’s Best and Worst of 2013 Cinema – Mark Walters & Gary Murray give their picks’s Best and Worst of 2013 Cinema – Mark Walters & Gary Murray give their picks

As 2013 comes to a close and 2014 kicks into gear, we take a look back on some of the best and worst films of the year. I always say the greatest thing about movies is that they’re subjective, and just because one person loves or hates a film doesn’t mean the next person will feel the same way. We encourage you to weigh in below in the comments, tell us your picks for best and worst of the year. I also have to note that I hate picking movies as “worst” of the year, as every movie made is always a lot of work by a lot of people, and it’s never fun when all that hard work just doesn’t gel. We’ll start with my personal picks followed by Gary Murray’s picks. What movies are you most looking forward to in 2014?


The Best and Worst of 2013 by Mark Walters

Top Ten of 2013:

10. THE EAST – Zal Batmanglij directs this throwback to old school political dramas starring the beautiful and believable Brit Marling as a woman going undercover in an eco-terrorist group lead by Alexander Skarsgård. There’s something very perfect about the production, which reminds of how good a movie can be even when it’s not flashy or super-expensive to produce.

9. THIS IS THE END – it’s one of those films you’d expect to be utterly ridiculous… and it is, but this self-referential comedy is also surprisingly hysterical and very effective, especially for fans of the actors involved. It’s also, in a subtle way, a smart parody of those star-studded disaster films that were so popular in the 1970s.

8. IN A WORLD… – Lake Bell stars and directs this story of a woman who wants desperately to make her mark in the world of movie trailer voiceovers. It’s born from Bell’s own desire to succeed in the voiceover industry, and it’s a fun and funny experience to take in. As a directorial debut, it’s quite impressive and real.

7. DON JON – Joseph Gordon-Levitt proves once again he’s a force to be reckoned with in this tale of a young man addicted to porn who finds what he believes to be the perfect woman… who is disgusted by porn. JGL also directs the piece, and shows his skills behind the camera are equal to his impressive acting chops.

6. HER – Spike Jonze’s quirky vision of the near future and a lonely man (played by Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with a computer operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) is engaging and fascinating to watch. It’s also surprisingly emotional and relatable in ways many might not expect.

5. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET – Martin Scorsese’s three-hour epic starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the manipulative Wall Street mastermind Jordan Belfort is crazed and daring, and has met with passionate reactions from viewers. But the fact a masterful director in their 70s can still stir audiences in this day and age is pretty impressive in and of itself.

4. LONE SURVIVOR – the real life story of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and his harrowing mission-gone-wrong is brilliantly acted by Mark Wahlberg and pals, and expertly shot by Peter Berg. As far as war films go, this is one of the most realistic and engaging I’ve ever experienced. It deserves to be seen.

3. 12 YEARS A SLAVE – Steve McQueen’s look at this real life tragic story is pretty unrelenting, and has strong supporting performances by Michael Fassbender and Sarah Paulson, but it’s the always-great Chiwetel Ejiofor as leading man Solomon Northup that makes this a truly incredible cinematic experience.

2. THE WAY, WAY BACK – Jim Rash and Nat Faxon’s coming of age dramedy has a terrific cast and engaging story we can all relate to. Seeing Steve Carell play a jerk is a treat, but Sam Rockwell channeling Bill Murray in MEATBALLS (substituting a water park for a summer camp) is the highlight of this masterpiece.

1. GRAVITY – It’s my pick to win most of the Oscars in 2014, and no other movie was as thrilling of an experience for me in 2013. It’s not often I see a film when I find myself gripping the arm rests, and truly becoming immersed in the narrative, despite the fantastical aspects of if. Sandra Bullock does an amazing job carrying almost the entire film by herself, and Alfonso Cuaron’s direction is top notch. This, for me, was easily the most impressive motion picture of the year.


Best Documentary:

DREW: THE MAN BEHIND THE POSTER – this doc about legendary movie poster artist Drew Struzan does a fine job pulling back the curtain a bit on Drew’s life and the hardships he faced while trying to make a name for himself in Hollywood.  It’s also filled with a veritable who’s who of talent from in front of and behind the camera, like Harrison Ford, Michael J. Fox, Frank Darabont, Guillermo del Toro and George Lucas.  But seeing the humble man in his everyday life, and listening to him (without an ounce of embarrassment) talk opening about how hard it was to survive as an artist, it’s just one more reason to love the “Drew” name you saw so many times on all those great posters.


