The Best Movies of 2013

January 21, 2014 by

After looking ahead and naming our most anticipated movies of 2014, we’re looking back at 2013 to honor the year’s best. We’ve already selected the best movie stingers of 2013, so now it’s time to reveal the best movies themselves.

Three of the 13 movies we were looking forward to the most a year ago made it onto our end-of-the-year best-of-the-best list, which we’ve ranked this year, and we’ve also named the best movies of the year by genre after crowning one movie as MediaStinger’s Movie of the Year 2013 to follow last year’s winner, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.

Before we talk about our list of the Best 13 Movies of 2013, as voted on by the MediaStinger team and top contributors, let’s quickly show some love for our list of 13 honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions: The Great Gatsby, Fast & Furious 6, Oblivion, The Croods, Elysium, Disconnect, 12 Years A Slave, Inside Llewyn Davis, Blackfish, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, Trance, Prisoners, Kick-Ass 2

13. Pacific Rim


Many moviegoers felt that no other film last summer gave you more fun than this. Up until mid-July, there wasn’t much else that screamed awe-inspiring popcorn flick the way Pacific Rim did. You might hear the simple “robots vs monsters” description, but you don’t fully grasp that until you see the loud, crushing battles on the silver screen.

The sheer scope and epicness alone make you feel like a little kid again in this world where super-sized man-made mechs fight evil behemoths from another dimension. That might sound corny on paper, but seeing it in spectacular 3D on an IMAX screen is something to behold.

The imaginative crowd-pleaser makes you wanna stand up and cheer, and director Guillermo Del Toro’s gotten us wanting more, so it’s no surprise that the Godzilla reboot tops our list of this year’s most anticipated movies.

12. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire


Speaking of wanting more, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire did something few sequels can do well: make us want more of its world. This is exactly how many people felt at the end of the top grossing movie of 2013. Considering that many fans have already read the books, this is quite an achievement.

Give credit to creator Suzanne Collins and director Francis Lawrence, who took over for the first movie‘s director (Oscar nominee Gary Ross), and gave us so much more with badder tributes, a better battle arena, and bigger political undertones.

Everything here in the film is firing on all cylinders, adding to such a rich and well thought-out story that it’s the only film from 2013 that we really can’t wait to find out the conclusion to. And for those of us who’ve read the series, we’re still very interested to see what Mockingjay will look like.

11. Star Trek Into Darkness


As our pick for THE most anticipated movie of 2013, J.J. Abrams’ sci-fi sequel fortunately didn’t disappoint. Instead, it dazzled us with some of the year’s best post-converted 3D that shows off just how advanced the improved technology has become.

But like its masterpiece of a predecessor, Star Trek Into Darkness was more than just high-flying stunts, explosive special effects, and lots of lens flare.

The summer blast featured deeper exploration into Kirk and Spock’s characters via an engaging story, and it introduced one of the most memorable recent villains while turning Benedict Cumberbatch into a true Hollywood star and more of a household name.

10. Her


Written, produced, and directed by Spike Jonze, Her offers an utterly fascinating and somewhat disturbing look into a not-too-distant conceivable future that brings man and machine together (no, not like RoboCop).

While nowhere near as flashy as Steve Spielberg’s blockbuster A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Jonze’s endearing sci-fi dramedy is powered by arguably the best script of the year and another exceptional performance from three-time Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix. We knew Skynet could be creepy, but who knew it could be so sensitive?

9. Rush


If only Drive hadn’t come out so recently… because that would’ve been the perfect title for Ron Howard’s gripping sports biopic about one of the fiercest racing rivalries ever. It doesn’t matter which side audiences pick because either way they’ll leave extremely satisfied.

Highlighted by an incredible scene-stealing supporting performance from Daniel Brühl and another great score from Hans Zimmer, Rush‘s high-octane racing sequences and high-stakes drama off the track make you want to play some F-Zero or Forza and wish there were a greater appreciation for Formula One stateside.

8. Man of Steel


We don’t understand how Man of Steel could be scored significantly lower than Superman Returns on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic; it’s as if some critics somehow knew about the big Batfleck news that broke a couple months later (and our collective geek hearts).

Not only did Zack Snyder’s origin story do for Clark Kent what Batman Begins did for Bruce Wayne, but Snyder even channeled the action extravaganza from his Sucker Punch to Man of Steel‘s relentless final act, which had some of the best action all year.

7. Short Term 12


No other film made us more sympathetic to its protagonist, a foster care counselor, than Short Term 12. Everything the movie does with its characters made them feel real and authentic, more so than any other film from 2013.

The film makes you feel as if you’re really there in this halfway home, living amongst these troubled kids and the young adults helping them. Meanwhile, the counselors are not that much different from the teens that they’re trying to help.

Not to be overlooked because it’s an indie that many people haven’t heard of, the touching motion picture just feels very personal and serves you so much genuine emotion and heart.

6. This is The End


Maybe it was ridiculous nostalgia for a certain boy band of the late ’90s or the wild shenanigans of the true-to-life cast as they deal with an apocalypse (probably both), but This Is The End is the smartest comedy of the year.

Everyone in the film is playing (reportedly) satirical versions of themselves, begging the question of who was the funniest. Danny McBride? James Franco? Jonah Hill? Michael Cera? Michael Cera. How these comedy vets use and subvert their personas to great effect is definitely the highlight of the movie.

