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by Steve Greene and Eric Kohn
December 30, 2013 9:07 AM
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'The Past,' 'The Unknown Known' and 'The Selfish Giant' Join Ten Others on Updated List of Best-Reviewed 2013 Films Among Criticwire Members

According to the nearly 500 critics listed in Indiewire's Criticwire Network, there are over 70 indie films that have been released in theaters or on digital platforms this year worth checking out. Of course, 2013 still has a few more months to go. The following list, updated on a weekly basis, contains all films released in 2013 that currently hold a B+ average or higher on Criticwire as long as they have been graded by at least 15 critics. 

You can also browse a list of the top-rated documentaries released in 2013 here

Our recent end-of-the-year critics poll brought in a wealth of new grades and reviews for films all over the 2013 spectrum, from "Grown Ups 2" to festival favorites like Jafar Panahi's "Closed Curtain." As a result, our Best Reviewed Indies list underwent a bit of an overhaul, with grade totals shifting, grade averages changing and a number of new titles appearing amongst the collection. 

Some of the new arrivals to this list are no surprise: Asghar Farhadi's "The Past" might not have enjoyed the overwhelming response at Cannes that his previous effort "A Separation" enjoyed, but some reevaluation at TIFF and in anticipation of its recent release has it firmly in the upper echelon. Heavy hitters "American Hustle," "The Wolf of Wall Street" and "Her" also have spots now, with the last of those becoming just the fourth film this year to achieve the mystical "A" average (joining "Before Midnight," "The Act of Killing" and the newly-"A"-minted "12 Years a Slave"). 

Documentaries from a pair of genre legends now have prominent placement on the list. "The Unknown Known," Errol Morris' conversation/examination of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and "At Berkeley," Frederick Wiseman's exhaustive look at one of the main institutions in the University of California system both enjoy a combination of positive reviews from recent theatrical and festival runs.

In the grades shuffle, "Fruitvale Station," "The World's End" and "Enough Said," which have all teetered on the "A-"/"B+" divide for a few months now, both vaulted into the Top 25 based on an influx of positive reviews.

But it's the new additions that make this particular update a notable one. Films from all over the 2013 release calendar now have a spot on the list after garnering enough reviews to qualify, including a pair of films released in the first quarter of the year. Eytan Fox's "Yossi," the follow-up to his well-received 2002 film "Yossi and Jagger," was in theaters nearly a year ago back in January, while Dan Sallitt's "The Unspeakable Act" was available as far back as March.

Two films from Sundance 2013 crack the list: Shaul Schwarz's "Narco Cultura," a documentary chronicling constantly evolving US/Mexico border relationships and Alexandre Moors' "Blue Caprice," a dramatization of the DC Sniper saga. "Prisoners," which made its debut at this year's TIFF, also got a boost from end-of-the-year votes, rising to an overall "B+."

Rounding out the diverse slate of new additions are films with literary pedigree. Matías Piñeiro's "Viola" takes place amidst a production of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" while Clio Barnard's "The Selfish Giant" takes its inspiration from the Oscar Wilde short story of the same name.


  • justin | December 30, 2013 8:26 PMReply


  • lmao | January 5, 2014 11:28 PM

    Jajajaja yeah right!

  • Allen | December 7, 2013 5:20 PMReply

    I'm pretty open-minded and yeah sure different people dig different movies. But Spectacular Now beats films like Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska and The Hunt? Please tell me this is a joke.

  • Sarah | December 7, 2013 12:49 PMReply

    I hate dallas buyers club because always the LGBT community is in silk underground movies. Homophobia. Don't awards for that stupid film.

