Halfway through every year, I wonder if I’m going to be able to compile a meaningful Top 10 list.  Then by December I’m struggling to squeeze in all of the great films I saw. This was a diffcult choice.  A lot of great films didn’t make the cut.  But without further ado, (Drum roll please) my Top 10 Movies for 2013: Click the titles for the full review.

1.  Captain Phillips
Captain Phillips

Directed by Paul Greengrass – Starring Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Catherine Keener

Perhaps the greatest triumph a movie can achieve is portraying a crisis so honestly, so purely, that it goes beyond the point of mere filmed entertainment. You feel as if you’re experiencing the genuine tragedy of real life.Captain Phillips is that type of film.

2.  The Place Beyond the Pines
The Place Beyond the Pines

Directed by Derek Cianfrance – Starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta

The Place Beyond the Pines is an ambitious tale you’ll remember long after the credits have rolled. Cianfrance masterfully presents a carefully balanced epic of guilt, sin and redemption amongst fathers and sons. But he also provides car chases, guns and cop corruption. It’s got it all in a magnificently sweeping chronicle.

3.  Rush

Directed by Ron Howard – Starring Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara

In presenting two Formula 1 race car drivers that outwardly hate one another, the script makes the brilliant case that they are actually deeply indebted to their opponent. They each push the other in their pursuit of the World Championship. I was prepared to root for James Hunt, but walked away rooting for Niki Lauda. You might see the story differently and therein lies the brilliance of this film.

4.  The Way Way Back
The Way Way Back

Directed by Nat Faxon, Jim Rash – Starring Liam James, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell

The Way Way Back enchants not with action, or special effects. It captivates because it concerns people, authentic people who yearn, hurt, care, and love. The screenwriters have captured young Duncan’s adolescence brilliantly. You’ll laugh, cry and cheer at his awkward trek.

5.  American Hustle
American Hustle

Directed by David O. Russell – Starring Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence

American Hustle is the work of a dazzling showman that has logged years of experience under his belt. What makes a potentially dry subject so delightfully fun is the intricate way the plot unfolds. Russell manipulates fact vs. fiction with the singular vision of a confident filmmaker. We’re treated to a spectacular production that fabricates the pop culture excess of the late 70s in all its unfettered glory.

6.  Fruitvale Station
Fruitvale Station

Directed by Ryan Coogler – Starring Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Durand

Oscar isn’t a saint, but he certainly isn’t a monster either. What keeps coming through each vignette is that he was human. His existence had purpose because he had a soul. In Coogler’s small-scale portrait, we get the presentation of an individual unfulfilled. A powerful film about an American tragedy.

7.  Her

Directed by Spike Jonze – Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara

Her illustrates the plausibility for someone to fall in love with a person they’ve never met, better than any work of fiction I’ve ever seen. The script analyzes what constitutes love and makes the case that a passionate connection doesn’t even require a physical body. It relies on making an emotional bond with a person on a spiritual level. What sounds like science fiction on paper, is actually one of the most deeply felt romances of 2013.

8.  The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Directed by Francis Lawrence – Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks

You’ve heard the adage “show don’t tell.” In scene after scene, director Francis Lawrence invigorates the words of Suzanne Collins’ novel into a fully realized picture that exploits the possibilities of the visual medium. Jennifer Lawrence treats her role as if she were acting in a biographical drama. Her sincere performance has the gravitas required to engage our passion.

9.  The Past
The Past

Directed by Asghar Farhadi – Starring Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa, Pauline Burlet

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi has a talent for extracting honest emotion out of our everyday lives. His ability to construct a fascinating story from a deceptively simple scenario is nothing less than genius. He starts with routine domestic problems. Then presents an endlessly compelling drama with unflinching honesty. It sets the new emotional high bar by which all other movies must aspire. This is humanity and you cannot look away.

