Cinema Fanatic’s Favorite Fifteen Films of 2013

I don’t know if I saw the wrong movies this year or if cinema just really let me down this year or maybe I’m just getting burned out, but I didn’t fall in love with movies as much this year as previous years. Last year was the same. I think the last year I saw a lot of movies that I truly loved was 2011 (and 2009. Boy, I loved 2009). That said, you can see all the 2013 releases I watched here and after the cut you can see the fifteen that rose to the top of my favor this year.


1. The Punk Singer (dir. Sini Anderson)


I was having a really bad couple of weeks on so many levels and I didn’t even really want to see this movie, but a friend insisted and I’m so glad he did because it was really everything I needed and more. I didn’t know much about Kathleen Hanna going into the film, but as I was watching it I realized I should have and that she should really be more well-known than she is. There’s such amazing positivity and resilience in this film. It’s like an anthem for the strength of the human spirit.

2. Frances Ha (dir. Noah Baumbach)


This was one of the last films I saw in San Francisco before I made the big move down to Los Angeles, so it’ll always have a bittersweet place in my heart. I think it captures a stage of life beautifully and displays an aspect of female life (friendship) that isn’t often the subject of films. You get female rivalries or you get the supporting best friend who helps the protagonist get the guy. But you rarely get a glimpse of women working to maintain a friendship when life starts getting in the way. It’s hard to drift from your friends, but no matter the distance, it’s nice to know they’ll always know you best.

3. Her (dir. Spike Jonze)


This movie killed me. It’s full of longing and aching and joy and exuberance and regret and everything in between. Joaquin Phoenix continues to be one of the greatest actors of his generation and Spike Jonze has his own vision of the world and I am so glad he shares it with us every so often.

4. Before Midnight (dir. Richard Linklater)


Like the Apu Trilogy and the Antoine Doinel films, Richard Linklater’s Before films are a pure cinematic treat. This film is great, but its richness comes as much from the relationship of the characters themselves, as it does from the relationship we the viewers have developed with them over the course of three films. I can only imagine what a treat it must be to have seen all three films in theaters and to have grown with Jesse and Céline over twenty years.

5. Blue is the Warmest Color (dir. Abdellatif Kechiche)


One of the most controversial films of the year and one that was talked about for all the wrong reasons. It’s the best representation of co-dependency I think I’ve ever seen on film. It’s also one of the rawest, most compelling love stories in recent memory.

6. La grande bellezza (dir. Paolo Sorrentino)


A movie that could only be a movie. People will bitch and say it’s Fellini-light. Fellini would laugh in your face and tell you to enjoy the great beauty of this film!

7. 12 Years A Slave (dir. Steve McQueen)


I don’t know if I will ever be able to watch this movie again. It’s relentless and brutal, but essential.

8. Inside Llewyn Davis (dir. Coen Bros.)


This one I saw at a screening presented by the DGA and the Coens did a Q&A hosted by Sam Raimi when it was over. He was dressed up in a suit and they appeared to be in everyday wear. It was funny. Here’s a screenplay that gives a character many opportunities to make a choice and a character who appears to always make the wrong one. I really dig that.

9. The Wolf of Wall Street (dir. Martin Scorsese)


Marty sure loves to stir things up and this movie’s probably got more people talking about it than any other movie right now. This is definitely one of the best performances of Leo’s career. What I particularly liked about it, and what Marty usually does with his films, is that it presents the characters and situations to you without any editorial judgement. Scorsese shows you something controversial, but he doesn’t tell you how to feel about it. That’s up to you to decide.

10. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (dir. Ben Stiller)


I love this movie. I loved every moment of this movie. I felt extreme cinematic joy while watching this movie. This was the last 2013 film I saw in theaters, even though I still had a few days to watch films. I just figured nothing would top that experience.

11. Blue Jasmine (dir. Woody Allen)


Oh, Woody, you really love your rich people. I got a kick out of this because of its San Francisco setting. Somewhere on Facebook I have a photo I took of Allen while he was filming out in the Richmond. For me, though, what really made this film was Andrew Dice Clay. We don’t get a lot of him, but he packs a wallop.

12. Nebraska (dir. Alexander Payne)


This one I saw at a screening put on by the Society of Camera Operators. It was introduced by Alexander Payne himself (though he didn’t stay for the screening) and afterwards there was a reception for the cinematographer Phedon Papamichael. He was smoking a cigarette on the balcony of the ArcLight despite the signs saying not to do so. As were many other people. But I digress. I love the simplicity of the film and its honesty. June Squibb gives an stand-out performance as a woman/mother/wife who says what she’s thinking at all times and knows what she wants out of life.

13. Much Ado About Nothing (dir. Joss Whedon)


What a delightful film this was! I saw this after a long day at a new job and it was everything I was hoping it would be. Whedon was having fun with this and that fun shines through in every frame. I got to meet him shortly after I saw this film at an after party for the Saturn Awards (work perk!) and all I wanted to say was how much I enjoyed this film.

14. The World’s End (dir. Edgar Wright)


I laughed and laughed and laughed during this film, start to finish. This was the first Edgar Wright film I actually saw in a theater or with another person, as all his other films I rented and watched by my lonesome. It was fun to laugh with people instead of all alone. It makes you laugh even harder.

15. Gravity (dir. Alfonso Cuarón)


I saw this early at a screen on the Warner Bros. lot (another work perk!) and really loved it. I never did see it with an actual audience of paying customers.  I will say two things about it: 1) the 3D was so good at one point when I KNEW better, I flinched. 2) A simple story does not make a film unworthy of your time, nor does it a bad screenplay make.

About Marya E. Gates

Cinephile to the max.

Posted on December 31, 2013, in Top List and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Love your list. Can’t wait to finally be able to see some of these films for myself!

  2. Love your list. I thought Frances Ha was cute; Before Midnight = cute too.

    Twelve Years a Slave was a sublime movie experience. Steve McQueen is always hard to rewatch because he is so unflinching and raw.

    Her was brilliant and a nice surprise for me as the year drew to a close.

    Whedon entertained me with Much Ado About Nothing. World’s End i felt was okay and Blue left me a little numb in the bum, but I loved the realism.

  3. Fully 5 of your top 9 would appear on my own Top 10 if I made one. I shit you not. Her, Llewyn Davis, Blue is the Warmest Color, The Great Beauty and Wolf of Wall Street. I’m surprised though it was not an inspiring movie year for you since those are some great goddamn movies right there. Here’s to a better 2014!

  4. I really love how you incorporate so many personal details about the films you’re writing about. Surroundings and circumstances really do play a part. And you are so right on about The Great Beauty. The movie-est movie of the year.

  5. Will track some of these down. Thanks.

  6. Great list here. I love seeing Blue is the Warmest Color crack the Top 5. You’re right, it’s such a fantastic examination of co-dependency.

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