It was the best of films, it was the blurst of films. Hey everyone I’m Nick Valdez, News Editor here for Flixist and you’ve probably seen my name on a good chunk of the stuff written here. If not, then I’ll tell you a bit about myself. I like movies, songs about butts, and pink frosted donuts. I’m going to get a tattoo of a mix of all three of those things someday.
Oh but you’re here for this list. I’ve reviewed 51 films this year, and that’s way more than I’ve ever done for the site before. That also means I’ve been way more involved in 2014 films than in past years so this list has been particularly tough. So, I guess let’s get to it then.
30-16: The Lego Movie, The Babadook, 22 Jump Street, The Purge: Anarchy, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Maleficent, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Snowpiercer, Frank, Top Five, Gone Girl, Pride, The Drop, Nymphomaniac Vol 1, A Most Violent Year
I nearly missed out on Locke. With the smallest of small releases, I didn’t see this until it was recommended by a friend a few weeks ago. I’m super glad I finally took the plunge. It’s got the weirdest barrier of entry (it’s better if you see it at night, you have to be in the right mindset), but it’s totally worth the trouble. In a year full of bloated blockbusters, Locke is the concise breath of fresh air that reminds you what cinema is capable of. In the length of a Sunday night drive, Tom Hardy goes through so many complicated emotions. Enclosed, intimate, and fantastic.
Nightcrawler (and Enemy, in fact) proved Jake Gyllenhaal still has some sides of his acting talent hidden away. With a strikingly dark, yet practical performance, he sells the film’s dissection of sensationalist journalism. Literally crawling through the muck, Nightcrawler portrays the opposite end of ambition. When ambition morphs into an unhealthy aggression, one of the best films of 2014 was born.
Read our review of Nightcrawler here.
13. John Wick
John Wick was an utter surprise and delight. Literally coming out of nowhere with a generic trailer that made the film seem like nothing more than a direct to home video action film mistakenly released to theaters, John Wick has a fantastic setting (I want another movie of just interactions within the assassin hotel hideout), wonderfully choreographed action (Keanu Reeves is really Neo at this point, which made the fantastical nature of the fights even more believable), and a story with so many cheesy twists and turns I fell in love instantly. Oh and the dog, Daisy! Oh. My. God.
Filmed over the course of twelve years, it sort of makes sense to put Boyhood here. Both as a little dig, and because while I love what it did for cinema (and how much I enjoyed it directly afterward), I’m not as fond of it as I thought I was. While some of Mason’s life speaks to me (I too had a drunk and abusive parent, was also directionless for the majority of life), a lot of it glazed over what my life was really like. Yeah, I know Boyhood won’t be a depiction of my life, but it kind of stung to see someone live a happier life than mine. I don’t hold it against the film critically (that’s why it’s here), but I’ll never truly connect with it the way I think I’m supposed to.
Read our review of Boyhood here.
11. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is what we get for not hailing to the chimp. A summer blockbuster that was not only intelligent, well paced, and full of stunning visuals, but made me expect more out of my popcorn flicks. Bad action and explosions just aren’t going to cut it anymore. Dawn says we can have both AND be a successful prequel/sequel at the same time. It doesn’t get any better. This is what blockbusters should strive to.
Read our review of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes here.
10. The Guest
The Guest is a film that will forever be welcome in my home. Before my screening, I knew nothing of it other than it was a follow up from the You’re Next (which is also a film you need to see someday) duo of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett. Figuring they were kind of a one trick pony (sorry, guys), I expected a run of the mill thriller with a genre twist at the end. But that’s nowhere near the case with Guest. Completely confident in its lead Dan Stevens (with good reason), the film is full throttle from beginning to end. Its tone is never once tiring. With its homages to older horror films, a groovy synth inspired soundtrack, stylistic filming (there’s a great use of light throughout) and fantastically staged finale, The Guest was one of my favorite movie going experiences last year.
Read our review of The Guest here.
Wow, so where has THIS Nicolas Cage been? We make fun of the guy for signing up for everything and anything, but he’s some kind of wicked genius. It’s when we forget how talented of an actor he can be that he decides to come out with a legitimately gripping performance. That’s the heart of Joe. Three great performances (from Cage, Tye Sheridan, and the now passed Gary Poulter) root this tale in the South with the most human characters I saw last year. Remember Your Highness? This is from the same director. I just can’t believe that.
Read our review of Joe here.
8. Edge of Tomorrow
Just like with Nic Cage, Tom Cruise always has a surprise up his sleeve for when we forget how talented he is. It appears that both actors can truly surprise given the right material. Edge of Tomorrow (or whatever the hell it’s named now) is a science fiction story about how some nerdy, cowardly man transforms into action star Tom Cruise after dying a thousand times. In the most unique premise of any science fiction film in recent memory (which is saying quite a bit as you can allude to sources like videogames), a man’s life gets a reset button every time he’s killed in a battle leading to some of the best and hilarious editing of 2014. And you know what else? Emily Blunt is a killer viking goddess badass and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Read our review of Edge of Tomorrow/All You Need is Kill/Live.Die.Repeat here.
