Best Movies from 2013

The Best of 2013! Check out these great films; some lesser known, a small number of Hollywood, and bigger indie releases.

#1 Frozen

A winter wonderland of magical mystique.

Disney has truly created a marvel of an animated children’s film. I’m not in the target audience (which explains why it has taken me so long to see the critically-lauded piece) and yet I loved it. “Frozen” takes all the standard Disney story pieces but then switches them all around to keep the story interesting and then layers it up with dazzling visuals and songs. 2013

Directed by: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee

Screenplay by: Jennifer Lee

Starring: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad
See full review of Frozen

#2 Blue Jasmine


Jasmine and Ginger through shady eyes and poisonous hearts.
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) lived the high life in New York with her financial businessman husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), and all the jewelry and parties she could want. With great success comes great failings, and with her husband in jail and all their assets taken, Jasmine comes crashing down. All the way to San Francisco. Broke and desperate, Jasmine moves in with her estranged sister. And Jasmine’s downward spiral continues. 2013

Directed by: Woody Allen

Screenplay by: Woody Allen

Starring: Cate Blanchette and Sally Hawkins
See full review of Blue Jasmine

#3 Kill Your Darlings

The story of Allen Ginsberg during some of his more interesting years.

“Kill Your Darlings” is the story of Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) as he arrives at college and is ushered into a new generation of writers. Ginsberg is young, naïve and innocent. He was raised by his father – a writer (in the very traditional sense), and his mentally unstable mother. Columbia University presents a whole new world, a bright future for this talented man. 2013

Directed by: John Krokidas

Screenplay by: Austin Bunn and John Krokidas

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan
See full review of Kill Your Darlings

#4 Philomena


Masterfully written, beautifully portrayed story that is better than just a human interest story.
“Philomena” starts with Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) in the doctor’s office; he’s quite pleased with news of his outstanding stool sample – until he realizes it just means that it hasn’t been received yet. The humour is kind of a like that. You don’t realize that the movie is funny until a joke has just been said and you’ve been given a moment to digest the punch line. The movie really is very funny. 2013

Directed by: Stephen Frears

Screenplay by: Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope

Starring: Steve Coogan and Judi Dench
See full review of Philomena

#5 August: Osage County


Two great scenes defining three women and a whole cast of greatness.
“August: Osage County” is set in Oklahoma during the summer. The time of year when the temperature and tempers rise up. But of course sometimes it is provoked. The film is based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tracy Letts, so we can guarantee that this dysfunctional family will come to a head with no easy route to escape. 2013

Directed by: John Wells

Screenplay by: Tracy Letts

Starring: Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts
See full review of August: Osage County

#6 Best Man Down


Drama, comedy, a marriage, a death and brilliance all around.
“Best Man Down” is an independent film about a couple who gets married in Arizona but flies back to Minnesota for a funeral. It’s a comedy! No, scratch that. The funeral is for the best man who died at the wedding. It’s a dark comedy? Perhaps, or a drama. It’s also about the newlywed couple navigating their current relationship. It’s a relationship drama. And it’s also a light mystery as the real life of the best man is uncovered. 2012

Directed by: Ted Koland

Screenplay by: Ted Koland

Starring: Justin Long, Jess Weixler, Tyler Labine and Addison Timlin
See full review of Best Man Down

#7 Side Effects

Morally ambiguous characters in a deceptive, complex thriller plot.

In “Side Effects”, Emily (Rooney Mara) is feeling hopeless, suffering from prolonged effects of abandonment issues, unsure how to proceed in her life. Her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum) has just come home from prison, serving time for insider trading. But Emily doesn’t know what she should be feeling; Emily doesn’t know how to feel what she should be feeling. Psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) is exactly what the doctor ordered. 2013

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Screenplay by: Scott Z. Burns

Starring: Rooney Mara, Jude Law, and Catherine Zeta-Jones
See full review of Side Effects

#8 Inside Llewyn Davis


A circular journey through the Greenwich Village folk scene in 1961.
Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a folk singer hoping for his big break in the 1960s Greenwich Village music scene. He used to have a music partner (but he exists no longer), he once had an album, and he still has fruitless relationships. “Inside Llewyn Davis” is a character study about how Llewyn himself is responsible for the lack of success of Llewyn Davis the artist. 2013

Directed by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Screenplay by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan
See full review of Inside Llewyn Davis

#9 This Is the End

How to make a stoner comedy with a bunch of friends and turn it into a smart, 
shrewd and hilarious statement on humanity.

