That’s another year done in the record books! There were some cinematic highs and some pretty low lows, but in the end I couldn’t narrow it down to just the typical Top 10 list. So in honor if it being the 14th year of this relatively new century, I present to you the 14 Best Movies of 2014*.
*Of the films I was able to see. Films I wish I could have fit in before writing this: Whiplash, Under the Skin, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Inherent Vice, Into The Woods.
14. The Imitation Game
It’s definitely Oscar-bait, but the amazing story of Alan Turing definitely needs to be told. Watching his accomplishment, along with his team of mathematicians and code breakers, was amazing. I’m not a Benedict Cumberbatch fangirl, but his performance was brilliantly understated and moving.
13. X-Men Days of Future Past
The X-Men franchise is among my favorite superhero series (MCU takes the top prize, obviously) and this was another solid entry in the universe. Plus, it had this amazing scene that was pure movie magic:
12. Obvious Child
Jenny Slate could have had a one-note career, known only as the girl that dropped the f-bomb on SNL in her first season. But looking back now, thank goodness that happened so she got fired and had time to create Marcel The Shell and Obvious Child. Obvious Child is that rare rom-com gem that feels honest and truthful in the way the characters connect and live. While some could boil the film down to just being an “abortion comedy” it is anything but. This isn’t an after school special, she’s a real adult woman dealing with an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy and she’s handling it with humor and heart.
11. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The Apes franchise just keeps getting better and better. They upgraded from James Franco and Frieda Pinto to Gary Oldman and Keri Russell and really brought the action this time around.
Christopher Nolan has yet to disappoint me and Interstellar kept that streak going. The film is certainly flawed, but the ambition and scope of it all is amazing. The science (fiction) may have thrown some for a loop (trying to avoid spoilers here) but I was on board for the entire ride.
9. The Lego Movie
(Almost) everything is awesome! Hilarious voice performances from Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Charlie Day, and Morgan Freeman elevate an already solid script. The ending message of how “everyone is special if you just believe” felt like it was reverting to a safe place after the first two acts were delightful and a little subversive.
Birdman was unlike any other movie I’d seen this year. From the fast and frantic camerawork and percussive score, it captures the energy and manic nature of the behind-the-scenes antic of the theater. Michael Keaton’s unhinged Riggan is an excellent unreliable narrator – is he really able to do the things he thinks? Is he simply going insane? While the ambigious ending ticked off some viewers, I loved that this was a film I continued to think about and discuss long after seeing it.
7. Still Alice
Few movies in my lifetime have truly wrecked me to my emotional core. Days after viewing, I was still thinking about the devastating performance by Julianne Moore as her character experiences the slow march of Alzheimer’s Disease and its affect on her family.
6. How to Train Your Dragon 2
Dreamworks has a great franchise on their hands here, full of heart, action, and adorable stars. I mean, who doesn’t want a stuffed Toothless toy? This one delved further into emotional territory than the first, and pulled it off. It also featured most beautiful animation from Dreamworks yet, rivaling the beauty of Pixar even.
5. Edge of Tomorrow / Live Die Report
Who knew that this Tom Cruise flick would be one of the best blockbusters of the year? I know a number of people who didn’t see this film because they aren’t Tom Cruise fans, but really this movie is for everyone. If you like him, you get to see him kick-butt and if you don’t like him then you get to watch him die over and over and over again. That’s a win-win, my friends! Plus, Emily Blunt’s Full Metal Bitch is one of my favorite female characters this year – hard-edged, tough as nails, but feels complicated and real. The movie’s so great and handles the science fiction so well that I can even forgive it for the last 5 minutes that were a bit of a disappointment and felt too much like a tacked-on, Hollywood ending.
4. The Babadook
Horror movies these days usually fall into a few camps – jump scares, gore, and the one that seeps into your brain and lingers with you long after the movie credits have rolled. The Babadook is a slow burn that has you questioning if it’s really happening or if it’s all in their heads, but either way it’s terrifying. The best horror film of the year by far, and the best horror film since Insidious.
One of the best action movies this year barely made it to theaters. After an embattled journey to be released, thanks to The Weinstein Company wanting to cut 20 minutes for the US release, it finally saw the light of day, uncut and as the director intended, in a largely VOD release. I caught it on Amazon Instant and truly wish I’d tracked it down in theaters. The action is fantastic but it’s the allegory and dystopian future storyline that truly hooked me in. While we have our fair share of dystopian futures on screen nowadays (The Hunger Games, The Giver, Divergent, etc.) this one offered a truly unique perspective.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy
The most fun movie of the year, Guardians of the Galaxy is pure entertainment from beginning to end. I mean, just look:
Jake Gyllenhaal is nearly unrecognizable in this and it has nothing to do with his weight loss or any makeup. The manic look in his eyes is chilling. Lou Bloom is the product of what happens when a psycho gets a hold of too many self-help, empowerment books. The film largely rests on Gyllenhaal, but it also features a great performance from Rene Russo who is just as blood-thirsty and deplorable as Bloom, but she’s made a career of it long before he shows up on the scene. The film takes the well-known phrase “if it bleeds, it leads” and makes you feel and regret every syllable.