December 31, 2013, - 6:55 pm Best Movies of 2013 AND 2012

By Debbie Schlussel

My site has been down a good part of the day, so I am only now posting my Best Movies list that I planned to post earlier. My apologies.



I was so busy around this time last year (and am still so busy now) that I didn’t get to my year’s best movies, so I’m giving you both my lists: the Best Movies of 2013 and, below that, the Best Movies of 2012. Better late than never, right? I found it interesting that, while I looked through my reviews and thought through the movies I saw, there were fewer I really liked in 2013 than in the year before. That’s because the movies are getting worse and worse, far less inspired and original, and far more derivative and crappy. Among the highest grossing movies this year, most of them were sequels. I used to do a “Worst Movies” list each year, but there were so many I hated, the list would be 30-50 movies. So I’ve stopped doing that. Sorry.

Here’s what I liked best, below. I tried to narrow it down to ten, but couldn’t do it. All movies I reviewed have a link to my full/complete review on the title. However, some I have not reviewed yet because they did not yet debut in Detroit or I did not screen them prior to their release and review them on this site (and will post a review in the next week if they already showed here–will be noted in the blurb next to the movie). You may note that I rate movies better now, at the end of the year, than I may have when I first reviewed them. It all comes with time and perspective, especially compared with what else I saw during the entire year. Any purchases of movies–or any products you buy on Amazon–after clicking on the “Get Yours” links below help benefit this site and keep it going. Thanks. Best Movies of 2013

1 (Tie) – “Lone Survivor“: Every American needs to see this. Great re-telling of the real-life story of several Navy SEALs who are bound by the Geneva Convention rules, while terrorists are not. As the title indicates, because of this only one, Marcus Luttrell, survives and lives to tell about the heroism of them all. If you love America, you gotta see this–about the ultimate acts of American patriotism and sacrifice. Stay tuned for my review in 1.5 weeks when the movie is released nationwide.

1 (Tie) – “Captain Phillips“: Great movie based on the real life story about Islamic terrorists hijacking the Maersk and how Captain Richard Phillips deals with them. Riveting and patriotic, too. The Navy SEALs are, once again, shown at their best (when even their “worst” is pretty good).

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Check Out the Rest of My Top Movies . . .

3) “The Place Beyond the Pines“: Fabulous unfolding set of three interconnected stories that play out like a great novel. Story shows the importance of strong fathers in kids’ lives. Bonus: it’s like three movies for the price of one.

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4) “All is Lost“: Robert Redford plays a man stranded in the middle of the Indian Ocean, struggling to survive against the forces of nature and a lot of bad luck. Despite almost no dialogue, it’s suspenseful and riveting. The brilliant man’s version of “Gravity.”

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5) “About Time“: Terrific movie that starts out as a basic story with a science fiction twist, but is really about the love between a father and his son. Put a tear (several of ’em) in this jaded critic’s eye. Funny and suspenseful, too.

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6) “The Hunt [Jagten]“: Terrific film about what happens when a decent, honest man is falsely accused of child molestation, and how his whole life is ruined by political correctness gone insane. Sadly, real life doesn’t always have the same end result. Made in Denmark (and in Danish with English subtitles), but very easily could have been set in America. Stay tuned for my complete review in the next week.

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7) “A Hijacking [Kapringen]“: You could describe this as the Danish version of “Captain Phillips” with more dire consequences and a more omniscient view of the goings on when a commercial vessel is hijacked by Somali Muslim Islamic terrorists a/k/a “pirates.” Unlike “Captain Phillips,” this one isn’t afraid to let us know very clearly that they are Muslims (“allahu [FUBAR]” is clearly iterated by the “pirates”) and that they are violent, vicious thugs. Also, unlike “Captain Phillips,” it gives us no “excuse”-filled preamble about the poor lives of the terrorists. But it does include a series of negotiations and conversations at the headquarters of the Danish company that owns the ship and is a little anti-capitalist and anti-business in its tone, though it does show the tremendous pressure under which the CEO must negotiate for the hostages. In English and Danish with English subtitles. Stay tuned for my complete review in the next week.

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8) “The Way, Way Back“: Great coming of age movie about a teen boy who finds a father figure in the owner of a water park in a resort town. Loved this.

