The Best Films of 2014

The Academy Awards have just been announced, and to cap off the year, I though I would post my annual Top 10 list a little earlier, instead praising the films I feel were extraordinarily special, added a lot to the cinema canon and did amazing work to entertain, thrill and excite us. I will first start with five honorable mentions, and then move onto the official list of the ten best films of 2014. Please note how this list is based on my own thoughts and feelings about the film, and their scores in the reviews don’t really factor into my listing.

Without any further ado, I present to you the best of 2014.

The Birder’s Guide to Everything
The Imitation Game
Gone Girl
Edge of Tomorrow

You will notice how there are eleven films on this list. That’s not a mistake – I had compiled this list and had it ready to go out when I encountered a film so brilliant, it had to be included in the best of the year. I couldn’t drop any of my others, so I thought I’d do what the film itself preaches, and broke the rules.

#11 Starred Up

A late addition to this list, but the intense and gritty prison drama was too brilliant and audacious to not include on this list. Dark, brilliant and incredibly explicit in terms of portraying the lives of prisoners, it is a great piece of filmmaking that serves to inform, while making you considerably uncomfortable and sitting thought.

#10 The LEGO Movie

Laugh all you want, but I loved The LEGO Movie. I am one of the many people who grew up with LEGO, and to see a film like this come around, being so gloriously silly and incredibly childish is absolutely brilliant. It brings out the child in all of us, and while it is not grand opera, it is definitely a wonderfully fun film and while it isn’t serious at all, and hardened critics may find it immature and stupid, it is just an awesome little film that crosses the difficult boundary of being able to appeal to people of all ages.

#9 Chef

The ultimate feel-good comedy of the year. It is entirely free of all sorts of movie cliches, and it is a fresh comedy that is able to stay away from heavy subject matter, but still be smart and very entertaining. It has no real merits other than it being one of the most fun and enjoyable little films of the year, and hopefully it can compensate with its underperformance by becoming a cult classic.

#8 The Skeleton Twins

Funny people doing drama is an interesting experiment, and it certainly worked for Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, who give the performances of their careers as Maggie and Milo, a pair of twins who both attempt suicide on the same day, but fail miserably, yet they succeed in reconciling after years. It is undoubtedly a heavy film that touches on some very important themes, but most of all, it is a quirky little indie and a very unique film about love, loss and silver linings.

#7 Housebound

Taking the concept of horror films, especially haunted house films, and turning them on its head. Housebound is at the same time terrifying as it is hilarious. Special mention has to go to Rima Te Wiata, who gives one of the best performances of the year as the offbeat and optimistic mum in the film. Overall, a very solid and incredibly fun take on the horror genre.

#6 Snowpiercer

Tilda Swinton is enough reason for this film to be on the list. Other than that, it is a unique film that takes the adrenaline and heart-pumping action of blockbuster action films and combines them with the smart nature of indie films. A great English-language debut for Director Bong, and a really heart-stopping, cerebral action thriller that has brawn and brain to spare.

#5 Whiplash

In his explosive mainstream debut, Damien Chazelle tackles jazz – never a popular or easy subject in cinema – and creates one of the most tense and memorable indie films of recent years. Miles Teller is of course great as the drumming prodigy, but it was J.K. Simmons who truly stole the show in his amazing talents, moving beyond the realms of small-time character actor, and hopefully becoming a hot entity in the future. A great film and definitely worthy of the acclaim it has received.

#4 Calvary

Nothing this year beats the gritty beauty of the Irish Catholic social epic Calvary. Everything from Brendan Gleeson’s towering performance in the lead role, to the beautiful scenic design to the offbeat mystery at the centre of the film makes it absolutely perfect.

#3 The Grand Budapest Hotel

Everyone’s favorite quirky director, Wes Anderson, makes possibly his most mainstream and endeared film with The Grand Budapest Hotel. Hilarious storylines, memorable characters and a cast that rivals most other ensembles – a truly great and soon-to-be iconic masterpiece of art cinema and one that serves both as smart and entertaining.

#2 Nightcrawler

I love dark cinema, and I adore films that have characters so gloriously evil and deceptive in the lead roles, and we are forced to love them in a very strange way. Nightcrawler is this generation’s Taxi Driver, and everything about it is absolutely brilliant. It may be too disturbing for some, but I thought it is audacious and brilliant, and Jake Gyllenhaal gives his finest performance yet.

#1 Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Everything about this film is absolutely perfect. I mean everything. The towering central performance of Michael Keaton, the brilliantly sleazy performance by Edward Norton, the incredible supporting performances by Emma Stone, Naomi Watts and Zach Galifianakis. The true star of this film is Alejandro González Iñárritu, and his brilliant vision. Very rarely does a film as audacious, tenacious and quirky come around. It is a spectacle of a film, an epic on a very small scale, and one of the best films of the current century. It would be an absolute crime to not have this as my personal favorite of the year, and probably the best film I’ve seen since I’ve been reviewing. An absolutely brilliant piece of artistic vision and entertaining cinema.

Performer of the Year

This year, there were two performances that I felt were absolutely outstanding and deserved the immense amount of praise they received. It was difficult choosing a winner, because there were a great number of performances in 2014 that were brilliant, but these two performances were absolutely heartbreaking, brilliant and wonderful

Performer of the Year:

Brendan Gleeson as Father James in Calvary 

The perfect blend of dramatic and comedic, Brendan Gleeson gave the best performance of the year as Father James, the conflicted and complex Catholic priest. Every other performance this year could not reach the heights that Gleeson did in this film. It is a performance that very few actors (maybe even no other actor) could have possibly done as well as Gleeson did, and this film proves that Gleeson is one of our greatest living actors, and one who deserves every great role that comes his way.

Performer of the Year (Runner-up):

Marion Cotillard as Sandra in Two Days, One Night

I will not deny that right up until writing this, I wasn’t sure which out of Brendan or Marion I was going to put as the winner. I gave the edge to Brendan because his performance was truly complex, but Marion was fantastic beyond words, and she gives a performance that very few actresses can boast to have even attempted. Subtle, touching and truly human, her performance in Two Days, One Night is so compelling, heartbreaking and beautiful, and quite possibly her greatest performance yet.


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