2014 was a strong year for Hollywood.
We got our usual crop of strong superhero movies that continue to dominate the box office. We experienced the release of a movie twelve years in the making that is a Best Picture frontrunner. Movies that we were pessimistic about turned out great and movies that the whole world couldn’t wait to see disappointed.
More importantly, more than ever before, we saw films that reflected the times as far as ongoing movements (Wild and feminism), enduring societal troubles (Selma and Michael Brown) and ostensible character examinations that may or may not have been totally accurate (American Sniper and this and this and this).
As always, movies made us laugh, cry, smile, hope, and walk out of the theater demanding our money back.
Just like any other year – or any timeless film from any other year, decade, century – the greatest movies moved us, challenged our way of thinking, sometimes had us relating it to the real world to such a deep extent that we eventually had to return to it.
It was a strong year for movies, strong enough that it was hard coming up with a “best of” list.
But I tried. And I present it to you know.
Best Movies of 2014
Right from the start, you know Birdman is going to be different. It simply grabs you by the horns and does not let up with its insanely honest and hilarious story of trying to be relevant in the modern era of twitter and viral videos. Birdman is one of the most complete films of the year, with the addicting score, masterful camera work, perfect writing, and Oscar-worthy acting all coming together to create a truly modern masterpiece, with themes and concepts meant to be analyzed with as much brainpower as when you read The Great Gatsby in high school.
There has never been anything like Boyhood, and there will probably never be again. What makes Boyhood so captivating is one in the same with how it was filmed: over a period of 12 years, utilizing the same actors, telling a seemingly simple but intensely relatable and deep story of life, and why it’s important to bask in every minute of it.
There could not have been a more perfect time for the release of Selma, a film that is as much about social discrimination and “justification” of wrongdoing as it is about Martin Luther King’s fight for getting African Americans the right to vote. Brilliantly directed, inspiring and, hopefully, educational, no movie released in 2014 entertained viewers as much as moved them in quite the same was as Selma did.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy
What was Marvel’s biggest gamble to date is also arguably their best movie to date, combining Star Wars and The Dirty Dozen to create the best superhero movie of the year.
An excruciatingly underappreciated dystopian film at a time when dystopian stories are all the rage. Snowpiercer is the latest allegory of the 99 percent versus the 1 percent, and also one of the gripping action flicks of the year.
What, I didn’t mention this all happens on a train?
Reese Witherspoon is a marvel in this real-life drama that turns standard movie tropes on its head. Wild is both unexpected and extremely satisfying.
7. Gone Girl
One of the most anticipated films of the year, moviemaking maestro David Fincher delivered on all fronts, giving us the most morbidly cool and terrifying movie ever made about the perils of marriage.
Led by revelatory and perspective-shifting career performances by the seasoned Steve Carell and Channing Tatum, who you just knew was going to break out soon. Although many considered it too aesthetically drab, few wouldn’t call it tantalizing, engrossing, and probably the monster movie of the year.
Christopher Nolan continues to go bigger with every film, and although many weren’t satisfied with the ending after such a daunting and emotional journey, he should receive credit alone for the sheer ambition of his latest work. It was also, remarkably, one of the LINK most accurate films of the year. Imagine that.
10. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
Eleanor Rigby was the most emotionally draining and realistic love story of the year. You want to find out so bad what made Conor and Eleanor (played brilliantly by James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain) split apart, but when you do, you realize it’s all about what happened beforehand, and of what could come later.
Honorary Franchise Standout Award
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Just when you thought all hope was lost after X-Men Origins: Wolverine…
The latest entry in the enduring superhero franchise is right up there with X2: X-Men United with its near-flawless blending of action, drama and time-traveling suspense.
X-Men: DOFP is the first superhero movie (at least in quite a while) that can stand proudly alongside the better films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and also gave us one of the most memorable movie scenes of 2014, regardless of genre.
Most Unexpected Movie of 2014
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the The Dark Knight to Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ Batman Begins.
Surprisingly dark, incredibly entertaining, and as gripping as its motion-captured villain, Dawn was the popcorn flick of the summer….at least until Guardians came out.
Judging how much of an exponential improvement in terms of narrative and style Dawn was over the okay-but-not-great Rise, the next entry should be one of the most anticipated films of the foreseeable future.
Before you gasp and comment your disdain and “how could you!”s after checking out the aforementioned films and think I left something just as good, possibly better off, here are some standout films that I wanted to catch, but just never got around to. Some day though.
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
The Lego Movie
Under The Skin
Alll better now?
The Worst Movies of 2014
Because what good would Hollywood be without some disasters?
1. Transformers: Age of Extincion
Michael Bay, how could you (again)?
We TRUSTED you, Mark…
Adam Sandler, how could you (again)?
Do you like being a perennial Razzie contender, Adam?
Shailene Woodley, why?
This pretty much cancelled out The Fault In Our Stars, Shailene…
ScarJo, c’mon now….
This should have been you after reading through Lucy’s completely nonsensical script, Scarlett…
5. The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies
Do us all a favor, Peter Jackson…stick to the marketed mantra of your film “One Last Time”, por favor.
Are you saying goodbye to Middle-Earth, Peter? Or your Academy Award credibility?
Here’s to 2015.
David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.