Ştefan Alexandrescu’s Top 10 of Best Films Made in 2013

7 months ago, I published a top 10 of the best films I have seen in the first half a year of 2013, but most of them were, of course, movies from 2012. In order to do something a little bit more appropriate in the beginning of 2014, I decided to present you some more good movies and I have excluded the films I have seen at the cinema the past year that were not made in 2013.

I consider 2013 was a year with very good movies as it hasn’t been for a long time. This is a year to remember and the voters will have some tough decisions to make for the Golden Globes, Oscars, BAFTAs and so on. 2013 was for me a year to re-discover the magic of seeing great stories with very deep, profound and moving messages like in the old days.

I want to state a few things, before I start listing the films, from the bottom (10) to the top (1). All of the movies mentioned here are masterpieces very near to perfection, films which I consider deserve all attention and deserve to make history. Some of them, like the ones from positions 1-4 may require multiple viewings in order to understand them and they may very well become among your very best favorite movies, as I think the no. 1 movie of 2013 won my heart & mind.

Of course, as most of the masterpieces have premiered in the USA just in November or December, I have yet to see some 2013 movies which could have made the top, and some of them could be better. Maybe I will include them in the top 10 movies seen at the cinema in 2014 because they are on my watchlist – it also depends if they will run in Europe – some may not. So, some of the best movies of 2013 I have not yet seen, but I must see are: Wolf on Wall Street,  Inside Llewelyn Davis, Nebraska, Her, Nymphomaniac, All is Lost, The Spectacular Now, Dallas Buyers Club, Fruitvale Station, Only Lovers Left Alive, Before Midnight, Blackfish, Tim’s Vermeer, Kaze Takinu, The Lunchbox, Soshite chichi ni naru/Like Father Like Son, Tiun Zhu Ding/A Touch of Sin, Al Midan, Heli, Omar, Grzeli nateli degeebi/In Bloom, Krugovi/Circles, Epizoda u zivotu beraca zeljeza/An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker, In A World…, These Birds Walk, Enough Said, The Selfish Giant, Frances Ha, Stories We Tell.

Other 2013-released movies I missed, but can’t wait to see are Sarah préfère la course (feature film) and Money & Life (documentary).

Also, the following movies were late 2012 launches, which are all masterpieces I have seen in 2013, but did not make it into this top… because they are not from 2013: The Act of Killing, Django Unchained, Cesare deve morire, Jagten/The Hunt, Les Miserables, Pevnost/Fortress, The Human Scale, Después de Lucía, Killing Them Softly, Cosmopolis, Populaire, Dans la Maison, Room 237, Barbara, Silver Linings Playbook.

These movies from 2013 generally were well received by most of the American film critic, but I decided are not good enough for this top 10 (in the paranthesis my rating): Poziţia copilului/Child’s Pose (8/10), Saving Mr. Banks (8/10), La Migliore Offerta/The Best Offer (8/10), Gravity (7/10), La vie d’Adèle/Blue is the Warmest Color (7/10), Prisoners (5/10), 12 Years a Slave (4/10), Behind the Candelabra (4/10).

In addition, I want to make a personal comment. I don’t know how the French Academy or whoever decides over there to send French movies to Oscar, but I don’t understand how anybody sane in their minds could possibly send that piece of trash “Renoir”* when the French had in 2013 3 brilliant masterpieces (Le passé, Jeune & jolie, La Vénus à la fourrure), all nominated for Palme d’Or – also unexplainably lost to a very good, but not award-worthy French production La vie d’Adèle/Blue is the Warmest Color. Big shame.

So here’s my top 10 of best movies released in 2013 which I have seen so far (so 10 out of 39). I insist: they are all must-see masterpieces. In the parenthesis, my rating.


10. Rush (8/10)

Directed by Oscar-winner Ron Howard. Coproduction: USA/UK/Germany. Languages: English, German, Italian, French. Top 250 IMDb: #136. Awards for Daniel Bruhl, sound design and editing. Nominated for Best Drama at the Golden Globes.

It’s hard to choose what’s the best from this movie, as there are so many things to choose from: the screenplay, the actors, the editing, the sound. Take your pick. This movie deserves Oscar. It is one of the best pictures about sports competitions ever done and the best film about car racing. You can actually feel the energy in the air. Must be seen in a cinema theater. Special mention: brilliant original music by Hans Zimmer.


9. Jeune & jolie (8/10)

Directed by European Film Award-winner François Ozon. French Production. Languages: French, German. Awarded at San Sebastian film festival. Nominated for Palme D’Or at Cannes 2013.

A very good psychological movie about intimacy, sexual awakening, control games and, most important, self-acceptance. Must be seen with great attention in order to be understood. Brilliant interpretation by the main actress, Marina Vacht, deep visuals (especially the mirror shots). Special mention: the supporting role by Charlotte Rampling.


8. Still Life (8/10)

Directed by Oscar-nominated Uberto Pasolini. 4 awards at Venice Film Festival, including for Best Film (Pasinetti award).

A superb picture about the moral decadence in the UK society. This is a film about the value and respect this society shows for its dead people. A wonderfully sad portrait of the culture of solitude in the Western society. Special mention: don’t watch the trailer, it will give the movie away.


