23 Films to See in 2013

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy star in Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight." Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy star in Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight.” Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.

Though 2013 has barely begun, a slew of hotly anticipated titles have already materialized on the calendar, including a handful destined to generate Oscar buzz prior to next year’s ceremony. Here are 23 pictures I’m already psyched to see in the coming months, from star-studded festival favorites to indie productions bursting with potential. A few of these alphabetically listed pictures already have tentative release dates (in parentheses)…

August: Osage County

Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a dysfunctional Oklahoma family has had quite a journey from the Steppenwolf stage to Broadway. Now it arrives on the big screen with an A-grade cast led by Meryl Streep. John Wells (“The Company Men”) directs.

Before Midnight

Richard Linklater set an extraordinarily high bar for himself when he directed Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in two captivating romantic interludes, 1995’s “Before Sunrise” and 2004’s “Before Sunset.” If the overwhelmingly enthusiastic Sundance buzz is any indication, the trio’s third installment of this masterful series just might be the best yet.

Black Box

On the heels of his sublimely nuanced masterpiece, “The Wise Kids” (which I cited as my favorite film of 2012), writer/director Stephen Cone returns with this tale about a grad student’s stage adaptation of a young adult novel. The talent-packed cast includes Josephine Decker and Austin Pendleton.

The Bling Ring

After proving that her acting abilities stretch far outside the boundaries of Hogwarts in last year’s marvelous “Perks of Being a Wallflower,” Emma Watson ventures even further outside her comfort zone in Sofia Coppola’s crime comedy about a group of celebrity heisting robbers.

Blue Jasmine

I imagine Woody Allen’s latest picture will have a different, more generic title prior to its release (“To Rome with Love” was originally “Nero Fiddled”). Hopefully its cast list won’t change by then either. Because the idea of Louis C.K. in a Woody Allen film is freakin’ awesome.

Captain Phillips

Sorry “Zero Dark Thirty.” You were a fine 9/11 drama, but nowhere near as pulse-pounding or provocative as Paul Greengrass’ “United 93.” The director’s latest fact-based drama stars Tom Hanks (who just gave his best performance in a decade in “Cloud Atlas”) as Richard Phillips, the captain of the cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009. (10/11)


Brian De Palma’s operatic adaptation of Stephen King’s shocker still remains one of the greatest guilty pleasures of all time. A remake is wholly unnecessary, but I’m still curious about what director Kimberly Peirce (“Boys Don’t Cry”) and stars Chloë Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore will bring to the material by staging it in the modern age of cyber-bullying. (10/18)

The Counselor

Javier Bardem and Cormac McCarthy go together like peanut butter and jelly, or a cattle gun and a human skull. McCarthy wrote the script for this Ridley Scott thriller co-starring Bardem, Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender. (11/15)

Dirty Wars

One of the most shocking documentaries at Sundance 2013 explored America’s covert warfare, while presenting an enormously critical portrait of President Obama. This is not fantastical right-wing propaganda (a la “2016: Obama’s America”), but a meticulously researched work of investigative journalism by director Rick Rowley and co-writer/star Jeremy Scahill that demands to be seen.

Drinking Buddies

It’s always hard to pick just one title from the ever-prolific Chicago filmmaker Joe Swanberg to place on an anticipated list. I’m dying to see his acclaimed drama, “All the Light in the Sky,” and his upcoming effort, “24 Exposures,” yet it’s the famous names (Anna Kendrick, Olivia Wilde, Ron Livingston, Jake Johnson) headlining the cast of this romantic comedy that have raised a number of eyebrows in the indie community. The picture is due to premiere this March at SXSW.


There are few filmmakers whose work I find as visually exhilarating and astonishingly visceral as Alfonso Cuarón. This two-character drama set in space could be his greatest tour-de-force yet, utilizing groundbreaking robotic camerawork to achieve seamless effects. (10/4)


After helming the wondrously brilliant and woefully underappreciated “Where the Wild Things Are,” Spike Jonze directs his own screenplay while accompanied by a gallery of top-drawer talent (including Amy Adams, reuniting with her “Master” co-star, Joaquin Phoenix).

Inside Llewyn Davis

Music has always played a key role in the films of Joel and Ethan Coen. I can’t wait to see how the filmmaking duo will go about recreating New York’s ’60s-era folk music scene in this drama featuring Oscar Isaac and two stars of HBO’s “Girls” (Adam Driver and Alex Karpovsky).

Kill Your Darlings

The buzz around Sundance regarding John Krokidas’ beat poet drama surprisingly didn’t center on Daniel Radcliffe’s performance as Allen Ginsberg (though he’s apparently very good). Most of the attention was paid to Dane DeHaan’s turn as Lucien Carr. I’d be more surprised if I hadn’t already singled out DeHaan as one of the most promising actors of his generation (for his sensational work in last year’s “Chronicle” and on HBO’s “In Treatment”). This role just might make him a star.


It’s a shame that Joaquin Phoenix’s baffling performance art overshadowed the release of James Gray’s “Two Lovers,” which was one of the best American psychodramas of the last decade. Gray’s latest stars Marion Cotillard as an immigrant who forges a friendship with a magician (Jeremy Renner).

Night Moves

Three environmentalists cause mischief in the latest feature effort from Kelly Reichardt (“Old Joy,” “Wendy and Lucy,” “Meek’s Cutoff), one of the great observational auteurs in modern cinema. Cast includes Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard and Jesse Eisenberg. (9/20)


Shia LaBeouf has gone on record saying that he does indeed have unsimulated sex in Lars Von Trier’s latest pornographic odyssey. Well, it sure beats “Transformers 4.”

Spring Breakers

How Harmony Korine, the director responsible for such avant garde gems as “Gummo” and “Julien Donkey-Boy,” managed to cast tween sensations Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson in this R-rated tale of debauchery is one hell of a tantalizing mystery. (3/22)


Another sensation straight out of Sundance 2013 was Park Chan-wook’s Hitchcockian brew of suspense starring the wonderful Mia Wasikowska as an alienated girl who forges an unsettling bond with her Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode). Nicole Kidman co-stars as the sort of mother that would send Joan Crawford running for the hills while clutching her wire hangers. (3/1)

To the Wonder

Terrence Malick, the triumphantly uncompromising and fearlessly polarizing visual poet who directed my favorite film of 2011 (“The Tree of Life”), returns with an even more abstract drama starring Ben Affleck and Javier Bardem. Regardless of the film’s merits, it’s guaranteed to be exponentially more interesting than “Argo.” (4/12)

Twelve Years a Slave

Sometimes an enticing cast list is enough to peak one’s anticipation. Take Steve McQueen’s historical drama about a New Yorker sold into slavery in the pre-Civil War-era South. It stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” stars Dwight Henry and Quvenzhané Wallis. Take that, Django.

The Wolf of Wall Street

For their fifth collaboration, Martin Scorsese casts Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, the New York stockbroker who went to prison after failing to cooperate in a fraud case targeting Wall Street corruption.

You’re Next

The delayed theatrical release for this 2011 horror pic from Adam Wingard has only increased the hype surrounding it. Joe Swanberg is said to deliver a particularly stunning performance in this blood-spattered yarn about a family hunted by a homicidal gang. The powerhouse cast of indie favorites includes Kate Lyn Sheil, Ti West and Amy Seimetz (whose own feature directorial effort, “Sun Don’t Shine,” also deserves special mention on this list). (8/23)

One response to “23 Films to See in 2013

  1. So much to look forward to! I’ve heard so much about You’re Next for so long, I’m surprised it actually exists.

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