Hello Internet! How are you? That's fantastic. So, you're here now because you want to know my thoughts on the best films of 2014, right? I hope so. Well, this was an incredibly difficult list to make, in part because 2014 was a PHENOMENAL year for films. I couldn't justify having only a top 10 and five honorable mentions, so I've decided to be bold and have a top film in a few genres, a few honorable mentions, and then a top 10. There's 20 films on this list! And yet I still STILL had to omit quite a few deserving films off this. That said, these are 20 films that are all incredible pieces of cinema that should be watched. So, without any further delay, let's start with the honorable mentions, ya?
A Few Honorable Mentions....
The Drop (My Review)
So Tom Hardy. You know, it's borderline criminal that I didn't mention Tom Hardy in my actor's awards. The dude had a better year than Chris Pratt in terms of performances between this and Locke, but I gave Pratt the award for Best Overall Actor because his performances have made such a bigger splash. Tom Hardy is very quietly becoming one of Hollywood's best character-actors. I really hope he finds himself in another big budget film where he actually gets to act, because right now I say Tom Hardy and most of you think of either Inception or worse, The Dark Knight Rises. Where Hardy only had half a face to act with. Another thing to mention in The Drop is the fact that this is James Gandolfini's final film. His story arc definitely brought a tear to my eye. If I were doing my Top Five Films You Missed in 2014 list again like I did in 2013, this film would definitely be in that. Any other year it would be in my top 10, but this year's films were just too good.
Gone Girl (My Review)
A great thriller from David Fincher featuring a phenomenal performance from its lead Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl shined within the adult novel-to-film genre that it finds itself in. A great film, despite several flaws.
Cake (My Review)
Jennifer Aniston picks this film up and almost carries it into the top 10. A harrowing performance from her makes this December release worth your time. Long as you're ready to cry at the end.
Alright! Honorable mentions done! So, should I do my best of each genre portion next or my top 10 next....? Hm...ok. Here's what's gonna happen. So this year my top three films stood out above all the rest by a wide margin. So, I'm gonna do films 10-4 now, then do the best of each genre, then the top three. Sound good? Well, too bad, cause that's what we're doing.
10) A Most Violent Year (My Review)
So, I've been hyping this film up a lot. It is a phenomenal piece of storytelling, sprinkled with a great bit of set design and some brilliant acting from Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain. The story was about as real and gritty as any film was in 2014, and the bits of romance between Isaac and Chastain was better than, well, just about every romance film of the year. The story may not exactly appeal to everyone since it is about a businessman trying to find his footing in the most violent and crime-filled year of New York's history, but I say it is still well-worth a watch. I don't know why it didn't received any love from the Oscars, but oh well. As you read this list, you'll quickly realize why I'm so at ends with the Academy's choices this year.
9) The Skeleton Twins (My Review)
I'm oddly very conflicted about this film. As I remember it, I remember an incredibly gripping story, the best chemistry between Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader that we've ever seen, a harrowing storyline between Hader and Ty Burrell, and yet.....the last five minutes of the film left such a bad taste in my mouth. It is legitimately depressing. Were it not for those final five minutes, this film would've easily been in my top five. It's such a good brother-sister tale! Just with the most cliche ending imaginable yay. But I would strongly recommend watching this film with your family. Even with the final few minutes it is still a beautiful and wildly enjoyable brother-sister tale. One that I'm guessing you missed because it was an indie film!
8) Nightcrawler (My Review)
Anybody see this one? Featuring my favorite performance by an actor in 2014 from Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler is destined to live on in underground greatness. It kind of already is, really, as it is already becoming something of a cult hit. Anyone who likes Jake Gyllenhaal should put this chilling story at the top of their list. On top of having a great story, this story has an incredible set design, as it successfully makes LA an actual character in the story as Gyllenhaal has to traverse the city on back roads to avoid traffic and such. This movie definitely earns my award for best use of its location for a film in 2014. How's that for an award? Is that a real thing? Well, I don't care what you say. It's a real thing.