  • Andrea | July 4, 2014 8:42 PM

    I recently watched Dallas Buyers Club with mixed emotions. On one hand I appreciated the film for the increased awareness regarding the struggles of those suffering from HIV/AIDS, on the other hand there are many aspects of the film and the homophobic characters that make the film difficult to watch. While I understand this to be an indie film (by Truth Entertainment and Voltage Productions), it is also a social problem film that explores what was previously considered taboo, in which many directors are too afraid to explore the human side of the LGBTQ community. Not to underscore the whole point of this social problem film, it would be nice to see more films showing LGBTQ characters without focusing on the character for being LGBTQ. As I recently learned when watching The Celluloid Closet, there are far too few films in which the LGBTQ community can identify with. For example, the earliest films hinting towards lesbian sexuality came in European lesbian vampire films and other horror films where the cross-dresser is a psycho killer. Films and other forms of media shape how we view our world in many ways, and I find it appalling to know that these are the characters presented for the LGBTQ community to relate to. Just may thoughts...

  • Sherman Brooks | November 16, 2013 5:54 PMReply

    What happen to the "The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister and Pete"?

  • Caemen Sawing | November 9, 2013 10:22 AMReply

    The Real Jamaican Girls????

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  • silvana | November 8, 2013 12:40 PMReply

  • Silvana | November 8, 2013 12:40 PMReply

  • FXCOOL | October 25, 2013 1:17 AMReply

    Since when "Captain Phillips" is an indie film? Its production cost is around 55 million dollars, not so sure it's an 'indie' budget and also distributed by Columbia.

  • enrico | October 24, 2013 12:36 PMReply

    3. Upstream Color???????

  • Daniel Delago | October 23, 2013 5:38 AMReply

    'Spring Breakers' was garbage.

  • | October 18, 2013 1:55 PMReply

    as Evelyn explained I am stunned that you able to profit $4224 in four weeks on the computer. did you read this webpage....

  • me | October 18, 2013 10:17 AMReply

    Mother of George

  • me | October 18, 2013 10:15 AMReply

    Um, Concussion?

  • Olivia | October 18, 2013 10:08 AMReply

    I agree with a number of these, such as After Tiller, Kings of Summer but agree with below commenters in saying this is a broad definition of an independent film. Also, where is the Way Way Back? Most importantly, where is THE DIRTIES by Matt Johnson?!! This movie has so many layers, the most real and complex characters in any movie I've seen this year, and touches on an important and timely issue in our society. I would reconsider this list if I were you.

  • Eric | October 18, 2013 10:43 AM

    We invite commenters to provide their own definitions of independent film. We tend to treat it as an expansive term because any objective criteria limits certain films that might deserve a spot on the list. We include some studio films that we believe represent a certain indie quality, but again, remain flexible as much as possible.

    "The Dirties" has only received 5 grades form our Criticwire Network. Once it received 15, if it has a B+ average or higher, it will absolutely make the cut.

  • Daniel | October 17, 2013 3:52 PMReply

    Are you freaking kidding me? Where the hell is GRAVITY?

  • thunders | April 28, 2014 1:24 AM

    Gravity was a pile of shite !!!!!!!!

  • Cat | October 24, 2013 3:53 PM

    Gravity isn't an indie film dumbass

  • Mike White | July 19, 2013 9:36 PMReply

    Seems like a pretty broad definition of "Independent."

  • JJ | July 19, 2013 12:34 PMReply

    A Field in England is my favorite of the year.

  • howard | July 5, 2013 6:23 PMReply

    Is This is the End an indie? IMDB lists Columbia as one of the producers.

  • Eli | July 5, 2013 2:07 PMReply

    What about Slamdance co-founder Dan Mirvish's "Between Us"?; it has a Criticwire average of A-
    Any reason that doesn't count?

  • tmack | July 5, 2013 1:46 PMReply

    What's happening with Blue Caprice?

  • Solid | June 14, 2013 12:14 PMReply

    The first half of Berberian Sound Studio was superb, full of menacing atmosphere, intriguing situations, and original characters. But having assembled these great elements, Strickland didn't know what to do with them and, minus a thought-through plot or structure, the whole thing fizzled out at the end. All set-up, no payoff.

    And anyone in a long-term relationship should go see Before Midnight with their SO. Be prepared for ascerbic glances, nudges, and pointing. Or maybe that's just us.

