2013 may have been a grueling year in politics, world affairs and the economy, but it proved to be one hellaciously great year in moviemaking.
Our picks for the year’s best out of a cinematic bumper crop are, in no particular order, Blue Is the Warmest Color, because Abdellatif Kechiche’s gorgeous, brilliantly observed coming-of-age story dared to treat sex and passion as equally important with social class, literature, food, wine, friendship and art.
Nature vs. man is an old theme, but All Is Lost—and Robert Redford’s one-man show master class in it—makes it fresh, compelling and elemental again.
Spike Jonze’s magical, brainy and incredibly moving fable Her, a fine romance between a lonely guy and his artificial intelligence operating system, is one of the great love stories in recent memory.
Staying with the love theme, Richard Linklater’s riveting Before Midnight, set nearly two decades after Before Sunrise, finds its once-golden lovers older, pricklier, more cutting but, in the end, perhaps finally authentic with each other.
Inside Llewyn Davis, written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen and featuring one of the year’s most haunting soundtracks, is a masterfully melancholy, cruelly misanthropic study of a gifted but abrasive 1960s folk singer’s struggle to transcend mediocrity.
Directed by David O. Russell like an artist obsessed, American Hustle is an exhilarating, openhearted and hilarious portrait of ABSCAM-era greed, comb-overs and plunging necklines, its desperate eccentrics recalling peak-level Preston Sturges, Robert Altman and Martin Scorsese.
With cinematic cocaine as savage and dizzyingly relentless as The Wolf of Wall Street, Scorsese himself, with a mighty assist from a go-for-broke Leonardo DiCaprio, comes on again like a Goodfellas-style boss.
The spare, floating-in-space dramatic framework and casually stunning, next-generation technical wonders make director Alfonso Cuarón's majestic, stunning-to-look-at wonder Gravity one of the year’s great emotional experiences and the white-knuckle movie-movie of the year.
The almost unbearable horrors of a free black man sold into slavery in Twelve Years a Slave burn and mesmerize in Steve McQueen's unflinching, masterfully acted indictment.
The simple, warm and sweetly transgressive Saudi Arabian film Wadjda, about an endearingly wily 10-year-old girl who simply wants a bicycle, is another brilliant film about a kind of enslavement.