We talk about movies a lot, and every year there’s the inevitable conversation where someone complains about how the business has run out of ideas. You know the complaints: some curmudgeon talks about the overabundance of remakes and sequels, noting how the dumbest properties now get a movie deal. Whenever this conversation happens, we think, “If you’re whining about the state of movies, obviously you’re not paying attention enough.” This year has been terrific for film buffs: there were ambitious art-films, heartfelt comedies, searing thrillers, and form-defying documentaries. The breadth and quality of the year’s movies is, well, overwhelming.
In a year like this, it’s difficult to pick a conclusive list of the best films, so the BYT film team got scientific. All our movie writers – Jeff Spross, Toni Tileva, Svetlana Legetic, Alan Zilberman, Kaylee Dugan Alan Pyke, Ross Bonaime, and Catherine McCarthy – submitted their top thirteen movies of 2013, which were then tallied and ranked. So, without further ado, here are our top thirteen movies of 2013, complete with a silly (but still relevant) superlative and our concluding thoughts.
- 13: Best use of an F-bomb: All Is Lost
- 12. Best movie to make covert ops terribly unsexy: Dirty Wars
- 11. Best Britney Spears singalong: the cast of Spring Breakers
- 10. Best use of hide n seek: The Conjuring
James Wan is no stranger to the horror genre. With films like Saw, Dead Silence, and Insidious all under his belt, his latest scary movie, The Conjuring, was sure to be a success. The movie follows noted paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) on the most frightening case of their career. When Roger and Carolyn Perron and their family move into a very old home on Rhode Island, things begin to go very wrong, very quickly. The family dog dies the first night and one of their daughters complains that someone keeps pulling her leg while she’s asleep. One of the most terrifying scenes, however, involves an ill fated game of Hide N Clap, a mix of Hide N Seek and Marco Polo that the Perron girls seem to always be playing. Besides all of its excellent scares, The Conjuring does an impeccable job of recreating that old school horror movie vibe, while still containing some of Wan’s signature style. – Kaylee Dugan
- 9. Most heartbreaking couple of the year: Sutter Keely and Aimee Finicky, The Spectacular Now
Sutter Keely and Aimee Finicky are terrible for each other. He’s a barely-functioning alcoholic who’s on the rebound after his girlfriend dumped him for drinking too much. She’s inexperienced and innocent, the sort of young woman who would rather fall into bad habits than maintain her values. What’s utterly heartbreaking about The Spectacular Now, the dramedy directed by James Ponsoldt, is that it forces to see why inexperience lets these two high-school students to fall in love. Neither one is ever on the same page, really: Sutter lets Aimee fall for him, hard, while he self-medicates with booze to hide a deep sense of self-loathing. Then they find themselves in each other’s lives, and they are not quite equipped to handle the responsibility. But The Spectacular Nowis not a downer: Sutter and Aimee are funny, for one thing, and while they’re terrible for each other, it’s plain to see they’ll become thoughtful, good-hearted adults. The Spectacular Now is about the bumps along the way, and how real romance cannot happen until real heartbreak happens first. – Alan Zilberman
- 8. Best argument over where you can and cannot ejaculate in James Franco’s house: This Is The End
This past summer really disappointed me in terms of the gigantic blockbusters. But amongst all the superheroes, Brad Pitt running away from zombies and Minions so obnoxious they make me want to blow my brains out, came This Is the End, the self-referencial end-of-the-world action comedy filled with Apatow favorites that saved the summer for me. Now granted, not only do I love almost every actor and cameo that appears throughout the film, and I have been looking forward to it since the original short, Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse, that inspired it. And yes, I did proclaim this to be possibly my favorite film of all time years before it was even shot (Didn’t actually make that, but favorite film of the year? For sure.) This is the End was just hands down the most fun I’ve had in a movie this year. I never knew just how much I wanted to see Jonah Hill’s exorcism or Channing Tatum as Danny McBride’s bukkake mope. My expectations for This is the End were unreachably high, yet the final product is one of the most enjoyable films I may have ever seen. – Ross Bonaime
- 7. Best movie to watch completely and entirely alone: The Act of Killing
- 6. Best alternative to prozac: Frances Ha‘s “Dancing in the Streets” moment
- 5. Worst movie to watch drunk//Most likely to induce motion sickness: Gravity
- 4. Best anti-ingenue: Mia Wasikowska’s India Stoker in Stoker
- 3. Best scene-stealing cast of the year: In A World
- 2. Best use of naked breasts: Julie Delpy’s in Before Midnight
Right around the start of Before Midnight’s third act, Ethan Hawke’s Jesse and Julie Delpy’s Celine are in the early throes of love-making when one of them says the wrong thing, and the moment devolves into the all-out, no-holds-barred emotional grudge match that takes up the rest of the film. As a result, Delpy is half-naked when the fight starts, and the audience is treated to several uncomfortable minutes of both individuals ripping open one another’s old emotional wounds while Delpy’s bosom just sits there nonchalantly in the bottom portion of the frame. Director Richard Linklater sticks with the medium and wide shots and long pans he’s used until that point, and makes no effort to film or edit around her nakedness. The tension is palpable between the desire to cover up in circumstances that are suddenly so ill-suited to nudity, and the desire to keep the momentum of the battle going and not sacrifice any concentration to niceties. It’s both squirm-inducing and subtly insightful. Anyone who’s been in an extended relationship knows that sex is, ironically, one of the times a couple is most likely to kick off a fight, precisely because the emotional vulnerability is so high. The observation is characteristic of Before Midnight, which abandons the youthful romance of Before Sunrise and the unfulfilled early-30s idealism of Before Sunset to finally give us a relationship that is lived in rather than merely hoped for. It’s one of the uglier, more perceptive, more unvarnished, and ultimately more humane portraits of romantic entanglements in all their humiliating foibles and mundanities to come along in a while. – Jeff Spross
- 1. Best in real life example of deus ex machina: Brad Pitt as a Canadian abolitionist, 12 Years a Slave
Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave is a towering achievement because, with an unflinching gaze, it revisits the ugliest part of American history. McQueen is exactly the right director for this material: in Hunger and Shame, his steady camera would examine the physical realities of genuine suffering until, somehow, it become transcendently human. The same deliberate attention is there for 12 Years a Slave, the true story of how Solomon Northop finds himself in bondage, and it’s all the more heartbreaking because of actor Chiwitel Ejiofor’s natural empathy. There’s an early scene where Solomon struggles to breathe while there’s a noose around his neck, and the masterstroke is the utter indifference of the white men and women in the background (the slaves could not intervene for fear of reprisals). But Solomon does not end his life in servitude, and that’s entirely thanks to Bass (Brad Pitt), the Canadian abolitionist who breaks the law to help him. At first, Brad Pitt seems like the wrong choice for this role: he’s an A-lister who sticks out like a sore thumb in a movie populated by character actors. Thinking about again, he’s the right choice precisely because he stands outs. Solomon would never be free without the dumb luck of Bass’ charity, and his story is not the way stories about slavery end. Messianic and kind of weird, Brad Pitt’s friendly face is a jarring reminder that Solomon could have lived as Platt until his death – Alan Zilberman
That’s it, you guys. It’s been a great year for the movies.