Looking Back: Ethan's Top 5 Favorite Films from the First Half of 2013

July 3, 2013

Kings of Summer

It's already July, and that means the year is half over. Though we have six more months of movies before we start thinking about what are truly the best films of 2013, we thought this would be a good time to take note of what we've seen so far and give proper praise. That's why I've decided to put together a quick list of my five favorite films of the year so far. They had to be released in theaters or VOD before July 1st to make the cut, so don't look for any Sundance films that haven't been given a proper release yet. There's been some great stuff, and there's still more to come, but these films made the cut as my absolute favorites right now.

#5. Spring Breakers

Spring Breakers

If you thought this film was a mess of nonsense and silliness, then you missed the point. The film which seemed skewed towards the young teenage demographic obsessed with the new MTV that is chock full of reality garbage and "sex symbols" is actually anything but a tribute to their superficial and ignorant lifestyle. The film is director Harmony Korine's prank on a generation of teens obsessed with irrelevant nostalgia, irresponsibility and a skewed American dream. With a group of girls (including Disney darlings Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez), scantily clad, looking for an easy way to escape and stay away from school 4-eva, and a James Franco looking like Kevin Federline, this film has more to say under the surface.

#4. This is The End

This is The End

Self-aware, meta and full of raunchy hilarity, This is The End feels like a comedy made by some of your best friends. Using the publicity and persona created by paparazzi, tabloids and more, Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg crafted a comedy that is equal parts hilarious and one of the most realistic reactions to an apocalyptic plot in years. Jonah Hill, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and more all poke fun at themselves almost as if they're in some sort of roast before the end of the world. All of this leads to a conclusion that had me keeling over in my seat with not one, but two surprise cameos that will definitely go down as two of the best in cinematic history.

#3. Sound City

Sound City

As a big fan of old school rock and roll, and the pure sound of analog music, this documentary from Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl had me tapping me foot and smiling ear-to-ear with love for all things rock. Taking a look at the prolific and now defunct studio called Sound City, which has seen albums from the likes of Nirvana, Neil Young, Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield, Trent Reznor and more. What's even better is the documentary closes with a look at the creation of a new supergroup album featuring all the aforementioned musical talents and many more as they use the analog Neve 8028 Console, the soundboard that brought these musicians to the studio in the first place. This is truly a rocking documentary.

#2. The Kings of Summer

The Kings of Summer

In the spirit of the season, The Kings of Summer (titled Toy's House when it premiered at Sundance earlier this year), is a near-perfect coming-of-age tale. Led by Nick Robinson, Gabriel Russo and Moises Arias, this story follows three teenage boys fed up with their home lives who decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land. Featuring a stellar supporting cast that includes Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally and other great comedians, the film is not only entertaining, but it has a lot of heart and insight into the true meaning of friendship. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has a bright future in filmmaking to say the least.

#1. Before Midnight

Before Midnight

This movie is the perfect romance. End of story. With two films (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset) preceding it, there's a rich history for the two central characters played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. But the beauty of Before Midnight, which Delpy and Hawke wrote with director Richard Linklater, is that the portrayal of real and true love on display, for better or worse, doesn't need that background to make the film work for the average viewer. This is a film that illustrates the ups and downs of living with and loving the person who completes you. From the romantic exchanges to the most brutal of verbal confrontations, this movie is love through and through. I loved this movie so much, I saw it twice at Sundance and again in theaters this summer. It has a good chance of being my favorite movie of the year when all is said and done.

So there you have it. There are several films that I have missed so far including The Great Gatsby, The Place Beyond the Pines, The Sapphires, Room 237, Mud and some other limited releases, so this is just from the films I've been able to catch this year. Stay tuned as we're putting together a list of 20 movies you can still look forward to in the second half of 2013. But until then, feel free to sound off with your thoughts below. What are your favorite films of 2013? What do you think of Ethan's list? Did we miss any?

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Really need to see The Kings of Summer and Sound City. Before Midnight is pure class. Thought Spring Breakers was garbage though.

Pietro Filipponi on Jul 3, 2013


spring breakers over mud? are you insane? spring breakers is a music video with no end???

cam mclauchlin on Jul 3, 2013


"spring breakers is a music video with no end" Oh if only this were true; one man's trash, etc...

