As the year draws to a close, the “best of” lists begin to surface, with the cinefiles putting the best and worst of 2013 behind them and getting ready for the onslaught of brand new movies to come in the new year. Having seen almost 400 films this year, it feels only fitting to compile a list of my favorites as well. I look at these films as ones I’d never want to lose, ones that I anticipated months and even years before their release dates, ones that I remember fondly as I sat in the theater viewing them, most of them even multiple times and then ones that I sought out to purchase when they became available on home video. These films are the ones I will remember decades from now and will refer to as my favorite films that year, like “Lawless” last year or “Drive and “Like Crazy” the year before. These films encapsulated what I go to the movies for, whether it be the performances or the story, the era or the genre. No matter the reason, I loved these films without a shadow of a doubt. This is my brutal honesty, against the norm or not. So without further ado, here are my favorite films of the year:

10) Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (Dir. David Lowery)
When you have a modern day Western on top of a cast of Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, and Ben Foster, it’s like you’re designing a film I’m going to love. Great, simple screenplay and some fantastic performances.

9) Byzantium (Dir. Neil Jordan)
Saoirse Ronan is becoming one of my favorite actresses and with “Interview With A Vampire” director Neil Jordan returning to the vampire lore, he brings out one of her best performances yet. Gemma Arterton is stunning as always and this female driven, modern day vampire tale is better every time I see it.

8) Gravity (Dir. Alfonso Cuarón)
No one quite knew how well “Gravity” would go over, but we were all pleasantly surprised. Proving that a female driven film from an original screenplay can still be a blockbuster, Sandra Bullock pulls off one of my favorite performances of the year. The cinematography is the best part of the film, coming from Emmanuel Lubezki, who is Terrence Malick’s cinematographer. On top of some great visual effects, this will definitely have some strong awards considerations. The only reason this isn’t higher on my list is that it will lose a large portion of its luster by not being on the big screen.

7) Mud (Dir. Jeff Nichols)
The best performance of Matthew McConaughey’s career, “Mud” is a modern classic. Twenty years from now, I feel like this will be considered one of the best films of the era. Jeff Nichols is becoming one of my favorite directors, with two amazing prior films in “Take Shelter” and “Shotgun Stories”.

6) Star Trek Into Darkness (Dir. J.J. Abrams)
Before 2009, I was never a fan of “Star Trek”. So the “blatant remake” comments made towards these films are lost on me. “Star Trek Into Darkness” is one hell of a ride of a film that never quite quits. I love Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain. Yes, he was Khan, but for someone that’s never seen any of the previous “Star Trek” films, he could have been any villain. The fact is, he was fantastic in this role and it was an amazing sequel by Abrams, who I continue to love as a director.

5) 12 Years A Slave (Dir. Steve McQueen)
“Intense” was the word I used directly following this film and it still sticks. Steve McQueen is a monster of a director and delivers an Oscar-worthy film with several Oscar-worthy performances including Chiwetel Ejiofor, who is now on my radar, Lupita Nyong’o, and Michael Fassbender. One of the most memorable films of the year.

4) Gangster Squad (Dir. Ruben Fleischer)
Widely panned, I absolutely adored “Gangster Squad”. With a glossy feel brought to the ‘50s, seeing all these characters run around in a revenge film against the biggest villain of the era, Mickey Cohen, I was taken by the visuals, the costumes, and the performances. Ryan Gosling is the best actor of our generation and even in a film like this he shines, especially next to the gorgeous Emma Stone, who pulls off this performance. Sean Penn is a great Mickey Cohen and turns one of the best villain performances of the year.

3) Inside Llewyn Davis (Dir. The Coen Brothers)
Music based films often end up being my favorite films of the year and with the Coen Brothers at the directing helm, we also get an amazing film. With music from T Bone Burnett in collaboration with Marcus Mumford, we get some of the best original music of the year. Also, cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel delivers a strong visual desaturation that I have fallen in love with. Oscar Isaac lands on many people’s radar playing the lead while the dark comedy of the rest of the film is lead mostly by an interesting turn from John Goodman.

2) Iron Man 3 (Dir. Shane Black)
A big kid at heart, “Iron Man 3” was not only a great film from a great director, but it continues exploring a world that could have easily been exhausted already. It builds wonderfully off “The Avengers” by giving its lead Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) post-traumatic stress, which effects his relationships as well as his ability to fight. With an already all-star cast, we add Ben Kingsley, Rebecca Hall, and Guy Pearce who are great villains. The visual effects are amazing in the film, with the destruction of Tony’s mansion, the monkeys in a barrel sky fall, and the army of Iron Mans climax. Probably one of the best installments into the Marvel universe yet, giving this high profile film to a director like Shane Black really brings out the down-to-earth nature of the film and makes it hit home with me that much more.

