It’s about that time again for my annual top 10 list of movies of the year. 2014 was quite the year at the cinemas, making it even harder than ever to narrow down this list – as you’ll see from my selection. I approached this top 10 list with more than the idea that these movies would be some kind of “best of” list, and more toward the concept of rewatchability and those that I favored personally. So without further ado, check out TTRC’s Top 10 Movies of 2014 list after the break.
10. The Skeleton Twins (Craig Johnson)
Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig have never appealed to me in the sense that I would ever see them embody characters that I could resonate with based on their performances alone. The characters they have played in past comedic endeavors have always been mostly forgettable. Their chemistry together has always been strong on Saturday Night Live, and what they deliver in The Skeleton Twins hit me on so many emotional levels. They have truly captured my attention, Bill Hader especially, and its these types of rare, raw performances from them that I appreciate. Without this duet, I don’t believe this story would have been half as compelling, and that’s what makes The Skeleton Twins stand out to me.
9. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer)
I don’t believe I have ever enjoyed a film that has said so much by saying so little until I saw Under the Skin. Its underlying themes of humanity, sexuality, and gender are conveyed in such way that it has become haunting since its release back in April. Scarlett Johansson’s performance is brave and chilling, ascending the actress’ career to new heights. There is an obscure structure that challenged my patience, elevating Under the Skin’s lasting affect on me. Best of all, its visuals are some of the most macabre and beautiful shots of the year. (Read my full review)
8. The Raid 2: Berandal (Gareth Evans)
There has never been an action movie quite like The Raid 2: Berandal where I felt my ass was getting kicked alongside those on screen. Overstuffed with more unique and incredibly shot action set pieces than a Michael Bay film, The Raid 2 almost doesn’t know when to quit. Continuously pummeling your eye balls with glorious fight sequences, the action is able to flow simultaneously around the tried and true gangster plot. If you felt The Raid: Redemption left you exhausted, The Raid 2 is a marathon worth training for.
7. The LEGO Movie (Chris Miller & Phil Lord) / How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Dean DeBlois)
Yes, I am cheating by reserving my seventh spot for both The LEGO Movie and How To Train Your Dragon 2. Although I favor Dragon 2 over LEGO, both animated features captivated me in ways that are both wildly different. I couldn’t leave either one off this list.
The LEGO Movie has such a sharp, meta humor about it that I found myself smiling the entire time. Phil Lord and Chris Miller are two of the best working writer-directors in the business. They were able to accentuate the magic of what makes LEGOs so amazing for all ages while also sticking to their hilarious, playful storytelling ways.
And whereas The LEGO Movie tickled my funny bone to the nth degree, HTTYD2 hit me right in the feels like no other. I wholeheartedly believe it is one of the best written sequels of our time. There is a sense of maturity in our characters’ development and also the course writer-director Dean DeBlois is taking them. Above all, Dragon 2 has evolved the colorful world through a touching adventure that makes building a franchise worthwhile. (Read my full review)
6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Joe & Anthony Russ0) / Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn)
Again, I was beating myself up over the thought of leaving either of these next two off my list. So we have a tie here in the sixth spot also – sorry not sorry.
Gun to the head, I find Captain America: The Winter Soldier more enjoyable of the two because it is a superb political thriller under the guise of a superhero movie. A lot is accomplished within its tight story and is so bold that it turns the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe on its head, changing the game for its movie and TV counterparts. The Winter Soldier succeeds as sequel to The First Avenger and The Avengers with a different tone and attitude. This unconventional approach works in its favor by escalating each piece of its carefully developed puzzle. What I also admire is the fact that directors Joe and Anthony Russo were able to steer the MCU in such a dark place while keeping the sense of humor Marvel Studios has been accustom to with their previous hero films. (Read my full review)
But how could I not love Guardians of the Galaxy? Its cleverly written script packs a punch. There are a many handful of one-liners that caught fire. GOTG took my expectations and smashed them to pieces. As much as we all wanted it to achieve greatness, how could you not be weary about a project led by a supporting character actor, a talking raccoon, a sentient tree, and a WWE superstar as they come together to save the galaxy? The result: one of the funniest, most action packed, entertaining movies of the year. Sure the villain was once again a throw away character that had little impact, but GOTG is completely daring and funky. There’s a clever mixture of everything you could want from a summer blockbuster, and Guardians of the Galaxy solidifies Marvel’s dominance as a studio that understands its audience.
5. Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-ho)
What can’t be said about Snowpiercer? There is always something awe-inspiring to find with every watch. From its unique world building to the fantastic production design, Snowpiercer absolutely runs the gambit as the most imaginative movie of the year. With such a diverse cast, dynamic performances, strikingly visual cinematography, and unexpected turns within each train car, I fell in love more and more as our heroes pushed forward. Between the heavy themes and exciting set pieces, I became engulfed by it all. There just aren’t enough movies like this that take chances, so we must treasure filmmakers like Bong Joon-ho for continuing to strive for something different.
4. Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
What a roller coaster of a movie. The seamless editing and cinematography to make it appear as though Birdman was shot in one take is dazzling enough, but add in the wonderful performances by all of the actors and this film takes flight from beginning to end. There isn’t a single minute wasted its two hour run time. Every movement of the camera crescendos the tension surrounding Michael Keaton’s character, Riggan Thomson. Being confined to the little maze of a theater and its tight corridors also makes the cinematography flow in a way which seems more personal. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time as the single shot gimmick worked flawlessly to have me believe I was watching a world class play unravel before my eyes.
3. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)
With each passing second, there is an energy behind Whiplash that I haven’t felt from a movie in a long time. In its closing compelling moments, a rush of adrenaline swelled over me. I couldn’t get enough of the clash between Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) and Neyman (Miles Teller). Their push and pull relationship is a delight to observe, full of electrifying tension. As the smallest and most contained narrative of this bunch, Whiplash is big and every beat of the drum kit more powerful than the next. This film is a swirling tornado of anxiety and intensity that I found myself more than satisfied leaving the theater. (Read my full review)
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)
Wes Anderson has grown on me so much with his latest films. When I started this journey with TTRC I had a strong dislike for his earlier work, particularly The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. And after Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom, and now The Grand Budapest Hotel, I can say in confidence that I want to revisit Mr. Anderson’s earlier filmography as soon as possible. Budapest Hotel has got to be the most Wes Anderson-y movie of his entire catalog. And I love him for it. Every element of this Russion nesting doll is so well crafted that I was in a constant state of admiration. It’s a sweet and colorful movie wrapped in a dark comedy filled with some of the best cartoonishly characters ever. There are a lot of beautifully shot films on this list, but Budapest Hotel is the one I’m most fond of. It also has my favorite original score of the year.
1. Boyhood (Richard Linklater)
The amount of affection that I have for Boyhood cannot be expressed in words alone, but I will do my best. It wasn’t until last year that I discovered the simply brilliant Before trilogy – Richard Linklater’s other existential character studies – and now Boyhood holds an equally strong place in my heart. This writer-director knows people and ideas, perfectly framing them into such intimate and honest stories that are so relatable that its hard not to take away something with each viewing. And as much of a gimmick that it is to have spent the last 12 years filming these actors in different aspects of their lives there is a true sense of purpose and care with each moment depicted on screen. As I saw these actors gradually age over the course of three hours I couldn’t help but be amazed with each passage of time. Boyhood is nothing less than astounding for what its ability to capture the essence of becoming your own person.
Honorable Mentions: Locke, The Guest, Neighbors (read my review), X-Men: Days of Future Past (read my review), The One I Love, Gone Girl, Frank, Edge of Tomorrow, Interstellar, Big Hero 6 (read my review), and Nightcrawler
Films I Haven’t Seen Yet: Inherent Vice, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, It Follows, Citizenfour, Love is Strange, A Most Violent Year, American Sniper, Selma, Unbroken, Starred Up, Starry Eyes, Leviathan, Jodorowsky’s Dune, The Drop, A Most Wanted Man, Calvary, Only Lovers Left Alive, Listen Up Philip, and Two Days, One Night
And if you’re curious of my previous lists:
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