It’s that time of year again! We’ve reached the halfway point (well almost; July is just a week away), which means it’s time for me to break it down and give you my top ten films of 2013 so far.
I’m not going to lie when I say that 2013 has been very hit or miss. A lot of titles that I was banking on ended up being pretty damn disappointing, while more than one film ended up surprising the hell out of me. Below is simply my own list of the ten films that have impressed me the most so far this year. Keep in mind that there’s still a whole batch of good-looking films coming out this summer and fall, so I might have stretched out my list a bit to fit the full ten.
I have no doubts that some, if not most of these titles won’t end up making my top ten films of the year list when I run it later in December. I can say that the top three will probably still be holding strong, while the last three or four might be topped.
Let’s get a few of the disappointments out of the way before we highlight what I ended up really enjoying. Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, A Good Day to Die Hard and To the Wonder all ended up upsetting more than I care to note. Iron Man started out strong, but quickly fizzled out, while Star Trek and Die Hard attempted to be popcorn flicks without any shred of brain, but ended up being nothing but on-screen noise.
To the Wonder sticks out as the biggest artistic disappointment of 2013, because Terrence Malick blew me away with his last film The Tree of Life. I still can’t believe how poorly constructed To the Wonder was, if only because it’s such a beautifully hollow film. Hopefully his next project rebounds him back into that storytelling groove that he’s known for.
Now, it’s time for my list. Keep in mind that the numbers aren’t that important; I could probably change around seven through ten depending on my specific mood for a particular film. The bottom films are much more wisely placed, while the ones towards the top are simply me filling in with whatever else is left. This is a halfway point list, so please don’t take it as my final word. This is simply me having fun and going over what I’ve seen and liked so far this year.
10. Man of Steel
I know I know; Man of Steel just came out and I gave it a middling review, yet I’m placing it on my top ten films of 2013? Yes. Why you ask? Because Zack Snyder is one of the most important visual filmmakers working in the field today and he’s done something really great with Man of Steel.
The film might be a bit short where it counts: the story — thanks to screenwriter David S. Goyer, but that still doesn’t count out Snyder’s often-times stunning direction and the heavy-lifting performances by Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe. Hell, even Michael Shannon finally breaks through to the mainstream as the film’s main baddie General Zod.
I’d even throw some credit towards Henry Cavill for taking the iconic character Superman and finally bringing him down to a level where most have wanted to see him on for years.
Christopher Nolan‘s producing credit certainly helped ease the pain for most audience members, but I was always drawn towards the film because of Snyder and his always impressive eye for shooting some truly unique and creative worlds. The entire Krypton sequence is gorgeous and vast, while the action is some of the biggest that I have ever seen unfold on screen. The sheer size of the chaos is sometimes spine-tingling and unreal.
Man of Steel is a flawed film, but still a good one. I’d argue that it’ll be one of the better big-budget summer movies, but we still have Pacific Rim to look forward to.
Click here to read my full Man of Steel review.
9. Spring Breakers
Harmony Korine‘s Spring Breakers is a hypnotic and hard-to-swallow dissection of our youth, while at the same time functioning as a trashy low-key coming-of-age tale about a group of lost and confused college students that run into perhaps the weirdest James Franco ever.
Spring Breakers isn’t an easy film to watch or even discuss for that matter, but it’s an important one, because Korine operates on such a raw and uncomfortable level that not only makes for debate, but also one of 2013’s most ambitious pieces of work.
I didn’t fall in complete love with Spring Breakers, but I did appreciate what Korine was trying to say — or at least what I thought he was trying to say.
That being said, Spring Breakers is definitely not for everyone and should be approached with a proper understanding of just what kind of film it really is.
Click here to read my full review of Spring Breakers.
8. Warm Bodies
I feel like I’ve talked about Jonathan Levine‘s smart, fresh and incredibly charming zombie rom-com Warm Bodies enough, yet I can’t stop recommending it to everyone.
Warm Bodies is such a genre-changing film. It’s hard not to fall completely in love with it. Somewhere between Levine’s honest and intimate direction and Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer‘s magnetic chemistry is where Warm Bodies won me over.
It’s beating full of life and energy and it’ll probably surprise most that looked the other way during its theatrical release.
Click here to read my full Warm Bodies review.
7. This is the End
Seth Rogen and frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg have finally crossed over from the writing world to the directing world and their debut film This is the End is an absolute riot and one of the funniest things since last year’s surprisingly funny 21 Jump Street.
Here Rogen, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, James Franco, Jay Baruchel and Danny McBride star as themselves in an end-of-the-world comedy that is loaded with self-references and lots and lots of vulgar R-rated comedy that you’d expect from the gang.
The writing and directing is incredibly solid and if I really had to complain about the film I would point out its slightly bumpy pacing towards the beginning. Once the group assembles then the rest of the film falls into place perfectly, with enough laughter and insanity to please just about anyone with a sense of humor.
Click here to read my This is the End review.
6. The Kings of Summer
Jordan Vogt-Roberts‘ The Kings of Summer is the best under-the-radar film not just of the summer, but of 2013. If there’s one film that you probably haven’t heard of, but should — it’s The Kings of Summer.
