Our Guide to the Many Top Ten Lists of 2013

GravityWarner Bros via Everett Collection

The onset of December always ushers in Top 10 lists from every corner of the movie-loving community. But with such a variety of lists, it can be difficult for many — on a quest to determine what flicks are worthiest of their catch-up time — to figure out which ones are best suited to their particular tastes. On Monday, we saw three esteemed figures in the cinematic world grace the public with their picks for ’13: the Sight & Sound organization, Empire Magazine, and film vet John Waters, following in the footsteps of the French film publication Cahiers Du Cinéma just last week and filmmaker Quentin Tarantino in October. 

Sight & Sound Top 10 of 2013
1) The Act of Killing
2) Gravity
3) Blue Is the Warmest Color
4) The Great Beauty
5) Frances Ha
Tied for 6) A Touch of Sin
Tied for 6) Upstream Color
8) The Selfish Giant
Tied for 9) Norte, The End of History
Tied for 9) Stranger by the Lake

Empire Magazine Top 10 of 2013
1) Gravity
2) Captain Phillips
3) Rush
4) Mud
5) Lincoln
6) Stoker
7) Iron Man 3
8) Before Midnight
9) The Great Beauty
10) Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

John Waters’ Top 10 Films of 2013
1) Spring Breakers
2) Camille Claudel 1915
3) Abuse of Weakness
4) Hors Satan
5) After Tiller
6) Hannah Arendt
7) Beyond the Hills
8) Blue Jasmine
9) Blackfish
10) I’m So Excited

The benefits of having an onslaught of “Top 10s” is twofold. On the one hand, those ingratiating themselves into cinema can look back at the history of Sight & Sound or Empire Magazine’s big winners, aligning their own old faves with those of the publications.

If we look at Sight & Sound’s Top 10 lists from the past five years, we find The MasterTree of LifeThe Social Network, and Un Prophète.

And the same treatment for Empire: The Avengers, DriveInceptionLet the Right One In. Which of these lists look more appealing to you — the heady, slow-paced thinkers of Sight & Sound, or the fun-loving, kinetic thrillers of Empire?

On the other hand, we can also spot commonalities among the lot, assuming that films earning spots on multiple Top 10 lists to be the most likely candidates for an enjoyable go at the theater.

Here, we have the previously released Cahiers du Cinéma Top 10 and Quentin Tarantino’s personal picks (not ordered) for 2013.

Cahiers du Cinéma Top 10 of 2013
1) Stranger by the Lake
2) Spring Breakers
3) Blue Is the Warmest Color
4) Gravity
5) A Touch of Sin
6) Lincoln
7) La Jalousie
8) Nobody’s Daughter Haewon
9) You and the Night
10) La bataille de Solférino

Quentin Tarantino’s Top 10 of 2013 (not ranked)
Afternoon Delight
Before Midnight
Blue Jasmine
The Conjuring
Drinking Buddies
Frances Ha
Kick Ass 2
The Lone Ranger
This Is the End 

As luck would have it, we get our own organic Top 10 list from these five separate groupings, as there are 10 titles that repeat among the publications’ picks: GravityBlue Is the Warmest ColorStranger by the LakeA Touch of SinBlue JasmineBefore MidnightSpring BreakersFrances HaThe Great Beauty, and Lincoln. But, as just about each title is shared by a distinct pair of publications, we have to take some time to figure out which Venn diagram caters best to our tastes. So here’s a stab at that.

Sight & Sound/Empire/Cahiers/Tarantino – The All-Purpose Pleasers

Sight & Sound/Cahiers – The Class Acts
Blue Is the Warmest Color
Stranger by the Lake
A Touch of Sin

Waters/Tarantino – The Directors’ Picks
Blue Jasmine

Empire/Tarantino – The “Accessibles”
Before Midnight

Waters/Cahiers – The “Avant Gardes”
Spring Breakers

Sight & Sound/Tarantino – The Humanities
Frances Ha

Sight & Sound/Empire – The Institutions
The Great Beauty

Empire/Cahiers – The Late-to-the-Gamers

Ultimately, Top 10s should not be treated with the be-all-end-all attitude that they often are. They’re suggestions, a means to help you find new features that you like but might not have caught just yet.