1. The Act of Killing
2. Gravity
3. Blue Is the Warmest Colour
4. The Great Beauty
5. Frances Ha
6. A Touch of Sin
7. Upstream Color
8. The Selfish Giant
9. Norte, the End of History
10. Stranger by the Lake

“The uneasiness it creates in the viewer ranges from the details of its Chabrolian tale of deathly desire to its puzzling sexual politics. Never have scrotums been used as such elegant compositional elements. Its effect is a state of constant arousal and distrust, and the filmmaking is unnervingly exquisite” — — Michael Koresky

More detail at the BFI’s Sight&Sound page, though nothing else quite like that.

(thanks, Bryce!)

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  • Jeremy

    The Act of Killing is the single stone-cold masterpiece I’ve seen this year. The most essential, most intelligent, most unique, and genuinely important film of the year.

  • glimmer

    this can sort of work as an alt oscar list. 😉

  • Jerry Grant

    I agree. The Act of Killing is unquestionably the best and most important film I have seen this year.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    GRAVITY should be #1, but I can’t argue against THE ACT OF KILLING. It is Herzogian on steroids.

    12 YEARS A SLAVE and INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS are not on here because they haven’t been released internationally. Which makes this list sort of premature. How about waiting an extra month? Oh yeah, doorbusters

  • alexww

    Cool list, i’m dying to see Stranger by the Lake but it didnt’ play here and I’ve yet to see it on demand anywhere!

  • What?

    Completely absurd to make a Best-of-the-Year list before December even begins.

  • david

    Short term 12 should be on that list

  • Watermelons

    How the hell is, “Seven years, two huge stars and the most expensive digital rendering equipment dollars can buy” the quote they chose for Gravity? Like, distilling the film to, “stars and money!” is a joke, right? Those pranksters at Sight&Sound, always with the metanarrative baits-and-switches!

  • julian the emperor

    You won’t here me complain about The Act of Killing winning this either. A masterpiece (of its very own genre!)

    A curious fact (a lot of you very well-informed awards followers surely know this already): The Danish committee submitted The Hunt for this years’ foreign language Oscar (a good choice in so many ways, not least because it has a viable shot at being nominated, or even win), but on the shortlist for selection was also The Act of Killing…(it’s a Danish co-production). It would have been so COOL if it had indeed been selected as Denmark’s candidate. It could have resulted in a Dogtooth-like success story (or not), but no matter it’s awards potential, it would have been an incredibly cool and forward-thinking choice. Alas, it was not to be.

  • Akumax

    Gravity, Blue Is the Warmest Colour, A Touch of Sin, Stranger by the Lake are great!


    The Great Beauty is awful awful awful

  • Which makes this list sort of premature. How about waiting an extra month?

    I was going to say the same thing. As far as I’m concerned the year has barely even started. (I’m just waiting for American Hustle, really.) If I made my top ten list this year so far lol … okay… you know what? Why not? 😀

    1. Black Nativity
    2. Mud
    3. Blue Jasmine
    4. Behind the Candelabra*
    5. Pain and Gain
    6. This is the End
    7. The Lone Ranger
    8. Prisoners
    9. Escape Plan
    10. 12 Years a Slave

    *should have been a movie movie

    This is what happens when you live in the boonies and make early lists. I’ve only seen 31 movies.

  • Jesus Alonso

    “Stranger by the Lake” is Cahiers du Cinema #1…


    1. L’inconnu du lac (Alain Guiraudie)
    2. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine)
    3. La Vie d’Adèle (Abdellatif Kechiche)
    4. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)
    5. A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhang Ke)
    6. Lincoln (Steven Spielberg)
    7. La Jalousie (Philippe Garrel)
    8. Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (Hong Sang-soo)
    9. Les Rencontres d’après minuit (Yann Gonzalez)
    10. La Bataille de Solférino (Justine Triet)

    (“Lincoln” is 2013 in France, and plenty of other territories)

  • steve50

    Echo Bryce and Antoinette – the list is way premature.

    This boonie resider also feels out of it. 12 Years only played 2 weeks here before being replaced by animated crap in multiple cinemas – and I was unable to get into the city to see it. Major sulking ever since.

  • It would have been so COOL if [The Act of Killing] had indeed been selected as Denmark’s candidate.

    True, but then that would have made The Hunt’s shot at Oscar nominations virtually nil. The Act of Killing still has a decent chance at getting a Best Documentary mention, and The Hunt is a superb film which would be a thoroughly deserving Best Foreign Language Film nominee.

    Antoinette, I think you can count Behind the Candelabra as a ‘movie movie’. It may have been made for American TV, but it premiered in Cannes as a ‘movie movie’ before its US TV broadcast, and has been released theatrically in a lot of international markets. So its place on your list is justified.

    NORTE, THE END OF HISTORY!! I’m now Sight & Sound’s biggest fan. This list is jam-packed with excellent films, like The Act of Killing, Gravity, Blue Is the Warmest Colour, The Selfish Giant, Stranger by the Lake. It’s even better than Cahiers du Cinema’s list. But NORTE, THE END OF HISTORY!! #inawe

  • JoeS

    I have similar complaints about Best 10 lists that come out….next week. So, why single out this list for just a few days difference? Plus, as noted, there are different release patterns overseas anyway.