Throw in an awesome amount of cameos, including one of the most hilarious and unexpected ones since Bill Murray showed up in Zombieland, and This is The End is so much fun that if this is how it all goes down, we probably wouldn’t mind if the world did come to an end.

5. Pain & Gain


Director Michael Bay took a break from CGI showcase Transformers and shoving explosions down your throat to do a passion project of his on a relatively smaller scale.

Sure, there’s still guns, girls, and gorgeous location shots. But there’s also some fine comedic performances from the cast and a meaningful message about the American Dream.

While still infused with Bay’s trademark cinematic steroids (even more appropriately so this time around), Pain & Gain is a surprisingly humorous and thoroughly entertaining crime caper.

4. Captain Phillips


No other film this year may have been more intense than Paul Greengrass’ recounting of the 2009 Maersk Alabama hijacking by Somali pirates, which says a lot since you already know the outcome of the movie (unless you’re a clueless sheep). Captain Phillips was riveting from the moment the pirates begin chasing the ship, and it remains that way up until the Call of Duty-like climactic op.

Carrying the thriller is the interplay between Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi, who plays the leader of the pirates. It’s just plain scary how well Abdi portrays his character and how much he really owns the scenes he’s in. And what’s even more impressive is that this was Abdi’s first acting gig ever.

3. American Hustle


David O. Russell’s dramedy about a couple of con artists was destined for greatness ever since the first snazzy trailer came out.

Just call American Hustle an acting clinic. The great performances alone by the ever-morphing Christian Bale, the delightful Amy Adams, the edgy Jennifer Lawrence, and the energetic Bradley Cooper are worthy of the price of admission. It’s no wonder that this is the second straight year that Russell’s movie is Oscar nominated in all four acting categories.

Add to the acting clinic a pretty fun story with a twist or two thrown in for good measure, and you have a very solid film worthy of all the awards recognition and accolades it’s getting.

2. The Wolf of Wall Street


It’s one of the most talked about movies of the year, and it came out with just seven days left in 2013. That’s because it’s like The Great Gatsby slept with Spring Breakers, dumped the Disney queen dubstep, and traded Baz Luhrmann’s glitz and glam for boats and hos and a helluva lot more.

You can call it a long-winded glorification of greed and criminality, or worse . . . “average Scorsese”, and you’d be totally missing the point. The Wolf of Wall Street features both Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio at the top of their games leading an amazing supporting cast in a tale that reflects the economic culture of our country for the past 30 years.

While Leo’s performance in last year’s Django Unchained was his best in years, his performance as The Wolf of Wall Street goes way beyond his coke-sniffing, pill-popping, sales-inspiring stockbroker. DiCaprio goes full spectrum and is able to be charming, comedic, emotional, frightening, schizophrenic, and delusional all in the course of a few scenes. Quite simply, it’s his best work in ages.

1. Gravity


Edging out The Wolf of Wall Street in a very close vote was Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, a cinematic and revolutionary masterpiece that resonated commercially and critically, a rarity when it comes to awards contenders.

Cuarón essentially did everything but star in his sci-fi thriller. More importantly, he did far more for the future of cinema. Like James Cameron with Avatar and Bahz Luhrmann with The Great Gatsby, Cuarón quiets any talk of 3D as just a gimmick and instead uses it masterfully by incorporating it seamlessly into his storytelling.

Enough good things cannot be said about the visuals, for Cuarón has phenomenally orchestrated some of the most jaw-dropping, nail-biting, and heart-pounding edge-of-your-seat moments of all time. There is absolutely no excuse for not viewing Cuarón’s film in 3D.

The captivating story of survival and the excellent performances from Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are merely cherries on top of one of the greatest sundaes ever. The real stars of the show unfold in front of your eyes, grab you by the ears, and don’t let go till the very end.

When any clip of the movie plays on TV and causes you to stop what you’re doing to rewatch it, you know this one’s special. Many years later when people look back at 2013, they’ll remember this as not just the most important movie of the year, but as the most definitive one as well. That’s why Gravity is the MediaStinger Movie of the Year 2013.

Best 3D of the Year:
Gravity, The Great Gatsby, Frozen, Pacific Rim, Star Trek Into Darkness

Best Action-Adventure Movies of the Year:
Captain Phillips, Elysium, Fast & Furious 6, Gravity, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Iron Man 3, Lone Survivor, Kick-Ass 2, Pacific Rim, Star Trek Into Darkness

Best Animated Movies of the Year:
The Croods, Frozen, Monsters University, The Wind Rises

Best Comedies of the Year:
American Hustle, The Bling Ring, Don Jon, Filth, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, Kick-Ass 2, Pain & Gain, Nebraska, This is The End, The Way Way Back, The Wolf of Wall Street, The World’s End

Best Comic Book Movies of the Year:
Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, Thor: The Dark World, Kick-Ass 2

Best Horror Movies of the Year:
The Conjuring, Evil Dead, You’re Next, Curse of Chucky

Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Movies of the Year:
Elysium, Ender’s Game, Gravity, Her, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Oblivion, Pacific Rim, Star Trek Into Darkness

What do you think? We couldn’t watch every single movie released in 2013, so did we miss anything here? Let us know in the comments.