The film is a smart coming-of-age story with a refreshing sense of humor and a direction that can mostly be described as beautiful and focused. Vogt-Roberts gets some great work out of his mostly unknown crew and Nick Offerman gives yet another performance that will please his fans.
I cannot stress enough how awesome this film is. Go and seek it out before it’s too late, because it’ll bring you back to your childhood and give you that feeling of freedom and fun that you’ve been desperately missing.
Click here to read my review of The Kings of Summer.
5. Olympus Has Fallen
The best action film of 2013 so far goes to Olympus Has Fallen without a single doubt. Antoine Fuqua‘s over-the-top bad-ass white house invasion film is a bloody damn fine film, thanks to Fuqua’s no-bullshit direction and Gerard Butler‘s return to action stardom. We’ve been waiting for Butler to return to the action genre on full-blast and he couldn’t have picked a better picture.
The film might not run on smarts or logic, but it’s endlessly entertaining and almost always moving at incredible speeds. I’ve seen the film three times in theaters and cannot wait to revisit it again and again on Blu-ray. Olympus Has Fallen is a firm reminder that good action films can still be made without gigantic budgets and huge stars.
Click here to read my full Olympus Has Fallen review.
There isn’t a more relevant film for this modern age than Henry Alex Rubin‘s multi-layered drama Disconnect. The film deals with social networking on an intricate scale of detail, weaving together multiple stories to help send a grander message. Jason Bateman leads the heavily-stacked cast with a performance that finally shows us his range and abilities in a much more serious role.
Disconnect works so well because of how balanced Rubin keeps everything, despite his constant back-and-forth between the film’s major plots. Not once does he slip up, which makes Disconnect a notable achievement from a writing and directing standpoint. The fact that it deals with some touchy and very present topics only makes it hit home that much harder.
Click here to read my full Disconnect review.
3. Side Effects
Steven Soderbergh‘s last theatrical film Side Effects is possibly one of his best. This gloomy and dark thriller unfolds in a mysterious fashion that can only be described as typical Soderbergh. He gets career-best performances out of Rooney Mara and Jude Law, while also tackling the controversial topic of prescription drugs and the problems that they have been bringing to America as of late.
I love how he’s able to literally transport the audience into the shoes of the characters by his clever choice of angling the camera and editing the film. Side Effects changes its look and feel almost as often as the characters in the film change their mood and that mixed with Soderbergh’s first-class experimental storytelling makes Side Effects one of 2013’s best films without a single doubt.
Click here to read my full Side Effects review.
2. Pain & Gain
I know I’m going to get a lot of heat for my placement of Michael Bay‘s bodybuilding dark comedy Pain & Gain, but quite frankly I don’t give a shit. Pain & Gain is the funniest film that I’ve seen so far this year and because of that it gets high ranking on my list. Bay has somehow managed to apologize for the entire Transformers trilogy with this over-the-top comedy about some of the biggest idiots to ever walk the planet Earth.
It certainly helps knowing that the film is based on a true story, but even without that tidbit Bay still manages to create something that’s visually on par with his usually hyper-kinetic storytelling and he’s never afraid to push the comedic boundaries.
Pain & Gain might surprise you with just how far it’s willing to go to prove its point and because of that I’ve watched it maybe a half dozen times.
Dwayne Johnson definitely breaks out as the film’s most bizarrely funny and unpredictable character, while Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Mackie back him up as equal numbskulls with absolutely no common sense. The trio of douche bags lend Bay’s film enough material to go on forever, which is the film’s only real downfall; it could have cut twenty minutes without anyone even noticing.
Click here to read my full Pain & Gain Review.
1. The Place Beyond the Pines
Derek Cianfrance‘s The Place Beyond the Pines is the best film of 2013. It’s perfect in almost every single way. His direction is sprawling and epic; expanding the film’s scope far beyond what anyone would have originally expected, while the performances by Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling are dark and damaged and exactly what we’d expect from these two men when they’re operating at their highest capacity.
Comparisons have been drawn between Pines and The Godfather and I can certainly see why, because Pines deals with family and legacy with such a similar structure and focus on expansion and lingering outcome.
I wouldn’t call Pines the next Godfather, but I’d certainly defend it as something deeply powerful that shows Cianfrance’s skills as a master craftsman behind the lens. Pines is beautifully-shot, hauntingly scored and a film that echoes on mistakes, learning to live with consequences and above all else how one’s path through life creates ripples that go on to affect not only those around them, but others down the road.
Click here to read my full review of The Place Beyond the Pines.
There it is. My top ten films of 2013 so far. Do you agree or disagree with any of the films on my list or the order that I chose to list them? Did I forget to mention your favorite film of 2013 so far? Make sure to let me know in the comments below!
We’ve still got so many good films to look forward to this summer and later this fall. I can’t wait to revisit this list in December and see what films managed to hold on and what films get topped.
It’s a guessing game at this point and I honestly have no clue what I’ll end up loving by the time the year is out. I’m personally looking forward to Pacific Rim, Only God Forgives, Elysium and Gravity.
What about you?