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Best Movies of 2013
What was the best?
By Rob Vaux
December 31, 2013
Best Movies of 2013 by Mania
© Warner Bros.
2013 wasn’t a great year. It finished strong and it had a few highlights along the way, but an overall exhaustion seemed to permeate cinemas this year. From less-than-heroic superhero movies to indie films that never quite found their spark, it felt like we’d been there and done that through week after meh-laden week. It was even hard to find really terrible movies – the kind of memorable badness that at least leaves a lasting impression. It was a lengthy wallow in mediocrity, a sign that Hollywood’s corporate formula may have well and truly run out of gas.
Even so, there were modest pleasures to be had, and even not-so-modest ones if you looked hard enough. Science fiction films did fairly well, making up for the empty wasteland over in the horror genre. Dependable directors weren’t always as dependable as we wanted them to be, but others came through with flying colors and a few surprises lurked here and there that kept hope alive as we trudged to the theaters.
Here there, is our annual breakdown of the best genre films of the year, topped by the best film of any sort this year… which just so happens (in our humble estimation) to be a piece of science fiction.
Best Action Movie: Dhoom 3
It’s tempting to list The Fast and The Furious 6 here, with a nod to the late Paul Walker if nothing else. But for sheer balls-to-the-wall outrageousness, then Bollywood’s reigning action movie franchise had them all beat. Featuring an intriguing backstory of a circus acrobat’s revenge, multiple audacious bank robberies followed by slam-bang car chases, and the most cheerfully bizarre motorcycle transformation scene that doesn’t involve anyone named Optimus Prime, Dhoom 3 was even big enough here to crack the box office Top 10. There’s a reason for it, especially considering the genre’s largely dismal status otherwise.
Best Animated Feature: Frozen
For the second year in a row, Disney reaffirms just who exactly runs this damn genre anyway. The classic princess tale gets unique twist with a pair of sisters whose troubled, touching relationship puts all those “happily ever after” romances to shame. Kudos too for including co-director Jennifer Lee, helping to balance the scales of what is still a horrendous boys club of animation directors. And how does that snowman actually end up being cute?
Best Comic Book Movie: The Wolverine
Hugh Jackman continues the rehabilitation of the X-Men franchise started by First Class (and hopefully continued by Days of Future Past) with a crackerjack riff on the vaunted Chris Claremont/Frank Miller miniseries. Director James Mangold makes the stake more intimate, which provides just the right jolt of adrenaline to remind us that Jackman’s iconic Canucklehead still has a few snikts left in his claws.
Best Horror Movie: Stoker
I’m cheating a bit here because Stoker is probably more thriller than flat-out horror movie. But Oldboy director Chan-wook Park delivers so many ice-cold blasts to the spine – along with gorgeous scenery and a knowing, clever retake on American Gothic – that it’s impossible to tell. Mia Wasikowska announces herself with a ferocity we’ve yet to see from her, while Nicole Kidman shows us she can still bring it for the right project. More films like this please!
Best Science Fiction Movie: Her
Weird. Haunting. Sad. Beautiful. The best science fiction film on our list is actually the #2 film of the whole year for me… and yet only the #2 science fiction film at that. (Okay, so we’re cheating.) There were a lot of strong contenders in the field, such as Elysium, Europe Report, The World’s End and even honorable also-rans like Oblivion. Her sets them all to shame, with Joaquin Phoenix’s heartsick schlub finding redemption and maybe something much more at the hands of a sentient OS. Spike Jonze picks his projects carefully, but rarely makes the results less than stunning. In fact, this one would have gone to the top of my list were it not for one slightly better rival.
The Best Movie of the Year: Gravity
If Her is the mind and the soul, the Gravity is the body: an exercise in pure technique that transcends mere button pushing to become a work of art. A second Oscar for Sandra Bullock? If there’s any justice in the world, yes. And as for director Alfonso Cuaron, this stands as the highlight of a career that hasn’t exactly wanted for amazing feats of filmmaking. The small screen will never do this white-knuckler justice; I’ll always be grateful to 2013 for letting us see it on the big one.
Happy New Year everyone! We’ll be back in a couple of days with a look at what’s coming up in 2014!