I saw sixty of the films released in 2014, and after almost seven months, here is how the films of that year stacked up for me. These are my favorite kinds of films, full of good ideas, and brimming with urgency. These movies are prime examples of art in cinema. While showing us the fault in out patterns, and the flaws in our institutions, they also possess the power and intelligence to possibly move our society forward. In short, these films all taught me something.
1. Starred Up -This is a genius film. A gang movie set in a prison, presented like a thriller, and played out by a father and son who have both committed unforgivable crimes. The movie makes a statement on our problems with violence, incarceration, family, and the destructive patterns that ripple though our society because of them. Tense, smart, and brilliantly acted, a must see for any film buff, or anyone seeking knowledge and change.
2. Nightcrawler - Smart, violent, and utterly engrossing. Focusing on our broken news system, Jake Gyllenhaal gives the best performance of the year.
3. Whiplash - Possibly the best film ever made on the subject of artistic ambition, it also happens to have the best final act of 2014.
4. Birdman - Wows with the way it was shot, but holds up because it’s funny, smart, and personal. It really is as good as they say, but expect something a little off beat.
5. The Grand Budapest Hotel - Wes Anderson at his best. Whimsical, layered, funny, sad, and smart. With all the great performances, the familiar yet fictional fantasy world created in this film springs to life, and brims with heart.
6. Selma - A great film, that steadily - and terrifyingly - keeps getting more and more relevant. Even within the few months it’s been released.
7. Obvious Child - Honest acting and a smart script elevate this important film to become the best romantic comedy in years.
8. Paddington - Hilarious details, amazing sets, and a moving fish out of water parable for immigration and adoption. This is the kind of family film that truly is for the whole family, full of wit and love.
9. Only Lovers Left Alive - I know everyone loves to hate on vampires lately - thanks Twilight for that. But with stories like this and Let the Right One In, the sub-genre has proven to be the perfect setting for smart, thought provoking dramas, splattered with the occasional bloody thrill. Funny, romantic, and an awesome soundtrack, if you can adapt to it’s methodic pacing, you’ll be enthralled.
10. Ida - A quiet stunner. This film is so gorgeous to look at, you might miss the sheer amount of depth this deceivingly simple tale from Poland has to offer.
Honorable Mentions: - John Wick, The Lego Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Wild, Still Alice, Gone Girl, Edge of Tomorrow, Captain America, Boxtrolls, and The Babadook.