History was brought to life in the top films in our 14th annual poll. The Coen Brothers’ portrait of a failed Sixties folk singer pulled ahead of Steve McQueen’s harrowing trip back to life under slavery. Not too far behind was The Act of Killing’s exposé of Indonesia’s thriving genocidal legacy, and Andrew Bujalski’s doubly retro experiment in old-school video Computer Chess (plus, further down, Sarah Polley’s tricky family-saga hybrid Stories We Tell). Immersion cinema of a more contemporary sort—from Leviathan and Gravity, to the different deep ends of Spring Breakers and Upstream Color—also came on strong in a lineup featuring fewer foreign-language titles than usual. A note on the poll’s workings: over 100 North American colleagues ranked their favorites in two categories: 1) those that received theatrical runs and 2) those viewed this year but currently with no announced plans for U.S. theatrical distribution. For each ballot, a first-place choice was allotted 20 points, 19 for second, and so on.

Readers’ Poll: Readers are invited to stand up and be counted too! All entries will be automatically entered in our contest for free DVDs from the Criterion Collection. We will print the poll results in our March/April issue and publish your comments on the website. Send your ranked list of the year’s 20 best films (plus any rants, raves, and insights) with your name, address, and phone number, to fcpoll [at] filmlinc.com. Deadline: February 3, 2014. First Prize: your choice of Criterion Collection DVDs, up to $200 in value. Second Prize: up to $120. Third & Fourth Prizes: up to $80. The winners, who will be picked by random draw, can select prizes, subject to availability, from the Criterion Collection catalogue.

1. Inside Llewyn Davis 
Joel & Ethan Coen, U.S.

2. 12 Years a Slave 
Steve McQueen, U.S.

3. Before Midnight 
Richard Linklater, U.S.

4. The Act of Killing 
Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark/Norway/U.K.

5. A Touch of Sin 
Jia Zhang-ke, China

6.  Leviathan 
Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Véréna Paravel, France/U.K./U.S.

7. Gravity 
Alfonso Cuarón, U.S.

8. Computer Chess 
Andrew Bujalski, U.S.

9. Frances Ha 
Noah Baumbach, U.S.

10.  Upstream Color 
Shane Carruth, U.S.

Museum Hours

11. Museum Hours 
Jem Cohen, Austria/U.S.

Blue is the Warmest Color

12. Blue Is the Warmest Color
Abdellatif Kechiche, France/Belgium/Spain


13. Bastards 
Claire Denis, France/Germany

Spring Breakers

14. Spring Breakers 
Harmony Korine, U.S.

Like Someone in Love

15. Like Someone in Love 
Abbas Kiarostami, Japan/France

Stories We Tell

16. Stories We Tell 
Sarah Polley, Canada


17. Her 
Spike Jonze, U.S.


18. Nebraska 
Alexander Payne, U.S.

American Hustle

19. American Hustle 
David O. Russell, U.S.

The Grandmaster

20. The Grandmaster 
Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong/China

At Berkeley

21. At Berkeley 
Frederick Wiseman, U.S.


Beyond the Hills

22. Beyond the Hills 
Cristian Mungiu, Romania/France/Belgium


23. No 
Pablo Larraín, Chile/U.S./France

The Great Beauty

24. The Great Beauty 
Paolo Sorrentino, Italy/France

Blue Jasmine

25. Blue Jasmine 
Woody Allen, U.S.

All is Lost

26. All Is Lost 
J.C. Chandor, U.S.

Post Tenebras Lux

27. Post Tenebras Lux
Carlos Reygadas, Mexico/France/

Something in the Air

28. Something in the Air 
Olivier Assayas, France


29. Viola 
Matías Piñeiro, Argentina

Fruitvale Station

30. Fruitvale Station 
Ryan Coogler, U.S.

To the Wonder

31. To the Wonder 
Terrence Malick, U.S.

Night Across the Street

32. Night Across the Street 
Raúl Ruiz, France/Chile

Room 237

33. Room 237 
Rodney Ascher, U.S.


34. Faust 
Aleksandr Sokurov, Russia

Let the Fire Burn

35. Let the Fire Burn 
Jason Osder, U.S.

Le Point du Nord

36. Le Pont du Nord 
Jacques Rivette, France

Wolf of Wall Street

37.  The Wolf of Wall Street 
Martin Scorsese, U.S.

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

38. You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet 
Alain Resnais, France/Germany

The Last Time I Saw Macao

39. The Last Time I Saw Macao 
João Pedro Rodrigues & João Rui Guerra da Mata, Portugal/France

The Past

40. The Past 
Asghar Farhadi, France/Italy

The Square

41. The Square
Noujaim, U.S./Egypt

The Wind Rises

42. The
Wind Rises 

Hayao Miyazaki, Japan

Drug War

43. Drug War 
Johnnie To, Hong Kong/China

Cousin Jules

44. Cousin Jules 
Dominique Benicheti, France

Much Ado About Nothing

45. Much Ado About Nothing 
Joss Whedon, U.S.

Passion Brian de Palma

46. Passion 
Brian De Palma, France/

Short Term 12

47.  Short Term 12 
Destin Daniel Cretton, U.S.

Dallas Buyers Club

48.  Dallas Buyers Club 
Jean-Marc Vallée, U.S.

Berberian Sound Studio

49. Berberian Sound Studio 
Peter Strickland, U.K.

Captain Phillips

50. Captain Phillips 
Paul Greengrass, U.S.

Don’t see your favorite here? Proceed to the Best Undistributed Films of 2013.