The time has come. I know that I haven’t seen everything that has needed to be seen, mostly out of the fact that many of the films don’t come out until January and that I’m very lazy. But I feel that I have a list of films that I feel are worthy enough of being deemed the best films of 2014. It’s been a helluva year for film. We’ve seem great epics as well as some very criminally underrated gems. Many of those types of films will be showcased today on this list. The way that I’ll be presenting this list is that I’ll begin with 20-11, and then I’ll get from I’l move down to 10 to the best film of the year. For the folks who know me and know my site won’t find much of a surprise in my favorite film, but I’ll be nice and won’t ruin it for the people who are just discovering this website for the first time. Without any further adieu, here are the best films of 2014.
20. Jersey Boys
Again, I still don’t really understand why nobody liked Jersey Boys all that much. I’ve never seen the musical that it’s based on (the Broadway Across America version comes to Austin in a couple of months, and I plan on getting tickets to it), but I loved Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of the rise and fall of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. As I’ve said in the past, I’m a sucker for movies about the history of music, whether it’s in a scripted or documentary narrative. The performances from the cast, which some of them playing the roles in the Broadway hit, are great. I really wish that Warner Bros had released American Sniper in Austin in 2014, but unfortunately I’ll have to wait a couple more weeks for that one. But for now, if you haven’t seen it, check out Jersey Boys. It’s got a killer soundtrack and Goodfellas-esque vibe throughout the film. Jersey Boys is currently available on Home Video.
19. 22 Jump Street
I was very impressed with Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s sequel to their smash (and unexpected) reboot of 21 Jump Street. The sequel was one of the rare comedy sequels where it surpassed the original in both humor and creative set pieces. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum had arguably the best bromance of any screen duo in 2014, and we also had some great comedic performances from Ice Cube and newcomer Wyatt Russell, who will be seen next year in Richard Linklater’s new film That’s What I’m Talking About. If you didn’t catch 22 Jump Street during its wildly successful theatrical run, don’t worry. The film is now available on home media.
In one of the more mysterious and moody thrillers of 2014, Jake Gyllenhaal gives the best performance of his career as a mentally unhinged man in Nightcrawler, which is a beautifully crafted commentary on the media and giving the people what they want. Dan Gilroy writes and directs this really terrific little sleeper hit that may give Gyllenhaal his McConaughey moment come awards season. Rene Russo also deserves some attention for her work in the film as a news director whose just as ambitious as Gyllenhaal in giving the people what they want. Nightcrawler is still technically in theaters, but good luck finding a theatre with it playing. Nightcrawler should be released on home media early next year.
17. The Raid 2
One of the best stories of trying to see a movie at a film festival also turned into one of the best action flicks of year and of the decade. The Raid 2 took a lot of what was missing from the already superb The Raid Redemption and made it much more than just a bad ass action film. The movie had a story similar to The Departed, with our main character having to go undercover inside of the Indonesian mafia. It’s got a cool story with some cool characters, and set pieces and action scenes that surpass the already impressive scenes in the original. The Raid 2 is currently on home media.
A film that I caught on Netflix at the last-minute, Snowpiercer ended up being a really solid and great little sci-fi action film. The film, with the entire action taken place inside of a bullet train in the apocalypse, features some incredible cinematography as well as some great performances by Chris Evans, Ed Harris, and many more in this massive cast from director Bong Joon Ho. The film didn’t get the wide release that I should have thanks to a dispute between the American distributor Harvey Weinstein and the director, but hopefully the film will find the right audience thanks to Netflix and other outlets of home media. It’s a fun and thought-provoking movie, and if you haven’t seen or even heard of Snowpiercer, I highly recommend you go check it out.
15. Happy Valley
In one of the more complex and fascinating films of 2014, Happy Valley takes a look at the aftermath of when former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually assaulting countless young boys throughout several years. It brought the tiny community of State College, Pennsylvania to a screeching halt, with the pride and glory days of Jerry Sandusky practically being as important as Jesus Christ all come down in a very heartbreaking and shocking manner. Amir Bar-Lev, who directed a wonderful documentary called The Tillman Story a couple of years back, does an excellent job in staying in the middle of a very divisive and touchy subject that is still a touchy subject for both the inhabitants of State College and college football fans as a whole. Happy Valley is currently available to rent on iTunes, and as a fan of documentaries and college football, I highly recommend you check this one out.
14. Edge of Tomorrow
I know, I know. I’m just as pissed over the fact that Edge of Tomorrow isn’t in my top ten. I wish it was, but I saw 13 other movies that I thought were just slightly better. The film is one of Tom Cruise’s best films, with Emily Blunt in a career defining performance, Edge of Tomorrow is director Doug Liman’s most exciting and most fun of all the films he’s ever made. It’s a really fantastic science fiction film, and the time travel plot device in the film is used brilliantly and comically. It’s a damn shame that folks saw Transformers and other summer crap than this really smart and surprisingly thoughtful studio tentpole from Warner Bros. Edge of Tomorrow is currently available on home media.
