Top 10 Film Discoveries of 2013

Even more so than usual, I’ve slacked off seeing 2013 films during 2013. So instead of a dual-pronged attack of a 2013 Top 10 and a “New to Me” 2013 list, I only have the latter to share. But don’t fret, there are many great non-2013 movies… but you already knew that!


#10 Cinderella (1977)
Directed by Michael Pataki
Reviewed May 7, 2013

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There were definitely many films that I saw in 2013 that were better than Cinderella, but the memories from this one are burned deep into my brain and have refused to fade over time. I don’t think my situation is unique either, as my review has quickly become one of the most visited on this site thanks to a huge amount of people searching for “cinderella snapping pussy” or some variation on that. Oh, and “cinderella corn cob vibrators” comes up fairly often as well. It would seem that these images are universally locked in the psyche of anyone who sees them, causing people across the world to scour the Internet for information on this movie haunting the backs of their brains. It’s a strange one, to be sure, but it’s fun if you’re open to a softcore musical.

#9 Piranha (1978)
Directed by Joe Dante
Reviewed October 21, 2013

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Speaking of films that continue to cause ripples far after the credits have rolled, I’m convinced that all the kids in my elementary school who talked about piranhas infesting the local waterways had either seen this film or had been indirectly affected by someone else seeing it. I don’t know if a film could have that level of influence today. But even if I’m way off base, and I just happened to go to school with a bunch of paranoid, obsessed fans of actual piranhas, Piranha is a film that’s an absolute wild ride of awesome horror comedy. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Oh, and you know that creek in the hills behind your house? A guy at work told me they found a piranha up there. Watch out, man, and make sure you tell everyone you know.

#8 Superman (1980)
Directed by V. Madhusudhana Rao
Reviewed May 31, 2013

Last summer, I worked my way through every Superman film I could get my grubby hands on. It was a lot of fun for multiple reasons, but the absolute high point for me was this rare piece of film from the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Turning the Superman origin story into a revenge-driven quest for justice with a whole bunch of wonderful song and dance numbers is my kind of recipe for success, and succeed this version of Superman surely does. A must for B-Movie fans if you can track it down.

#7 Kull the Conqueror (1997)
Directed by John Nicolella
Reviewed November 15, 2013

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Kull the Conqueror is definitely one of my biggest surprises of 2013. Ever since I heard it featured a heavy metal soundtrack I’ve been keen to check it out, as I didn’t see how that could translate to anything other than a good time. I flip-flopped with myself about whether I should waste my time to watch this directly after watching the Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan films, but I was too curious not to go for it. The ultimate swaying factor was the idea that it could offer some shred of what the third Conan film might have been like, but as soon as I was watching, Kull grabbed ahold of my scruff and took me on a wild, swashbuckling, shirtless journey through high adventure and places unknown. If you like barbarian movies and you enjoy the good things in life, I suggest you give Kull the Conqueror a chance.

#6 Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin (1978)
Directed by Chen Chi-Hwa
Reviewed April 23, 2013

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While most of the Jackie Chan films I watched last year were revisits to ones I had seen as a teenager, I never saw Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin. It’s a shame really because it’s easily one of the best early Jackie films. Chock full of well-choreographed fights, Snake and Crane isn’t quite the Jackie we all know and love, but it shows inklings of what would eventually sprout into the style that later defined his performances. Frequent visitors will be familiar with my love of movies that are fun, and Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin is like a full loaf and a half of awesome, fun kung fu. If you dig Jackie and you’re scared of the early films burning you, you can’t go wrong with Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin.

#5 Sansho the Bailiff (1954)
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi
Reviewed May 23, 2013

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On a completely different note, Sansho the Bailiff is a film so emotionally draining that I doubt I will ever muster what it takes to watch it again. It’s an absolutely fantastic piece of filmmaking, but it’s one that puts its characters through the ringer and then puts them through it a few more times. And it’s not the type of situation that they can really do much about, so as an audience member you’re just left to mourn their situation and reflect on how fragile a nice, pleasant life actually is. Perhaps this isn’t the best way to sell the film to a new viewer, but if you like classic Japanese cinema it’s an absolute must-see. Just be prepared for serious heartbreak.

#4 Battle Royale (2000)
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
Reviewed February 21, 2013

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And in another complete tone shift: Battle Royale, the movie about high school students stranded on an island by their government and forced to kill one another. As exploitative and controversial as that quick synopsis might make it sound, Battle Royale actually handles its material with a sure, satirical hand that creates a film composed of a full range of emotions, not just the juvenile “kids killing kids” fantasy that I always imagined it to be. It’s definitely not one for everyone, but those able to accept its slightly futuristic, dystopian premise will find much to enjoy in Battle Royale. Oh, and don’t ever watch the sequel!

#3 Underworld U.S.A. (1961)
Directed by Samuel Fuller
Reviewed July 11, 2013

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I don’t know that there’s much more I can say about Underworld U.S.A. at this point. I’ve written a full, glowing review, and I already wrote one of these short summaries of my feelings on my Favorite Sam Fuller Films list. If anything, the film’s inclusion here is a testament to its staying power. As the months roll by, my thoughts continue to return to this wonderful, exciting, juicy film. It’s a shame more people haven’t seen it, so go see it! Especially if you enjoy Goodfellas or other Scorsese gangster films.

#2 Miami Connection (1987)
Directed by Richard Park
Reviewed February 18, 2013

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The term “So bad it’s good” is one that I don’t like, but it fits this movie perfectly. It is a combination of misguided filmmaking, pure passion, and everything that makes ’80s action movies great. Oh, and there’s dope rock songs, too? The fact that Miami Connection was rescued from obscurity only adds to its pedigree; it is like a fantastic gift from the gods. Through thick and thin, through fire and rain, through heartbreak and solid friendships, Miami Connection is a film that literally rose from the ashes like a phoenix destined for greatness. You need to see this incredible film.

#1 The Water Margin (1972)
Directed by Chang Cheh, Wu Ma & Pao Hsueh-Li
Reviewed September 13, 2013

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But through all the cult classics and great films I saw this year, not a single one came close to The Water Margin. It is a stunning film full of wonderfully told story and excellent action. The Water Margin is one of director Chang Cheh’s crowning achievements, a film worthy of acclaim and a place alongside other world cinema greats of the era. If you care at all about martial arts films, Chinese films or foreign films in general, do yourself a favor and step into the world of The Water Margin. Its story has intoxicated me so much during my viewing that I immediately bought a copy of the novel, first published in manuscript form in the late 14th century. But don’t let its age stop you from checking it out — there’s a reason it’s hung around for so long… it’s incredible.


So there you have it! I wholeheartedly recommend these films, and if you’re curious what’s just beyond the 10-film cut, I made a more expansive version on my Letterboxd account.

What were your favorite discoveries in 2013?

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