National Media Museum blog

We explore the science, technology and art of the still and moving image, and its impact on our lives.

Django Unchained tops our favourite films of the year poll

Our film-loving staff – and a few friends – were asked to choose five favourite new films that they saw in a public space in 2013. How about you? Add your own choices in the comments section at the end of this post.

Django Unchained

Django Unchained

Few films this year have been quite so memorable, with Tarantino proving himself true to form. Not just an effortlessly stylish, bloodily violent revenge-western homage to the 70s/80s exploitation genre, but also one of the few American mainstream films to approach its country’s history of slavery and racism with a sense of irony and humour; which I guess doesn’t make it quite to everyone’s taste! – Symon Culpan, Projectionist

Enjoyed every second of Tarantino’s western; I love a bit of a bromance which came in the form of the characters played by Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz. – Rebecca Hill, Film Festivals Assistant

Not even Quentin Tarantino’s dodgy Aussie accent could taint this epic and violent adventure. As over the top as it was stylish, with cathartic cartoon savagery. Loved it. – Kathryn Penny, Film Manager

For almost twenty years films directed by Quentin Tarantino have let me down. But this time QT seemed to have stopped making films just for himself. He reconnected with the provocative, focused intelligence I’d almost forgotten. This was enhanced for me by watching it at one of our Senior Citizens’ Screenings; I recommend this for all (18) certificated films – Tom Vincent, Film Programme Manager

The Act of Killing

The Act of Killing

A chilling documentary in which the unique collaboration of the perpetrators of mass killings in Indonesia in the making of the film gets us into their heads more profoundly than conventional approaches could do. – Kristine Samuelson and John Haptas, Directors, Tokyo Waka (guests of Bradford International Film Festival)

If films can ever truly be useful, then this will be acknowledged as one of the greats. At the time of writing it is still playing in London over six months after release, a heartening sign that independent filmmaking, in the right hands, can shock and change. This is a mindboggling film that you might not have seen. Seek it out. – TV

The most critically lauded documentary of the decade, and not a word of praise was excessive. Film-making as perilously audacious political intervention. – Neil Young, Co-director, Bradford International Film Festival

The Selfish Giant

The Selfish Giant

Every element of this film was exceptional, but in particular it is the sound design that has stayed with me. – Toni Booth, Collections Manager

Clio Barnard’s powerful and sincere study of exclusion makes for a perfect, albeit distressing, parable of our times. – Kieron Casey, Marketing Executive

Simple yet utterly heartbreaking. – RH

Before Midnight

Before Midnight

I’ve grown up with Jesse and Celine. They’re like my super cool and attractive estranged friends. Long scenes with cringeworthy believable dialogue didn’t disappoint. We hope you make the long haul guys, see you in 9 years! – KP

The end of a trilogy that I didn’t particularly care about, and so much better than it had any right to be. The pattern of walking and talking was taken and really, really run with, to stretch the characters, the performers, and finally the film itself. I thought it had a huge amount of integrity for popular film, like a studio film from the 1940s – TV

Frances Ha

Frances Ha

Like Before Midnight and Blue is the Warmest Colour, a film where the performers are in creative control for much of the time. This is the one that I wanted to return to straight away. And so over the holidays, I will! – TV

A black and white, out of the blue modern masterpiece, with a glorious performance from BIFF Uncharted States alumna Greta Gerwig. You saw her here first! – NY

Blackfish

Blackfish

Depressing but compelling. – TB

A haunting study into the treatment of wild animals for the sake of entertainment, this is a documentary that raises as many questions to the audience (and to humanity) as it seeks to answer. Stays with you long after the credits roll and got many a good discussion going in the bar afterwards! – SC

Gravity

Gravity

A friend described this as “almost a masterpiece”. Visually stunning and edge of your seat tense with a health dollop of cheese and corn. – KP

