This year I thought I’d try to jump the gun on Oscar and release my best movies of the year article before the Academy Awards are announced. It always feels a little cheap when my number one movie of the year happens to land the Best Picture golden statue.
2014 was a decent year for movies. I saw some excellent films, very few bad ones and the ones that I would say are mediocre were far better than the mediocrity of past years.
Worst of the Year
I saw almost no bad movies this year and the one that I would pick as worst of the year was a very limited release Irish film called Gold starring Game of Throne’s Maisie Williams (Arya Stark). Just a very weird comedy full of dark, unlikeable characters. Either I’m seeing fewer bad movies, or bad movies are getting better when I think to other titles that have graced this section in the past (The Purge, The Last Airbender, The Fog (remake)).
I always want to give a quick shout-out to some films that at some point were in my top ten but got bumped out since I think I only have room for ten in that list. These three movies were all very strong but I do feel that everything in the top ten was better in some way.
Chef – Of the nine wonderful years I spent with my ex-wife, I took her to hundreds of movies in the theatres. Most of the time I think I brought her to films she enjoyed, but I sure did miss the mark a few times. I can’t tell you how happy I was when she told me last summer walking out of the theatre that this was the best movie I’ve ever brought her to. Great, fun, feel-good movie.
Finding Vivian Maier – Awesome documentary on an elusive photographer that wasn’t discovered until after her passing. Amazing, surprising, frightening. If you’re a fan of photography, you cannot miss this one.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 - It was a tough act to follow and although I preferred the first one, this was still an extraordinary movie for both adults and children alike.
Ok, let’s get right into what I consider to be the very best movies of 2014.
10. Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow
Did they really change the name of the movie officially to this? What were they thinking?!
This originally didn’t make the top ten but I rewatched it recently and it holds up strongly. I forgot how much I loved it.
Gamers know that sometimes in a videogame you have the dreaded escort mission, where you have to restart the level anytime you or your escort are killed. Typically you get more and more emotionally detached from the death of your escort because it happens so insanely often that it becomes like breathing. Well, what if it were real life and each time your escort dies, it actually becomes harder and harder for you to accept? Yeah, sort of like in Source Code but more action, and with a bunch of humour which is great given all the death and destruction.
Look, I want to dislike Tom Cruise as much as the next guy but he really does have the introspective action hero down to a science (today’s pun is brought to you by the sixth level of enlightenment). I truly believe his motivations and I think he's quite good in these roles. Emily Blunt I didn't know from Eve before this film but I think she was perfect in this soldier role as well.
If you don't like the idea of Groundhog Day or TNG's "Cause and Effect", then this will likely bother you as well, but let me say that it may be the best version of repeating events done yet. It’s the least amount of deja-vu I've felt in that each scene feels fresh and that is uniquely thanks to Tom Cruise bringing an authentic reaction on treating events like this. As an example, there is one time where Cruise wakes up with such melancholy that even the drill sergeant lets him be.
I think the only moment that gave me pause was wondering why future paratroopers would land on a sand-filled beach with big heavy suits? Why not go more in-land?
I think this movie is just a ton of fun and I would like to see it again. Oh! I almost forgot. It has one of the better epilogues I've seen in a long time. Very satisfying and just the right length.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy
This also originally didn’t make the top ten and I can’t imagine the whiplash (foreshadowing!) I would have received on this site if I hadn’t included it. It deserves to be here for sure.
An interesting thing is when you go into a movie with really high expectations AND the movie meets them. That's a rare event. It's hard to describe this movie since 'fun' doesn't do it justice since there's some great sci-fi in this too. The best way to describe it is by my favourite line in the movie, it's a sci-fi movie that actually has the line, "They got my dick message!"
Brilliant use of soundtrack too. I think I could watch a tree creature dancing to Jackson Five for hours on end without getting bored. Chris Pratt is absolutely perfect in this role, a cross between Han Solo and Indiana Jones. I never thought Bradley Cooper would have been a good voice-acting choice, but I was very wrong. He's great. The only bad choice, for me, was Michael Rooker as Yondu, he's just a little too familiar. I'm not sold on Glenn Close either.
The movie is just a ton of fun and I caught myself smiling and laughing way more times than I expected. Loved it.
So after seeing this, I had immediately placed it as number two on the list and since then it’s been getting bumped down on a fairly regular basis. Not because I’m seeing better movies, I’m just realizing it’s more of a collection of fun, amazing performances than a spectacular film.
