There have been some genuinely impressive movies out this year, movies which have exceeded my expectations and will live long in my memory, but there have also been a few films which I’ve absolutely hated. This list isn’t supposed to contain those movies which I think are objectively the best or be ordered in that way.
There might be a film which I’ve reviewed and given a high score which is placed below a film which I gave a slightly lower score, but that’s because this list is about the films which I enjoyed the most not those which have the best cinematography, script or performances.
Finally, there are probably movies which I don’t mention on this list that a lot of people liked, such as “The Imitation Game” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. Unfortunately I haven’t seen all the movies that were released this year, and whilst it’s a romantic notion to wait until a year or two down the line to write a list like this it doesn’t make practical sense. With that said, here are my top 10 favourite films of 2014.
- The Drop
“The Drop” is probably the least impressive film on this list, given its simple story and small scale, and that’s why it’s placed at number 10. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed it very much. It had a standout performance from Tom Hardy and three fine contributions from the supporting actors, making it very interesting and easy to watch, but there was a slight lack of explanation involved in the way the story was told. If this film had been a bit more ambitious with regard to its plot and its handling of the events which preceded the main story, it could’ve been great, but sadly the fact that Bob Saginowski’s (Tom Hardy) story was so self-contained led to a film which was more restrained than it ought to have been. Still, it was a smart and well acted film, and given the number of poor films I’ve seen this year “The Drop” props up this list.
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
When I walked out of the cinema after seeing this film I was very happy, because it was an undeniably enjoyable movie, and although it wasn’t perfect, it was ALMOST as good as I’d hoped it would be. I’d been waiting to see it for a long time, and there had been a lot of hype over Andy Serkis’ performance and the powerful emotion that the computer animation of the apes was able to portray, so I was expecting a lot from it. I saw it at midnight the day it came out, and it was worth the money and the journey, because as you watch it you are immersed in a beautifully realised world of intelligent apes, and you really feel the tension as Caesar (Andy Serkis) attempts to keep the peace among his colony whilst also trying to avoid the inevitability of war with the humans.
It’s a strong film with some great scenes and it could’ve easily placed higher on this list. However, what lets it down is the lack of compelling human characters to drive the conflict forward, the slightly heavy-handed dialogue which is often present only to inform the audience of something they may have missed, and the clichéd ending, involving Caesar and his confrontation with Koba. Overall the film is great, but I feel it will never be thought of as the defining film of this franchise.
- As Above, So Below
The best horror movie of this year belongs on this list. This film is downright terrifying, and that’s exactly what it was intended to be, so to not give it a mention would just be wrong. I had a lot of fun watching “As Above, So Below”, it reminded me of a time when I wasn’t so cynical, and films about devils, ghouls and monsters really did scare me. There’s something so satisfying about being scared in a room full of like minded people; the screams that turn into laughter, the adrenaline that courses through your body as the crowd jumps in unison, I just love it. I enjoyed this movie as much as any other on this list, and the only reason it isn’t higher is that the ending was slightly strange, and the rest of the films are of a really high standard.
“Nightcrawler” is all about one man, Jake Gyllenhaal. This film has to be on this list, because for me it contains the best performance of the year from a male actor. In other countries that accolade would probably go to Michael Keaton, given the praise that has been heaped on his performance in “Birdman”, but sadly that film hasn’t been released in England yet, so it doesn’t come into consideration when I’m talking about 2014. “Nightcrawler” was a very dark film, with some disturbing scenes, but what I loved the most about it was how fun it was. The dialogue was clever and made for a very funny film, because Lou Bloom’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) delusions really were quite entertaining. How he talked to other people and how other people responded to him was novel, strange, and satisfying. Again, this movie could’ve been higher on this list, but it petered out towards the end, and didn’t really provide the finale that the quality of the rest of the film deserved.
- The Inbetweeners 2
Just as the best horror film of the year deserved a place on this list, my favourite comedy also has a spot. I laughed SO much at this movie, it was just hilarious. The fact that the characters in “The Inbetweeners” have aged at the same pace as I have, going through sixth form as I did and beginning university as I did, probably explains just why I find their exploits so funny, but I still think that this is a great film for anyone who has a sense of humour which leans towards crudity. Although “The Inbetweeners 2” isn’t exactly a work of art, it was always going to make this list, because it achieves everything it sets out to. It’s supposed to be funny, and it is, and the characters are also quite believable for the most part. I know plenty of people who mirror one of the characters or another, and I feel that the film captures young adult life quite well. I wouldn’t feel right putting it higher on this list, because the films above it are fantastic, but I’m happy to put it in sixth.
- The Guest
“The Guest” rivals “Nightcrawler” for the strangest leading character in a film this year, but “The Guest” beats it out in terms of enjoyment and comedy. I feel that these films are quite similar, so to compare them is quite useful in deciding which should be higher on this list. “Nightcrawler” is a funny film, thriving on its darkness and its oddity, but “The Guest” is funnier. “Nightcrawler” has a great performance from its star man, but so does “The Guest”. The films are evenly matched, but what puts “The Guest” above “Nightcrawler” is that it’s the more enjoyable to watch.