Critics raved, the public flocked, and Sandra Bullock is homing in on her second Oscar. It’s written in the stars. Special mention: the seven-minute ‘spin-off’ of Gravity is a pure satellite of love; Read all about AningaaqNY

The Great Beauty

The Great Beauty

I liked this for the same reason I liked Django Unchained – because someone skilful was in control and allowing the audience to have almost as much fun as them. And like Django Unchained, this one was intoxicating. A film that you wanted to turn up loud. – TV

The most stylish film that I have seen this year. – Keith Withall, Film Extra tutor

Behind the Candelabra

Behind the Candelabra

Amazing performances by a great cast. Rob Lowe’s minor character stole the show! – RH

Big Bad Wolves

Big Bad Wolves

I enjoyed a preview of this Israeli horror at Celluloid Screams film festival. Brilliantly brutal and alleviated by some very black humour that shouldn’t work… but it really does. – KP

Blancanieves

Blancanieves

A delightful and romantic version of the Snow White fairy story in classic silent-era style with a southern Spanish twist; equal parts macabre and beautiful, sensual and odd. – Laura Ager, Leeds International Film Festival

Caesar Must Die

Caeser Must Die

Incredible, a completely fresh look at one of the Bards’ most worked-over plays. – KW

Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips

In a year where many protagonists demonstrated their ability to survive (Gravity, All is Lost, Blue Jasmine) I found Tom Hanks’ Captain Phillips the most thrilling film – despite the true-story nature and thus knowledge of the outcome, Greengrass kept the pace heightened with exhilarating results. – James Mason, Film Programming student, University of Bradford

Cutie and The Boxer

Cutie and the Boxer

A remarkable portrait of an eccentric pair of artists, with some surprising twists. – KS and JH

Ernest & Celestine

Ernest and Celestine

An absurdist, heartwarming and oft laugh out loud animation from the makers of (another personal favourite) A Town Called Panic. A sweet, charming and endearing little gem with an absurdist, offbeat heart rate. Wonderful. – SC

Ghost Graduation

Ghost Graduation

My highlight of Leeds International Film Festival, this Spanish comedy – which played like The Breakfast Club with ghosts and more than a touch of Almodovarian quirkiness – had me laughing from beginning to end – I urge you to seek it out. – JM

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt

Strong, convincing performances that told the extraordinarily complex story of a German-Jewish philosopher reporting on the trial of Nazi Holocaust organiser Adolf Eichmann. Powerful stuff. – LA

I Have Always Been a Dreamer

I Have Always Been a Dreamer

This year’s surprise package from Bradford International Film Festival. – TB

I Wish

I Wish

A beautifully judged story of childhood and its world. – KW

Iron Man 3

Iron-Man-3

The most fun blockbuster of 2013 (Thor‘s sequel just connected A to B to C, and Star Trek Into Darkness needed to lighten up), Robert Downey Jr’s lethal weapon was enlivened by a fantastic script from his Kiss Kiss Bang Bang boss Shane Black, and a marvellously left-field turn from Ben Kingsley as the big bad. – JM

Midnight’s Children

Midnight's Children

I thought that its weird mix of magical realism, history and mysticism was a brave and beautiful attempt to tell a monumental story, and while not a flawless film, it felt original and strangely invigorating all the same. – LA

Miracle in Cell no. 7

Miracle in Cell no 7

A quintessentially Korean tearjerker from the London Korean Film Festival, simultaneously bristling with righteous indignation at institutional corruption whilst gleefully celebrating the immutability of a parent’s love. Hilarious and heart-stopping in equal measures. – KC

Monsters University

Monsters University

Anyone who knows me will roll their eyes when they see this, but after waiting over 10 years for a sequel, I really wasn’t disappointed! – RH

Nebraska

Nebraska

Great to see Bruce Dern being given a role worthy of his talents. Great photography. – TB