Locke was one of the coolest and most subdued films of the year. The entire film takes place inside of the BMW that Tom Hardy is driving to London at night, and his life is spiraling out of control because of this drive. Steven Knight writes and directs a truly wonderful and masterful art house classic with Tom Hardy giving what may be the most underestimated performance of his career. It’s a shame that Locke isn’t getting the same amount of awards attention as many of the other films out right now are. Locke is currently available on home media.
12. Top Five
Chris Rock is back in fine form in Top Five, the funniest and smartest comedy of the year. Rock writes, directs and stars as a fictionalized version of himself who is having a very long day, and has Rosario Dawson accompanying him, which to me wouldn’t be a very hard day at all. She does some great work in here, as well as the countless appearances and cameos by fellow comedians and comedic actors in this massive but very grounded film. I hope that Rock has learned his lesson from doing the crappy films of yesteryear, and that Rock will be able to do more films like Top Five. Top Five is currently showing in theaters.
A film that was one of the best times I had at the movies this year, Jon Favreau’s Chef was one of the best and funniest films of the year. A story that is based on the love of food, and what one man will do to be able to make the food that he wants to make, Chef is part father-son story and part road trip buddy movie. Jon Favreau is great in the film, John Leguizamo is hilarious in the role of Favreau’s buddy, and we also get some great and memorable appearances by Favreau regulars Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey JR. If you haven’t seen Chef yet, then what the hell are you doing? Chef is currently available on home media, so SEE IT!
And now, the ten best films of 2014.
10. No No: A Dockumentary
I know that if you go back and read some of my lists that No No was at the bottom compared to the other films, but the more and more that I kept thinking about No No, and the fact that ESPN has just revived its 30 for 30 series, I’ve begun to really admire and appreciate No No as a film. Director Jeffery Radice makes a very funny but also very touching and tragic film on the life and times of legendary pitcher Dock Ellis, who many will remember for throwing that infamous no-hitter while under the influence of LSD. What many filmmakers would fall into the trap of directing its attention solely on that incident, Radice and the filmmakers decide to discover the real Dock, and what he was like both on and off the field. It’s a fantastic documentary, and if you’re a fan of the 30 for 30 series, or just a fan of sports or documentaries in general, you’re gonna love No No. Oh, and Ad Rock from the Beastie Boys does the soundtrack. Just thought I put that in here. No No: A Dockumentary is currently available on iTunes and regularly airing on Showtime.
9. The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson followed up 2012’s brilliant Moonrise Kingdom with another quirky and brilliant little gem in The Grand Budapest Hotel. One of the biggest successes in art house cinema this year, Grand Budapest boasts a very impressive cast as well as an awards worthy performance by Ralph Fiennes and terrific direction and scripting by Anderson, who for the first time in his career has written and directed solely by himself. The Grand Budapest Hotel was the highlight of the spring when it came to movies, and luckily that charm that the film had hasn’t quite rubbed off yet, as many are touting the film to be nominated for a couple of Oscars next month. The Grand Budapest Hotel is current available on home media.
8. The Lego Movie
I recently rewatched The Lego Movie on HBO a couple of nights back, and I forgot how much fun I had with this movie. It’s one of the funniest and smartest films, not just for animation films, and it’s another great triumph for Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who dropped two great films this year. Chris Pratt, whose now officially a movie star, leads this giant animated voice cast that includes Will Arnett in a memorable turn as Batman, as well as Morgan Freeman, Elizabeth Banks, and Will Ferrell as the villain. The animation style to The Lego Movie is truly inspiring and beautiful, and the visual gags are all over the place in the film, and not one of them ever fall flat. This is a Toy Story for a new generation of kids, and I’m not afraid to say that The Lego Movie is as good as that Pixar trilogy (which is unfortunately gonna not be a trilogy anymore. Damn Pixar). The Lego Movie is currently available on home media.
7. Life Itself
In what was probably the most emotional film for me this year, Life Itself is a documentary about the life and times of Roger Ebert, the greatest film critic who ever lived. I loved, admired, respected, and looked up to Roger for many, many years, and without him, and the influence that he had on both film criticism and filmmaking, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Steve James, director of Ebert’s favorite film of the 90’s Hoop Dreams, directs this beautiful and lovely piece on a man who was much more than just a mean old film critic. He was a devoted husband and family man, as well as being just a genuinely good human being after a past life of drinking and drugs. Nobody can be able to explain how great and wonderful Roger was flawlessly, but Life Itself gets very close in accomplishing just that. I miss Roger nearly every single day, and I think he would’ve given this film a thumbs up. Life Itself is currently available on home media and can be seen on CNN on January 4th.
6. Guardians of the Galaxy
I usually am never this kind to the superhero films, but I had a f**king blast watching Guardians of the Galaxy. Remember when I said that Chris Pratt was a movie star? Well, once you see this film, you’ll believe me. James Gunn writes and directs a film that is based on a group that most people aren’t even familiar with, and on paper this film looked like it was gonna be a disaster. The film was the runaway commercial and critical hit of the summer, and is currently the highest grossing film (domestic) of the year. Pratt is great, as well as the rest of the Guardians, with Bradley Cooper’s Rocket and Vin Diesel’s Groot being the highlight of the film (If I didn’t take myself so seriously, I’d go get me a Dancing Baby Groot toy). If you haven’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy yet because you thought it looked too weird, you’ve got some problems. Trust me when I say that a superhero movie can be this bad ass. Guardians of the Galaxy is currently available on home media.
