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Digital Spy's top 10 movies of 2013 so far: Star Trek, Iron Man, more

By and Simon Reynolds
The average year in cinema looks, broadly, a lot like a sandwich. Stay with us on this. The year begins with awards season (or bread, if you will), continues into blockbuster season (the generous filling, which nowadays starts in April and runs through to August), and segues pretty quickly back into pre-awards season (another slice). You see?

Some highlights on the bread front included Steven Spielberg's sweeping Lincoln, Kathryn Bigelow's meticulous Zero Dark Thirty and Tom Hooper's ambitious Broadway adaptation Les Misérables. Meanwhile, the filling offered up some surprisingly rich, character-focused flavours thanks to Shane Black's Iron Man 3 and JJ Abrams's Star Trek Into Darkness.

And so, with half of the sandwich now eaten, we've assembled our ten favourite films of the year so far.

10. Iron Man 3
Iron Man 3
Why it's great: The course of the threequel never did run smooth, but Marvel have a knack for going against the grain with their directors and it's Shane Black's off-kilter touch that makes Iron Man 3 such an unexpected breath of fresh air. Marrying sharp chatter with real psychological delving, Black and Drew Pearce made this Tony Stark's most compelling outing yet.

9. Stoker
'Stoker' still: Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode
Why it's great: Chan-wook Park's English-language debut leaned heavily on Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt, and you feel Hitch himself would've gotten a kick out of Stoker's icy atmosphere and prickling tension. Alongside Park's gorgeous imagery are a trio of fine performances from Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode.

8. Cloud Atlas
'Cloud Atlas' still
Why it's great: The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer attempted to film the unfilmable when they took on David Mitchell's acclaimed novel Cloud Atlas. The finished article might be a flawed picture, but it's a movie that should be admired for its epic scale and lofty ambition. Tom Hanks and Halle Berry are both outstanding playing six characters across interconnected time periods.

7. Behind the Candelabra
Matt Damon, Michael Douglas in Behind the Candelabra
Why it's great: Don't let the glitzy posters and laugh-a-minute trailer fool you - Steven Soderbergh's supposed swansong, while deliriously entertaining, is also one of the year's most disturbing films. Michael Douglas's Liberace is all surface charm, but beneath he's a Dracula figure, gradually draining the life from Matt Damon's unsuspecting Scott Thorson. It's brash, compulsive drama.

6. We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
Julian Assange in 'We Steal Secrets'
Why it's great: It's not out in the UK for another two weeks, but Alex Gibney's incisive and exhaustive documentary, which charts the rise and semi-fall of WikiLeaks and its controversial founder Julian Assange, is just too good for us to leave out. As much psychological drama as journalistic document, We Steal Secrets is gripping, rigorous and essential viewing now more than ever.

5. Zero Dark Thirty
Director Kathryn Bigelow on the set of 'Zero Dark Thirty'
Why it's great: Look past the torture controversy and in Kathryn Bigelow's thriller you'll find an exhaustive and forensic account of the US's decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden. Jessica Chastain delivers a knockout performance at the heart of the film, while its climactic assault on Bin Laden's Abbottabad compound is a pure cinematic rush.

4. Before Midnight
'Before Midnight' still
Why it's great: Nine years after we last saw Jesse and Celine in Before Sunset, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and Richard Linklater bring their beloved characters back for a warm, witty and moving tour of Greece. Checking back in with this couple as they ruminate on life, love, past, present and future is an absolute joy. Before Midnight is a terrific closer to a wonderful trilogy.

3. Much Ado About Nothing
Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof in 'Much Ado About Nothing'
Why it's great: There are very few directors who would choose to spend their time off knocking out a quick Shakespeare adaptation, and it's clear just how much passion has gone into Joss Whedon's witty, heartfelt updated take on this archetypal screwball romance. The pitch-perfect cast of Whedon alums, led by Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker, breathe new life into a classic text.

2. Star Trek Into Darkness
Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Star Trek Into Darkness
Why it's great: Our anticipation levels for JJ Abrams's follow-up to his stellar 2009 reboot were already high, and then he went and cast Benedict Cumberbatch as physically invulnerable, emotionally volatile villain "John Harrison". Watching this uncannily smart space-terrorist manipulate the Enterprise crew is one of the richest pleasures of a sequel packed with them, but what really sets Darkness apart is its commitment to character. With Kirk and Spock's evolving relationship brought front and centre, Chris Pine and a standout Zachary Quinto bring humour and heart in spades.

1. The Place Beyond the Pines
Ryan Gosling in The Place Beyond the Pines
Why it's great: This multi-generational crime drama brought Ryan Gosling back in front of his Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance's lens with breathtaking results. Pines had killer performances from the Gosling/Bradley Cooper/Dane DeHaan triptych supporting a quietly devastating sins-of-the-fathers story. It gripped us like a vice - from Gosling's death-defying motorcycle cage stunt in the opening moments to DeHaan riding off to Bon Iver's haunting 'The Wolves' in the last.

Which of our top ten films of 2013 so far is your favourite? Vote in our poll, or leave your picks in the space below!
The Place Beyond the Pines9.80%
Star Trek Into Darkness47.13%
Much Ado About Nothing 2.99%
Before Midnight2.35%
Zero Dark Thirty6.37%
We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks0.49%
Behind the Candelabra4.16%
Cloud Atlas4.41%
Stoker2.11%
Iron Man 320.19%

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