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The very best movies of 2013

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby.
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby.

In advance and in honor of tonight's Academy Awards, I present my list of the top twenty movies of 2013. As always, this is the opinion of one critic, and comments are appreciated and welcome.

20. The East

This little seen indie about a corporate spy (Brit Marling, who also co-wrote the script) who infiltrates a group of ecoterrorists managed to be both thrilling and topical. The cast is top notch and includes Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, and Patricia Clarkson.

19. Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh's film about a troubled young woman (Rooney Mara) whose prescription drugs have unintended consequences is a rarity: a smart thriller that actually earns its twists and turns. It actually earns the term "Hitchcockian."

18. Iron Man 3

The best of the trilogy, despite the fanboy uproar over the unconventional handling of main villain the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). Robert Downey Jr. continues to be the best thing the Marvel movie universe has going for it in front of the camera. Read my original review here.

17. Stoker

Chan Wook-Park's first English language film is as disturbing and compelling as Oldboy, with Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode as a very strange family. The script by Wentworth Miller is original and unpredictable.

16. Don Jon

Joseph Gordon-Levitt proves his skill behind the camera with his directorial debut. The story of a New Jersey bartender could have been a parody of Jersey Shore in less capable hands, but is instead a poignant and touching comedy. Read my original review here.

15. Star Trek into Darkness

J.J. Abrams' continued reboot of the Star Trek franchise gets a heck of a villain in Benedict Cumberbatch. The film pays homage to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and stays true to the original while managing to completely rewrite the series' DNA. Read my original review here.

14. The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic gets the Baz Luhrmann treatment. The result is a kinetic and visually opulent adaptation that is much truer to the book than the earlier version. Leonardo DiCaprio continues to prove he is the greatest actor of his generation. Read my original review here.

13. This is the End

This movie, in which all the actors (Seth Rogen, James Franco, etc.) play satirical versions of themselves trying to survive the apocalypse, is unrelentingly and unrepentantly crass and crude. It is also hilarious and at times deeply moving, and is the best comedy of the year. Read my original review here.

12. Captain Phillips

Paul Greengrass is a director who understands how to make a taut action movie, and Captain Phillips is no exception. The true story of the highjacking of an American container ship is almost unbearably exciting, and features one of Tom Hanks' best performances of recent years.

11. Dallas Buyers Club

This is a film filled with performances both great and tragic, particularly Matthew McConaughey as a homophobic good ol' boy whose AIDS diagnosis turns him into an activist, and Jared Leto as a dying patient. Look for both actors to win an Oscar for their efforts.

Stay tuned for my list of the top ten movies of 2013.

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