2014 Honorable Mentions:
- Big Eyes
- What If
- Begin Again
- How to Train Your Dragon 2
- 22 Jump Street
- Edge of Tomorrow
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- American Sniper
- The Imitation Game
Now, onto the main list
10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Marvel movies, and super hero flicks in general, are rarely this good. Yes, I loved “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and yes I thought “Selma,” “Foxcatcher,” “American Sniper,” and “The Imitation Game” were all really good movies, but “Captain America: Winter Soldier” was just too awesome to pass up. This movie wasn’t just a standard comic book story, it had elements of espionage, spying and even a political commentary.
Mix that in with a great lead performance by Chris Evans who is perfect as Cap along with a stellar supporting cast in Samuel Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie and Robert Redford and you have one of the best movies of the year.
9. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Another favorite from 2014 was a film in which many of the main characters stayed silent through much of the movie, and yet had me completely invested from beginning to end. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” wasn’t just an average summer blockbuster either, where you shut off your brain. It was an emotional story about family and even political backstabbings.
The best part of the movie of course was Caesar, who was played amazingly by Andy Serkis. Through mannerisms, sign language, and the motion capture technology picking up on any sort of facial expression, Serkis was able to make Caesar one of the most relatable and engaging characters that have appeared in a film.
8. Big Hero 6
For the second year in a row Disney Animation Studios has landed a movie on my top 10 list. This time around, it is their super hero action/comedy “Big Hero 6,” which managed to pack a lot of heart in along with its punch. The setting was epic and immersive and the characters were fun and endearing. It was also plainly obvious to see that the movie makers took a lot of inspiration from both U.S. comics and Japanese manga.
Best of all, though, was the robot character Baymax and his relationship with young genius Hiro. Together, they make a team which I would definitely like to see in a sequel sometime soon.
7. Gone Girl
Talk about having a movie with twists and turns. There are so many movies today where the ending is predictable. Not the case with “Gone Girl.” At almost every stage in the film something new is discovered and a different bombshell drops. Not only was the movie interesting because of its mind bending story, it also made a great statement toward the media of today, especially with Tyler Perry’s high powered lawyer character.
The acting in the film was also at a high level. Ben Affleck was really good as the character who obviously isn’t perfect but is trying to make the situation better, but the one who steals the show is Rosamund Pike. Every time she is on screen the viewer is left to wonder what will happen next.
Like “Gone Girl,” “Nightcrawler” was another movie that had a statement to be made about the media, and it did so through the eyes of a mentally disturbed character. “Nightcrawler” is fast paced, interesting and frightening as it shows more and more of what the main character is willing to do to get a story on the morning news.
Jake Gyllenhaal, who is one of Hollywood’s most underrated actors right now, was phenomenal in his part, almost channeling a Norman Bates persona. His ability as an actor was well documented in this film and he makes every scene worth watching.
5. Still Alice
“Still Alice” could have been somewhat of a mediocre film if not for Julianne Moore. Because of her amazing performance of a woman going through the stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, the movie reaches another level. Her portrayal is powerful and heartbreaking at the same time.
This was without a doubt one of the most emotional films of 2014 and Moore’s performance made it all the more moving.
“Boyhood” was a very different movie, and that’s because it was filmed in a very different amount of time then other flicks are. Richard Linklater’s idea to film the same characters over a 12 year period to show them all growing up on camera was a bold and daring move, and it ended up working pretty well.
The story isn’t told in a very traditional format and instead feels a series of short films that have been strung together with the same people. This isn’t a disservice to the picture, though, as the movie at every point has strong levels of realism.
Like “Still Alice,” “Wild” was also a very emotional picture. Reese Witherspoon’s lead performance as a woman trying to recover from a disastrous period in her life by hiking across the Pacific coast line of the United States made for a compelling and engaging drama.
Not only was I invested in how Witherspoon’s character was going to make it to the end of her journey, I was also intrigued by how she had gotten to that point in her life. Witherspoon herself deserves accolades for her work and I would have no problem with her taking home the Oscar.
Two characters, a drum set and some perfect lighting were all that was necessary to create one of the best climaxes to what is arguably the best movie of the year. While it gets the No. 2 slot, “Whiplash” is still a phenomenal movie that is not only entertaining, but mentally engaging.
The best part of the film, aside from the awesome music scenes, are the two lead actors. The way they made their character’s on screen battle of wits come to life was simply perfect.
As I said before, “Whiplash was a great movie, too, but I did need something for the No. 1 spot, and I picked what I felt was the most enthralling picture of 2014. Michael Keaton’s brilliant performance was good enough, but combined with the psychological element of the story, the great acting from supporting actors like Edward Norton and the revolutionary camera work put, this one gets to be at the top of the list.