2014 was an amazing year at the theater. Whether it’s a struggling actor trying to make it big on Broadway or a seemingly guilty husband trying to make sense of his wife’s disappearance, 2014 offered up bold, risky and innovative films to be remembered. Yes, Boyhood will be eyeing Oscar gold come Feb. 22, but the year was at it’s best when its films grabbed you by the brain and wouldn’t let go.
10. The Grand Budapest Hotel Wes Anderson’s quirky, surprisingly violent, but no less charming tale of a hotel concierge and the lobby boy who becomes his best friend was released way back in March. Yet it’s a top contender in the awards race (it has a shot at best original screenplay and Anderson is finally in the picture and director fight) which says a lot for its staying power.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy One of two summer blockbusters to make the list, James Gunn’s Guardians is the less Marvel-y of all the Marvel films released thus far (apart from maybe Iron Man 3). Yet its mega-popular. Why? Apart from the fact it introduces Marvel’s full-fledged cosmic universe, it’s just a damn good, entertaining film you can watch over and over again without getting bored (I know I have). Who needs Iron Man when you have Groot?
8. Nightcrawler While Jake Gyllenhaal came up empty handed when it came time for Oscar nominations, he still gives one of the best performances of the year as the dangerously obsessive Lou Bloom, who, once he’s roped into the world of crime journalism, will do whatever it takes to get the perfect footage. Its dark satire on the way we perceive news…and the way its given to us.
7. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Yep, it is that good. Say what you want about the Planet of the Apes franchise, it’s come back in full-swing thanks to the vision of Matt Reeves. Not to say that Rise of the Planet of the Apes hadn’t already pushed it towards success (it was surprisingly good), but Dawn take it to another level and lands in the pantheon of sequels to top their predecessor in every way.
6. Interstellar Christopher Nolan’s space opera is sometimes too ambitious for its own good. Nevertheless, it is a mind-boggling, emotion-heavy epic, one that pulls at both the mind and the heart in ways few films can achieve. Only Nolan can be so frustrating, yet so genius, as a filmmaker.
5. Whiplash The most “normal” film on the list, Whiplash is simply about a young guy trying to be one of the best drummers in the world (an ever-growing Miles Teller), while an emotionally–and sometimes physically–abusive instructor (a never-better J.K. Simmons) berates him every step of the way. The film hangs on its stars’ performances, but its also the energetic style of a young filmmaker that raises it to greatness.
4. Snowpiercer Maybe I’m cheating a little, but this South Korean film–set in a world where remaining survivors of a climate-change apocalypse live on a globe-trekking, class-based train–made it’s official release in the U.S. in 2014, so don’t mind me if I put this insanely inventive film on the list. One of the most visually stunning and creative films I’ve seen, Snowpiercer reels you in from the start and never lets go.
3. Foxcatcher Foxcatcher is a tough film to watch. It’s even harder to accept that it’s all true. All the more reason to put it on the list. The real-life story of delusional multimillionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell in a shocking turn) and the Olympic wrestler he recruits to lead his team to gold (Channing Tatum at a career-best), Foxcatcher sticks with you. Research it after you see it and you will appreciate it even more.
2. Gone Girl It seems like a film only David Fincher could pull off. Thankfully, that’s exactly what happened. Ben Affleck plays a husband who’s the prime suspect in his wife’s disappearance, but it can’t be that simple right? Rosamund Pike it Oscar worthy here, and the power in the film is in its almost darkly comedic deconstruction of love, marriage and the roles of men and women in society. Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the novel, was robbed of a best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination.
1. Birdman Birdman is cinema at its finest. The majority of the film from start to finish is all one shot and if that doesn’t pull you in, how’s this: Michael Keaton may be on his way to an Oscar in the best performance of his career. It’s funny, insanely cool (Edward Norton embodies cool) and an all-around commentary on society’s obsession (and then castration) of celebrities. All the more reason to be obsessed with Birdman.
Thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Wonder why Boyhood didn’t make the list? Comment!