How about saving some money at the movies? Better yet, how about seeing a film that doesn’t completely suck so you don’t waste your time.
It’s your lucky day.
I saw 42 movies this year (up from 37 last year) and today I’m going to share my list with you (see the Best of 2012 list here). I’m totally sure this upswing had a ton to do with my kids heading off to college. On the list, only the top three films were awesome. The next 12 were very good. The rest, outside of the last four, were decent. I hated only four movies this year, and you’ll find them, where they belong) on the bottom of this list.
But, enough pontificating.
Here’s all the films I watched in 2013, ranked in order from best to worst:
1) Nebraska – This father-son road trip movie was so funny and so sad at the same time that I was enthralled from the beginning. We learn throughout the film the motivations of the dad, mom and the son. If you see one film this year, this is the one I most highly recommend. Buy/Rent from Amazon: Nebraska
2) Saving Mr. Banks – I tire of people who tell me that this is just a Disney public relations vehicle. Okay….should they not have made this movie? Emma Thompson is incredible as P.L. Travers, and the story is surprising. It was more about a father-daughter relationship than the struggle to make Mary Poppins. While I liked Nebraska more, if I were to purchase a film to re-watch, this would be the one because it’s so inspirational. Buy/Rent from Amazon: Saving Mr. Banks
3) Dallas Buyers Club – Matthew McConaughey is absolutely incredible in the role of a really terrible human being who contracts AIDS and undergoes a transformation. Jared Leto, in the role of his gender-bending business partner, is also amazing. Even though this is a sad and dark story, it’s so filled with hope and with people trying to help each other, that I don’t think of it has the dark story I thought Philadelphia was, or 12 Years a Slave. Buy/Rent from Amazon: Dallas Buyers Club
These Were Excellent Films
4) The Spectacular Now – This little known movie starring Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley follows a high school aged alcoholic (Woodley), who’s struggling with a deadbeat dad (played really well by Woody Harrelson) and the ending of high school. Woodley plays his nerdy girlfriend. I first saw her in The Decendents and this made me like her even more. In fact, some of the criticism I’ve seen of the film is that she doesn’t play an even more prominent role. But The Spectacular Now isn’t her story. It’s mainly about a boy trying to become a man, whether he wants to or not. Buy/Rent from Amazon: The Spectacular Now
5) Gravity – This is one of only a handful of films that make me believe that 3D actually can be useful. I usually HATE 3D, but here the concept of space is so important to the premise that focusing on the distance between objects is useful. I was on the edge of my seat for this entire movie. Buy/Rent from Amazon: Gravity
6) Warm Bodies – Here’s the first one that might shock you, because it’ll appear on few other lists by “pros”. I love walking into a theater and having no clue how much I’m going to absolutely love a movie. I am not a fan of zombie films, but this movie had such a unique story that it transcended the whole, tired zombie genre. Buy/Rent from Amazon: Warm Bodies
7) Fruitvale Station – Talk about a sad movie. I was gripped from the beginning. Buy/Rent from Amazon: Fruitvale Station
8) 12 Years a Slave – I don’t know what to do with this film. One on hand, it was probably the most compelling two hours I watched this year. On the other hand, I didn’t like it. I know that I’m not supposed to “like” what I’m watching as terrifying events are happening to the hero of the story, but I was squirming all the way through the film. Maybe that’s the point of the film…. (I think it is).
If there’s any movie on this list that I struggle with, it’s this one. I think everyone should see it. This might be the most important movie of the year. Buy/Rent from Amazon: 12 Years a Slave
These Were Really, Really Good Films
9) Searching for Sugarman Netflix (disc) – A guy in Detroit who is a huge star halfway across the world and doesn’t know it? What a touching story.
10) Rush – First: you don’t have to like “racing” movies to enjoy this film. I was disappointed to see that this was largely passed over by audiences. It’s less about racing and is more about a great friendship that developed between two incredible competitors. How good was it? I practically had to drag Cheryl into the theater and she really enjoyed it.
11) The World’s End – I’ve learned now that if Edgar Wright makes a movie (Scott Pilgrim Saves The World), I want to see it. I love the quirky sense of humor. There are plenty of “human” moments in these movies that go off the rails with unrealistic action sequences. What a great ride!
12) We’re the Millers – The first out-and-out comedy on this list. I was on board with this one from the beginning. I got lucky this year: there were two films that made me laugh out loud several times.
13) The Heat – This easily could be #12 instead of We’re the Millers. Want to watch a funny film? This is a good one. I’ve read stories that the amazing acting was on the part of Sandra Bullock. While Melissa McCarthy was improvising, apparently she was able to keep up.
14) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Here’s the top-rated sequel on my list. You didn’t even have to see the first movie to enjoy it.
15) Frozen – The first animated film on the list, I was happy to see a Disney animation film, rather than a Pixar film, win the day this year.
16) American Hustle – You may be surprised that this is so far down on the list. While I enjoyed the acting in this film, I wasn’t at all excited about watching it. I don’t think a movie about this time period or subject is something that appeals to me. I love Louis C.K. and was happy to see him get a good role here (as he does in Blue Jasmine further down the list). I think Jeremy Renner is proving that he’s one of the best actors around in his supporting role.
17) 42 – As a baseball fan I was so happy to see a Jackie Robinson film. However, I thought it was kind of a paint by numbers job. Harrison Ford was really good here in a role that is different from any I’ve seen him play.