It's hard to even spot the edits and cuts, it feels like you're watching an actual Broadway performance since the whole thing is so fluid (I still can't figure out how they filmed an entire movie like this exactly). These are the best performances yet for Michael Keaton, Emma Stone and Zach Galifinakis (who you may not even recognize). Edward Norton is fairly strong too. Naomi Watts is ok.
Some good laughs, some good stressful moments, I can see this movie getting lots of attention come the Academy awards. Especially on the directing side. I have no idea if he’ll beat out Linklater.
Ouf… I’m going to get flak for this. I don’t know why people love to crap on this film. I think it’s gorgeously shot, has good momentum and some fun and wacky performances.
I sometimes forget what a nice treat it is to walk into a movie with no expectations whatsoever. So it was with this film which just kept surprising me over and over. A failed attempt to deal with global warming basically wrecks the entire planet, rendering everything extinct. Luckily a resourceful train enthusiast has developed a sustainable train cruise which fosters the remnants of human civilization. You can imagine what type of society that has created. Splice together Hunger Games with Matrix's Zion.
Tilda Swinton is a hoot and I especially liked Alison Pill's sequence as a school teacher. One of the weirdest yet hilarious parts of the film.
Surprisingly great action sequences with a film that moves along at a good pace and you have yourself a perfect movie for what it is. For what it is. You would think these sci-fi flicks about a dystopian future would be played out by now, but this one feels and is delivered as something very original.
I sure do love me some action movies with brains. They are so rare. This is a great flick.
So Pete’s aversion to this film had me look into the historical inaccuracies and it really seems to be just centered around LBJ. That he’s displayed in a more negative light here than two of LBJ’s associates are suggesting he really was with King. At the end of the day, it’s only their relationship that’s being questioned, it’s not like the film isn’t crediting LBJ with championing civil rights legislation. The movie is more about what happened in Selma anyway which has been described by experts as “100% accurate.” This type of stuff will always happen with historical fiction movies that are not documentaries.
Anyway, it’s a fantastic film, and should be required viewing. The lead actor portrayal of Dr. King is very strong. The scene in the coroner's office alone...(not a spoiler, don’t worry)
I went into the theatre with my buddy and we were the only whites in the audience. A group of friends in the backrow smiled at us when we walked in, it was sort of comical. There was one particular scene that was pretty tough and very sad and all I thought to myself was, "don't laugh, for the love of all things, don't laugh" and of course I started snickering at the absurdity of the only whites in the theatre laughing at oppression. I wish I had just been making out during Schindler's List instead.
The movie is extraordinary with some huge performances. My only beef is I don't know why Oprah Winfrey puts herself in these films. I'm very much aware that, "hey, that's Oprah Winfrey trying to register to vote." and "hey look, Oprah Winfrey is hitting that police officer with her purse." I don't think you can cast people bigger than life in important movies like that. I had the same issue with Brad Pitt in 12 Years. Or Christian Slater in Star Trek VI (lol). It just takes you out of the film. I think I would have been more likely to not lose suspension of disbelief if it was any other woman and the mic boom had been in the shot.
In the same way that I was floored by The Lives of Others, I once again am absolutely amazed that this is extremely recent history. 1964. It's hard to fathom that this was going on so recently. On the other said, there stands President Barack Obama not even half a century later.
This is the first time I've come to understand the power of non-violent protest when trying to effectuate major change. Amazing.
The movie also happily surprised me. i was certain I knew the destination of where we were headed while watching this, and I was very pleasantly surprised to end up somewhere quite different. I'm very grateful that it isn't a full biography.
I think it's nuts that this film did not get a nomination for best actor.
5. Citizen Four
I’m so pleased a documentary made the top ten. I hate it when I can’t squeeze one in. Especially after I bumped out Vivian Maier (sorry Shellie).
This was the best documentary I’ve seen since The Cove. Feels like some real honest filmmaking once again. I hope director Laura Poitras doesn't end up getting a chip on her shoulder like Michael Moore did, she is doing some very brave and important work.
I'll admit I knew very little of Edward Snowden other than what I saw presented in the media. I didn't really think of him as a treasonous traitor or hero (definitely not a hero, that's for sure). I wasn't sure what to expect from this documentary, I wasn't sure if I was going to get flooded with narrative like during Farenheit 9/11 (yuck). Colour me surprised that this film is basically the initial raw interviews before the story had even surfaced! Incredibly tense, not knowing the fallout and all that. Most of the movie takes place in a Hong Kong hotel room and you feel as trapped as he does.
