You’re probably thinking, “Who’s this Nick guy and why should I care about what movies he liked the most?” Let me introduce myself. I’m Nick Valdez, News Editor of Flixist. I’m the guy who wrote about 25 Christmas flicks last December, someone who really likes movies, tight pants that show off my sweet bod, and listening to songs about butterflies on the Internet.
Throughout 2013 I had reviewed 18 movies, and although it may not seem like a lot in retrospect, it’s a huge step up for me. I’ve gotten comfortable with my taste in film and matured my sense of criticism. The reason I bring any of this up is because 2013 was an excellent year for me to plunge completely in. It was full of spectacular successes and failures. There have been some bad movies, but even those films were average at worst. Every film is trying harder to stand out, and they’ll need to leave a mark, given that the next two years are going to be swarmed by blockbusters. And 2015? Anything non-Disney related can call it day.
With that being said, I tried to pick the 15 films I loved the most. The order may be true as of this writing, but it’s most likely to change over time. But this is definitely what I feel right now. I may have missed out on some of the bigger gems like Gravity, Blue is the Warmest Color, and F**king Planes, but I’m sure I’ve made the right decisions. Let’s get to it.
30-16: Man of Tai Chi, American Hustle, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Enough Said, The Great Gatsby, Evil Dead, Don Jon, Monsters University, Wolf Children, The History of Future Folk, Zero Charisma, Mud, Stoker, The World’s End, Drinking Buddies
15. About Time
Richard Curtis doesn’t exactly have the best track record with notable hits and misses (Hit: Love, Actually. Miss: Bridget Jones’ Diarrhea), but when he gets it, he gets it. In a year filled with a good amount of romantic films (there’s about five listed here that you should read), About Time is something special. In skews the genre in favor of a light sci-fi twist and uses that twist to instead focus on the relationship between father and son. Instead of becoming a film that makes you ponder the mysteries of love, you’re instead left with thoughts of what you’d change in your life if you had the power to go back in time. It earns a spot on this list for that introspection alone.
Read our review of About Time here.
14. Pain & Gain
Michael Bay made an art film last year. If you would’ve told me a few months ago that a Michael Bay film would end up on my Top List, I would’ve laughed in your face. Sure Pain & Gain is arthouse only in theory (it’s like someone described to Bay what an arthouse film was, and he sort of winged it), but it’s just so damn fun. Everything wraps up into a neat, but grungy package. It’s based on a true story, it criticizes the darker aspects of the American dream, and it finds humor in the most unexpected places. Dwayne Johnson has never been more entertaining as a conflicted post-prison Christian convert who’s now suddenly hit with a perverted vision of the world. Not everything worked, but I have to give Bay credit where it’s due. It was a fantastic first try.
Read our review of Pain & Gain here.
13. Spring Breakers
Spring Breakers set the tone of 2013. After Spring Breakers, whether or not the trend was coincidental, most films began deconstructing whatever genre they’re a part of. SB had the party movie and it was fabulous. From James Franco’s Riff Raff rip off, to the zealous use of neon and bright color juxtaposed with the gritty action, to how fantastically many scenes were shot. The reason the film is on this list is mainly for the reaction it brought out in me. A mix of disdain, shock, and general enjoyment. Sprang Breeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaak. Sprang Break fo evaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.
Read our review of Spring Breakers here.
12. Dallas Buyers Club
Matthew McConuaghey has been on a steady rise since 2012 and it comes to its apex in Dallas Buyers Club. In what amounts to far more than a shock transformation type casting, McConaughey truly brings a physical and emotional pain to Ron Woodroof. And Jared Leto? I’m glad he’s come back to acting. Rayon might not be the central focus in DBC, but her arc is the most splendid. Her final scene is something which still emotionally shakes me every time I reflect on it. It’s a good film, not perfect, but damn good.
