Best of lists are hard. Choosing the films I liked best isn’t hard, but keeping it to a reasonable number and ranking them is. One thing that’s not so much hard as it is annoying: coming up with something to say other than "I loved this and you should watch it".
I saw a lot of films this year but there are plenty I missed. I didn’t see Birdman, Whiplash, or Mommy, all of which are on many other best-of lists for the year (and in the case of Whiplash I can guess it would have made mine) but I also did see Boyhood, Gone Girl, 22 Jump Street, and a host of others that didn’t make my list.
All in all, I saw over 75 movies released in 2014. Not a huge percentage when you think about it but certainly more than the average person.
So with all that in mind here are my favourite dozen movies from 2014.
I don’t know that many would agree this is one of the best movies of the year and honestly Chef does hit a lot of cliches but at the end of the day, this was the feel good movie of the year for me. I’ve watched it a bunch of times and I enjoy it every time. Plus, you know, food porn.
Under the Skin
I won’t tell you anything else about this film other than that you won’t see anything else quite like it and as a result, you should definitely see it.
Fantastic performances from Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, and Steve Carell are what kept this on the list. That and a script was so well written that even though I knew what was going to happen at the end, when it happened I was caught completely off guard.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
One of Marvel’s strengths is that they seem focused on telling good stories first and this is a good story. It pits Captain America against his past and his place in the present and future manages to keep the guy wrapped in the American Flag about doing the right thing rather than just straight-up patriotism and manages to package it all in a thoroughly engaging spy-action movie. The Marvel formula might be starting to get a bit threadbare and sometime soon they’re going to have to leave a character dead if they want to hold my attention but this time around they still did everything exactly right.
The Raid 2: Berendal
There’s a scene in The Raid 2 where a character witha baseball bat fights a a small army of opponents and it is one of th best fight scenes I’ve ever seen. And the he brings out the ball.
See also: every other fight in this movie. Sure the narrative is a little bit convoluted but this is still the most brutal fight movie I saw all year.
Edge of Tomorrow
Tom Cruise is a hell of an actor when he wants to be and this is a hell of a fun movie about a man trying to find nirvana. Or at least trying to beat the video game of life. Plus Emily Blunt is a total badass.
The Lego Movie
Beautifully animated and realized, Phil Lord and Chris Miller cemented themselves as the best guys in the business for bringing batshit crazy ideas to fruition and having them turn out amazingly well this year. The Lego movie is charming and funny and has a great message for kids young and old.
Proof that a great R-Rated action movie can come out of the US still, but also just because it’s a great action movie set in a slightly fantastic version of the world featuring a criminal underworld powered by honour, legends, and gold coins and manages to build that world without stopping to berate you with dialogue. John Wick is the most fun I had at the movies in the last half of the year.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Maybe the most Wes Anderson-y Wes Anderson film to date and one of the best-looking films of the year. A strong turn by Ralph Fiennes in the lead role and everyone Wes Anderson works with showing up in cameos and that certain melancholy that only Wes Anderson can hit make this one of the best of the year.
The Babadook is one of the creepiest films I’ve ever seen. If you have kids or know kids this might be a hard one to watch because it features a mother at her wit’s end who then gets terrorized by a demon but the ultimate catharsis she experiences and the acceptance of her past and present are kinda beautiful in their own weird, fucked up way.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Yes, it’s basically The Avengers in space, but the Guardians of the Galaxy manages to be the most unique film out of the Marvel universe in a long time. It retains the style and humour of director James Gunn while still fitting in with the rest of the universe, manages to make stars out of a tree and a raccoon, and still manage to flesh out the greater universe without sacrificing its own story.
Plus, Benicio del Toro as Space-Liberace is fun, and John C Reilly as a space cop was also fun.
So here you are, the best film of the year. Chris Evans is the leader of a rebellion in a post-apocalyptic world of a futuristic train where the class divisions are decided by the ticket people bought when the train started running. The action is perfect, the story is rife with symbolism, and the message is a bleak one: sometimes you just have to blow it all up.
So there you have it. The 12 films of 2014 I liked best. I hope that next year is as strong of a year as this year was and that I get to see as many movies. Have yourself a safe and fun New Year’s Eve and we’ll see you in 2015.
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