'12 Years a Slave' 2013's best film

best movies of the year

best movies of the year

Bruce Kirkland, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:25 PM ET

The movies of 2013 began slowly, in terms of artistic merit. Then came the summer blockbuster season, when superheroes and animations ruled. But the fall-winter season has turned into a gold rush of greatness. Here are my Top 10 picks for the best films of 2013. My favourite, 12 Years a Slave, is listed first. The rest are in alphabetical order.

12 YEARS A SLAVE

Steve McQueen tells the true story of a free black man illegally sold into slavery in 1840s America. The film is pitch-perfect, thrilling, heart-breaking, compelling and bursting with great performances. Star actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, along with Lupita Nyong'o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano and Brad Pitt (as a Canadian humanitarian) all make notable contributions. Not only does McQueen detail an injustice with vigour, he illuminates the horrors of the entire slave system with a fierce intelligence.

ALL IS LOST

With few words spoken, Robert Redford portrays a yachtsman adrift on the Indian Ocean after a sailing mishap. Redford battles the elements and his own mental state, turning his collaboration with writer-director J.C. Chandor into a thing of terrifying beauty.

AMERICAN HUSTLE

David O. Russell, fresh from triumphs with The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, does it again with this brilliant crime caper starring four of his favourites: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams. Jeremy Renner and Robert De Niro join the ensemble and we laugh, cry and gasp in astonishment.

BEFORE MIDNIGHT

This is the third remarkable collaboration among filmmaker Richard Linklater and his acting-writing friends Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. As in Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004), this creative trio plumbs the depths of relationships.per deserve Oscar noms.

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR

There is still controversy behind the scenes of this lesbian love story, with friction between Tunisian-French director Abdellatif Kechiche and his two co-stars. But what Kechiche, Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos achieve on-screen is enthralling.

GRAVITY

Alfonso Cuaron's masterpiece thrilled me from the first screening, yet I underestimated its power and beauty. I should have given it an even higher ranking. That speaks to how this outer space survival story about two American astronauts kicks around in your brain. Along with Cuaron and the film itself, Sandra Bullock is hurtling to an Oscar nom.

HER

Each Spike Jonze film is a revelation. This one showcases an electrifying performance by Joaquin Phoenix as a lonely man in a future-shock world. On the rebound from a breakup with a human girlfriend, Phoenix falls in love with his new computer operating system, which is voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

THE HUNT

Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg, directing Mads Mikkelsen in another powerful performance, weaves a harrowing and realistic story of what happens when a man is wrongly accused of child abuse.

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

The Coen Brothers do not just re-create the early 1960s folk music scene, they capture its zeitgeist at the time Bob Dylan emerged and folk became dominant. Oscar Isaac's bravado performance as the gruff anti-Dylan character is just one of many pleasures of watching this superb film.

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Martin Scorsese takes a true life story about Wall Street corruption and explodes it into a ball of manic energy. Venal, insane, transgressive, emotionally violent and totally over-the-top, the film is great entertainment. Leonardo DiCaprio crackles and sparks with a million volt performance as the anti-hero.

SPECIAL MENTION: Both the Oscar-winning Amour and the best picture nominee Zero Dark Thirty were actually released in Canada early in 2013, after qualifying for Oscar contention by playing in the U.S. late in 2012. They remain great films but I excluded them here because they "belong" to 2012.

Let me know what you liked best at the movies this year in the comments below.


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