11. Star Trek: Into Darkness
The Movie: J.J. Abrams nailed the sequel formula, with a leaner, slicker and (yes) darker follow-up to his crowd-pleasing sci-fi reboot. A villainous Benedict Cumberbatch stole the (light)show as you-know-who.
Impact: Trekkies voted it the WORST TREK EVAH but everybody else was happy to squint through the lens flare. The biggest impact, though, hasn't happened yet--namely that Abrams has been poached by the 'other' Star team, a bit like when Carlos Tevez went from United to City.
The Movie: Chris Hemsworth shrugged off Thors cape to flex his acting muscles as real-life F1 charmer James Hunt, pitting himself against a charismatic Daniel Brhl as Niki Lauda. A classy, thrilling ride from Ron Howard, who turns out to be an F1 nut. Who knew?
Impact: After 2011's ace documentary Senna, here is fictional proof that Formula One is becoming the most cinematic of sports. Meanwhile, Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brhl laid the groundwork for American Hustle by wigging out to 70s fashions.
The Movie: Jon Bairds trippy, dirty, deliciously nasty Scottish cop spin-out drew favourable comparisons to Trainspotting and proved McAvoy could do mean and off the leash. Like Fight Club with haggis.
Impact: After several duds, this return to the form of Trainspotting proved that Irvine Welsh's caustic prose can still translate to the big screen. But forget about Welsh: this was McAvoy's moment and he seized it with bilious glee.
8. The World's End
The Movie: Just one Cornetto? Hardly. The trilogy ended not with a whimper but a bang as Simon Pegg and Nick Frost embarked on a pub crawl to destroy universes. A heartfelt tribute to sci-fi, grown-up friendships and the halcyon days of youth.
Impact: No seismic revelations, beyond the realisation that even these boys are growing up. Otherwise, this was a confirmation that Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz were no flukes. Just don't try the drinking game.
7. The Place Beyond the Pines
The Movie: Derek Blue Valentine Cianfrances ambitious generation-spanning slowburner asked for audiences patience in return for a battering-ram payoff, with Ryan Goslings brooding presence felt long beyond his screen time.
Impact: While too sprawling for some, most found Cianfrance's growing structural (and technical: check out the opening shot) ambition proof we're witnessing a great director in the making. And with big stars (Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Dane DeHaan) supported by Ben Mendelsohn and a resurgent Ray Liotta, this was the manliest film of the year.
6. Django Unchained
The Movie: Slavery and six-guns Tarantinos Southern was his best since Jackie Brown, its exploitation-flavoured violence, outrageous humour and verbal shootouts underpinned by a palpable righteous anger.
Impact: Oscar agreed that this was a return to form for Tarantino (bagging him a second screenwriting Oscar) and confirming Christoph Waltz as today's greatest scene-stealer (ditto to the second Oscar), this also ignited a debate about American's past that looks set to continue with the forthcoming 12 Years A Slave.
5. Blue Is The Warmest Colour
The Movie: Everyone zoomed in on the lesbian sex scenes, but the Palme d'Or winner gave us all the explicit details on every aspect of a blossoming then fading relationship. Naturalistic filmmaking par excellence.
Impact: "Art or porn?" everyone asked--not least the film's actresses, in a bitter stand-off against director Abdellatif Kechiche. But by then, stars Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux had already made history when the Cannes jury named them co-recipients of the Palme D'Or.
4. Iron Man 3
The Movie: Stark went dark in this post-Avengers threequel, where terrorist threats and a mad scientist proved almost too much to cope with for an anxiety ridden Tony. But it was all about the twist
Impact: Any worries about a post-Avengers hangover were quickly averted here as Marvel Phase 2 got underway. Shane Black was having an absolute ball, and could Ben Kingsley be in with an outside chance of an Oscar nomination?
3. Zero Dark Thirty
The Movie: AKA Get Bin Laden, as Jessica Chastain's single-minded CIA spook chases America's Most Wanted across the Middle East. Kathryn Bigelow rides shotgun to capture the tale in all its complexity and confusion: the acting, technique and shuffling of (mis)information over a 10-year time span were, simply, stunning.
Impact: This was the most critically lauded of the Oscar season, until Bigelow ended up fighting a rear-guard action against accusations her film condoned torture. It didn't (Bigelow maintains a tone of ambivalence that lets us decide), but the controversy saw the film tumble from favourite to just a single shared Oscar.
2. Before Midnight
The Movie: In an indie threequel that came loaded with layers of resonance accumulated over 18 years, Jesse and Clines latest Euro-break traded youthful ideals for half-hidden resentments. Heartfelt and (painfully) truthful.
Impact: The best threequel since Toy Story 3 and for much the same reason, being a mature study of growing up and growing old that casts a moving, bittersweet hue over its predecessors. The year's best--and certainly most honest--romance.