Friday, January 2, 2015

Top 15 Films of 2014

I set no rules for myself when drafting my list of the best films of the year. Only to stay true to the movies that I loved. With that in mind, it’s always fun when the movies on this annual list are so wildly different from one another. A lot of great films were released in 2014, and these were my 15 favorite. Enjoy!

15. Force Majeure
dir. by Ruben Östlund
This Swedish film is about a family ski trip gone awry, but not for the reasons we might expect. There is no (fatal) cataclysmic event in the film, no terrorist takeover, no bombs or guns. Instead, the main enemy in Force Majeure is fleeting morality. How would you respond to a moment of great duress? Would you fend for yourself, or protect those you love? Honest, hilarious and ceaselessly absorbing, Force Majeure was surely one of the finest foreign films of the year.

14. Foxcatcher
dir. by Bennett Miller
Foxcatcher is a supremely bleak interpretation of power, greed, and male dominance. At the core of the film are three astounding performances, each impressive for their own unique reasons. This isn’t a film that’s necessarily easy to love, but I so appreciate it’s unwillingness to compromise. No film from 2014 was more accepting of its own dread.

13. Blue Ruin
dir. by Jeremy Saulnier
Made for just $500,000 (funded in part through Kickstarter), Blue Ruin takes a common theme (the revenge thriller) and flips it on its head by avoiding clichés and removing loyalty for any of its characters. No one is safe in Jeremy Saulnier’s film, and the result is a tense yet gorgeous-looking country crime flick. Blue Ruin is proof of the strength of independent, low budget filmmaking.

12. Gone Girl
dir. by David Fincher
David Fincher is one of the few modern filmmakers who make very good films out of very commercial material. Gone Girl was one of the most hyped flicks of the year, and Fincher delivered one hell of a fucked-up shocking thriller. The cast is universally excellent, but it really is Rosamund Pike’s show. Imagine if the Academy had the balls to give her the Oscar.

11. Under the Skin
dir. by Jonathan Glazer
Nothing in Under the Skin plays out how we expect it to. Scarlett Johansson’s stoic yet captivating performance, Mica Levi’s eerie score, Johnnie Burn’s complex sound design, Daniel Landin’s fluid photography – they all make Under the Skin one of the best, most odd films released in years. Much like “Its” victims trapped and sinking in black goo, Under the Skin sucks you in and dares you to try and break free.

10. American Sniper
dir. by Clint Eastwood
Walking into American Sniper, I half expected a BROO-HA-HA version of Chris Kyle’s famed story as a Navy SEAL. Instead, I discovered an introspective drama that is as concerned with the battles in a war zone, as it is with the battles at home. Bradley Cooper delivers a career-best performance as the tortured Chris, while Sienna Miller gives a devastating and revelatory turn as Chris’ wife, Taya. American Sniper is precisely the kind of war movie America needs right now.

9. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him/Her
dir. by Ned Benson
I loved no cinematic couple more last year than Eleanor Rigby (Jessica Chastain) and her estranged husband, Conner (James McAvoy). Benson made two films to flesh this combative love story out, one told from the perspective of Eleanor, and the other from Conner’s. If forced to choose, I’m more drawn to Her, simply due to Chastain’s hauntingly magnetic performance. But all told, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby knows that love isn’t easy, and I remain enamored with its pain.  

8. Nightcrawler
dir. by Dan Gilroy
Nightcrawler gave us the most depraved character of the year, the merciless, intelligent, gaunt demon of the night, Lou Bloom. Watching Jake Gyllenhaal slither his way through this movie made for a goddamn exciting experience. The actor clearly went all in here, capitalizing on Gilroy’s ferocious script. And the film’s closing showdown outside of a Chinese restaurant was one of the best set pieces of 2014. Nightcrawler is a film that relishes in showing us the darkest aspects of human nature. Enjoy the ride.

7. Two Days, One Night
dir. by Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
Watching a woman spend a weekend fighting to save her job isn’t necessarily the most captivating material for a film. But with Two Days, One Night, the Dardenne brothers demonstrate that any idea can be one worth telling. Much of the strength of the film rests on Marion Cotillard, who yet again proves that no other living actress is capable of tapping into internal anguish as well as her. Two Days, One Night also contains one of the most realistic depictions of clinical depression that I’ve ever seen. How Cotillard isn’t the front runner for Best Actress this year is utterly baffling.

6. A Most Violent Year
dir. by J.C. Chandor
Although set in 1981, A Most Violent Year has a vivid rawness to it that so effortlessly evokes the ‘70s golden era of American film. The film tells the tale of a man trying to keep his business (and thereby, his entire life) afloat while everything crumbles around him. What struck me most about A Most Violent Year is its lack of sensationalism. Guns in the film, for example, are treated how you and I might handle a gun. We’d be cautious of it, afraid. The characters in A Most Violent Year are aware of the weapon’s real power, not the cartoon appeal it is given in action films. This is a deeply personal, slow-brew thriller that I couldn’t take my eyes off of. Oscar Isaac has never been better, and Jessica Chastain does something we haven’t seen her do yet. Her Anna is threatening and fierce, wholly determined and ruthlessly unapologetic. The common maxim states that behind every great man, there is a great woman. A Most Violent Year utilizes this idea to electrifying results.

