Not a Movie Snob - The Best Movies of 2013

Posted on Saturday, January 11, 2014 at 05:00 PM

The Best Movies of 2013

I found myself wondering on more than one occasion this past year, particularly while watching Breaking Bad, if the current quality of one hour television drama is usurping the movies as the dominant form of entertainment. Certainly you could take two or three of the best episodes from season 5 of Breaking Bad and they would provide better minute for minute quality and entertainment than the best two or three movies of the year. The same could go for any number of shows on any number of stations. But is it fair to compare the two? You can't really judge the entertainment value of a show whose characters you've spent dozens, maybe hundreds of hours with against a two hour one off shot in a dark theatre. The last season of Breaking Bad was more fun and suspense and excitement than anything on my following list, but that's partially because of how much time I've invested in those characters, their arcs and that story.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that, as good as television is right now, and as admittedly low the number of truly great films these last few years has been, I'm not ready to give up on the cinema just yet. Cinema still has a power over me I've never felt with TV. It has the power to transform, to enlighten and to enhance. It has that magic about it whereby who you are when you walk into a theatre is not who you are, for better or worse, when you walk out of it. That's more than entertainment. That's spiritual.

*note - The only movie I didn't get to see this year that I really wanted to and that may have had a chance at cracking my top ten was Inside Llewyn Davis. I moved to a smaller town this summer and there's no telling which indie films are going to hit our screens or pass them by completely. This damn movie seems to have passed us by.

10. Gravity

If the idea of free floating through endless space and into eternity gives you the willies, this is the panic attack for you! Not even Sandra Bullock's shoddy acting could put a damper on the photo realistic visuals and vice grip tight suspense. Easily the scariest film of 2013. 

9. Fruitvale Station

This true story of police brutality and the homicide of a young black man on New Year's Eve is a powerfully told tale of injustice. It plays out in docudrama realism and, regardless of how much liberty the filmmaker took with the events leading up to the actual murder, delivers one of the most acute emotional punches of the year. 

8. All Is Lost

This is one of those movies that provides a really moving and intense experience for the people that get it, and provides little more than a big neon question mark for the people that don't. It's almost devoid of dialogue and simply about a man out on the sea for whom things go from bad to shitty to worst day ever to...well the ending is open to interpretation. Which is one of the things I love about it. 

7. The Way Way Back

Glancing over my list, I realized this is the only non downer film on it. I don't know what that says about whom, but The Way Way Back is just a really sweet coming of age story with a good message, a lot of laughs and some great performances. I watched it twice in two days and loved it just as much the second time. Always a good sign. 

6. A Field In England

Ben Wheatley is one of most interesting, unique and darkest filmmakers around. Last year's Sightseers was pitch black comedy at its height and one of the year's best films. He's not as popular in Canada as he is in the UK and I actually didn't even know he had a new film out until I saw it popping up on best of lists a couple weeks into December. 

To say that A Field In England is the year's most original film is an understatement akin to saying that Bob Saget occasionally lets a dirty word slip. This is the kind of film you'd fail to fully grasp if you watched it every day for a full year. Taking place entirely within a field in England, it also takes place everywhere, and nowhere. Perhaps during a war and perhaps at the cusp of an impending apocalypse. Then again, it could just be about a group of thirsty men in search of a cold beer. I have a feeling the meaning will change as the film will with every subsequent viewing. And I can't wait to watch it again.

5. Blue Jasmine

Woody Allen's a strange one. Midnight in Paris was one of the best films of 2011. To Rome With Love was one of the worst films of 2012. And now Blue Jasmine is one of the best films of 2013. Perhaps I should just start seeing his films every other year and save myself the head scratch. Then again, maybe that's the risk you run pumping out a film a year every year like clockwork well into your 80's. 

Either way, Blue Jasmine is one of the year's best, darkest, bravest films. Cate Blanchett gives a career best performance that has her Oscar in the bag and Allen himself has proved, once again, that he is that very rare breed of filmmaker that can truly do whatever the hell he wants, no question asked. If we ever discover a youth serum that allows people to live to be 200, give it to this guy first.

4. 12 Years A Slave

I want to smack people when I hear them belittle this film by calling it 'Django without the fun' or 'The Passion of the Christ without the Christ.' Honestly? That's what you took away from this powerful, emotional tale of a man who is kidnapped from his affluent life and sold into slavery where he spends twelve years witnessing and experiencing the sickening brutality and evil that was slavery in the pre-abolition southern United States. This is another example of brave, uncompromising filmmaking and acting on every level. Yes it's hard to watch, how could a film that explores the reality of slavery not be? 

3. The Wolf of Wall Street

A film that was about as fun for me as the poster makes it look, The Wolf of Wall Street isn't trying to be anything other than what it is. Excess unending. Larger than life filmmaking, performances, storytelling. Like Blue Jasmine, like All Is Lost, like 12 Years A Slave, like many of the films on this list, it is uncompromising and unapologetic. You truly are either going to love it, or hate it. Also features the best use of music of any movie that year. 

2. Captain Phillips

This movie provided the most intense, emotional and exciting experience I had at the theatre this year. It pulls you in with its trademark Paul Greengrass visceral handheld camera style. Its documentary feel and its realistic performances adding to the story's effectiveness as it tightens its grip on you with every passing minute. I truly felt every emotion watching this movie and was exhausted by it by the end. Captain Phillips is the full meal deal, folks. It's everything we go to the movies to see and experience. 

1. Her

It's been a long time since I felt as elated, as purely joyful, watching a movie as I did watching this one. For more than half of this movie I had a smile on my face. The imagination, the simplicity in its sweetness and message, the melancholic believability of its not-so-far-off setting. This is a movie about the little things. And the way they interact with the very universal things that occur in the spaces they inhabit. An endlessly touching, witty, gorgeously photographed film of enormous beauty, emotional and otherwise. 

And what would any self respecting top ten list be without a couple of cheats thrown in for good measure. So here they are:

Best Documentary: Blackfish

This is a harrowing, scary, frustrating, disturbing documentary about the utter inhumanity of keeping Killer Whales in captivity and the detrimental effect it has on their mental and physical well being. I've no doubt you could apply this story to any number of zoo's, marine land's or lion safari's the world over.

Best skate video: Pretty Sweet

I've been more or less obsessed with skateboarding on some level since about the age of ten. I watch a lot of skate videos every year and Pretty Sweet was by a large stride the most entertaining, technically impressive and imaginatively done vid or 2013. It's worth noting that one of the brains behind this video, as well as being one of the videographers and a co-owner of Girl Skateboards is Spike Jonze. Writer/director of my favourite feature film of the year, Her. It's worth noting I am now in love with this man.



NOTE: The showtimes listed on come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to