Runner ups:

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB – Matthew McConaughey’s incredible performance is worth the price of admission alone. So is Jared Leto’s for that matter.

THE BOOK THIEF – came so close to my top ten, beautiful WWII story of a curious young girl in Nazi Germany. Geoffrey Rush is terrific, but it’s newcomer Sophie Nélisse that steals the show.

NEBRASKA – Bruce Dern proves he’s still got it, and Will Forte proves he’s as good with drama as he was with comedy. It’s not Alexander Payne’s most accessible film, but it’s pretty good stuff.

PHILOMENA – Judi Dench is… well, always great. This heartwarming true tale is nicely complimented by Steve Coogan, who shows he can handle drama just as well as comedy… kind of like Will Forte in NEBRASKA.

FROZEN – easily the best animated film of 2013, Disney’s take on “The Ice Queen” was a long time coming, dating back about 70 years in fact, but it’s worth the wait.

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS – The Coen Bros. have always used great music, but now have a great film about making great music. And Oscar Isaac finally gets a solid leading role.

SAVING MR. BANKS – Tom Hanks becomes Walt Disney and Emma Thompson becomes P.L. Travers in the biopic about the making of MARY POPPINS that’s mostly factual, but with a rather forced happy ending that isn’t.

MUD – Matthew McConaughey is knocking it out of the park lately, and this performance is pretty damn great too. The two child actors he shares the screen with are equally fantastic.

KON-TIKI – a terrific biopic of explorer Thor Heyerdal’s epic 4,300-mile crossing of the Pacific on a balsawood raft in 1947.

THE ICEMAN – Michael Shannon’s performance of noted contract killer Richard Kuklinski is chillingly real, and a definitive reminder of just how great the actor can really be.


Worth a look:

WARM BODIES – a zombie romantic comedy? Trust me, it works. Jonathan Levine (50/50) writes and directs the fun. Nicolas Hoult and Teresa Palmer are a likable (if rather unlikely) couple.

A HAUNTED HOUSE – Marlon Wayans’ parody of paranormal found footage horror is much, much funnier than you’d expect. It’s also a testament to Wayans’ abilities as a comedy writer.

JOHN DIES AT THE END – Don Coscarelli’s odd horror film is quirky and crazy, and a lot of fun, with a great cast to boot. Watch it with friends.

THE CROODS – the prehistoric animated family film is surprisingly fun and funny, and looks stunning. Great voice cast featuring Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds.

42 – newcomer Chadwick Boseman does fine playing legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson, but Harrison Ford as Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey is a baseball fan’s treat.

OBLIVION – Tom Cruise stars in a futuristic epic that looks and sounds great, and sadly wasn’t seen enough in theaters. The score by M83 is one of the year’s best.

LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED – Danish/English romantic comedy starring Pierce Brosnan and Trine Dyrholm as an unlikely couple who find magic in Italy.

THE HUNT (JAGTEN) – Mads Mikkelsen stars in this Danish drama about a man wrongfully accused of the worst crime a family man can imagine. It’s brutal to get through, but masterfully performed.

YOU’RE NEXT – a great twist on home invasion horror, and one of the best see-it-with-an-audience films of the year. Don’t let anyone spoil the twist for you.

THE WORLD’S END – Edgar Wright directs Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, along with some pals, in a fun nod to “sci-fi in suburbia” films. It’s the third time for the comedy trio to work together on the big screen, and it’s a welcome return.


Worst of the year:

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD – the fifth entry is lazy and boring, despite plenty of action sequences. It just doesn’t work. Bruce Willis should have more respect for the character he defined, and be more discerning of these scripts. Regardless, it did well enough that a sixth entry is still likely.

THE HOST – Stephenie Meyer’s sci-fi TWILIGHT wannabe is incredibly bland, despite its normally engaging star Saoirse Ronan. Everyone said the books were better, but they said the same about TWILIGHT… the difference here is hardly anyone paid to see it. We’re guessing no sequels for this saga.

TO THE WONDER – Terrence Malick’s latest was beyond bizarre and too cerebral for its own good. It’s slow and sad, and contains almost no dialogue to boot. Watching it is painful.

THE LORDS OF SALEM – Rob Zombie’s attempt at witch-based horror is all style and no substance, and tries way too hard. Using his wife Sheri Moon Zombie as the lead doesn’t help.