7. La Vénus à la fourrure/Venus in fur (8/10)

Directed by Oscar-winner Roman Polanski. Coproduction: France/Poland. Languages: French, German. Nominated for Palme D’Or at Cannes 2013.

A delightfully mesmerizing tour de force by two great French actors: Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric, in cat-and-mouse psychological game, played around how art depicts man and women relationship. Also a great meditation on the importance and responsibility of the author for the art he creates and delivers. Special mention: the elegant original music by Alexandre Desplat, which would deserve an Oscar nomination for best music.


6. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (8/10)

Directed by Oscar-winner Peter Jackson. Coproduction: USA/New Zealand. Language: English. Top IMDb 250: #184

One of the most impressive fantasy-adventures blockbuster ever made, by the very team which revolutionized the genre. A full-scale epic fairy tale about the pitfalls of avarice and pride, in 48-frames/second 3D technology. What more could you ask for?


5. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (10/10)

Directed by Francis Lawrence. US production in English.

This is the perfect blockbuster I’ve been waiting for in years. Far superior to the original, it takes the concept of Revolution to a higher scope and subtlety. The people waiting for a regular action movie will be disappointed, as this occupies only a third of the picture’s length and it’s stopped right in the middle. This is actually ground-breaking movie storytelling. Must win the Oscar for best song. The box office is well deserved. Hope it breaks the 1 billion $ barrier soon. Special mention: the marketing & PR for this movie are also top-notch. I recommend it as a case study in universities.


4. Blue Jasmine (10/10)

Directed by Oscar-winner Woody Allen. US production in English. 14 international awards for best actress: Cate Blanchett.

In my opinion, this is the best American drama of 2013, Woody Allen’s best film since Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) and on a par with Annie Hall (1977), the best performance of Cate Blanchett’s career. This is much more than a modern version of “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951, 1995). It is a perfect portrayal of the modern society. Big shame it wasn’t nominated for a Golden Globe in the “best drama” category. Special mention: this year’s best actress competitions will be very tight, but I think Cate Blanchett should win the Oscar.


3.  Le passé / The Past (10/10)

Directed by Oscar-winner Asghar Farhadi. Co-production: France/Italy. Languages: French, Persian. 2 awards at Cannes 2013: Best Actress (Bérénice Bejo) and Prize of the Ecumenical Jury. 2 American awards and one Golden Globe nomination for best foreign language film. Best Screenplay award at Durban International Film festival.

Asghar Farhadi, who already received about 60 international awards, is laying the ground with this film for a revolutionary cinema of creating suspense out of the actors’ interpretation in mesmerizing wonderfully-written life situations, entanglements and moral dilemmas. This film marks a historical meeting between Persian deep meaning and content and European cinema. Asghar Farhadi proves again to be one of the best and most promising film directors of the 21st century. Special mention: Pauline Burlet’s interpretation as Lucie.


2. La Grande Bellezza/The Great Beauty (10/10)

Directed by European Film Award-winner Paolo Sorrentino. Co-production: Italy/France. Languages: Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Chinese. 16 international awards, including European Film Awards for Best Film and Best Director. Nominated for Palme D’Or at Cannes 2013. Also awarded for “stimulating the senses and creates a weave of endless meanings in the storytelling”, for “giving us images that are not only on the highest technical standards but in first hand pleasing us by being musically dynamic”, nominated for “best international independent film”.

The Best European film of 2013, by any standards. One of the most poetic, beautiful, profound, meaningful films of this century. The best Italian film made in this century. The best film of Paolo Sorrentino. Must be seen and seen again, to be understood and discover new significations. About love, life, death, politics, sex and, of course, above all, about the beauty of rediscovering with respect how wonderful every person is. Actually, I adore this film so much, that I went to see it in cinema twice in 2013. And I plan to see it again soon, on DVD. Special mention: a great appearance by Fanny Ardant.


1. American Hustle (10/10)

Directed by Oscar-nominated David O. Russell. US Production. Languages: English, Arabic. 23 wins & 68 nominations, including 7 nominations for Golden Globes. More to come.

In my opinion, the best American comedy of this century and the most serious contender for the Best Film Academy Award. This movie belongs to any top ten of best American comedies, best noir-films and best noir comedies. It is comparable in quality with The Sting (1973), Shakespeare in Love (1998), Pulp Fiction (1993), The Big Sleep (1946), The Lady from Shanghai (1947) and The Maltese Falcon (1941). Must be seen at least twice to be understood for its deep meanings. After years of good & very good movies, David O. Russell has done it. It is his masterpiece, his place in American history with a film so perfect in every single aspect that I can’t even start to grasp. To be seen in the cinema theater.

Special mentions: 1. The Robert De Niro scene is worthy of an anthology. 2. If there was an Oscar for music supervision, American Hustle would get it. It has literally one of the best soundtracks of the past century.

* I have not seen “Renoir”, but I have checked how others rated it. My conclusion is that I don’t want to see it. Not only that it’s nowhere near the quality of Le passé, Jeune & jolie, La Vénus à la fourrure and La vie d’Adèle, but it’s not even good by a passible standard.


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