Looking Back: Joey Picks His 20 Favorite Scenes from the Films of 2013
by Joey Magidson
December 24, 2013
(Note: we would love to embed a video for all of these scenes, but most aren't available online yet as many of these movies are still playing in theaters right now! Catch them on the big screen while still you can.)
#10. The opening sequence in Gravity
I know many folks really love this scene more than any other in 2013, but for me it's at least Top 10 worthy. We're introduced to Sandra Bullock and George Clooney working on the Hubble Telescope during one amazing, nearly 20-minute long shot. It loses a little something when not seen in full-on IMAX 3D, but still, this is one of the most visually stunning scenes of 2013, so it completely deserves a spot on this list. Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity is a visual feast, particularly this opening sequence right at the beginning.
#9. Theodore meets Samantha in Her
I adore the final scene in this movie just as much, but there's something even more beautiful about watching Joaquin Phoenix's Theodore "meeting" Scarlett Johansson's Samantha - his new operating system. It's one of the more creative meet cutes in movie history, take my word for it there. I don't want to over explain it, but merely assure you that it's a sequence that stays with you throughout the rest of the film. Spike Jonze's Her is the best movie of 2013 to me, so this scene was a surefire inclusion on this list.
#8. The dinner table scene in August: Osage County
Up until this moment, I was lukewarm on the movie - a familial drama adapted from Tracy Letts' play. Then, Meryl Streep's character starts tearing into her family and things really do pick up. As good as the scene is on its own (and it's brutally funny in a real dark way), the fact that the film continues to improve from there on out shows me how crucial this sequence is. Without it, I can safely say that the flick would be a big old failure. With it, August: Osage County actually becomes a modest success.
#7. The opening tracking shot in The Place Beyond the Pines
One of the most beautiful shots in Derek Cianfrance's mesmerizing triptych film, we follow Ryan Gosling's character as he walks through a carnival to his motorcycle to perform a stunt. Staying in tight on him, we begin to form a bond with Gosling's Luke, which comes into play later on in the movie. It's a brilliant choice in the overall brilliant movie that The Place Beyond the Pines is.
#6. Bob Dylan comes on stage in Inside Llewyn Davis
Like ships passing in the night, when Bob Dylan comes on stage to perform after Llewyn is kicked out, the hopelessness of his plight comes in with full force. He's trying to make a living in a field that's about to change forever and leave him in the dust. Llewyn might not realize what's happening, but we do, and it's absolutely heartbreaking. Anyone who's struggling to make it in a business that's likely never going to embrace you like you want will feel for Oscar Isaac in a big way here. Inside Llewyn Davis is full of quietly powerful moments, but this one takes the cake for me.
#5. Solomon is reunited with his family in 12 Years a Slave
I'll admit to not being amazingly affected on an emotional level with parts of this film, but when Chiwetel Ejiofor's Solomon Northrup is reunited with his family and actually apologizes for his absence, I nearly broke down. It's the welcome release that you need for this not to be an overwhelmingly depressing experience. If the movie winds up winning Best Picture, it will be at least to some degree because this scene is in the film. Without it, I don't think 12 Years a Slave would have any chance of winning.
#4. The hotel room fight in Before Midnight
An extended argument between Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke shows their character's relationship and dynamic in a way that we've never seen before (despite two wonderful films about them in the past). Brutally realistic in every sense, anyone who's been in a long term relationship will find something recognizable in this fight. I won't say what happens to them from then on out in Before Midnight, but it's a whole new world for this franchise.
#3. Jordan tries to get into his car in The Wolf of Wall Street
The funniest scene of the year sees Leonardo DiCaprio's Jordan Belfort struggling to open the door of his car without most of his motor skills after taking too many Quaaludes. It's a ridiculously funny bit of physical slapstick comedy on DiCaprio's part, and it continues right up until the Popeye inspired climax back at his house. I haven't laughed that hard in a very long time, so kudos to Martin Scorsese and The Wolf of Wall Street for getting that kind of reaction out of me.
#2. Richard Phillips breaks down in Captain Phillips
After keeping his composure throughout his whole hostage crisis, Tom Hanks' Richard Phillips finally releases his emotions while being examined by a doctor on an aircraft carrier. It's an Oscar moment if ever there was one, and one of the finest moments in Hanks' rather esteemed career. I liked the movie a lot, but I absolutely loved this scene. It's a perfectly captured moment and the highlight of Captain Phillips.
#1. The car ride home in The Spectacular Now
I don't know if I can completely explain why this is the scene of the year to me, but it is. Seeing Miles Teller finally realize who he is in the car with Shailene Woodley after spending time with his father, the emotional outburst by Teller takes you completely by surprise, and that's before we even see what's to come moments later. This sequence takes the movie to a whole new place and an even more brilliant level. It's just an absolutely perfect few minutes of cinema. My hat is off to James Ponsoldt's The Spectacular Now.
Those are the scenes that I loved from the films of 2013, but there were plenty more to love that made this a great year for cinema. Over the next few days we'll look at some more of 2013 on film, including posters, soundtracks/scores, comedies, horror and some of the staff's picks for the best films of the year. Be sure to check out my picks for the best performances from an actor and the best performances from an actress from earlier this week. In the meantime, what do you think of my picks? Did I miss some of your favorite scenes of 2013? It's your turn to tell us your favorite scenes on the big screen were this year. Sound Off below!
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