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9) “Still Mine“: A Canadian senior citizen farmer fights city hall and big government to build a house for himself and his wife who is stricken with Alzheimer’s Disease. If you hate big government regulation and love individual rights, as I do, you’ll love this inspiring movie based on a true story.

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10) “Gravity“: Despite the fact that the protagonist chick in this movie does everything wrong at the beginning (and, per real life, needs a guy to tell her how to survive), this movie is worth seeing just for the special effects and terrific outer space scenery, even if it didn’t have the thrills that it does. Make sure to see it in 3D and/or IMAX if you can (once you go IMAX, you never go BAX).

11) “Mud“: Charming times a million. Two very cute, precocious young kids in the South meet an escaped convict on a deserted island. They help the man try to get back together with his estranged girlfriend. The kids are the real stars of this movie, and it paints what seems to be an accurate picture of small town Southern life on the Mississippi River. Great mystery, very entertaining.

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12) “Prisoners“: Although I could have done without the torture of a suspected kidnapper in this movie, the sharp, ambiguous ending makes it all worth it. Suspenseful, scary, constantly gripping.

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13) “Populaire“: Cool French movie set in the late ’50s about a farm girl’s venture to the big city for a secretarial job. She ends up training for typing competitions while trying to win the love of her boss/coach.

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14) “The East“: Spot on insight into the spoiled brat, hypocritical, murderous mindset of left-wing, anti-corporate activist terrorists in America. Their immoral, violent tactics are disturbing and a former FBI agent who infiltrates them ultimately sees the light after initially sympathizing with their cause. Fabulous actress Brit Marling is one of my favorites, as everything she’s in is different and insightful.

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15) “Warm Bodies“: Cute and charming movie that is at once an “interspecies” love story and also a thrilling post-apocalyptic adventure. America has been taken over by zombies, and a girl–whose father is the general leading the fight against them–falls for a zombie who is unlike the rest and doesn’t try to kill/eat her.

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Best/Most Bearable Chick Flick:

Love Is All You Need“: The most bearable chick flick I saw this year. And it was ultimately charming and funny, too. A woman, who has overcome breast cancer to find her husband has cheated on her, finds new love with the charming Pierce Brosnan–the father of her daughter’s fiance, who classes up the joint . . . and the movie.

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Best Documentary (A Tie Between These Two):

The Unknown Known“: A liberal documentary maker tries to make former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld look bad, but fails miserably. Instead, a great picture of the brilliance, integrity, and decency of the great Rummy emerges. I learned a lot about him, and admire him even more after seeing this. Stay tuned for my complete review coming soon.

No Place On Earth“: Holocaust survivors revisit the underground caves in the Ukraine where they spent over a year of their lives hiding from the Nazis, and they recount how (some of them) barely survived. Very interesting and touching. Stay tuned for my complete review in the next week.

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*** Best Movies of 2012

1) “Argo“: Terrific dramatization of the Shi’ite Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 and how the Canadian Ambassador and a CIA agent helped six American U.S. Embassy workers escape Khomeini’ist Tehran. Could have done without the anti-American “explanation” at the beginning, and the movie gives short shrift to a Canadian official, John Sheardown, who was the real hero of the story. But still a great movie.

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2) “Frankenweenie“: Fabulous, creepy, and cool animated black and white movie about a kid in the ’50s who conducts scientific experiments to try to revive his dear, departed dog. Each of his friends and classmates is modeled on a classic horror movie character/monster.

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3) “Ruby Sparks“: Great science fiction “Twilight Zone”-derived story about a famous author who has writer’s block and creates a fictional girlfriend on his typewriter, making her real. Charm extraordinaire.

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4) “Giant Mechanical Man“: Best chick flick all year. An unemployed woman forced to move in with her sister meets a classy, underpaid street mime performer. They work together at the zoo and find romance. Very well done, touching. Not gushy.

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5) “The Grey“: Great survival adventure, as Liam Neeson and other oil workers fight to survive the winter and the wolves after their plane crashes in the middle of nowhere. Man versus nature is always thrilling.

