An unusually strong year with numerous candidates combined with a draconian ukase mandating that choices fit in Twitter format (O brave new world!) have led me to a number of extreme stratagems.
First, I am limiting my 10-best list to English-language films. Foreign-language standouts will be treated separately, and documentaries will be similarly served at a later date.
Second, my 10-best list will have 11 films on it. Everyone will just have to live with that. One personal tradition I am hewing to is that, with the exception of the No. 1 film, I will rank my choices alphabetically rather than by preference. This year my top choice is the Tom Hanks-starring "Captain Phillips," directed by Paul Greengrass.
[For the record: An article listing Kenneth Turan's top film picks for 2013 misidentified "Inside Llewyn Davis" actor Oscar Isaac as Jason Isaacs.]
"Captain Phillips." Intricate cat-and-mouse doings on a pirate-captured freighter mixing action, character and social conscience.
"American Hustle." David O. Russell and familiar faces Adams, Bale, Cooper & Lawrence take a scam story to the limit and beyond.
"Frances Ha." Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig present the joys and sorrows of youth, bringing a touch of the French New Wave to hipster New York.
"Fruitvale Station." A real-life shooting in Oakland dramatized with assurance and emotional depth by debuting director Ryan Coogler.
"Gravity." Imagine a camera in outer space and you are there. Knockout visuals show you the view from out there as you've never seen it before.
"Her." Romance in the technological future envisioned by the iconoclastic Spike Jonze and stars Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson.
"Inside Llewyn Davis." Oscar Isaac soars as a folk singer spending a week in Coen brothers hell. The music, however, is sweetness itself.
"The Invisible Woman." Star and director Ralph Fiennes, aided by Felicity Jones, brings Charles Dickens to life in a triumph of classic cinema.
"Nebraska." Bruce Dern and Will Forte in a poignant and ruefully funny father-and-son reunion that showcases the gifts of Alexander Payne.
"Short Term 12." Exceptional naturalness and empathy in a foster-care group-home drama with a breakout performance by Brie Larson.
"12 Years a Slave." Unblinking director Steve McQueen presents the horrors of slavery as Hollywood has not shown them before.