together and keep them apart. — Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger

37. Drug War (50 lists; 7 top spots)
Cars go crunch, bullets fly, blood spurts, bodies splatter and an unbelievable amount of cocaine is snorted. The climactic shootout, which goes on for 15 minutes and has an astronomical body count, is a masterpiece of its kind. — V.A. Musetto, New York Post

36. This is the End (54 lists; 2 top spots)

Rogen and Goldberg (making their directorial debuts) get the balance just right, with one gut-busting punchline and situation after another set against the escalating dread of the end of existence, taking place just outside of James Franco’s house.– Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

35. The Place Beyond the Pines (54 lists; 3 top spots)

With the arrival of The Place Beyond the Pines, the American dramatic film has found a loyal, gifted advocate in director Derek Cianfrance. — Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post

34. The Hunt (55 lists; 2 top spots)

It leaves us not only with an unforgettable final image, but also the troubling thought that witch hunts, like war, will always be with us – all the more so in the modern era of instant communication. — Peter Howell, Toronto Star

33. Stoker (58 lists; 3 top spots)

Park has built a hothouse of erotic tension that’s primed to explode. Some will find it too much. Screw them. Park’s goal is to bust form, not conform to it. Take Stoker for what it is: a thriller of savage beauty. — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

32. To the Wonder (59 lists; 9 top spots)

 [Many will] be dissatisfied by a film that would rather evoke than supply. I understand that, and I think Terrence Malick does, too. But here he has attempted to reach more deeply than that: to reach beneath the surface, and find the soul in need. — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

31. Frozen (60 lists)

It’s great to see Disney returning to its roots and blooming anew: creating superior musical entertainment that draws on the Walt tradition of animation splendor and the verve of Broadway present. — Richard Corliss, Time Magazine

30. Museum Hours (69 lists; 4 top spots)

The two leads contribute fresh, genuine performances, and what might have been a musty academic exercise gains in tension from Cohen’s deft juxtaposing of vocal narration, character detail, and majestic artwork. — J.R. Jones, Chicago Reader

29. The Spectacular Now (72 lists)

Fairly close to great, a lovely movie about young people that is in no way a formula picture. Original, truthful and moving: It’s not about the phenomenon of being young, but about the particular characters, who are as specific and vivid as actual people. — Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

28. Enough Said (72 lists; 1 top spot)

As always in Holofcener’s films, people in Enough Said say terrible things to each other. You hear them and think, No one would ever say that in real life-until you recognize that yes, of course they would. — Stephanie Zacharek, Village Voice

27. Prisoners (72 lists; 5 top spots)

It’s easy to make a thriller. It’s hard to make one that says something about human nature and then, like the hauntingly compelling “Prisoners,” finds something inside the genre that validates tying your nerves up in knots. — Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News

26. Computer Chess (77 lists; 5 top spots)

Computer Chess is about the dawn – one of many, but that’s another story – of the tech revolution. It’s also a reminder that you don’t need state-of-the-art toys to make a formally playful comedy about man versus machine. — Ella Taylor, NPR

25. The Great Beauty (83 lists; 8 top spots)

Never have cynicism and disillusion seemed more intoxicating than in “The Great Beauty,” which is such an overwhelming visual and auditory experience that its elements of cautionary moral fable threaten to get lost amid the gorgeousness. — Andrew O’Hehir,

24. Dallas Buyers Club (87 lists; 4 top spots)

Vallee, working from a script by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, infuses the film with some humor – Woodroof’s posing as a priest as he smuggles drugs from Mexico is a hoot – but he never lets us forget that the stakes are deadly serious. — Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic

23. A Touch of Sin (98 lists; 6 top spots)

“A Touch of Sin” is by no means subtle, but it is composed with a passion and sinuous grace that makes it far more effective than many other sincere message movies. — Farran Smith Nehme, New York Post

22. Mud (100 lists; 4 top spots)

Nichols lovingly sketches his characters and their world; he takes his time doing so, but it’s a pleasure to watch the small interactions and the humid reality of secret coves and Piggly Wiggly supermarkets and seedy hotels. — Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

21. Leviathan (100 lists; 20 top spots)

Leviathan is an immersive examination of a highly mechanized industrial process, the men who work at it and the thousands of poor fish who cross their path. — Stephen Dalton, Hollywood Reporter

20. Fruitvale Station (103 lists; 3 top spots)

Without ever being forced or false, and with an amazingly honest eye and ear for detail, writer-director Ryan Coogler’s drama about a young man’s final hours is one of the most extraordinary films you’ll see this year. — Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News

19. The World’s End (108 lists; 5 top spots)

I pretty much unreservedly loved The World’s End, whose compact dramatic structure and steady flow of good jokes puts most mainstream American comedies-too often loosely bundled collections of hit-or-miss sketches-to shame. — Dana Stevens, Slate