1) Her (Dir. Spike Jonze)
The most emotional time I’ve had in a movie this year, I could consciously feel the smile on my face throughout the lighter parts of the film. Spike Jonze is rarely on my radar, but with “Her” bringing to life a futuristic world of intelligent operating systems, Joaquin Phoenix is the real factor that sells this film, the absolute only actor I could see in this role. Exploring complex feelings through the relationship between Phoenix’s character and his AI computer leaves you contemplating this film weeks after you see it.

These are the films that didn’t quite make my top 10 list but were strongly considered and worth mentioning:

  • Blue Is The Warmest Color
  • The Kings Of Summer
  • Pacific Rim
  • The Place Beyond The Pines
  • Short Term 12
  • To The Wonder
  • The Wolf Of Wall Street

Also, if you’re interested in the films I saw this year, here are the 141 films that I saw in theaters:

  1. 2 Guns
  2. 12 Years A Slave
  3. 42
  4. ABC’s Of Death, The
  5. About Time
  6. Adore
  7. After Earth
  8. Afternoon Delight
  9. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
  10. All Is Lost
  11. American Hustle
  12. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
  13. At Any Price
  14. Before Midnight
  15. Blackfish
  16. Bling Ring, The
  17. Blue Is The Warmest Color
  18. Blue Jasmine
  19. Brass Teapot, The
  20. Breaking The Girls
  21. Broken City
  22. Byzantium
  23. Call, The
  24. Canyons, The
  25. Captain Phillips
  26. Carrie
  27. Closed Circuit
  28. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2
  29. Company You Keep, The
  30. Conjuring, The
  31. Counselor, The
  32. Croods, The
  33. Dallas Buyers Club
  34. Dark Skies
  35. Dead Man Down
  36. Delivery Man
  37. Don Jon
  38. Drinking Buddies
  39. East, The
  40. Elysium
  41. Ender’s Game
  42. English Teacher, The
  43. Evil Dead
  44. Family, The
  45. Fast & Furious 6
  46. Frances Ha
  47. Frozen
  48. Frozen Ground, The
  49. Fruitvale Station
  50. Gangster Squad
  51. Ghost Team One
  52. G.I. Joe: Retaliation
  53. Girl Most Likely
  54. Good Day To Die Hard, A
  55. Gravity
  56. Great Expectations
  57. Great Gatsby, The
  58. Hangover Part III
  59. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
  60. Haunted House, A
  61. Haunting In Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia, The
  62. Her
  63. Hobbit, The: The Desolation Of Smaug
  64. Homefront
  65. Host, The
  66. Hunger Games, The: Catching Fire
  67. Iceman, The
  68. Identity Thief
  69. I Give It A Year
  70. In A World…
  71. Incredible Burt Wonderstone, The
  72. Inside Llewyn Davis
  73. Insidious Chapter 2
  74. Internship, The
  75. Iron Man 3
  76. Jack The Giant Slayer
  77. Kick Ass 2
  78. Kill Your Darlings
  79. Kings Of Summer, The
  80. Kitchen, The
  81. Last Exorcism Part II, The
  82. Last Stand, The
  83. Lifeguard, The
  84. Lone Ranger, The
  85. Lovelace
  86. Mama
  87. Man Of Steel
  88. Monsters University
  89. Much Ado About Nothing
  90. Mud
  91. Nebraska
  92. Now You See Me
  93. Oblivion
  94. Oldboy
  95. Olympus Has Fallen
  96. Only God Forgives
  97. Out Of The Furnace
  98. Oz The Great And Powerful
  99. Pacific Rim
  100. Pain & Gain
  101. Paradise
  102. Paranoia
  103. Parker
  104. Passion
  105. Peeples
  106. Place Beyond The Pines, The
  107. Prince Avalanche
  108. Prisoners
  109. Purge, The
  110. RED 2
  111. Riddick
  112. R.I.P.D.
  113. Runner Runner
  114. Rush
  115. Safe Haven
  116. Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, The
  117. Short Term 12
  118. Side Effects
  119. Snitch
  120. Spectacular Now, The
  121. Spring Breakers
  122. Star Trek Into Darkness
  123. Stoker
  124. Texas Chainsaw
  125. Thanks For Sharing
  126. This Is The End
  127. Thor: The Dark World
  128. To Do List, The
  129. To The Wonder
  130. Trance
  131. Upside Down
  132. V/H/S/2
  133. Violet & Daisy
  134. Warm Bodies
  135. Way Way Back, The
  136. White House Down
  137. Wolf Of Wall Street, The
  138. Wolverine, The
  139. World’s End, The
  140. World War Z
  141. You’re Next

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