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The Top 25 Movie Moments of 2013

Each year, we critics struggle through the endless awards season push, trying to decipher the hype from the hysterics, the last minute entries from the long considered best. It’s a tough slog, and at any given moment, the process can create wildly different results. I myself have found figuring out the number one movie of the year to be a desperate bid between our horrific intolerant past (12 Years a Slave) and our equally offensive, “Greed is God” present (The Wolf of Wall Street). So instead of a traditional listing of the artform’s greatest hits, I’ve decided to provide some perspective. For me, movies are about impact, about resonance and reasons to remember. In that regard, here are the top 25 Movie Moments 2013. Each and every one of these will remain with me long after the Oscar glitter is gone and the winners stash their gold statues away for safe keeping. So, in no particular order, we begin with:

The Witches Win, backed by the Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties” (Lords of Salem)

After denying her fate for the entire running time of the film, Heidi Hawthorne (Shari Moon Zombie) gives into the devil cult stalking her, and is revealed as the Dark One’s bride via this brilliant use of the Velvet’s song.

Jordan Belfort Learns the “Cerebral Palsy” Stage of Quaalude Use (The Wolf of Wall Street)

After describing to us the various stages of muscle relaxant induced euphoria, Jordan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his buddy Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) drop a particularly potent batch of pills, with hilariously sick physical slapstick ensuing.

Captain Phillips Breaks Down (Captain Phillips)

After going through the kind of hostage turmoil that would normally destroy a man, our hero (Tom Hanks) shows a surprisingly strong constitution – that is, until the moment he realizes his ordeal is truly over.

Why Is Herman Always in Drag? (The Act of Killing)

A corrupt politician with a penchant for one of two different personal disguises – military man or exotic drag queen – Herman is the horrific heart of this otherwise chilling look at genocide and the national acceptance of same.

Alien Takes Inventory, aka “Look at My Shit!” (Spring Breakers)

While trying to impress his college age conquests with his various items of self-mythologizing (“shorts…all colors, Scarface…on repeat) our sleazy drug dealing rapper (James Franco) becomes an embodiment of a decidedly different American Dream.

Gary King Has It Out with the Extraterrestrials (The World’s End)

Tired of their robot tricks, our arrested adolescent (Simon Pegg) with a dream of completing his pub crawl challenges these space beings opinion of Earth and its inhabitants.

Giant Robots vs. Giant Monsters (Pacific Rim)

Because nothing tweaks our inner child and current geek more than seeing oversized automatons use anything at their disposal, including supertankers, as a means of putting a beatdown on humungous creatures from another dimension.

Elijah Wood as Frank Zito (Maniac 2013)

With his soft eyes and pillowy voice, Wood would be the last actor you’d think could pull off the role of a murderous psychopath with a mannequin fixation. Turns out, he’s perfect.

Rosario Dawson’s Full Frontal Clue (Trance)

Using one of the most unique if stunningly beautiful “images” to retain her hold on our wayward hero, Ms. Dawson delivers a moment of physical bravery and flawless flesh revelation.

Irving Rosenfeld Attends to His “Coiffure” (American Hustle)

In a complicated procedure which involves a mirror, a mass of discarded hair, and some rubber cement, our ace con man (Christian Bale) concocts a comb-over that’s…just…classic.

The Warrens Show Off Their “Trophy Room” (The Conjuring)

Like the real life Ghostbusters that they are, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) have a room in their house devoted to possessed items they’ve salvaged from some of their jobs of spiritual mediums and demonologists – and it’s just as unnerving as you imagine.

Michael Cera is Really a Coked Up Douchebag (This Is the End)

While this entire movie was a send-up of their better known onscreen personas, this was one celebrity who took his whiny dullard nebbish routine and stood it on its oversexed, blow-filled facade.

Timo Tjahjanto and Gareth Huw Evan’s “Safe Haven” (V/H/S/2)

A found footage miracle as a documentary team investigate and eventually infiltrate a Satanic cult – and then the diabolical subject shows up to claim his sacrificial prizes.

Mama’s Ghostly Visage (Mama)

While her backstory is a little specious, the vision of this spindly specter working her way through our human domain remains one of 2013’s most haunting images.

The Contradictory Interpretations of The Shining (Room 237)

An Explanation for The Holocaust…Kubrick’s collusion in “faking” the moon landing…the genocide of the American Indian…some portent of Mayan Evil…these are just some of the theories surrounding the great auteur’s adaptation of Stephen King’s seminal novel, and while intriguing, they are require a quite substantial grain of salt to accept.

Chainsawing the Demon…In Half! (Evil Dead 2013)

When all else fails, rev up the power tools and aim for the head…and then move downward…slowly.

The Super 8 Films (Sinister)

A box of haunted home movies in the attic of a former crime scene unlock the kind of creepshow visuals that provide abundance nightmare fodder as well as plentiful motion picture shivers.

Tom Hiddleston (Thor: The Dark World)

Not only does he steal every scene he is in, but the actor threatens to upend the entire Marvel Universe by making fans wish there was a standalone Loki movie to obsess over.

Llewyn Davis Auditions for Bud Grossman (Inside Llewyn Davis)

With his career hanging in the balance, our morose folk singer (Oscar Isaac) plays a mournful tune for a high ranking promoter (F. Murray Abraham) – and learns to lower his expectations.

Solomon Northup “Hangs” On for Dear Life (12 Years a Slave)

With a noose around his neck and his feet barely touching the ground, our hero (Chiwetel Ejifor) desperately struggles to stay alive – and the director’s camera never flinches for a good four minutes.

Space…the Final, and Fatalistic, Frontier (Gravity)

A pair of astronauts (Sandra Bullock, George Clooney) drift idly into the blackness of outer space, their hopes of rescue in direct contrast to the infinite beauty and majesty of their interstellar surroundings.

A Loud, Lonely “FUCK!” (All is Lost)

After it looks like he’s find a way to survive, a single screw-up has our shipwrecked lead (Robert Redford) screaming a solitary, solemn expletive that carries more emotional weight than a ream of dialogue.

The “Copying Walden” Ritual (Upstream Color)

Before it turns into a meditation on breaking the cycle of victimology, this amazing movie offers us one of the most intriguing con game criminal acts ever, including copying pages out of Henry David Thoreau’s beloved book and turning them into a paper chain…and then things get weird.

Olaf Wants his Day in the Sun (Frozen)

And the cute little snowman (Josh Gad) sings a funny song about it.

Theodore Falls for Sam (Her)

Lonely and smarting from the loss of his childhood sweetheart, our letter writer (Joaquin Phoenix) discovers that, sometimes, love can happen in the most unusual and marvelously meaningful ways.