20 Best Films of 2014

Now that 2014 has ended, I have put together the list of films which I believed were the bes. Bearing in mind there are a number of films that I missed or have not had the opportunity to catch yet, such as Under The Skin, Frank and Selma, but this is what I thought were the best 2014 had to offer.

Honourable Mentions:

Pride, a touching story that brings a talented ensemble & an infectious sense of fun.
How To Train Your Dragon 2, a visually stunning piece of work that'll hit you in the heart.
Cheap Thrills, a twisted black comedy with fantastic social relevance & brilliant performances.
The Babadook, a film as tense and atmospheric as the titular character.

20. X-Men: Days of Future Past

With his return to the franchise he started, Bryan Singer revitalises the world of Marvel's mutants. Granted, the future cast are included essentially for nostalgia and as fodder for the Sentinels to destroy, but the cast in the 70s segments are magnificent. In short, Bryan Singer has returned with the best possible gift: hope for the future.

The Guest19. The Guest

After breaking out with 2013's hit You're Next, all eyes were on Adam Wingard for what his next venture would be. In the end, he settled for defying genres, crafting what was initially a thriller, with doses of black humor sprinkled throughout, ending with a tense, sense of dread as things become a horror film. It's a bold choice that works, all the while set to an effective electro soundtrack, while the gorgeous cinematography is visible. Dan Stevens is definitely deserving of praise, for a performance that's charming, but when the mask slips, becomes utterly chilling. Newcomer Maika Monroe also deserves a mention, for a likeable, strong-willed performance that shows she's a future star in the making.

18. They Came Together

David Wain's comedy takes a solid aim at essentially every cliché regularly seen in the rom-com genre, even down to the most generic piece of dialogue. The result is one of the more hilarious spoofs in recent times, powered by a cast where every single member remain fantastically devoted to their roles.

17. Calvary

The first lines uttered in this film are bold, startling words, followed by a death threat made against Brendan Gleeson's Father Lavelle. What follows isn't the typical mystery/thriller you'd expect from reading the previous sentence, but a look at what may be Father Lavelle's last week. The script is one of the years best, tackling difficult topics in an engrossing manner, like the church's relevance in today's cynical world. Brendan Gleeson may not get a Best Actor nomination, but dear god does he deserve it.

16. Obvious Child

Boy meets girl, they sleep together and girl ends up pregnant. So far, so formulaic, but how many films follow that up with girl having an abortion? That's the premise for Gillian Robespierre's feature-length debut, and it deserves a special mention for treating the topic in an honest way that's mature and witty. Jenny Slate escapes from her sitcom bit-parts to play the starring role, while sharing many heartwarming moments with her love interest, charmingly played by Jake Lacy. Look no further for a rom-com that's different, but utterly charming.

Lilting UK poster in portrait mode.jpg
15. Lilting

A quietly affecting film that places focus on pain and loss, brought about from losing somebody close to your heart. Hong Khaou ensures both of those are heartbreakingly felt, emphasised by the outstanding performances. A language barrier may separate Pei-Pei Cheng and Ben Whishaw, but that doesn't prevent the scenes in which they act off one another from being anymore captivating or moving. I guarantee this will be forgotten about during awards season, which is a damn shame, since it's more than deserving of recognition.

14. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

For the final story in this popular saga, the decision was made early on to go the Harry Potter route and divide it across two films. While this does mean it suffers from 'Part One' syndrome, where the story is all build up, no final act, this doesn't diminish the acts that do get shown here. Francis Lawrence bravely limits the scenes of action, instead focusing on the dialogue, and it pays off with the exceptional social allegories and the exploration of adult themes, such as war, rebellion and politics. Let's not forget the astounding work done by Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, giving outstanding work in portraying how changed their characters are after everything that has happened. This truly is a franchise that gets better with each film.

13. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The big thing that will be talked about with Chris Evans' latest Marvel outing will be the ramifications to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While it is a big moment, it's not the only thing worth mentioning. The decision of Joe and Anthony Russo to utilize a political thriller tone is inspired, as it gives the film a more distinctive feel. What helps is the thrilling scenes of action being enacted out by the stunt doubles of the fantastically talented cast, especially Chris Evans, Robert Redford, Scarlett Johansson and Anthony Mackie.

12. The Double

Many films have employed the scenario of a lead character discovering their own doppelgänger, but to have the lead being so forgettable that nobody else notices? Well that's pretty damn funny. Thankfully, The IT Crowd star Richard Ayoade manages to handle his second feature film with a great deal of confidence, easily balancing the blackly comedic tone with the thriller aspects. The score is one of 2014's best, while the cinematography draws you into the dreamlike world. The main thing to praise about here is Jesse Eisenberg's dual performances as the timid sadsack and the cocky psychopath, being distinctive enough that is seems as though there are two different actors playing the roles.

11. The Rover

The second feature film from David Michôd is a thoughtful, post-apocalyptic tale about loyalty, brought to life by gorgeous cinematography and a haunting score. Guy Pearce's performance fuelled by rage and sorrow is one of his best, while Robert Pattinson's tremendous performance is proof you shouldn't dismiss him because of a certain series he starred in. A story with much more to tell if you look beneath the surface, this is good film-making.

10. Dear White People

His first time writing and directing a feature-length film, Justin Simien showcases a confident voice within his razor sharp aim at racial politics. Every angle is approached from, with the astonishing thing being how none of them come off as heavy handed. The four protagonists could have just been mouth-pieces for satire, akin to Roxy from God Bless America, but instead are fully developed, well rounded characters with engaging arcs. Whatever Simien does next, I'll be seeing it opening day.