10.  Spring Breakers
Spring Breakers

Directed by Harmony Korine – Starring James Franco, Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson

Spring Breakers would appear to be a fun in the sun escapade full of carnal hijinks and randy shenanigans among older teens. What Korine does is take the “Girls Gone Wild” template and thoroughly turn it on its ear. This is as much a biting comment on pleasure seekers in Florida as it is a cautionary warning for the youth of today. Korine lulls the viewer into a false facade of good times, but the picture grows dark. It’s that ability to juggle a rapidly shifting narrative that makes Spring Breakers such a fascinating watch.

Just missed the Top 10:

11.  Despicable Me 2

12.  Star Trek Into Darkness

13.  Blue Jasmine

14.  Gravity

15.  Side Effects

16.  The Book Thief

17.  Wadjda

18.  Blackfish

19.  The Wolf of Wall Street

20.  Blue Is the Warmest Color


Worst of the Year:

1. You’re Next

2. Evil Dead

3. Insidious Chapter 2

4. Upstream Color

5. Man of Steel

75 Responses to “MY TOP 10 MOVIES FOR 2013”

  1. Great list! Glad to see “Spring Breakers”, made your list. Here is my top ten. 1. The Way Way Back 2. Captain Philips 3. Fruitvale Station 4. American Hustle 5. Her 6. Wadjda 7. The Past 8. Hunger Games, Catching Fire 9. Place Beyond the Pines 10. Rush.


    • Wow. Our lists are virtually identical save for numbering choices which is kind of arbitrary on my part anyway. Wadjda is a great film so completely understand its inclusion. Obliviously I like your choices too.


      • I’d be surprised if both of your lists didn’t somewhat overlap! I missed seeing many of the films this year so can’t participate in this conversation 😦 You just reminded me that I really need to see Captain Phillips. I’m quite surprised at some of the Globe nominations and omissions.


      • Nothing about the Golden Globes ever surprises me. To be honest, I still don’t even know who or what got nominated. lol


  2. YES to “Fruitvale Station.” I saw it recently and I pretty darn moved.

    I’ve yet to see “The Past.” I was a big fan of “A Separation” so I’m looking forward to it.

    lol… Even though I didn’t hate it, it’s nice to see “Upstream Color” under the “Worst” list. I thought it was so… inaccessible. Pretentious? That, too.

    I think you mean “Iron Man 3” instead of “Man of Steel.”

    “Insidious Chapter 2” made me so upset. What a pile of shit. I loved the first one so much, I included it on my Top 10 of that year.


    • I didn’t have a problem with Iron Man 3 because it had a sense of humor which is key in a superhero film. However it’s funny because love for Iron man 3 is hard to come by these days despite the fact that it is (at this writing) the biggest box office hit of 2013.

      Dittto everything you said about Insidious. It was so bad it actually desecrated the good name of the original.


  3. I agree with a lot of these lists. I haven’t yet seen Her, Fruitvale Station or The Past, all three of which are part of the reason I haven’t finalized my own Top Ten yet. But, save one, I agree that every film you’ve listed is above average, and I don’t quibble much of including any of them.

    What’s the one? Spring Breakers. I really don’t like that film, but it is quite divisive, so it’s not as though our differing opinions are terribly surprising. 🙂

    I also accept most of your bottom five films as bad. I like Upstream Color a lot, but the rest . . . the rest aren’t good.


    • Spring Breakers is one of those films that people either love or hate. It’s got a positively abysmal 5.4 rating on BUT at least 18 published critics placed that movie in their Top 10 for the year. I was transfixed by the film obviously.


      • I have seen it in a few critics’ Top Ten lists, as well. It’s much like Only God Forgives in its divisiveness (which happens to be another I don’t like).


  4. Great list, I also loved Captain Phillips.

    Can’t wait to see Her!


  5. Well our lists are looking prrretty similar, that’s cool! 😀 Great to see Spring Breakers bust into the Top 10. . .I loved that but there was so many other things down this last stretch that ended up getting in the way. If i had gotten to Walter Mitty sooner, that might have changed things up yet again. 😛


    • Nice to see James Franco got a mention on your DigiBread Awards post for Spring Breakers. He was indeed incredible.

