The 25 Best Films of 2013

We seem to have accepted as conventional wisdom, in this year-end crush of critics’ awards and Oscar chatter and best-of lists, that 2013 was an exceptional year at the movies. The overwhelmingly high caliber is both a matter of quantity and quality; throughout the fall season — when the Prestige Movies™ tend to hit theaters — each week gave us an embarrassment of cinematic riches, and even before the leaves turned, we’d seen a remarkable array of diverse, smart, moving films. But the pictures tumbling out of the fall festivals and onto movie screens this year had an urgency, an intensity, an immediacy; they tackled vital subjects with emotion and intelligence, all the while making bold strides in style and technique and, on top of all of that, entertaining and riveting audiences. These are the best films of 2013.

THE TOP 5 DOCUMENTARIES

5. Room 237

Director Rodney Ascher begins with a gimmick: five slightly cuckoo Kubrick geeks with wild theories to explain oddities and errors within the filmmaker’s 1980 adaptation of The Shining. He adopts the style of a homemade YouTube documentary, all clips and voice-overs, deliberately recalling conspiracy docs like Loose Change, but the more they talk, the more the film reveals itself as a clever meditation on the very act of analysis and interpretation, and a sly commentary of the logical pretzels we’ll twist ourselves into in the name of subtext.