Before drafting your annual “best films of the year” list, you’re probably attempting to consume as much 2013 cinema as humanly possible. But what exactly should you be watching? For those don’t have the luxury of living in a metropolitan area, your choices at the cineplex are a bit limiting. With that in mind, we’ve created a shortlist of 25, critically acclaimed films (save for Only God Forgives) that opened in U.S. theaters over the past year and are now available to stream on Netflix Instant (American). We hope this streaming cheat sheet proves to be helpful in directing you to some quality cinema.

‘Frances Ha’ by Noah Baumbach

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“Deftly humorous, and filled with an honesty that manages to be sweet without being saccharine and wrenching without being devastating. Frances Ha is a film of many small surprises, but they contain big, satisfying rewards.” – Christopher Runyon at Movie Mezzanine.

‘A Band Called Death’ by Mark Covino and Jeff Howlett

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“Boasts an expectedly professional sheen and verve, and yet it’s through all that polish and hindsight that a tale of raw talent can ultimately shine.” – Will Goss at Film.com

Graceland’ by Ron Morales

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“Graceland is a deceptively simple thriller with a smart setup and a cruelly efficient execution. An inevitable American remake would polish away Marlon’s less appealing nature and replace the truly squalid atmosphere with something far more palatable.” - Rob Hunter at Film School Rejects

‘Maniac’ by Franck Khalfoun

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“Each killing is suffused with a strangely surreal empathy for both murderer and victim that recalls Jonathan Demme’s genre-redefining The Silence of the Lambs.” – Keith Uhlich at Time Out New York

‘Blancanieves’ by Pablo Berger

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“One of the most original and charming films of the year, it is an imaginative interpretation of the Snow White fairy tale that combines the visual power of silent cinema with the dramatic force of an orchestral score to create an entirely unique method of storytelling.” - Kristen Sales at Movie Mezzanine

‘Welcome to Pine Hill’ by Keith Miller

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“A thoughtful and adventurous new feature directed by Keith Miller, is about the different worlds that exist in a modern city, and even within a single human being.” – A.O. Scott at New York Times

‘Room 237’ by Rodney Ascher

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“The effect of ‘Room 237′ is intense. It’s a deep dive into the rabbit hole of semiotics, designed to train viewers to become alert to what they’re really seeing.” – Noel Murray at A.V. Club

‘Gimme the Loot’ by Adam Leon

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“Every bit as charming and joyful as it is profane, affectionately portraying a slice of life that feels both exotic and recognizable.” – Eric D. Snider at About.com

‘Upstream Color’ by Shane Carruth

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“Upstream Color is disorienting and heavy, but it earns every bit of mental energy you’ll put into it.” – Jordan Hoffman at ScreenCrush

‘Dead Man’s Burden’ by Jared Moshé

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“While soaked in ambiguity, ‘Dead Man’s Burden’ maintains the Western requisite that bullets must find their targets.” – Eric Kohn at IndieWire

‘Wrong’ by Quentin Dupieux

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“There’s a winning confidence to the filmmaking, which is deceptively stylish – Dupieux favours nervy close-ups and blurred foregrounds – and some real soul in Plotnick’s performance.” – Adam Nayman at The Globe and the Mail

‘Side Effects’ by Steven Soderbergh

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“Provides a minor but distinct kind of cinematic pleasure: the joy of sitting back and letting a master manipulator mess with your head.” – Dana Stevens at Slate

‘What Maisie Knew’ by Scott McGehee and David Siegel

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“The result is a film that deeply engages us on multiple levels. Not only do we wonder what Maisie knows and how she knows it, we want to get this seedling to a place where she won’t have to be transplanted every day.” – Carrie Rickey at Philadelphia Inquirer

‘It’s a Disaster’ by Todd Berger

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“The film zings along so well and so cohesively that it’s easy to forget the amount of purposeful writing that went into it – essentially, Berger sets ‘em up and his cast knocks ‘em down.” - Kate Erbland at Film School Rejects

