Top 10 Movies of 2014

Photo Credit:

With 2014 on its way out, it’s time to count down our favorite films of the year. As with any year, 2014 had its trends, some rewarding, some tedious. But the films that came out on top ended up having very little in common. This list consists of future Oscar winners, blockbusters, and everything inbetween. These are the films this year that excited me and made me laugh and cry the hardest. For everything we’ve filtered here, these ten stand tallest and remind us that 2014 was a worthwhile year.


Photo Credit: Selma

At this point, it’s hard to make civil rights movies feel fresh. Ava DuVernay found a way to make a film about Martin Luther King, Jr. that acknowledges his greater achievements, but hones in on just one battle he fought in his remarkable life. Covering the 1965 march in Alabama from Selma to Montgomery, this film shows us just how many hurdles King had to jump over to get the support he needed. It’s a powerfully honest film that, sadly, shares some relevancy with what’s going on today.



Photo Credit: Boyhood

Boyhood is simply one of the most ambitious films of our time. Filmed over 12 years with the same cast, there were so many ways Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age epic could have went wrong. But here we are, with a powerful film that never shies away from the give-and-take nature of life, making this some of the most honest filmmaking of the year. There’s a lot of beauty in this film’s lesson: the things that shape you from your past, no matter how bad, lead you to the best things in life. My only complaint about Boyhood is that we don’t get to see more of Mason’s fantastically ordinary life.


Photo Credit: X-Men: Days of Future Past

The seventh entry of the X-Men franchise is hardly the most important movie of the year. But sometimes movies are allowed to just be a rollicking good time. That said, the themes of prejudice certainly rang true in 2014 given the decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, not to mention the ongoing LGBT civil rights movement. Thanks to the movie magic of time travel, Days of Future Past blended the casts of the first X-Men movies and 2011’s surprise hit First Class, making this a huge nostalgia trip for anyone who grew up with the movies that started the cinematic superhero revolution. With an impactful story and excellent character work, 2014 will be known as the year that the X-Men solidified their comeback.


Photo Credit: Calvary

Religion had a serious resurgence at the movies in 2014. Where Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings came up short as Biblical adaptations, Calvary is an original, modern-day set story of the importance of faith. Taking a realistic approach to the shortcomings of the Catholic Church, Brendan Gleeson commands this film as the unwavering priest who believes in the values of his religion, not his church. It’s a morally sound examination of modern religion, one that doesn’t have the pretension to discount anyone’s beliefs. Director John Michael McDonagh made a film about religion that will please atheists and believers alike. For that, he deserves a medal.


Photo Credit: Love is Strange

This was an important year for LGBT cinema as well. Standing tallest of the bunch is Love is Strange, a beautiful, unapologetic portrait of love that rivals The Kids Are Alright as one of the most accessible and honest LGBT films. Alfred Molina and John Lithgow ooze chemistry as an older couple, finally legally married, forced to live apart for the first time in decades when one loses his job due to his marriage. The film welcomes the flaws of our loved ones as small burdens we have to bear for all the good they do for us. There wasn’t a more romantic movie than this one in 2014.


Photo Credit: The Theory of Everything

I was honestly so ready to hate this movie. Eddie Redmayne has annoyed me in most things and a lot “brave” biopics such as this one fall flat thanks to their cheese factor. But this brutally honest meditation on love and commitment swept me up in its unconventional views. Redmayne is great as Stephen Hawking, his investment in the role becoming clear as Hawking’s disease sets in. But it’s Felicity Jones as his wife Jane that puts this film on a shelf higher than most biopics. Acting as a window into this difficult marriage, Jones makes us feel every blow.


Photo Credit: The Wind Rises

Technically released in 2013 in Japan, The Wind Rises only got a US release this past February. Marking the end of legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki’s career, this swan song was the director’s least fantastical feature yet. This anime biopic of Jiro Horikoshi, inventor of Japanese fighter planes of World War II, doubled as a portrait of artistry. Here, Miyazaki was able to explore his own career as an inventor of sorts, all while saying goodbye to those who entertained his ideas. This film doesn’t quite hit the creative highs of My Neighbor Totoro or Spirited Away (just two of his long list of masterpieces, including this film), but as a farewell, The Wind Rises illustrates the personal relationship between this artist and his audience. I can’t think of a better way to say goodbye.


Photo Credit: Gone Girl

Gillian Flynn’s adaptation of her own novel has been a bit divisive with readers, but for those of us blissfully unaware of the source material, Gone Girl packs a serious punch. It helps, of course, to have David Fincher behind the camera. Looking at his already rich career, Gone Girl shows a growing director, one who learns from his mistakes. This film has everything that makes Fincher a great director, playing to his strengths to make what is likely his best film. Rosamund Pike gave one of the best performances of the year as Amy, assuring that many will think twice before not working on their relationship.


Photo Credit: Snowpiercer

So few genre films get every single thing right. Bong Joon-ho’s flawless adaptation of the French graphic novel became an instant classic this year. Chris Evans has never been better than as Curits, the gruff leader of the resistance at the back of the train. But he’s not the only one, with Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, Ed Harris, and Alison Pill all delivering outstanding work. But the majesty of this film comes from its gorgeous set design and twisty script. The ending is wholly satisfying, something so few films as cynically dark as this are able to achieve. This is a landmark science fiction film, destined to be used in the same sentence as Blade Runner and Brazil in the not too distant future.


Photo Credit: Whiplash

There was not a better ride at the movies this year than Whiplash. Electric and rhythmic all the way through, this film made a name out of director Damien Chazelle, who will most certainly be one to watch in the years to come. This film is a fast and furious meditation on what it takes to be one of the greats. Miles Teller is perfect as a young drummer prodigy. But even better is J.K. Simmons as his ill-tempered instructor. The master/apprentice relationship gets the magnified glass and we’re forced to question what’s better for the young drummer, success or a life?


Some other films that deserve recognition this year: Captain America: The Winter SoldierDawn of the Planet of the ApesLife Itself, and Lilting.


And here’s the ten worst, in alphabetical order: 300: Rise of an EmpireThe Amazing Spider-man 2The CongressThe DoubleDumb and Dumber ToThe Fault in Our StarsInherent ViceTracksTransformers: Age of Extinction, and Under the Skin.


What do you think of my top ten list? What were your favorite films of the year? Let us know in the comments below!


By Matt Dougherty

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