5. Enemy
dir. by Denis Villeneuve
Enemy is a film that challenges you to pick it apart, knowing all well that there are no clear answers. When a college professor discovers that an actor looks identical to him, both men’s lives are forever altered. What’s real, what’s false? What is a memory, and what is actually happening? Nearly every line of dialogue in this film could be interpreted to mean something different. Enemy may not make much conventional sense, but bending the rules of cinema rarely feels this good.

4. Interstellar
dir. by Christopher Nolan
Interstellar is the best big film I’ve seen in years. As I said in my review, Christopher Nolan makes big and bold and beautiful movies, and Interstellar is his grandest blockbuster yet. I loved everything about it, from its massive scope to its intimate family dynamics. The budget of Interstellar is nearly equal to the combined budgets of every other film on this list, yet, somehow, Nolan’s film remains deeply personal.

3. Birdman
dir. by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Birdman is a great many things. A lacerating portrayal of ego and fame, a monumental technical achievement, and, most joyfully, a film that features the finest work of Michael Keaton’s career. Keaton gave the performance of the year as Riggan Thomson, a former action movie superstar hoping to be taken seriously by directing a Raymond Carver play on Broadway. Birdman is unrelenting in its style, and completely willing to own its absurdity. The film is arguably the most fun I had at the movies in 2014, which is something I never thought I’d say about an Iñárritu film.

2. Whiplash
dir. by Damien Chazelle
It took me three separate trips to the theater to just barely get the electrifying power of Whiplash out of my system. Cut and scored at a breakneck pace, the film immerses us in its musically thrilling but emotionally nightmarish world. No amount of praise (including an Oscar) is unwarranted for J.K. Simmons’ towering work as music conductor Terence Fletcher. To say Fletcher is a “teacher from hell,” doesn’t do him enough justice. Really, it feels like this guy created hell, and loves finding other people to drag into it.

Much has been made about the final 15 minutes of Whiplash, and that’s for good reason. They are, in no uncertain terms, the most compelling consecutive 15 minutes of any film released in 2014. Another thing to consider: most any other film would keep going and give us a cushioned ending. Not Whiplash. It cuts out at its peak, making us beg for more.

1. Boyhood
Dir. by Richard Linklater
Richard Linklater’s films are rarely about anything. If you value cinema as an escapist medium, then Linklater’s films won’t work for you. Rarely do his movies contain anything sensational. Instead, the conflicts presented in his work are real to life. Dazed and Confused is essentially about trying to find the party, any party. The Before trilogy is 290 minutes of two people talking about love, and rarely acting on it. Tape is about memory, Slacker is about whatever.

Boyhood is about growing up. That’s it. Growing up from the perspective of a boy, but also growing from an absent father to a dependable dad; from a hopelessly confused mother to an independent middle aged woman. The film is about the small things in life that we rarely pay attention to (and that hardly any filmmakers choose to depict). And that is precisely why I love it. Boyhood is a window in time. A slice of life, 12 years in the making. It’s also one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, from this or any year. A work of art I’ll be indebted to forever.

98 comments:

  1. This list is excellent. I'm going to see Force Majeure later this month as I also hope to see American Sniper and A Most Violent Year as I'm still not finished w/ my year-end list. Then again, I'm never finished w/ these year-end lists.

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    1. Thanks man, really glad you like it. I too am never really done with lists like these. Those always something left to see. Still, I think you're going to really love A Most Violent Year. It's quite something.

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    1. For me, yes, absolutely. View it on a system with the best sound possible.

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  3. I don't think I can really say my list is ever done until I see Sniper, Vice, or AMVY but as it stands right now we have much in common good sir (I'm surprised that we lock up exactly in several spots). You've published many great reviews and articles this year sir, here's to another great one for you and to Wait!

    15. Frank
    14. The Sleepwalker
    13. Two Days, One Night
    12. Gone Girl
    11. The Rover
    10. Only Lovers Left Alive
    9. Whiplash
    8. Under The Skin
    7. Foxcatcher
    6. Winter Sleep
    5. Enemy
    4. Jauja
    3. Birdman
    2. Nightcrawler
    1. Boyhood

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    1. Thanks for those kind words my friend! Your support over my site and Wait have meant so much to me!

      It is really cool how we synched up on our end of the year lists. Lists like these are never really complete, you know? There's always SOMETHING else to see. For instance, I haven't seen Jauja yet. Can't wait til it comes out here.

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  4. Frickin' solid list man, so happy about so many things on this list. For one, Whiplash being so high. Whiplash is probably my favorite film of 2014 so far (have yet to see a couple still), just saw it yesterday but damn, my heart hasn't had a workout like that for a long while.

    So happy both Enemy and Nightcrawler were on here, both are on my personal favorites list, but I don't know if I can put one above the other, both are just so damn good! Gyllenhaal is just turning into a next level actor now, Prisoners, Enemy, Nightcrawler, anything this guy does now, I'll want to watch.

