Now that you know what was at the bottom of the barrel – and below – for 2013, it’s time to find out which films came out on top! Rev your engines, as we begin our countdown with…

15 – THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES

To those who claim that epic filmmaking should be left to the higher-budgeted studio flicks, we proudly present Derek Cianfrance’s ambitious indie The Place Beyond The Pines.

Weaving together three different storylines spanning a couple of generations is not a simple day at the office, but Cianfrance’s smooth and heartfelt direction – as well as his script as co-written by Ben Coccio and Darius Marder – makes it all look so easy and ultimately makes it a far grander movie than we would have imagined.

The cherry on top is a stunning ensemble cast, with male leads Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper shining as well as supporting players Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta and Dane DeHaan. But this is Cianfrance’s film, and a powerful reminder that if he can make the smallest of films look absolutely huge, who knows what the hell he can do with a bigger budget…

14 – SIDE EFFECTS + BEHIND THE CANDELABRA

Don’t worry, this is the only tie you’ll see on this list, but for a very good reason. In the wake of his announcing his semi-retirement from filmmaking, director Steven Soderbergh has left us on a high with two excellent films in their own right, both very different but neither lacking in quality.

Side Effects was a chilling Hitchcock thriller set in the world of pharmaceutical practise, and the deadly amount of corporate corruption that came with it. It succeeds in keeping the mysteries vacuum sealed until the time is right, but every bit of build-up keeps your attention and every new development comes as a great shock to the audience (one particular incident involving main characters early on always gets a gasp from any viewers we’ve seen). It’s a thriller done the right way, and easily reigns as one of the year’s best in the genre.

It’s extremely surprising that the same man would also direct Behind The Candelabra, where the campy tone, extravagant theatricality and romantic atmosphere almost run parallel. But it is still a very strong piece, not least due to the astonishing work by lead actors Michael Douglas and Matt Damon who create a lovable and entertaining pair of lovers for the ages. When it wants to be funny, it can be really funny (the best example being Rob Lowe’s hideous Botox-drunk plastic surgeon) but it also earns points for daring to venture outside its flamboyant comfort zone, from detailing a drug addiction to revealing the vulgar truths of vanity that come with celebrity such as said plastic surgery. It still annoys us that it wasn’t granted a theatrical release in the US based on apparent claims that studios thought it to be “too gay”. In an age where views on homosexuality are becoming more and more relaxed, this is disappointingly unorthodox on their front.

If these two films are anything to go by, then Steven Soderbergh shall be deeply missed in the director’s chair…

13 – MUD

2013 was a big year for Matthew McConaughey, culminating with awards buzz for the upcoming Dallas Buyers Club (which sadly, due to its UK release in February 2014, is ineligible for this top 10 list). But until then, his work in Jeff Nichols’ Mud should serve as the best example of what he can really bring to the screen.

Though McConaughey brings a steady amount of screen presence in what it really a supporting role – that’s despite portraying the title character – Mud is just as much Nichols’ film if not more so. Drenched in visual lyricism and wonder not unlike the works of Mark Twain, the writer-director has crafted a Southern folk tale that treats its audience with the utmost respect and keeps its feet firmly on the ground.

Also to take into account is the incredible work of young actor Tye Sheridan, whose portrayal of a tormented adolescent going through hardships such as facing his parents’ divorce undoubtedly carries the film, perhaps more so than McConaughey. He is an exceedingly good young actor who will no doubt continue to pursue great roles in the near future, only fuelled by his performance in Mud.

Unlike its title, this is a film that is all sparkly from top to bottom…

12 – ALAN PARTRIDGE: ALPHA PAPA

Steve Coogan’s most infamous comic creation gets his own movie, and thankfully the end result is all the hilarity and cringeworthy narcissism we’ve come to expect from someone like Partridge.

A superb Norfolk-set pastiche of classic siege movies, Alpha Papa is unapologetically hilarious from the opening Phillip Glass track “Koyaanisqatsi” – which Partridge in a rare meta moment describes as “very foreboding” – onwards. But what raises its charm levels even higher is its very British take on certain action movie clichés. It’s only in a film like this where a “high-speed” car chase abides the traffic laws, and the climactic showdown takes place on a wooden pier.

Coogan once again breathes life into Alan Partridge with a whole new range of quotable lines to match that of Anchorman (which, the more one thinks about it, is more or less the US equivalent to Partridge), and Colm Meaney also has fun as the disgruntled radio DJ who causes the fuss.

It’s a rapid-fire British comedy that should guarantee that we haven’t yet seen the last of Alan Partridge. “A-ha!” indeed…

11- FILTH

Just missing out on a #10 spot is easily the best Irvine Welsh adaptation since Trainspotting, but Filth should not be discarded because it simply did not make it that far.

Filmmaker Jon S. Baird has presented a study of what has to be evil incarnate: an egotistical, racist, homophobic, manipulative, drug-addled and corrupt policeman in Scotland. The end results of said study are every bit as surreal and disturbing as you can imagine, but it’s so fascinating and intoxicating to watch that you can’t help but feel guilty as we fall for the man’s charm, even as he does probably the most despicable things anyone can imagine.

Such a fascinating character deserves a hard-working actor to play him, and James McAvoy is more than worth double the gravitas. In what has to be a career-best performance by the Scottish actor, McAvoy lets himself get completely lost in Bruce Robertson’s warped psyche and never looks back, delivering a performance beyond anything we could have imagined. It’s a true masterclass of acting which we pray gets a lot more attention than it currently has.

The dictionary definition of “NSFW”, Filth is a highly entertaining psychological dive into the absolute worst of humanity that ironically comes out looking a lot better than it probably was supposed to…