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
17. Inherent Vice
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.