    Also happy that Interstellar is on the list, had a couple friends and listened to a lot of critics talk shit about it but didn't really see much of their complaints myself. Although I would have put Enemy, Nightcrawler, Gone Girl, and Blue Ruin above it, liked all of those a little better myself but still Interstellar still deserves a spot I think.

    Happy A Most Violent Year made the list, along with Foxcatcher. Still have to see both of these, but Foxcatcher was the film I was most excited for this year and didn't get to see it (F'in theaters around here man), and A Most Violent Year I think I'll get to see pretty soon. But super glad both of those made the list, for it speaks very highly of them.

    Overall I still need to see Boyhood (renting it in 4 days), Birdman (making the 40 mile journey in a week), A Most Violent Year (expands this month, so I'll see it then), and Foxcatcher (I dunno when I'll get to see it). But if I was to put my favorites for this year down so far it'd go something like this:

    1. Whiplash
    2. Nightcrawler (have to put this or Enemy here, gotta put em' in some order)
    3. Enemy
    4. Gone Girl
    5. Blue Ruin (SO much love)
    6. Ida
    7. Interstellar
    8. Godzilla (I know, I know, not a perfect movie but I couldn't help but like it)
    9. The Babadook
    10. Under the Skin

    Once I see the other 4 films mentioned above, I plan to finalize the list, and I do expect it to change it. Anyway, enough rambling, great list and great year, you've done a ton of great stuff this year and helped me find lots of new films and things to watch, and I've had a blast doing it, so thank you. And real quick, can't wait for Wait, so excited!

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    1. Thanks man! Really dug your list as well. And hey, no need to apologize for including Godzilla. My motto is, we like what we like. I personally never give anyone crap for liking a film. Seems silly to me. I really loved Ida as well, such a rare film for today's cinema. Quite the accomplishment.

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  5. As of right now, "Gone Girl" is my number one with "Under the Skin" also in my top 5. Still so many listed here that I haven't seen, though. Can't wait to see all of them. Great list, Alex.

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    1. Thanks Dell. I'm really happy critics and bloggers haven't forgotten about Under the Skin. That film was so damn unique. Obviously not an awards darling, but it's nice that it's being remembered in some way.

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  6. Quite a few of these will be 2015 movies for me (One Night, Rigby, Sniper, Violent) given the realities of film distribution. I was also considerably less enamored with Interstellar, Whiplash and, to lesser extent, Boyhood. I respect Linklater's commitment and resourcefulness--it's one of the most impressive achievements, logistically, of the year (or 12)--but I can't help feeling that his film just doesn't sing the way I'd like it to. Two towering performances and a few isolated moments of everyday grace, but the whole was less than the sum of its parts. The other two also had moments of pure cinematic bliss (the bookshelf maze! the frenetic editing!), but felt thematically muddled or terribly one-note.

    That said, I really love many of your other picks and found myself nodding along to your commentaries. I really connected with Inarritu's Biutiful--it was the best film I saw in 2011--but I never imagined I'd have so much fun with one of his films. It was clear Birdman would be something special from its trailer, but what a nice surprise.

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    1. I love Iñárritu, but when I heard he was doing a comedy, I was a little surprised. Silly me. Birdman is so much damn fun, I adore that movie. Just didn't know Iñárritu had it in him. I'll be very interested to hear your thoughts on those films that haven't been released near you yet. A Most Violent Year is stunning, but definitely a slow brew. Loved it.

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  7. This is a great list. I still need to see Whiplash, Birdman, A Most Violent Year, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby and American Sniper, but I look forward to seeing them. I think you described all of these films really well, especially Boyhood. God, I really love that film so damn much. Can't wait for your upcoming Best of 2014 posts!

    Here's my own top 15:

    1. Boyhood
    2. Gone Girl
    3. The Grand Budapest Hotel
    4. Under the Skin
    5. Clouds of Sils Maria
    6. Maps to the Stars
    7. Two Days, One Night
    8. Pride
    9. The Immigrant
    10. Mr. Turner
    11. Queen
    12. Ida
    13. Beyond the Lights
    14. The Babadook
    15. Obvious Child

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    1. Thanks Aditya! Love your list. I didn't know if I should include Clouds of Sils Maria or not (and Maps to the Stars) since I don't think they were technically released in the US in 2014. I dunno though, tough to determine that stuff sometimes. Still, I loved them both. Love that Beyond the Lights made your cut. That movie really stunned me. A youthful romance done very right.

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    2. Yeah, it makes sense to not include Clouds and Maps, I think that they are 2015 releases in the US. If you had decided to count them as 2014 films though, would either find a place in your top 15?

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    3. I think so. But moreover, I would DEFINITELY be including some of the performances featured in those films. What stunning work all around.

