Best Films of 2013

2013 was an intoxicating year in film. Filmmakers as diverse as Woody Allen, Steve McQueen, Martin Scorsese, Spike Jonze and the Coen Brothers all releasing some of the best films of the year, and in some cases, the best of their careers. Admittedly, my list is limited to mostly films made in the U.S., not because I believe America has a hook on making the best movies, it is due more to my location, timing and release patterns.

My top ten list is actually a top five list. I have been wrestling back and forth, attempting to decide,  in what order the remaining films would fall. Subsequently, since I did not want this post to be published in July, I just added them to my Honorable Mentions all which are in alphabecial order.

N0. 1  INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS – Coen Brothers


One of The Coen Brothers best who are spot on in recreating the early 60’s, pre-Dylan, folk scene in Greenwich Village. The lead character is an asshole but Oscar Issac’s performance still makes you care for him. Hell bent on keeping his artistic integrity intact, he comes from nowhere and goes nowhere. Musically, Lleywn is stuck between being true to his soul or producing crass lightweight, Kingston Trio, type folk music like the film’s, “Please Mr. Kennedy.” This being the Coen Brothers the humor ranges on the absurdist side of the street. I know some will disagree but this might just be the Coen’s best film since FARGO.

No. 2  NEBRASKA – Alexander Payne


An idiosyncratic yet poignant script along with superb understated performances by Bruce Dean, Will Forte and  June Squibb. Dern’s Woody, on the road to Alzheimer,  fits right in alongside Alexander Payne’s other little, almost forgotten characters in the American landscape. Woody’s overnight stay at a relative’s home is both revealing and reflective of family relationships many of us just  might recognize. Beautifully shot in black and white..

No. 3 WOLF OF WALL STREET – Martin Scorsese


Martin Scorsese’s wild hilarious ride on the excesses of money, sex, power and greed in the white collar world of Wall Street. As Jordan Belfort, who left a trial of victims in his path, Leonardo DiCaprio is superb letting it all hang out in a ferocious performance.

No. 4  12 YEARS A SLAVE – Steve McQueen


The film is a bit like sledge hammer continuously pounding it into you that slavery is a bad thing, as if we already do not know this. I found it more interesting as a powerful statement on man’s will to survive with his dignity intact under the most horrendous of circumstances.  Chiwetel Ejiofor is superb in this true story of Solomon Northrup, a free Black man sold into slavery. Kudos also to Lupita Nyong’o and Michael Fassbinder.

No. 5 AMERICAN HUSTLE – David O’Russell


Filled with, con artists, gangsters, FBI, politicians, and disgruntled women  all tossed into the pot in David O. Russell’s twisted plot turning, ambitious tribute to the underside of the American dream. It’s giddy and wild with a wicked smile on its face.  Jennifer Lawrence’s tops a quartet of fabulous performances.



BEFORE MIDNIGHT (Richard Linklater)

BLACKFISH (Gabriela Cowperthwaite)

 BLUE JASMINE  (Woody Allen)

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (Paul Greengrass)


ENOUGH SAID (Nicole Holofcener)

FRANCES HA (Noah Baumbach)


GRAVTY (Alfonso Curon)

HER (Spike Jonze)

 MUD (Jeff Nichols)

PHILOMENA (Stephen Frears)

RENOIR (Gilles Bourdos)

SIDE EFFECTS (Steven Soderbergh)

THE BUTLER (Lee Daniels)






16 comments on “Best Films of 2013

  1. Sam Juliano says:

    Fabulous list John! Great stuff! As you may recall I did have both 12 YEARS A SLAVE and NEBRASKA in my own Top 10, with SLAVE at poll position. I certainly do like INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS< THE WOLF ON WALL STREET and then HER, MUD, FRANCES HA, PHILOMENA, RENOIR, GRAVITY and a few others quite a bit from your runners-up listing. You had a great year at the movies, a fact that noticed each and every week at your round-ups. I much enjoyed all your great capsules on the films. Bravo!


    • John Greco says:

      Thanks Sam! I thought 2013 was a really good year with many of the top directors currently working all doing great work. There are a lot of films on your own list that I still need to catch up with.


  2. John, I really need to put away the novels I’m working on at least long enough to catch up with all of these movies! 🙂 I’m especially looking forward to catching up with AMERICAN HUSTLE; DALLAS BUYERS CLUB; HER; THE WOLF OF WALL STREET; and INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, which is pretty much folk singer Dave Van Ronk’s life story (yes, that’s a good thing :-)). Thanks for getting me up to date!


  3. I don’t disagree. Inside Llewyn Davis IS the Coen Brothers’ best movie since Fargo. It may also be the best American movie of the year.


  4. Love the love Llewyn.

    Also liked that you included Renoir on your honorable mentions – beautiful film that I felt most critics didn’t appreciate.


  5. Judy says:

    Must admit I’ve seen very few recent movies, but hope to catch some of these soon!


  6. Oh dear. I’m really out of the loop – I haven’t seen a single one of these movies. However, “12 Years a Slave”, “Nebraska” and “Inside Llewyn Davis” are on my Must See ASAP List.

    Have you made a prediction for which film might win Best Picture this year?


    • John Greco says:

      After winning the Directors Guild award this weekend (generally whomever wins this wins the Oscars because it’s the same folks voting) I am afraid GRAVITY is going to win. Not that it’s bad, it made my HM list, but for me just about any of the other films nominated would be a better choice. My onw pick would be NEBRASKA but it doesn’t have a chance.


  7. The Lady Eve says:

    Unfortunately, my take-away after reading your top-five+, John, is that I need to get out and see more current movies. Well, at least “Inside Llewyn Davs” and “Blue Jasmine” are among those I’ve been meaning to see.


    • John Greco says:

      I know you are a big Woody fan and am sure you will like BLUE JASMINE. Cate gives a truly great performance. If you get to see any of these, let me know what you think.


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