Favorite films of 2013

In 2013 I saw 28 new movies — maybe fewer than you, but more than the average moviegoer’s six or eight — and as usual at this time of year, I’ve ranked them. (I’ll include a 29th, “Inside Lewyn Davis,” which I saw Jan. 5.)

Plenty of high-profile movies passed me by during the year, including “The Butler,” which looked too corny, and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which is too long, and I haven’t made it to “Her” or “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” yet. I’ve listed everything, letting you see what I watched and what I didn’t. Our tastes may differ radically, or they may be close enough that some title here will appeal to you. Feel free to comment either way and to list your own favorites.

My top 10, in roughly descending order: All is Lost, Much Ado About Nothing, Frances Ha, Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska, Before Midnight, 12 Years a Slave, The Way Way Back, Inside Lewyn Davis, Fruitvale Station.

11 to 20: Machete Kills, Enough Said, Don Jon, Captain Phillips, The World’s End, Gravity, Blue Jasmine, In a World, Zero Dark Thirty (a late 2012 release), American Hustle.

21 to 29: Hunger Games: Catching Fire, 42, This is 40 (a late 2012 release), Django Unchained (ditto), Oblivion, Iron Man 3, When Comedy Went to School, Thor: The Dark World, Man of Steel. (It was cinematic Kryptonite.)

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  • DebB

    Shows how different people’s taste can be – I haven’t seen a single one on your list, and some I haven’t even heard of! I have to admit, though, that I’m not really much of a moviegoer. I saw “Frozen” at Thanksgiving, mainly because the family wanted to see it. Otherwise, I can’t remember going to a single movie this year – I’m such a bore…

    • davidallen909

      That’s okay, Deb. You were too busy reading!

  • Doug Evans

    I love movies. I don’t get a chance to see too many of them. One of them happened to be Man of Steel, which I loathed with a passion and intensity only matched by a bad guy sent from another planet to kill Superman for poorly defined reasons. Here’s a link I thought you’d get a kick out of! http://io9.com/the-most-important-scenes-from-man-of-steel-as-i-remem-516405346

    • davidallen909

      That piece makes me hate Man of Steel more. I should have made it No. 30 out of 29.