7) Top Five (My Review)
This one makes me sad. When I saw this in theaters the day it came out, I said man....this is the film our culture needs right now. Hot on the heels of Ferguson and the protests we saw occur around the nation, Chris Rock, one of the most influential names in comedy right now, drops Top Five. Top Five is a fantastic celebration of African American culture in this country. It is hilarious, it is touching, and anyone of any color can enjoy it. And yet it only made $25 million. C'mon, guys! You gotta support Chris Rock! He put his heart and soul into this film, and the result is easily the best straight-up comedy of the year. The movie is also incredibly smart, as Chris Rock essentially is playing himself and his own story, and the plot of the film simply is us following him around for a day. Additionally, the movie deals with alcoholism, taking a sharp turn for actual drama as our leads both deal with being alcoholics. It's at this moment that you realize that you actually care about these characters! That almost never happens in a comedy. If you want a good laugh from a film that you haven't seen featuring everyone's favorite early 2000s comedian, then Top Five is for you. Welcome back, Chris Rock.
6) Birdman: The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance (My Review)
On paper, this film shouldn't work. It should fail. I can't even try to tell you what happened in this story. And yet, here it is. While the story made very little sense to me as a whole, it definitely had its moments. However, the story of Birdman is not the reason that it's on this list. Not at all. First off, you have the performances. I had so much trouble back in the First Annual Actors Awards to narrow the best performances from this film to just, well, three. But Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, AND Amy Ryan all put in some of the best performances of the year in this film. And then there's the cinematography. Emmanuel Lubezki. Get to know this name, folks, for this man is rapidly becoming one of the best cinematographers in the history of cinema. This film not only features the best cinematography of 2014, it features some of the best cinematography I've EVER seen. Thanks to some very well-done camera work and phenomenal editing, Birdman successfully creates the sensation of watching this entire film in one long take. Lubezki took the experience he gained filming Gravity and applied it here. Except instead of have only 20 minutes of film in a single shot, it's the entire film. While I can't recommend this film to every living soul because of the flaws in its story, if you consider yourself a fan of the cinema you absolutely must put this film on your list for the cinematography alone.
5) The Grand Budapest Hotel (My Review)
So, Wes Anderson, eh? That dude kind of knows what he's doing. Well, his streak of outstanding films continued this year with this film. Grand Budapest Hotel is funny, it's very well-acted, and it is beautifully BEAUTIFULLY shot. Everything about the film is symmetrical and colorful, with every piece of the set meticulously placed in its spot for a very specific reason. For this reason and this reason alone, I'd recommend this film. However, if that wasn't enough, we get Ralph Fiennes, a man who is famously known for executing very powerful roles, playing the lead in a comedy. And he definitely shows us a side of him that we haven't seen before. While I did wish that the hugely diverse supporting cast in this film had a bit more to do, this definitely gives Fiennes a chance to shine. Can you do this again, Fiennes? Please? And as for you, Wes Anderson.....I can't wait to see what you do next.
4) Wild (My Review)
Man am I a sucker for survival tales. What can I say? These films really speak to me. Last year it was Robert Redford in All is Lost and Sandra Bullock in Gravity, and in 2014 I was on the edge of my seat for Reese Witherspoon's fight for survival in Wild. I love this movie! Witherspoon holds this film up with her bare hands and doesn't let go. While Witherspoon is not alone for this entire movie like Redford is in All is Lost, she's still asked the world here. And she delivers, bringing my favorite performance by an actress in film in 2014 in the process. But on top of that, this movie is excellent in every way. It is effectively shot, it is paced well, and it also does a great job to showcase the nature that surrounds Witherspoon. Not only that, but there is also some excellent editing, as the film unpredictably cuts back between Witherspoon and the events of her past that lead up to her make the decision to hike the Pacific Coast Trail, despite having minimal training and experience beforehand. Despite some of the despicable things that Witherspoon's character did before hiking the trail, you can understand why she did them, and as a result you will inevitably be rooting for her and totally sucked in to watching her fight for her survival. A must-watch for anyone who is a fan of nature or the survival genre. Hope you stay with us for a while, Witherspoon.
