What a year for film, huh? Even with a weak summer box office we ended up having some of the best reviewed blockbusters in ages. 2014 saw a lot of originality and creativity and I couldn’t be happier with how it all went down. There were a ton of high quality films released throughout the year making it extremely difficult to narrow my favorites down to a simple 10, as there were about 16-ish films that really made an impact on me. Thank God for honorable mentions.
Below you will find my favorite films of the year, movies that I either thought were awesome, highly entertaining, captivating, engaging and all that other good stuff you want in your films. I saw 294 movies this year, including duplicate viewings, but in order to make this list it had to play in the states at some point in 2014 (it could have been at a festival, on VOD, or your standard theatrical release). There are a few obvious choices and there are going to be films that you’ve never heard of. Hopefully with this list, I can encourage you to seek out something you may never have even thought of watching. Hell, that’s I started this site to begin with.
Ok, first up, the honorable mentions that nearly made the cut (in no particular order): Starred Up, Big Hero 6, Snowpiercer, Gone Girl, Inherent Vice, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
In all honesty, the movies listed between #2 and #9 could be interchangeable. The more I think about it the more I want to tinker with the list, so take that for what it’s worth. Here are my top 10 films of 2014.
10. An Honest Liar (my review) – While I still haven’t seen Citizenfour, An Honest Liar probably would have still beaten it out for my favorite documentary of the year. The film chronicles magician turned con-artist debunker James “The Amazing” Randi and his quest to debunk frauds and liars in the world of magic, religion and other areas where people can be taken advantage of. It’s a fascinating and wildly entertaining doc that has a great twist and a bit of deception within it as well. Hopefully this will get distribution sooner rather than later.
9. Birdman – I’m not sure how this ended up in the #9 spot, but Birdman is a must-see for everyone. From a technological standpoint it was one of the most visually stunning experiences I had in the cinema. The entire film looks like it was shot in one take which, by itself, is reason enough to see the film. Michael Keaton makes a big return to the screen with a powerful performance while Emma Stone and Ed Norton both step up their game. This dark comedy is one of the best movies of the year when you take all aspects of it into consideration (performance, camerawork, the score, screenplay, etc.).
8. The Raid 2 (my review) – If you haven’t seen the first Raid, stop what reading this list and go watch it. Probably the best action movie of 2012 and one of my favorite films of that year, the sequel takes an incredibly different approach in terms of story but ups the ante when it comes to scope and hardcore, heavy-hitting action. Even if you hate subtitles this is a movie you’ll absolutely love. The sequel takes a Godfather story approach and sets up a final film that’ll make this one of the best action trilogies ever made. Just trust me on this one.
7. Foxcatcher (my review) – Maybe it’s because I wrestled for four years in high school that this film resonated with me so much, but Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher is a chilling piece of cinema with a game-changing performance from Steve Carell. Even Channing Tatum was good, but what made me happy was seeing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and all the wrestlers actually portray wrestling accurately. The wrestling scenes were intense but it was the drama between Carell and Tatum that was even more powerful, even creepy at times. This is a film that can get under your skin and is a serious contender for at least one Oscar this year.
6. The story of Yonosuke (my review) – This endearing Japanese dramedy is a personal favorite of mine. I felt oddly connected to this movie about a naïve and awkward Japanese college student whose high spirits managed to make such an impact on people 16 years later. Shuichi Okita’s film is one that I highly recommend if you’re a fan of Japanese cinema or are looking for a story that’s both touching and very much crowd-pleasing. I know very few people will actually see this one so I’m hoping one day we’ll get a nice English language remake of it (hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?)
5. Whiplash – One of the last films I saw in 2014, even though it was one of my most anticipated, Damien Chazelle’s electrifying music drama Whiplash blew my mind. Firstly, it somehow made me enjoy listening to Jazz. I initially wanted to watch the movie for the awesome drumming (cause I love drumming), but the ferociousness that both Miles Teller and J.K. Simmon’s brought to the screen was at a level that I’ve seen neither at before. The movie felt incredibly fresh and the best part was that it had a third act that managed to surprise you, something that rarely happens these days in film. It was joyfully unpredictable and led to an ending that had your palms sweating as your eyes were fixated on the screen.
4. Frank (my review) – I love this fucking movie. It’s obscure movies like Frank that remind me why I love independent cinema so much, because you can take a very talented actor like Michael Fassbender, hide his face for an entire film, and still get amazing results. Frank is an unbelievably quirky musical dramedy about the clash of people who do things for love and those who are ambitious and do things to succeed. It’s a very intimate and creative film that I can’t seem to recommend enough.
3. Nightcrawler (my review) – Maybe it’s because I was so in awe with Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance that this shot up to the top of the list, but I don’t care. Nightcrawler was such an eerily terrific film. I never thought I’d be infatuated with a crime thriller about news reporting but damn, Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut was one cool film. It’s one of the few films from this year that’s still a top-of-mind reference when people ask me what movies I liked this year. Maybe my opinion will change when I watch it again but, for now, this captivating thriller has made its lasting impression on me.
2. Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (my review) – Sion Sono’s over-the-top action oriented and hilarious love-letter to film is one of the most outrageous movies you’ll ever see. It’s funny, ridiculous, self-aware and has one of the wildest climaxes you’ll see on the big screen. It’s a movie about cinephiles trying to make movies and a movie about Yakuza gangsters trying to make movies with a love story thrown in between the two sets of filmmakers. When you finally wrap your head around it, this middle finger to conformists is just the type of movie filmmakers and lovers of film need to see if they’re looking for an outlandish way to be inspired…or if they just want a really good laugh.
1. Tie – The Lego Movie (my review) / Guardians of the Galaxy (my review) – I tried really hard to choose a number one and bump one of the above off this list, but it was just too hard. I fell absolutely in love with both of these films. I saw both of them twice in theaters within a week of seeing it the first time (which I rarely do) because I wanted to enjoy it for myself a second time while introducing the awesomeness of each film to an unsuspecting victim. Both films were pegged as outsiders and managed to surprise everyone that saw them. They’re quotable, original, fun, smart, and exactly the type of films I want to enjoy when I go to the movies. Both films are my favorite additions to my library and I’ve watched them each again since I picked them up on blu-ray. The Lego Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy are, shockingly, my favorite films of 2014.
Well, that’s my list. Here’s to 2015 and another fantastic year of cinema!