  • SAWZ

    Hi David,
    Thank you for this outlet you have given us every year about one of my favorite pastimes–movies. My list is probably too long–I am a movie critic at heart.
    In previous years, when your blog came up on the year’s movies, I couldn’t remember all the movies I had seen and had to go to the computer to see what movies had been released and see if I remembered seeing them. This year I added each one to a list after I saw it. I probably would not see as many movies as I do if I were not retired, and if we did not have the wonderful Laemmle complex in Claremont. The Laemmle treats senior 62 and over pretty special. I can go to a movie on Wed. for $4.50 and if I carry the Premier Card, I can have popcorn and a coke for $3.20 (compare that with $10 at the AMC in Rancho, just for the snacks.) Anyone can purchase the Premier Card for $100 and get discounts until the card is all used. It can last a moviegoer a year or longer. Additions to the card cannot be less than $100, so I use mine all up before I put any more on it. You get free popcorn on Thursdays, plus snacks at a discount.
    It looks like I saw 37 movies this year, if I count the one I saw on Jan. 2. There was nothing on my list that really stands out as the best entertainment of the year. I can recall several terrific performances more than I would call their particular movies so outstanding, that they couldn’t be missed. Unfortunately there is always at least one stinker, so I will spit that out right now–”Oz–the Great and Powerful” (what a waste of talent). Movies I saw that were just entertaining: “Life of Pi”; “The Impossible”, “Quartet”, “The Sapphires”, “42″, “The Company you Keep”, “The Way Way Back”, “The Butler” (I refuse the give this movie its actual title–the director let his ego get the best of him), “The Spectacular Now”, “In a World”, “Short Term 12″, “Frozen”, “American Hustle”, “Before Midnight”, “About Time”.
    Movies I saw that carried heavy emotional impact–emitting horror or tears and sometimes both together: “Amour”, “The Attack”, “12 Years a Slave”, “The Book Thief”, “Saving Mr. Banks”,.
    I just didn’t get, “Gravity” and am completely puzzled as to why I didn’t, when it is on every critic’s list as something spectacular. I was also kind of in the dark with, “Bless Me, Ultima”. Biggest disappointment, “Inside Llewyn Davis”.
    Some movies are attended by me because of who is starring in them and the buzz is that the performances are spectacular or surprising. I do also consult the website “Rotten Tomatoes” to help me decide whether or not to see a particular movie: “MUD” (two adolescent male actors, one unknown, stole the show from Matthew McCaughey), “The Great Gatsby” (without Leo it would have been a complete bore), “All is Lost” (I was exhausted after it ended–Robert Redford absolutely deserves an Oscar), “Blue Jasmine” (Kate Blanchett absolutely deserves an Oscar), “Captain Phillips” (Vintage Tom Hanks, and the unknown Somalian from Minneapolis was terrific and will probably be nominated for a supporting-role Oscar); “Dallas Buyers Club” (Matthew McConahy and Jared Leto absolutely deserve Oscars), “Philomena” (Judi Dench delivers dialogue like no one else), “The Wolf of Wall Street” (the most vulgar mainstream movie I have ever seen; Leo and Jonathan Hill gave Oscar-caliber performances).
    Two foreign movies I hated: “Gloria” (Chili); and “The Great Beauty” (Italy).
    Biggest surprise: “Nebraska” (Who would believe that a movie shot in black and white, with subject matter about senility and crass people could be so good. Bruce Dern is on my list for an Oscar nomination and, the film is my choice for Best Picture.)
    I saw “Iron Man 3″ just because of Robert Downey Jr. and that’s about all I can say. I am waiting for “August Osage County” for the same reason–Meryl Streep. I also plan to see “HER” to make sure I don’t miss something.
    That’s about it. Now I will get ready to plop myself in front of the TV for the awards shows and, oh, those beautiful dresses!
    Thanks again David, if you haven’t cut this off already.

    • davidallen909

      If you hadn’t commented on this post, Shirley, and at length, I’d have been shocked.

      Our tastes in movies aren’t too far apart, and Laemmle must appreciate your patronage and loyalty.

      I should probably buy a Premiere card; I got one as a gift and liked it, even though it took a year or more to use it up. Didn’t know about free popcorn with the card on Thursdays. I haven’t bought movie snacks since childhood. Too expensive. I just want to watch a movie, not eat. But if popcorn were free, I’d get some (and hope I didn’t need a soda to wash it down).

      With Gravity on my list around No. 15, I didn’t see what so many others saw either. Basically liked it, but more for the effects than anything else. Having the female lead be heartbroken and ineffectual, and require the wise counsel of the male lead, seemed retro in a bad way.

  • Lois Robbins

    How was Nebraska? Since I’m moving there sometime this year I was wondering if I should see it or not. What do you think?

    • davidallen909

      Well, it was my fifth-favorite movie of the year, so I’d say it’s pretty darn good. The landscape that we see in the movie on the journey from Montana to Nebraska is often lovely and unpopulated. The scenes in Lincoln make it seem appealing. The whole thing’s pretty touching and laugh out loud funny at times.

      • Lois Robbins

        Sounds good! Thanks!

      • SAWZ

        That road out of Billings is the route from my birthplace to my hometown of Powell, Wy–I have traveled it many times in my life.. Those flat top, wedged hills you saw on the road right as they drove away from Billings were instantly regognized by me, and made me feel nostalgic. (The credits say the movie was filmed in MT, WY, SD, and NB–I have never been to SD and NB.)

  • SAWZ

    David, I have just received a brown envelope in the mail, from Publishers Clearing House. I am on the imminent-winners list and have a chance to receive $1,000,000 a year for life. I now have to wait for another brown envelope to see if more good news is to follow……if I win, I hope I will get to go to a place that is warmer right now, than Lincoln, Nebraska.

    • davidallen909

      If you travel, don’t take Bruce Dern as your companion.