No

No

Director Pablo Lorrain’s touch of genius here lies in his decision to shoot poor quality U-Matic video in order to seamlessly integrate real period documentary elements – a technique which not only highlights the immediacy and drama, but gives the whole film a documentary texture which draws you in as if you’re really there. A gripping, insightful and informative film about Chile’s not too distant past. – SC

Paradise: Love, Faith, Hope

Paradise Love

An trilogy of complete formal and moral rigour. – KW

Pearblossom HWY

Pearblossom HWY

A bittersweet, laconic and empathetic study of young outsiders searching for a place to belong and people to belong with. Mike Ott’s latest feature underscores why he is amongst the most perceptive and inventive film-makers in America today. – KC

Populaire

Populaire

Like Rocky filtered through Bringing up Baby – a charming and elating film full of wit, verve and joie de vivre. – KC

Post Tenebras Lux

Post Tenebras Lux

The magical scene with the little girl in the field of cows comes back to me time and time again. – TB

Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury

Rio A Story of Love and Fury

Another (Leeds International) Film Festival favourite, this animation tells the story of resistance and oppression felt by peoples in Brazil, from colonisation by the Portuguese to an imagined future through a conceit that calls to mind Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. Beautiful to behold, with a thought-provoking non-preachy moral backbone. – JM

Something in the Air

Something in the Air

An enjoyable, semi-autobiographical look at post 1968 France, its politics and the younger generation’s orientation toward them, by a director I was introduced to through BIFF. – LA

Stranger By the Lake

Stranger by the Lake

Provocative, sexy and chilling, Stranger‘s tale of lust and love at a gay cruising ground beside a picturesque French lake lingered in my mind for weeks afterwards. – JM

Stray Dogs

Stray Dogs

Misery, mystery and mastery on the mean streets of 21st century Taiwan. Ends with one of the greatest shots in cinema history. Hits UK cinemas next year and demands multiple big-screen views. – NY

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The Hunger Games Catching Fire

The standard by which all mainstream blockbusters must now be measured. – KC

The Hunt

The Hunt

A totally believable thriller about how group think turns a lie into the truth, with great acting and a script that makes it all work. – KS and JH

The Lunchbox

The Lunchbox

My heart swelled so much for this film I nearly ran out of space in my chest. A small and lovely film about a widower whose life changes direction with the introduction of a little correspondence and good food. – KP

The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines

Started slowly but after the first 45 minutes I was hooked. Well structured and completely absorbing. – RH

The Square

The Square

This film literally brought us into the middle of the events at Tahrir Square, and we appreciated that it was updated after the coup. A depressing turn of events, but important that all viewers have a good sense of the current situation. – KS and JH

The Stuart Hall Project

The Stuart Hall Project

One of the foremost intellectual figures of the left artfully puts the social struggles of the 20th century into context, with a Miles Davis soundtrack and masses of BBC archive material. This film was love at first sight. – LA

The Wall

The Wall

Two fine performances; Martina Gedeck and Lutz, canine star of the year. – KW

Wadjda

Wadjda

Effective as both a piece of social commentary and a heartwarming tale of childhood, this is – remarkably – the first ever film to come out of Saudi Arabia. If they’re going to be as good as this, I look forward to some more. – SC

Vic + Flo Saw a Bear

Vic + Flo Saw a Bear

The only one of my quintet yet to secure a UK distributor is a Sapphic romance that trumps even Blue is the Warmest Colour. – NY

About Tom Vincent

I programme the cinemas at the Museum, and am one of the directors of Bradford International Film Festival.

2 comments on “Django Unchained tops our favourite films of the year poll

  1. Lee Eltzroth
    December 21, 2013

    Would love to share this with my Twitter community, why isn’t it on your blog?

    E. Lee Eltzroth georgiaphotographers.wordpress.com @galpix on Twitter

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. An inspiring list, makes me realise how many great films I missed in 2013!

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This entry was posted on December 26, 2013 by in Bradford International Film Festival, Film and Cinematography and tagged , , , , , , .

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