With half of 2013 out of the way, now is good time to take a look back at the year’s 10 best films, so far. Now there are a lot of films to sift through, and I wish I could have seen all of them. But I have seen more than enough films to compile a top 10 list. To make the cut, the film’s had to have been released (theatrically, VOD, limited, or at film festivals) before July 1. This last is completely subjective as I hate ranking films. Hit the jump for the complete list.
10. Fast & Furious 6 (or Furious 6 based on actual title card)
If Justin Lin has to exit as director, he did it with style. Fast & Furious 6 is everything you could want in the slightly modified series (remember this film originally about the underground street race), but never forgets its roots – as hinted by the opening act and another during the second act. The film is a true testament to the world that he has created, which has been shown to be expansive because of real-life locations and capable of having depth because of the audience’s relations to the characters who have existed for nearly over a decade. Huge action sequences, the always memorable one-liners, and the bromance between Dwayne Johnson and Vin Disel, Fast And Furious 6 is pure exhilarating fun.
9. The Conjuring
James Wan has always flourished as a director of the horror genre. Despite taking a brief detour to direct a revenge drama (Death Sentence), Wan has been the master of scaring his audience. And while his lastest directorial effort, The Conjuring, is no different, it isn’t necessarily the scariest film he has directed. But it will scare very fiber of your body none-the-less. He does away with the unnecessary violence and gore, and puts his attention on building the tension with practical effects like creaking doors or the simple act of clapping hands. The Conjuring (starring Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor, and Joey King) has plenty of patience and restraint, and ever gets too crazy with the scares just for the simple act of scaring. It’s almost as if Wan wants you to believe the Warren case files are true.
8. Monsters University
After two seemingly safe films, Pixar is now steering in the right direction with Monsters University. The once rivals turned to best friends story is a bit redundant, but the slight twist towards the end of the film provides the younger audiences with a much needed lesson that is rarely heard. The film definitely shines on a technical level, with the technology advancing further than ever before since the first Monsters film hit. The colors just pop and the monsters are more detailed than ever before. Billy Crystal and John Goodman don’t miss a beat voicing Mike and Sully. While the story may be a big aged, the film is very hilarious pulling it’s comedic fraternity inspiration from Revenge of the Nerds and Animal House. If anything Monsters University is a step in the right direction after Pixar took a few steps back with two very safe films.
7. This Is The End
Hilarious to a fault, This is the end is the kind of confident comedy that won’t be easily forgotten. For the most part, these apocalyptic films have been dramas, and we’ve seen just how dull they can really be from release to release, but very few have been comedies, which is why this film works so well. It has a kind of honesty that no other apocalyptic-plot based, scratch that, any comedy would touch with a ten-foot you know what. That ability to be self-decepricating and courage to practically give the industry the middle finger, combined with one of the most realistic reactions seen in an apocalyptic film, makes This Is The End one of the best comedies of the year.
6. Spring Breakers
Spring Breakers has a tendency to bit a tad bit mysogonisitic at times, but the film is so absurd and concerned with the bright neon lights and techno music, which makes that notion more of an afterthought. James Franco‘s performance gives this film more than just a pulse, it gives it the kind of electricity that keeps moving the film, pushing it further than any other film. But Spring Breakers isn’t just about the idea of what Spring Break is, it’s more of a metaphor about how our generation or maybe society in general tends to grovel over just menial things in excess, and the younger generation’s American Dream wants to mirror whatever is on TV and not be original.
5. The Spectacular Now
A coming of age film that is true to form and speaks to a generation without having to insult their intelligence and something that would make John Hughes proud if he were still alive. Deliberately set to a slow pace, director James Ponsoldt takes a look at the life of two high school seniors who come from different walks of life. While there is nothing completely new about the idea of a teenage drama, the script, written by the (500) Days of Summer scribes, the film has a very real, and very dark subject matter: alcoholism. There are enough highs and lows in the film to actually mirror the life of a teenager. But then there are the unexpected repercussions the characters will go through really hammer the message home, but won’t make it feel like it’s a PSA.
4. Iron Man 3
One of the most explosive follow-ups to a film that seemed nearly impossible to follow up, Iron Man 3 isn’t as in your face as Fast and Furious 6 is, but the action in it is just as fun. Plot holes and major changes to the source of the character aside, the film took a slight detour by changing the formula up a bit. Rather than go through the same tired motions of the journey of a superhero, director Shane Black twisted it up a bit and turned a superhero film into a crime caper flick. This may not work for every film, but it is a breath of fresh air and allows audiences to look at the character in a whole new light. Providing plenty of plot twists, Black’s contribution to the script definitely shines through as there are hints of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, and Lethal Weapon fluttering throughout the film. Iron Man 3 acknowledges where its roots and the universe it’s in, but it also isn’t afraid of being its own thing.
3. Before Midnight
Perhaps one of the best film trilogies you will ever see. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (who also wrote the script with director Richard Linklater) return as two star crossed lovers at another point of their ever evolving relationship. A lot of that has to do with the fact that these two have a history, and that history alone gives us a very real interpretation of what it is like to be in love with a person who completes you. What makes this film even better is that you do not even have to watch the previous two to understand what these two are going through.
2. Much Ado About Nothing
One of the best Shakespeare film adaptations that we have seen in a long long time. During the film’s press conference, Nathan Fillion responded to the notion that director Joss Whedon is the Shakespeare of our time with Shakespeare is the Whedon of his time. That couldn’t ring more true. Much Ado About Nothing is a charming witty comedy that captures the essence of the famous playwright. Proving that his themes are truely timeless, Whedon set the film in modern day Los Angeles, with everyone speaking in Elizabethan. It may be hard to get used to with the language and unfamiliar characters, but once the comedy starts to come into play and you start to see the romance, you will find yourself completely in love with them.
1. Short Term 12
I couldn’t think of a better film that deserves the number one spot than the one that got my first perfect score of the year. Short Term 12 isn’t one of those films that everyone rushes to sees the first day it opens, but it will be the one that with thrive through word of mouth. The most real performances you will ever see given by a cast this year because of Brett Palwak’s ingenious decision to use handheld cameras and realistic give this film’s narrative more of a documentary feel to it. Destin Cretton’s Short Term 12 is a mixed bag of emotions. You will laugh, and you will cry, and there will be a time where you don’t know which emotion to feel because the two people next to you will do one or the other. Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr. give fantastic performances, not once missing a beat, even in moments of silence. Short Term 12 is a shining revelation that is rarely seen in films.
There are a lot of honorable mentions to hand out, mostly because I just haven’t gotten around to seeing these films or they haven’t been released yet. Sarah Polley’s documentary The Stories We Tell is an emotional look at her own family whose intentions are to say that one man’s truth is another man’s fiction. Upstream Color, Blue Is The Warmest Color, The Kings of Summer, Stoker, and Francis Ha, also are just some of the films that people have been raving about since they debut at various film festivals. We will be back at the end of the year for our annual Top 10, with of course my Top 10 most disappointing films of the year.