5. Gone Girl
David Fincher’s adaptation of Gone Girl had high hopes and it delivered on all of them. Fincher directs a very dark and very complex and complicated murder mystery thriller based on the novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, who adapted her own story to screen. Ben Affleck gives the best performance of his career as the husband turned suspect, but Rosamund Pike is the one that we’ve been talking about ever since the film was released. The movie has divided a lot of audience members for a number of reasons, which I’m not really sure how to explain or comprehend. I was very satisfied with this film because it took several twist and turns, and while it did make you leave with a bad taste in your mouth once the credits started rolling, you begin to kind of like that taste after a while (listening to the brilliant score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is making me think and write weird things right now). Gone Girl will be available on home media early next year.
This is one of the few times where the movie that’s getting all the Oscar bait and buzz is actually a really fun and interesting movie, and not a dull and tedious one like many of the best picture winners we’ve seen in the past couple of years. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu directs a visually stunning and meticulously crafted black comedy in Birdman, where Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki shoot and manipulate the footage to make the film look as if its one big long take. It works to the films advantage as it feels like a two-hour play, since Michael Keaton’s Riggan Thomson is trying to mount a Broadway comeback. Keaton gives a performance that could possibly win him an Oscar, and we also get some great awards worthy work by Edward Norton as an egotistical actor and Emma Stone as Riggan’s fresh-out-of-rehab daughter. Birdman is truly fantastic, and must be seen on the big screen, which is where you can currently find the film.
The runaway hit at Sundance was a runaway hit for a reason. Whiplash is an exciting and often terrifying look into the world of music school. Miles Teller does some fine work her in the film, but the movie really belongs to J.K. Simmons, who gives in his best work yet as a music teacher who terrifies and mentally/physically berate his students. Writer/Director Damien Chazelle makes a brilliant foray into a film that’s gained lots of critical acclaim, and not just from the guy typing these very words. The sequences of when Teller is banging on those drums of his are quite intoxicating and exhausting to watch. The final scene of the film is one of the greatest final sequences in film history. I think that statement along will hopefully influence you to go see Whiplash, which is currently in theaters.
I was blown away by nearly everything in Bennett Miller’s haunting and chilling Foxcatcher. Everything from the icy and cold cinematography of the Pennsylvania countryside to the beautiful and tense score that made very brief but worthy appearances throughout the film, and then there were the three performances by Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, and Steve Carell. Tatum is brilliant as this brutting and envious little sibling to Ruffalo’s charismatic older brother, who does some of the finest work of his career here. But the real centerpiece of this film is Steve Carell in one of the scariest and chilliest performances in recent memory as John du Pont. I’ve never been so on edge watching a character on-screen in recent memory, and to think that I would see a performance like that from nice guy Steve Carell is just unheard of. His chances are slim at this point, but Carell deserves to win the Oscar for this role, as Tatum and Ruffalo deserve some consideration as well. Foxcatcher is one of the great true crime stories ever put on film, and I highly recommend that you go see this film in the theater.
Before I go on to my number one, I’d just like to say something. This has been really terrific year for film. I’ve seen some great stuff since the beginning of the year. But something has been off all year. I’ve been seeing all these great films, and I’ve loved and respected all of the films that I just mentioned, but something was off all year. I wasn’t sure what was happening. I didn’t really occur to me until I started seeing advertisements for the film. Once I had started to see those, I begun to realize that the reason why everything was so off was because the best film of the year had been staring me right in the eye of the beginning. The Best film of 2014 was the very first film I saw in 2014, and I think you may know what that movie is.
This is one of the rare occasions that I’ve seen with a movie where nearly everybody is in unison with their love of the film. Nearly every major critic in the country has hailed Boyhood as the best film of the year, with countless critics organizations naming the film as the best picture of 2014. They’re not alone in this corner of the world. The first time I saw Boyhood, I loved it, but it wasn’t until later on where it began to get to me. A lot of what happens in the film is eerily similar to many life experiences that I had as a kid growing up, and Richard Linklater has flawlessly captured a lot of that feeling of growing up on film. I don’t know how he did it over a 12 year span, but he did it, and it’s his masterpiece. It’s not a complex or groundbreaking film in terms of storytelling, as the film is a basic story of a boy growing up, but the way of how Mr. Linklater got there is what makes this film so special. And it’s also special because of how simple it is. It’s a very remarkable film, and the second time that I saw the film in the theater, I was in tears. Grown man tears. Very few films can make me have such an emotionally connection to the characters and the environment around them, and somehow Richard Linklater has done that with Boyhood. I didn’t want to leave these characters when the movie ended since I had just spent 3 hours with them, which felt like a lifetime in a way. I think about Mason a lot, to be honest with you. Wherever the kid is right now, I hope he’s doing alright. And for that, Boyhood is the best film of 2014. It will be released on home media early next year.
So that’s my best of 2014. What are your favorite films? Let me know.