    Does anybody know release dates or plans in the USA for A Touch of Sin, The Selfish Giant, Norte, the End of History and Stranger by the Lake??

    And, THE GREAT BEAUTY is an astonishing achievement.

  • JamDenTel

    I’m so happy Upstream Color hasn’t been forgotten. And A Touch of Sin is even better than UC. Two of my absolute favorites of the year. And I quite like The Act of Killing and Frances Ha. Gravity, though, I felt was highly overrated, and Blue is the Warmest Color was incredibly overrated. The other four I haven’t seen, but they all sound great.

    My Top 10 as of today:
    1. 12 Years a Slave
    2 (more like 1a). Spring Breakers
    3. A Touch of Sin
    4. The Congress
    5. Upstream Color
    6. Captain Phillips
    7. Side Effects
    8. Rush
    9. Prisoners
    10. Pacific Rim (or From Up on Poppy Hill)

  • Patrick

    Full S&S list, courtesy of Guy Lodge:

    1. “The Act of Killing” (Joshua Oppenheimer)
    2. “Gravity” (Alfonso Cuaron)
    3. “Blue is the Warmest Color” (Abdellatif Kechiche)
    4. “The Great Beauty” (Paolo Sorrentino)
    5. “Frances Ha” (Noah Baumbach)
    6. “A Touch of Sin” (Jia Zhang-ke)
    =“Upstream Color” (Shane Carruth)
    8. “The Selfish Giant” (Clio Barnard)
    9. “Norte, the End of History” (Lav Diaz)
    =”Stranger by the Lake” (Alain Guiraudie)
    11. “Before Midnight” (Richard Linklater)
    =”Stray Dogs” (Tsai Ming-liang)
    13. “Leviathan” (Lucien Castaing and Verena Paravel)
    14. ”All is Lost” (J.C. Chandor)
    =”A Field in England” (Ben Wheatley)
    =“12 Years a Slave” (Steve McQueen)
    17. “Bastards” (Claire Denis)
    =”Gloria” (Sebastian Lelio)
    =”The Missing Picture” (Rithy Panh)
    =”Story of My Death” (Albert Serra)
    =”Under the Skin” (Jonathan Glazer)
    22. “At Berkeley” (Frederick Wiseman)
    =”Beyond the Hills” (Cristian Mungiu)
    =”Blancanieves” (Pablo Berger)
    =”Blue Jasmine” (Woody Allen)
    =”Django Unchained” (Quentin Tarantino)
    =“Ida” (Pawel Pawlikowski)
    =”Inside Llewyn Davis” (Joel and Ethan Coen)
    =“It’s Such a Beautiful Day” (Don Hertzfeldt)
    =”The Last of the Unjust” (Claude Lanzmann)

  • Paddy Mulholland

    Seeing 12 Years a Slave and A Field in England tie astounds me. #HALP

    JoeS, The Selfish Giant will be released in limited in the US on the 20th of December. That feels like an Oscar qualifying run to me, which I think is misguided for a film that’s unlikely to attract much awards attention in America, despite its high quality. Whatever the case, it’ll probably expand a little in the New Year, but not by much.

    Stranger by the Lake is getting a limited US release on the 24th of January. It too it very unlikely to expand much, since it’ll surely be released unrated and has very little mainstream commercial potential.

    A Touch of Sin and Norte, the End of History both have American distributors but no release date. A Touch of Sin is with Koch Lorber, who are very minor players even in arthouse distribution circles. Norte, the End of History is with The Cinema Guild, who are certain to attract the right audience for the film, but they too aren’t the type to drive a film beyond strictly limited release.

  • Paddy Mulholland

    Btw, to those of you who think that these lists are premature, consider that the voters from Cahiers du Cinema and Sight & Sound have probably been screened all or most of the films likely to make much of an impact through December in the wider cultural community.

  • JoeS

    Paddy, thanks for the info!

    Unless films are blockbusters, it can be damn difficult to sift through all the various websites to find release dates!

    And, sadly, the “official” sites of many indie and foreign films are the WORST place to look for reliable info!! Does anybody at these distributors ever even LOOK at their own website? Crikey, some of the info is months old!!

  • Bryce Forestieri


    So, then the European critics’ overview of 12 YEARS A SLAVE is nowhere close to what their American counterparts articulated –which could be recapitulated as we unanimously and resolutely declare this is the best movie of the year, by far

  • So, then the European critics’ overview of 12 YEARS A SLAVE is nowhere close to what their American counterparts articulated –which could be recapitulated as we unanimously and resolutely declare this is the best movie of the year, by far

    I’m not sure. I think that there exists a sense among the American critical community that their reviews ought not to be appreciated as their own independent opinions, and that the influence which they might be able to exert on the Oscar race is as much an important part of the role they play in the film industry as their personal appraisal of the films they see. Thus, when a great film, like 12 Years a Slave, that also has major awards potential, like 12 Years a Slave, comes along, many daren’t express anything but the utmost praise for the film. I think European critics might, overall, think on a more independently-minded level.

    Not that 12 Years a Slave doesn’t deserve the praise it has received. But there are dozens of great films made every year, and critics at establishments such as Sight & Sound are likely to have seen very many of them, which makes it hard to predict what films they’re gonna like best. Unlike the American critics, whom you can bet will rank 12 Years a Slave in at least the top five best films of the year when all their Top 10 lists have been added together.

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