The best ensembles of 2013

Everyone had a keen eye on this morning’s Screen Actors Guild nominations because, as ever, the group’s Best Ensemble category can be highly indicative of where the Best Picture Oscar race might be heading. But i’s also a unique opportunity for actors to spotlight their own through recognition of a movie’s cast, something critics often do on the precursor circuit but the Academy hasn’t taken to yet.

Unfortunately, more often than not, that merely translates to a slew of SAG notices for big, sprawling casts full of movie stars. That’s doubly unfortunate in a year such as 2013, which has been an exemplary study in brilliant ensemble work, from studio productions to indie players and all points in between. So it seemed our own spotlight was in order.

The gallery story below features my top 11 ensemble performances of the year (in alphabetical order). But what’s stunning, really, are the great casts that didn’t make the cut. Films like “Before Midnight,” “Blue Jasmine,” “Drinking Buddies,” “Frances Ha,” “Fruitvale Station,” “In a World…,” “Prisoners,” “Saving Mr. Banks” and “Spring Breakers” could easily have made this list, and I imagine “August: Osage County” and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” would have made plenty others (they certainly made the SAG cut). It was simply an exemplary year for top tier cast work.

Click through to see my thoughts on the year in ensembles, and feel free to offer up your own favorites in the comments section below.