      I actually saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty on New Year’s Eve before going to a party. If it had merited an inclusion, I would have incorporated it onto my list, but uh well, you’ll see in about a week. My review is forthcoming. 😛


  6. Man I love Top 10 of the Year lists. Some great movies mentioned. A couple I love. A couple I don’t care for and one I really want to say. It’s also funny that two on your “Worst of” list are movies I like a lot. But that’s the fun part of these lists.

    Mine is half done. I’ll either have it up Friday or next Monday. Hope you’ll give it a look and compare notes! 😉


    • I definitely will. You’ve got me in suspense now. I’m dying to find out what you loved and what you didn‘t on my list.


      • I’ll go ahead and mention the two I wasn’t crazy about. Fruitville Station just didn’t work for me but it is one that I haven’t reviewed because I feel I need to see it again. The other is Springbreakers. I really dislike that film. In fact I haven’t reviewed it because I couldn’t make it through it. It was just numbing to me. But there are a lot of people who are behind that film and that’s fine. That’s what makes movies so great. Different perspectives and good conversation.


  7. Hmm…I wasn’t as enamored with CAPTAIN PHILLIPS or RUSH (though the former made my Eleventh Place honorable mentions list and the latter got a very good 3/4 (that’s 3.5/5 to you, Mr. Hobin) rating from me with review still pending – I agree about the latter that Louda is the one you end up rooting for because Hunt comes off as rather a cu–…well you get the picture. I also wasn’t so crazy about HUNGER GAMES (though it was a seemingly vast improvement over the first film) and THE WAY WAY BACK was good coming of age summer fun that felt very rote to me as someone who grew up with independent cinema that plumbed this subgenre’s depths… PLACE BEYOND THE PINES seems to have fallen short as the year draws to a close but it is a flawed but well-constructed and ambitious epic. I’m glad to see my top 2 on your top 10 – even though I prefer them to all your choices combined – and I still look forward to UPSTREAM COLOR so help me…



    • Ah yes you placed American Hustle at #1 and Spring Breakers at #2.

      I wouldn’t get too concerned over what position I ranked a movie. Yes, I tried to arrange them by excellence, but my enjoyment of some titles is so close that the placement is kind of arbitrary.

      I believe you at least enjoyed everything on my list to some degree, so that’s saying something.

      P.S. Your detailed comment was so good I hope you don’t mind me reprinting it here.


  8. Good list, Mark. We’re going to have several similarities this time around. 🙂 Haven’t seen The Past and hated Spring Breakers but otherwise I think all of those films will be in consideration for me when I sit down to write it all out later this week.


  9. Very distinguished list this. The way way back is a good film but I think Spectacular Now was the better coming of age. Couldn’t finish The Place Beyond… It kind of got too depressing half way through. Will definitely check out Fruitvale Station, The Past and Spring Breakers. Good to see Man of Steel in the worst list… that movie had so much potential. Happy New Year! Appreciate your good work. Keep it up.


  10. GaryLee828 Says:

    Mark, you have to count down backwards so # 1 is a surprise! 🙂

    I actually gave “The Way, Way Back” a chance yesterday, but only finished about half of it b/c it was so predictable. I honestly do not know what so many like so much about the film that hasn’t already been done in other coming of age tales. I gave it a chance yesterday thinking maybe there was more to it than meets the eye from the trailer, but it was exactly as advertised. It follows a beat-sheet to the tee. Owen will help Duncan believe in himself. Duncan will stand up to Trent at the end. Duncan will experience love with the blonde girl, probably get his first kiss, even though he and girl had no chemistry a love story must be forced into the equation by this formula; he and Owen will sadly part ways at the end of the summer and Owen will tell Duncan he learned just as much from him as he was able to teach him, or something along those lines. Duncan leaves the beach house as a confident young man who just experienced the best summer ever. Etc.

    “Raising Victor Vargas” was a much better coming of age tale that is unpredictable. If you haven’t seen this one, I strongly recommend. Victor Rasuk is great in this role. I’m 99.9% sure you would love this movie. “The Wackness” with Josh Peck, Olivia Thirlby and Ben Kingsley was another coming-of-age tale that I thought was good and not overly predictable.