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  8. I have some of the movies in my list as well, still not ready to post it yet because I've yet to watch some of the good ones but I guess I have to next week.
    Boyhood isn't in my top 10.. and it possibly because I rate my movies based on the need to watch them again and sadly, Boyhood for me wasn't a rewatch movie. Then again, the whole blogging community seems to be divided with this one, they either love it or hate it.. :D

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    1. Rewatchability is a huge thing for me as well. But what's funny is that my favorite filmmaker, Ingmar Bergman, made movies that I can't rewatch often. They take so much out of me, so to rewatch them repeatedly would be near impossible. Boyhood was the same for me. I've seen it three times, and it was a very emotional experience every time. So I get where you're coming from with that one. And hey, we like what we like!

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  9. Boyhood is amazing. What a movie! Linklater is a genius!!
    I also liked (but didn't LOVE) Interstellar and Gone Girl. I did love Enemy and Under The Skin, the latter probably being the most impressive cinematic experience I've had in my life. I watched it at the Sitges Film Festival and I almost had a heart attack. So good.
    I can't wait to see the rest! Two Days One Night, Eleanor Rigby and Blue Ruin have already been in cinemas here in Spain and I let them go, don't know why. But the rest will come in the next few weeks and I'll be there to watch them!

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    1. Yes! So happy to read your praise for Boyhood. Love that you had such an intense viewing experience with Under the Skin. That one floored me as well. So, so good.

      Hope you have a chance to see those other films soon. I really loved them all.

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  10. Great list! Mine would also include Budapest and coherence

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    1. Thanks! I really enjoyed Coherence. Micro budget sci-fi filmmaking done very, very right.

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  11. I love the shots you chose for each movie, so brilliant especially Enemy one. I still have so many from your list to see and I'm so psyched for Birdman and Whiplash, these are the only two that I imagine can knock off GG from the top for me. Have you seen Selma? Cause that seems to be getting so much praise.

    Also have you seen The Guest and The Skeleton Twins? I saw these two this week and they are so brilliant, I cannot imagine them leaving my top 10

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    1. Thanks! I do spend a lot of time choosing the stills (as I know you do too). And that one from Enemy is really just perfect. He kind of looks like... well, a spider.

      Selma was not for me. I don't like to spend time and energy hating on movies on this site, but it did nothing for me. And, you know, that's okay.

      LOVED The Guest. What a blast. I love florescent cinematography like that, and the music was bitchin'. The Skeleton Twins was good to, but not one of my faves of the year.

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  12. Fantastic list! It's so admirable the clear fact that you stay true to the movies you really love through those lists you make. I'm not done with my watchlist this year (films like A Most Violent Year, American Sniper, Blue Ruin are among the ones I haven't seen yet) but a list of mine at this point would go like this:

    1) Boyhood
    2) Gone Girl
    3) Enemy
    4) Under The Skin
    5) Whiplash
    6) Foxcatcher
    7) The Grand Budapest Hotel
    8) Ida
    9) Birdman
    10) '71
    11) Two Days, One Night
    12) Interstellar
    13) Nightcrawler
    14) Coherence
    15) The Babadook

    I'm so in love with Boyhood myself. It's a film that speaks to me so deeply I couldn't help but give it the top spot as well. Linklater floored me with what he achieved there. Fuckin' unbelievable. I wish all films I went to see in theaters could carry the artistry, soul and brains of films like Boyhood, Gone Girl or Enemy. Your list is amazing as it happens every year and I can't wait to watch more films this year. There are so many (not only the ones mentioned) that I hadn't seen yet.

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    1. Thanks buddy! I really think you're going to like A Most Violent Year. Chastain is so ferocious in that film, unlike any performance she's given yet. Tremendous achievement.

      And obviously, I adore your praise for Boyhood. What a gem. Seriously, I'll remember that one forever. And I still need to see '71!

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    2. Oh man I think you're going to love '71. It's a really terrific film. I was lucky enough to watch it at Athens Film Festival where it deservedly won Best Picture and man does it make for a great movie experience. It's overwhelmingly intense and very demanding cinema, definitely not the kind of film that allows you to sit back and enjoy it, but hell it's amazing. I can't wait to rewatch it and obviously I want so much to watch A Most Violent Year. Things are a little shady as to when it will be released where I live unfortunately and I don't plan to leave Athens within the next few months so I hope I'll see it before The Oscars because I know Jessica kills it again there and is a dark horse for Best Supporting Actress. What an incredible, incredible actress and clearly what a fascinating woman. Every time I watch an interview of her I enjoy it to the fullest. I'm still icnredibly jealous of you for meeting her, haha!

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    3. I'm so pumped to see '71 now. Will seek it out ASAP.

      Like I've said, Jessica Chastain is exactly how you think she'd be in person. You're so right, she's a person who simply enjoys life.

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  13. Great list! I still need to see a few of these myself.

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    1. Thanks! Look forward to your list as well.

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  14. This is like the list I hope to make one day. It's so hard for me, geographically, to see these movies by the end of the year. For example, my local art house place isn't picking up Two Days, One Night until early February. But I so agree with you on the ones I've seen, particularly Whiplash and Birdman. Great list!

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    1. Thanks man! And hey, I totally understand where you're coming from. I grew up in a really small town, and usually couldn't publish my best of the year lists until March. One of the benefits of living in a big city now! Hope you like Two Days, One Night... it's so quietly stunning.

