Since it is a new year, might as well start it off right with a list of my favorite movies from 2013. It was a pretty damn good year, especially with the closing of 2013 with a David O. Russell and Martin Scorsese double powerbomb. With that being said, my 10th best film of the year:
10 – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
“The Hunger Games” series of films has just surprised me left and right. Since the sour taste of “Twilight” is still in recent memory, I wouldn’t have wanted another young adult series adapted to the big screen. Fortunately, a great script, a fantastic ensemble of actors and Jennifer Lawrence perfectly cast as Katniss Everdeen created a blockbuster that also happened to be a very, very well done movie. The second film continues the events of the first by bringing us into the beautiful world of the Capital and its 12 districts once again. With a bigger budget and a new director, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” definitely made a statement that it was not to be reckoned with.
9 – Mud
While the story of “Stand By Me” centered around the boys on their quest to locate a dead body, the boys of “Mud” had their story circle around the title character played flawlessly by Matthew McConaughy. “Mud” is one of the simple coming of age stories that is not a stranger to moviegoers, but it is the aura of McConaughy that drives the viewer further into the story. As the teens rallied around the wanted man they found hiding away in a boat in a tree, you silently hope for the best conclusion for Mud to take in his tragedy of a life.
8 – The World’s End
The third movie of the Cornetto movies (I’m hesitant calling it a Trilogy because I doubt Wright/Pegg/Frost are finished) is easily on par with each of their other movies’ comedic greatness. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg have such a chemistry when they write together in which everything comes about so easy, you’re jealous at their abilities. Simon Pegg plays Gary, a man who is focused on the glory days of his teenage years trying to get the gang back together. His ultimate goal is to conquer “The Golden Mile,” their hometown’s legendary pub crawl. The story itself could have worked without the sci-fi aspect of invading aliens, but the ability to seamlessly immerse the audience in that world just makes it so much more fascinating. This was easily the smartest comedy of the year.
7 – Before Midnight
If you have never seen “Before Sunrise” or “Before Sunset”, you are missing out on Hollywood’s greatest love story. Every nine years since Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) first met in 1995, Richard Linklater has been bringing us back to revisit the couple by spending a day or evening with them. Now married and with children, we can see how different these characters have become along their journey. Both Hawke and Delpy are in prime form and its fascinating to see how their on-screen chemistry is just so natural. It is great to see that Delpy was nominated for a Golden Globe for this performance since it was truly deserved. We can only hope Linklater revisits these characters in 9 more years, but until then “Before Midnight” is here for us to enjoy.
6 – The Wolverine
“The Wolverine” finally shows me that Fox has their stuff together in regards to their X-Men properties. “X-Men: First Class” was a great movie, but “The Wolverine” was just so much better. Although this movie does not have as much action as expected, it makes up for everything with the story. In the comics, Wolverine is a damaged, layered character and this movie finally translates that to the big screen. Hugh Jackman will always be the most perfectly cast comic character in the Marvel universe. This is easily the best X-Men movie to date (counting down the days to Days of Future Past) and makes up for the travesty that Origins was. An awesome story about a damaged past, “The Wolverine” still manages to tie into the original movies making this one of 2013’s best.
5 – Gravity
You most likely have heard everything about this movie via word of mouth or critics raving about it, but it does not mean you should miss out on this blockbuster. With a performance that will definitely put Sandra Bullock in the front running for an Oscar, she single handedly acted her way to being the heart of this movie. There are very few actresses that could have handled this role with the believability of Bullock. Alfonso Cuarón who directed this film is no stranger to creating strong characters in his movies (check out Y Tu Mamá También) and that is what makes this movie succeed the most. Anybody can be put into a terrifying situation, but if you do not care about the character, the suspense does not work as strong as it should. “Gravity” deserved every dollar it owned.
4 – Side Effects
What has become forgotten in a lot of people’s lists is possibly the year’s best suspense. Steven Soderbergh delivered to us a movie that is as close to Alfred Hitchcock as you could get (which is a breath of fresh air with this generation of movies). With an awesome ensemble starring Jude law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta Jones and Channing Tatum, “Side Effects” is the forgotten film from earlier this year that is required to be seen. If this was released around the end of the year it would definitely be receiving much more Oscar buzz, especially in regards to the screenplay.
3 – American Hustle
Thank you David O. Russell for stepping foot back into the world of filmmaking! Ever since his return with 2010’s “The Fighter,” he has been on fire. Even though “American Hustle” feels like it has Scorsese’s fingerprints all over it, it offered us one very enjoyable end to 2013. With the movie’s opening credits sequence including all the studio’s retro openings, you are set on a 70’s ride that leaves you entertained until the end. Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper were each phenomenal in their roles and Bale is very likely to be receiving Best Actor nods in the upcoming awards season. As always, the rest of the ensemble was fantastic, even including a mid-movie surprise cameo (don’t Google it and spoil it for yourself). The twist at the end just makes you sit there in amazement and jealous on how easy that story fit perfectly together.
2 – Prisoners
If you are a parent, I can only assume this movie will haunt you. In some of the greatest performances of the year, “Prisoners” was a heart wrenching film that leaves you watching with suspense as you witness the desperation of two families living their worst nightmare on screen. Starring Hugh Jackman, Terrence Howard and Jake Gyllenhaal, this movie is just filled with an amazing cast that leaves you stunned with their performances. Jackson is at the height of his game as you watch him play as a father who must question morality in the search for his kidnapped daughter. This movie is currently available on Blu-ray or DVD, so watch this movie immediately.
1 – The Wolf of Wall Street
If Scorsese did not deliver us this to us, it would have been a close battle between “American Hustle” and “Prisoners” for my top movie of the year. Fortunate for us, Scorsese delivers us his greatest movie since “The Departed.” Leonardo DiCaprio and Scorsese have become my favorite actor/director duo and I will even challenge that these two are better together than Scorsese was with DeNiro. In a tale of the excesses of Wall Street, Scorsese shows us why he is this generation’s greatest filmmaker as he brings us the true story of Jordan Belfort, a man surrounded by drugs, degenerates, sex, illegal business activities and every other vice known to man. This movie unexpectedly became the greatest comedy of the year and will leave you crying in your seat with laughter. Jonah Hill is perfect in his supporting role as Donnie and the chemistry between Hill and DiCaprio is just magical. Some may hate this movie, but the rest will love it. Clocking in at around 3 hours, it may seem a little tiresome by the end, but think to yourself: wouldn’t a life of excess eventually become tiresome in itself? “The Wolf of Wall Street” is the best movie of the year.