To qualify, films have to be released theatrically in the UK in 2013. This unfortunately means I cannot include Life of Pi or The Hobbit, but rules are rules. Full reviews of all films mentioned can be found on this blog.
1. Beyond the Hills (Cristian Mungiu)
Looks set to be this year’s One Upon a Time in Anatolia in that it is Eastern European, hardly anyone will see it, it is over two and a half hours long, and it is an absolute masterpiece. This is intelligent and involving film making at its finest, that grips and intrigues from start to finish.
2. A Hijacking (Tobias Lindholm)
Lindholm skilfully avoids all the usual clichés and pitfalls to produce a genuinely tense, gripping and unforgettable experience. The excellent script, claustrophobic camerawork and committed performances all help to create a scary sense of realism and characters to truly care about.
3. Star Trek Into Darkness (J. J. Abrams)
Surely setting the standard for 2013 blockbusters, J.J. Abrams ups the game even more to produce a genuinely thrilling and exciting film experience. The predominantly character driven narrative providing the necessary heart and soul to keep you completely gripped from start to finish.
4. In the House (François Ozon)
Ozon has created a witty, intelligent and extremely watchable drama without the usual smugness and over blown self importance. An extremely sharp script and some enigmatic performances have also helped create a genuinely enjoyable gem of a film.
5. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)
Genuinely gripping and thrilling from start to finish, which is quite an achievement considering we already know the ending. There is no preachy patronising or a feeling of deluded self importance, just genuine tension expertly made by a director who really seems to know what she is doing. Oh, and John Barrowman is in it! He may only have two lines but my god does he nail them!
6. Lincoln (Steven Spielberg)
There was so much more to Spielberg’s excellent historical drama than just Day-Lewis’ incredible central performance. This is also a gripping and genuinely involving drama with excellent performances throughout.
7. Flight (Robert Zemeckis)
The opening act is nerve shredding and genuinely exciting, but there is so much more to this excellent character study than that. This is a brutal study of a flawed but extremely sympathetic protagonist brought to life by Denzel’s compelling performance and a story of genuine catharsis.
8. Man of Steel (Zack Snyder)
Snyder and Nolan have created an intelligent blockbuster that manages to combine thrilling action and a story with heart and soul. There has been criticism but that is unfair in my view, as this has laid the foundations for a potentially thrilling franchise.
9. Neighbouring Sounds (Kleber Mendonça Filho)
This is not only a great film, but also an education and a fascinating insight into a different culture of which little is known outside Brazil. This may be unconventional in structure and an acquired taste, but an infinitely rewarding experience that creates a unique atmosphere by it subtleties and use of everyday realism.
10. No (Pablo Larraín)
Made with true authenticity and is as much informing as it is compelling. Held together by an excellent central performance, this is an involving and thrilling education into a moment of historical significance.
Films that just missed out but get an honourable mention as I would also recommend them: Les Misérables (Tom Hooper), Post Tenebras Lux (Carlos Reygadas), McCullin (David Morris and Jacqui Morris), Lore (Cate Shortland), Wreck – it Ralph (Rich Moore), The Impossible (Juan Antonio Bayona) and Good Vibrations (Lisa Barros D’Sa and Gleen Leyburn).
Also a special mention has to go to Fast & Furious 6 (Justin Lin) as it looks set to be this year’s most bonkers, barmy, audacious, flawed as hell but infinitely most enjoyable guilty pleasure. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino) for being the most overrated film of the year, it was ok but it was not that good. Iron Man 3 (Shane Black) for being the biggest disappointment of the year so far.