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  15. Great list (although I haven't seen everything). I'm stoked that you recognized Enemy! That one has been totally ignored by many.

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    1. Thanks Tanner! LOVED Enemy. Saw it in March and it never left my mind. What a batshit crazy movie.

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  16. The Rover? Maps of the Stars? Starred Up?

    I think you should do a top 10 quotes of the year.
    Daughter:"I'm having an abortion" Mom:"Thank God, I thought you were going to tell me you're moving to LA"
    “Why don’t I have any self-respect?” “You’re an actress, honey.”

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    1. I enjoyed all of those. Though The Rover lessened it's appeal to me over the past few months. Maps to the Stars... don't know if that's a technical 2014 release.

      I used to do an end of the year quotes post, but it seems a little superfluous now, only because I have other 2014 lists coming out really soon.

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    2. Okey, but there were no good documentaries this year. Trespassing Bergman? Jodorowsky's Dune? Citizenfour? Life Itself? Tales of the Grim Sleeper? Art and Craft?

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    3. I haven't seen Art and Craft, but I really enjoyed every other doc you listed. A few docs usually crack my Best Of list every year, but they just fell a tad short this year.

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  17. And another list goes to Boyhood, and also reminds me that I NEED TO SEE BLUE RUIN! I have, like, no excuses at this point. I did NOT like Boyhood, but I'm so in the minority here. That said, I kind of love the hell out of your list, even though I've only seen, like, four of these films. I can't wait to see the rest.

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    1. I've seen just four of this films too. First I didn't like Boyhood to. Boyhood have nothing special, it isn't acted very well, and its too long but its okey. It isn't for everybody.

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    2. Yeah I mean, we like what we like. Boyhood, like every other film ever made, certainly isn't for everyone, but oh how I loved it so. Blue Ruin is a blast. Smart, engaging and shot to perfection. It does NOT look like it was made for $500k.

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  18. Great list. I actually have the same top 3, but in a different order:

    1. Birdman
    2. Boyhood
    3. Whiplash
    4. Starred Up
    5. Gone Girl
    6. LEGO Movie
    7. Locke
    8. Guardians of the Galaxy
    9. Obvious Child
    10. Interstellar
    11. Life Itself
    12. The Babadook
    13. Ida
    14. The Way He Looks
    15. Grand Budapest Hotel

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    1. Great list! Love that our top 3 are the same. I haven't seen The Way He Looks, so I'll seek that one out right away. Sounds very interesting.

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  19. Many films on your list I have yet to see, I hope to encounter them in the next year in one form or another. You do have my two favorites on your list, "Interstellar" (I just saw it so I have not yet read your comments) and "Whiplash", which still takes my breath away just thinking about it. Happy New Year.

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    1. Happy New Year to you as well Richard! Whiplash, man, so happy to hear that you're a fan. I can't wait til it comes out on Blu-Ray. I'm going to put that ending on repeat.

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  20. A lot of great movies here. Living in Norway i have yet to see a lot of great movies that came out in late 2014 in America, but so far my list looks like this:
    20. Chef
    19. X-Men: Days of Future Past
    18. Joe (i wish this had been released later because Nicolas Cage deserves some awards love for his performance here)
    17. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    16. Nightcrawler (Jake Gyllenhaal probably gives his best performance ever here i think)
    15. The Interview
    14. The Guest
    13. Bad Words
    12. Veronica Mars (i was a huge fan of the TV show)
    11. Edge of Tomorrow

    10. A Most Wanted Man (I'm so happy one of Philip Seymour Hoffman's last movies were this good)
    9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
    8. The Grand Budapest Hotel
    7. St. Vincent (Bill Murray is always great)
    6. Calvary (again a movie i wish had been released later because Brendan Gleeson is fantastic here and deserves some awards love)
    5. The Lego Movie
    4. The Double
    3. Foxcatcher (i will never look at Steve Carell the same way again)
    2. Guardians of the Galaxy
    1. Gone Girl (David Fincher proves once more why he is my favorite director working today)

    Like i said, there are still a lot of movies that i have not yet seen that might end up on this list as well. Some of them are Birdman, The Raid 2, American Sniper, Snowpiercer, Selma, Whiplash, Inherent Vice, A Most Violent Year, Blue Ruin and The Babadook to name a few.

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    1. GREAT list. Joe got screwed in distribution. Cage was damn strong in that film, but it faded away so quickly. A real shame.

      Love your praise for Gone Girl. There's simply no one like Fincher out there right now.

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    2. After watching a few more movies this month my list has changed quite a bit.

      20. Joe
      19. Nightcrawler
      18. The Guest
      17. Bad Words
      16. The Drop
      15. American Sniper
      14. Edge of Tomorrow
      13. What We Do in the Shadows
      12. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
      11. A Most Wanted Man

      10. The Grand Budapest Hotel
      9. Calvary
      8. The Lego Movie
      7. The Double
      6. Selma
      5. Foxcatcher
      4. Whiplash
      3. Guardians of the Galaxy
      2. Birdman
      1. Gone Girl

      It was a tough choice between Gone Girl and Birdman for number one, but after re-watching Gone Girl for a third time on blu-ray this weekend i had to go with that one. It really is another Fincher classic.

