The first list of 2013 will be those movies that I discovered for the first time in 2013 but which were not released in that year. There are quite a few movies listed as 2012 or even 2011 movies on Letterboxd but which will count as 2013 movies for my own purposes (You’re Next, The Act of Killing, so on and so forth) so even more arbitraryness will ensue. Before we begin, a note on how I compiled this list. I looked at all the movies I reviewed on Letterboxd from 2011 and beyond and then eliminated anything with under 4 stars. So these are the 4, 4.5, and 5 star films I watched in 2013 that were not made in 2013. Each title is a link to my full Letterboxd review if available, or a blog post in the rare cases when I wrote a whole thing about it.
27. Twins of Evil (1971)
I watched a fair bit of Hammer horror movies this year and this was the best of those. Peter Cushing continued to be wonderful even at a less-than-youthful age and the two girls at the center of the film play the insane script admirably. Plus the bad guy looks like a Jimmy Fallon character.
26. Angst (1983)
This is not a movie you just pop in to have a good time with. It’s a remarkably ugly and unsettling film which uses interesting camera work and near-constant narration to get the audience inside the head of a psychopath. It’s very effective at something that isn’t often attempted.
25. Millions (2004)
This was one of the last Danny Boyle films I had to catch up with (Shallow Grave is still on the docket). It’s a heartwarming story about giving and learning to let go with some of Boyle’s expected kinetic style to keep everything moving. I also really appreciate a movie that lets itself be strange.
24. Sound of My Voice (2011)
Though not as straightforward as this year’s The East, Sound of My Voice shares some elements with its younger sibling. We’ve got charismatic leaders doing potentially dangerous things and inspiring cult-like devotion in their wakes. This one is a weird one but compelling nonetheless. It’s got a fantastic performance from Brit Marling and the ending will leave you thinking.
23. Ghostwatch (1992)
This is probably not quite correctly classified as a movie, but it’s on Letterboxd so it’s here. What starts off as a live broadcast of a tv special which is investigating a haunted house in real-time turns into a really scary early example of the found footage genre, technically. The final 10 minutes or so are really spectacular and a close rewatch will reveal things and sights you might have missed the first time around. It’s so good it inspired War of the Worlds type panic in England when it first aired thanks to some famous tv personalities of the day playing themselves. It doesn’t have that impact now but it’s still a really fun watch.
22. Charade (1963)
It’s difficult to screw up a movie starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn and Walter Matthau. Director Stanley Donen doesn’t and there’s plenty of identity flipping going on to keep me interested throughout. Are we who we are or are we who we pretend to be? And why was 1963 so darn colorful?
21. Eden Lake (2008)
Maybe the toughest watch on this list (and when a list includes Angst that’s an accomplishment) because it has not a single happy moment after things start going to hell. That’s fine and it’s so well done that you just have to sit back and admire it after you recover from the emotional wringer it sends you through. At least Michael Fassbender is there!
20. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
It takes some confidence to end your first film with a half-hour long scene during which people mostly just sit around and talk. John Huston obviously went on to have a fantastic career and his beginning is indicative of just how good he can be. Plus Bogart in a film noir.
19. Before Sunrise (1995)
This is my least favorite of the three movies in the trilogy which follows Jesse and Celine as they age and fall in and around love. And yet, it’s still on this list! That’s because it’s so darn good. It’s the least complicated of the three films, focusing mostly on semi-philosophical musings and the act of infatuation, but it’s no less satisfying for that. A truly great start for a truly great series of films.
18. The Circus (1928)
While The Circus isn’t quite as funny as another film that will show up later on this list, it’s still a really fun time at the movies. There are, as always in a Chaplin film, a few impressively hilarious scenes (the clown one this time around is a standout) and a nice little romance to go with them.
17. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)
Klaus Kinski is some kind of supernatural monster of acting. He feels less like a human than a physical embodiment of the kinds of things Werner Herzog likes to make movies about: the destructive power of nature and the hubris of mankind trying to stand in its way. Late in the film there’s an invading species and Kinski’s reactions to the animals are hilarious and insane.
16. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
Here’s the first musical on my list and it’s one I enjoyed quite a bit, despite my general lack of interest in glam rock or transsexual issues. Director and lead actor John Cameron Mitchell does well to make what could be an alienating character in a wacky story real and human so that anybody coming in with an open mind will likely exit with an appreciation for Hedwig and the ups and downs in the film. The music is often strong as well.
15. Another Year (2010)
I’ve always liked Jim Broadbent and it was really nice to see him play a normal older guy. He does over the top quite well often but his role here as one half of the “normal” couple in this film is fantastic. It’s a mellow kind of film which gets by on the strength of the characters and acting more than impressive filmmaking. Maybe that’s more impressive than the flash and bang that some directors like to work with.
14. The Apartment (1960)
If I hadn’t just watched this at the end of September it’d be near the top of my list for a Christmas watch this year. All the best Christmas movies have a certain air of melancholy about them and this is no different. It’s a movie about damaged people trying to put on a happy face but can only truly connect once those masks come off. It’s wonderful.
That’s all for part one, check out part two in a few days.