Snowpiercer poster.jpg9. Snowpiercer

Boiled down to its most simplistic, this is essentially a film about the heroes moving through each carriage in order to reach the front. While that sounds repetitive, the overall feature is anything but. Including an aquarium, a processing plant and even a classroom, each carriage is different from one another and defined in their own way. The script tackles the class system, global warming and explores a social hierarchy where everybody has a purpose, while exceptionally fleshing out this world, like dismemberment by frostbite being the punishment of choice. Bong Joon-Ho directs some of the years most impressive and inventive action scenes, including a gunfight on opposite ends of the train as it bends around the track.

8. Gone Girl

Adapted from Gillian Flynn's best-selling novel, David Fincher does a stupendous job in directing this tale about a toxic marriage that takes a sudden turn when the wife goes missing. Ben Affleck is solid as Nick Dunne, but Rosamund Pike is the one to watch out for, as she gives the film what is easily the best performance of her career. The twisting nature of the script is perfectly handled, especially when combined with a nerve-shredding score and some of the years best cinematography. This is an unsettling picture that will stay with you.

7. Life Itself

If I told you to describe Roger Ebert with one word, the most of you would say "critic". While that is true, Ebert was more than just another film critic. He had a passion that was evident in his maturity, his wit, and his willingness to never condescend to the typical viewer. He was an inspiration to today's generation of film fans, critics and bloggers, and his passing was felt by every one of us. Steve James commemorates the man by looking at his life and legacy, giving us an idea of who he was outside his profession, while never making him out to be a larger than life saint. Through the shocking sight of Roger in his battle with cancer, we see the strong spirit of a man who lost the ability to speak, but found a voice through his blog while retaining his wit and humor. As best put by Roger "I may have things to be depressed about, but I am not depressed".

6. Whiplash

You'd probably laugh if I told you one of the years most emotionally exhaustive and intense films was centred around drumming, but it's absolutely true. Miles Teller is exemplary as Andrew, a young man who will literally pour his blood, sweat and tears into being considered one of the greatest drummers who lived. J.K Simmons' performance is definitely one of the years greats, playing a sadistic instructor who throws chairs at his students and verbally abuses them, in an effort to push them further than they could get if he said "Good Job". Director Damien Chazelle doesn't bring a definitive answer to if becoming one of the greats is worth the sacrifice of essentially everything in your life, because there is no such thing, but he does bring one of the best endings in recent memory.

5. Birdman

Alejandro González Iñárritu's latest film caught attentions in casting Michael Keation as a washed up former actor that's known for playing a superhero role. But this proved to be more than a just gimmick, as the film cast a focus on ego and narcissism, with the focus on Keaton's character. This is no more evident than in his shocking confession of a near-death experience, where he was most afraid of George Clooney's death stealing the spotlight from him. But let's not forget the seamless integration of the scenes, making it look as though the film has been made in one continuous shot. Not to mention it's also pretty damn funny, as shown by a fight between Keaton and Edward Norton in his pants.

4. Nightcrawler
The best feature length debut of the year, Dan Gilroy takes aim at today's media as he builds a smart commentary that showcase the fascination with invasive and gruesome looks at crime. As Rene Russo puts it, "If it bleeds, it leads". The creepy atmosphere works well with the dark humor, while points have to be made for the ingenuity in showcasing a car chasing a car chase. The performances are all good, but this film is a platform for Jake Gyllenhaal to showcases his talents as Lou Bloom. Bloom is motivated to do the best job he can through any means necessary, as he breaks the law to achieve a twisted ideal of the American Dream. Gyllenhaal's intense and unnerving performance is utterly exemplary.

The five Guardians, sporting various weapons, arrayed in front of a backdrop of a planet in space.3. Guardians Of The Galaxy

Leave it to Marvel to take what was one of the years more risky blockbuster properties, and turn it into one of the years biggest hits. James Gunn crafts a wicked sense of humor with exceptional action scenes, while never losing sight of the story or the characters. The titular Guardians are each given their moment to shine, creating a band of misfits that are hit the mainstream in a big way like Iron Man did back in 2008. Let's not forget the best thing, which was the soundtrack. Awesome Mix Volume 1 was the perfect representation of Peter Quill being a child from the 80s, acting as one of the last things tethering him to his previous life on Earth. Now, who'll be the next property to break out into the mainstream? (after Baymax from Big Hero 6).
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2. The Lego Movie

This could have so easily been an overlong advert for the long-popular toy, but Phil Lord and Chris Miller instead crafted a 100 minute tale of heartfelt emotion, thoughtful moments and hilarity. Everything truly is awesome (sorry for getting that song in your head now).

1. Boyhood

If I had to sum up Richard Linklater's ambitious masterpiece in one word, it would be Life. It's a perfect look at life, delivering drama and conflict that's easy to relate with, while avoiding feeling contrived and forced. Some threads are left unresolved, but not everything in life gets wrapped in a neat bow. Some scenes may be trivial and add up to nothing, but is that not how we remember life? Do we not remember silly moments which have little impact on our lives today, like a trip to McDonalds or a dislike of our haircut? This isn't a story Richard Linklater has created, it's a life, and it's the perfect reminder of one true statement: Life is short. We may spend our times playing video games and reading tabloid rubbish, but we'll be remembering the little moments, such as a moment of simply hanging out with friends, or when you got annoyed by a sibling. The small moments count as much as the large ones, and this is touchingly reminded to us. It was filmed over the course of 12 years, but it's more than a gimmick. We are given the opportunity to see many things change, but we grow towards the characters as they literally grow up right before our eyes. Richard Linklater has delivered more than a film, he's given us a poignant representation of life.

Agree/Disagree with my choices? Be sure to voice your opinions in the comments below.