15 Movies from 2013 that Deserve a Second Look

Published 10 months ago by , Updated July 21st, 2014 at 8:09 pm,

2013 Side Effects Header 15 Movies from 2013 that Deserve a Second Look

Having passed July’s midpoint, the world is officially on the down-slope of 2014’s unusually solid summer blockbuster season. As box office trackers tally the season’s winners and critics begin the debate on what was actually worthwhile, we find ourselves in the mood to look back – way back.

Every year, dozens of films are overshadowed by more popular, more profitable, more talked-about, and more awarded features. This doesn’t mean these movies were bad – only that they lacked that certain spark that creates a culture-defining work. Screen Rant’s nostalgia for the waning season has left us wondering at all the titles that could have been contenders last year.

Far removed from their release dates, some titles can gain a new appreciation among critics and general audiences alike. In the home market, 2013’s most underrated could finally find the popularity that they cry out for. In that spirit, we have cobbled together a list of 15 movies from 2013 that disappointed critically or at the box office, but deserve viewership nonetheless (in no particular order).

1. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

2013 Secret Life of Walter Mitty 15 Movies from 2013 that Deserve a Second Look

Despite an evocative promotional campaign, well-recognized lead, and a feel-good message, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (read our review) did tepid business in the United States. Though the film made a profit through the international box office, it remained something of an oddball disappointment.

While it may have ended up slightly more generic than advertised, the flick is also an emotionally rousing ride with eye-popping visuals. Ben Stiller’s direction is confident and often creative, and the plot builds to a genuinely emotional climax that could have come off as schmaltzy in lesser hands. Any seekers of inspiring cinema would do well to consider The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

2. Saving Mr. Banks

2013 Saving Mr Banks 15 Movies from 2013 that Deserve a Second Look

Though it’s been characterized as awards bait, Saving Mr. Banks (read our review) comes off more like a somewhat idiosyncratic passion project. The story of Walt Disney’s attempts to woo author P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins novels, Saving Mr. Banks traces the prickly negotiations between the two, along with flashbacks fleshing out Travers’ childhood.

Sure, the film can wax a little bit hagiographic when it comes to Disney. However, Tom Hanks is consistently amusing as the overenthusiastic studio head, whose verve for the project is infectious. Combine all this with meticulous period detail and an exacting performance from Emma Thompson, and Saving Mr. Banks certainly deserves a new audience.

3. Stoker

2013 Stoker 15 Movies from 2013 that Deserve a Second Look

A methodical, painterly exercise in dread, Stoker (read our review) was probably not what fans of director Chan-Wook Park expected out of his English-language debut. Used to the bombast of titles such as Oldboy or Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (and perhaps forgetting the similarly paced Thirst), viewers could be forgiven for being put off by Stoker‘s chilly meticulousness.

At the same time, the film is genuinely unnerving, featuring an entirely unpredictable cast of characters who all seem to be approaching some event horizon of madness. Especially impressive is Mia Wasikowska as India Stoker, who ramps up to full-blown psychosis in a way that’s both believable and disturbing.

4. It’s a Disaster

2013 Its a Disaster 15 Movies from 2013 that Deserve a Second Look

Beginning as an extremely uncomfortable comedy of manners, It’s a Disaster soon becomes something much darker. David Cross and Julia Stiles star as a couple who arrive at a long-awaited brunch – just before a massive terrorist attack dooms the entire West Coast.

Mining surprisingly strong comedy from the coping mechanisms of a group preparing to die, the movie manages to also directly engage with the pathos of the situation. It all ends on a joke so twisted and shameless that viewers will likely split the difference between gasping and bursting into wild laughter.

5. Don Jon

2013 Don Jon 15 Movies from 2013 that Deserve a Second Look

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s feature film-directing debut (read our review) is a strange beast, combining what could have been the premise of a raunchy comedy with a surprisingly mature examination of modern romance. Gordon-Levitt stars as the titular New Jersey ladies’ man whose long-term addiction to pornography has left him with warped sexual standards.

