The Best and Worst Movies of 2013

  • Comments: ↓ 5 user comments
  • Publish Date: January 6, 2014

Wide releases: The best

Breakdown of 2013 Wide Releases (Min. 7 Reviews)
Good (Metascore ≥ 61) 44 films
Mixed (40-60) 63 films
Bad (≤ 39) 35 films
2013 Average Metascore 52.4
vs. 2012 average 52.9

Though the average Metascore for wide releases (films screening in at least 600 theaters) dropped by half a point in 2013 compared to the prior year, the percentage of films receiving positive reviews (a score of 61 or higher) remained almost identical, at just under 31%. There were a few more bad films released in 2013—35, compared to just 27 in 2012—but the films at the high end of the score chart were so good as to compensate for the increase at the low end.

Indeed, some of 2013's best films played at the multiplex, not the art house. Ten different wide releases met or exceeded the 81 cutoff denoting "universal acclaim" from critics, the highest such total in over five years. And five of those films scored 90 or higher. It's the first time since we initiated our film coverage in 1999 that so many wide release films have scored in the 90's in a single year.

Note that even though one of those films, Spike Jonze's Her, has yet to open nationwide (it will do so this Friday), most critics have already reviewed the film, and thus we don't expect its final Metascore to change much (if any) from its current 91, good for fourth place among all wide releases. Other films in the same situation (opening in a few cities in December and everywhere else in January) include Lone Survivor and Labor Day. Neither one is close to placing among the year's highest-scoring films, though the latter's score could conceivably change by more than a few points, since it will likely receive 30 or so additional reviews.

Only three sequels landed among our top 25 wide releases of 2013: Richard Linklater's Before Midnight, Star Trek Into Darkness, and the second chapter in the Hunger Games saga, Catching Fire. Many of the other high-scoring films were based on books (including 12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips, and The Spectacular Now) or on true events (American Hustle, Fruitvale Station, Dallas Buyers Club, for example). And a few even featured original stories, including Gravity, Her, The World's End, Enough Said, and Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine.

Nineteen of the 44 positively reviewed wide releases—that's 43%—were released after Labor Day, with the biggest chunk (45%) arriving during the summer movie season.

The Best Wide Releases of 2013
  Title Genre(s) Netflix Metascore Users
1 12 Years a Slave Drama+ Queue 97 8.0
2 Gravity Sci-Fi+ Queue 96 8.2
3 Before Midnight Drama+ Queue 94 8.0
4 Her * Drama, Comedy, Sci-Fi+ Queue 91 8.6
5 American Hustle Comedy, Drama + Queue 90 8.0
6 Fruitvale Station Drama + Queue 85 7.7
7 Dallas Buyers Club Drama + Queue 84 7.9
8 Captain Phillips Drama, Thriller + Queue 83 8.2
9 The Spectacular Now Drama + Queue 82 8.1
10 The World's End Comedy, Action + Queue 81 7.7
11 Enough Said Comedy, Drama + Queue 79 8.0
12 Blue Jasmine Comedy, Drama + Queue 78 7.8
13 Philomena Drama + Queue 76 7.8
14 Mud Drama + Queue 76 7.8
15 Rush Drama, Sports + Queue 75 8.4
16 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Sci-Fi, Action-Adventure + Queue 75 8.2
17 The Wolf of Wall Street Drama + Queue 75 7.6
18 Side Effects Thriller + Queue 75 7.1
19 Frozen Animation, Family + Queue 74 8.2
20 Prisoners Thriller + Queue 74 8.2
21 The Grandmaster Foreign, Action + Queue 72 6.8
22 Star Trek Into Darkness Sci-Fi, Action + Queue 72 7.9
23 The Conjuring Horror + Queue 68 7.6
24 The Way, Way Back Comedy, Drama + Queue 68 8.1
25 The Place Beyond the Pines Drama+ Queue 68 7.7

* Limited release in 2013, but opens wide this week.
Only movies with seven or more reviews released between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013 were considered. Re-releases are excluded. A wide release film is one that screens at 600 or more theaters. The Metascore is a weighted average of scores from top professional critics, on a scale from 0 (bad) to 100 (good). Although scores have been rounded to the nearest whole number, movies are ranked prior to rounding. User scores represent an average of scores assigned by site visitors on a scale from 0 (bad) to 10 (good). All scores in this article are from January 5, 2013.

Wide releases: The worst

Comedies, action films, and Tyler Perry movies dominate our list of 2013's worst-reviewed wide releases. The year's worst-reviewed movie (with at least seven reviews) was Scary Movie 5, the first release in seven years in the sadly still ongoing horror parody series. If it's any consolation, it was the lowest-grossing film in the series by a wide margin, though it did collect over $78 million at the box office. Another genre parody, The Starving Games, looked like it had a chance of taking the worst film of 2013 title away from Scary Movie 5, but even critics couldn't make themselves sit through the film, and it finished the year with only three reviews.

Note that after somehow failing to land in our bottom 10 in 2012, Adam Sandler made his triumphant return last year, starring in the third-worst film of 2013, Grown Ups 2. Of course, like most critically reviled Sandler films, it grossed well over $100 million.

Also note that the presence of a movie on this list doesn't actually impact the real world. Both Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and A Haunted House have sequels in development (the latter's follow-up, A Haunted House 2, hits theaters on March 28 of this year), while the terribleness of A Good Day to Die Hard wasn't enough to finally kill off the Die Hard franchise; a sixth film is being planned.

The Worst Wide Releases of 2013
  Title Genre(s) Metascore Users
1Scary Movie 5 Comedy, Horror 11 2.6
2 Movie 43 Comedy 18 3.1
3 Grown Ups 2 Comedy 19 3.2
4 A Haunted HouseComedy, Horror 20 5.1
5 Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters Fantasy, Action 21 5.6
6 Getaway Action 23 4.0
7 R.I.P.D. Fantasy, Action 25 4.4
8 Tyler Perry's Temptation Drama 27 2.8
9 Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas Comedy 28 4.0
10 A Good Day to Die Hard Action 28 4.9

Limited releases

On the next page, we reveal the best and worst limited release films of the past year, including many of the year's best documentaries and foreign films as well as some additional Oscar best picture contenders.

Comments (5)

  • AGK  

    Oh that's right, people prefer rubbish over comedy gold...

  • AGK  

    where's movie 43?

  • davidernst11  

    I hate to be a buzzkill, but clearly Metacritic forgets a lot of films exist. Where is InAPPropriate Comedy? It received an esteemed score of 1/100 on the Metacritic scale. You would think they would remember that movie existed. It was released in over 200 theaters after all. Also, Jewtopia had a score of 8, and was released in 26 theaters.

  • Soapert  

    Other than Frozen it was a weak year for the big animation studios.

  • Medley  

    Best (In alphabetical order):

    1) Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
    2) Captain Phillips
    3) Gravity
    4) Krrish 3
    5) Man of Steel

    Worst (in alphabetical order):

    1) G.I. Joe: Retaliation
    2) Thor: The Dark World
    3) Walking with Dinosaurs

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