Part 1 of this list can be found here. This post will count down from 13 to 1 for all of the movies I saw in 2013 that were made in earlier years and to which I gave at least 4 stars on Letterboxd. Any questions? Remember, each title is a link to my full review.
13. Cabaret (1972)
It doesn’t get much better than the opening of this film. We’re thrust into a world of escape and sex and sadness all through the power of dance and music and the great framing. Liza Minnelli is a wonder in this film, a combination of razzle dazzle and loneliness that feels so real. But boy can she light up a stage.
12. Videodrome (1983)
Although videotape has long been obsolete, this film loses none of its punch thanks to a fantastic performance by James Woods and David Cronenberg’s patented body horror imagination. He creates a world that feels alive and breathing, thanks in large part to the seemingly alive and breathing television set that serves as the film’s centerpiece and most iconic image.
11. American Movie (1999)
Mark Borchardt is a character, man. He’s just a normal movie nerd trying to make a film with no budget and the help of his friends and family. This documentary doesn’t hide any of his flaws but it’s much more of a celebration of him and his dream than it is a biting look at failure. As such, and since Borchardt is so much fun, it’s a really entertaining and enlightening film.
10. Tesis (1996)
From the director of the fantastic gothic horror film The Others comes this earlier film that doesn’t stray into the supernatural but also doesn’t skimp on the scares. It’s similar to Videodrome in theme but different in execution as it uses some of the found footage tropes years before they became popularized by the likes of The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity.
9. The Fog of War (2003)
What ho! Another documentary! It’s like I was expanding my horizons or something last year. Anyways, this one is super great because Robert McNamera, former Secretary of Defense and subject of this documentary, is almost ridiculously intelligent and able to speak articulately about the triumphs and mistakes he made in his career. I’ve also been catching up with The West Wing and seeing the real deal makes that show all the sweeter.
8. The Seventh Seal (1957)
2013 was the year I started watching Ingmar Bergman movies. Don’t ask me why I took so long, I have no reasonable explanation for you. I’m just glad I finally got there. The Seventh Seal shows off his directorial abilities as he makes what might have been the depressing movie into an often comedic little movie about life and death. It’s all so great.
7. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
You’ll notice this is the third musical on this list. Whenever I finally do my list of 2013 movies you’ll probably also notice that movies which feature even one musical scene often make a strong impression on me. So this really lovely tale of romance interrupted feels like it was made for me, even though I was more than 20 years away from being born when it was released. The last scene which takes place in a snowstorm at Christmas is just wonderful.
6. Sleuth (1972)
To say too much about this movie would spoil some of the fun of it. And make no mistake, this is maybe one of the most fun movies I watched all last year. You’ve got two of the best British actors working at the time matched up against each other with a hyper-literate script and some fantastic set design thrown into a pot boiling thanks to a fire of deception and lies. Fun fun fun.
5. Modern Times (1936)
Is there anything funnier than Chaplin at the hands of an automatic feeder machine? Or more thrilling than his blindfolded rollerskating next to a several story drop in a huge department store? Not really. Chaplin likes to stick up for the little man in his movies and this time it really works to sell the existential crises normal people were facing in the mid thirties. Also, it’s hilarious.
4. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
I’ve been told a few times that I messed up by having this be the first spaghetti western film I watched, since none will likely compare to it favorably. Well, if that’s truly the case, at least I got to see one amazing movie out of the genre. The title warns us that what we’re getting isn’t just a western by a kind of fairy tale version of the end of the old west. And what an ending it is, filled with standoffs and harmonicas and good guys and bad guys.
3. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
Not only is this movie consistently very funny, it also has a huge heart that makes it worth of standing alongside such holiday movies as It’s a Wonderful Life and The Shop Around the Corner. It is probably the best Thanksgiving movie there is thanks (heh) to Steve Martin and John Candy’s fantastic chemistry. Of course, they can’t help but get in each other’s way but this film sells that thing better than most in the genre and the ending is a great topper to an excellent film.
2. Before Sunset (2004)
I caught up with the Before films just as Before Midnight was leaving the theaters (in fact, I caught the last showing of the last day) and I’m so glad I did. I liked this entry better than the first as it built upon the solid foundation laid by Before Sunrise with great dialogue and an amazing final scene. People often say it’s the more pessimistic of the first two films in the series but I don’t get that at all. Just look at the end and what happens in Before Midnight.
1. Fanny and Alexander (1982)
The title links to my initial impressions, after which I wrote a two part blog post (Part 1, Part 2) proclaiming it as my new favorite movie of all time. So any of you following that kind of stuff probably aren’t that surprised by this choice or placement. It truly is a singular work of art, comparable to any masterpiece of any form, media, or genre. Somebody find me a better movie than this and I’ll eat my shoe.
And that’s the end. What were your discoveries last year? Leave a comment! Find the full list at Letterboxd. Stay tuned for a books list!