Honourable mentions should go to a handful of films that we couldn't find room for in the top 20. High octane car dramas Rush and Fast & Furious 6; impressive indies Filth, Kill Your Darlings, Upstream Colour and A Hijacking; and a trio of excellent documentaries in Side by Side, The Act of Killing and The Crash Reel.
Read on to see our countdown from 20-11, and make sure to check back tomorrow (December 22) for the top 10.
We said: "Prisoners is about the evil lurking behind white picket fences, the escalating moral compromises that cause a seemingly decent man to do terrible things, and the personal cost of revenge. Here, the American Dream slides into a full-blown nightmare." [SR]
19. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
We said: "It takes a while to get over the strangeness of seeing Partridge on the big screen (the editing rhythms, visual look and feel are totally different to anything he's done before), but once the siege stirs into motion Coogan excels as Alan lawlessly channels Spy Who Loved Me-era Roger Moore." [SR]
18. We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
We said: "The range of Gibney's subjects, the rigour of his research and the complexity of his questions make We Steal Secrets breathlessly compelling, but it's the moments of psychological probing that haunt the most." [ED]
17. Saving Mr Banks
We said: "The film really belongs to Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks, whose relationship is elegantly observed by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith's script. Oscar nominations are almost assured, and this is the kind of warm-blanket drama that could prosper in awards season. In the best tradition of Disney, it is a film to make you laugh and cry." [SR]
16. Iron Man 3
We said: "Tony Stark must deal with serious chinks in the armour in Iron Man 3 - and not only of the mechanical kind. After a frivolous second instalment, writer/director Shane Black (replacing Jon Favreau) strips him of his suit and burdens him with panic attacks as a new terrorist threat emerges in the shape of The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). Essentially, Black is taking the superhero back to zero, but he doesn't pause for too much navel-gazing, instead using those malfunctions to deliver great crash bang fun." [SP]
15. The Kings of Summer
We said: "The spirit of Stand By Me lives on in The Kings of Summer, a poignant and frequently hilarious coming-of-age film about three teenage friends yearning for freedom and independence. Remember those school summer breaks when the holidays seemed to stretch on forever and anything seemed possible? This is that movie, and anybody with fond memories of long, hot summers will get a kick out of Jordan Vogt-Roberts's big screen directorial debut." [SR]
14. American Hustle
We said: "Masks. We all wear them, figuratively speaking, often to project a more desirable persona than the insecurity-addled ball of confusion lurking within. American Hustle confidently tackles this concept of transcending reality through deception, showcasing the versatility of its exceptional cast amidst a tale peppered with savage laughs and dark twists." [BRJ]
We said: "Steve Coogan and Judi Dench play their parts beautifully, the latter in particular shines bright in a role that could so have easily descended into caricature. In the case of Coogan, you'll be surprised by just how nuanced and low-key his performance is. Elements of Partridge always seem to bubble to the surface in his non-Alan roles, yet here this is rarely the case. Dench will rightly get the headlines (and maybe an Oscar nomination?), but Coogan is just as important in the role of audience surrogate." [SR]
12. Short Term 12
We said: "A small film with a big heart, Short Term 12 delves into the lives of kids and their twentysomething carers at a short-term foster home. There are no star names here but there are star turns, most notably from Brie Larson as one of the staffers, Grace." [SP]
11. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
We said: "What Francis Lawrence's direction does deliver is a physical dexterity that pays off in the third act's onslaught of assorted peril, and a visual lushness that emphasises the importance of water throughout the story. There's also a paranoid tone to the dystopian horror; Snow and the mysterious Plutarch Heavensbee (played by an unengaged Philip Seymour Hoffman) check in intermittently on our heroes via surveillance footage, in a trope that becomes crucial to Katniss's eventual quasi-victory." [ED]
Contributions by Simon Reynolds, Emma Dibdin, Ben Rawson-Jones and Stella Papamichael
Which movies were your favourites of 2013? Let us know in the comments section below!