I was extremely pleased to have seen this film, I felt glad to have watched it and knew I’d got my money’s worth, it spoke to my tastes perfectly. It uses dark humour to make otherwise quite controversial subject matter more accessible and enjoyable, because generally movies about serial killers are quite uncomfortable and difficult to watch, but when things happen in such a weird and wonderful way you can’t help but laugh. It takes a lot of skill to pull this kind of film off, because it could’ve turned out just plain strange and been a bit hit or miss, but what was created was a brilliant, entertaining, and funny piece of cinema, which I would happily pay to see again.
- The Lego Movie
“The Lego Movie” is a wonderful film. There haven’t been many animated movies that I’ve actually felt I had to see in recent times, because so often I find that these kinds of films don’t cater for all ages as they used to. “The Boxtrolls” was good, I’m sure “How To Train Your Dragon 2” was fine, even though I never felt compelled to see it, but “The Lego Movie” is great. This isn’t a child’s film, it isn’t stupid and it doesn’t pander to the lowest common denominator, which I would say a lot of successful animated films of recent times definitely have done. Liam Neeson’s good cop, bad cop, routine is probably his best role in years, and I’d say the same for Morgan Freeman, whose voice fits his character perfectly. Chris Pratt was also great as Emmet, who was probably the best character in any film of 2014. This is the best animated film of the year, the most worthwhile movie to show your children, and it is definitely worth the watch.
- Edge of Tomorrow
What was the biggest surprise of this year? Arsenal winning a trophy? Christopher Nolan making a bad movie? Or Tom Cruise actually making a good movie? I would go for the latter. The fact that this film was even half decent was a big shock to me, and if it wasn’t for the fact that my brother told me to go see it, I never would’ve given it the time of day. Thankfully, I went to see this film and had a great time doing so.
A lot of people said that this film was a mix of “Groundhog Day” and “Independence Day”, and I’d be inclined to agree (although I think it’s a lot better than “Independence Day” personally, because I don’t really rate that film at all highly). The fact that Tom Cruise’s character could relive this traumatic battle over and over again, trying new strategies and dying in weird and wonderful ways, was just a joy to watch. The special effects were very good, which made the aliens seem that bit more threatening despite the fact that the audience knew that Cruise was not in any immediate danger. The reason behind Cruise’s resetting abilities was well explained and although it wasn’t necessarily believable, it made sense in the overall story.
Perhaps the best thing about this movie was the thing I expected the least, and that was that it was extremely funny. Cruise’s idiocy at the start of the movie was really entertaining, and it allowed for his character to develop a lot over the course of the film; the fact that he knew he wouldn’t really die if he was killed in battle meant that he tried some hilarious things to get the situation right. He would die in such ridiculous and silly ways, which allowed the audience to relax in between tense scenes. All in all, this was an awesome film and a lot of fun, which makes it one of the best from 2014.
- Guardians of the Galaxy
I loved this film the first time I saw it, I thought it was funny, intelligent, and had some great performances. But having seen it again, I think it’s even better than that. This film has made me believe that I can still enjoy a superhero movie even though I’m getting older and becoming a lot more cynical. Not only that, but it has made me remember that some films don’t need to be completely immune to being dissected to be brilliant. “Guardians of the Galaxy” isn’t perfect, there are explanatory gaps, for example, characters are able to communicate with one another in different ships without once initiating a call or even wearing an earpiece.
However, I’m willing to overlook those flaws when I see that this film is everything a movie should be. It’s funny, it’s smart, it’s extremely well written which I didn’t realise the first time I watched it, and it’s also a film for every type of person. I watched this film recently with three people who wouldn’t see it at the cinema, like me they’d had enough of Marvel, and didn’t believe that the comedy in the film would work. How wrong they were. Each one of them loved it, because it’s really that good. I haven’t met one person who saw this film and wasn’t immediately in love with it, and I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t love Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel). What you have in “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a movie which is strong in all aspects, it has wonderful characters, an interesting story, a clever script, and great performances, and at the end of the day that is all a film really needs.
- Gone Girl
This was a difficult decision, not because I didn’t love this movie, but because I’m still not sure if this was in fact my favourite film of 2014. How do I separate this film from “Guardians of the Galaxy”? The two are very different, but at the same time they are both so good. I think at the end of the day the reason that “Gone Girl” has beaten the rest of the movies on this list is that it had the fewest flaws. I left the cinema having seen this movie and thought of what I could say when reviewing it, what little details I could criticise or scrutinise, and I realised that there was so little to say. Nothing negative to pick up on, nothing glaringly obvious to dislike. This is a brilliant movie, well written, well paced, well acted and well directed. How can it not be at the top of the list?
The performances in “Gone Girl” are outstanding, with Ben Affleck and Tyler Perry showing that they are genuinely fine actors despite the fact that they’ve made one or two really poor movies. Rosemund Pike gives what I feel is the best performance of the year bar none, and I was captivated from start to finish by the story and the character development. I’m sure that a lot of people will like this movie because of the twist, but that’s not why I like it, in fact, I was able to guess that particular plot point before even entering the cinema, simply because the trailer worked so hard to conceal it. What I loved about this movie was the fact that the characters seemed so genuine and real, none of them were black and white, they all had their own faults and unclear motives. This was 2014’s most perfectly executed film, and for that reason it is my personal favourite of the year.