Top 20 movies of 2013

Ali Gray,
Neil Alcock,
Matt Looker,
Luke Whiston,
Ed Williamson

30th December 2013

The X Factor is finished. Santa has well and truly jogged on. The sight of mince pies makes you feel physically sick. There is nothing left to do in 2013 except indulge in pointless end-of-year lists like this one. You might as well get comfy. And get yourself a mince pie.

I think I've seen fewer films this year than I have since I was in the womb, so apologies straight off the bat for the even-less-definitive-than-usual vibe this end-of-year countdown gives off. I've got piles of screeners of way better films staring at me from my desk, and movies like Blackfish beached on my Sky+ box: every time I flick past it to watch another episode of The Simpsons, the whales suffer that little bit more.

Films that just missed the cut included Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty (I don't care what your calendar says, if it's released in January it's from 2012), Mud, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, Man Of Steel, In A World..., Sunshine On Leith, Wreck-It Ralph, Les Misérables (purely on the strength of Neil's soapboxing) and The Lone Ranger (purely on the strength of Johnny Depp's soapboxing). Films that were never going to make the cut no matter how many four-star reviews Ed threw at them: Red Dawn.

If this list isn't to your liking, I suggest you either post an inflammatory comment below (perhaps commenting on my personal hygiene and/or sexuality), or you take a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror. Bye!

20. Cloud Atlas

Directors: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Ben Whishaw

A wise man once said: "the only forgiveable flaw in a film is over-ambition", which is handy in the case of Cloud Atlas because the movie is filled with it. Six different stories spanning six different time periods (from the 19th century to the far-flung post-apocalyptic future) embedded within six different genres; the film isn't just a showcase for elaborate story-telling, it's a bold undertaking that ends up deconstructing the very laws of cinematic narrative. It redefines 'epic' as a genre, it explores themes of fate and causality like never before and it actually goes some way in tackling all-encompassing metaphysical issues like the meaning of life and feels like it might have actually found some answers along the way.

All this and the film boasts the best make-up effects ever seen on the big screen – even when these end up with more comical results than intended. All in all, the only aspects in which this film falls down are as a result of the film trying too extend beyond its capabilities, which, as the wise man says, is entirely forgivable. Oh wait, come to think of it, I'm pretty sure it was Ali that said that. Sorry. Matt

Defining moment: It's impossible to choose just one moment across all six separate stories, so for want of something more demonstrative of the whole movie, I'm going with the scene in which Hugh Grant rides a horse in a dystopian future bearing tribal body tattoos because he is playing A SAVAGE CANNIBAL. All without saying "Bloody fuckity fuck, oh oops, excuse me!" Not even once.

Click here for the full review

19. The Place Beyond The Pines

Director: Derek Cianfrance
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes

Marred only by an overlong final act, Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine follow-up seals the director's rep as one of American cinema's most exciting storytellers. Ryan Gosling plays the impetuous but not-too-bright Luke Glanton with exactly the right amount of empathy to make him likeable despite his actions, while Bradley Cooper's honest cop up to his tits in corruption is equally solid. The real star, though, is the script, which questions how beholden we are to fate when life presents us with critical choices. Also Gosling is well fit. Neil

Defining moment: Cooper and Gosling's fateful meeting, at which stories collide and futures are sealed.

Click here for the full review

18. Rush

Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde

Sports biopics usually elicit a raised eyebrow around my facial parts: surely by now, post-Mighty Ducks trilogy, every single scrappy underdog story has been done to death? Thankfully, Formula 1 isn't really much of a sport (*watches Twitter follower count decrease*), meaning Ron Howard's tale of the tape between drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda is free to concentrate on what drives the men behind the wheel rather than how they drive the cars or how many points or goals they score or whatever.

The really refreshing thing about Rush is that Peter Morgan's screenplay never makes the mistake of thinking 'the good looking one' equates to 'the interesting one'. Playboy Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) is hardly deified, while rat-like opponent Lauda (Daniel Brühl) - who lists driving carefully and talking in monotone as his interests - is given just as much screen time. When it comes to the crunch, as visceral as Rush's race days are, they're not half as interesting as what's happening off-track. Ali

Defining moment: Lauda's girl attempts to hitch a ride with a car full of bawdy Italian lads by using her body, and they stop - but only because they clock Ferrari driver Niki. It's the closest he comes to cracking a smile.

Click here for the full review

17. Blue Is The Warmest Colour

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Starring: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux, Salim Kechiouche

All the talk of interminable shagging was fun for a while, but it threatened to drown out the film's true centrepiece: the most realistic relationship on cinema screens this year. Tender, heartbreaking and unflinchingly honest, Abdellatif Kechiche's tale wrings out such staggering performances from its young leads that it's easy to forget that these people are actors working from a script.

Léa Seydoux is stunning as the bold, confident Emma, but it’s Adèle Exarchopoulos who grabs your heart from the off and squeezes every drop of emotion from it over the next three hours. Gentle, brutal and passionate in equal measure, this is unforgettable filmmaking. Neil

Defining moment: The breakup. More screaming, tears and snot than an infant's birthday party, and just as painful to witness.

Click here for the full review

16. Philomena

Director: Stephen Frears
Starring: Steve Coogan, Judi Dench, Sean Mahon

Who could have foreseen a Judi Dench/Steve Coogan team-up beating pre-favourite Alpha Papa to the end of year Top 20? Philomena pips Partridge to the post by virtue of the fact it's the most interesting and heartfelt thing Steve Coogan has done in years, and I include getting his bum out in Alpha Papa in that statement. The ghost of North Norfolk Digital will likely follow Coogan around for his entire career, but co-writing and starring in this touching drama is a ruddy bloody good effort at shaking off the Partridge millstone.

While Coogan is excellent as journalist Martin Sixsmith, disgraced and deflated after a scandal robs him of his career, it's Dench that gives Philomena sparkle. As a mother who decides to find her long-lost son 50 years after being forced to give him up at the orphanage at which she stayed, she elevates the movie above its trite road movie trappings and keeps it there. It's as fascinating a performance as you'll see this year, layered with guilt, humour, innocence and fortitude, and Coogan's screenplay - co-written with Jeff Pope - gives Dench ample opportunity to toy with your heartstrings like a skilled loom worker. Ali

Defining moment: Philomena pushes Sixsmith to recount his fleeting meet-and-greet with her long-lost son, breaking out into a mile-wide smile upon learning he said 'Hello' ("It might have been 'Hi'?").

More:  Top 20 Movies
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