Best of 2013 — Top Ten Movies of the Year

We take a look at the top 10 movies for 2013 which includes a space expedition gone wrong, a Hobbit and a killer documentary…

By Trevor Dueck — Staff Writer

Looking back at 2013 there were some solid films that came and went on the big screen. I did peruse a few other websites to see what the experts thought, but I soon realized that most of them are off their rockers. I decided to create a list of films that include a couple of documentaries, an animation feature, drama and a couple that fit the mold of the Nerdcore Movement. So without further ado a top ten list of the best films of last calendar year that many of my nerdcore familia would agree with.

10. The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug

Who knew that a director could make three epic films out of one small children’s book that was less than three-hundred pages long. I will admit that when I watched “The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey” back in 2012 I wondered if we were in for a long and drawn out trilogy. In 2013 with “The Desolation of Smaug” I soon realized that we were once again watching a true story telling master at work in Peter Jackson. We were thrust back into Middle Earth with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the dwarves as they ran around finding trouble on their great adventure. We were also introduced to some Elves, humans of Laketown and of course the ferocious dragon Smaug which was voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch. Overall this film was one of the top movies of 2013. It probably should rank higher on this list but since it is the second film of three I found it hard to put it on my top five. The special effects were of course phenomenal. The story moved along with ease and the acting was first rate. I thought Martin Freeman did some of his finest work as Bilbo in this sequel and Evangeline Lilly’s performance as the warrior Elf Tauriel was outstanding.

9. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Another year goes by and Jennifer Lawrence’s name has once again been front and center. The much anticipated Hunger Games sequel did not disappoint with many saying it was even better than the first film. The film begins as Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has returned home safe after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a “Victor’s Tour” of the districts. Along the way Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell) – a competition that could change Panem forever. The film did not disappoint the hardcore book nerds, and although the budget for the film got a big boost, it’s actually not the special effects or the futuristic visuals that gave this film such a great rating, it’s the performances of the actors and the storyline that set it apart from the first film.

8. Sound City

You can’t do a top ten list and not include a documentary or two. One of the top docs of 2013 was without a doubt Foo Fighter’s front man David Grohl’s Sound City. Deep in the San Fernando Valley, was rock n’ roll’s best kept secret: Sound City. America’s greatest unsung recording studio housed a one-of-a-kind console, and as its legend grew, seminal bands and artists such as Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Rick Springfield, Tom Petty, Metallica and Nirvana all came out to put magic to tape. There is a reason why this film was the highest rated movie on Rotten Tomatoes for 2013. If you love music and have an appreciation for some of the best rockn’roll bands of the last three decades, you want to see this film.

7. Blackfish

My as well follow a documentary with another one in Black Fish. It’s a movie that will disturb and force one to think as it takes an inner look at Orca whales in captivity. These whales are known to be playful and majestic creatures in the deep blue ocean, but put them in a pool of water for our enjoyment and we get to see the dark side of the “Killer Whale.” The story focuses on a notorious whale named Tilikum who-unlike any orca in the wild-has taken the lives of several people while in captivity. So what exactly went wrong? Shocking, never-before-seen footage and riveting interviews with trainers and experts manifest the orca’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity over the last four decades, and the growing disillusionment of workers who were misled and endangered by the highly profitable sea-park industry. It’s a must see documentary and easily made it onto my list of best films of 2013.

6. Frozen

Believe it or not, this was one of the best animations of 2013. Sure we had Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University that had its fair share of laughs, but those were sequels and to make it on this list you need to have some originality…not that Disney has provided much of that in the last few years. However, this could be the film that puts Disney back on top of the animation empire with many already calling in the Oscar for Frozen as the best animated feature of 2013. The movie is about Princess Elsa who has powers of sorcery beyond her control: she can and does cast a nuclear winter on her northern kingdom. Her sister Anna is the normal one, falling in love at the first sight of any eligible male, yet bound to confront her sister and save their realm. Just in case you don’t know it a loose retelling of the classic Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.” Most will say I’m crazy to put this on the list but if we are going to include the top animation of the year, this one is right up there. I’m not an eight-year-old girl but I know many nerds like myself who took their nerdlets to the movie only to leave going, “that was actually pretty good.”