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6) “Flight“: An alcoholic, drug-addicted airline pilot fights to keep his job and reputation after a plane crash in which he heroically saves most of the passengers, but was on drugs at the time. Great portrayal of what drugs and alcohol can do to ruin a life, but also about redemption.

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7) “Silver Linings Playbook“: A man emerges from a mental hospital still slightly crazy and still obsessed with getting back together with his estranged ex-wife. But he finds salvation, ultimately, in a dancing competition and his dance partner, a cop’s widow. Very funny!

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8) “Robot & Frank“: A futuristic movie in which a senior citizen former bank robber is cared for by a robot, who becomes his friend and partner in crime. Very cool and fun. Frank Langella at his best.

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9) “End of Watch“: A great portrait of the crime and possibility of death that cops on the streets of America’s inner cities face every single day and the heroism and kindness they display in the heat of battle.

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10) “The Kid with a Bike [Le Gamin Au Velo]“: An important demonstration of what happens to a kid a without a strong father in his life. A young boy is dropped off at an orphanage by his loser father, who doesn’t want to bother raising him. The boy gets caught up with the wrong crowd and it could have life-changing consequences. Must viewing for every babymama and babydaddy.

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11) “Chronicle“: Teen boys get superpowers but have no parental supervision or accompanying morals until it’s too late. Sadly, far too many kids in America–and thank G-d they have no superpowers–are like the kids in this movie. Great science fiction film with social commentary mixed in.

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12) “Haywire“: Great action flick caper movie. I don’t normally like tough chick movies, but with MMA champ Gina Carano, it’s a different story. And far more believable.

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13) “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World“: Charming, touching movie about two neighbors who seem like an odd couple but get together to spend their last days on earth amid the chaos, after it’s learned that a meteor is headed to planet earth and will destroy it very soon.

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14) “The Words“: Fabulous social statement on plagiarism through the eyes of the successful author who stole his masterpiece from a far better man and war hero. While the ending is less than satisfactory for those of us whose work is frequently ripped off by others, it’s still an interesting and engrossing tale well told.

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15) “The Sound of My Voice“: Terrific statement on the nature of cults and the idiots who join and enable them. A man whose mother died when he was a kid infiltrates a cult to make a documentary exposing it. There are a lot of unexplained, unanswered questions here, though, and a lot of loose ends. Sometimes that makes for a good movie and makes you think. As with all Brit Marling movies, it’s different and interesting.

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16) “Arbitrage“: Although this is clearly anti-business and told from a left-wing point of view, the main character in the movie, masterfully played by Richard Gere, is clearly based on Bernard Madoff, who was a bad guy, indeed. But I liked it because it is really a thrilling, suspenseful crime movie, involving a death and the cover-up, and the cops’ attempt to uncover it. Even though the movie clearly roots for Gere, it’s an enjoyable, entertaining experience, but for the presence of Susan Sarandon, whose character is as obnoxious and annoying as the actress is in real life.

17) “Headhunters [Hodejegerne]“: Great caper/thriller film about a corporate headhunter who has a secret life as an art thief in order to keep his model wife in a life of luxury. Heart-pounding from beginning to end and also very funny. Many plots and twists you won’t see coming.

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Best Documentary:

1 (Tie) – “First Position“: Very touching, entertaining, and suspenseful look into the world of ballet for kids. The work ethic and goodness of the kids involved makes you wish all Americans were pursuing ballet instead of watching the Kardashians and spending their days on Facebook.

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1 (Tie) – “Jiro Dreams of Sushi“: Very interesting insight into the life of the world’s top sushi chef and his life as an octogenarian Japanese perfectionist. Don’t see this on an empty stomach, even if you hate sushi (as I do). Whether or not you’re a foodie, you’ll find Jiro’s work ethic, tough upbringing, life story, and technique of interest.

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2) “The Flat“: An Israeli man learns that his grandparents were friends with a high-ranking Nazi even after the Holocaust. He confronts his relatives and the Nazi’s relatives. Although he really doesn’t give the whole story and commits something of a disservice to his deceased grandparents, it is still very fascinating.

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3) “Undefeated“: A high school football team in the inner city South overcomes many odds, and White guys aren’t the bad guys. They’re the ones who lift the team up, despite the lifestyle that plagues the culture. Uplifting.