A premise that could have been used for a series of cheap gags is instead used for a warm-hearted, uncompromising look at sex and dating in the 21st century. It helps that everyone in Don Jon‘s cast is on point here – especially Gordon-Levitt himself, who brings an edge of unctuousness to his natural charm.


6. Mud

2013 Mud 15 Movies from 2013 that Deserve a Second Look

Like many of the entries on this list, Mud (read our review) suffers largely because it presents something rather different than the previous work of its creator – in this case, Arkansas-based director Jeff Nichols. Mud contains little of the festering violence of Shotgun Stories or the nearly unbearable dread of Take Shelter.

Instead, the film offers a unique combination of crime thriller and tall-tale bildungsroman, clearly drawing inspiration from Huckleberry Finn. It’s a gentler sort of movie than Nichols’ previous efforts, but just barely. Though it moves at a more languid pace than one would expect, Mud ends up a solidly shot, evocative piece of adventure cinema.

7. Prisoners

2013 Prisoners 15 Movies from 2013 that Deserve a Second Look

Prisoners (read our review) sets itself apart by creating a familiar story that proceeds to step over the usual boundaries expected of its genre. Whereas other movies about vigilante justice stumble over themselves to justify the morality of their protagonists’ actions, Prisoners takes the opposite tack – instead suggesting that every act of retaliation and violence is inherently self-defeating.

This lack of moral anchor can make the movie difficult to engage with, but it’s worth it – Prisoners is a pretty great thriller. Not only does the film reveal its grand design with tense economy, it also centers on Hugh Jackman’s career-best performance as a supposedly good man driven to do unforgivable deeds.

NEXT PAGE: Rush, Side Effects, and more!

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  1. Prisoners and Saving Mr. Banks were both definetly underappreciated. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was alright. It wasnt the best but it could be better

    • Agree about both Prisoners and Saving Mr Banks.
      The first crept you out slowly while giving wonderful acting chops, and totally blow you away at the end. The latter was a slow burner, but if you didn’t finish the movie with a warm heart, a smile, and a tears or two, I’m sure something is wrong with your heart. Plus, it made me really want to watch Mary Poppins 😀

      Still want to see Secret Life, Don Jon and Stoker, hopefully I can do that soon

  2. 1. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: very enjoyable movie with a GREAT soundtrack.
    2. Saving Mr. Banks: haven’t seen.
    3. Stoker: eery and interesting. A pretty good movie.
    4. It’s A Disaster: saw only parts of it, was funny from what I saw. David Cross is too funny.
    5. Don Jon: love JGL, did not love this movie.
    6. Mud: AMAZING. Tye Sheridan is a talent to look out for.
    7. Prisoners: great movie. Hugh Jackman is a crazy man.
    8. Rush: haven’t seen. Heard great things.
    9. Side Effects: another I haven’t seen that I’ve heard positive things.
    10. The Spectacular Now: haven’t seen.
    11. Disconnect: underrated.
    12. The Iceman: haven’t seen.
    13. Man of Tai Chi: haven’t seen.
    14. Frankenstein’s Army: haven’t even heard of this.
    15. Upstream Color: haven’t seen but heard great things!

    • I haven’t seen most of those movies, I think I saw 4 of them.

      The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was OK, I liked it, but it isn’t a repeat viewer for me.

      Prisoners I thought had good potential, but there were just too many times in the movie where a character reacted in a very unbelievable way just to perpetuate the story, where had they reacted more like how someone in real life would have in the same situation, a lot of things could have been avoided, but then the movie probably would have ended much sooner, so I guess I can see why it was done that way, but still, they stood out too much for me to fully enjoy it…

      Rush was amazing. Probably one of the best biopics ever made in my opinion, and definitely one of the best films of 2013. Ron Howard really did an excellent job with that movie.