18. Short Term 12 (128 lists; 16 top spots)

“Short Term 12” is a small wonder, a film of exceptional naturalness and empathy that takes material about troubled teenagers and young adults that could have been generic and turns it into something moving and intimate. — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

17. Blue Jasmine (133 lists; 3 top spots)

Allen’s best movie in some years and certainly his finest drama with comedy since 2005’s “Match Point,” it is a tale of wealth, greed and corruption — and the shock waves that occur when crimes lead to punishment. — Charlie McCollum, San Jose Mercury News

16. All is Lost (137 lists; 6 top spots)

There is incredible tension in this ordeal, this effort to survive, to find rescue, and Redford – an icon of the American film experience for more than half a century now – makes that tension deeply palpable. — Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer

15. Captain Phillips (138 lists; 1 top spot)

Yet another Greengrass masterpiece. And it reveals why there have been so many: Behind the director’s dispassionate, unfailingly rigorous lens lies an enormous, unfailingly compassionate heart. — Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

14. Stories We Tell (139 lists; 9 top spots)

Even calling ”Stories We Tell” a documentary seems rather limiting and not entirely accurate; it’s also a deadpan comedy, a juicy melodrama and a gripping mystery, all cleverly blended together with great focus. — Christy Lemire, Associated Press

13. Upstream Color (151 lists; 12 top spots)

Here is a movie you haven’t seen before. If you think you have, it’s probably because you swallowed a white worm that turned you into a pod-person subject to total mind control and now you’re having flashbacks. — Jim Emerson, Chicago Sun-Times

12. Spring Breakers (172 lists; 15 top spots)

Neon bright and all raw energy, Spring Breakers is a pulsating paradox of a movie, both a tangerine dream and a cultural reality check, a pop artifact that simultaneously exploits and explores the shallowness of pop artifacts. — Rick Groen, Globe and Mail

11. Nebraska (182 lists; 10 top spots)

Is Nebraska a comedy or a drama? Like life, it’s both. Payne takes his time. Deal with it. This is a movie to bring home and live with, to kick around in your head after it hits you in the heart. It’s damn near perfect, starting with the acting. — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone Magazine

10. Blue is the Warmest Color (204 lists; 22 top spots)

From the moment when Adèle first catches sight of Emma, on a busy crosswalk, the movie restores your faith in the power of the coup de foudre and yet redoubles your fear of its effect; love, like lightning, can both illuminate and scorch. — Anthony Lane, New Yorker 

9. The Act of Killing (207 lists; 27 top spots)

I can’t be more direct. “The Act of Killing” is one of the most extraordinary films you’ll ever encounter, not to mention one of the craziest filmmaking concepts anywhere, and that includes the whole Bollywood thing. — Janice Page, Boston Globe

8. Frances Ha (212 lists; 12 top spots)

Shot in inky black and white and bristling with performances that feel captured on the fly, Baumbach’s best film since 2005’s The Squid and the Whale is both a nod and a throwback to the French New Wave. — Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly

7. The Wolf of Wall Street (234 lists; 24 top spots)

A big, unruly bacchanal of a movie that huffs and puffs and nearly blows its own house down, but holds together by sheer virtue of its furious filmmaking energy and a Leonardo DiCaprio star turn so electric it could wake the dead. — Scott Foundas, Variety

6. American Hustle (250 lists; 29 top spots)

Reveling in its ’70s milieu and in the eternal abrasion of sexy women and covetous men, American Hustle is an urban eruption of flat-out fun – the sharpest, most exhilarating comedy in years. — Richard Corliss, Time Magazine

5. Before Midnight (326 lists; 44 top spots)

If the first two films belong with the greatest (if talkiest) movie romances of all time, the new film is richer, riskier, and more bleakly perceptive about what it takes for love to endure (or not) over the long haul. — Ty Burr, Boston Globe

4. Her (366 lists; 83 top spots)

If, like me, you’ve admired Jonze’s ambitions more than you’ve responded to his results, you may find that Her puts his means and his ends on more equal footing. He shoots for the moon and, this time, hits it. — Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

3. Inside Llewyn Davis (405 lists; 50 top spots)

Inside Llewyn Davis is the warmest picture [the Coens have] ever made, and though it will never attract the cultlike adoration of The Big Lebowski and Fargo, or earn the serious-lit-adaptation accolades of No Country for Old Men, it’s possibly their best. — Stephanie Zacharek, Village Voice

2. Gravity (440 lists; 86 top spots)

Cuarón and his cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, keep the audience in weightless suspension right along with the astronauts. For most of us, Gravity is the closest we will ever get to the real deal. — Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

1. 12 Years a Slave (464 lists; 117 top spots)

If the best films hold you in a captive vise, entertain you, keep you spellbound and teach you something at the same time, then 12 Years a Slave is outstanding-brave, courageous and unforgettable.– Rex Reed, New York Observer



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