Speaking of actors we’ve forgotten about, out comes Michael Keaton reminding us how much of a juggernaut he is. Sure he’s had some subversive turns in films like The Other Guys, Toy Story 3 and RoboCop recently, but I haven’t seen him challenged like this in a long time. Birdman breaks down Keaton and builds him back up again. A heartbreaking, absurd, hilarious, soul crushing, wonderfully shot film, Birdman is truly the peak of artistic creativity. Too bad Keaton overshadowed everyone else. But is that such a bad problem to have?
Read our review of Birdman here.
6. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Budapest was my very first Wes Anderson film experience, and I’m so glad I finally took the plunge. Budapest is a film full of so much love, hard work, and time that it could only be put together after as long career. With one of the most outstanding casts (each utilized to the fullest, even in the smaller roles), a vignette style story, and an amazing performance from Ralph Fiennes, Budapest had my attention from beginning to end. The reason it’s not higher on this list is because there were a few that had my attention a little bit more. And that’s definitely tough in this case.
Read our review of The Grand Budapest Hotel here.
5. The Interview
Say what you will about whether or not The Interview “deserved” all of the problems it caused, or whether or not it’s some stupid exercise of free speech, underneath all of the drama, The Interview was the funnest experience I had last year. It’s not some grand satire of North Korea’s politics, nor is it your patriotic duty to witness it unfold, but you’d do yourself a disservice by missing out. Well tuned humor, great performances (with some of the best James Franco faces) led by Randall Park, and an explosive finale you’re sure to remember. The Interview is a firework. Boom, boom, boom.
Read our review of The Interview here.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Whiplash. A film I had no idea existed full of darkness. Yet, that darkness is truly compelling. J.K. Simmons is a fantastic lead (if you tell me Miles Teller is the lead, I will politely ask you to leave) with a performance that’s striking, violent, and full of the best kind of black humor. Imagine if his turn as J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man was even more aggressive, and you’ve got Whiplash. Backing up Simmons is a truly great film that’s more about a bloody need to prove you’re the best. Intense, rich, and has an a different kind of explosive finale.
Read our review of Whiplash here.
3. Obvious Child
Within a year so full of men that even the cartoons resemble our landscape, Obvious Child stood out from the outset. I’ve always loved comedienne Jenny Slate as she’s great at creating tragically trashy characters, but I was just waiting for her to break out. And the wait’s been worth it. Based off a short film of the same name, Obvious Child tackles not often spoken topics like womanhood, abortion, and late twenties uncertainty with not only tact, but a sophisticated and illuminating point of view with often hilarious results. Jenny Slate is a dynamo as Donna Stern, and the film ending’s blend of awkwardness and hope still gives me chills.
2. Palo Alto
As James Franco continues to branch out, some of his projects don’t go over so well but are nonetheless interesting. His collection of short stories, Palo Alto, and its adaptation got some attention a few months back because Franco himself inadvertently hit on an underage girl on Instagram. That’s the only reason I knew about the project, and now I realize how wrong I was. Palo Alto is f**king fantastic for all involved. A well realized weave of stories helped established a broken, and compelling world. I was so invested, I couldn’t help but want more. Yet, we’re given just the right amount of story thanks to Gia Coppola’s outstanding direction.
Featuring an eclectic cast with Franco as a creepy teacher, Emma Roberts as a misguided teen, Jack (and to a lesser extent, Val) Kilmer as a lost kid, and Nat Wolff with the most emotionally charged performance of the year. Seriously, I could not believe that the kid from The Naked Brothers Band had some talent. The final scene of the film where he charges into the night has stuck with me to this day.
With how much Obvious Child and Palo Alto stuck with me, only one film did much more. As a fan of David Ayer’s career, I was on top of Fury from day one. Though my anticipation sort of wavered in the middle thanks to some bad trailer editing, and I didn’t think Logan Lerman was going to be an effective lead, once I sat down with the film all of that faded away. Fury is magnificent. Five terrific performances anchor the film’s small story within this admittedly overwrought setting. Fury isn’t a typical WWII film, and it delivers with a not so typical emotionally charged finale.
And Shia LaBeouf? Thank you for giving up all of that Transformers trash. This is what you’re meant to do.
Read our review of Fury here.
What are your favorite movies from 2014? Did I miss any of your favorites? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter! While you’re at it, why not check out my Top 5 Animated Movies of 2014, Top 5 Sequels, Top 10 Movie Music Moments, and 2014’s Best Dog in Film lists too!