The 50 best movies of 2013

21. Pacific Rim

The Movie: While the big draw was the robot vs monsters carnage, Guillermo del Toro leavened the summer-sized thrills with deft characterisation, meticulous world-building and a palpable love of the kaiju genre.

Impact: While lovingly built from the DNA of past creature features like Godzilla, this was the summer's most original blockbuster, and proof that auteurs can still flourish without donning cape and cowl.

20. Blue Jasmine

The Movie: Prolific septuagenarian Woody Allen returned to form (again). A brittle, bravura performance from Cate Blanchett as deluded and destitute socialite snob Jasmine elevated his unblinking character study to awards magnet.

Impact: Cry wolf often enough and eventually you'd shout about the real thing. Trust us, this really is Woody Allen's return to form. In less surprising news, Blanchett is surely the one to beat for Best Actress.

19. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The Movie: A waterlogged arena formed the centrepiece of this dystopian YA second-parter which took the action to the capitol and made everything political. Jennifer Lawrence was unstoppable as Katniss, but a naked Jena Malone stole the show.

Impact: It's officially twilight for Twilight. This series has better reviews, an Oscar-winning star, and the likelihood of improved box-office. And there are still two films to go.

18. The Selfish Giant

The Movie: Just when you think the kitchen sink genre has been drained of novelty, Clio Barnard's second feature--joyous, savage, heartbreaking--clopped after two young lads as they tried to make a living from scrapping. So good it drew comparisons to Ken Loach's Kes.

Impact: Barnard was already marked as one to watch after her 2010 debut The Arbor. This confirms her promise--and generated much puzzlement as to why such a strong contender didn't make the Official Competition at Cannes. Props, too, to newcomers Conner Chapman and Shaun Thomas: the best Brit-kid debuts since Thomas Turgoose in This Is England.

17. Lincoln

The Movie: Steven Spielberg's second crack at Presidents vs slavery (after Amistad) gave Daniel Day-Lewis a show-stopper of a role as Abe, while the smart decision to eschew biopic logic in favour of concentrating on his final months paid off with a sharply scripted drama.

Impact: History was made here with Day-Lewis' deserved third Best Actor Oscar, but that was hardly a surprise. Arguably more exciting, this saw Spielberg go out of his comfort zone with a talky, theatrical and largely action-free movie, and still enthral.

16. Frances Ha

The Movie: Kooky, winsome, cool or insufferable, self-aware Girls knock-off? Greta Gerwigs misadventures in NY didnt grab everyone but wooed many with its black-and-white visuals, idiosyncratic soundtrack and charming central turn.

Impact: While Noah Baumbach has thrown aside his association with Wes Anderson to become an indie auteur in his own right, he now faces stiff competition from his other half - Gerwig didn't only star but also co-wrote the movie.

15. American Hustle

The Movie: Take team The Fighter (Bale, Adams), add team Silver Linings Playbook (Cooper, Lawrence, De Niro) and the result is David O. Russell's latest--a combustible screwball comedy-drama inspired by a real-life New York con man.

Impact: Russell is currently on fire, so expect major awards contention; his last two films earned three acting Oscars from seven nominees (five of whom reunite with the director here). And, trust us, 2014's fashionistas will be obsessed with the 1970s threads and hairdos seen here.

14. Captain Phillips

The Movie: Paul Greengrass returns to the form of United 93, while Hanks cornered Oscar talk for two gong-worthy turns this year but it was the hangdog nobility of his sea-merchant Cap standing up to Somalian pirates that best showcased his range. That final scene? Ouch.

Impact: Aside from the number of nails you'll chew off? An almost-certain Best Actor nomination for Hanks' best performance in years, a new star in Somali-born actor Barkhad Abdi and the reclamation of the pirate genre from the Jack Sparrow-shaped hole it's been stuck in.

13. Stories We Tell

The Movie: Hot on the heels of her sharp relationship drama Take This Waltz, Sarah Polleys brave doc turned the camera on her own family to unravel mysteries both traumatic and joyous, while also dissecting the nature of storytelling and truth. Dazzling.

Impact: Actress, writer/director and now documentary maker--is there anything Polley can't do? And she's not even 40.

12. Don Jon

The Movie: As likeable behind the camera as he is in front of it, Joseph Gordon-Levitt starred alongside a never-hotter Scarlett Johansson in his directorial debut: a filthy, funny, insightful look at relationships and porn.

Impact: Some awkward date-night conversations, plus in Britain a fair degree of confusion when it was released at the same time as unrelated Jude Law movie Dom Hemingway.