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14 Responses

Thanks for the list. I always find your reviews most helpful. I always have a soft spot for Bullock: she plays a certain type of female so well. And it is a part she can age well in as an actress. There will always be a roll for her if a director/producer is savvy enough.

Lamb roast and horseradish tonight. Happy New year.

pat on December 31, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Thanks for the reviews. I most often agree with your likes/dislikes. I had been looking for your 2012 list. Glad you included it here.

Joe G on January 1, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Thanks for the list DS, and I’m glad that you gave “The Flight” a good review and published it on your top films of 2012 and 2013.

And to the troll who commented at 3:40 am today, I won’t be surprised if DS decides to file a defamation lawsuit upon you, in this country, we have “Defamation/Libel/Slander” laws, if you dare make up fallacious stories of anyone without any clarification(s) or proof to back up your assertions, you’ll be in ALOT of trouble by walking on thin-ice. Anyway folks, Happy New Year, and may this year that this blog will be “troll-free” (I doubt that’s gonna happen).

“A nation is defined by its borders, language & culture!”

Sean R. on January 1, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Website down? Must have been some party last night. Thank you kindly. I look forward to your reveiws before spending any money on junk.

Larry Schneider on January 1, 2014 at 4:29 pm

As an attorney I found Sean Grant’s [sic?] comments not only potentially slanderous, but bizarre and unlikely. It sounded like that Muslim Speak we see so often on web sites frequented by young uneducated Muslims, ie the vast majority. A quick trip to the Michigan Bar confirmed my belief that anyone one who read that now deleted comment should be assured that it is a complete fabrication.

pat on January 1, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Happy New Year, everybody! 🙂

Infidel on January 2, 2014 at 12:04 am

Need to see “The East.” Knew it was coming out, but it was here and gone. My wife is “About Time’s” biggest word of mouth promoter. She cried three times in the movie and outside the theater after it ended. And it’s a comedy.

gmartinz on January 2, 2014 at 1:07 am

Waiting for Sugarman.

Best documentary. Please see and add to your list

Paul on January 2, 2014 at 3:45 am

Good list but one from last year that I think should be included was Lincoln.
I know many of the people involved with it are Israel haters, but that movie was brilliant (and had nothing to do with Israel).
I have studied Lincoln for decades and that movie was the finest portrayal of Lincoln that I have ever seen. Danial Day Lewis was perfect as Lincoln and his Academy Award was well deserved.
Sally Field was excellent as the Bipolar Mrs Lincoln and I loved Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens.

Also, the evidence wasn’t there regarding Jefferson’s affair, but I believe that it is for Steven’s relationship with Lydia Hamilton Smith and the movie got this right. She nursed him when he was sick and she, her sons, and 2 black preachers were at his deathbed and his will left her his house.

Anyhow, a very well done movie that I enjoyed immensely (and so did Debbie–check out her review).

JP: Originally, Lincoln was one of my best movies of that year (2012), but then we all learned how the facts were changed, such as Connecticut voting against the 13th Amendment (when it didn’t) and so on. I hate to praise movies that pretend to be history, but are actually fraudulent. That’s why it is not on this list. DS

jimmyPx on January 2, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Thanks for the list Debbie. I’m loading up Netflix right now.

Ken B on January 2, 2014 at 7:11 pm

Iron Man 3….


Nick Fury on January 3, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Thanks Debbie, great list

Frankz on January 5, 2014 at 11:02 am

The torture of the suspected kidnapper is central to Prisoners and it’s in there for a reason but that doesn’t bother me so much.
A morality tale is a morality tale and that’s often what you get in a movie with an unhappy or at least ambiguous ending.

What bothers me is who the real prisoners are supposed to be.
There are only two overtly religious characters in the film.
It doesn’t seem to end well for either of them.

Poison doesn’t always come in plastic containers.

Frankz on January 5, 2014 at 9:52 pm

The Grey was an ok action movie, but could have been much better. What a fantastic opportunity to show off some wilderness survival skills, and to learn about the Yukon wolf. Instead, this was just another sci-fi horror film, replacing killer aliens with wolves.

JoeG on January 14, 2014 at 7:00 pm

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