It really plays out like a thriller, it's amazing that it's a documentary and all of this was captured on film. It really has to be seen and experienced.
Probably the best climax I’ve seen since Zero Dark Thirty, my heart was a-racin'! Hard to believe that a first-time director can give that sense of voyeurism.
Jake G finally shows some range instead of the same mopey character performances he tends to give (Source Code was the most active I've ever seen him before this). He gets to play a guy who you really hope you never have to work with… ever. I can't even imagine this character in an office setting. Terrifying.
This has to be the worst title for this movie ever. I know it's the accurate term for this type of job (crime journalism) but so many people will be turned off by the title. Plus, I bet those guys who painted their skin blue at the movie left disappointed, "ver vaz kurt?!"
Really fantastic stuff. Cements the idea in my head that online university degrees are worth the paper you print them on.
I’m really happy I ended up placing this one so highly on the list. It deserves making top three. It’s stuck with me far more than I thought it would have after seeing it.
This is an intense film. This actor, Miles Teller, blew me away in The Spectacular Now a couple summers ago and this is an even bigger performance. Melissa Benoist is my new secret crush and I can't wait to see her in more stuff. J.K. Simmons of course is perfectly cast. Good luck recognizing Paul Reiser (Aliens, Mad About You) in this flick. I had no idea that was him.
Quick synopsis: Best music school in the country. Very capable musician that a teacher sees incredible potential in. Teacher decides to push and push in order to make the greatness come out. And then of course when you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you.
It's just a fantastic film, really. It asks some tough questions. It says volumes about Miles Teller in that there's a scene where he makes a difficult decision that I would normally totally disagree with. But because I so was into his performance, I totally understood and reasoned along with him on why he'd make this choice. It's rare that I'm in a character's head like that. This is one of those movies where it's great to grab a pint or coffee right after and talk about it. It's hard not to understand why each character acts the way they do. Everything seems justifiable. Loved this movie.
2. The LEGO Movie
I’ll never figure out what Oscar’s problem with this movie was. This was by far the best animated film of the year and would have assumed it would have been the frontrunner for winning the best animated feature category. Not even a nomination in the end. I assume Dragon 2 will take it, but I’d love to see Ireland’s Song of the Sea grab the trophy.
Anyway, this spectacular film had been grossly undersold to me by friends. I am lucky to have gone into it with lowered expectations perhaps as I was totally floored by this. I was laughing out loud repeatedly and just endlessly entertained over and over again ("spaceship!!").
I honestly don't know what worked best for me, Batman of course was uniquely special, the 80's astronaut was great, and I could listen to Morgan Freeman make ghost noises all day long. Great ensemble cast. It really has to be some great vocal performances for Will Farrell to be the least funny of the group. Great writing, but it feels like some of the best moments were completely ad-libbed.
I wish my 4-yr old girl was older so that I could have seen it with her but I'm sure that day isn't too far away anyway. Some of the action sequences were a little too busy (like The Hobbit) for my tired old eyes and I found myself nodding off during those scenes but anytime people were talking, I was transfixed.
I did not see it in 3D although I hear that the 3D wasn't bad. This movie might have further ruined Star Wars for me as now when I see the Falcon failing to hit lightspeed, I'll know it was Batman's fault.
I absolutely loved it.
And now I think for me, the best movie of the year really had no equal at all. In previous years sometimes it’s a tough choice between one or two but this one required no thought.
What a unique experience. It's something else watching the characters and actors age at the same time. You feel like you're growing up right there with them.
It touches on tons of aspects of growing up too and by the end, you'll remember when you learned how to catch a football, or some jerk boyfriend your mom had (if you had separated parents) who was a disciplinarian.
Some scenes are easy, others are long, but the entire time you're feeling a myriad of sublime emotions. It's exhausting a bit since the movie is really long at almost three hours. The performances more than make up for it, the two kids especially are great as is Patricia Arquette.
It doesn't hurt that the ending is absolutely perfect as well. I've never seen a movie like this one, ever. It is completely unique and I'm not sure I'd be able to sit through it more than...twice.
You have to see it.
Well, that about sums it up. Hope you enjoyed this year’s list and if you haven’t seen some of these, do yourself a favour and treat yourself to one and impress your loved one with your inspired movie pick.
Some of these are still playing in theatres so instead of wasting your money and braincells on Fifty Shades of Stupid or Jupiter Ascending, go out and see Birdman, Selma, Nightcrawler, Whiplash or best of all, Boyhood.
Share your thoughts in the comments below!