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The Best Films of 2013



10. Instructions Not Included

Popular Mexican comedian Eugenio Derbez made his directorial debut with this heartwarming — and heartbreaking — Spanish-language comedy that became one of the biggest cinematic successes of 2013. Derbez is the womanizing Valentín who, after a baby is abandoned on his doorstep, mostly reforms into a near-perfect dad. The setup is ripe for plenty of laughs, but, in true telenovela fashion, the final emotional half hour will force even the most macho man into a torrent of tears. — Louis Fowler

9. Gimme the Loot

The art of hustling meets the anti-art of urban graffiti in Adam Leon’s Gimme the Loot. Sophie and Malcolm’s objective is to get back at baseball-enthusiast rivals for marking over their territory by “tagging” the Mets’ home-run sign. The tag-teaming duo hustles to acquire needed funds for the heist. In a sea of low-budget mumblecore productions, Gimme the Loot is a bullshit-free coming-of-age story about two incredibly smart teens who are tired of being ignored. — Aimee Williams

8. Laurence Anyways

Canadian film prodigy Xavier Dolan follows the decade-long bond between two people, examining the role identity plays in relationships. On his 35th birthday, literature professor Laurence reveals to his girlfriend that “Laurence” (a gender-neutral French name) isn’t a man but a woman trapped in a man’s body. Laurence’s ensuing aesthetic transformation and quest for acceptance frames the 24-year-old Dolan’s profoundly complex transgender narrative, featuring a spot-on soundtrack. — AW

7. Bless Me, Ultima

It took 40 years to bring Rudolfo Anaya’s Chicano-lit classic Bless Me, Ultima to the screen, only to see it, sadly, barely released in theaters before being given an unceremonious DVD dump. Regardless, director Carl Franklin envisioned this coming-of-age story about a young boy’s relationship with his curandera grandmother and the evil that surrounds them with a timeless, Ray Bradbury-esque atmosphere that beautifully mixes innocent faith and dark superstitions with wide-eyed wonderment and soul-searching truths. — LF

6. Prisoners

Denis Villeneuve's Prisoners belongs alongside David Fincher's Zodiac and Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive on the shelf labeled “modern crime masterpieces.” Hugh Jackman is phenomenal as the father of a kidnapped girl; so is Jake Gyllenhaal as the detective who promises to find her. Both take drastic measures that turn a simple mystery into dark and surprising corners. Twists yield puzzles yield twists yield perfection. — Rod Lott

5. Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis is a different kind of venture for the Coen brothers, yet it's somehow the most archetypal. The story of a shunned folk singer in pre-Dylan Greenwich Village, the film is characteristically quirky yet one of the most profound character studies in the esteemed filmmakers' catalog. In one of the year's best performances, Oscar Isaac dazzles as the downtrodden Llewyn, adding endless depth to what is one of the Coens’ best works. — Zach Hale

4. 12 Years a Slave

How did it take so long for an American film to unflinchingly examine the brutal reality of slavery? Leave it to a British filmmaker, Steve McQueen, to craft a brilliant adaptation of 12 Years a Slave, the 1853 memoir of a freed African-American who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. What easily could have been Oscar bait relying on its social importance actually proves to be a deeply affecting masterpiece led by Chiwetel Ejiofor’s searing lead performance. — Phil Bacharach

3. The Act of Killing

A good chunk of The Act of Killing's crew is listed as "Anonymous," perhaps the greatest indicator of just how audacious Joshua Oppenheimer's harrowing documentary truly is. In challenging the main players in the ruthless Indonesian genocides of the '60s to recreate their evils, Oppenheimer delves deep into the minds of Indonesian thugs — but perhaps more so his audience — in one of the most uniquely jarring documentaries you'll wish you had never seen. — ZH

2. Her

The latest by writer-director Spike Jonze might sound more fitting for a Saturday Night Live sketch than a feature film, but don’t be fooled. Her, about a lonely man who falls in love with his computer’s operating system, is no goof. In a slightly futuristic L.A., Jonze explores our complicated relationships with technology as well as each other. But it’s the central performances of Joaquin Phoenix and a voice-only Scarlett Johansson that gives Her heart. — PB

1. Gravity

Gravity's title is ironic because it's the lack of that which kick-starts the film's dilemma, leaving a scientist (Sandra Bullock) spinning uncontrollably through space and likely toward a most grim fate. By the time she is told she has to learn to let go, moviegoers had embraced the experience. Alfonso Cuarón's drama represents that rare marriage of commerce and art, and even rarer, truly smart science fiction. — RL

Individual Lists

Phil Bacharach:
1. Her
2. Gravity
3. The Act of Killing
4. Inside Llewyn Davis
5. American Hustle
6. 12 Years a Slave
7. Before Midnight
8. The Hunt
9. Stories We Tell
10. The Wind Rises
Louis Fowler:
1. Bless Me, Ultima
2. Instructions Not Included
3. Gravity
4. Pacific Rim
5. Narco Cultura
6. Machete Kills
7. Elysium
8. Curandero: Dawn of the Demon
9. Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor
10. La Vida Precoz y Breve de Sabina Rivas
Zach Hale:
1. Her
2. The Act of Killing
3. 12 Years a Slave
4. Inside Llewyn Davis
5. Gravity
6. Ain't Them Bodies Saints
7. Nebraska
8. Dallas Buyers Club
9. Short Term 12
10. Fruitvale Station
Rod Lott:
1. Prisoners
2. Gravity
3. Stoker
4. Drug War
5. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
6. Blackfish
7. You're Next
8. Side Effects
9. All Is Lost
10. The East

Aimee Williams:
1. Laurence Anyways
2. Gimme the Loot
3. Blue Jasmine
4. In a World
5. Spring Breakers
6. Before Midnight
7. Blue Is the Warmest Color
8. The Butler
9. Museum Hours
10. Stories We Tell
Hey! Read This:
12 Years a Slave film review
Inside Llewyn Davis film review
• Prisoners Blu-ray review
• American Hustle film review
• Blue Jasmine film review
• Dallas Buyers Club film review
Stories We Tell film review
• Short Term 12 film review
• Blackfish film review
• Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa film review
Pacific Rim Blu-ray review
Ain't Them Bodies Saints film review
• Narco Cultura film review
The East Blu-ray review

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