2014 was a year of some stupendous and for once intelligent blockbusters and many terrific dramas, great biopics and fantastic indies. But above all it brought back animation with a style after lackluster last year and rarely have there been so many amazing foreign movies. All those genres and types of movies I will try to represent in my list of the best films of this incredible film year.
Coming in at number ten is this hugely underrated science fiction gem of a film. In a year with many great films within the genre such as ‘Predestination‘ and ‘Snowpiercer‘, Interstellar stands out as the best. Well, the second best, but more of that later. Nolan crafted such an epic, hugely ambitious and visually stunning film that it can be forgiven for its minor flaws which there are many (mainly the ending which was disappointing for so many people). All those flaws prevent it from reaching a higher place on this list, but this is still a phenomenal piece of sci-fi entertainment that unfortunately did not receive the praise it deserved whereas in my opinion it is one of the very best works from the director.
9. The Imitation Game
This is probably the movie I was least expecting to end up on this list because from the trailers it looked like they were going to omit a lot from Alan Turing‘s personal life and I am not a big fan of Bennedict Cumberbatch. However, I was quickly reassured when I saw his terrific performance and the movie’s emphasis on both intense war drama and the scientist’s troublesome personal life. But what was really refreshing is its change in approach. Usually, biopics are boring and you rarely get fully invested in them. This was a different story due to interesting use of fantastic humor and evident fast pace. 2014 was an excellent year for biographical films with ‘Life Itself’ and ‘The Theory of Everything‘ coming close being on this list, but The Imitation Game ends up as the finest mostly because it is so entertaining and because it finally portrayed on the big screen the story of such an important man with a lot of care and honesty.
8. Gone Girl
There is rarely a year when a film from one of my favorite directors does not make it on the list and this is no such year. Yes, Gone Girl is a masterpiece when thrillers are concerned. David Fincher did a wonderful job with this source material evidently paying homage to Hitchcock in the process. It is a beautiful film to look at, but above all incredibly intense and thrilling which is everything you would expect from the genre. But what takes it to the next level is a sophisticated approach with a lot of smart themes and of course one of the finest female villains ever in a movie. Gone Girl was such a stunning surprise and it is in my opinion one of the best modern thrillers after the magnificent ‘Seven’ and a work which once again cements Fincher as one of the best directors working today and one of my personal favorites.
Whiplash is one of a kind movie. A rare indie that made such a huge splash that even the casual movie fans have at least watched it. And there are a number of reasons for that. It is incredibly smart, making you think with its thought-provoking ideas and subject matter. It is also one of the best acted films of the year for sure with J. K. Simmons giving such a powerhouse performance, creating such a memorable character that is one for the ages. It manages to be smart but also incredibly fast paced and immensely entertaining and tense. Whiplash is one of the finest Best Picture Nominees for the year and probably the most fun as well as important picture you would find on this list.
6. Wild Tales
Now we come to the most exhilarating and authentic movie here which is the Argentine anthology Wild Tales. This was a movie that took me by surprise entirely, rarely have I experienced such joy and utter disbelief at display here. It is a fun flick, but crazy. Crazy and, as stated in the title, wild. It is a collection of stories that are all relatable but also unbelievable in nature. But what makes it brilliant is its incredible black humor with many hilarious sequences and jaw-dropping situations making you laugh and sit at the edge of your seat through most of the running time. 2014 is probably one of the most fantastic years ever for foreign films with such gems as the Swedish unpleasant family drama ‘Force Majeure‘ and Turkish hard-hitting ‘Winter Sleep‘, but Wild Tales makes it on the list for being in tone the complete opposite of those movies and the one which sticks with you long after you’ve seen it.
5. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
I am not the biggest fan of horror so imagine my surprise that one managed to get on this list and this high as well. But that is bound to happen for almost anyone who watches it as it is so incredibly good. Yes, this is more of a visual treat instead of anything else and the story is naturally highly simplistic, but it is visually stunning with absolutely breathtaking cinematography and some really memorable imagery. But what makes it so good is of course its horrific atmosphere and a couple of genuinely creepy moments. It makes great use of its setting, black-and-white photography and chilling feel. And it is one of the most authentic takes on a tired genre and one of the finest vampire flicks ever made, that’s for sure. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is the best in a year of incredibly strong foreign movies which really says a lot and any horror enthusiast should check it out and will be in for a surprise.
Nightcrawler is a kind of a movie that seems like it’s from another decade. Everything about it screams seventies, from the desperate mood to a dark premise and execution. This is probably the most important movie to watch from the year as it is so relevant and realistic in its portrayal of media in the 21st century. I would go so far to say it is an urgent viewing as it is so powerful. It also has a refreshing and quite perfect ending, it has a main character that is one of the most evil in a long time and has many tense scenes. ‘Gone Girl’ also has a powerful message, great subject matter and an incredible lead, but Nightcrawler manages to trump that movie in my book which was certainly no easy task. Both are amazing social dramas and tense thrillers that need to be watched.
3. How To Train Your Dragon 2
As the only animated movie on this list, Dragon 2 is a perfect example of what American animation needs to strive for – more mature tone, bigger consequences and fantastic world building. Yes, the film is brutal in some scenes and I was on the verge of crying at times. The character development is absolutely terrific, the animation is beautiful and the story is very deep and multilayered. This was a much better year for animation after awful 2013 and most importantly Dreamworks Animation finally shows us what they are capable of after a string of so-so entries. This is not only one of the best animated franchises but also one of the finest movie trilogies of all time. But that still remains to be fully seen with the third entry which I hope is going to be as amazing as the first two.
2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
It is weird for me to put this high a blockbuster movie as I am definitely not a fan. But I had to as this is such a breathtaking movie. It is a textbook example of what these giant movies ought to have – excellent characters, wonderfully imagined world, stellar script, inherent emotion, but still retaining the big action sequences and spectacle for the masses. Caesar remains one of the best protagonists in a decade with superb story arc and thrilling rivalry with his ape nemesis Koba. It manages to show both sides and the relationship between apes and humans is so complex and deep. It is a dark and difficult viewing but that’s what makes it special as it perfectly sets the tone for the finale with desperation and upending doom felt in the air. And the ending is so powerful that I was on the edge of my seat. This is along with ‘How To Train Your Dragon‘ one of my favorite franchises and it remains to be seen which one will be better with the third entries as both are so similarly awesome now.
And number one goes to Boyhood – a movie most love to hate, but I love to adore. Everyone talks about the originality of filming a movie for 12 years, but that is the least interesting aspect about it in my opinion. What makes is so meaningful is the dialogue which is, as expected from Linklater, thought-provoking and incredibly smart. There are literally many lines that got me thinking which speaks for the movie’s intellect. And there are a bunch of quotes that should be in any best movie quotes list in the future. It reminds me of ‘Good Will Hunting‘, another example of a deep and above all clever movie with a bunch of beautiful and meaningful lines and although it is not as good as that film, it still comes close which is an amazing feat for sure. It was also special for me because it captured my time with some nostalgic references that brought a smile to my face. And I have to mention Patricia Arquette‘s performance. She gave one of the best female performances of the year and her emotional scene near the end is the movie’s highlight. It is deep, smart and very observant stuff that brought tears to my eyes how truthful and heartbreaking it is. Boyhood is a miracle of a movie and a future classic in decades to come. In an incredibly strong movie year of 2014, it finishes off first by a mile which is an amazing achievement, but very much deserved.
Force Majeure – Amazing Swedish movie with a highly unpleasant tone, but very original idea and a thought-provoking premise.
When Marnie Was There – A true return to form for Studio Ghibli with a touching but quite dark story, beautiful animation and mature tone.
Wild – A tour de force performance from Reese Witherspoon and a highly engaging and restrained script rise this movie above other road trip flicks.