Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The 25 Best Movies of 2014


A few days ago, I shared what I think are the worst films of 2014. Before that, I posted The 2014 Dellies, my tribute to the year's best and brightest. However, there was one thing missing. I don't give out a Best Picture award. The reason I don't is because I find it redundant to do so and then post a list of the year's best movie. That would also kill the suspense. Since I can tell you're chomping at the bit to get to the list, I'll quickly step out of the way. Just click on the titles to read my full review of any of these films. I have not reviewed a few of them, just yet. Those should be posting between now and the end of the month. I'll update this post with the links as they do. One minor note before we get started, I refrained from ranking any documentaries on purpose. I'd rather keep them in their own little corner of the film world. With no further adieu, here are


The Top 25 Movies of 2014

Stuff I'm told is good, but haven't seen yet: Chef, Child's Pose, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Joe, The Hundred Foot Journey, Love is Strange, Mr. Turner, Miss Julie, Night Moves, The One I Love, The Overnighters, Pride, St. Vincent, Still Alice, Unbroken, The Zero Theorem


What it brings is a number of great performances from its cast and a story good enough to give it a high rewatchability factor.


24. Penguins of Madagascar
Accomplishes the rare feat of being a spin-off better than the movie it spun-off from.


A valuable and welcome addition to vampire lore.

22. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Quirky and funny in all the ways a good Wes Anderson film should be, plus a dynamic turn by Ralph Fiennes.

I was actively involved in every fight scene. I'm not quite sure, but I may have gotten stabbed once or twice. You know, adrenaline pumping, didn't feel a thing.

There is only a battle of wills between two men. We watch the constant back-and-forth between them and wonder which one of them will give in.

19. Interstellar
It encourages debate which enhances our enjoyment of it. The film can be argued from every side with no resolution. And we like it that way.

18. What We Do in the Shadows
Better than any other movie at showing what it might be like to be a vampire day after day in the regular world.

The movie uses its tone to tremendous advantage by creating tension sooner than its Marvel bretheren and rarely diffusing it.

16. Guardians of the Galaxy
Arguably, the best movie of this whole shared universe thing.

Through our hero's repeated and comically presented deaths is an odd way to approach character development, but it works perfectly.

14. Mommy
We watch intently and rack our brains trying to figure out what shape these people will be in when we leave them.

A whip-smart satire that uses its college campus setting as a microcosm of the larger discussions on race.

Rooted in a sense of reality not often afforded to haunted house flicks.

Things I would normally shred a movie for are given a pass because I know that the movie knows it's stupid.

A mesmerizing experience. It pulls off the difficult trick of being a visual spectacle and having plenty of heart.

9. Selma
It effectively knocks him down from being an infallible myth to an actual human being without being disrespectful of or seeming to have something against him.

This film manages the impossible. It's a woozy affair that seems to meander along with little purpose other than being odd. While doing so, it somehow draws us to the edge of our seats and keeps us suspended there as we wonder where all of this is going. When it gets there, we have to take a deep breath and contemplate what we just saw.

Top Five holds a mirror up to us. The biggest target is our infatuation with and pigeon-holing of celebrities. The celebs are not exempt from examination, either. We see some of the ways in which they attract attention to themselves even if they don't mean to. We also get a look at race within the Hollywood system and addiction. The looks at celebrophilia and race are the funniest. When we focus on addiction is when the movie is at its heaviest.

The outcome of all this is a darkly humorous critique on our escalating love affair with sensationalism. It also speaks to the lengths local news shows have to go to in order to be competitive in a world where the internet provides the world its main source of news and even 24 hour news stations are struggling to keep up. An ending that's as shocking for what it isn't as for what it is epitomizes an entire movie shrugging its shoulders while letting us know that's just how it is.

We become fully vested in our hero's fate. This is the true aim of every movie and Blue Ruin accomplishes this. It does so by keeping us out of crowded cities and placing us in dustier parts of the American landscape. The calling card of legendary director Martin Scorsese is urban grit. Here, Jeremy Saulnier makes a worthy rural counterpart.

Top Five starts off on the pessimistic end of the spectrum and works toward hopefulness while Birdman seems to travel in the opposite direction. This leads to an ambiguously played finale. The final moment of Birdman is triumphant in surface appearance, but lined with an inescapable sadness. A movie filled with dark humor ends on its darkest punchline.

3. Inherent Vice
Director Paul Thomas Anderson is to be commended for managing what could easily have been an unwieldy beast. The story has so many strands it's like a badly frayed garment, at first glance. Upon closer inspection, we see that its an intricately detailed tapestry of exotic fabrics.

From the very beginning, we witness the greatest strength of The Lego Movie. It's taking the things we love about some of the most iconic movie franchises and making fun of them while still integrating them into its own wonderful story.

On the surface, at its most literal, it's a bit of a shock to the system. Some will love it, some won't. At deeper levels it becomes commentary and metaphor. Exactly what the commentary and metaphor are is open to debate. It most easily lends itself to being interpreted as a scathing indictment of the institution of marriage. I've also heard it labeled as misogynistic. I don't agree with that assessment, but I understand how one might get that idea. Whether or not you buy into that, the true beauty of Gone Girl is that the ending is worthy of our debate and not what we were expecting to happen. That it goes against the grain is a victory in itself. That it invokes an immediate need for discussion is what makes it great.

