The Top 20 Films of 2014

2 Mar


Honorable mentions: John Wick, Calvary, A Most Violent Year, Locke, Selma, A Most Wanted Man, 22 Jump Street, Foxcatcher, Wild, Big Eyes, Still Alice, Mr. Turner

Haven’t seen: Ida, Citizenfour, The Raid 2, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Chef, The One I Love, Coherence, Top Five, Dear White People, Life Itself

20. Edge of Tomorrow

19. The Lego Movie


18. Enemy

17. Inherent Vice

My review:

16. Only Lovers Left Alive


15. Blue Ruin

14. The Immigrant

13. Two Days, One Night


12. Force Majeure

11. Under the Skin

10. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

This is one of the best blockbuster movies I’ve seen, and it improves upon the first movie in almost every way possible (and the first movie was great). It’s thrilling, morally complex, and confident, and its riveting visuals help propel a compelling story that’s a joy to watch unfold. Also, you can’t help but be impressed by the work of Toby Kebbell as Koba and Andy Serkis as Caesar.

My review:

9. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson’s back, and The Grand Budapest Hotel is a delightful ride that is stylish, thoughtful, and witty. All of Anderson’s usual touches are present, and they all combine to craft an engaging world that takes us through with a seamless flair. In addition, Ralph Fiennes’s performance is one of the best of the year.


8. The Babadook

The horror genre these days is stale, but this movie is a breath of fresh air. Kudos to Jennifer Kent for breaking through in a tough industry for female directors, and double kudos for making such a great movie. It’s legitimately scary because it focuses on the psychological more so than the supernatural, and a big part of its effectiveness is due to the amazing lead performance by Essie Davis.

My review:

7. Birdman

Right now, there is a large amount of backlash over the Oscar win, and although it isn’t my favorite of the nominees, I’m just happy that an original, riskier, art-house movie like this takes the trophy home. It’s a movie with terrific performances all around–Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, and Edward Norton are all great–and it features a stellar technical feat from the excellent cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Plus, it really makes you think at the end.

My review:

6. Interstellar

Christopher Nolan’s movies have their flaws, but there’s a reason that there is no other director with whom the studios will entrust a blockbuster budget for a non-sequel, non-superhero movie. Interstellar is Nolan’s most ambitious movie yet, and although it’s far from a perfect movie, it’s a thoroughly enthralling experience. Anchored by a great Matthew McConaughey performance and stunning visuals–especially in IMAX–Nolan takes us on a journey about exploration, wonder, and love.

My review:


5. Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal, man. This is the best performance of an already great career for him, and his portrayal of Lou Bloom is one of the most convincing portrayals of a sociopath that I’ve seen; in addition, both Riz Ahmed and Rene Russo play off of him extremely well. This is a funny, chilling, and tense debut feature for director Dan Gilroy, and good for him for choosing the wonderful Robert Elswit to helm the cinematography (he also shot Inherent Vice this year).

My review:


4. Boyhood

This is more than just a “12 year gimmick”. It’s a beautiful movie, funny at times and incredibly moving at others, and it features the always great Richard Linklater dialogue throughout. In addition, there are some great performances all around that help capture what it’s like to grow up, what it’s like to watch someone else grow up in a perpetually changing world.

3. Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer begins with a unique concept, and it somehow gets even more creative as we watch. The set design is arguably the best of the year, Tilda Swinton delivers yet another stunning performance, and the movie’s battle scenes are brutal, bloody, and plain awesome. Also, Allison Pill has a guest role that is one of the strangest, yet most entertaining, things you’ll see all year.


2. Gone Girl

David Fincher’s latest project, adapted from Gillian Flynn’s popular novel, was mostly overlooked come awards season, and that’s disappointing because it’s truly a fantastic movie. The cast is phenomenal–Rosamund Pike is excellent, Carrie Coon continues to impress, and Tyler Perry is surprisingly good here–the score by Reznor and Ross is impeccable, and most importantly, the movie is fun. We can delve into the politics and the themes all we want, but in the end, this is pure entertainment.

My review:

1. Whiplash

This is the first time in a while that my Top Performances, Scenes, and Films lists all end with the same movie. This is an exhilarating ride, a wonderfully directed, edited, and acted masterpiece that is just as intense and harrowing as the very best thrillers. J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller both deliver brilliant performances that get better and better as the movie progresses, and it all culminates in a final sequence that is one for the ages.