Ok so there's 10-4. Now onto the best films of each genre that are not in the top 10! You'll notice there's no drama category, and that's because, if you haven't noticed, most of the films in my tope 10 are dramas! WHOA. SHOCKER. I'm gonna start with a genre that hasn't received much respect from the Academy, however it will from me! Why? Because I'm awesome. Obviously.
If you want to read my original reviews of these films, click on the picture. Except for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Didn't review that for some reason. And X-Men. Didn't review that, either. Fun fact! That's my biggest regret on this blog from last year. I have this Mega Review half-written on the entire X-Men series, but I never released it. Oh well. Oh. I'm getting sidetracked in my bold writing, aren't I? Oops.
The Best Superhero Film Was....
Ya. Thought I was going with Guardians of the Galaxy, right? Well, Guardians ain't got nothin' on X-Men: Days of Future Past. Days of Future Past is easily the best superhero film of 2014, and here's why. So, you know that in every superhero movie, the good guys win, right? I mean, you know what's going to happen. That's not the point. It's usually about the journey. But that's what made The Dark Knight so great. There was absolutely a significant period of time there were you felt Batman was going to lose. Well, X-Men: Days of Future Past is the same way. I found myself on the edge of my seat, legitimately unsure of what was going to happen next during the third act. Couple that with excellent performances from one of the more expansive casts we've seen in a superhero movie ever, and you have the best superhero movie of the year.
The Best Biopic Outside my Top 10 was....
Don't even know what that's a picture of? That's ok. That's a picture of the film Mr. Turner. So, how's this for a surprise? I almost forgot about this movie. Not because it's forgettable, but because it's so freaking deep! It is an incredibly heavy watch, and absolutely requires your full attention, but every future biopic should make a point to see this film and model their own movie off of it. Because this is how you shoot a biopic. Don't worry about fluffing up your story to make it more dramatic. Just tell it like it is, and trust that your audience will come along for the ride. The story of Mr. Turner is simple, but its execution is so brilliant that it had to be included in this list somewhere. Featuring a great performance from lead Timothy Spall, incredible costumes, and an awesome set design, Mr. Turner is an absolute must-watch for all you art fans out there. This is the art film you deserve.
The Best Comedy Outside My Top 10 Was....
See why I wanted to do these best of lists? There would be no way to mention this film were it not for that. It's not worthy of an honorable mention, but this movie could not have better succeeded at what it set out to do. Which was to make you laugh, obviously. 22 Jump Street offers nothing other than laughs, however it succeeds at this so well that its the best comedy of the year. 22 Jump Street features perfect chemistry from bro-leads Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, and an expanded role for Ice Cube, because, you know, who wouldn't want more Ice Cube right? But it's not only that. As a lot of you may already know, I have a thing for films that acknowledge what they are and have fun with their premise. You'll see that a lot on this list, actually. But 22 Jump Street realizes that it's a sequel. It realizes that most sequels are just more of the same. And it proceeds to have an absolute blast with this fact, bringing the best laughs of the year as a result. Well done guys!
The Best Animated Film Was....
Ok. Take this one with a grain of salt, because I did not see Big Hero 6. But I freaking loved this movie. Believe it or not, I loved it more than How To Train Your Dragon 2. I know! Cue up all the hate coming my way now! Anyway, this movie is another example of a movie acknowledging what it is and having fun with itself. On top of being utterly hilarious, The Lego Movie features some of the highest-quality animation we've seen from a movie. The Lego Movie successfully makes you think it was shot in stop-motion animation, when in fact very little of it was. I loved it, and when you combine this with the fact that every actor brings their A game for their characters, you get my favorite animated feature of 2014. From what I saw. I know! I'm gonna see Big Hero 6 very soon....
The Best Sequel We WEren't Expecting to Be Good was.....