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    3. Such a good movie. Did you listen to Fincher's commentary? It is So. Good. Dude does the best commentaries. Love that American Sniper cracked your Top 15.

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    4. Yeah, David Fincher is one of those directors i always check out the audio commentary from. I loved it. Very fascinating stuff. I just wish the blu-ray has more extras. It only had that one commentary and that was that. That was a little disappointing.

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    5. I was really bummed by that too. Such a shame how DVD/Blu-Rays seem to just be the movie nowadays. I'm sure we'll get a stacked Gone Girl Blu-Ray eventually, but I already bought the first one, you know? There should be a system in place where you can trade in.

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    6. Yeah definitely. I'm sure i will get it again if they re-release it with more extras as well. I have already double dipped a lot of blu-rays because of that. I own 3 copies of Die Hard just on blu-ray!

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    7. Right?! Sucks man. I have so many multiple copies of Bergman films. Fuckin' Criterion.

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  21. Great great list! But where's The Babadook and the Grand Budapest Hotel??

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    1. Thanks! I enjoyed both of those films a lot, but they weren't Top 15 worthy to me.

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  22. Loved Blue Ruin and Gone Girl (both of which I reviewed). I haven't seen the others yet. (As you know, I'm a bad film buff who rarely sees new releases in the theater. :-) I'll probably see most of the others at some point. At the moment I am especially interested in Birdman, Foxcatcher, and maybe American Sniper.

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    1. It can be hard to see a lot of movies in the theater! So it's all good, my friend. Didn't Macon Blair comment on your Blue Ruin review? That's so damn cool.

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    2. He did, yes ... that was very cool. I especially appreciated the fact that he said the film I'd compared Blue Ruin to was a major influence. I love those kinds of discussions.

      And, yes, it's all good ... with so many great older movies I haven't gotten around to, I am not too concerned that I haven't seen the newest releases yet. It would be fun, though, to see a few more of the films everybody's talking about.

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  23. I have seen only seven of your fifteen (Birdman, Interstellar, Enemy, Nightcrawler, Gone Girl, Blue Rain, & Foxcatcher). Of those seven, I found Birdman to be of a very high calibre. Of the remaining six, I liked Blue Rain. Several I found not to be of a terribly high calibre (Gone Girl, Interstellar…).

    Of the eight I have not seen, a number are ones I would like to (Whiplash, A Most Violent Year, the Elanor Rigby movies and, probably, I would watch American Sniper).

    I am not going to do my top movies of 2014 until I have had a chance to see a few more but, as it stands, these would be my top five: The Rover, A Most Wanted Man, Birdman, The Drop & The Homesman.

    Great site!

    HK.

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! I really enjoyed the movies in your top 5. I wish more people were talking about The Homesman. That one nailed me.

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  24. Great list! So glad to see stuff like Force Majeure and Two Days, One Night here. This was such a great year for movies. I still have stuff like Birdman and A Most Violent Year left to watch but I almost don't want to watch them because I'm currently so satisfied with my top 25.
    WHIPLASH! That scene, man.

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    1. Thanks! I'd love to hear your thoughts on A Most Violent Year. It's a slow-brew, but so damn well made. And Chastain kills it. Whiplash! For the win!

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  25. Congratulations on having Wait get accepted into the Los Angeles Cinema Festival!

    I really, really love this list. Makes me want to check out A Most Violent Year and American Sniper. My top 5 is the same as yours except some of the movies are switched around in rank. I hope to post my list on my blog after seeing Inherent Vice this Friday.

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    1. Thanks so much, Luke!

      Really looking forward to your list. I'll be sure to give it a read as soon as it's posted. Love that we have the same top 5.

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  26. A phenomenal lis as expected! Nice selections, loving how high up "Two Days, One Night" is, although slightly surprised that "Gone Girl" doesn't have a place in the top 10. I've had my fingers crossed that you'd choose Boyhood as the top film. I know how much you love a little Linklater. I've thoroughly enjoyed reading all of your reviews for 2014, (my first year of blogging). They're always so insightful and eloquent. Looking forward to reading in the year ahead!

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    1. Thanks Angela, what a kind comment here!

      I spent an absurd amount of time ranking the movies on this list. And when I first started, I assumed Gone Girl would make the Top 10, no question. But then the list fell how it did. Which is all good, you know? Still a great movie!

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  27. Awesome list! I've only seen eight of these (and half of your top 10), but I dig all of them. Can't wait to see the others you mentioned as well. Love that Blue Ruin made the cut, and it's great to see Birdman and Interstellar so high. Boyhood has slipped for me, though I expect a rewatch will soon put it near the top of my list again. Cotillard is probably my Best Actress frontrunner for Two Days, One Night. I just have to see the movie first. ;)

    My list probably won't be up for a few more weeks, as I have to wait until early February for films like Eleanor Rigby, Whiplash, and The Homesman.

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    1. Can't wait for your list man. Two Days, One Night... yeah, she's just that good in it. I can't think of any other living actor who can conjure up emotional dread as well as Marion. It's quite astounding, really.