11. The Spectacular Now
The Spectacular Now is a gem, plain and simple. From its well cast protagonist (Miles Teller, who’s milking his typecasting as the drunk goof with wonderful results), to the remarkably subdued Shailene Woodley, to its broken relationships. It’s more than your standard teenage wasteland film. Rarely do the characters in Now do anything without purpose. Every decision made, every conversation, is there to grow and change the budding relationship between Aimee and Sutter. It redefines “puppy love,” and is now the new standard for teenage romance films going forward. Loving, hopeful, and excruciatingly sad at the same time.
10. You’re Next
Rare I’ll love a horror film this much. I’m not a huge fan of the genre (as I’m a big ole’ pansy and scare stupidly easy. Remember that Goosebumps TV show? I don’t. Too scary), so I don’t usually go out of my way to see them. I had completely missed out on You’re Next’s initial theatrical release, and was fine until the hype started building. Matt really enjoyed it, my Twitter friend @Xzyliac championed it, so I was a little more inclined to buy it on VOD. I’m so glad I did. It’s inventive, gruesome (but not overtly as to gross you out), and just pure fun. Once You’re Next really gets going, you’ll actually find yourself laughing and be happily confused as to why. It’s just that much fun. Try seeing it with friends.
Read our review of You’re Next here.
9. The Act of Killing
The Act of Killing is also something I didn’t get to see in theaters because it had a limited release (you can find it on Netflix Instant as of this writing), and instead hunted down a VOD copy. The Act of Killing was something I was instantly attracted to since I had seen its first trailer. It’s a documentary that peers behind the emotional curtain of one of the scariest men in Indonesia, Anwar Congo, and never lets you go. It’s oddly humorous at times, the content of the documentary (as Congo acts out murders) is captivating, and I felt emotionally drained right after watching it. So perfect movie, right?
Read our review of The Act of Killing here.
8. Inside Llewyn Davis
Inside Llewyn Davis is definitely a film you should at least see once. Although my appreciation of it will most likely grow with each viewing, Davis is an interesting perception of the struggling artist. Rather than glorify the implied freedom that comes with the career, Davis instead focuses on the angst brought on by constant failure. I don’t know whether or not I like Llewyn as a protagonist, and that’s sort of the point. You see a guy tear through what life has thrown at him and he’s only met with negativity. But that angst also begs the question of whether or not to move forward. Even if Davis follows the hero’s journey model, it’s successfully hidden from plain sight. Oh and the music? OH MAN SO GOOD YEAH.
Read our review of Inside Llewyn Davis here.
7. 12 Years A Slave
12 Years A Slave is the only film this year that made me cry actual tears from my manly, muscley eyes. Solomon Northrup (finely portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who I hope gets to be in more things from now on) is dragged through hell and back again only to witness dark and repulsive things. Rather than rest on white guilt, 12 Years A Slave is a powerful disfigurement of the antebellum south. It’s also one of the best character films I saw last year. To see Solomon’s will decay, then reinvigorate, just to decay all over again sucked me into the experience. There are these extended shots in the film (most of them close ups on Solomon’s face) which toy with emotional tension in such nuanced ways. I’m starting to tear up right now just thinking about them.
Read our review of 12 Years A Slave here.
6. Short Term 12
I actually didn’t see Short Term 12 until it released on home video a few days ago, and I’m glad I squeezed it into the week. I’m sad no one had told me about it before because Short Term 12 is nothing short of an intimate masterpiece. It runs through a dazzling bevy of emotions with swift, tight script work. Every huge moment is subdued, and is grounded because of that restraint. I’ve never seen Brie Larson better. It’s almost as if she bided her time until she got a role which allowed her to show her full range. And it’s such a quiet range. Larson says more with her eyes than most can say in entire speeches. Fantastic work.
I had completely expected to only like Frozen because I had to. With Tangled, Brave, or The Princess and the Frog, I was mildly entertained while forgiving a serviceable plot for the winning Disney charm. I fully expected to walk out of my screening with “eh, at least one song was good.” To this day I thank my lucky stars I was so very wrong. Frozen packs a hearty wallop and deserves all the recognition and praise it’s getting. Rather than ride on Disney’s coattails, Frozen is the bravest and most cutting film in their line up.
