Entertainment Weekly teased its critics Top 4s a while back, but in newspaper-speak, they buried the lede, which is that in a year where most critics are having trouble narrowing their lists to 10, Owen Gleiberman found room on his for World War Z. His colleague Chris Nashawaty has a head-scratcher on his as well: Out of the Furnace, whose awards hopes dried up quick once most critics got a look at it. It's easy for Top 10 fatigue to set in as the same films turn up again and again, but not all of the deviations from the norm are pleasant surprises.
Owen Gleiberman's Best Movies of 2013
1. 12 Years a Slave. "Steve McQueen's agonizing masterpiece is the first movie to dramatize the experience of slavery in all its fear, madness, and horror -- that is, in the terrifying intimacy of its brutality."
2. American Hustle. "It's set in a late-'70s world of comb-overs, polyester lapels, and anything-goes amorality. Yet David O. Russell's swirling, bravura tale of a con artist, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who gets lured into the equally slovenly FBI sting operation known as Abscam has a resonance that's thrillingly contemporary."
3. Before Midnight. "We believe in this couple, and in Before Midnight they express the tensions and mythologies that divide women from men in the postfeminist age."
4. Fruitvale Station. "In a stunning performance, Michael B. Jordan makes Grant fully, complexly alive, which is just how you'll remember him -- and, Fruitvale Station implies, how maybe you'll think of the next tragic victim of trigger-happy law enforcement who gets shoved into the news cycle."
5. Gravity. "Alfonso Cuaron's luminous and transportive technological daydream puts us right up in space, along with a couple of U.S. shuttle astronauts."
6. Blue Jasmine. "Scaldingly witty, arrestingly acted (the standouts in a marvelous cast include Andrew Dice Clay and Bobby Cannavale), and staged by Allen with a time-leap structure that reverberates with loss."
7. The Past. "The Iranian director Asghar Farhadi confirms what his previous film, A Separation, suggested: that he's a modern maestro who has found a completely original way to infuse a tale of domestic turmoil with the charged tension of a thriller."
8. World War Z. "A true epic horror film -- not because it gooses you with zombie-videogame jolts, but because this unsettling apocalypse so excitingly evokes the spectacle of a world coming apart, with the undead hordes rising up to pick the bones of what's left."
9. Prisoners. "The movie is a meditation on crime, punishment, love, and violence, and in the performance of Melissa Leo, it conjures something many films try for and few succeed at capturing: the existence of everyday evil."
10. Inside Llewyn Davis. "The Coens spin their own special brand of nostalgia shorn of romance, and if the result teeters on the misanthropic, the movie is also, in its cynical and haunted way, indelible."
Chris Nashawaty's Best Movies of 2013
1. Before Midnight. "The honeymoon is over and their Eurail passes have long expired. But if you squint hard enough, you can still see the flickering flame that first drew them together -- and us to them -- all those years ago."
2. Gravity. "A thrilling, almost religious sensory experience that points to the limitless reaches of what movies can be and where they will take us in the future."
3. 12 Years a Slave. "No single work of art could possibly convey the horror and shame of slavery, but director Steve McQueen comes close."
4. Fruitvale Station. "A layered and complex portrait of a kid who never got the chance to become something more than a sad statistic."
5. Captain Phillips. "No other director understands how to wield a handheld camera with the same nail-biting urgency, and no other storyteller knows how to craft a ticktock procedural with such Swiss-jeweler precision."
6. Enough Said. "You can't help but feel a profound sense of sadness and loss over all the other surprising roles we'll never get the chance to see Gandolfini play."
7. Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay. "Were there more important documentaries this year? Absolutely. But none cast the same giddy spell as this one."
8. Out of the Furnace. "So steeped in wrath, revenge, and tragedy, it feels as if it's taken from the onionskin pages of the Old Testament."
9. All Is Lost. "This is a master class in acting from a man whose quiver of tricks we thought was exhausted a long time ago."
10. The Conjuring. "Director James Wan ratchets up those bump-in-the-night cliches with crackerjack craftsmanship, tightening the vise on the audience's frayed and frazzled nerves."