    • Read a few more of the many positive reviews (including mine). If you still don’t understand why people love The Way, Way Back, I wouldn’t trouble yourself with it any further. It’s an opinion, not fact.

      However if you must ask a question, given its overwhelming positive critical acclaim, a better one might be, “Why don’t I enjoy this film like everyone else?” 😉

      P.S. I’ve seen The Wackness.


      • GaryLee828 Says:

        I already know the answer. B/c I don’t enjoy films that follow beat-sheets to the tee. 🙂 This is why I avoid most action films.

        With that in mind, since you haven’t seen “Raising Victor Vargas” I strongly urge you to do so. I think you will like it. It’s your kind of film and critics love it. Roger Ebert deemed it one of the best of 2002.


  11. GaryLee828 Says:

    I understand not everyone was a fan of “Man of Steel” but to say it’s the “worst” of 2013? Worse than “The Internship”? lol. Worse than “Die Hard 5” – “Movie 43” – “The Host” – “After Earth” – “The Hangover 3” – Texas Chainsaw 3D – A Haunted House – R.I.P.D.

    So, all of these are better than “Man of Steel”? lol.

    I know you hated “You’re Next” (SPOILERS AHEAD):

    But it made sense; it wasn’t a happy story, and was gruesome, but things like that where family members will kill other family members to gain an inheritance has happened in real life; then throw in a girl who has training in physical combat to fight against the hired-hands makes this a unique plot. I haven’t seen a premise quite like it in horror before, and fans of the film find ourselves rooting for the girl.

    I liked “Evil Dead” but I can see how you and others didn’t like it, but after viewing the brutal red-band trailer I’m not sure what viewers were expecting. lol. The movie itself was pretty consistent with the trailer and I think would be a strong indicator who should and shouldn’t go see this.

    I agree with you about “Insidious 2”. I walked out after 30 minutes b/c it was so dull.


  12. Great work putting place beyond the pines so high, really stayed with me that one, I hope it gets some love come awards season. I don’t think man of steel or iron man 3 were bad at all but insidious 2 was a major let down!


    • I hope The Place Beyond the Pines gets some love too. Unfortunately any movie released way back in March has got an uphill battle when the awards are handed out almost a year later.


  13. GaryLee828 Says:

    No mention of “The Spectacular Now”?

    I need to check out “The Past”. I haven’t even heard of it. I may also check out “Her” when it becomes available since it comes so highly recommended.

    I have a 2013 recommendation for you that I think you’d enjoy, “It’s A Disaster”. It’s a comedy similar to “This is the End” except it’s couples stuck in the house. Julia Stiles, David Cross, America Ferrera, Erinn Hayes. It’s pretty funny. I think you’d like it.

    Here is my top 10 list for you to peruse when you have a chance:


  14. Great list Mark. Some really interesting choices on here. A couple that haven’t opened out here yet, so some stuff to look forward to.


  15. Great to see The Place Beyond The Pines placed so highly, Mark. It would definitely make my top three for sure. Nice list, man.


  16. Great picks. So interesting to see where Spring Breakers ends up on everyone’s list. It seems to be either in the top 10 or the bottom 10.


  17. Great list Mark. Some fantastic films there, some I haven’t caught yet and some we haven’t actually had over here yet, which is equal parts frustrating and exciting!


  18. Nice list and I’m glad to see The Past there. I haven’t seen it yet, but I was a big fan of Farhadi’s A Separation.

    I wasn’t very impressed by Catching Fire and I was a fan of Upstream Color, but I would agree with you about Man of Steel. My review was far too generous and it wasn’t positive at all, the film was a big mess.


  19. Hi Mark – very nice list. I’ve not done a list yet. But I am intending to see The Past as soon as it shows up here in Sarasota. I think the CEO of IMDB had The Past as third on his list.

