The 10 Best Films of 2013 – A Fourth Opinion

The Act of Killing

Curiously, numerous esteemed filmmakers (such as Steven Spielberg and Steven Soderbergh) turned 2013 film festival junkets into talking point arenas on how cinema is dead as we know it. Dust off your glasses, Steven’s. From my vantage point the future looks very bright indeed. For yes, while more and more sequels, remakes and tentpole maneuvering is occurring, 2013 gave cineastes a large bounty of something we’ve not seen in years: originality.

What theme jumps out about 2013 in film? After I whittled down my list to the top 10 films, I looked hard and couldn’t find a unifying theme. There were stories from different continents. Most were modern. The indies vs. studios mode of thought didn’t even hold water this year as, post-Argo, Warner Brothers had a pretty brave slate. But there it was, something we’ve been told is the rarest of all things in film, was the actual common thread of 2013: all of my top films of 2013 were from original scripts.

And although I might get called a snob from time to time, it isn’t just my list that boasts originals. Look at any award nominations already announced or upcoming. The fight to get in that original script category is fraught with so many more blazing contenders than usual. I find that very exciting.

Is it a movement? Is it a pushback against the franchise film culture of never closing any narrative doors? I don’t know. I don’t think so. But as we keep getting told that studios have no respect for consumers smarts, it’s nice to know that the counterprogramming is flush with originality, not just within script, but by filmmakers exploring how the documentary medium can be re-shaped; how movies set in the future don’t have to be apocalyptic; and that, while digital cameras make images clearer, a choice of camera equipment can add as much to the narrative as a script itself.

Let 2013 stand as the year when filmmakers put the “death of cinema” talk to rest.

“Look at my shit,” not only became a quotable brag from James Franco in Spring Breakers, but also a refrain from filmmakers whose drawers had been stuffed with original scripts.

Now, please, look at my list.

Read William Bibbiani's picks for the Best Films of 2013.

Read Witney Seibold's picks for The Best Films of 2013.

Read Fred Topel's picks for The Best Films of 2013.

Brian Formo is a featured contributor on the CraveOnline Film Channel. You can follow him on Twitter at @BrianEmilFormo.