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  28. I've seen exactly one of these (Enemy), which is why I have to wait until late February/early March before I can do a Top movies of the year list. I'm looking forward to many of those.

    As for that one movie, I liked the concept a lot more than the execution. I found out afterwards that the director was the one who figured he could improve on an award-winning story by inserting giant spiders into it. Why? Because he likes giant spiders. Every time they appeared they just took me completely out of the movie.

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    1. It was very odd for me to read the book shortly after seeing Enemy, because I was like, Wait, where are the spiders? I obviously really dug that film, but I completely get where you're coming from. A hard one to love.

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  29. Great to see Force Majeure made the cut, the more I think about that film, the more I admire it. Jake Gyllenhaal is the man of the hour, I agree he was great in Enemy and Nightcrawler.
    Two Days, One Night I didn't like quite as much as you did, it was alright, I had mixed feelings about the storytelling, which I felt was too repetitive. Her depression confused me,the reasons for it were open to interpretation I guess. Cotillard did put on an acting clinic though, she was the best thing about the film for me.
    Enjoyed reading your list!

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    1. Thanks Chris! Force Majeure was definitely one that crept in and stayed. A love well-made movies that ask, What would you do? And that film is packed full of those situations. Even up until that final scene. Wow, what a quiet stunner.

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  30. Cool list, man. This was a really good year for indie/foreign films.

    First, I'm going to start off by listing films that I wanted to see but didn't, either because they didn't come to my area, I was busy, or some other reason. They are: Whiplash; Ida; The Homesman; A Most Violent Year; Inherent Vice; The Babadook; Force Majeur; Winter Sleep; The Tribe; The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby; The Rover; Borgman; Mommy; Goodbye to Language; The Double; Only Lovers Left Alive; Blue Ruin; The Dance of Reality; Jodorowsky's Dune; Life Itself; Joe; Rosewater; Night Moves; Leviathan; White God; The Wind Rises; The Tale of Princess Kaguya; The Overnighters; Starred Up; Big Bad Wolves; The Theory of Everything; The Imitation Game; American Sniper; Frank; Coherence; I Origins; The Congress; The Zero Theorem; Dom Hemingway, Filth; Two Days, One Night. Yeah. I know. I gotta put in more effort. But I will watch these one day, because I feel like some of these will come to my area in the upcoming weeks.

    Anyway, here's my own top ten, of what I have seen:
    1) Under the Skin (this also might make it into my top ten of all time)
    2) Nightcrawler
    3) Boyhood
    4) Interstellar
    5) Enemy (that ending, man. I just can't get it out of my head. I mean that in a good way.)
    6) Foxcatcher (All the acting in here was really good, and I'm happy for Carrell and Ruffalo, but I'm still mad that Tatum didn't get any nominations. He was my favorite performance in the film!)
    7) Gone Girl (that twist)
    8) Birdman (that take)
    9) Big Hero 6/Guardians of the Galaxy (I finally saw some Marvel Avengers movies that I actually liked)
    10) Grand Budapest Hotel/Snowpiercer (maybe. This spot might change to something else)

    By the way, congradulations on Wait getting into those film festivals! I'm so excited for you! I wish you the best of luck! I hope you find an awesome distributor like A24 or someone to release your work to the masses (if you haven't already). That's really cool, man!

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    1. See, this comment perfectly sums up how great of a year 2014 was. You listed some truly excellent films in your top 10, and you still have tons of amazing movies ahead of you. What a stellar year.

      Thanks so much for your kind words about Wait. It's so funny that you mention A24. I was just watching Laggies, and when I saw the A24 logo, I thought, "Man, they have really done a lot these past few years." I love that company so much. And I really appreciate you mentioning my film in the same sentence as them!

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  31. There are still some on your list I've missed, including your #1 and #2 picks, but glad to see Birdman in your top 3, it's on mine as well that I still haven't finished yet [hopefully this weekend].

    I like what you said about Foxcatcher... "No film from 2014 was more accepting of its own dread." So true! It's one of those films I appreciate but not love. In fact, it was so somber that I'm glad I got Big Hero 6 screening scheduled right after that to take the edge off!

    I only saw The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, so I'm curious whether the His/Hers might be even better than the combined film. As for Interstellar, I wish I could include that on my Top 10, right now it doesn't even make my Honorable Mention list.

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    1. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them is honestly one of the great misfortunes of 2014. Him/Her are such grand accomplishments, but Them got the wider release because it's more marketable. Them is just so vastly inferior, so I highly recommend seeking out Him and Her!

      Thanks so much for the comment!

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  32. Interesting list Alex. Good that you loved Gone Girl, Whiplash and Birdman too, they will definitely be in my top ten list. Though Boyhood is not making it, merely because I will never be able to rewatch it in the foreseeable future. I also liked American Sniper, some parts of it were definitely good, but as a whole, did not work for me. I only remember that Cooper was good here.

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    1. Thanks Nika. American Sniper is one I'm sure I'll love more than most people. It just worked for me in every feasible way. But I can understand why you wouldn't fully be into it.

