I’m really excited to be starting up my blog again. It’s a new year with new goals and one of them for me was to be more consistent with this site. What better way for me to come back than to post my top thirty favorite movies of 2014.
2014 was an absolutely incredible year for film. Not only were there incredible blockbusters, but also amazing indie films that hit me emotionally. So let’s just dive right in!
Jean-Marc Vallee follows up his Oscar-winning film, “Dallas Buyers Club,” from last year with another powerhouse film in “Wild.” Reese Witherspoon gives an incredible performance as Cheryl Strayed, a woman dealing with loss, addiction, and insecurity.
29. “X-Men: Days of Future Past”
As a fan of the “X-Men” franchise, I was very excited to see Bryan Singer, director of the first two installments, return to helm one of the most ambitious superhero films in recent memory. In another director’s hands, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” could have easily been a convoluted mess with way too much going on. However, Singer always makes sure that the story and characters are fully realized, making the film exciting and emotional.
28. “American Sniper”
Clint Eastwood hasn’t been on a hot streak as of lately. In fact, his other 2014 release, “Jersey Boys,” came close to making my top ten worst movies of the year list. However, he is back in full force with “American Sniper.” Bradley Cooper’s lead performance is one of the best that he’s ever given and Eastwood’s direction is intense, powerful, and emotional.
27. “Song of the Sea”
We are living in an age where most animated films are either computer-generated or stop motion. So seeing “Song of the Sea,” a hand-drawn animated film with no 3D to be found was a really special experience for be to behold. This is probably the most visually stunning animation I’ve seen in 2014 and the stunning music and timeless story just add to the magic of it all.
26. “Inherent Vice”
The first time I saw “Inherent Vice” at the New York Film Festival, I was underwhelmed by it. The film came off as incoherent, slow, and unfortunately boring. However when I saw it for a second time, I found myself loving it. The performances from Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, and Katherine Waterston are terrific, the dialogue is hilarious, and the film is directed brilliantly by Paul Thomas Anderson.
25. “The Guest”
Adam Wingard’s last film, “You’re Next,” was a refreshing, hilarious spin on horror films that was one of 2013’s biggest delights. This year, he’s at it again with “The Guest,” an even more refreshing and hilarious spin on action thrillers. Dan Stevens proves to be a star with his perfect timing during his comedic and action-packed scenes, making the entire experience just that much more fun and thrilling.
There were a lot of great sci-fi films that made for some of the most memorable experiences of the year. “Snowpiercer” is one of the top films in that genre. Bong Joon-Ho directs this movie with such expertise, offering up some of the most exciting action sequences of the year. Not to mention that Chris Evans gives the best performance of his career.
23. “Edge of Tomorrow”
Tom Cruise is quite possibly the best action star working today and “Edge of Tomorrow” is just further proof of that. From beginning to end, the film is entertaining, funny, action-packed, and really smart sci-fi. Emily Blunt also gives a terrific supporting performance.
22. “Big Hero 6”
Disney Animation is on a roll right now with hits like “Wreck-It Ralph” and last year’s “Frozen.” This year’s entry, “Big Hero 6,” might end up being the best of their new era of animated films. Sure, it can be shrugged off as a fun family movie with an incredible character in Baymax, but there’s a touching emotional core to this film that really hit home for me, making this a really special movie.
Jake Gyllenhaal is one of the best actors working today and in “Nightcrawler,” he gives the best performance of his career. He brings such an intensity to his character that is a perfect blend between being wacky and terrifying. The movie itself is a campy, fun, and engaging thrill-ride that never once slows down.
20. “The Imitation Game”
Much like “The Theory of Everything,” here is another film that focuses on an incredible historical figure, this time the centerpiece being Alan Turing. “The Imitation Game” is a truly engaging film that is brilliantly able to balance humorous moments with devastating emotional scenes. Benedict Cumberbatch leads this film perfectly.
19. “The Theory of Everything”
Stephen Hawking is one of the most interesting individuals on the planet, but “The Theory of Everything” beautifully tells more than just the story of the famous scientist. It actually tells the story of two flawed, but loving people dealing with their own handicaps, both physical and emotional. Eddie Redmayne gives one of the best performances of the year as does his counterpart, Felicity Jones.
18. “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him/Her”
Please note that I am not talking about the combined cut of this film titled, “Them.” I saw the two-film story of a deteriorating relationship, one following his perspective and the other following hers. “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him/Her” was probably one of the most unique film experiences I’ve had in a very long time, not only thanks to the experimental factor, but the fact that it actually pulled off. Both films are powerful, heartbreaking, and wonderfully acted by Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy.
17. “Guardians of the Galaxy”
Never in a million years would I ever predict that a movie where two of the main characters are a walking, talking tree who can only say three words and a vulgar raccoon who has a machine gun would make my favorite movies of the year list. However since Marvel can do whatever they want, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a film that embraces it’s silliness and offers up a hilarious sci-fi adventure that is the perfect holdover until this December when we finally return to a galaxy far, far away.
16. “How to Train Your Dragon 2”
As someone who loved the original “How to Train Your Dragon” back in 2010, I was initially underwhelmed with this sequel when I saw it for the first time. I still found it to be a great family film, but it didn’t hit me as hard as the first film did. That being said, after giving the film a second chance on Blu-Ray, “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is actually a pretty spectacular animated movie that is filled with emotion and wonder.
15. “22 Jump Street”
Not many people were expecting “21 Jump Street” to be anywhere near as good as it ended up being back in 2012. Even fewer people were able to predict that directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller would be able to catch lighting in a bottle twice with this sequel. “22 Jump Street” is not only the funniest movie of the year, but it’s proof that it’s possible to make a comedy sequel that can surpass the quality of the original.
