2014 brought a lot of emotion to the silver screen, with more than a handful of films affecting me in a certain way. On a technical level, this is one of the best years in film that’s been had in a very long time. As for the quality of films, this year offered up many independent darlings and some incredible blockbuster features. After seeing just under 170 films this year, I’d like to think that I have a good idea at what ten of the best films were and if anything, I hope that you find some wonderful films to seek out after reading this. For full reviews, click the title of the film! You can’t please everybody, so without further ado here is my list of the Top Ten Films of 2014!
10. Into the Woods
Rob Marshall‘s adaptation of the Disney musical is one that’s full of laughter, adventure, exceptional musical numbers, and showcases for its talented cast. My feet never stopped tapping throughout the infectious musical numbers and I was constantly impressed by the level of talent that each cast member brought, Chris Pine in particular. Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, and Meryl Streep anchor much of the film in three of the better female performances of the year, while James Corden offers up one of the more sincere male performances. The musical numbers, the dances, and the dialogue all make for an extraordinary show. This adaptation of the Brother’s Grimm fairytales is a welcomed treat this holiday season.
Easily one of the most entertaining and enjoyable films of the year, Edge of Tomorrow blends the restart effects of Groundhog Day and the science fiction of an epic fictitious novel. Tom Cruise‘s likability has never been greater and his character is such a funny lead to get behind. Stealing the show, however, is the amazing Emily Blunt who rejuvenates the tough female role and kicks ass all along the way. Together, the two create amusing chemistry and make for one of the year’s best on-screen couples. I just had the most entertaining time watching this film and I only wish that I could reset the day and watch this film over, and over again. Edge of Tomorrow is the epitome of outstandingly awesome summer movies that we all look forward to. Come for the action and stay for the outstanding adventure!
David Fincher, yet again, creates an engrossing film that deals with some dark subject matter and elicits some of the greatest performances of the year. The eerie nature of the film sinks into your skin and refuses to leave, all-the-while Trent Reznor‘s spooky score echoes in your ears. Ben Affleck does some of his best work, but it’s Rosamund Pike who emerges from the fire and delivers the year’s best female performance. Layered with twisting emotions and unpredictable actions, she makes the biggest impression and aces every aspect of her role. The writing is phenomenal, unraveling this story and taking you places you didn’t necessarily want to go. The film also features superb supporting performances from Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Tyler Perry, and Neil Patrick Harris.
No film left me feeling as naturally high as Begin Again, a moving and uplifting film about the creation of music and a commentary on the current state of the industry. John Carney‘s ability to tell a heart-filled and incredible story is one thing, but even more impressive is the music he creates for his film’s. Once was hailed as a masterpiece and while I believe it’s great, I definitely enjoyed the performances more in this film. Keira Knightley‘s voice and acting abilities skyrocket her to the top of my best actress charts, as she tenderly and emotionally weaves this film into something truly beautiful. Mark Ruffalo delivers another solid performance that’s full of passion for creating something that sounds authentic and magical. Also adding some musical talent to the mix is Adam Levine, who proves that he’s more than a pretty voice.
Dan Gilroy‘s commentary on journalism and the grey areas that news outlets will venture into to cover a story makes for one of the most intriguing and original films this year. The TMZ-like approach to covering horrific stories is a revealing look at how some news gets covered, but it’s Jake Gyllenhaal‘s transformative and unnerving performance that truly stands out in this film. Having lost some weight and practicing not closing his eyes, Gyllenhaal delivers some of the smartest and most brutally honest dialogue you’ll hear this year with ease, never blinking or making a mistake. His character is calculated, patient, and willing to do whatever it takes to do a job effectively and efficiently. Rene Russo makes a much welcomed comeback in a well-written female role that allows her to reach her fullest potential.
David Ayer‘s WWII tank epic left me in pieces after the film ended and I haven’t felt such a strong connection to any film’s characters like I did with the ones in this film. The time spent with each of the five soldiers creates a level of intimacy between the character and the audience, so you will care whether or not his life is in peril. Brad Pitt‘s “Warddady” is almost a piece of his character in Inglorious Basterds, but Pitt has more to do and he effectively faces the horrors of war. Logan Lerman, one of the most talented young actors out there, provides a beautifully understated performance that shows just how much war can affect even the most innocent of people. Shia LaBeouf gives us his best work in a while, with Jon Bernthal and Michael Pena also making a lasting impression. Prepare to cry, but also prepare to sit down for of the most heart-pounding films of the year.
Christopher Nolan‘s genius is unparalleled and this masterful director never ceases to amaze me. He’s crafted perhaps the most scientifically accurate film of all time that, while dealing with different dimensions and worlds, manages to also be one of the most human and emotional films I’ve ever seen. The level of detail that went into this film is astounding and the use of science to affect the characters motivations was endlessly fascinating. Matthew McConaughey‘s performance, to me, is the best he’s ever given and his range of emotions will leave your spirit weak. Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway also provide two underrated and emotional roles which help carry parts of the film. If you’ve ever looked up at the stars and wondered what’s out there in the universe, this film’s exploration of the human spirit will surely appeal to you and it helps that Hans Zimmer‘s sweeping score takes over and frees your mind.
3. A Most Violent Year
J.C. Chandor’s throwback gangster-esque film is a slow-burn that’s well-written and grows increasingly interesting as the story develops. The central character, played expertly by Oscar Isaac, is battling the opportunity to do bad and profit from it, as he’s always led an honest life. When situations present themselves and begin to force his hand, Isaac’s inner struggle with casting his morals aside is fascinating. Jessica Chastain‘s portrayal of his tough wife is superb, as she’s really the one with all the power in the family. Albert Brooks‘ gangster/best-friend to Isaac is a fascinating and complex character, stuck between doing his job and trying to help Isaac maintain his morals. With a simple problem like having your oil heating trucks hijacked, J.C. Chandor works wonders with this engrossing and powerful film.
What more is there to be said about this 12-year project that hasn’t been said before? Chronicling Ellar Coltrane‘s life from age 6 to age 18, Writer/Director Richard Linklater has crafted a film unlike anything we’ve seen before and this at-first experiment turned into something truly captivating. Coltrane is only a few months older than myself, so many of the things he went through were also things that myself and friends of mine went through. Every childhood is different and this film does a great job of encompassing many different aspects of growing up. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke deliver two very different, yet very moving performances that also show how people grow as parents. There’s really nothing else like Boyhood out there and it’s an important film that all should see, as it offers up something unique for each different audience member.
First-time Writer/Director Damien Chazelle has crafted an extraordinary feature film that has yet to leave my mind. Focusing on Miles Teller as a young jazz drummer attending the top conservatory in the nation, Chazelle effectively demonstrates the lengths people will go to pursue what they’re passionate about. J.K. Simmons, a terrific actor, finally gets the role of his career within a Jazz instructor whose unorthodox methods attempt to elicit greatness from his students. The fast-paced drumming will leave your feet tapping all throughout the film and the careful direction and examination of jazz and jazz instruments makes for an exciting time. The music will begin to take over your life and you’ll want to start drumming as soon as the film ends. Not only does this film speak about doing whatever it takes to become the best, but it also has the best ending of a film this year. I’ve seen this film about six times now, but I’ve watched the ending at least fifteen times. There’s no film that I could recommend more to anyone than this one and it’s replay value and withstanding perfection make it the best film of 2014.
Honorable Mention (11-25): The Guest, Cold in July, Blue Ruin, Enemy, Locke, The One I Love, About Alex, Birdman, Chef, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Guardians of the Galaxy, Joe, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, & Venus in Fur.