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The Best Films of 2013

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The year is over and it is time to look back at the best movies that have graced the cinema screens during the past twelve months.

We've had musicals featuring singing revolutionaries, dancing air-cabin crew, revenge-hungry parents, an overwhelming amount of superheroes and many underrated gems. As film editor, I've had the great pleasure in viewing hundreds of films across the year (some good, some shockingly awful), with the highlight of my year being the BFI London Film Festival. Sadly, some of the films I saw there (such as Jason Reitman's Labor Day and Inside Llewyn Davies) cannot be featured in my top ten list since they come out in 2014. Below you will find The National Student's list of Best Films of 2013, put together through collaboration between our editors and writers. Enjoy!

20. Frozen

Be warned: this film is not at all like the awful, jokey trailer featured above. It's a largely heartfelt, sincere animated feature. Stunning widescreen vistas and terrific voice acting (from the likes of Kristen Bell and Jonathan Groff) make this a treat for both kids and adults without sacrificing either innocence or subtlety. Tangled was great. Wreck-it-Ralph was fun. But here we have that rare thing: a solid-gold (or solid-ice) animated classic. I do hope this is the start of another golden-age. BW.

 19. I'm So Excited!

As a comedy, this film is close to perfect. The laughs are continuous and effective, combining wit with a welcome dash of ludicrousness. After the torture and torment of The Skin I Live In (good though it was), it’s great to see Spain’s king of biting comedy return with a deliciously mounted, terrifically executed treat. I’m So Excited! is nothing short of delightful. BW.

18. Prisoners

It’s rare in this day and age that one gets a slow, meandering drama that doesn’t give in to hysteria or become boring. Prisoners gets the balance right. This is an exceptional piece of work; both an assured crime drama and a political play that asks some very difficult and somewhat disturbing questions from its audience. BW.

17. Prince Avalanche

Prince Avalanche is a film for the non-casual viewer to get engrossed in, comforting like a warm blanket but also moving, thought-provoking and, at times, extremely funny. Minimal, devoid of obvious laughs and a film that requires thought rather than submission from the viewer, Prince Avalanche is soul food for your inner cinephile. - James Thornhill 

16. Frances Ha

One of those movies that are full of life - such a breath of fresh air. This film feels real and refreshing, and co-writer and star Greta Gerwig is brilliant. It’s exciting to see where she goes next. - Gaia Porcu.

15. Blue Jasmine

Every year Woody Allen releases a film and every two he releases a GOOD film. And this is a very good film. Films like this allow his fans to forgive him for films like To Rome with Love. Cate Blanchett delivers one of her best performances ever and one of the best of the year. An incredible film full of emotion and a fantastic supporting cast, and a return to form for Allen. GP.

14. Blue is the Warmest Colour

A great film about a relationship. Films need to stop dealing with relationships between two people of the same sex as "gay" and deal with them simply as relationships. This film does just that. Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux are absolutely brilliant in this they really deserved the Palm d'Or alongside director Abdellatif Kechiche. GP.

13. Before Midnight

The third part of Richard Linklater's trilogy, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke reprise their roles. It has been incredible to hear such superb dialogue and go on this journey with these characters. It's really hard to pull off a film based on dialogue but this film does and is a must see.

12. Mud

Ever since The Lincoln Lawyer Matthew McConaughey has really turned his career around and has become quite the actor. In Mud he shines. He's not alone, all the actors (the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Sam Shepard, Sarah Paulson and Michael Shannon) bring their A-game and the two kids in the film, especially Tye Sheridan who plays Ellis, are fantastic. The cinematography is also gorgeous to look at. GP.

11. Saving Mr Banks

Sometimes the stars align to make a perfect film, or a close to perfect as a movie can be. Saving Mr. Banks, the story of the process of making the beloved Disney film Mary Poppins, isn’t quite perfect, but the stars really have all come together to make this movie a wonderful treat. Funny, emotional and beautifully acted, it makes the perfect family film. BW.

10. Captain Phillips

Paul Greengrass is famous for blurring the lines between documentary and drama and through his style of direction he makes this film about the hijacking of a cargo ship feel terrifyingly real and eye-wateringly intense. This is an extremely powerful film of the kind that doesn’t come along very often. BW.

9. Behind the Candelabra

Famously turned down by many major studios because they thought (rather preposterously) it would only appeal to gay people, Steven Soderbergh made this biopic of pianist entertainer Liberace for television. Luckily for British audiences, it was released as a cinema feature. And what a brilliant movie it was, with two excellent performances from Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. BW.

8. Zero Dark Thirty

If anyone wanted a masterclass in how to make an intelligent, thoughtful, exciting movie that blends action with world-class acting, this film would be the one to watch. Katherine Bigelow’s action movies presume their audiences have the initiative to think for themselves. They understand that both verbal conversations and scenes of quick-edited gunfire have equal potential to shock and enthral. Nobody is making movies quite like her right now. Memorable doesn’t even cover it. BW.

7. Gravity

Alfonso Cuarón has once again demonstrated what an exciting, varied and adaptable director he is. The 51-year-old Mexican has crafted a beautiful, tense and soul-searching sci-fi epic. Gravity, whilst not perfect, is a dizzying spectacle and a tremendously accomplished work. BW. 

6. The Act of Killing

Joshua Oppenheimer has been making documentaries that depict the realities of political violence for several years, and his latest film The Act of Killing is quite unlike anything the world has seen before. It documents the Indonesian genocide that followed the CIA-funded military overthrow of the Indonesian government in 1965. Anti communist purges saw the massacre of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) members in Medan, North Sumatra.Compelling and beautifully made, this is a stunning documentary. Ruby Lawrence & BW. 

5. Side Effects

Though not everyone liked the film’s twists and turns, the waves of Hitchcockian genius that came with each revelation made Side Effects a remarkable film. It will be sad if Side Effects is Soderbergh’s swan song (he has gone on to direct TV work), but if it is it’s good to see him bow out in style. BW.

4. Spring Breakers

Repetitive, morally ambiguous and rather strange, Spring Breakers is one of the most visually intelligent, exciting and mesmerising pictures of recent years. The very best films entirely convince the viewer they are part of the world depicted onscreen. Spring Breakers succeeds in this respect. Regardless of whether you want to be part of such a world or not, the film draws you into its hypnotic landscape with skill, verve and style. BW.

3. Stoker 

Directed by Park Can-wook, director of Oldboy, and scripted by (believe it or not) Prison Breakactor Wentworth Miller, this is a shamelessly ridiculous, gorgeously mounted thriller set within a suffocating American family.  Though clearly inspired by other works (the most obvious being Alfred Hitchcock’s film Shadow of a Doubt), it’s so confident in its tone and style it feels like a breath of fresh air. Watch it a marvel. BW.

2. Les Misérables

 Les Misérables is a masterpiece. It is a beautiful, swirling vision brought stunningly to life by director Tom Hooper and producer Cameron Mackintosh. Hooper’s film very successfully brings Victor Hugo’s huge, sprawling story of a wronged criminal, a resentful officer, an orphaned girl and a group of angry revolutionaries to the big screen, all cloaked in the haunting melodies of Claude-Michel Schonberg. BW.

1. The Counsellor 

Audiences seeking out pleasant escapism may well hate this film. It is a rigorous, unforgiving and inherently nihilistic exercise in menace and pessimism. Those who dare taste such daunting flavours may well discover a movie that offers its own rainbow of delights; a rainbow of many shades of grey that refuse to be easily read. There have been very few films as fascinating as this for a very long time. It will leave you reeling. BW.




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