Yes. I made up a category so I could talk about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, what of it? Well, the predicament I had otherwise was the fact that I had a tie for best sci-fi movie of 2014, so I figured I'd highlight the main thing about this film. So, I watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes. And I thought it was decent. But that's it. There was a lot of wasted potential with the first in this prequel series to Planet of the Apes, and when I heard that they were gonna jump several years into the future without James Franco or anyone from the original I thought cash-grab! But boy was I wrong. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was very quietly one of the best big-budget action movies of 2014. The main calling card of the film are its phenomenal special effects. Which hey! You kind of need those when your main characters are monkeys. But not only that, the performance of Jason Clarke (pictured above) was also surprisingly great. He's asked to do a lot interacting with CGI monkeys, but he does it as well as anyone could have. And of course you also have group that believe Andy Serkis should've been nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his work as Caesar. That's how impressive he was. I'll even agree with them that Serkis was better than Robert Duvall in The Judge. Sigh....
The Best Science Fiction Movie Was....
So, 2014 was not the best year for Science Fiction. However, Edge of Tomorrow was not most of 2014's sci-fi movies. It's a shame that Oblivion had to come out a year before this film, because on the surface they are quite similar. And Lord knows nowadays in our society we judge a book by its cover allllll the time. But this movie separates itself from Oblivion immediately. The premise is far more interesting, the execution of said premise is better, the film looks excellent, and the action is shot in a, ya know, cohesive manner. You know, something that we should expect in 2014 but very rarely get. And, on top of all that, you have a wonderful tag team in Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. Hate on Tom Cruise all you want, but the dude is a movie star for a reason. Additionally, the editing of this film is spot on. It has to be, as the premise of the film is that Cruise keeps living the same day over and over. I loved it, and greatly enjoyed the ride on this massively underrated sci-fi flick.
The Best Action Film Was....
"People keep asking if I'm back. Ya. I'm thinkin' I'm back!" freaking John Wick, guys. If you like movies with lots of action, and you haven't seen this film yet, put it at the top of your list. No. Drop everything and go see this. This movie is the quintessential example of a movie acknowledging what it is and having fun with itself. It realizes that Keanu Reaves can only be type-casted nowadays, and as a result just let's Keanu Reaves play himself. But more importantly, the action is masterfully shot, giving you a chance to see every choreographed scene and appreciate what is going on from start-to-finish. As if this wasn't enough, the motivations behind Reaves doing what he's doing are more than understandable, so you will find yourself rooting for him throughout the entire film. To finish it all off, this movie is hilarious, from the awesome one-liners to many overall hilarious scenes throughout the film that ensure that the movie remains lighthearted and fun. I really cannot be higher on this film than I am. Easily one of the best action films I've seen in the past few years, John Wick is more than worthy of your time. Go see it!
So you might've noticed that there wasn't a romance category. Well, that's because the straight-up romantic films of 2014 basically all sucked. Yes, The Fault in Our Stars was pretty good, but that's it. That's seriously it! You can do better than that, romance genre! C'mon!
So, there are my best of each genre films! Hope you enjoyed them! Now let's finish off the top 10, ya?
3) Selma (My Review)
So, remember how I sad Top Five made me sad? Ya. Selma devastated me. This movie came out at the same time as American Sniper, and yet American Sniper has made $312 million and Selma has made only $49 million. Why, America? Why did you have to flock out to American Sniper in droves and not Selma? It even came out nationally on MLK weekend! What better way to honor MLK than by seeing one of the best films out there about him? Not only that, but easily one of the best films of the year, Selma drew me in almost immediately as Oprah Winfrey tried to register to vote and didn't let go until the credits rolled. Despite knowing this story fairly well, the movie does a spectacular job conveying it to you. Who cares about the controversy with LBJ. He's good. There's enough out there to ensure that history views LBJ the way he should be viewed: a huge supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. Couple all of this with incredible directing and one of the best performances of the year from lead David Oyelowo, and you have my third favorite film of the year! Please go see this film. Regardless of whether you are a fan of history or not, if you see American Sniper and are going to get upset over it not winning Best Picture, I'm not going to listen to you or your arguments at all until you see Selma at the very least. Done and done.
