10 Best Films of 2014

Every year, I say how hard it is to narrow down my best-of list to just 10 titles. But this year, it was especially true. Looking back on my favorite movies of 2014, I definitely see a theme emerging: otherworldly beings on the prowl in the middle of the night. I wonder what that says about me …. But there’s also great joy to be found here. Everything is awesome, after all. So enjoy. And I’d love to know what you’d pick for your top-10 list.

1. “Birdman”

Birdman Movie Review

The central gimmick is daring and thrilling, of course: the sensation that director Alejandro G. Inarritu shot this movie in one long, single take, through narrow corridors and up and down stairways and onto the streets and rooftops of Times Square. But sharp writing and powerful performances (namely from star Michael Keaton) give “Birdman” real substance and a deeper emotional resonance. There’s nothing else like it. I left this film exhilarated.

Read the full review here

2. “Boyhood”

But “Boyhood” is pretty astonishing, too, and very easily could have been my No. 1. It’s also predicated on what could be called a gimmick: writer-director Richard Linklater shot it over the course of 12 years, following the same actors as they grew and changed and forged the course of a life. But it’s so subtle and beautifully observant, it sneaks up on you with a cumulative emotional wallop. There’s nothing else like this film, either: It’s a major achievement.

Read the full review here

3. “Under the Skin”

Under the Skin Movie Review

Beautiful, strange, dazzling and daring, this is a minimalist sci-fi masterpiece. Visionary director Jonathan Glazer draws the greatest performance from Scarlett Johansson of her eclectic career as an alien prowling the streets of Glasgow in a minivan with nefarious intent. If you like your movies tidy — if you treasure closure and need to have all your questions answered — this is not the film for you. Otherwise, embrace the mesmerizing vagueness of it all.

Read the full review here

4. “The Lego Movie”

The Lego Movie Movie Review

The most fun I had at the movies all year. I remember walking out of the theater with Nic after a Saturday morning screening and thinking to myself: “Holy crap. I have to give ‘The Lego Movie’ four stars.” It is so clever and so vividly detailed and moves with such an infectious energy, it achieves its goals brilliantly. But it also has a profound, third-act twist that actually made me cry. Yeah, I’ll admit it.

Read the full review here

5. “Locke”

Locke Movie Review

More nighttime prowling, this time with Tom Hardy giving a tour-de-force performance entirely from behind the wheel of a car. Writer-director Steven Knight’s meticulously controlled film also features a premise which might sound like a gimmick: It takes place in a single space in real time during a drive to London. But as Hardy’s purpose becomes clearer, the story reveals great surprises and grows unbearably tense.

Read the full review here

6. “Ida”

Ida Movie Review

Every single shot in this understated black-and-white drama is an exquisite work of art. Pawel Pawlikowski returns to his Polish homeland with a film that’s austere aesthetically but intense emotionally. The fresh-faced Agata Trzebokowska stars as a shy young woman on the verge of taking her vows to become a nun, but first she must explore her true heritage. As the aunt who aides in her investigation, Agata Kulesza gives a powerhouse performance that’s both darkly funny and devastating.

7. “Only Lovers Left Alive”

Even more nighttime prowling, this time with Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as the hippest vampires on the planet. Their centuries-long love affair is achingly romantic and impossibly cool. This is an extremely Jim Jarmuschy Jim Jarmusch film, and if that’s right up your alley, then you’ll dig this. It’s funny and melancholy with impeccable production design and a precise mood. Who would have thought there was any new life to breathe into the vampire genre?

8. “Gone Girl”

Gone Girl Movie Review

Not exactly the feel-good date movie of the year, but a film you should at least see with someone you enjoy debating. This is David Fincher’s Alfred Hitchcock picture; sleek and sexy, it’s a twisty mystery that’s both dark and darkly funny — surprisingly so, given the lurid subject matter. The equally matched Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike constantly keep us guessing and force us to reevaluate whose side we’re on, who we believe, who we even like.

Read the full review here

9. “A Most Violent Year”

This movie isn’t even out yet — it hits theaters Dec. 31 in limited release — but please trust me when I tell you that it’s great. It’s only the third film from writer-director J.C. Chandor (“Margin Call,” “All Is Lost”) but it shows the maturity and control of a master; comparisons to Sidney Lumet are not unwarranted. Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain both give pitch-perfect performances as a married couple whose lives are intertwined in love and business in 1981 New York. Try as they might to tell themselves they’re doing the right thing, they just can’t help but slip into their criminal tendencies. This is a serious drama for grown-ups.

10. “Snowpiercer”

Snowpiercer Movie Review

This movie is just a batshit-crazy blast, but it also fits within this list in a couple of ways. It features prowling in the darkness and it takes place within a confined space: an enormous train that makes a loop around the globe annually in an icy, dystopian future. The latest from Korean director Bong Joon-ho is nothing short of wondrous to look at in varied, detailed ways. It’s marvelously detailed in terms of production design, vividly shot and full of surprises. All aboard …

Read the full review here

8 Comments on “10 Best Films of 2014

  1.  by  Kyle S.

    Snowpiercer would be on my list, too. Brilliant science fiction.

  2.  by  Daniel

    10. Alan Partridge
    9. The Raid II
    8. Foxcatcher
    7. Nightcrawler
    6. Gone Girl
    5. Locke
    4. Snowpiercer
    3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
    2. Birdman
    1. Boyhood

  3.  by  Jesse H.

    I don’t have a number one favorite. This year was too good to name just one. Instead, my list is presented alphabetically. (may change after I watch Foxcatcher, Locke, and others)

    Birdman
    Boyhood
    Gone Girl
    Ida
    Laggies
    Nightcrawler
    The Punk Singer
    The Skeleton Twins
    Under the Skin
    Veronica Mars

  4.  by  Kyle

    So far my list is:

    1. The Grand Budapest Hotel
    2. Snowpiercer
    3. The Skeleton Twins
    4. Fury
    5. Whiplash
    6. Joe
    7. Obvious Child
    8. Begin Again
    9. What If
    10. Before I Disappear

    I still have a ton of movies to get to like Foxcatcher, Wild, Into the Woods, The Imitation Game, Cake, Selma, A Most Violent Year, Mr. Turner, Big Eyes, and this list keeps growing day by day.

  5.  by  JozieLee

    From your list my favs were Grand Budapest Hotel, Gone Girl, and Only Lovers Left Alive. Ida . . . an interesting story. Snowpiercer . . . meh. Lego Movie kept putting me to sleep.

  6.  by  Steve

    Christy, I know you enjoyed “Guardians of the Galaxy” and, personally, it was my favorite movie of the year. So, I hope it earned, at least, an Honorable Mention. Just a fun movie that took me back to the “Star Wars-Indiana Jones” type experiences I had as a kid.

  7.  by  northierthanthou

    Nope! Haven’t seen any of these yet. …have under the Skin here on my table, and I guess I’ll start with that tonight.

  8.  by  Omar

    I think the movie Omar should be on this list. It was unpredictable and had a superb ending. Guardians of the Galaxy was also great. Foxcatcher. Top 5. Nightcrawler.