It looks at the Princess movies of the past, and says “I can do better” in a non-cynical or derogatory way. It destroys Disney’s tropes for women, sets a new standard for their CG animation, and also has one of the best Disney songs in recent memory (Idina Menzel has the voice of a goddess). Don’t let the Disney moniker fool you, Frozen is the most Disney yet anti-Disney film you’ll see in years.
Read our review of Frozen here.
4. Fast & Furious 6
While the latter half of 2013 will try to convince you otherwise, 2013 started off as a year of big, stupidly fun movies. And nothing said “Big and Stupid Fun” better than Furious 6. Cashing in on Fast Five‘s promise of high octane, obscene superhero action, Furious 6 was its very own Avengers movie as it assembled past stars and pit them against an evil mirror group. With its practical car stunts (A plane driving out of a car shouldn’t seem feasible, but F6 delightfully proves it can happen and look damn good while doing it), deluge of beautiful yet strong women (I mean it features Tanktop Jesus and the next Wonder Woman, after all), and overall positive message of family togetherness (Birthing the fabulous #FAMILY).
Paul Walker’s untimely demise might be overshadowing the future of the franchise, but I want more of this. Rare a film celebrates its own existence in such a loving and fitting fashion.
Read our review of Fast & Furious 6 here.
2 (TIE). Her
I want to start this off by saying Her made me want to love again. Laugh all you want, Her is genuinely romantic. Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore Twombley is me, damn it. Although I’m not as attractively awkward, and hate his pants because they make him look like an old man with cameltoe, I completely related to Theodore’s troubles. I can’t say I’ve been in a divorce or dated anyone like Rooney Mara, but I’m an emotional wreck who just wants someone to love me back. I’m cuddly, right?
Anyway, Her is surprisingly grounded despite its fantastical futuristic setting and that’s because the emotion comes from a real place. It never once phoned it in and, thanks to Phoenix’s phenomenal performance (and ability to hold it together in all of those close ups), you sink right into the romantic roller coaster. Her is a brilliant ride.
Read our review of Her here.
2 (TIE). This is the End
WHOA. Who saw this coming? I sure didn’t. Back when the first few trailers for This is the End began cropping up, I was notably uninterested. I’m a fan of Rogen’s comedies, but I never loved them as much as I love this movie. Call it what you want (shallow, disgusting, immature) but it’s more than meets the eye. This is The End is, at its core, a story about a friendship surviving the worst odds. It’s about facing change and accepting it in order to become a better, happier person. It’s not exactly a novel concept to have famous people playing themselves, but TiTE uses this to its advantage. Rather than date itself and fall into stoner comedy pitfalls, TiTE uses a tight script and nuanced adlib performances (watch the “Line-O-Rama” special feature on the home video release to see how much work is really put into the dialogue and you’ll be floored) to deliver the best comedy of the year.
This is the End completely delivers on what its title promises and gives you the best finale of 2013. You won’t find a happier, believable celebration of the end.
Read our review of This is the End here.
1. The Wolf of Wall Street
Her and This is The End may have brought their “A” Game, but The Wolf of Wall Street is so good, it created a new game altogether. With Scorsese and DiCaprio aging as pretenders challenge the throne (*cough* American Hustle *cough*), we had no idea they were waiting to release this juggernaut of a movie on the world. The longest film of 2013 ironically feels the shortest as every scene is as entertaining as possible.
Watching The Wolf of Wall Street is like going to a restaurant and ordering an entire cake. At first you think it’d be crazy to digest it all, but then it tastes sweeter and sweeter with every bite. You then consume more, and more, and then more until you realize you’ve eaten the whole thing.
And you don’t even feel guilty about it.
Read our review of The Wolf of Wall Street here.
What are your favorite movies of 2013? Did I miss any of your favorites? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter! While you’re at it, why not check out my Top 5 Animated Movies of 2013 and 10 Best Movie Music Moments lists too!