    From your list – I saw five of your top 10, and seven of your ‘Just Missed’. I saw American Hustle on New Year’s Day and my review is in progress.

    Keep up the great work. Thanks.


    • You’re right! Col Needham did put The Past at #3. He had a couple odd choices on his ‘Best Of’ list too, but I guess that’s what makes these lists fun.

      I’ve also seen The Past on several other published Top 10s. Nick Schager at A.V. Club and Genevieve Valentine at Philadelphia Weekly both had it at #3 as well.


  20. Great picks here, Mark! For me, Gravity would be much higher (possibly no. 1), with Captain Phillips, Pines, Hunger Games and Spring Breakers further down the list. I’ve yet to see American Hustle, but I’ve heard good things! I’ll definitely check out the other unseens on your list.


    • Gravity (or 12 Years a Slave) seems to be #1 on quite a few lists. I liked it, but it was more of a theater experience for me. Not something I’m going to enjoy as much on TV.


  21. Oooh, nice to see HER on your top 10, that’ll be on mine as well. I think I’ll have a pretty long Honorable Mention list for those that didn’t quite make it.


  22. Glad to see The Place Beyond the Pines on your list. So many people overlooked that bad boy. I’m still tweaking my own Top 10, but we have a lot of similarities. Still need to see Her!


  23. Terrific list mark! I especially love how high The Place Beyond the Pines and Rush are rank; two of the years very best but have been lost in all of the awards hubbub unfortunately. This is a year where a top 20-30 couldn’t contain all of the best the year had to offer, but you hit it out of the park with just 10.

    Great work and happy new year!


  24. Great list, Mark. Wasn’t a big fan of Captain Phillips but really liked most of your picks, and I’m specially glad to see Catching Fire and Rush in your top 10. Also a little bummed that Evil Dead and Man of Steel are in the bottom.


  25. Great list! Can’t agree more with your number one spot same as mine aha, really want to see Place Beyond The Pines! And I know a few of these are late releases in the UK and Her is my most anticipated film for the start of 2014 anyway! So can’t complain, if you have time check out mine?-


  26. Great list! 🙂 Will probably do mine Wednesday or Thursday. I’m now really regretting not seeing Captain Phillips – so many have put that in their top tens. :-/ Can’t wait to see Her when it’s out in the UK. Rush & The Way Way Back will both be in my top ten (spoiler!) 😉


  27. Love seeing The Past here. I was late to that film, but man… it really floored me. I liked your other picks as well, but was definitely bummed to see my favorite film of the year (Upstream) rank as one of your worst. But hey, we like what we like.


  28. Still need to see a few of the films on your list. I’m particularly looking forward to Her, Fruitvale Station, and Captain Philips. Like you did on my Top 10, I’ll keep things positive, but let’s just say I may disagree with you when it comes to Place Beyond the Pines and American Hustle. Glad to see some of my favorites on here: Way, Way Back, Rush, and even Spring Breakers. Although Spring Breakers didn’t make my Top 10, I think it was the most visually striking film I saw last year.


    • Of course it’s perfectly fine to disagree. That keeps things interesting, but uh have you got something against Bradley Cooper?! He’s the obvious common thread between those two films. 😉


      • Nah. I love Bradley Cooper and so does my girlfriend haha. His performances were aspects of Pines and Hustle that I really liked. No Cooper hatin’ over here.


  29. Great list! I’ve only seen five but will definitely check out the others. It must have been difficult to choose. 2013 was a great year for movies.


  30. very interesting list Mark. I liked Place Beyond the Pines very much. As for Captain Phillips, i may not watch it soon.

    one realization i made recently is that i don’t enjoy Paul Greengrass movies. they are very well made but they are too realistic, unsettling, and exhausting at times. United 93 is a perfect example. But even B Ultimatum and Green Zone have a quality that makes the viewing experience a bit too sad and dark rather than something towards a bit more optimism. am having trouble explaining it. lol.

    but yeah, one good thing about movie blogging is realizing the kind of films that you really like and don’t. but i read your review on C Phillips and liked it.


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