      And Side Effects, I honestly don’t get all of the praise. The first half of the movie was actually REALLY good… But then the second half… To me, it COMPLETELY fell apart in the second half. Basically, it began with one person being completely cunning and super intelligent and manipulative, and another being completely gullible and so easily fooled. Then half way through the movie, all of a sudden the roles just magically switch and now all of a sudden the one that seemed so clever in the beginning just became the big dodo that falls for everything… I’m trying my best to describe what I didn’t like about it without spoiling anything. But basically, it was a movie where a problem is presented, then in the last half of the movie everything falls right in place to solve everything very conveniently. Almost felt like a tv show where a problem needs to be resolved in a limited time so that’s why the solutions seem to come so fast and furious. Except this wasn’t a tv show…

    • @bfudge
      Next time it will save you time if DONT write about the movies you “haven’t seen”.

  3. The way way back. It should be here period. Best of 2013.

    • Side Effects was great. I’m not a Soderburgh fan but I loved this movie.
      Mud was excellent.
      Stoker was horribly boring. Same for The Spectacular Now.
      It was hard to finish Don Jon. JGL should stick to just acting.
      It’s A Disaster is so forgettable I can’t remember if I thought it was any good or not.
      Prisoners was ok.
      Haven’t seen the rest.

      • I just finished watching Stoker off of VOD. Solid time waster. I think Park is out of ideas. I was waiting for something mind blowing like maybe India’s uncle is really her father, but it was just a run of the mill psycho flick.

    • That movie was phenomenal! Sam Rockwell rocks!

    • That had some charming moments, but ultimately I was disappointed. For all the attempts at stripped down real human moments, it flubbed some big ones and expected the audience to keep buying it. When it started to ring very false, like the break dancing scene, I felt the film makers were proving they didn’t expect an intelligent audience. It all fell apart for me. The Way Way Back is a failed attempt in my mind, that could’ve been truly powerful but wasn’t.

    • I LOVED the Way Way Back!

    • I didn’t think It’s a Disaster was very good at all. Boring.

  4. Rush was so good, one of the best movies of 2013.

    • I agree with you man, Rush was one of the best films of 2013 easy.

    • Agreed. I think we were the only 3 that saw it.

  5. Some awesome mentions on this list. I was really pleased to see The Iceman. I was captivated by Michael Shannon.

    • Pray to God… Tell him to come down and stop me.

  6. It’s Jeff Nichols hahaha, not Mike. But, totally agree with most of these picks

    • Clearly, I was referring to his evil, Oklahoma-based twin Mike. Or something. (It’s been changed.)

      Thank you for the catch!

  7. This list is ok.
    You forgot Frances Ha, All is Lost, Way Way Back, Kings of Summer, Worlds End, Out of the Furnace to name a few

    • I LOVE Greta Gerwig,but Frances Ha was not a very good movie at all,and for the first time,I found her extremely annoying and hard to watch.

    • Re: World’s End. That would be for the 15 movies destined for the garbage bin. Stay tuned….

      • Out of the Furnace was a underwhelming, too.

  8. Prisoners has to be the blandest and most predictable movie of 2013 followed by Side Effects and Thor 2. Also if you’re going to mention anyone’s performance, Jake Gyllenhaal is by far the best aspect of the movie. Then there’s Iceman which is about as tasteless as Pain & Gain. I couldn’t even make it through Upstream Color, Life of Walter Mitty, or Man of Tai Chi. Plus I’ve not seen Frankenstein’s Army, nor do I want to.

    On the other hand, I’m not a fan of Howard or Nichols, but Mud and Rush were both my biggest surprises of the year. Both very solid movies.

    • I can agree with most of what you said, except I didn’t hate Walter Mitty like you apparently did, but I didn’t love it either. I liked it, but I probably wouldn’t watch it again. I didn’t see Mud, but saw Rush and I agree that it was a big surprise. I ended up watching it twice in theaters and then once more on blu-ray to show to a friend that didn’t catch it in theaters.

    • P.S. I’d also like to point out that there are plenty of movies that pose the same moral conundrum as Prisoners.

