This is the Top 10 list I have been waiting my entire critical career to write.
I have been reviewing movies since 2004, and compiling Top 10 lists since 2006, and while the latter task has become increasingly stressful with each passing year – maybe because I see a greater number of movies each year, and maybe because the industry has been on a general upward trend in recent times – I have never had the pleasure or challenge of compiling such a dense collection of cinematic brilliance for my year-end countdown. It is always tough at first, whittling the list of contenders down to the actual ten titles, but if I am being honest, I also find that most Top 10 lists I make are made up of a few films I might call legitimate masterworks, a bunch of great movies I love intensely, and, at the bottom, a sentimental pick or two that most clearly reflects my own obsessions and interests. And that’s perfectly fine, because a Top 10 list constructed like that still represents a whole lot of very meaningful cinema.
But 2013 was different. 2013 was a year that snuck up on me. It started out slow, I thought, with an unfortunate dearth of quality for several months, before picking up speed in late Spring, and barreling through the fall dispensing masterworks like they were candy. 2013 was more than just an astoundingly rich year for film – it was a year full of films that seemed to encompass worlds unto themselves, art so packed with inspiration, so overflowing with cinematic treasures, that much of what I saw this year seemed to challenge the very boundaries of filmmaking.
I had to leave a ton of good stuff off this list. That is not unusual, but the quality of the leftovers is astounding to me. There are movies that came out this year not on this list that I will love and treasure until the day I die. We will discuss and celebrate many of them on Monday, when I will come back with an additional list discussing the 20 next-best films of the year, from which I could have made several other Top 10 permutations that would look perfectly satisfying in most years.
But when the final ten shook their way out for me in 2013, and I looked at what I was left with, I will admit my jaw dropped a little. For the first time, a year had provided that which I had always secretly wanted for a Top 10 list – ten titles that I can easily and equally consider masterpieces. All ten, each and every film on this list, is a work I feel is not only significant today, in the time it was released, but shall endure and continue to have an impact on film study and scholarship decades into the future. I have never considered the possible ‘legacy’ of new features as much as I did when compiling this list, but in analyzing and reanalyzing these ten films, it was clear to me that each is capable of having extraordinary legs, of impacting how we talk about crime dramas, or animated films, or documentaries, or science-fiction, or romance, or comedy. They are movies that will be remembered. They are movies that will be taught and discussed. And they are movies that, in this moment, I could not love any more if I tried.
Without further ado, here are The Top 10 Films of 2013, ranked to the best of my ability, but all of which deserve the highest of recommendations.
Begin reading on the next page…