2) Boyhood (My Review)
If you follow me regularly, you may recall that I called this film a masterpiece of storytelling. Well, after seeing a lot of other films this year after watching Boyhood, I can tell you that it still is. I absolutely have gotten caught up in thinking about the technical aspects of making a 12-year project. What happens if Ethan Hawke gets in legal trouble and drops out of Hollywood six years ago? What happens if the pop culture references littered throughout this movie are not relevant in 2014? Can you imagine trying to figure out what will be relevant in the moment 10 years from now? I sure can't. However, on top of that, this story is incredible. It will make you cry on several occasions, and if you're a parent, prepare to go through the whole box of tissues in one sitting. The story is anchored by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, and they help guide us through a wonderful journey that is as simple as it sounds. But, you quickly begin to feel like a parent as well! You're watching this child grow up, and thus the end of this film was as emotional for me as it could have been. This movie blew me away, and is one that I definitely could recommend to anyone and everyone.
PS- Fun fact! Boyhood and my number 1 film on this list are the only two films to receive perfect 10s from me on Enter the Movies in 2014. In case you were wondering.
AND THE BEST FILM OF 2014 WAS....
1) AMERICAN SNIPER
THIS WAS A MASTERPIECE OF AMERICAN CINEMA. I DIDN'T SEE ANY OTHER FILMS IN 2014 BUT I THINK THIS IS DEFINITELY THE BEST ONE. No. Dear Stereotypical Southern Town Boy, hush up. I know you're gonna lose your crap when American Sniper doesn't win Best Picture, but you're just sound ignorant when you do. Stahp. (That's right, I went there - come at me bro)
Did you like that joke? I sure did. Now the actual number one film of the year was....
1) Whiplash (My Review)
Anyone who knows me could've called this from about 300 million miles away. But seriously. Words can't even begin to describe how good this movie is. At the time of this writing, I've already seen the movie four times, and it's only gotten better on each viewing. Featuring real drumming from Miles Teller and a terrifyingly bone-chilling performance from J.K. Simmons, Whiplash is the definition of a perfect film. A masterpiece if there ever was one, it only takes about 30 seconds for this film to grab you, and it doesn't even remotely let go until about 15 minutes after the credits have finished. Never have I ever held my hands over my face in utter shock and disbelief as I did in Whiplash. Tense doesn't even remotely begin to describe it. As if this wasn't enough, the editing of Whiplash is the best editing of the year. It screams jazz, as the shots are routinely cut in time with the background music. Additionally, the cuts are chaotic throughout the drum solos of the film as the camera frantically switches back and forth between various pieces of the kit. Don't care about music at all? This movie is still well worth your time.The character of J.K. Simmons can easily be thought of in terms of that one crazy boss you once had to deal with for a year that would do crazy things to achieve results from his employees. And, if you are a musician, HOW HAVE YOU NOT SEEN THIS MOVIE? This is the movie musicians can only dream about! It's here! For your enjoyment. A must-watch for anyone who breathes air, Whiplash is not only FAR AND AWAY the best film of 2014, (seriously, I can't even put into words how much better this film is compared to anything else on the list) but it's the best film I've ever had the privilege of reviewing on this blog. This film is quintessential embodiment of why I love cinema. And it's worth every second of your time.
Well, there you have it! My top films of the year! Even though Whiplash has no chance of winning Best Picture because it's just a little indie film that no one has ever heard of, if it does somehow win, you will absolutely hear my shouting and cheering from wherever you are. But I definitely won't be sad when it doesn't win. That said, I can't believe my coverage of 2014 is now finally done! For all those who have been following my work, I say thank you. Y'all are awesome. Give yourself a pat on the back from me! Thanks again, and I'll see ya next time on Enter the Movies! DEUCES!
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