Best of 2013: Best films of 2013

From established Hollywood auteurs to the foreign and indie fringes, cinema brought its A-game

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  1. Intro
  2. Joshua Rothkopf's best of 2013
  3. Keith Uhlich's best of 2013

Joshua Rothkopf's ten best films of 2013

  • 10. Spring Breakers

    Why feel guilty about skanky pleasures when no other movie seized the plastic cup of American entitlement as firmly? Utterly reprehensible as a moral model, Harmony Korine’s trashy crime epic—featuring an inspired James Franco—vibrates with the confidence of a mature filmmaker.

  • 9. Before Midnight

    Richard Linklater and his two longtime collaborators, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, put a tense, resigned capstone on their trilogy about the random rush of love. Though not as euphoric as Before Sunset, the film contains a multitude of feelings—and tons more honesty.

  • 8. The Conjuring

    Old-school horror fans rejoiced and forgave director James Wan for Saw: His summer sensation proved that certain tricks and devices won’t ever go out of style when deployed this stylishly. Pound for pound, Wan’s possession shocker was the most assured thing Big Hollywood produced in 2013.

  • 7. 12 Years a Slave

    The year’s most harrowing sit is a bone-deep evocation of systematized brutality: the stripping of a person’s identity, dignity, beauty and strength. Every loss is registered on the dumbstruck face of breakout star Chiwetel Ejiofor, who survives his ordeal but not without marks. The audience gets off easy.

  • 6. All Is Lost

    After decades of iconic turns, Robert Redford finds a weathered grace as a lone sailor charting an emergency course toward his salvation. You can fit all the film’s dialogue on a Post-it note, but action is character—and J.C. Chandor’s survival movie already feels like one of the greats.

  • 5. The Great Beauty

    Modern-day Rome burns with Berlusconian decadence as our hero, a genius turned self-amused journalist (the magnificent Toni Servillo), has a belated crisis of purpose. The obvious parallel is to La Dolce Vita, yet in style and substance, Paolo Sorrentino’s drama cuts a postmodern path all its own.

  • 4. Stories We Tell

    Sarah Polley dives into her own family’s history for a docu-memoir with more revelations than a Brian De Palma thriller. Amazingly, her focus is never navel-trained, instead teasing out a notion of day-to-day forgiveness that feels generous to the theatrical lives of actors.

  • 3. Blue Jasmine

    Squirming between wet-cat disdain and an unshakable grandiloquence, Cate Blanchett’s performance instantly vaults her into the company of the great film neurotics. Woody Allen’s script, a dark skewering of the 1 percent, harkens back to Crimes and Misdemeanors—this film will someday be considered just as major.

  • 2. American Hustle

    The characters arrive in loud ’70s polyester and highly manipulated hairdos, all the better to clothe a true-life tale in which identity is another part of playacting—the ultimate con in a post-Watergate crimescape. Director David O. Russell excites his cast (including an unhinged Jennifer Lawrence) to screwball heights.

  • 1. Inside Llewyn Davis

    Equal parts wintry misfortune and guitar-slung dreaminess, the Coens’ cosmic comedy turns a musician’s dying career into an uncommonly rich picture of the changing terrain of American folk art circa 1961. Oscar Isaac’s attitudinal antihero is about five years too early to the scene.

10. Spring Breakers

Why feel guilty about skanky pleasures when no other movie seized the plastic cup of American entitlement as firmly? Utterly reprehensible as a moral model, Harmony Korine’s trashy crime epic—featuring an inspired James Franco—vibrates with the confidence of a mature filmmaker.



Joshua Rothkopf's worst film of 2013

The Canyons

Laying down with dogs, a beat-up-looking Lindsay Lohan fell into untrustworthy company as Paul Schrader and Bret Easton Ellis concocted a pretentious disaster that fails on multiple levels—as entertainment, art, fresh Los Angeles insight and even titillation. The stench of flambéed careers became uninteresting after 15 minutes.


  1. Intro
  2. Joshua Rothkopf's best of 2013
  3. Keith Uhlich's best of 2013

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