GRAVITY: Alfonso Cuaron transported viewers deep into cyberspace with this exploration of the vast and frightening unknown that astronauts navigate on their odysseys, in this case Oscar winner George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, who gave one of the year's bravest performances.
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS: Tom Hanks masterfully anchored this high-wire peril-at-sea drama about an American merchant ship hijacked by ruthless Somali pirates. Deeply intense and grippingly spun.
THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY: Yielding splendid results, director Malcolm D. Lee reunited the fab characters/cast of the original ensemble dramedy (inluding Sanaa Lathan and Taye Diggs) showing us their impressive growth and shortcomings as African-American professionals, their bonds and breakups, and the true power of lifelong friendships.
STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS: Easily one of the year's most intriguing and edge-of-your-seat action-adventure saga, buoyed by an engrossing plot and fine work from the cast, none more riveting than British sensation Benedict Cumberbatch.
PRISONERS: An all-star cast headlined this powerful small-town drama about the lengths one father (Hugh Jackman) will go to to rescue his kidnapped young daughter. Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Paul Dano, Mellisa Leo and Terrence Howard all turned in highly commendable work.
SIDE EFFECTS: Director Steven Soderbergh's gift for effectively mining the complexities of human relationships with revealing (and often unpleasant) results was in evidence in this taut psychological thriller about karma, a tragic young couple (Channing Tatum and Rooney Mara) and the hidden dangers of certain prescription medication. With Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES: Though unsettling and visceral in its depiction of the ugly side of human nature, Pines also happened to be a rather sympathetic coming-of-age drama (costarring Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling) about a boy and the wayward biker father he finally comes to know at a most critical juncture.