2014 in Review: Jordan’s Top 25 Movies
Like I mentioned yesterday, this year officially came to an end just over a week ago and it’s time for me to recap the year. After cramming in as many of last year’s movie as possible (here is the official list, sans Whiplash which I watched earlier today).
In all, I watched 90 movies (just short of my 100 goal) that had a theatrical release between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014. I’m not perfect and missed the following movies: A Most Violent Year, American Sniper, Citizenfour, Inherent Vice, Love is Strange, Obvious Child, and Selma. I plan on seeing most (if not all) of these and updating this in the coming weeks.
To go along with my “Best Of” awards, here are my 25 favorite movies of the past year:
25. Big Hero 6
Disney and Marvel’s first true collaboration didn’t disappoint. It’s admittedly more of a children’s movie than an adult movie but there’s nothing wrong with that!
24. X-Men: Days of Future Past
It’s easy to tuck the blockbusters away when you’re thinking of the best movies of the year. However, X-Men: Days of Future Past didn’t exactly play it straight. Instead, it used a time-warping concept to create a blockbuster that actually makes you think.
Locke is a tough sell but it’s worth the ride (pun intended). Anchored – and ultimately carried – by Tom Hardy, Locke is a diamond in the rough.
While Cheryl Strayed may not hold a candle to Stephen Hawking and Alan Turing, her true story is still worth lauding. Reese Witherspoon will undoubtedly receives plenty of nominations and she deserves them all.
The monster genre hasn’t fared too well in Hollywood. Gareth Edwards changed that with a stylistically-stunning Godzilla remake. The human aspect may lag but it’s called Godzilla for a reason.
20. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Even by Wes Anderson standards, The Grand Budapest Hotel was kooky. However, in this case, kooky meant hilarious. With an all-star cast, it’s tough to find a standout but I think Ralph Fiennes takes the cake.
19. Life Itself
While I only saw two documentaries all year, I still think you’d be hard-pressed to find something less exciting for a moviegoer than the Roger Ebert doc Life Itself.
18. St. Vincent
2014 had plenty of surprises but St. Vincent would top my list. From the previews, I thought I’d be seeing an overused and cliched story that used a likable actor to get people in the seats. I was completely wrong and happy to admit it. St. Vincent has more heart than almost any movie on this list.
We’ve seen plenty of war movies but I can’t remember seeing something as exciting as a tank battle before. Sure, Fury may have focused on the wrong character but its ensemble was second to only one or two movies. To be honest, I think this is one of the most underrated movies of the year.
Frequencies is my obligatory pick that most haven’t heard of. Billed as a combination of movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, (500) Days of Summer, and Primer (a brain-scrambler), Frequencies is definitely not for everyone. The risk is worth the reward, though.
15. Guardians of the Galaxy
It may have ended the summer blockbuster season, but Guardians of Galaxy is the summer champion by all standards. It provided much needed laughs and sprinkled in just as many heartfelt (and completely earned) moments.
I have to imagine director and writer Damien Chazelle had a lot of fun constructing the brash script for J.K. Simmon’s sadistic character. The intentionally harsh movie pulls out all the punches in what some have considered a horror movie dressed up as a drama. It is haunting – a recurring theme this year.
13. The Drop
I complimented Tom Hardy’s performance in Locke and I’ll do it again in the wider-known (but still under-appreciated) film The Drop. Hardy plays a much flashier (and eye-grabbing) character and he’s only part of the reason the movie works so well.
Birdman is unmatched in the ensemble and style categories, making it a fan-favorite for years to come. I like to describe this movie as a comedy version of Darren Aronosky’s Black Swan. It’s a buzzy pic for a reason.
11. Begin Again
Another under-appreciated film is John Carney’s musically-inspired movie Begin Again. Led by Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, Carney delivers on his promise to make another great movie like Once. If you’re interested in music and haven’t seen this movie, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Christopher Nolan tends to be a polarizing filmmaker because of his intense fanbase. I consider myself a Nolan follower and still believe he can do no wrong. Interstellar is considered a failure for some but I still see it as a technical marvel and, more importantly, an ambitious project that reaches beyond even Nolan’s filmography.
9. The Theory of Everything
Stephen Hawking’s life deserved a movie, there’s no doubt about it. Most would expect to be blown away by his scientific prowess but I’d guess most wouldn’t become as invested in his scientific knowledge as his relationship with his wife. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones perfectly portray one of the best relationships of the year.
8. The Imitation Game
It’s tough differentiating between The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game because they both feature worthy protagonists, great performances, and a spectacular script. The Imitation Game gets the edge because of a slightly (by the smallest margin) more profound ending. It’s that close.
There were few movies more endearing than Jon Favreau’s Chef. I know my movie taste and Chef seems just a little too happy-go-lucky for me. I couldn’t be more wrong, though, and highly suggest this to anyone that wants a good family story.
Just like Interstellar, Darren Aronfosky’s Noah is among the most ambitious. His biblical epic passion project took awhile but created perhaps the greatest tension of the year. Without being preachy (and to some this is a fault), it deals with the future of humankind and whether they deserve to even exist. Pretty powerful stuff!
Even knowing what’s ultimately going to happen, Foxcatcher sports a thrillingly dark tone that can easily suck anyone in. It also helps that Steve Carell fights against a pretty nasty typecast to show perhaps the most flawed character we’ve seen in a long time.
Richard Linklater’s Boyhood brings us back to the conversation about ambition. Linklater’s thoughtfulness and vision helped create a one-of-a-kind story where you actually grow up with a character. Shot over a decade, Boyhood may someday be considered a masterpiece. Even if Boyhood doesn’t take Best Picture, Linklater deserves the Best Director award.
3. The LEGO Movie
Given the final two movies on this list, The LEGO Movie may be a little out of place. It’s no typo, though, because everything truly is awesome in Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s animated movie. A great voice cast doesn’t hurt but its fantastically funny script (loaded with sharp dialogue and multi-tiered jokes) succeeds where most family films don’t.
2. Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn’s novel seems like it was created just for David Fincher to adapt. I can’t think of a single director – working or not – that could take this story and make anything close to what Fincher made in Gone Girl. Flynn deserves credit for adapting her powerful story onto the screen, too.
Nightcrawler is the complete package. I could echo a lot of the same accolades that made me love Gone Girl, Foxcatcher, and even Birdman. In the end, it comes down to the most interesting character of the year performed flawlessly by Jake Gyllenhaal. On top of everything it has going it, there’s some sharp criticism involving both the media and, in some ways, the American Dream. There are plenty of surprises in store but you won’t even need those to be on the edge of your seat.
Now that I’ve given you my favorite movies, I’m interested to hear about yours! Sound off below.
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