THE HANGOVER PART III – the 2nd entry was just a copy of the 1st, the 3rd is kind of the same but completely humorless. Even the addition of John Goodman sadly doesn’t help.

THE PURGE – such a great and fascinating concept, but falls flat and never reaches its true potential. You’ll spend most of the film being angry at the youngest kid in the family, who pretty much causes all the havoc.

ONLY GOD FORGIVES – Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling try to recapture their DRIVE magic, but this snoozefest is laughably bad and boring. Gosling barely says a word, and it’s probably for the best.

PLANES – despite solid box office returns, this once direct-to-video idea should have stayed that way. It looks like a Pixar movie, but lacks the soul and any of the magic a Pixar movie normally has.

THE FAMILY – Luc Besson takes Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfieffer, and a fun concept, and completely botches it up. It’s a movie you’ll want to love, but leave feeling very let down.

THE COUNSELOR – no doubt whatsoever, this is the absolute worst film of the year. Ridley Scott directs a phenomenal cast that includes Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt… with a script by Cormac McCarthy… and it’s horrible. The dialogue is cringe-worthy, and the narrative is all over the place. When people die you don’t care, and none of characters have any redeeming qualities. It’s a train wreck of a film.



The Best and Worst of 2013 by Gary Murray

Top Ten of 2013:

10. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET – Yes this three-hour opus to the evils of wanting more runs on a bit too long but one has to be impressed by the shear magnitude of what Martin Scorsese is trying to accomplish. It is also Leonardo DiCaprio’s finest performance as an actor. It is a telling tale of greed in this modern world. It is also a character study of a very flawed man.

9. Even though it is a bit too schmaltzy, I loved SAVING MR. BANKS. Call me a sentimental old fool but this is the kind of film that just warms the heart – the best reason to watch a film. It has one of the best performances by Emma Thompson.

8. One of the big entries in the ‘hard to watch category‘is DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, a film that tackles one of the first battles with a giant disease with a very little name. Mathew McConaughey is amazing as our lead, but it is Jared Leto who shines as his confused friend.

7. AMERICAN HUSTLE is a con film among con films. It has four of the best performances of the year and a certain Oscar contender. This movie never has a ‘tell’ – meaning it never lets the audience know where it’s headed. A brilliant directing job by David O. Russell and a sure win in the SAG cast award.

6. The animated film was in rare form this year. It seemed that just about every month, some computer generated image filled the screen. FROZEN is the return to form by Disney and the best animated feature of 2013. It was so much fun to watch and the images just leap off the screen. It was the best use of 3D techniques this year.

5. THE BOOK THIEF – I cannot say enough superlatives about this work. Out of all the films on this list, this is the first one in the ‘want to own on DVD’ category. Outstanding performances by Gregory Rush and Emily Watson make this a must see event.

4. GRAVITY is the film on this list that will be most studied by film students. It is a visual feast. This is how a space film should be done and Alfonso Cuaron and company deliver the goods in such a way that make this film hard to forget. It must be seen on the big screen to be fully enjoyed.

3. LONE SURVIVOR is both a gripping action film and a commentary on modern fighting. It shows the band of brothers that is the military. With a title like that, one can guess what is going to happen to the others in the group but it is still a rousing adventure story and a testament to the bond of service.

2. TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM is easily the best Documentary Film of 2013. It is a touching reminder of why we love music. These women have all the talent, they just didn’t get the major breaks. It is a movie that reflects our love affair with the 1960s.

1. 12 YEARS A SLAVE is the hardest film on this list to watch but in the end, it is the most satisfying. There are moments in this film that will haunt the backwash of my mind for years to come. It is a sure Oscar contender.



There is a long list of bad films that came out this year. From AFTER EARTH to GROWN UPS 2 to THE LONE RANGER, Hollywood had its share of films that stunk up the Cineplex, but the worst are films that take themselves way too seriously; thinking that they are perfect when all they are is pretentious.

The worst offender is a documentary called INEQUALITY FOR ALL. It is the story of people struggling to make ends meet and how there are only two classes in this modern system. It is a push for labor unions. The makers just don’t recognize the 5,000 pound gorilla in the room – the overreaching federal government. It becomes pabulum for those who cannot think for themselves and a symptom of what is wrong with the economy.


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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.