Best of 2014 Film

If 2012 showed promise, and 2013 failed to live up to that promise, then 2014 was the year that the movies finally came back. There were interesting films released all year long, but there was an especially impressive explosion of challenging, fascinating films after the summer blockbuster season died down.

This year saw especially impressive work from first-time or unknown filmmakers, such as Damien Chazelle, whose Whiplash pulsated with jazz rhythm. Directors like Chazalle and Nightcrawler’s Dan Gilroy showed that we just might be on the verge of another explosion of auteurs, and headed for an exciting new era of film history.

Here, in a list culled from votes from our staff, contributors, and invited guest editors, is our top ten picks from a year with dozens of worthy possibilities.

THE DRUNK MONKEYS

TOP TEN FILMS OF 2014


10.) THE LEGO MOVIE

As the one toy that everyone can agree is awesome, Lego the Intellectual Property is one that not only has “pre-awareness” but also has an overwhelming abundance of goodwill. Sure, we may be tired of toy-based movies like GI Joe, and Battleship, but Lego? We all like Lego. So, it’s no surprise that The Lego Movie was phenomenally popular, that it was actually really good is a surprise. The essential genius of the film is in its taking the two primary approaches to playing with the lego–following the wordless instructions or building whatever you want–and making them its central conflict. Thrown in charming stop-motion-like animation, clever references to Lego sets past and present, and weepy father-son reconciliation, and you have one of the most satisfying and funniest movies of the year.

Lawrence Von Haelstrom, Contributing Editor

9.) CHEF

Favreau has always been a really good director, as well as a pretty good actor. He showcases both of those talents nicely here. Nothing about Chef, its huge cast of familiar faces, or the appealing, distinctive-each-time chemistry Favreau maintains with virtually everyone he shares a scene with is going to change the world. It’s simply a story that makes starting over again late in life a plausible, likeable possibility.

Gabriel Ricard, Film Editor

8.) NIGHTCRAWLER

Have you ever had that one friend or coworker who seemed just a little off?  Nightcrawler takes the idea of a very maladjusted man in Jake Gyllenhall and lets him loose on the streets of L.A. as he tries to make a buck by recording and selling fresh scenes of violence to a local news station.  The more horrifying the footage the better the station’s ratings, so it’s in station employee Rene Russo’s best interest to give him whatever he wants.  The problem is Gyllenhall’s character doesn’t have normal wants, and the greater he imagines his power, the harder it is for the people in his life to deal with him.

Nightcrawler is an exploration in just how much the world is willing to bow to the whims of a potential sociopath and it’s the only film of 2014 that left me feeling deeply disturbed.

Taras David Butrej, film critic

7.) GONE GIRL

Gone Girl captures the nuances of the book. Though some scenes and characters were cut to make the story concise, the film resonates with the true nature of the novel and takes the audience to the same conclusions about the characters, their fates and what they deserve.

SC Stuckey, Assistant Editor

6.) GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

It’s funny without trying too hard to be, the familiar 70’s alt-rock soundtrack is perfectly juxtaposed against the alien world, and it’s visually sensational, using that hyper-colourful sci-fi palate in a way that reminds me of cult classic The Fifth Element.

Tegan Webb, Assistant Editor

5.) SNOWPIERCER

Snowpiercer is not the best movie of the year but it was quietly one of the most intriguing.  The film imagines a dystopian future where the remnants of humanity travel across the world in a high-speed, self-sustaining train.  Outside is an ice age that may never end so you would think the survivors would be working together to ensure a peaceful life while working towards the future, right?

No, of course not.  Class warfare is at the fore as those who are not considered important or useful are kept in terrible, cramped conditions.  Some have even gone their entire lives without ever seeing the sun.  All that changes when Curtis (Chris Evans) leads a rebellion, his fellow men and women only wanting to be treated like humans rather than creatures.

Once the plot gets underway the viewer is treated to several memorable scenes enroute to a film with a good (if overplayed) story of man’s inhumanity to man.  Snowpiercer might not have been the best movie of the year but it feels like it was the most undeservedly overlooked.

Taras David Butrej, film critic

4.) BOYHOOD

It’s not enough that Boyhood is a serious risk, trusting the universe to not do something to the actors that would ruin a project eleven years in the making. It’s not even that Boyhood is an ingenious approach to cinematic storytelling, in an era in which we have grown increasingly complacent with safe bets. Boyhood is clever in its execution and impressive in its ambition, but it’s also a great film, period.

Gabriel Ricard, Film Editor

3.) BIRDMAN

Birdman is a maze, a vision, a fever dream. It’s fucking baffling, is what I’m trying to say. But it’s as brilliant as it is confusing. The fantastical elements and deliberate misdirection are balanced by an unparalleled cast, which helps keep the story grounded in reality. Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, and Emma Stone turn in career best performances, playing characters kept separate by their pride but connected through their pain. Their struggle for relevance keeps us hooked, even though those ambiguous (did I already say baffling?) final minutes.

Matthew Guerruckey, Editor-in-Chief

2.) THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

By now, we know what to expect from Wes Anderson. That doesn’t make The Grand Budapest Hotelany less delightful. Anderson once again employs a multi-layered literary structure and candy-coated visuals, but this time, those trademarks serve a very different kind of story. Budapest is Anderson’s first real genre stretch–it’s a murder mystery, and a thriller (of a sort). Anderson’s confident direction keeps the tone light, while allowing us to remain intrigued by the narrative twists.

After watching his performance as Monsieur Gustave, a concierge accused of murder, it’s surprising that Ralph Fiennes has never worked with Anderson before. He’s a natural fit into the director’s collection of cultured ne’er do-wells–a spiritual forefather of Max Fischer and Steve Zissou.

Matthew Guerruckey, Editor-in-Chief

1.) WHIPLASH

Your interpretation of the validity of Fletcher’s teaching tactics is what the internet meant when they coined “your mileage may vary”. But no matter what you think of Fletcher, or Andrew (and it’s perfectly brilliant that there’s no right answer) there’s no denying that the climax of this movie is the most exciting and exhilarating thing you’ll see all year.

Ryan Roach, film critic

LISTS OF NOTE

GABRIEL RICARDFilm Editor

1.) Boyhood

2.) Birdman

3.) Gone Girl

4.) The Grand Budapest Hotel

5.) Guardians of the Galaxy

6.) Foxcatcher

7.) Godzilla

8.) Chef

9.) The Lego Movie

10.) Interstellar

MATTHEW GUERRUCKEYEditor-in-Chief

  1. Whiplash
  2. Birdman
  3. Boyhood
  4. Nightcrawler
  5. Life Itself
  6. Guardians of the Galaxy
  7. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  8. The Box Trolls
  9. The One I Love
  10. Chef

RYAN ROACHfilm critic

1.) Whiplash

  1. Birdman
  2. The Double
  3. Force Majure
  4. Nightcrawler
  5. Foxcatcher
  6. Wild
  7. Pride
  8. Gone Girl
  9. Neighbors

AARON WIEGERTPoetry Editor

1.) Citizenfour

2.) Nymphomaniac Vol. II

3.) Only Lovers Left Alive

4.) Snowpiercer

5.) Nymphomaniac Vol. I

6.) Grand Budapest Hotel

7.) The Drop

8.) Kill The Messenger

9.) The One I Love

10.) Child of God