5. The Grandmaster

There have been films made about the legendary Ip Man before, but Grandmaster, which is directed by acclaimed filmmaker Wong Kar Wai, does a great job of putting the legend Ip Man (Tony Leung) within a setting where he is not the only focal point. The real central figure, in fact, is Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi), the daughter of a rival martial-arts master who, upon her father’s murder, devotes her life to the single-minded pursuit of revenge—a quest that not only leads her to a kind of spiritual ruin, but also exposes the futility of the old-fashioned code of honor she had been following, far less fulfilling than Ip Man’s more flexible philosophy of living. Unfortunately the Weinstein company decided to meddle with the film and have twenty minutes deleted from the US release. Let’s hope that there is a director’s uncut version coming to DVD soon. I really wish American studios would leave these pieces of cinema art alone and let it stand on its own merit. Nonetheless this is one of the best films of the year and if you like great storytelling mixed in with some high end Kung Fu fight scenes, this one is for you.

4. HerHer Joaquin Phoenix

This easily could have been the #1 film of the year for the Nerdcore Movement. It’s about a kind of nerdy and reclusive writer (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with his computer’s highly advanced operating system. Haven’t we all? As good as Phoenix is in this film, he actually gets upstaged by the voice of the computer played by the gorgeous Scarlett Johansen. Many have thought that Scarlett should be getting a Oscar nomination for best supporting actress, however the academy ruled that because she only used her voice that her outstanding performance could not be worthy of a golden statue. I thought movie critique Calum Marsch said it best, ” The genius of Her is that it doesn’t ask you to believe in the truth of its speculative science fiction so much as it does the truth of its romance, which is to say that Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) means more as metaphor—for a hard-won connection, long-distance or otherwise remote—than as a prediction of future tech. Her is about ‘the modern condition,’ but not, importantly, in the strictly satirical sense: It tells us less about how we live than how we love.” I couldn’t say it better. Go see this movie.

3. Before Midnight

This is actually one of the biggest surprises of the year. I didn’t think that Richard Linklater had another film in him to give us another look at the relationship of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy). If you haven’t seen Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004) do yourself a favor and rent those before seeing Before Midnight – otherwise you maybe lost and miss the subtle nuances of the relationship. Once again we are brought into the lives of this quirky and mesmerizing couple as they deal with married life. We see that although love can endure, life cannot be controlled and romance is never guaranteed. Make sure you have tissue with you for this one. I wasn’t going to put this film in my top ten, but after watching it and seeing all the love it has garnered from so many critics it’s tough to leave off the list. Sure it doesn’t have crazy robots and large explosions like another 2013 favorite in Pacific Rim, but it’s the simplicity of human nature that wins out here.

2. 12 Years a Slave

This is pretty much going to be the award season darling. It has some outstanding performances by Chiwetel Ejiofor who plays Solomon Northrup a New York State citizen who was kidnapped and made to work on a plantation in New Orleans in the 1800s. I fully expect Chiwetel to win for best actor but there was some great supporting performances in Michael Fassbender, Paul Giamatti and Benedict Cumberbatch. Although there have been many films in the past that have dealt with the slavery story, this one film reminds us again of that time period where it was freedom for some and not for all. This is a must see for everyone and easily could have been #1.

1. Gravity

The No. 1 film of the year goes to Gravity. It is directed by Alfonso Cuaron, and stars Oscar winners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in a heart-pounding thriller that pulls you into the infinite and unforgiving realm of deep space. Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney). But on a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone. Some nerds like me loved this movie while others were ‘meh’ about it. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, please find a place where you can watch it in all of its 3D glory or else you are one of those people who waited too long and will have to endure the standard less exciting version. I bet you watched Avatar the same way didn’t you? There was no better film that used science, 3D, solid acting, and amazing storytelling than Gravity. Thus it is why I am making it the top film of 2013 for movie nerds everywhere.

Honorable Mentions:

Man of Steel, Iron Man 3, The Croods, The Wolf of Wall Street, Inside Llewyn Davis, Captain Phillips, American Hustle, Thor: The Dark World, Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast and Furious 6, The World’s End, Stoker and Pacific Rim.

There were so many films I wanted to include but it was tough to add those honorable mentions. Iron Man 3 or 12 Years a Slave? Yes there were many great films that buzzed into our inner nerd but the above are the top ten films that did well at the box office and are worth checking out as we head into 2014.

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