A vanity project for a bunch of the highest paid comedic actors, playing themselves in a “stoner comedy”. So how do you make that good? By making it an hilarious, smart, insightful, satirical and scathing commentary on religion, celebrity and Hollywood. And how do you make that successful? By making it a stoner comedy about a hapless group of actors saying and doing the stupidest things. 2013

Directed by: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen

Screenplay by: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg

Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson
See full review of This Is the End

#10 Much Ado About Nothing


Merging 1598 with 2013 in comedic seamlessness.
After not reading the play, this review will be from the point of view of someone who is Shakespeare-literate but has not read nor seen any version of "Much Ado About Nothing". But I still think Joss Whedon’s modern up-do is brilliant — literally and metaphorically. Shakespeare's original dialogue in modern times with modern characters acting in antiquated situations. 2012

Directed by: Joss Whedon

Screenplay by: Joss Whedon
Based on the play by Shakespeare

Starring: Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker
See full review of Much Ado About Nothing

#11 Mud

Arkansas, a boat, a tree, two boys, girls, love, snakes and Mud.

Mud (Matthew McConaughey) is the central adult character. He lives in a boat in a tree on an island in Arkansas. And he is dirty. He probably hasn’t bathed in weeks, if not years. He also muddies the truth a bit – just a bit, to reflect his version of the world. Our teenage boy protagonists hesitantly take him at his word – there’s no reason for him to be any less dependable than their own parents and guardian. 2012

Directed by: Jeff Nichols

Screenplay by: Jeff Nichols

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Ray McKinnon
See full review of Mud

#12 The Place Beyond the Pines


A story of trashy criminals and dirty cops evolving into one about fathers and sons and life.
What he have here is a story about fathers and their sons. In fact, three separate stories - each one leads into the next. A lesser movie would have just told one story, but "The Place Beyond the Pines" is larger in scope and needs all three parts to tell the complete story. A life is not just about your life but those you affect and those you leave behind for years to come. 2012

Directed by: Derek Cianfrance

Screenplay by: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Derek Marder

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper
See full review of The Place Beyond the Pines

#13 The Wolf of Wall Street


Drugs, sex and alcohol disguises the brilliant character work of the wolf.
“The Wolf of Wall Street” is Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). He’s given that name during a rather clever point in the film when a reporter interviews him about his new-found business success. In the same article he’s described as a twisted version of Robin Hood who steals from the rich and gives to himself and his merry band of shady salesmen. At the time, he’s not too thrilled with the description, but that changes. 2013

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Screenplay by: Terence Winter
Based on the book by Jordan Belfort

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio
See full review of The Wolf of Wall Street

#14 Nebraska


Simple story, characters, photography and comedy done pretty much to perfection.
“Nebraska” is a simple journey, told with beautiful black and white photography, of a father who thinks he has won a million dollars and a son who doesn’t know what to do with his father except go along with him. Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) suffers from dementia but he’ll argue that point with you straight to the pub. David Grant (Will Forte) lives a fairly empty life so decides to head to Nebraska with his father. 2013

Directed by: Alexander Payne

Screenplay by: Bob Nelson

Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte and June Squibb
See full review of Nebraska

#15 12 Years a Slave

A story where bad becomes worse becomes worse and may never get to worst.

Set in the 1840s, “12 Years a Slave” is the true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York who was abducted and sold into slavery. The beginning of the film has a number of scenes out of order and out of context. When all is said and done the point appears to be to give some “interesting” vantage points into the character of Solomon, but it does just add to an overly-long runtime when most scenes in the movie provide an interesting vantage point to the character of Solomon. 2013

Directed by: Steve McQueen

Screenplay by: John Ridley
Based on "Twelve Years a Slave" by Solomon Northup

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Fassbender
See full review of 12 Years a Slave

#16 It's a Disaster


The hilarious end of the world of 8 ill-prepared people.
I think the question on everyone’s mind is since when are end of the world movies actually good? In the past two years from “Melancholia” to “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” to “This is the End” we’ve had a number of solid to downright brilliant end of the world movies and now “It’s a Disaster” fits neatly in the middle. 2012

Directed by: Todd Berger

Screenplay by: Todd Berger

Starring: David Cross and Julia Stiles
See full review of It's a Disaster

#17 Dallas Buyers Club


A character with conflicting ideals provides a drama with charm and humour.
Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) has been diagnosed with AIDS in 1985. But surely that’s a mistake because he “ain’t no homo”. “Dallas Buyers Club” does a good job of establishing the character of Ron Woodroof with that of what he needs to do to survive. He lives in Dallas, lives a very disgusting lifestyle and should be close to dead. But he also likes making money and disregarding authority. 2013

Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée

Screenplay by: Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner
See full review of Dallas Buyers Club

#18 Prisoners

Two suspenseful approaches to one dark crime.

