Cinematic storytelling was alive and well this year with a strong year of record-breaking movies. That means it’s time for a list! Unfortunately I missed a few interesting-looking ones in the theater (Thor 2, Ender’s Game, The Lone Ranger, Saving Mr. Banks, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Anchorman 2, 47 Ronin, Her) but that’s not quite enough to stop this list.
I have a very simple criteria for the list. Movies I absolutely want to see again and will rewatch the most get ranked higher. Movies I want to rewatch occasionally but not often are ranked lower. Movies that I rarely or perhaps never want to rewatch are not on the list. Now shall we begin?
10) White House Down
Overshadowed by the eerily similar Olympus Has Fallen, this movie deserved better. A comforting throwback to the zany action hero films of the 90’s, it sadly has arrived 20 years too late to make an impact. But it’s okay. White House Down reminds us action movies don’t have to be so deadly serious (Elysium) or stupidly serious (G.I. Joe: Retaliation). They can just be a fun feel-good romp that, while not exactly entrenched in realism, still gives the audience an entertaining spectacle to behold.
9) The Wolverine
Poor Hugh Jackman has played this character so many times that you would think there is nothing left to say about the tortured mutant. But removing Logan from North America and dropping him off in Japan gives him a fertile environment for dealing with his damaged psyche. The ninjas don’t hurt either. While it may not be the most necessary movie of 2014, if Wolverine ever needed another movie examining the curse of his immortality, well here it is.
It’s rare to see a movie with only two actors and has a trailer doesn’t give away the whole plot. What’s best about this film is how unexpected it is. It shouldn’t have been made. It’s too personal, too experimental, too expensive for such a quiet nuanced piece. How wonderful it is when a simple story like this can appeal to almost anyone.
Last year’s Les Miserables was technically good but so dreary. Frozen is a reminder that musicals can be fun and that good non-Pixar Disney movies can exist beyond the nostalgic magic of Wreck It Ralph. Rather than handing us a movie about an evil ice queen, Frozen told us about two sisters whose relationship has turned cold and distant. It’s the heart of the movie and boy does it press all the right buttons.
6) Iron Man 3
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is very interesting, but these are not the superheroes I grew up with. However Iron Man 3 continues to smooth things over not only by making up for the dreadful Iron Man 2 but by making me laugh and refusing to hide its main character behind his armor. Tony Stark is a hugely flawed person, no one’s first pick for a hero, but he rises above sappy sentiment and heroic idealism and stays true to his strength: he can tinker his way through trouble.
5) Monsters University
Unsure of whether I should expect a Cars 2 or a Toy Story 3, I’m glad to say that Monsters University surpassed all my expectations. The care and detail given to every single frame of this film, the absurd hilarity of monster higher education, and the incessant glimmer in Mike’s single hopeful eye all weave together into a coherent world for the story of two monsters who tried to be best at something. The brilliant final act of this film deserves a blog post all to its own.
4) Man of Steel
The Avengers was funny but the Battle of New York pales in comparison to the lightning fast Kryptonian brawl of Smallville, Kansas. This film is absolutely beautiful, the frenetic action scenes unparalleled in any other big budget comic book movie to date. While both critics and geeks voiced their complaints, audiences across the world rejoiced in something quite special: a Superman who actually fit on a big screen.
3) Pacific Rim
A rare original story to make a dent this year (alongside Gravity), Pacific Rim is Guillermo Del Toro’s dark creaturely passion brought to life. After losing his chance to make both The Hobbit and At The Mountains of Madness, it’s a giddy joy to see one of his unique visions realized. The Kaiju are terrifyingly powerful and watching the outmatched Jaegers prevail against them is quite sublime indeed.
2) Star Trek Into Darkness
Abundant character moments, memorable quips, relentless pacing, and plot twists galore create yet another valiantly wonderful Star Trek movie. Focusing again on the strange friendship between Kirk and Spock, the story grounds itself first in characters to support all the action happening front and center. Despite being quite a long movie, every time it ends I find myself longing for more time with these brave, talented and deeply hilarious characters.
Tied at number 2, Oblivion was sadly ignored by most people when in actuality it’s a beautiful meditation on the meaning of calling planet Earth our home. Always charming, Tom Cruise helms a story about forgetfulness and self-identity. Unlike so many action movies mentioned on this list, Oblivion gives us ample time to think and reflect as we enjoy the beautiful desolation of our destroyed planet.
1) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
This film has the honor of being the only movie on this list that I haven’t actually seen yet. Not fair, you say? Well remember my only criterion for this list is how often I want to rewatch the movie. And considering I have seen An Unexpected Journey ten times and watched the 3 main trailers for The Desolation of Smaug several dozen times, I am fairly confident I will end up seeing this film more times than any other movie on this list. It is the best movie of 2013 and I haven’t even seen it yet!
I hope you enjoyed this list and hopefully there will be more story-centric blog posts arriving in 2014.
Some movies that almost made the list but narrowly did not:
Oz the Great and Powerful
The Great Gatsby
World War Z
Movies that weren’t even close to making the list:
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Jack the Giant Slayer
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Now You See Me
The Lone Ranger