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  33. Awesome list even though I've only seen #1,4,5,11,12 and 13 (lots of catching up to do). Of those, I can definitely tell you Enemy will surely be out of my own list. We differ when it comes to its merits. I found it pretentious and utterly nonsensical, which is fine if I find it interesting, but I did not. The characters were never fully formed for me, and I feel I've seen films like that before, when you don't know if what is happening is indeed happening, or whether the character is imagining another self or not.

    My initial impression of Interstellar was great. I was entranced from beginning to end and I can't laud it enough when it comes to its ambitious plot that is, by now, typical for Christopher Nolan. However, it relied on much too many theoretical concepts and for us to take too many leaps of faith to make the story stick together. I also believe the emotional center of the story got diluted by the time the credits rolled in.
    I also liked Gone Girl, but not as much as you. I much prefer Boyhood, even if not to the level you place it in as one of the best ever. Surely, it is a beautifully crafted story about seemingly real people, but I was indeed looking for a little bit of escapism, one thing, even if only lasted two seconds. It never came. I'm sure it would still feature high on my list though.
    No question that Under the Skin and Blue Ruin will be on my top 10 whenever I decide to put it together. In fact, the latter is so far my favorite of the year and will likely remain if not first, damn close to first.
    I'm also glad I managed to see Under the Skin in the theater, it was probably the best sensory experience of the year for me.

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    1. Thanks man! Blue Ruin is such a fantastic little film, and I'm glad it'll rank so highly on your list. I also agree that seeing Under the Skin was one of the best movie theater experiences I've ever had. So much of that movie is dependent on the auditory landscape, and it works so damn well in a theater. Whatta film.

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    2. I have since seen Birdman, Nightcrawler and Whiplash, and I'm happy to say that Whiplash is, at the moment, my favorite film from 2014. I wish it would have gotten a bit more love, although it still managed to get 2 or 3 Oscars. I was surprised that no love was directed towards Miles Teller who was as good as J.K. Simmons in the lead role. Sure, Simmons was utterly electrifying, but Teller took the punches one by one and did so beautifully.

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    3. I loved Teller in that film as well. It's interesting how that happens sometimes - two great performances but the supporting performance gets almost all the play. Really glad you liked the film though.

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  34. Love this, man. So happy to see Enemy, Whiplash and Boyhood in your top five. Also, major props for including Blue Ruin, which many seem to have forgotten about, unfortunately.

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    1. Thanks dude! Gotta keep Blue Ruin alive any way I can. Such a confident film on such a small budget.

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  35. Great list! Happy to see Enemy, Whiplash, Nightcrawler and Two Days, One Night make the list!

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  36. Very solid list. Good for you for putting Whiplash so high. I will be teaching that film to some high school seniors alongside with some essays on the nature of genius. The final essay question: Is Fletcher a bad teacher?

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    1. Thanks so much! You know, I was just talking with my mom about this the other day. So, to answer your question... no, I do not think Fletcher was a bad teacher. I think he was a vile man with disgusting practices, but I do think he had the ability to spot talent and craft greatness from that talent.

      To me, a bad teacher is an indifferent one. One who teaches like they are working at a department store - bored and there only to get a pay check. Fletcher, for better or worse, really cared about the talent of his students. He was a monster about making that talent come to light, but so it goes.

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    2. In the end, I personally think he was probably a terrible teacher for most students but the perfect teacher for Andrew. But then again, he wasn't after most students. He was only interested in greatness (the "next Charlie Parker"). And he got it. So, job well done? I'd say yes.

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    3. Yeah, I'd agree with that. He teaches to find the Andrew's.

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  37. Are you going to do a decade list? A half-decade for the 2010s in the past five years. I'm working on mine right now. 2010 is the weakest year, but 2011, 12, 13 and especially last year have given us more than enough for at least 15.

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    1. I am for sure. I do agree with you for the most part, but Somewhere and Blue Valentine (both from '10) will definitely make my list.

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  38. Fantastic top 15 buddy! Must be an "Alex" thing that we have such similar tastes.

    Whiplash, Interstellar and Enemy were my top 3, glad to see so much love for these.

    American Sniper is another I thoroughly enjoyed, despite the hate it seems to get from many critics.

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    1. Thanks buddy! We've always had similar tastes, which I think is so cool. Really glad to find another fan of American Sniper. That one really worked for me.

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  39. Top 15 best looking films of 2014?

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    1. Interesting idea. Trying to think what mine would be...

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  40. Great list man, I've been following your blog quite frequently ever since I stumbled upon it. Really appreciate the insight with you being a filmmaker and all.
    As soon as Wait is released in AUS (however that may be) ill be making sure I see it.

    Here is my top 15 list, its the first post for a blog I've just started. http://busyreturningvideotape.blogspot.com.au

    We agree on quite a few, same top 3 with Boyhood, Birman, Whiplash but different order. Was also good to see Foxcatcher make your list, such a slow yet absorbing film I thought.

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    1. Hey, thanks so much for checking out the site and expressing interest in Wait! I really appreciate that.

      Going to give your site a look over the weekend, congrats on starting it up!

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