18) Jack Reacher – I was really happy to see Tom Cruise make another good movie. Sure, I think the guy has a weird personal life, but now he’s back focused on doing what he does well: making action films I enjoy. I liked both Cruise movies I saw this year and both I saw in 2012.
19) Star Trek: Into Darkness – I’ve heard the nerd fanboys have tons of problems with this film. I’m not a nerd fanboy, so I loved the ride.
20) Hot Fuzz – Netflix (disc) – I saw this specifically because I loved The World’s End and wanted to see another Edgar Wright film. I wasn’t disappointed. Another crazy, unbelievable, hilarious romp.
21) Enders Game – Faithful to the book, which I loved.
22) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – MUCH better than the first movie.
23) The Wolf of Wall Street – While I enjoyed this movie, three hours was WAY too long for Scorsese to put this crook in jail. I also have nothing bad to say about films that show graphic sex or that show drug use….but HOLY MOLEY! There’s a TON of boobs and blow in this film. A ton.
24) Salmon Fishing In Yemen Netflix (disc) – A charming, “small” and quirky film. I’m predisposed to like these. Don’t go near it if you don’t like small, romantic, character driven films. I think that’d be most people.
25) White House Down – WAY more fun than I thought it would be. If you’re looking for a great action pic that’s funny and easy to follow, I’d pick this up in a heartbeat. I can’t say enough good things about this film. So why the low ranking? Generally speaking, I’m not really into this kind of movie. It’ll be higher on many audience member’s lists.
26) This is the End – I don’t know if it’s funnier that Jonah Hill keeps referring to himself as “America’s Sweetheart” or that Michael Cera is a womanizing, drug induced sex addict. This weird story about celebrities enduring the end of the world (at James Franco’s house) is hilarious and amazingly stupid. If you don’t like stupid movies, stay away from this one. This is dumb comedy at its dumbest.
27) Now You See Me – A story of magicians that I didn’t expect to be nearly as good as I’d expected when I walked into the theater. I love being surprised. You’ll be surprised by the ending. You know the surprise is coming, and you still won’t know what’s going on until it’s all over. There was six minutes left in the movie and I still was in suspense.
These Next Films Were Fun But Had Problems
28) Iron Man 3 – Iron Man 2 sucked, so I only went to see Iron Man 3 based on the decent Rotten Tomato scores. Rotten Tomatoes nailed it. This movie cleared up all the problems the one before had experienced.There’s some plot issues, and I was still bored in parts of the movie, but it mostly redeemed itself after the last installment’s debacle.
29) Elysium – I was hoping for District 9 (same creator), but it wasn’t nearly as good. Still, I had fun watching this film, even though Jodie Foster can’t decide whether she wants a weird, German-ish accent or not, depending on the scene.
30) Thor: The Dark World – One of the rips on this list last year was how highly I rated Thor. This one I rate a little lower, but it’s still a fun Marvel ride that I’ll take any day. Most memorable? The fact that 99% of the people in our theater left before the easter eggs after the credits. Doesn’t everyone on earth now know that Marvel has surprises in their films after the credits?
31) The Wolverine – I don’t think I’ve seen better action sequences this year. Much of the time I didn’t know exactly what was going on in the plot (and I hated the fact there was a new “bad guy” introduced 2/3 of the way through the film). Yet, it was a fun ride.
32) The Internship – For most, this movie with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson would be further down the list. I’m a fan of workplace movies, which means that my generous #32 ranking might be undeserved. Obvious plot. Some funny scenes. As a 45 year old dude I like the message that even us old guys can have some good ideas, too.
33) The Butler – Too many plot holes. The people who saw this with me called it the “film of the year” when we left. I yawned.
34) Oblivion – This movie was sold incorrectly. It was set up as a fun, light film, when it really was a heavy-duty science fiction piece. I think I would have liked it better if I’d known going in that it was going to be a mind bender.
35) Oz the Great and Powerful – I liked everything about this movie but James Franco. He acted like he really didn’t want to be in the film, and I didn’t believe him until the last scene….way too late.
36) Talk To Her Netflix (disc) – This won an Oscar for best foreign language film. It’s very, very weird.
37) A Christmas Kiss – Netflix (streaming) Cheryl wanted to watch this Hallmark movie together one night. It was exactly what I expected. It was fun, light, and pretty stupid and predictable.
38) Blue Jasmine – I loved the acting in this movie but found the main character (played brilliantly by Cate Blanchett) so annoying that it turned me against the piece.
The Four Films I Absolutely Hated:
39) Spring Breakers (Redbox) – four women go on spring break but end up being gang members?
40) The Great Gatsby – The director seemed intent on convincing his high school English teacher that he “got” the meaning of this incredible book.
41) The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones – This movie could have been so, so good. I thought the premise was really cool and the ideas were fun, but the writing was a huge mess. I wasn’t sure what I was watching.
42) George Washington – This was the most boring movie I watched this year.
The Joe Awards – 2013
Film of the Year: Nebraska
Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: – Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
Best Supporting Actress – Shailene Woodley – The Spectacular Now
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity
Best Script: Jonathan Levine – Warm Bodies (based on book by Isaac Marion)
Best Animated Film: Frozen
Best Song in a Film: Young and Beautiful (Lana Del Rey) – The Great Gatsby