My review:

That’s it for 2014 in movies for me. I’m looking forward to 2015, especially considering we have new Scorsese, Tarantino, Nichols, Inarritu, Baumbach, Blomkamp, Villeneuve, del Toro, and O. Russell films, along with quite a few blockbusters and even a new Pixar movie.

13 Responses to “The Top 20 Films of 2014”

  1. #peggyatthemovies March 2, 2015 at 2:11 am #

    Decent list.. but it hurts me to see you put 17,16. 14 & 13 ahead of Locke or Calvary or even John Wick.. ha! And you did miss a few goodies.. so hopefully you will catch them soon and maybe a revision???!! 😀

    • polarbears16 March 2, 2015 at 7:05 am #

      Ah, I didn’t know you didn’t like Only Lovers Left Alive; I knew about the other three. And yeah, I had a hard time cutting this list down and putting certain movies ahead of others.

      Sure, maybe I can. What movies would you recommend I watch first? I probably don’t have time to watch all the ones I missed.

      • #peggyatthemovies March 2, 2015 at 6:04 pm #

        I didn’t hate Only Lovers Left Alive.. Tom Hiddleston is always top for me,..and I adored Anton Yelchin in it..some of the scenic trips too..but it was also pretty boring in parts.. i think I gave it a C- ..I’d truly have to look back as it’s been so long..but I just couldn’t imagine putting it on a ‘best of’ list for me 🙂 but that’s why we all have our own tastes. What would I pick for you to see off your list of ‘have nots’ hmmm ..Capt. America surprised me by how much I did like it since I thought the 1st one was meh.. X-Men.. I’ve loved them since forever and the small but oh so impactful scene with Quicksilver is worth it all!!! ha! I loved Guardians…and Ida I liked..Life Itself because I was a fan of Siskel & Ebert starting way way back in the day..& Ebert & Roeper etc.. & it’s a beautiful moving story about this man that I truly admired now for years..didn’t like Citizenfour so meh..and the others I didn’t see either.. ha!

  2. natedisc March 2, 2015 at 10:10 am #

    I wish Interstellar and Nightcrawler got more love from the Academy. Great list!

  3. killkenny16 March 2, 2015 at 5:35 pm #

    Good list! The fact that Nightcrawler didn’t get the recognition it deserves at the Oscars is downright criminal. I still don’t get all the love for Boyhood, but maybe that’s just me being jaded.

  4. Mel March 2, 2015 at 7:37 pm #

    Guardians of the Galaxy, The Boxtrolls, Captain America The Winter Soldier and X-men Days of Future Past would all be on my list along with The Theory of Everything.

  5. JustMeMike March 2, 2015 at 8:38 pm #

    Hi PB = can you offer a thumbnail sketch of Blue Ruin. I think I’ve been reading your columns for so long that I trust your judgement, but still a brief summary would help. Thanks.

    • polarbears16 March 3, 2015 at 7:41 pm #

      Sure! Essentially, Blue Ruin is a revenge film about a man who returns to his hometown to carry out an act of vengeance, but it’s so much more than that description suggests. It’s about revenge, but it’s character-driven rather than thrill-driven, and it still builds up suspense expertly in every single scene. It’s visually striking, and it rests on the shoulders of Macon Blair, who gives one of the best performances of the year as Dwight Evans.

  6. sidekickreviews March 2, 2015 at 10:23 pm #

    Great to see Interstellar make it in your top ten, it has some flaws but it’s so epic and ambitious.

  7. Jay March 3, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

    Fun list. Always hard for me to narrow down the field!

  8. Jenna and Allie (@FlickChicksBlog) March 4, 2015 at 7:45 am #

    Brilliant list! Sad not to see Locke there but it got an honorable mention at least. I’m happy to see some love for Only Lovers Left Alive, I was starting to think I was the only one who really enjoyed it!
    – Allie

  9. Jordan Dodd March 13, 2015 at 12:27 am #

    Great list here!!! I love that you have Whiplash at the top, as a drummer that movie for me is pure bliss. I see myself in Miles Teller’s performance, the movie changed me!

    Also, AWESOME to see some recognition for Force Majuere!! One of the best comedies of 2014!! And also fantastic to see The Babadook on your list. The best Aussie film of 2014, though it had a lot of competition! I loved The Rover.

    Nice round up! 🙂

  10. Writer Loves Movies March 18, 2015 at 2:46 am #

    I still need to see a few of these (Snowpiercer, Two Days One Night, Force Majeure and Nightcrawler). Nice to see Gone Girl placed high. My favourites last year were Mr Turner, Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman but I also loved Whiplash too!

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