Christopher Hall on Jul 4, 2013


I got SPRING BREAKERS but I still did not like it very much. I did, however, enjoy the last few minutes of the film.

DAVIDPD on Jul 3, 2013


My favorites of the year thus far are: 1. Upstream Color 2. Spring Breakers 3. Before Midnight 4. The Spectacular Now 5. The Way, Way Back I've only seen two of them twice (The Way, Way Back and Upstream Color) but as soon as #2 and #3 are on blu ray, and #4 hits theaters I'm seeing them again. Honorable mentions? The Place Beyond the Pines - You should check it out. Ryan Gosling and Dane DeHaan give kick-ass performances. Kill Me Now - Written and starring Michael Swaim of Cracked!, it's pretty hilarious. Dear Mr. Watterson - Best documentary of the year about Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes. Beyond the Hills - Engrossing and hard to look away. Side Effects - I love me some Soderbergh.

Greg dinskisk on Jul 3, 2013


I'm a little bum puzzled by my two down-votes with no comments. Usually there are comments if there are down votes... Oh well.

Greg dinskisk on Jul 7, 2013


If Spring Breakers and This is the End are two of the best films you've seen so far this year, you missed a whole lot. Spring Breakers wasn't nonsense and silliness so much as it was just the drunken scribblings of someone on their own spring break. You can try to find all the meaning you want in it, it still doesn't make it a good movie. I hate when people try to pass off how terrible a movie is with "you missed the point." I really want to see Kings of Summer and Before Midnight though. Only two great films I've seen thus far in 2013 are Place Beyond the Pines and Star Trek Into Darkness, but looking forward to Fruitvale, Wolf of Wall Street, Monuments Men, Hobbit 2, and many more.

Billy on Jul 3, 2013


I would agree with you, but I would also say, this article was expressing Ethan's personal opinion. I do not really agree with all the items on his list either, but they were his picks, not mine. I also am really excited and hopeful about the next six months of films: GRAVITY, ELYSIUM, ONLY GOD FORGIVES, PACIFIC RIM, THE CONJURING, INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2, & INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS.

DAVIDPD on Jul 6, 2013


I don't necessiraly think these are great movies but they happened to be the only ones i kinda enjoyed from 2013 so far: Oblivion, World War Z, Behind the Candelabra, Trance and Warm Bodies. A very week year it seems. Still haven't seen any proper indies like Before Midnight, Mud etc since i'm from Europe and they haven't been released yet.

grlica on Jul 4, 2013


1) Man of Steel 2) Oblivion

Bob on Jul 4, 2013


I feel sorry for you...

toksin on Jul 4, 2013


Who gives a shit

Guest on Jul 7, 2013


1. Man of Steel 2. Star Trek 3. World War Z 4. 42 5. Warm Bodies Sue me I'm an older guy and I like Scifi, Zombies and Action. Feel sorry for people who make fun of others for personal preferences.

Zederok on Jul 5, 2013


Springbreakers was pointless. That's its biggest issue.

ragethorn on Jul 4, 2013


It... really wasn't.

Greg dinskisk on Jul 7, 2013


I agree with this list except for Spring Breakers. It was really a pointless film. To be honest, they only made this movie so they could have these 4 chicks half nakked throughout the movie. And Selena G? Most overrated actress/singer. She can't do either. But i like the rest of the list and im glad that someone isn't fooled by the CGI crap fests they are throwing at the stupid (sorry) movie audience. At the core, all of them are empty. MOS had tiny moments of hope but then turned into yet another plot hole, lazy, CGI battle orgy. Into Darkness proved that JJ is a copy hack and one lucky sob to get away with murder (super 8 was a complete rip and so was this move). Sorry im ranting but only because i wanted these movies to be good and they were not. So hurray for a good list (minus 1) of actually well written movies.

toksin on Jul 4, 2013


If J.J had written the story, and script for Into Darkness I could see where you're coming from.

Indianamcclain on Jul 5, 2013


Seeing that you have such low brow and sentemental taste it probably wouldn't occur to you that we also need to know what your favorite flavor of ice cream is as well.

Justin bibber on Jul 4, 2013


And Alex's? I'm usually more in line with him. *though thanx for the headsup on Sound City - missed that somehow (ex audio engineer / current audiophile)

avconsumer2 on Jul 8, 2013

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