On March 30th, 2015, I finally finished Whiplash. Now I have seen all of the Oscar-nominated films. This act now gives me the authority to write a completely arbitrary list of the best films of 2014. A couple of notes before we start: First, this was a fantastic year for film. Many movies could have been on this list if they came out in another year, but only a select film may live in time forever! Second, dear reader, is very clear: you must see these films. There are a few notable films I haven’t seen that came out in 2014 (Inherent Vice, Foxcatcher, Ida, Mr. Turner) but seeing all of the movies below will give you a balanced view of the past year in film. Now to the list:
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel
It used to be Moonrise Kingdom, but now The Grand Budapest Hotel is my favorite Wes Anderson film. A lobby boy and a concierge go on the run after stealing a valuable painting in Anderson’s love letter to pre-war Europe. Don’t let Wes Anderson’s quirky, dollhouse aesthetic fool you: this is a hard-hitting, emotional film that also happens to be incredibly sweet and funny.
Get to the front of the train. That’s the basic plot of Bong Joon-ho’s first English language film. Within the train, however, is a fierce class struggle that would make Karl Marx proud. The train, of course, is the last refuge of humanity after Earth freezes over. Chris Evans stars as a revolutionary leader fighting his way to the engine, wanting to overthrow the mysterious creator of the train, Wilford. BUT WILL HE? Watch the movie and find out, it’s great.
This movie was shot over twelve years… so yeah, that fact alone should make you see it. Richard Linklater’s opus tells the story of a boy turning into a young man. If you were ever a child, this movie will hit home for you. Boyhood got a lot of awards, deserving them all.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a creepy, entitled sociopath squirming his way to the top in Los Angeles. Gyllenhaal spouts off business jargon and self-help garbage as he films a series of increasingly brutal scenes for local news. I’ll say this: Gyllenhaal gives the best performance of the year. This is an adult, old-fashioned thriller that demands your attention. By the end, Nightcrawler leaves you disgusted with the realization that the Lou Blooms of the world have more power than what is comfortable.
After watching this movie, I was shocked to learn that this film was made by someone so green at directing. Ava DuVernay does an amazing job capturing the struggles within the Civil Rights Movement. The Bloody Sunday scene is one of the most thrilling and heartbreaking scenes of the past year. DuVernay also manages to both humanize Martin Luther King Jr and show what made him great.
6. Gone Girl
Pure Pulpy trash. That’s what Gone Girl is… And I loved it. Both David Fincher, the director, and Gillian Flynn, the writer, do a wonderful job adapting the best-selling book. The actors are at the top of their game, especially Rosemary Pike playing Amy, every MRA’s worst nightmare.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy
Do I need to say anything? It’s fun, a blast of a time, and gave the world Chris Pratt.
This movie takes place entirely in a car. It’s 90 minutes of Tom Hardy talking on a phone, and it’s more tense than most action movies. Hardy plays a construction manger trying to keep everything together as his life collapses around him. The less I say the better, but anyone turned off by the premise will be missing one of the best movies of the year.
9. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
I didn’t think I would like this movie, but… damn. Just damn. Beautifully shot and acted, Dawn tackles the origins of conflicts. Humans and Apes meet each other after a disease has wiped out most of humanity. What happens next may be known, but that doesn’t spoil the ride at all. Andy Serkis does an amazing job playing Caesar, a chimpanzee. The other apes, however, shine too. Toby Kebbell, playing Koba, deserved an Oscar nomination for his role. See this movie.
10. Captain America: Winter Soldier
The greatest trick Marvel ever pulled was convincing the world that Captain America: Winter Soldier was just a superhero film. This movie has more in common with 70s political thrillers than Ironman. Geeks everywhere are familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so I don’t need to convince you to see this movie. What I will say is Captain America has more commentary relevant to today’s political climate than most dramas and thrillers coming out this year. Beyond the great directing, amazing action set-pieces, and Chris Evans, Captain America has a lot to say about the current state of the American Government and it’s a good thing for us and Marvel’s direction going forward.