Best of 2013: Top 10 Movies


Here we are at the last list. It’s been an amazing year.

A combination of a resolution to finish more videogames, saving for a trip to Japan and a general aversion to piracy meant I perhaps didn’t see as many movies as I may have liked to in 2013. Though I did catch a smaller movie or two throughout the year, as a general rule I only saw films many people were having conversations about – all of which means I watched more than enough movies to put together a list several times as long as this one, but said list is missing movies like Spring Breakers, Pain & Gain, The Bling Ring and Cloud Atlas. Also, because we live in Australia and for some reason still have to wait much longer for many big American films than we do even for videogames, this list is missing movies like 12 Years a Slave and The Wolf of Wall Street because they aren’t out here yet. That also means movies released stateside in 2012 may count here because they actually came out down under this year. Finally, as with my games list, any review scores I gave out at the time of a movie’s release don’t necessarily count towards the order of the final list.

Now that all that is out of the way, let’s finish this thing:

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s scary. Respectful disagreement is welcome.


10. Pacific Rim

Giant robots punch giant aliens in this movie and that is pretty much all you need to know, other than that it’s helmed by acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro. The Mexican has a strong connection to the world of Japanese anime, having been raised on the stuff, and his passion for the larger-than-life storylines of the likes of Neon Genesis Evangelion is obvious in his affectionate homage to all things kaiju and beyond. The characters of Pacific Rim are hammy cartoons that prove to be endlessly entertaining to watch (although some of their accents could stand to be a bit more believable) and most of all the lengthy fight scenes look absolutely stunning. Let go of your preconceptions, relax and watch this movie if you haven’t already.

9. Elysium

Following the tremendous success of his excellent sci-fi apartheid allegory District 9 , Neill Blomkamp’s equally political Elysium upped the budget and the scale while bringing the social commentary closer to American soil. The director’s vision of a future where the poor and the rich are separated by an entire atmosphere is wonderfully realised, if a little shorter than it deserves (and arguably needs) to be. Jodie Foster has certainly been better in other roles but the rest of the cast give intense performances, none more so than Sharlto Copley as the dangerously unhinged mercenary Kruger. The action sequences in Elysium are also as powerful as the film’s cautionary message. Well worth a watch.

8. Star Trek Into Darkness

There is apparently something horribly wrong with Star Trek Into Darkness, at least if you are to believe a vocal section of Star Trek fans on the internet. Though I admittedly lack that background, I just don’t get the hate. I am a massive fan of JJ Abram’s follow-up to his clever 2009 series reboot, particularly in light of his announcement as director of the next Star Wars films. Apart from anything else, I’d rank Star Trek Into Darkness as the most exciting film of the year, bar none. It looks phenomenal, carries an epic space opera score, delivers consistent laughs (from two characters in particular) and features one of the best old-school theatrical villain performances I’ve seen in years.

7. Monsters University

Monsters University may not have conformed to the expectations of Pixar fans used to the unique narratives of Up and Wall-E, but by choosing to frame the Monsters Inc prequel as they did the studio proved it is more than capable of making a funny college comedy for all ages. One of the reasons the concept works so well is that it manages to introduce a number of memorable new characters you either fear, hate or want to shout for in addition to fleshing out Wazowski and Sullivan in a way other studios wish they could. If you’ve never seen Monsters Inc there is plenty to enjoy about University, but if you have, prepare for some emotional moments.

6. Side Effects

I’m pretty sure my viewing of Side Effects came from the only instance all year when I just felt like seeing a movie and didn’t particularly care what it was. I’m glad that I felt that way that day, because I ended up in a theatre watching one of the most engaging movies of 2013. Side Effects, Steven Soderbergh’s final film as a director, is a thrilling ride that starts innocently enough but soon spirals into a twisting story about mental instability and pharmaceutical corruption. Jude Law carries the film as a doctor who becomes obsessed with saving his career following a catastrophic public murder case linked to his drug prescription. Rooney Mara is also dynamite in support.

5. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

When people come and ask me what I thought of the second Hunger Games movie, I always feel I have to start with “I didn’t like the book, but…” in response. While such a fact is largely irrelevant to the amount of enjoyment you’ll get out of the much-hyped sequel to last year’s runaway YA novel success, I do feel it highlights just how much of a good job Francis Lawrence does in the director’s chair here. Katniss and friends’ far-from-happy adventure in the 75th annual Hunger Games looks far better than the original movie and feels exactly as gloomy as it needs to in order to set up what will hopefully be an excellent end to the saga. Catching Fire is bound to catch many more fans. I’m so sorry.

4. Rush

If you’re a fan of Formula One in all its glitz and glamour and danger, you need to see this movie, because there hasn’t been a better attempt at translating its unique natural melodrama to the screen. If you barely know what Formula One is but enjoy good movies, you still need to see Rush, because it’s an example of great “based on a true story” filmmaking and mesmerising performances. The film is primarily focused on the interactions between super-choleric Niki Lauda and renowned party boy James Hunt over their lengthy careers leading up to one of the most famous F1 seasons in history. Sure, the film takes some liberties with actual events, but it doesn’t need to take many, because that season was filled with so many scarcely believable developments that anyone could make a decent film out of it. Ron Howard, however, goes one step further, and delivers one of the best movies of 2013.

3. Gravity

Gravity is another masterpiece from the far too inactive filmmaking genius Alfonso Cuaron (of Prisoner of Azkaban and Children of Men fame). Armed with an unconventional plot structure, a pair of excellent performances and a ridiculous amount of concentrated special effects technology that absolutely deserves to be watched in 3D, Gravity brings beauty and danger together with visceral force like no movie has managed before. It just might take your breath away.

2. Silver Linings Playbook

Featuring heavily at the last Academy Awards, particularly in the acting categories where it scored four nominations, Silver Linings Playbook is a character-driven, pitch-black comedy from David O Russell that tackles the issue of the many faces of mental illness in a remarkably fresh manner. Its plot is packed with plenty of dramatic and dysfunctional moments that bring to mind the imperfections in all of us, and nearly every major relationship in the story is tested and strained, but said story is immensely satisfying to watch thanks to some memorable scenes involving Earnest Hemingway and a dance competition, as well as performances that are indeed Oscar-worthy. It’s the best comedy I’ve seen in a very long time.

1. Frozen

I’ve been writing some kind of year-end movie summary for five years now and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the day I might genuinely be able to say that my favourite film of the year came from Disney Animation Studios. Frozen is at once a confident return to the best traditions of Disney filmmaking and a significant step forward for the narrative conventions of the so-called “princess movie”. Its soundtrack can go toe to toe with many of the studio’s greats and it looks downright incredible at times, but it’s also consistently funny and boasts a genuinely unpredictable narrative with a really, really, really good ending. As this follows directly from Wreck It Ralph and Tangled, both amazing movies, we may as well go ahead and declare that we are now living in the third “golden age” of Disney film animation. Please don’t suck, Big Hero 6…


Honorable Mentions

Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino’s highly anticipated take on the Western genre was a little overlong but featured some typically tense and memorable scenes and a typically outlandish ending. He’s still got it.

The Wolverine
Probably the biggest movie surprise of the year, The Wolverine managed to not suck as much as people feared given the awful reception that the last Wolverine film got. It’s also set in Japan, which makes it automatically better.

Oz the Great & Powerful
Another big surprise, which despite being far from perfect is well worth a watch for fans of the original Wizard of Oz film. The pseudo-prequel has some of the most painstakingly crafted characterisation of any film this year and the ending is awesome.

Iron Man 3
This film copped some hate for its minimal use of a suited-up Tony Stark and the way its major twist apparently insulted the comics, but neither of these things really affect Shane Black’s funny, sincere and exciting threequel if you ask me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: