The Best of 2013

As at 14 July, I’ve watched 242 films that were released in the US in 2013. Of these 242, I gave 10 a score of 4.5 or higher. In keeping with the 12 that I did last year, I browsed, pondered and decided to add another 2. Without further ado, here are my 12 favourite films of 2013, in alphabetical order.

Before Midnight

Thank you Richard, Ethan and Julie, you’ve opened up your life to the world and crafted a trilogy of films that are as close to perfect as we’ll ever see.


Borgman is highly original and engrossing cinema and one of the most fascinating, thought-provoking and amusing looks at domestic life that I’ve seen in a long time. It is as if this is a Haneke film wrapped up a the puzzle – the filmmaker isn’t bashing us over the head with his point, he wants us to come to our own conclusions. This is a maze that I loved – it made me laugh, gasp and shake my head in the most profound ways imaginable. Wonderful stuff.

Captain Phillips

Anchored by the superb performances for Hanks and Abdi, Captain Phillips is a non-stop white-knuckle thrill-ride of which only Greengrass can direct. Greengrass doesn’t waste much time, getting Hanks on the boat within 5 minutes. From there it doesn’t let up or let you breathe for 130 minutes, pushing you to the edge of your seat and causing you to bite your nails until they don’t exist anymore. It is the most intense film I’ve seen in a cinema since United 93.


Frozen is charming, heart-warming, beautiful, spectacular, warm and very amusing. It comfortably gets the songs-to-story ratio right, producing a collection of musical numbers that are tight and well-tuned mixed with an energetic story that unravels excitingly. The story beats are surprisingly unpredictable – at least by Disney standards.


Like nothing I’ve seen before – Cuarón’s film is simply exhilarating, expertly made, brimming with technical brilliance and loaded with emotional weight. It drags you in, makes you feel like you are actually there, causes you to sweat and have trouble breathing. Gravity is an experience.

The Hunt

The Hunt is the rare kind of soul-destroying honesty about the faults of adults that it makes you reflect on yourself and your own actions and whether or not you can be better. The film may not have its own distinctly silver lining, but it certainly forces it’s audience to reflect and it asks us to change. It is the honest brutality to Short Term 12’s wondrous uplifting.


Dern, Forte, Squibb and Payne have packaged together a tightly paced, well-written, stubbornly well-directed and perfectly performed picture. Don’t go in expecting a drama that hits hard, if you’ve seen the trailer than that is exactly what to expect, but it provides the kind of leisurely dramedy ride that wants to lull the audience and then give them a big surprise hug at the end.

Pacific Rim

Snobby cinephiles will no doubt look down on Pacific Rim because it is hokey, but through del Toro’s want to make something filled with wonder emerges the most perfect blockbuster in a long long time.


2013’s biggest adrenaline rush came from the most unexpected place – Ron Howard. A filmmaker I’ve never enjoyed, whose films are usually flabby and basic, managed to pull the rabbit out of the hat and deliver a truly outstanding piece of cinema. Through every rev of the engine and skid of the tires, you feel every second of Rush‘s incredible true story.

Short Term 12

Short Term 12 doesn’t try to lay out some grandiose message, nor does it make you work for meaning – it simply tells a grounded and human story with well-developed characters. Hardly groundbreaking stuff, but when crafted this magnificently by committed people the result can be magical.

Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers is as creative as I’ve seen. Everybody behind the camera is one of the best in their respective field, and for a low-budget independent production I’m honestly in awe of the talent assembled. Korine has taken a bunch of highly creative individuals all with vastly different styles and thrown them into a blender. The result is like nothing I’ve seen before and they all deserve individual praise for their work.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Scorsese and DiCaprio re-team for what is one of the quickest 3 hours I’ve sat through. The Wolf of Wall Street is a vibrant and excessive journey through the life of disturbingly real man, anchored around the incredible performance by DiCaprio. When paired with Hugo, Scorsese’s scuzzy direction proves he is on his most refreshing run since the early 80s.

Honorable Mentions

These aren’t my next 10 films, well some are, but for the most part these are films that I think deserve a mention for trying something new or out-performing low expectations. They deserve a pat on the back and a “good effort, better luck next time”.

Ender’s Game – a young adult sci-fi that goes beyond the trappings of its genre to create a more thought-provoking film.

Enough Said – beautiful performances and a lovely script craft a fun and brisk comedy.

Gimme the Loot – realistic, entertaining and lively comedy about two youths wanting bigger things.

The Grandmaster – the cinematography only makes it worth watching, but don’t worth with the Weinstein cut.

Night Train to Lisbon – not outstanding, but I thoroughly enjoyed its simple low-key story and performances.

Populaire – cute, amusing French rom-com with more sweetness than a jar of sugar.

The Rocket – my favourite Australian film of 2013 and one that features a truly worthy inspiration story.

Stranger by the Lake – not for everybody, but those that can make it through will be rewarded.

White Reindeer – surprising black comedy that has left a mark on my mind, essential potential life-changing Christmas viewing.

You’re Next – 2013’s top horror (it was a good year too!), it is brutally hilarious and features one kick-ass heroine.

Thank you for reading. Post any questions you have and I’ll happily answer them.


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