Honorable Mentions: Calvary, Creep, Foxcatcher, The Immigrant, John Wick, A Most Violent Year, Neighbors, The Purge: Anarchy, Snowpiercer, Starry Eyes, Two Days, One Night, A Walk Among the Tombstones, X-Men: Days of Future Past

22 comments:

  1. YEY for your number 1! It was my number 1 until I saw Birdman but I absolutely adored GG. I really need to see Blue Ruin

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    1. I won't argue with anyone who has Birdman in their top slot. Just glad to see GG get some much deserved love.

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  2. So many great films here. I love that you have Gone Girl at #1. I don't rank my "best" list when I post it, but Gone Girl, Birdman, and Whiplash were easily the best three for me. Glad to see them here.

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    1. All excellent films. Simmons and Teller was both so good in Whiplash they made it better than it had any right to be.

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  3. Great list! Loving your #1 and #2; really liked Gone Girl, and The Lego Movie was very much robbed of accolade! Glad to see Beyond the Lights, Raid 2, and What We Do in the Shadows make the list - those are quite underrated.

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  4. Nice list! I'm curious, though - did you read the novel of Gone Girl before seeing the film? Because I did, and I'm wondering if that's the reason for my somewhat cool reaction to the film; I knew what was coming and thus the film held little surprise or suspense. Thus, I can see that it's a good film, but I didn't think it was anything more.

    Anyway, Pride was my #1, followed by Birdman, How To Train Your Dragon 2, Boyhood, and Grand Budapest Hotel. Although now that time has passed and the films have settled, I'd remove Boyhood and replace it with The Babadook (which I only saw just recently).

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    1. I did not read the novel for GG. I've heard others who have say similar things to what you have, though. And The Babadook is infinitely better than Boyhood so I definitely approve.

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  5. Nice to finally read your best of 2014 list, and I like you took your time. We have a few overlaps, and as is to be expected several we don't see eye to eye on. I didn't "get" Birdman, Selma or Inherent Vice, those three left me cold. But I thoroughly enjoyed many others in your top 25: Gone Girl, Nightcrawler,Mommy, The Babadook. Under the Skin, What We Do in the Shadows, Whiplash, Guardians of the Galaxy, Grand Budapest Hotel and Edge of Tomorrow. I had mixed feelings about the storytelling in Interstellar, but I'm glad I saw it at the cinema for the spectacle.
    A film I don't see here is Force Majeure, a Swedish drama nom for a Golden Globe. It should have been a lock for a nom at the Oscars but just missed out. It's in my top 10 of 2014 and I hadt a limited US release in 2014. Begin Again and Starred Up (US releases in 2014) are two others I'm wondering if you have seen. Check em out if you have the chance!

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    1. Thanks! Glad to see we do have some overlap and that you enjoyed many others. I figured Inherent Vice to be polarizing, so no surprise there.

      I have not seen any of the three you suggest. I meant to list them all in that not seen section, but since I was doing this at an ungodly hour of the night, my brain wasn't fully functioning and I plum forgot about them. They're all on my To Watch list.

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  6. Gone Girl is still my #1 film of the year and I'm glad there is some love for Inherent Vice.

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    1. Yay!!! And I have plenty of love for Inherent Vice.

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  7. Love love love love loved A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night!! And I didn't see it till this year. I also really liked Dear White People...another movie I unfortunately missed in 2014 and caught in 2015. Great list! My #1 was Whiplash for last year :)

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    1. I also saw both of those in 2015. No regrets, though. The important thing is that we did see them. My only question for you: When you watched Whiplash, were you rushing or dragging?

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  8. Definitely agree about Gone Girl being number 1. I didn't think Top 5 was that amazing. This post just reminded me that I really need to review Winter Soldier. When I saw it in the cinema I wasn't amazed. The movie lost me when it tried to convince me that a guy used 1950's technology to write an algorithm that was his personality and managed to upload it into a USB. How? Also how come Cap struggled to beat an ordinary man? Was it because he was Russian? Movie makes me angry just thinking about it

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    1. Because he was an evil Hydra scientist? You know those guys were capable of anything, right? All jokes aside, by the time that was revealed I was invested in the rest of the story and let that bit of "movie science" slip by me. Besides, we're talking about a film where the protagonist was given a magic potion that instantly transformed him from a 98-lb weaking getting sand kicked in his face to being the manliest man of all-time. I did, however, have the same misgivings about Cap's powers. They were rather inconsistent. I decided not to give a hard knock against the film itself because the comic has the same issues, or at least it did way back when I was reading them.

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  9. Really happy to see some love for Gone Girl. I'd have a hard time choosing between that and Birdman for my top spot. I'm also happy to say I've seen nearly all the movies in your top 25! The remaining few will be watched very soon I'm sure. I can also highly recommend Chef which you mentioned before your list :)
    - Allie

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    1. Yeah, not sure why I haven't seen. Chef. It's been on "My List" on Netflix for months, now.

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  10. I love this list, bro. And I really love that you dug Inherent Vice. That was my number one, if you remember my list. Gone Girl is great and had proven to work on repeated viewings. I've seen in three times now. Loved it every time. Blue Ruin, Nightcrawler, Birdman. All of those up there for me. A few regrets: I still haven't seen Top Five or The Lego Movie. And Edge of Tomorrow. Great choice!

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    1. Inherent Vice is a great choice for the too spot. And you gotta watch The LEGO Movie.

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