The Top 10 Films of 2014


As with what happened to me last year, it’s hard to name the top 10 films of the year on Dec. 31 when you haven’t seen a bunch of the best-reviewed ones. So, just before 2014’s best get honored at the Academy Awards, I present to you my 10 favorite films of 2014. Unfortunately, there were still films I didn’t get to (namely “Selma.”) What can you do?



10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

With all the superior action blockbusters this year, it was hard to be selective, but “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” deserves recognition for showing us that a superhero film doesn’t have to prescribe to the same formulas all the time. “Winter Soldier” took the genre into espionage thriller territory with an unpredictable script. The film also had major implications for the MCU, showing that a non-“Avengers” film can still have an epic quality. The film’s effort to stay true to the emotional journey of Steve Rogers really locks it in as one of the year’s best blockbusters. (Read my review of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”)


9. The Fault in Our Stars

The story of cancer-stricken teenagers falling in love does not sound like top-10 material, but with writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (“(500) Days of Summer,” “The Spectacular Now”), this coming-of-age story easily becomes the year’s most emotionally stirring film, and one of the most legitimate tearjerkers in years. With an authentic approach to teenagers and a natural sense of humor, the script hits home, and stars Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort click beautifully on screen. (Read my review of “The Fault in Our Stars”)


8. Foxcatcher

Cheated by the Academy out of a Best Picture nomination, “Foxcatcher” gets the award for the year’s most bone-chilling film, a psychological character study based on the true story of Olympic wrestlers Mark and Dave Schultz. Capped off by an unforgettable performance from Steve Carell as billionaire John du Pont, director Bennett Miller’s film is a visually consummate slow burn that will test every inch of your movie-watching ability if you’re up for the task. (Read my review of “Foxcatcher”)


7. The Imitation Game

Anchored by the impeccable Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game” has all the best trappings of a prestige biopic and very few of the weaknesses. The story of how the British broke the Nazis’ Enigma code in World War II under the leadership of the widely misunderstood Alan Turing, “Imitation Game” stays exciting and interesting from start to finish, benefiting from director Morten Tyldum’s experience with thrillers. Cumberbatch, however, is really the highlight. (Read my review of “The Imitation Game”)


6. Whiplash

“Whiplash” is the kind of drama that just reels you in with suspense. Director Damien Chazelle turned heads with this story of a young jazz drummer aspiring to greatness and his ruthless mentor, played frighteningly well by J.K. Simmons. Chazelle utilizes a flurry of visual techniques enhanced with jazz standards that remains engrossing and powerful despite a simplistic premise. (Read my review of “Whiplash”)


5. Snowpiercer

Every so many years a great science-fiction film never gets the credit it deserves but builds a cult audience over time. Joon Ho Bong’s “Snowpiercer” will be that film, a Dystopian action film that beautifully merges Western and Eastern sensibilities into a truly international film that offers a little of everything. Chris Evans didn’t need to prove how great an action hero he is (see No. 10 on this list), but he and the many diverse supporting actors (most notably Tilda Swinton) make this effort all the more interesting and memorable. (Read my review of “Snowpiercer”)


4. Guardians of the Galaxy

No one could’ve predicted that this film would rank as the year’s highest-grossing film come Dec. 31. It’s one thing to be a great sci-fi comic book movie, it’s a whole other stratosphere to appeal to that wide of an audience. Despite featuring strange alien characters living on planets your average moviegoer has never heard of, “Guardians” captured hearts and minds with relatable characters, irreverent humor and a killer earthbound soundtrack. (Read my review of “Guardians of the Galaxy”)


3. The LEGO Movie

As a lifelong LEGO fan, I was probably preconditioned to love this movie, but even the LEGO-averse had to admit that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” “21 Jump Street”) went above and beyond expectations. From the brick-by-brick animation to the hilarious script to the Easter eggs for LEGO fans young and old, “LEGO Movie” was a towering success, and it even had some nostalgic, heart-tugging themes to boot. (Read my review of “The LEGO Movie”)


2. Birdman

Packed with surrealism, intelligence and unforgettable camera work, “Birdman” was the cinematic intellectual’s film of the year. Every aspect of the production, including cast and crew, was of praiseworthy quality. A discussion could be had around any one element of the film, from Michael Keaton’s career performance to the percussion score to Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s lengthy takes and incredible synchronicity with his cast. “Birdman” is a gold mine of thought-provoking ideas, to an extent rarely seen on film. (Read my review of “Birdman”)


1. Boyhood

It’s hard to compare “Boyhood” fairly to the other great films of 2014, but for being as bold and ambitious as it is emotional and thought-provoking, it gets my pick for the year’s best. Despite filming a little bit each year for more than a decade, Richard Linklater found a way to pull together a cohesive story, painting a portrait of a middle class family facing challenges. The film has an uncanny way of tapping into our own experiences, enough so that even if you aren’t a white boy in Texas, you can relate effortlessly to the story. It’s the kind of film that will always stand on its own for being innovative not for the sake of innovation, but to find another way to tap deeper into the human experience. (Read my review of “Boyhood”)



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