The Heat puts a fresh spin on the first all-female, polar-opposite buddy cop comedy — featuring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy's side-splitting banter and wacky abandon. It's fittingly helmed by Paul Feig, who, like he did with Bridesmaids, injects the film with a great understanding of the complexities of female relationships while never letting up on the laughs.
2 of 15 Universal Pictures
Fast & Furious 6
While the Fast and the Furious franchise will carry far more poignancy in the wake of Paul Walker's death, the films have never failed to deliver what they promise: high-octane, outrageous fun. Fast 6 takes the stunts to absurd new levels, unspooling set pieces that defy both physics and logic. But isn't that what movie escapism is all about?
3 of 15 Relativity Media
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has wowed audiences as both a comedic force and a captivating dramatic leading man, and his directorial debut is the same perfect blend of humor and heart — with an added dash of Internet porn. But beneath the wifebeaters, the hair gel and those spot-on Jersey accents — you're a dime, ScarJo! — Don Jon offers a fresh and extremely honest take on the young-lothario-looking-for-the-meaning-of-love narrative instead of the stale story about commitment-phobes who just need to find the "right girl."
4 of 15 Walt Disney Pictures
Iron Man 3
A step up from the all-flash-but-no-substance hollowness of the second film, Iron Man 3 is a clever, explosive thrill ride from beginning to end. Robert Downey Jr. charms once again, but also digs deep with an accurate exploration of Tony Stark's post-traumatic stress disorder that shows the man underneath the zingers.
5 of 15 Warner Bros.
A fantastic edge-of-your-seat thriller? You bet! But to only call Prisoners that would be a disservice to the other elements that push the film far above the heap of this year's whodunnits. Thanks to layered performances from a talented ensemble led by Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, Prisoners is a tale about family, trust, innocence vs. guilt, and inner demons. Though not as haunting as other Oscar contenders 12 Years a Slave and Captain Phillips, the themes explored in the film stay with viewers long after that jaw-dropping ending.
6 of 15 CBS Films
Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen Brothers don't miss a beat (and neither does the soundtrack) with their bleak, melancholic rumination on the American Dream, set against a minimalist backdrop of the 1961 folk scene in the Greenwich Village. Oscar Isaac shines as the titular hero, a sad sack, suffering singer who's too good not to make it, but too stubborn to compromise.
7 of 15 Anne Marie Fox/Focus Features
Dallas Buyers Club
Raw, funny and engineered as an acting vehicle, the biopic wouldn't be half the film it is without the powerhouse performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. McConaughey's transformative portrayal of Ron Woodroof, a homophobic hell-raising cowboy who took his HIV treatment into his own hands, is a sight to behold, as is Leto's immersive, heartbreaking turn as transgendered Rayon. Jennifer Garner also adds warmth as Ron's doctor, who's torn between what's legal and morally right.
8 of 15 Warner Bros. Pictures
You don't need Siri to tell you this is good. Set in the near-future, Spike Jonze's sci-fi rom-com — about a man who falls for his Operating System — is an inventive, inquisitive reflection on our desires for human connection and our increasing alienation in the world of social networking. Soulful and sweet, Joaquin Phoenix cements himself as one of today's most versatile actors, doing a complete 180 from his frighteningly intense turn in The Master last year, while Scarlett Johansson has managed to create a fully realized character in Samantha using just her voice. You'll want to put down your phone and reach out to another person after you watch it.
9 of 15 Columbia Pictures
Based on the infamous ABSCAM scandal, David O. Russell's con caper is Goodfellas meets Boogie Nights — a wicked, sexy confection of snazzy fun. Mesmerizing wardrobes, hair and makeup (Bradley Cooper's perm!) are matched with standout performances by repeat Russell players Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, along with Jeremy Renner, who make it all the more watchable.
10 of 15 Paramount Pictures
The Wolf of Wall Street
Sex, drugs and cha-ching. Martin Scorsese's cocaine-fueled adaptation of Jordan Belfort's memoir, about the rise and fall of his stockbroker career, is a raucous, decadent roller coaster through Wall Street excess. Leonardo DiCaprio, in his fifth collaboration with Marty, delivers a towering performance as Belfort that may finally do for him what Gordon Gekko did for Michael Douglas: win him an Oscar.
11 of 15 Sony Pictures Classics
Woody Allen's Streetcar Named Desire-esque riches-to-rags story of a fallen socialite whose life implodes after her husband's imprisonment is a sharp, frank character study that's as much an unsettling warning as it is a showcase for Blanchett. Perfectly capturing a woman on the edge, Blanchett gives a riveting turn without going off the deep end and leads a superb cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K., Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard and Andrew Dice Clay.
12 of 15 Murray Close/Lionsgate
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
After the huge commercial and critical success of the first film (suck it, Twilight saga), this second film in the four-part franchise rises to the occasion, just like our girl Katniss, who brings her A-game when she is forced to fight for her life a second time. Catching Fire also gives its returning cast great chances to shine, while giving worthy introductions to new favorites Joanna (Jena Malone) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Unlike the first movie, which downplays the social and political elements of the first novel, Catching Fire has a closer examination of morality that lays the groundwork for the major social upheaval to come in the following films.
13 of 15 Columbia Pictures
Despite being based on a true story, this film leaves viewers biting their fingernails as often as they are holding back tears of sadness and horror as Captain Phillips' life — and the Somali pirates' livelihood — hang in the balance. Tom Hanks gives an understated performance that only gets more impressive after he's rescued in a heart-wrenching final scene that's hard to forget.
14 of 15 Warner Bros. Pictures
Anchored by a strong yet vulnerable Sandra Bullock with an assist from George Clooney, Alfonso Cuaron's herculean endeavor is a visual, breathtaking stunner, evocative of Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. More than the technical effects, though, Gravity truly resonates with its haunting mix of awe and terror of the vast unknown.
15 of 15 Fox Searchlight Pictures
12 Years a Slave
Brutal and profound, 12 Years a Slave — a telling of Solomon Northup's remarkable true story — is also the year's best feel-worst film. Under Steve McQueen's clinical direction and featuring top-flight performances by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sarah Paulson and Paul Dano, the drama offers a sobering, unflinching and realistic depiction of the depravities of slavery in a way that has never before been portrayed on-screen. Rather than offer catharsis or comfort, 12 Years forces moviegoers to examine and contemplate America's greatest sin up-close. It's difficult, but essential and brilliant viewing.