  • blue | April 25, 2013 4:48 PMReply

    How many critics are involved in reviewing films of this list?

  • Eric | May 4, 2013 2:44 PM

    There are nearly 500 critics who grade films on a weekly basis. You can browse the list of their names here:

  • blue | April 25, 2013 4:38 PMReply

    How many critics are involved reviewing films of this list?

  • enrique | April 25, 2013 12:13 PMReply

    Nice list. very rational grading. Thanks

  • jensen | April 25, 2013 11:46 AMReply

    I haven't seen it yet, but I'm pretty surprised that Ain't Them Bodies Saints isn't on the list, I've heard nothing but rave reviews about it.

  • Eric | May 2, 2013 6:19 PM

    Only films that have opened in theaters or VOD are included.

  • John | April 11, 2013 1:26 PMReply

    BLANCANIEVAS has lots of repeats of the same critic.

  • Eric | May 2, 2013 6:19 PM

    This has been fixed. Thanks.

  • scobro | March 28, 2013 11:15 AMReply

    Appreciate the list, but think it's a little strange to have two entries with 7 or less reviews in the same camp as most that average over 60. Especially EDEN, a fine little movie from SXSW last year but probably not in the same camp as many of the others. It's ranked so high due to it only being reviewed by a few people who saw it at the festival itself. Maybe those with so few reviews should be categorized separately? Still, this is a great list to update throughout the year. Thanks for putting it together!

  • Eric Kohn | March 28, 2013 3:37 PM

    Thanks for the suggestions. We'll take them into account with the next iteration of the list.

  • Damian | March 24, 2013 1:02 AMReply

    There might be a worse movie this year than Spring Breakers but there will not be a movie this year with a worse ending than the illogical, nonsensical, preposterous ending of Spring Breakers. And they gave this a B+?

  • Eric | March 24, 2013 10:49 PM

    Collectively, yes, but if you're looking for a more nuanced reaction we recommend you click the "Details" button here:

    To date, while nearly 50 critics have graded the film with a "B" or higher, a sizable minority of 13 critics have graded it with a "C" or lower.

  • Daphne | March 22, 2013 5:36 PMReply

    Why isn't "Magic Camp" on here?

  • Paul | March 22, 2013 5:20 PMReply

    one of the best movies I've seen coming out this year is "Along the Roadside" ! Bold , Sharp and Funny with Great Music!!!

  • Ryan | March 21, 2013 6:48 PMReply

    The ranking system here is complete crap.

  • goren | March 21, 2013 1:28 PMReply

    This is a very intriguing list . I am trying to find were to watch one of the movies in the list

  • cinedyne | March 21, 2013 11:14 AMReply

    It's kind of easy to post 20 movies so early in the year, especially when all of them played big fests and/or were nominated for Oscars.

    I don't see Red Flag listed (which isn't either of the above). Thought that was a great indie comedy.

  • Eric | March 21, 2013 12:26 PM

    While I personally enjoy RED FLAG quite a bit, in general critics have been mixed on it. You can browse reactions here:

  • Eric | March 21, 2013 12:26 PM

    While I personally enjoy RED FLAG quite a bit, in general critics have been mixed on it. You can browse reactions here:

  • katy kern | March 21, 2013 10:50 AMReply

    About to watch one listed today. So excited. Many of the others are on my list to see. So many movies, so little time. ;-)

  • jimbo | March 21, 2013 9:55 AMReply

    the omission of lore is v v peculiar. while i know you hand pick critics and bloggers, it's one of the best reviewed films overall of the year, at least in terms of metacritic and rotten tomatoes.

  • jm | July 5, 2013 12:13 PM

    LORE should be much higher.

  • Eric | March 21, 2013 10:15 AM

    Look again. LORE made the cut.

  • Leo Arriagada | March 21, 2013 9:54 AMReply

    "No" is a great film. It's a shame that there lost the Oscar.