Top Films of 2014

The task of selecting one’s top films of the year is increasingly becoming more popular, formulaic and inevitably plagiaristic. I have tried to stay away from such lists over the past month in order to settle upon my own, in it’s most genuine form. I haven’t really set myself any hard and fast rules – essentially the films below were either released generally in cinemas in 2014, or appeared at film festivals I attended this year. I did not get to as many foreign film festivals as I would have liked this year compared to other years, hence my selection is heavily weighted towards films from the USA and UK. I hope you find something in here that you may have otherwise not watched.

Boyhood Richard Linklater, USA
Quite simply the most beautiful film I have seen in a very long time. A flawless set of expertly crafted vignettes that explore the stages of childhood with equal splashes of love, hate, affection, melancholy, hope, and reality. The soundtrack provides an acute relation to each time period perfectly. Hawke and Arquette provide brilliant supporting roles to the wonderful Ellar Coltrane. I could watch this film over and over.

Ellar Coltrane and Ethan Hawke in Boyhood
Ellar Coltrane and Ethan Hawke in Boyhood

Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy, USA
Jake Gyllenhaal gives the best performance of his blossoming career so far as Lou Bloom, an opportunistic young scavenger who turns his hand at shooting footage of accidents and crimes through the night in Los Angeles to sell to TV news stations. Bloom keeps pushing the boundaries of how far he will go to succeed, and anyone who stands in his way will pay the highest price. Riz Ahmed and Rene Russo shine in polar opposite supporting roles.

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler
Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

Whiplash Damien Chazelle, USA
Damien Chazelle’s inspired direction, coupled with electrifying performances from Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons as eager student and sadistic teacher respectively, made watching Whiplash the most fun I had watching a film in a cinema this year. The efficiently effective storytelling climaxes in one of the all time greatest music sequences in film history.

Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons in Whiplash
Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

Starred Up – David MacKenzie, UK
Check out what I said about this film here.

Ben Mendelsohn and Jack O'Connell in Starred Up
Ben Mendelsohn and Jack O’Connell in Starred Up

Michael Kohlhass Arnaud des Pallières, Germany/France
See my blog review for a full run-down.

Mads Mikkelsen and Mélusine Mayance in Arnaud des Pallières' Michael Kohlhass
Mads Mikkelsen and Mélusine Mayance in Arnaud des Pallières’ Michael Kohlhass

A Most Wanted Man – Anton Corbijn, UK/USA/Germany
An exquisite performance from recently departed Philip Seymour Hoffman anchors this tense, suspense-laden thriller based on the book from John le Carré. I absolutely loved the book and director Anton Corbijn does a fantastic job translating to screen. It is a smart, absorbing, and highly polished film that will whet the lips of most spy fans like myself.

Robin Wright and Philip Seymour Hoffman in A Most Wanted Man
Robin Wright and Philip Seymour Hoffman in A Most Wanted Man

Chef Jon Favreau, USA
A life affirming jaunt through food meccas across America with a star-studded cast of affable actors, what is there not to like? The perfect feast for a Saturday night in with the missus, we both smiled and laughed our way through this charming comedy drama.

John Leguizamo, Emjay Anthony, and John Favreau in Chef
John Leguizamo, Emjay Anthony, and John Favreau in Chef

The Salt of the Earth – Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Wim Wenders,France/Brazil/Italy
For more information on this film, click here.

Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado
Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado

Edge of Tomorrow Doug Liman, USA
The entire film universe cringed at the mention of another sci-fi action thriller with Tom Cruise. Oh, how wrong could you be. I loved this film from start to finish – intelligent, original, character-driven, and the action sequences were refreshing and enjoyable. Oh, did I mention Emily Blunt plays a bad ass soldier not afraid to die? Smoking!

Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow
Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow

The Captive – Atom Egoyan, Canada
As a huge fan of Atom Egoyan’s work (Family Viewing, The Sweet Hereafter, Where the Truth Lies), I went in to The Captive with a huge degree of caution at the casting of Ryan Reynolds with such subject matter. I was overwhelmingly surprised – the film is challenging, heart-wrenching, and poignant. It has a lot to say about the modern trappings of the internet, the decline of community, and the harsh realities of living in remote areas. My most thought-provoking film of the year.

Scott Speedman in The Captive
Scott Speedman in The Captive

Honourable Mentions – The Mule (AUS), The One I Love (CAN), Listen Up Philip (USA), Anina (URU), When Animals Dream (DEN)

Ben Haller, 2014.

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