The 10 biggest movies of 2013

We count down the 10 top releases in a year dominated by VFX and 3D animation.

It's been another astonishing year for the movies: whatever your tastes, you can't have failed to see at least one picture that thoroughly entertained you. But while it's films like black-and-white budget masterpiece Nebraska that garner the awards and critical acclaim, the official box office grosses for 2013 show how it's still the blockbusters that put bums on seats and dollars into cash tills.

Interestingly, every single movie in this year's top 10 is either a CGI animation or heavy on visual effects - which is comforting news for anyone working as a VFX or 3D artist. Those skills are going to be in demand for some time to come, it seems.

3D is winning

Also striking is that nine out of 2013's top 10 were released as stereoscopic 3D movies.

Whether or not you enjoy the 3D experience, or are willing to pay the extra tax on the cinema ticket, at the end of the day money talks louder than words. And so anyone clinging to the notion that 3D is simply "a fad" that "won't last long" needs to face reality. Those shiny black glasses are here to stay, at least for the time being.

And that's not necessarily bad news. Critically acclaimed space thriller Gravity ($642.5m), for example, showed that stereoscopic 3D needn't just be a gimmick, but can be used to create a truly new kind of immersive, emotional experience for the audience.

Here's hoping it represents the start of a new wave of exciting film-making, and we look forward to seeing how directors can harness latest cinematic innovations to bring us ever more amazing movies in 2014. Meanwhile, here's a look back this year's top 10...

10. World War Z - $540m

Once upon a time, zombie movies were low-budget, shlocky affairs. Not any more. Based on the best-selling book by Max Brooks, World War Z portrayed the undead apocalypse with a scale and sophistication never seen before. The Moving Picture Company and Cinesite took care of the incredible special effects, and we revealed how they created them in the following articles:

09. The Croods - $587.2m

Following the story of a prehistoric family forced to explore beyond the world of their small cave, this family-friendly animation was placed in the capable hands of Jamaal Bradley and Dave Hardin, and they delivered in spades. The visuals were bold and engaging, and with some great voice-acting from Nicholas Cage and Emma Stone, it all added up to a surefire box office hit.

08. Thor: The Dark World - $621.6m

Following the success of Avengers Assemble in 2012, another Thor movie was inevitable. And despite not even being released in the summer blockbuster season, with Star Wars' Natalie Portman, Chuck's Zachary Levi and Doctor Who's Christopher Eccleston in tow, and some heavy lifting from Double Negative on the VFX front, it smashed box office expectations with a big brutish hammer.

07. Gravity - $642.5m

Not since the days before video recorders were invented had there been such a strong reason to see a movie in the cinema multiple times. Because on a TV screen, even a 42 incher, this edge-of-space thriller just wasn't the same. With Gravity, Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón pretty much rewrote the rules of film-making, just as 2001: A Space Odyssey had five decades earlier. You wanted to see it in 3D, you wanted to see it on as big a screen as possible (preferably IMAX), and you wanted to be a little bit sick into your popcorn bucket.

06. Man Of Steel - $662.8m

Not another Superman reboot, we groaned, suffering flashbacks to Brandon Routh's Superman Returns. But then we heard that Batman reviver Christopher Nolan was taking charge, and we knew everything was going to be all right. Bringing a gritty realism to the franchise, along with visual effects talent like Joe Letteri and the addition of stereoscopic 3D, meant we could believe a man can fly once more. We'll have to wait till 2015 for Batman vs Superman, but we're sure it'll be worth it.

05. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - $738.3m

The only non-3D release on this list, the second movie based on the dystopian book series for young adults nonetheless boasted some incredible visual effects. Director Francis Lawrence brought the world of Panem to vivid life, from the ghoulish aristocrats of the capital to the deathly battles in the arena. The final book in the trilogy will be split into two movies, so there's plenty more epic bleakness to come yet.

04. Monsters University - $743.6m

Animation prequels and sequels don't always work. But we were in luck this year as both Despicable Me 2 and the prequel to Monsters Inc. turned out to be cracking comedies. Incredible to think that 2001's Monsters Inc. was the first time Pixar's animators had tackled fur and hair, in the form of Sully. How far 3D artistry has come!

03. Fast & Furious 6 - $788.7m

Few franchises make it to number 6, let alone 7 (that's due in 2015) so the team behind Fast & Furious must be doing something right. Starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and Michelle Rodriguez, this action movie was never going to win a Cannes prize, but with plenty of fast-paced vehicular lunacy, audiences loved it.

02. Despicable Me 2 - $918.4m

A quirky comedy about a supervillain and his pint-sized minions, 2010's Despicable Me was one of the most entertaining kids comedies of recent times. This year's sequel saw mainman Steve Carrell joined by Al Pacino and Steve Coogan in the voice cast, and the result was box office gold - another movie both kids and parents could enjoy. Roll on part three in December 2014.

01. Iron Man 3 - $1.2bn

Few will be surprised that this threequel made number one. Fans flocked to see, essentially, a giant spectacle as sardonic, wisecracking superhero played by Robert Downey Jr took on psychotic villain the Mandarin, played by Sir Ben Kingsley - and they weren't disappointed. Director Shane Black, two-time Oscar-winning director of photography John Toll, along with Marvel stalwart editors Jeffrey Ford and Peter S. Elliot made sure the eye-popping effects were something to remember.

[Source: Box Office Mojo via Total Film]

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