It’s Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania and the sky is gray, the air is cold and the ground is frozen. Two families, perfectly matched, celebrate the holiday together. Each family has two kids, a teenager and a younger daughter. The daughters are 6-year-old girls, ready to get into a harmless adventure, and the teenagers are teenagers. But the girls go missing, and on we go to find them and figure out what happened. 2013

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Screenplay by: Aaron Guzikowski

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal
See full review of Prisoners

#19 The Sapphires

A fascinating look at a singing group in the year the world changed.

“The Sapphires” is a look at Australia, and the world, in 1968. For those unaware of Australia’s recent history, it is a fascinating look. The Whites didn’t let the Aboriginals into their world, and now was when they were going to revolt. This movie is specifically about a singing group of four aboriginal sisters, who just wanted to sing. 2012

Directed by: Wayne Blair

Screenplay by: Tony Briggs and Keith Thompson

Starring: Chris O'Dowd
See full review of The Sapphires

#20 Drinking Buddies


The criss-crossing of two relationships by four perfectly matched actors.
“Drinking Buddies” is a relationship drama and succeeds because the lines that the relationships cross, and not cross, are interesting, because the actors make them interesting. They dare us to like them and care for them and I would hazard that we would still like them no matter where ended up. That can be difficult when we have friends bordering on more and chemistry which could be stronger with someone else. 2013

Directed by: Joe Swanberg

Screenplay by: Joe Swanberg

Starring: Jake Johnson, Olivia Wilde and Anna Kendrick
See full review of Drinking Buddies

#21 American Hustle

Traded history for comedy to give us characters with a lasting impression.

“American Hustle” is the story of the Abscam scandal of the 1970s when the FBI was investigating theft, forgery and stolen art. The history of the story is likely sketchy at best which would explains why it opens with “Some of this actually happened” as opposed to the more standard “Based on a true story.” David O. Russell chose to just focus on the characters instead. 2013

Directed by: David O. Russell

Screenplay by: Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell

Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence
See full review of American Hustle

#22 Spring Breakers

Breaks the spring-break-genre mold by telling a dark story of college girls going to
darker and darker places.

“Spring Breakers” takes the spring break vacation and turns it on its head. It’s about everything that spring break represents and nothing it represents all at the exact same time. Four college girls do in fact go to Florida for spring break; they do in fact wear bikinis, get drunk, and do drugs. The film isn’t lying when they say that’s what it’s about. But it takes that culture and places it in a whole new genre. 2012

Directed by: Harmony Korine

Screenplay by: Harmony Korine

Starring: Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens, Rachel Korine, Selena Gomez and James Franco
See full review of Spring Breakers

#23 Prince Avalanche


Just a simple conversation between hilarious characters by great actors.
“Prince Avalanche” is the story of two men and is the classic comedy of differences. Alvin (Paul Rudd) is in his late thirties and has such trouble connecting with other people that he doesn’t even realize his marriage is in trouble as he prefers to spend time alone. Lance (Emile Hirsch) is in his early twenties and he is desperate for the presence of females, as he is way too into himself to understand true companionship. 2013

Directed by: David Gordon Green

Screenplay by: David Gordon Green

Starring: Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch
See full review of Prince Avalanche

#24 Short Term 12

Realism allows comedy and drama to come together in a fully likable manner.

The realism of a foster care center for teenagers is up-close and personal but provides so much humour that the drama is never over-whelming. It’s also quite touching that the adults in charge are just as messed up as the kids but try even harder in covering it up. “Short Term 12” stars Brie Larson as Grace a twenty-something counselor who is in charge of fellow staff and a few emotionally-damaged kids. 2013

Directed by: Destin Cretton

Screenplay by: Destin Cretton

Starring: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr.
See full review of Short Term 12

#25 Rapture-Palooza


The rapture is coming, be prepared to laugh.
“Rapture-Palooza” is based on a true story. Or, so it says at the very beginning of the movie, and then you know exactly what type of humour you’re getting yourself into. It’s funny, extremely funny. The type of funny that you’re laughing out loud so often that you need to rewind to catch all the jokes you missed; it’s also the offensive kind of funny. It’s offensive, extremely offensive. 2013

Directed by: Paul Middleditch

Screenplay by: Chris Matheson

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson
See full review of Rapture-Palooza

#26 Before Midnight


The evolution of lives, the devolution of a relationship, the fight of immaturity versus maturity.
Eighteen years later, and we once again get to look in on the lives of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) for a day. Richard Linklater is a master of dialogue; “Before Sunrise” (1995) and “Before Sunset” (2004) frequently cited as examples of the best written romantic dramas in existence. The good news is that “Before Midnight” fits in that line. Jesse and Celine have finally found time in their hectic lives to just have a meandering conversation again. 2013

Directed by: Richard Linklater

Screenplay by: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater

Starring: Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy
See full review of Before Midnight