    • If you liked gyllenhaal in prisoners you might like Denis villeneuve’s (prisoners director) more recent film Enemy. I think enemy is more enjoyable and the ending is awesome

  9. The Place Beyond The Pines should be on this list.

  10. Don’t laugh at me, but a movie that should be on this list is Escape Plan. That movie flopped and went right under everyone’s radar, but in my opinion it was a pretty fun movie and deserves to be seen… I know, it’s not an oscar winning movie, and honestly, Sly wasn’t really great in it. He seemed to have taken the movie more seriously than it should have been. But luckily we had Arnold, that hammed it up (but in a good way) to make it really entertaining. The movie really did rely on Arnold to be entertaining, but even with that, it was overall pretty enjoyable.

    • I agree. It was sort of in the expendables zone. Just a good time at the movies. Not asking for much just an entertaining movie.

  11. The second time I watched Upstream Color, knowing the endgame, it was one of the most emotional and enjoyable movies of the year. I saw Primer in theaters five times and it is easily one of my favorite movies of all time. He is a wonderful filmmaker who deserves all of the praise he gets, despite his somewhat cryptic narratives.

  12. This is a good list. I really love Walter Mitty, it was my fourth favourite film of 2013. I also really enjoyed Mud, but that is all I’ve seen (unfortunately) from this list. There’s only two movies I think are missing, The World’s End and Out of the Furnace. I really like those two.

  13. I saw a good amount of these movies and thought they were good but can also understand why they didn’t gain a bigger audience.

    Not everything can make $500 million at the box office

  14. I would also include

    “The Last Stand”

    Pretty good movie. Arnold played the “Im to old for this” card really well and Johnny Knoxville did well as the town looney. It was very predictable but even then I thought it was pretty good.

  15. From this list, the movies I watched we’re “The Iceman, Saving Mr. Banks, and Stoker.”. To be honest, I enjoyed each one while at the movie theater but have never given any thought to any of them until I saw this list. Yes, they were entertaining but like one movie critic says on YouTube “Once you leave the theater, it’s T-Minus minutes you never think about it again.”

  16. @Ken J

    I agree ‘Escape Plan’ was just FUN. My wife was out with my daughter, so I bought a few beers and watched what seemed like a 90’s action flick that brought back what a video rental should feel like. Total worth $4.95, and seeing Sly and Arnold throw down was ‘Amusing.’

    • @vslayer36

      And as much as it was just a “fun” movie, the little twist at the end was actually quite clever. 😛 Don’t say anything, it’ll spoil it for others.

  17. If you’re an action film buff, then you should definetly check out “Man of Tai Chi”. It had a “Bloodsport” 90s feel to it.
    It was Keanu’s directorial debut, the film was good for its genre.

    Also should be included in this list : “Grudge Match”. It’s Rocky Balboa vs. Jake LaMotta. Nuff said.

  18. “Sightseers” I cannot recommend it enough.

    “I give it a year” was a charming rom-com. It was a good date movie.

    “Pain & Gain” was surprisingly good. Not what I expected from a Michael Bay movie.

    Check out “The Family” but it was retitled as “Malavita” in some countries. DeNiro gave a subtle yet powerful performance.

    I just recently saw “Chinese Zodiac” on DVD. Jackie Chan was AMAZING! he’s in his 60s but still in great shape & still does his own stunts.

  19. I ended up watching Disconnect late one night on cable and was actually surprised by it.
    I won’t give it high praise but it’s a decent movie with solid performances.

    I’ve seen a good portion of the rest of the movies on the list and agree with the article except for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
    Every year we see a bunch of movies that seem to be Oscar Bait and sometimes it’s warranted and sometimes it’s groan worthy and TSLoWM falls in the latter for me.

  20. I watched Mud only yesterday and it was excellent. It’s a great drama about trust, choices and growing up with a bit of an adventure movie mixed in. It feels a bit like “Stand By Me” in places and it’s shot beautifully. Also great acting all around.

    I also liked The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Prisoners quite a bit. The latter could have gone a little more in-deph, considering the movie’s length, but that’s alright.