14. “The Raid 2”
As far as action movies go, no franchise in recent memory has even come close to being as insane as Gareth Evan’s “The Raid” films. After seeing the first film back in 2012, I thought it’d be impossible for Evans to possibly top the incredible action that he displayed there. Yet here’s “The Raid 2,” a film that not only offers up the best action that I’ve ever seen in a movie, but manages to complement it with a compelling story that pays homage to crime classics like “The Godfather” and “GoodFellas.”
Jake Gyllenhaal makes another appearance on this list with one of the most inventive, creepy, and and thought-provoking films of the year. Following up last year’s brilliant film, “Prisoners,” Denis Villeneuve’s “Enemy” is a terrific movie with layers upon layers of imagery, metaphors, and complexity. I loved it as soon as I saw it and it just got better as I kept thinking about it.
12. “The Skeleton Twins”
I was late to the party seeing “The Skeleton Twins,” but I’m incredibly happy that I got around to it before 2014 came to a close. This is a raw, heartbreaking dramedy fueled by two wonderful lead performances by former “Saturday Night Live” stars, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, and a witty script that never looses sight of reality and the humanity of it’s characters.
11. “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Wes Anderson knocks it out of the park once again with “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” The ensemble cast, led brilliantly by Ralph Fiennes, is absolutely wonderful and the script is consistently hilarious and witty. This is truly one of the more charming and fun films I’ve seen this year.
There probably isn’t a single film released in 2014 that hit my emotional core as hard as “Selma.” Ava DuVernay has directed an extremely important, powerful film that is absolutely brutal to watch. It’s a film that shows not just how far we’ve come as a country, but also how much further we need to go. David Oyelowo gives one of the best performances of the year, portraying someone who is not just a historical figure that changed the world, but an everyday man.
I’m a sucker for films that take place in one location and follow either one character or a small group of characters. Recent films like “Buried,” “127 Hours,” and “Carnage” are prime examples of films that did wonderfully within these restrictions. This year’s addition to that list, “Locke,” is probably one of the best of the bunch. Led by a powerful performance by Tom Hardy, this is a film with such intensity and realism that it constantly kept me engaged for it’s short runtime.
8. “Gone Girl”
David Fincher is one of the best directors working today and “Gone Girl” is another prime example of his greatness. It’s funny, it’s thrilling, it’s chilling, and the performances from the entire cast, particularly Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck, are wonderful. I don’t think any movie this year was more messed up than this one.
7. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
I was a big fan of 2011’s surprise summer blockbuster, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” However, I had no idea that it’s sequel, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” would transcend being much more than just a summer blockbuster but rather a powerful story about loss, family, war, and many other themes relating to the world we live in today. It still offers the exciting action that you come to expect in a movie in the “Planet of the Apes” franchise, but it takes a back seat to the emotional levity of it’s characters and story.
6. “Begin Again”
One of the first films I saw in 2014 was “Begin Again,” director John Carney’s follow-up to “Once,” and it has stayed in my brain ever since. This is truly one of the happiest and most irresistible movies of the year. The performances from the entire cast are terrific, the script is smart and well written, and it has the best soundtrack of the year.
5. “The Lego Movie”
Another film from early on in the year that stuck with me was Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s other 2014 release, “The Lego Movie.” Not since “Toy Story 3” has an animated movie had such a sense of wonder, excitement, joy, and laughter as much as this movie does. Thanks to the hilarious script, incredible voicework, groundbreaking animation, and a surprisingly emotional third act, I can watch this movie over and over and over again.
There is only one name that comes to my mind when it comes to who gives the best performance of 2014 — J.K. Simmons. “Whiplash” instantly grabbed me the second it began and kept me on the edge of my seat, filled from top to bottom with goosebumps, all culminating in what I contend is the best ending to any film this year.
Christopher Nolan’s latest is easily his most polarizing, causing many mixed reactions all over the world. That being said, I have seen “Interstellar” four times and I find it to be not only the most ambitious of his films, but quite possibly one of his best. There is not a single second that passes by in this movie where I wasn’t absolutely captivated. The performances are outstanding, it’s one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen in my life, and Nolan directs the whole thing with such masterful flair that I immediately want to see it again as soon as the credits roll. Also, seeing this movie in 70mm IMAX is one of the most breathtaking experiences I have ever had in my life, whether it be a movie or otherwise.
What a wonderful gem of an experiment. Here is a film that could have easily gone wrong in a thousand different ways. However, Richard Linklater has managed to offer us a twelve year journey that is not only a success, but extremely personal. After this movie ended, I found myself reminiscing about the past twelve years of my life, me being the same age as our lead, and realizing how much this movie nails life. It’s the small moments that define life and “Boyhood” is an incredible series of small moments.
And my pick for my favorite movie of 2014 is . . . . . . .
This year has been filled with so many powerful films, incredible performances, and experiences that I will never forget for the rest of my life. But it is Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “Birdman” that stands out to me as by far the best film of the year. Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, and Andrea Riseborough are all absolutely amazing, the direction is energetic and filled with such expertise, and the cinematography I think is some of the best ever put on the silver screen. I honestly believe that this will be a movie that will stand the test of time and become one of the all-time American classics for years to come.
So there you have it! That’s my list of my top thirty favorite movies of 2014. It’s been an amazing year in film and I hope that 2015 offers up more memorable experiences at the movies.
More importantly, what did you think of my list? Anything you’re surprised made the cut? Anything you believe I left off of the list? Leave your top five, ten, twenty, thirty, however many films you want to list that are your favorites down in the comments below.
Thank you guys so much for reading and, as always, “Follow the Screen, Scene X Scene!”