‘Crystal Fairy’ by Sebastián Silva

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“Even with shaggy, semi-improvised projects like Crystal Fairy, there’s a need for some kind of conclusion, and Silva devises one that’s simultaneously terribly contrived and by far the most powerful scene in the movie.” – Scott Tobias at The Dissolve

‘Only God Forgives’ by Nicolas Winding Refn

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“Taking the film literally is the greatest enemy to the viewer’s enjoyment; seeing Only God Forgives as a trip into one man’s violent dream world is the only way to view it.” – Brogan Morris at Movie Mezzanine

‘Dirty Wars’ by Rick Rowley

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“Dirty Wars becomes hard to swat away, no matter how much its style conveys a sense of unconscious insecurity about its assertions.” – Steven Boone at RogerEbert.com

‘Computer Chess’ by Andrew Bujalski

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“Bujalski’s ultimate point is not technophobic harangue, but an acknowledgment of how tentative and fraught our relationships truly are to the machines we claim exist to serve our dreams and desires—how those very dreams and desires become both replicated and altered by the technology we create to facilitate them.” – Matt Connolly at Reverse Shot

‘Post Tenebras Lux’ by Carlos Reygadas

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“The cumulative effect is a sense of frustrated wonder, a sustained awe that ultimately overwhelms the cynicism invited by Reygadas’ most bewildering choices (i.e. the final scene), and the fact that he’s entering the part of his life as an auteur at which an artistic signature is easily confused for antagonistic schtick.” – David Ehrlich at Film.com

‘Augustine’ by Alice Winocur

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“Alice Winocour’s take on this true story carries the superficial trappings of a period drama, but its perspective is entirely contemporary.” – Tomas Hachard at Slant Magazine

‘Europa Report’ by Sebastián Cordero

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“It becomes refreshingly clear early on that this is a rare modern science-fiction film where the filmmakers aren’t afraid to pack actual science into their narrative.” – Aisha Harris at The Dissolve

‘Something in the Air’ by Olivier Assayas

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“It’s a terrific film, wonderfully atmospheric and alive, but also a curiously appropriate one to encounter right now, as we deal with the aftermath of a cruel and pointless crime apparently committed in the name of some abstract revolutionary ideal.” – Andrew O’hehir at Salon

‘Lore’ by Cate Shortland

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“This striking, slow-building drama … uses fractured, impressionistic imagery as a mirror of moral dislocation as the children make their way through an unfamiliar landscape.” – Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly

‘To the Wonder’ by Terence Malick

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“Instead of searching through the mysteries of the universe, Terrence Malick cuts open his heart for all to look inside. We’re all free to accept or decline the opportunity, but few filmmakers treat their works like that: A deeply personal gift. That’s what all of Malick’s films are, and that’s what To the Wonder is. Look inside. It’s our’s.” – Christopher Runyon at Movie Mezzanine

‘This is Martin Bonner’ by Chad Hartigan

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“Without a lot of fuss the film gives us the other side of a tourist town, the quiet side, away from the gambling tables, where all sorts of people struggle for a life of worth.” – Michael Phillips at Chicago Tribune

We hope you enjoy these 25 films, all of which are streaming on Netflix Instant as of 12/6/13.

About The Author

Samuel Fragoso

Sam Fragoso is the founder and editor-in-chief of Movie Mezzanine. His work regularly appears at RogeEbert.com, The Dissolve, Indiewire, The Week, SF Bay, Film School Rejects and whoever else will have him.

  • Brogan Jameson Morris

    Some fantastic recommendations here. Something In the Air is (so far) my number 2 of the year, and I know To the Wonder and Only God Forgives will be featuring in my top ten somewhere, but Room 237, Dead Man’s Burden and What Maisie Knew are some under-seen 2013 gems well worth seeking out.

  • http://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/Choices James

    When did you change your byline from Sam to the more formal (and grown up) Samuel? I’ll always remember you as the shy, pale 16 year old, shivering like a baby bird at the first press screening you attended. I just don’t see you as a Samuel.

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      I’ve been told that my full name is Samuel. Thought I’d give it a go. Do you remember what movie we saw at that first screening?

      • http://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/Choices James

        “Thor” (ugh)