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10 Best Movies of 2013

Peter Travers counts down great films from a provocative year

Producer, Dede Gardner, director, Steve McQueen, Jeremy Kleiner, Best Picture, award, 12 Years a Slave, actress, Julia Roberts, onstage, Critics' Choice Movie Awards

(L-R) Dede Gardner, Steve McQueen and Jeremy Kleiner accept the Best Picture award for '12 Years a Slave' from Julia Roberts onstage during the Critics' Choice Movie Awards, in Santa Monica, California on January 16th, 2014.

Kevin Winter/Getty

In the most potent and provocative year at the multiplex in recent memory, 2013 stretches the boundaries of film. Here's the top 10.

by Peter Travers

G001C004_120530_R2IZ.0859800 HER-FP-0864 Film Name: HER Copyright: ©2013 UNTITLED RICK HOWARD COMPANY LLC Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures Caption: JOAQUIN PHOENIX as Theodore in the romantic drama "HER," directed by Spike Jonze, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Warner Bros. Pictures

5

‘Her’

Director Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) creates movies that help us see the world in startlingly funny and touching new ways. And in Her, set in the near future, Theodore (a sublime, soulful Joaquin Phoenix) falls hard for his computer operating system (voiced with humor, heat and heart by Scarlett Johansson) and makes us believe it. This is personal filmmaking at its glorious, groundbreaking peak.

Sony Pictures Classics/Photofest

4

‘Before Midnight’

Nothing happens as two lovers, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), continue to climb the Mount Everest of their relationship. In this story's third part, after 1995's Before Sunrise and 2004's Before Sunset, director Richard Linklater and pitch-perfect co-writers Hawke and Delpy create the defining love story of a generation.

EKUL/bauergriffinonline.com

3

‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

This three-hour bolt of polarizing brilliance from Martin Scorsese, with a killer script by The Sopranos' Terence Winter, details the true tale of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio flares like a five-alarm fire in full blaze), who lived hoggishly high on securities fraud in the 1990s. Jordan and his co-scumbags (Jonah Hill crushes it as his wingman) numb moral qualms with coke, 'ludes and hookers. Scorsese's high-wire act of bravura filmmaking is a lethally hilarious take on white-collar crime. No one dies, but Wall Street victims will scream bloody murder.

GRAVITY, Sandra Bullock, 2013. ©Warner Bros. Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture

2

‘Gravity’

The thrill of pure cinema finds enthralling expression in Alfonso Cuarón's intimate epic about being lost in space. As a rookie astronaut, Sandra Bullock shatters your nerves and does herself and the movie proud. Cuarón, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and visual-effects wizard Tim Webber are visionary trailblazers

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Fox Searchlight

1

’12 Years a Slave’

The best movie ever made about slavery is also the best movie of the year. No prettified classroom study for director Steve McQueen, a visual artist and visceral provocateur of the first rank. He rubs our noses in the horrific true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man living in New York in 1841 until he becomes enslaved in the Deep South. Ejiofor, his eyes pools of torment, is an acting giant. This is one for the time capsule.

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